For all those who’ve been wondering what happened to Joe Palme, he’s not in jail.
Whether he’s eventually charged with failure to yield to an officer and resisting arrest remains to be seen.
But for now, the 72-year-old Air Force veteran is home.
Well, actually, he’s at his sister-in-law’s home since his Squirrel Valley house burned to the ground last Thursday during the height of the Erskine Fire.
And he’s sore as hell from the fight he had with CHP Officer Kelley Walker on Sunday after he blew past a checkpoint to check on his property and take pictures for insurance.
Oh, he’s also pretty darn unrepentant about that fight with Walker.
“If that guy (Walker) hadn’t pulled a gun on me for no reason, none of this would have happened,” Palme told me late last week. “He could have said, ‘I’m giving you a citation for not yielding to police.’ I would have said, ‘Fine.’ But he came on my property without a warrant and pulled a gun on me while I’m holding my two dogs.”
For those who didn’t see the story, Palme (pronounced palm-ee), is the man who tussled with Walker when Walker tried to arrest him for not stopping at a checkpoint on Highway 178.
I and Californian photographer Felix Adamo happened to be right there as the situation unfolded.
I wondered what had happened after Adamo and I left Palme and his wife, Michelle, Sunday.
Palme told me an ambulance took him to Kern Medical Center after he refused to ride in the back of a patrol car.
He got X-rayed and scanned and was finally released about 6:30 p.m. that night.
“They never physically placed me under arrest,” he said. “Never read me my Miranda rights or anything.”
A sergeant with the CHP talked to him for about an hour and told him the agency would send the case to the DA’s office and it would be up to the DA whether to go forward.
As of Thursday evening, the DA hadn’t received a complaint about Palme.
CHP information officer Robert Rodriguez said misdemeanor charges would be filed, but didn’t know when and didn’t have any further information.
I asked Palme whether he regretted his decision to run the CHP blockade on Sunday.
After all, he’d been to his property the day before and knew that all they had left was one lawn chair that hadn’t burned.
“No,” he said, he didn’t regret going passed the checkpoint. “I thought, when this guy sees our property, he might give me a ticket. I never expected what happened.”
He said after he stopped in his driveway, with Walker right behind him, he got out of his car.
“I was pulling my dogs out of my car and he was behind his door with a gun pointed at me,” Palme said. “I said are you gonna turn off lights and sirens or shoot me. He went ahead and turned those off and held the gun on me.
“I told him I was gonna go tie up my dogs in the yard under a shade tree and get my camera to take pictures to show the insurance company.
“He said, ‘No. I’m placing you under arrest.’” I said, ‘Well, we’re at an impasse then.’
“I went to tie up the dogs, came back to the car and he charged me.”
I actually heard some of that exchange. Mostly from Palme as he was yelling, loudly.
There were more than a few f-bombs directed at Walker. And Palme repeatedly listed his constitutional rights to be on his property.
Otherwise, Palme’s general outline fits with my recollection.
“I got my one and a half blows in and then it went downhill for me,” Palme said of the actual fight. “He got me down in a rolling hip throw and I fell on a rock. That’s when I heard my hip pop out and started feeling a lot of pain.”
That didn’t stop Palme, who continued to fight Walker and the two Kern County sheriff’s deputies who helped get Palme cuffed. Even after he was handcuffed, Palme stomped their feet and continued to assert his constitutional rights.
“I couldn’t see doing anything other than I did.”
He’s from a generation that fended for itself, he said.
“Heck, I was in Vietnam when Lyndon Johnson still wasn’t letting us have bullets.”
Still, he said, he told the CHP sergeant at the scene that he, Palme, felt he shared some blame for how this went down.
“I was quoting constitutional law and they were quoting state law. And the constitution says you have to have a warrant to come on someone’s property.”
As for the issue of his meds, which Michelle brought up several times during the fight, he said he wants to set the record straight. He takes a very minor amount of medication to keep him from “getting mad at the news every night.” It’s not like he has a serious issue, he said.
But he acknowledged the events of the previous days had taken their toll.
“Everything that happened from Thursday on...it’s been growing,” he said. “You lose 55 years worth of stuff…and sitting there looking at the devastation...plus having fought the fire on Thursday until I just didn’t have any water…I don’t know.”
“If the guy hadn’t pulled a gun on me for no reason…”
That was my take as well.
Walker was absolutely right to follow Palme after he blew the checkpoint. And he was right to let Palme know there would be a consequence for that action.
I even agree with Walker’s action to keep Palme from reaching back into his car as the officer had no idea what Palme was after.
But pulling his gun on Palme from the start? No way. That needlessly escalated the situation.
When CHP Sgt. Richard Pierce spoke to me at the scene, giving me his understanding of what happened, he initially neglected to mention Walker had drawn his weapon.
I asked about that and Pierce said, yes, he had drawn his gun because Palme’s actions were considered “high risk.” He decided it wasn’t necessary and re-holstered the gun.
“The officer should be acknowledged for de-escalating the situation,” Pierce told me that day.
I guess we just see that differently.
Palme is now busy trying to reestablish his life, getting new Social Security cards, phones, clothing, pretty much everything, I guess.
I hope he doesn’t have to add hiring a defense lawyer to that list.