During the early 1980s I was one of two second-level Customs supervisors in the inspection force at the port of Brownsville, Texas and on a very special evening I was performing my supervisory duties on the swing shift—4 pm to 12 midnight—at the Gateway Bridge. At some time near the middle of the shift, a pedestrian of a different kind walked in from Mexico and the officer on sidewalk duty referred him to my office.
The pedestrian was an elderly Anglo male, probably in his sixties, wearing slacks and a white shirt, his tie still knotted but hanging loosely. There was blood on his face and his shirt was stained with blood, apparently from a nosebleed. He walked erratically and seemed oblivious of his surroundings. My first thoughts were that he was either drunk or under the influence of drugs, but his answers to my first questions were always the same—I don’t know. My most pertinent question was Do you know where you are? His answer was simply No.
I asked him for his name and he said Fred Siemens. I asked him where he lived and he said San Antonio, and my next question was Are you an attorney? He said Yes and I realized that he was Fred Siemens, a prominent attorney in San Antonio, nationally and internationally known for his work in criminal law. Because of him and an article on him that appeared in one of San Antonio’s local newspapers, I became a devotee of Henry David Thoreau’s writings, specifically Walden or, Life in the Woods and On the Duty of Civil Disobedience. The image on the right is my well-thumbed copy of the work on which Mahatma Ghandi based his passive resistance movements. Click here for an explanation of how, when, where and why I first met Thoreau and his writings.
I suspected that he could be the subject of a missing person alert, and I immediately called the Brownsville Police Department and asked for an officer to come to the Gateway Bridge. Two officers arrived in record time, and I told them that they should contact the San Antonio Police Department and would probably find a missing person lookout on the man. They thanked me and gently escorted the attorney to their vehicle.
Now read about the non-existent grateful appreciation expressed by the Brownsville police for giving them a well-known missing person and the opportunity to shine a bright light on the coordination between local and federal law enforcement in the city of Brownsville. I never heard from the Police Department—I called the Department the next day and the people on duty claimed to have no knowledge of the incident.
However, several days later a lengthy article appeared in the local daily newspaper detailing the fine work done by Brownsville’s police in returning a missing person to his home in San Antonio. The article stated that in the early evening on a certain day Mr. Siemens was found wandering around in the vicinity of the Gateway Bridge, apparently unaware of his surroundings, and an investigation determined that a missing person lookout for him had been made by San Antonio police. Obviously there were some really ambitious officers on Brownsville’s police force!
I should have known what was going to happen, because the two officers that took custody of the missing person neglected to ask for my name or for my position in the Customs hierarchy. If I gave that any thought at the time, it would probably have been that they would return for the specifics of the interdiction, and also to tender the thanks of the local department to the Customs officers on duty that evening, specifically to the inspector on pedestrian traffic duty and to the supervisory officer on the shift, the person that recognized the missing person and initiated the investigation. I mean, like hey, everybody likes to shine!
So I can only offer kudos to the local police for their fine work in solving a missing person lookout and returning a brilliant and nationally-known criminal law attorney to his home and to his loved ones. Good work, guys!
That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!