Blue Byline

A cop's perspective of the news and South Sound matters

The power of redemption

Post by Brian O'Neill on Nov. 25, 2011 at 8:33 pm with 8 Comments »
November 25, 2011 8:51 pm
Cecil Leading Horse/ The News Tribune

I have spent many nights on third watch, graveyard or whatever one’s term is for the time period when most hard-working, reasonable and sober people are sound asleep. The hours just before and after midnight are often harsh and violent. The alternate reality of night shift can also wear away on the softer natures of those who ply their trade in the dark: the nurses and docs who labor in the chaotic ER; the paramedics roused from sleep to perform CPR in the gutter; the cops who prowl the dimly lit streets.

When you spend enough time working the wrong side of the clock you become intimately familiar with the players. Because the unhinged folks who wander the nighttime streets often make up the lion’s share of a police officer’s time, they are as familiar to us as regular customers are to their favorite barista.

The majority of these unfortunate individuals, who seem to slip into existence just as the street lights turn on, are propelled forward into the night by a single, coalesced desire: to get high.

In a troupe that consisted of drug-addicted prositutes, small time dealers sampling their product, and homeless alcoholics who shuffled through the streets like zombies, the name Cecil was very well known.

I don’t know how many times I met the man named Nicolas Cecil Leading Horse. Until the remarkable feature in the Tribune, I have thought little of him in the years since I left the force in Tacoma. What I do remember is that the encounters were typically played out in one of two ways. In the first, I might see a sober and shaky Cecil warming his hands at a dumpster fire under I-705 by the Tacoma Dome. Within mere minutes, at least it would seem to me, I would see him in the second situation: lying face first in the gutter.

Cecil’s level of alcoholism was a whole new experience. He could consume extreme quantities of fluid that was only marginally fit for human consumption, and then he would defy all odds by not dying. On countless occasions I was present to see Cecil in that position. Then we would call for medical aid and watch the the paramedics coax him back to life. When he could lift his head he would give me a blurry glare and tell me to go to a toasty place with pitchforks. Later I would drop him at detox where the intake clerk would say, “Back already, Cecil?”

Watching the bitter, hopeless saga of Cecil’s existence was one of the reasons cops, including myself, come to view the world through a dim filter. It is the reason many of us, at least for a time, have little to say about the essential nature of humanity that isn’t cynical.

Then there are the moments in life that challenge your perceptions. I was blessed with one of those rare moments when I read the continuing story of one Nicolas Cecil Leading Horse, a  man who is now clean and sober. Where I once would have seriously considered betting my retirement that Cecil would have died on the street, I am now faced with an unbelievable story of a man who made an astounding and courageous change to his very nature.

Cecil has a lot to be thankful for. The countless times that cops, firefighters, nurses, doctors and detox workers spent reviving him, picking him up, dusting him off and sending him out again are far in excess of the normal limits of mortal man. He should also be extremely thankful to those same people for their unrelenting care, especially when he cared nothing for himself.

I need nothing from Cecil. His continued sobriety is an open-ended statement that the power of redemption is within the reach of anyone.


Leave a comment Comments → 8
  1. BlaineCGarver says:

    Brian, I realize that we are not on the same wavelength. When it comes right down to it, all those millions of dollars and Lord knows how many hours of care didn’t help him…..he had to do that himself. A man can only slay his own demons. Alone. I consider all that taxpayer money wasted. Spent it on those that are living productive lives. Perhaps the Salvation Army is best equipped for Demon Slaying.

  2. Brian, your descriptions of the after midnight population only reinforces my belief that the Big Box merchants are actually aiding and abetting crime and endangering both their customers and employees with all this Black Friday extended hour greed and slay loss-leader Black Friday madness.
    The behaviour of the nut-cases, even though just a few, and the threat of harm to others that they pose, should be enough to cause municipalities to enact some operating hour regulations. Does any, except for the sick or injured, really, truly need anything at 3 o’clock in the morning? Please don’t tell me yes, that a pregnant woman needs a pickle.

  3. Good writing. Mr. Leading Horse has had the kind of life
    which makes a lot of people give up. He now can do something
    kind for the others.

  4. Brian O'Neill says:

    I agree that people can only make a basic change if it is their decision and they follow through. In Cecil’s case, though, he would have been dead twenty years ago without intervention. There was never a decision to spend three million dollars on this character – instead, there was an almost daily need to save his life. That was an easy call to make, and it is one I would make again. For anyone.

  5. BlaineCGarver says:

    Brian, a passed out drunk can also be strapped upright in a comfortable position so he won’t choke on vomit and watched until he sobers up. That’s all we owe. Three hots and a cot is all an honorable person needs to resurrect theirself.

  6. serendipity says:

    I think his story is inspiring, Brian. Say nay to the naysayers.

  7. smokey984 says:

    Blaine made a good point of a person to slay his own demons alone. In the end that’s the bottom line.

    And i support Brian’s point of intervention as much as possible until that demon is slayed or it slays its victim.

  8. TtownMatt says:

    Cecil’s story is a bumpy one for sure, but its far from over. I hope in a few more years he remains sober and has a healthy life (he should run for city council, we’ve done worse).

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