We Were Mugged

On a Sunday afternoon in June 1972, two weeks before Linda and I got engaged, we were mugged at Franklin Park Zoo in Boston, Roxbury neighborhood. When we were entering the zoo, Linda remembered there was a rose garden off to the right. I thought we should stay on the main path, but we went over there and saw the garden was gone. There was a big field and a stone bridge over a dry stream bed. Some people were picnicking on the field.

Linda walked up over the center of the bridge, which reminded me of the similar famous bridge in New York’s Central Park. I walked to the dry stream bed to take a Polaroid picture of her. A teenager approached Linda and I thought I should quickly take a picture and throw the developing film to the ground, but I thought that would be rude. I walked to be next to Linda. When I got there, two more guys ran up behind me. One grabbed me, with his arm around my neck and held a knife to my back. The other tried to get my wallet but I am left-handed and kept my wallet in my left rear pocket. I told him where to get my wallet. I needed my keys to drive Linda home. Linda resisted the first guy and managed to keep her gold bracelet, but he took her purse.

I had recently read a Time Magazine article about how to act when you are mugged. Do not fight, just comply, and you will survive.  

Their leader had me take off my shoes as the others ran off. I thought he should have thrown my shoes off the bridge, but who am I to criticize his technique. He said, “I have something for you!”, as he sprayed Mace from a purse-size personal protection canister. I think that counts as an “off-label usage”. I turned my head and it missed my eyes. He ran off and a police car arrived. Witnesses must have called the police who were at the zoo nearby. A lot of people watched us get mugged.

The Mace can was on the ground and a policeman picked it up, wiping out any fingerprints. I found the plastic cap and picked it up with two fingers inside the cap, preserving the fingerprints. I offered it to a policeman, and he took it, wiping out the fingerprints. I objected and he said they cannot do anything with the fingerprints. I thought if they caught the guys for another crime, they could match them with our case.

Linda and I got into the back of the police car to go to the zoo cafeteria and wash the side of my face that had Mace on it. We rode along, with everyone looking at us in the back of the car, probably wondering what we were caught doing. The officer in the right front seat shook the Mace canister and said, “Hey, this still has some in it!” He aimed at the floor in front and sprayed the Mace. It filled the car and the driver said, “That was the stupidest thing!”, as he stopped the car and they let us out of the locked back seat. I said, “It’s a good thing we did not find the knife!” and the driver said, “Hey, did you hear what he said, “It’s a good thing we did not find the knife!”

After I washed my face, we went back to the bridge and did not find any more evidence. We walked over to the chain-link fence where the guys had run off. A man who was about thirty years old walked by and the officer asked me if that was one of the attackers. I shook my head apologetically to the man and told the officer they were young teenagers. The officer said that in the good old days they could push anyone up against the fence and check them. I was not impressed at all with the police.

I drove Linda to her home, wondering how her parents would react when we told them what happened. I eventually went back to my apartment and got a phone call from a woman who had found my wallet and Linda’s purse in her stairwell. I told her that my license had my picture but now I have a big smile on my face because of her phone call! She had been calling all afternoon.

The police picked up our things from her and we went into Boston days later to get them after they had been processed. Linda’s black purse had white power all over it, inside and out. There were no fingerprints. A detective told us that they thought they knew the guys who were robbing zoo visitors.

The police told us we should visit the Stoneham zoo. We eventually went there. We walked past some cages and a field with giraffes then we walked around a bend. I thought the main part of the zoo was ahead of us but that was a dead end. We had walked through the entire zoo.