The Night Strangers Came Knocking – June 3, 2010

Thomas J. Stafford

Special to the Eye

A Rude Awakening

ARCATA – On the night of May 20, 2010, my wife and I were awakened from a sound sleep by loud pounding on our front door. I got up, put on my bathrobe, and wondered what brought this on in the middle of the night.

My first thought was that it might be a neighbor in distress. Then I thought it might be the police. When I asked who it was, a man said, “We are investigators.” Thinking it was probably the Arcata Police Department, I asked, “What officer are you?” (Badly phrased, but I wasn’t wide awake.)

I didn’t get much of an answer to that, so I decided under no circumstances was I going to open the door. This didn’t sound like legitimate law enforcement people.

Eventually the man asked my name. I told him it was Thomas J. Stafford. He said, ‘we are looking for a Thomas J. Stafford at this address,” He asked me to open the window blinds, which I was hesitant to do thinking a gun might be staring me in the face.

Tom and Margaret Stafford. KLH | Eye

My wife was at my side by then and she opened the blinds. They showed her a picture of a young man and an arrest warrant, asking if she recognized the man. She did not. We were then asked if we had a son or grandson named Thomas J. Stafford. My wife told him we only had daughters. At that point they must have concluded they had come to the wrong place, and the man said he would leave his card in a flower pot on our front porch and they left. We found it the next morning.

We didn’t get much sleep the rest of the night, thinking about the incident and wondering who these people were who had trespassed on our property in the middle of the night and very much disturbed our peace.

We probably should have called the Arcata Police at that point, but decided to save that till morning, We were planning to leave early in the morning to go to Chico to celebrate a daughter’s birthday and a grand daughter’s graduation from Chico State.

When I did call the Arcata police, they recorded my report of the incident and said they did know about these people operating in our area.

When we looked at the card the man had left, it said they were from CSI, California Surety Investigators, and that they did fugitive investigations. We interpreted this to mean they were “bounty hunters.” The card also indicated they were from Modesto.

We left on our trip still wondering if they were who they said they were and if they were operating within the law. After we had finished the Chico phase of our trip, we went to Merced to visit other family members who live there.

While in Merced, which is not far from Modesto, I decided to further research the CSI organization to see if they were all they said they were. I called the number on the card and received an apology from a man named Troy when I told him about our experience.

When I asked to speak to the person in charge, he gave me the name and phone number of a man named Mo Martinez located in the Fresno office. All this time I was thinking, since I was near by, I just might pay them a visit if they didn’t provide satisfactory answers to my questions and concerns.

After talking to Mo, I concluded that they might be legitimate after all. He apologized, but also gave his rationale for what his investigators did. It turned out there were three of them that came to our house. He also said that the law allows them to cross state lines, trespass and disturb the peace. I’m thinking to myself about that time, there is one more example of what some might call a draconian law that infringes on our personal freedom.

You may wonder why I am making such a big deal out of an incident that turned out OK in the final analysis. The reason is that this is the third incident our immediate family has experienced within a three-month period in which the so-called “good guys” came off appearing or actually behaving like “bad guys.”

I won’t go in to the other two incidents here. When the time is right, I may tell those stories publicly as well.

The bottom line on the CSI incident is that they didn’t do their homework very well. I am 73 years old and I suspect there are not many fugitives of that age out there. If they had done just a little simple research of the kind that my wife and I do frequently while pursuing our genealogical hobby, they could have established that we only have daughters and no Stafford grandsons. My conclusion is that CSI made the trip all the way from Modesto to ask a question at our front door in the middle of the night while scaring us badly, that they could have answered in their office with a few minutes of Internet research.

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