IN THE MID-1990S, Jason Carter made money from body slams, headlocks and all sorts of limb-locking holds as an AWA Ringside Wrestling wrestler, who competed (maybe I should say "performed") at clubs and Legion halls throughout New England.
Carter bent arms, slammed bodies and jumped from ringside ropes onto a hobbled opponent splayed out on a wrestling ring mat.
Now 40, Carter's body is not so pliable. And his shoulder still stings from two weeks ago, when he claims Manchester police used unnecessary force to subdue him.
He wasn't being arrested. He suffers from several psychiatric disorders and was fighting suicidal thoughts for most of the afternoon, he said.
He wasn't hiding. But police were looking for him, after friends and his counselor called police to warn he could end up hurting himself.
When they found him, it was on the Riverwalk near the Hands Across the Merrimack bridge. Carter said he complied with an officer's demand: he knelt down on the snow-covered path, and he placed his arms in the air.
Then from behind, he was tackled. The officer wrenched his right arm, which recently had surgery, behind his back and then kneeled on it while Carter yelled in pain, he said.
"I understand they don't know what they're up against," Carter said. "When I'm on my knees and my hands are up, the threat is over."
As a reporter, you often hear stories of police brutality. Ask enough questions, and the person will acknowledge he'd been drinking, he didn't obey police, he struggled. He's arrogant and abrasive. You get the feeling of what went on before even contacting the police.
Carter is different.
Police would only speak about the case in generalities. They gave me a small, one-paragraph report written when they apprehended Carter on Jan. 20.
"Suicidal subjects have a higher probability of causing injury to officers than people who are not suicidal," said Manchester police Sgt. Brian O'Keefe, the department's acting spokesman. Would such a tackle be justified? Absolutely, he said.
Actually, Manchester police have been lauded for their approach to handling the mentally ill. More than 20 officers have gone through special training. It discourages authoritative speech and contact, and urges officers to use a calm voice and to maintain distance.
Carter drives a minivan, lives in a center city apartment and wears a baseball cap. He was a cook at a restaurant until problems with carpal tunnel and his shoulder flared up. He had surgery on his right shoulder in December.
Other than arched eyebrows that betray a touch of melancholy, you wouldn't think he is anything out of the ordinary. But he's struggled with mental illness since early adulthood.
On Jan. 20, he purposely drove his minivan into a snowman, and felt feelings of dread coming to the forefront. He told his counselor he might hurt himself. Yet, Carter also tried to work it out. He went to his coping area — he acknowledges a bridge over a river and highway might not be the best coping area — but that's his spot.
He said he had worked out his problems when the incident happened.
Police eventually gave me a single-paragraph Call For Service Report about the incident with Carter. It makes no mention of a take-down.
"Another call about Jason Carter," it starts. It goes on to say that Carter may cut himself. A police officer sees Carter running on the footbridge, and he won't let anyone catch him, the narrative reads. Carter does everything he can to verify his side of the story. He gives copies of paperwork from the hospital and doctor. He gave me the name of a friend — novelist, retired wrestler and Madison resident Jason Sanderson — who talked him down via the telephone.
"I just started talking about old wrestling stories. We were laughing," Sanderson said. He said Carter then ended the conversation because another call was coming in. "I've never known him to lie. He's a little naive some times, but I've never known him to be dishonest."Carter has filed a complaint with police.
O'Keefe said police received 40 complaints out of 109,000 calls for service received last year. All are investigated.
Carter said he's had previous encounters with police, with no rough stuff. So why complain publicly? He'd like the police department to pay for any therapy on the shoulder. And he'd like a note put in his electronic file, so the next time police won't reinjure the shoulder."I was having a bad night," he said. "To be hurt because of it is unfair. I would want an 'I'm sorry' or something like that."
Mark Hayward's City Matters appears Thursdays in the New Hampshire Union Leader and UnionLeader.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.