9th Oct 04
In 1999, twelve inmates attacked another inmate in a packed chow hall. The target, a 6’ 6” 265-pound cage fighter, repelled the assailants. The clash became legendary. Whilst listening to inmates tell stories, I had previously heard about the fight and I was recently delighted to find out that the well-respected gladiator is my neighbour Barbarian.
Barbarian rarely talks to anyone. Even the guards are intimidated by him. He has to be double-handcuffed when they allow him out of his cell. On Friday I plucked up the courage to ask him about the attack. Approaching him wasn't easy for me. At first he shot me down, and, discouraged, I shrunk back to my bunk. Moments later he called me back to my cell door and he revealed not only the details of the conflict, but also, background information explaining how he came to be one of the most feared and respected men in Arizona's prison system. It is a sad story. It shows how a promising young man’s life and career were permanently changed by the Fates.
Barbarian’s fighting skills germinated during many years of scrapping with his two older brothers. During high school, he became involved in wrestling. He eventually channelled his physical abilities into American football. He was signed up by Boise State where he set two college records, and a brilliant future as a quarterback looked like a sure thing.
In 1994, in north Phoenix, Barbarian was trying to park his distinctive 1988 Corvette outside of a bank. Barbarian honked his horn at a vehicle that had blocked him in. The driver of the other vehicle refused to move, and suddenly threats were exchanged. Nothing else bad happened that day, but Barbarian started to notice the other vehicle around Phoenix. threats were swapped again during a few more chance meetings, and eventually a showdown happened at a gas station.
Barbarian and his friend Frank were pumping gas, minding their own business, when Barbarian’s enemy, travelling with three fellow gang members, spotted the Corvette. Frank owned a bar and he had just made a large cash deposit and for protection he was carrying a fully loaded sawn-off shotgun. Barbarian noticed his enemy’s vehicle pull into the other side of the gas station and he had a premonition that he was about to be killed. He asked Frank for the shotgun and he hurriedly tucked it into his pants. In an instant the foursome were upon him with weapons drawn. A shootout commenced during which Barbarian was hit twice, but he also managed to discharge the shotgun twice before collapsing. His assailants had used hollow-point bullets that are extremely destructive to human tissue and organs. Barbarian’s lungs were punctured but fortunately the bullets had missed his heart and kidneys - but only just.
Barbarian lost consciousness and underwent a near death experience, which he described as seeing the flames of hell. The discharged buckshot had killed one of the attackers and a second assailant was touch and go but he survived and is now blind.
Barbarian was charged with seven crimes including first-degree murder, attempted murder, misconduct with a weapon and aggravated assault. Barbarian believed that he had acted in self-defence so he refused to sign a plea bargain. The case went to trial, and although he managed to beat the more serious charges, he was still found guilty on the aggravated assault, which is a class three felony, and categorized as a dangerous crime. He was sentenced to seven years. His football career was over.
In the prison system Barbarian was well-respected by most people, but, unfortunately, in 1999, a group of "woods" (white inmates, comes from the word "peckerwood") who were housed with Barbarian became paranoid, fearing that he might turn his fighting skills upon them. A preemptive strike was plotted. The individuals decided that they would attack Barbarian in the chow hall. Due to the large number of woods in the attack posse it was decided that shanks (sharpened instruments used to stab and kill people) would not be needed.
The leaders of the woods were the first to strike Barbarian. With lightening speed the big man’s combat instincts kicked in. He quickly disabled the first three attackers: in a second, one of them was gouged in the eyeball; another’s testicles were crushed; another's feet were hooked, causing him to trip and smash his head. The others, upon witnessing their leaders get beat up, lost their enthusiasm, and after throwing some token blows, they retreated, leaving Barbarian victorious in front of an amazed audience.
Upon completing his sentence Barbarian entered professional cagefighting matches, with prize money ranging for $5,000 to $15,000. He won 31 out of 34 fights. He pocketed a considerable amount of loot, but he suffered eleven concussions, a broken hand, a fractured eye socket, a broken nose and knee damage. He won the Rawhide Toughman Contest and took home $15,000. He obtained one victory in 47 seconds by fracturing his opponent’s jawbone, but he broke his own hand in the process.
Whilst employed as a bouncer, Barbarian was instructed to forcefully eject an unruly customer who refused to wear a formal shirt. The sloshed fellow was a fullback from the ASU football team. Barbarian decided to use minimal force because a drunk did not usually pose a serious threat to him. What occurred next was a comical wrestling match in the men’s restroom that resulted in a urinal being ripped off the wall, a lavatory tank being cracked, and the toilet divides toppling down as the combatants fell against them. The fullback was finally subdued in the corner of the demolished restroom and held until the police arrived to arrest him.
Barbarian is now a born-again Christian and he hopes that his past actions have not put him in a bad light. He has good family values and he wants to join a religious ministry when he gets out of prison. He longs to go to Colorado where he can “take care o’ Mom 'n' Pops.”