Publisher's Editorial: Pride Board Member Becomes Community Crime-Stopper

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John Fugate and Brian Swinford

As some, and now many of you know, two weeks ago I went for knee replacement surgery.

After a family reunion in the Catskills Mountains of New York State, and a short summer vacation at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, I thought I would have a few quiet weeks of rest, rehabilitation, and recovery at home.

I never planned for me to be the lead story on the Channel 7 news. I never thought that my former partner, the caregiver at home watching over me, would become a local hero. But one thing is clear. Don't screw with John Fugate.

For the past few months, John has been making news and noise as one of the activists demanding reforms and change at Pride South Florida, where he serves on the board of directors. He has demanded more transparency and higher trust by the volunteers who donate their time.

John now lives a few blocks away from me with his new partner, SFGN's distribution manager, Brian Swinford. As a patient care tech who graduated Nova Southeastern, it was a natural fit to have John and Brian move back in with me while I was incapacitated. I wasn't exactly able to cook or fend for myself or my three dogs.

Setting up an operations and living center on my double wide large living room recliner, I have been spending evenings watching baseball games and movies on satellite. With a pretty good surveillance camera system, and 8 TV sets, I am able to check on the pool area or the front driveway, or even the front yard by the gate, where the shepherd likes to sleep.

About 1 a.m. last Thursday morning, the Dodgers and Angels were locked in a 4-4 tie in the bottom of the 8th. Dozing in and out, I was woken by the shepherd's barking. Both Brian and John were fast asleep. I looked up into the cameras and saw two intruders simultaneously trying to break into the SFGN company van and Brian's PT Cruiser. These nighttime burglaries have become epidemic in Victoria Park.

I shouted for John to wake up. Turns out he was on the couch right behind me. I warned him that intruders were breaking into our cars. 'Like hell they are, ' he said. He leapt up, ran to the gate and saw the would be thief in his partner's vehicle, the door partially open. He slammed the door on the guy’s foot, pinning him in.

The guy tried to escape. Bad move. First, a left cross, then a reverse headlock, leading to a takedown, dragging the guy to the ground. Brian, who had been sleeping upstairs, was now also awake. As he ran outside, I warned him about a second culprit. Arming himself with a shovel, he entered the fray, standing over the thief while John forcefully held him down.

Meanwhile, I am laid up in a recliner, wrapped in bandages and strapped to a tens unit and an icing system, immobile absent a walker. Can't even get to my gun. Yes, I have one. Hell, I am a kid who grew up in the country. On the phone with 911 dispatch, I am waiting an agonizing four minutes for police to arrive. Just a nice simple week of quiet rehab and recovery at home, right?

John's gutsy and courageous capture of the suspect saturated local TV news and radio stations, with Channel 7 running it and the video footage as their top local news story on five separate newscasts. It's still there. He was more than butch. He was ballsy, placing himself at risk to defend his friend and partner, and their property. That's loyalty you love forever.

It turns out the dude breaking into my house is a serial thief, with an astounding record of over 52 arrests, including over a half dozen felonies. How many times more do you think he got away with this?

All I know is that my neighborhood is a little safer today because of John Fugate. Everyone that knows about this is congratulating him as a local hero, and he is. Finally, the bad guy got caught, and the good guy won. It's a feel good story with a happy ending. We don't have enough of those anymore.

John is really pushing me in physical therapy, and I will be back to work soon. Meanwhile, he is looking again for a job in his field as a patient care tech. Alternatively, if you need a security guard, well I can't think of a better choice to have around. And to all these bumbling burglars, don't you dare interrupt me while I watching a Dodger game ever again.

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