Peshwaz Azad Waise’s Crazy Is The Scary Sort
June 17, 2016 (Fault Lines) — It’s impossible to dispute that, even if he’s normally a pretty sane guy, Peshwaz Azad Waise was acting crazy:
Denton police say their first encounter with the suspect in the bizarre incident was Tuesday night. Peshwaz Azad Waise, 28, flagged down a police car on it’s way to another call at the intersection of Interstate 35 and Fort Worth Ave.
Police say he was acting irrationally, but doing nothing illegal, so they went on their way.
It might be worth noting that Denton police didn’t shoot Waise just because. These days, that some cops would get flagged down by a guy acting irrationally and not escalate the situation to the point of having to arrest or shoot him is almost the type of thing worthy of praise. Even though they probably could’ve embellished just a tiny bit and justified a citation for disorderly conduct or any number of related offenses, they didn’t.
Perhaps the fact they let Waise go is because Texas doesn’t seem to have a general failure to obey an officer criminal law, a favorite among many officers elsewhere who just have to give a crazy person a command a crazy person obviously can’t obey and then arrest them for not doing the thing they obviously couldn’t do. Regardless, Waise went on his way unharmed. Things got worse from there, however:
But Wednesday morning, Waise was back on police radar after the manager at an IHOP on the University of North Texas campus reported him for acting suspiciously and trying to force the Quran on employees. UNT Police cited Waise for criminal trespass.
Just flagging down cops, even though he was interfering with them responding to a call, didn’t get Waise a citation. Peddling the Quran at IHOP did, however. Had it been a Bible or maybe the Bhagavad Gita or an issue of The Watchtower, maybe he would’ve been fine. The former probably would have been met with approval, actually, as this did happen in the Bible Belt. Mix the Quran with someone who’s nuts and happens to be sporting quite the beard, and you have a recipe for a ticket at the very least.
Again, things could’ve been much worse for Waise. A citation for trespass isn’t that big a deal, and if he was asked to leave and didn’t, then it seems like a perfectly reasonable thing to do. Waise ends up escorted off the property with a minor criminal charge to deal with, and people at IHOP get to enjoy their pancakes in peace and quiet.
IHOP isn’t the sort of place where our concerns about terrorism are heightened, something that might have had an impact on why things didn’t end up worse for Waise. However, his next visit was to someplace we’re much more likely to be viewed as a terrorist target:
A short time later, around 8 a.m. Wednesday, police received a “suspicious person” call near Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in the 200 block of North Bonnie Brae Street. Waise entered the Women’s Center at the hospital and made a terroristic threat, police said.
“He went inside and began insisting they take the [Quran] from him,” read a press release from Denton Police. “He told them to give the Quran to the chaplain or chapel ‘or die.'” An arrest warrant affidavit said Waise also claimed the hospital would “go down.”
Like before, you can’t help but wonder if people would’ve been so worried if Waise had been demanding people take the Bible from him. It’s also hard to tell just what the “terroristic threat” was, as there are a few potential options. Was it simply insisting that they take the Quran from him? More likely, it was saying they would die if they didn’t give it to the chaplain or chapel, or generally that the hospital would go down. Interestingly enough, Texas actually has a law prohibiting terroristic threats:
A person commits an offense if he threatens to commit any offense involving violence to any person or property with intent to:
(1) cause a reaction of any type to his threat by an official or volunteer agency organized to deal with emergencies;
(2) place any person in fear of imminent serious bodily injury;
(3) prevent or interrupt the occupation or use of a building, room, place of assembly, place to which the public has access, place of employment or occupation, aircraft, automobile, or other form of conveyance, or other public place;
(4) cause impairment or interruption of public communications, public transportation, public water, gas, or power supply or other public service;
(5) place the public or a substantial group of the public in fear of serious bodily injury; or
(6) influence the conduct or activities of a branch or agency of the federal government, the state, or a political subdivision of the state.
Although there are several intents to choose from, making the offense quite broad, there’s something very troubling about applying an intent crime to a lunatic. We will probably never know what was actually going on in Waise’s head. He certainly can’t tell us in the midst of a psychotic episode. Afterwards, he’s probably not going to be able to do a real great job of articulating it either. His intent might have genuinely been to save the souls of everyone around him from eternal damnation by converting them. Of course, it also might’ve been to scare the living crap out of them.
From there, it only got worse:
Waise then drove to the Denton County Courthouse just over three miles away and walked through security. Police obtained an arrest warrant for terroristic threats and took Waise to jail.
Defense attorney Philip Ray wrote on Twitter that a man was “hollering with a [Quran]” at the courthouse. Police later said no threat was made at the courthouse.
Had Waise kept going, perhaps he would’ve gone straight to the nearest airport, or maybe driven days to the White House so he could try to get Obama a copy of the Quran. You have to hand it to the guy; he sure knows how to escalate his targets based on how sensitive people are about them.
There’s certainly a good argument that Waise had broken the law with his statements at the hospital, though some of the statute in question might arguably raise some First Amendment concerns, but an arrest warrant isn’t totally unreasonable. His comments after his arrest at the courthouse could probably give rise to charges too:
Police say Waise tried to see a judge to give him or her a Quran. When officers went to detain him, he allegedly said, “I’m imposing the death penalty” on the officers who were dealing with him and “anybody who touches me is going to bleed.”
Most interesting of all, however, is the extra step authorities finally took at the courthouse:
A robot was being used to search the suspect’s silver Nissan for explosives. The area around the vehicle was taped off.
“There was no mention of bombs in the car, we’re just taking that extra step to make sure nothing is in there,” a police spokesman said in a press conference late Wednesday morning.
The car was cleared just before noon.
“We just want to make sure everybody’s safe,” said Orlando Hinojosa with the Denton Police Department. “There was no mention of bombs in the car. We’re just taking that extra step.”
This is where it gets very difficult to imagine a race and religion neutral reason why authorities would ever bother taking such steps to check the car of a guy as obviously nuts as Waise. Had he not had a beard and been screaming about the Quran, his crazy just wouldn’t have turned on that switch in everyone’s brains.
“People are realizing that this stuff is real, so we’re not taking anything for granted,” Hinojosa said.
This stuff is indeed real. Some nutty people do some horrible things, but they tend to be the brooding, planning types. The guy who in what seems to be a single episode flags down police and acts crazy, then pushes the Quran on diners at IHOP while acting crazy, then tries to push the Quran on a hospital chaplain while acting crazy, and then wanders through court security and tries to push the Quran on a judge while acting crazy is not necessarily the type of guy who’s going to methodically stockpile weapons and build complicated bombs.
What we can all learn from Waise is that, although we are correct in our understanding that certain threats are real, we’re truly terrible at identifying them. The guy should probably have been arrested for more than one offense based on what he did, but searching his car for a bomb was just a waste of time.
The more we freak out every time some wacko guy matching our deeply ingrained idea of a terrorist spews enough words like “death” or “die” or “bleed” or “go down” in his word salad, the farther we get from learning how to identify genuine threats and address them. At least Waise survived to be arrested for his escapades. Too many others who act crazy never live that long.