The Case of the Bail Jumper

Being a bail-bondsman is risky work, but one agent was given a chance to save a life.

- Posted on Mar 24, 2014

An artist's rendering of a bail-bond agent brandishing a taser gun

I don’t normally talk about my job. As a bail-bond agent, with the cases I’m involved in, it’s best to keep a low profile. I’ve got to assume that the people I track down, the ones running away from the law, are dangerous. But it wasn’t until a recent case that I realized I might not always be the one in danger.

Late one Wednesday, I pulled a file from the stack of about a dozen manila folders on my desk. A straightforward drunk-driving case. Let’s call the guy J.D. Class C misdemeanor, just over the legal limit.

My company posted bail, $5,000, but J.D. was a no-show for his date with the judge. Now there was a warrant out on him.

Easy enough, I thought. J.D. owned a business. We had his work address, home address, vehicle description and booking photo on file. I waited till 10:00 p.m.–I do my best investigative work after dark–then left to stake out his store.

I pulled my car into the strip mall and idled in the shadows. The store lights were off; the company’s sign had disappeared. His vehicle, a large SUV, was nowhere in sight.

Probably holed up at home, I thought. I drove over to J.D.’s apartment complex. There was that SUV, in a parking spot. Still had the magnetic labels with his business’s name and everything. Gotcha, I thought.

You’ve got to be careful bringing in a bail jumper. That Dog the Bounty Hunter show isn’t really how it’s done. If you go storming in, the guy might bolt, or react violently.

So I called the super of the complex and explained who I was. He agreed to knock on the door and confirm that J.D. was at home. Meanwhile, I kept my eye trained on that SUV. If J.D. ran for it, I’d stop him.

The super returned, shaking his head. “I keyed into the apartment. He’s not there.” Tomorrow’s another day, I thought, and called it a night.

Thursday evening, though, same story. That SUV hadn’t budged. Maybe he’s left the state, I thought. I’d seen it before–a guy will do almost anything to avoid jail.

Just then, a smaller SUV zoomed past me, out of the apartment complex. I only caught a glimpse of the driver...but he had the same build, same hair color as the guy in the booking photo.

I remained at my post in case I was wrong–besides, I didn’t want to get into a car chase. But I had a hunch it was my guy. I was getting closer.

Friday, I got up early and made some calls. I found an interesting piece of news. J.D. had moved his place of business. Not too far away.

I pulled into the lot and saw his sign. That same small SUV too, the one I’d seen the night before. This was it. My chance to nab him. I geared up–bulletproof vest, Taser, bail-enforcement badge–and approached the store.

I opened the door. “Freeze!” I said, flashing my badge. “I have a warrant for your arrest.”

J.D. sat at his desk in the rear of the store, typing away at his computer. The place was empty except for us. He looked up. Froze.

“You’re under arrest,” I repeated. “Get down on the ground.”

J.D. jumped up and ran into the back room. Remember what I said about people who run away from the law being dangerous?

I gripped my Taser, which can deliver an incapacitating but not fatal jolt of electricity, and sidestepped my way toward the back room. I peered around the corner and scoped out the situation.

J.D. was hiding behind a pallet, not very successfully.

This time I shouted. “Get down on the ground, sir, or I’ll use force!”

“I won’t,” J.D. said. He stepped out from behind the pallet. He had tears in his eyes. “Just shoot me, man,” he said, staring straight at me. “I don’t want to live anymore. Do it. Shoot me!”

Is this guy serious? He must have thought I was holding a gun, not a Taser. He was trying to commit what we call suicide by cop. I aimed the red target beam at his chest. “Let me handcuff you. Or else I’ll have to stun you, then cuff you. First option will hurt a whole lot less.”

He stayed still, silent, staring at me, tears spilling down his cheeks. Finally, he crouched on the ground and held up his hands. I took hold of him and snapped the cuffs around his wrists. Case closed, I thought. Next stop, jail.

I surveyed the empty store. The windows were open. The computer on. I didn’t want to leave things unsecured. As J.D. crouched on the floor, I closed the windows, then went to shut down the computer.  

A document was up on the computer screen. An e-mail, half-written. I checked it out, scrolled down. “Difficulties…” “Living a repetitive life…” “Can’t take it anymore….” My blood ran cold. It was a suicide note.

“My wife’s left me,” J.D. said, sobbing. “She fled the country and took our daughter with her. I have nothing left. And now this…”

I looked into his bloodshot eyes. His words echoed in my ears: Just shoot me. The truth dawned on me. What if I’d arrived a moment later? What was he planning to do to himself? I knelt on the ground beside him. I felt I owed him more than just bringing him in. He was a fellow human being in terrible pain.

“God,” I prayed, “please bless this man. Open up his heart so that he can let you in again.” We knelt together for a long moment.

“Is that the reason you didn’t show up for your court dates?” I finally asked him. “You’ve given up?”

J.D. seemed confused. “What court dates?” he asked. “My attorney never said a word about it.”

I looked him in the eye. I’ve heard every excuse in the book, but something about this man told me he wasn’t lying.

“You’re not going to run, are you?” He shook his head. I let him out of his handcuffs, something I’d never done before in my career. He was no bail jumper.

I was legally obligated to bring him in, and he would have to wait until Monday for another hearing. But this man wasn’t a threat to anybody but himself.

Come Monday, J.D. pleaded his case in court. I stood beside him and told the judge my company was willing to stay the bond. Promised he’d show up for his next date.

And he did. J.D. complied with the law for the remainder of his case, followed the court’s orders, and got his record clean. I’m still in touch with him. He’s doing much better now. He gets to see his daughter. He’s thankful to be around.

I’m thankful too. I called J.D.’s attorneys after I brought him in–I don’t leave stones unturned–and asked about the court dates J.D. had missed. J.D.’s story checked out: His case had slipped through the cracks, the secretary admitted. They’d never notified him.

Instead, the court notified me. And that’s why I was on his case, just in time.

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