Jailers Show a Paraplegic Who's Boss

Richard Post was taken to jail in his wheelchair for mouthing off in a bar. Joe Arpaio's detention officers saw him as such a threat, they strapped him into a medieval restraint chair--and broke his neck.

Richard Post directs his wheelchair into the dining room of his Glendale home and pulls up next to a table. On it lie the piles of paperwork that document his overnight stay last March at Madison Street Jail.

He's thin, and his shoulders are set at an angle, with his spine in a twist. Post is 36, but he wears his dark brown hair as if he were much younger: spiky short on top, long and straight down the back.

It's been 11 years since an automobile accident left him a paraplegic, and his useless legs have atrophied, leaving them very thin.

Until his arrest, however, Post had the powerful arms of a wheelchair athlete, and a special skill for billiards.

He grew up in San Jose and worked as a house painter until the accident in 1985. Since then he's held a number of jobs, including nightclub disc jockey and doorman.

Post has no designs on sainthood, but in his 36 years he's managed to purchase a home, raise a child and pursue a college degree. He was attending Glendale Community College and preparing to transfer to Arizona State University to study for a liberal arts degree when he was arrested in March.

He had, until then, no criminal record.
"I'm a pretty decent guy, I think," he says.
Abdominal pain resulting from the automobile accident continues to bother him, but otherwise Post has enjoyed good upper-body strength. In photographs taken before his arrest, he appears to have good posture and beefy chest and arms. He used his strength to power his way through wheelchair races, to challenge other men to arm-wrestling contests, and to enter national billiards tournaments.

At The Drummer, a bar in Glendale, a bartender named Linda--who asked that her last name not be published--still remembers Post and his pool shooting.

He hasn't been to the bar in a long time, she says, but he made enough of an impression--enough of a good impression--that she still remembers him by name. She confirms that Post was a very good pool shooter, and says he was very cordial.

"He was always a nice guy. He never caused us a problem and he never caused a problem with another client," she says, adding that she had wondered why he hadn't been around in a long time.

Events that led to Post's arrest began last St. Patrick's Day, when he sat at home watching Mike Tyson beat up Frank Bruno, the English boxing champion.

After the fight, about 11 p.m., Post decided to try out the St. Patrick's Day festivities at O'Connor's Pub, an Irish bar in Phoenix that a friend had told him about.

Post says he found the people there friendly, and over the next hour he consumed two drinks. When an Irish folk-rock musician finished a song, Post wheeled over to tell him the result of that evening's fight. Post figured the crowd might want to hear that the English champion had taken it on the chin.

When the musician announced that Tyson had defeated Bruno, some people in the bar cheered, and others booed. Post then started up a conversation with two couples, and a few minutes later, about 12:30, decided to leave.

That's when an older man approached him and said abruptly: "Why don't you get the hell out of here?"

"Why, did you bet on the Englishman?" Post asked him.
"I'm calling the police," the man replied, and walked off.
Post thought it was a joke, so he didn't go anywhere. Meanwhile, the man, James O'Connor, who owned the pub, did call police and asked them to remove Post.

Post was told the police were on their way, so he waited for them. (He explains that if the police wanted to talk to him, he wanted it to be in the bar rather than on the road, since he had been drinking.)

According to the report filed by Phoenix police officers Jeffrey Howell and James Ray, when they arrived and asked O'Connor what had happened, the bar owner complained that when he had asked Post to leave, the paraplegic had answered, "I think you are a Protestant and an Englishman." O'Connor told police he asked Post to leave two more times before he called police.

Howell and Ray write that they asked Post why he didn't leave when he was asked. "For what?" Post responded.

(Post points out that O'Connor had never identified himself as the owner of the bar.)

Howell and Ray found Post argumentative and "extremely intoxicated."
At least one person contradicts that view, however. And that's James O'Connor himself. O'Connor says he distinctly remembers that Post was not drunk. He called the cops, he says, because he thought Post was being rude to others in the bar.

"He just seemed like the kind of person who has four or five drinks and then becomes belligerent," O'Connor tells New Times.

O'Connor doesn't remember telling police that Post had called him an "Englishman," but he does remember Post telling him, "This isn't an Irish bar."

"That didn't bother me. I called the police because he was harassing my customers."

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