How I Spent 3 Years Wrangling Zombies and Drug Addicts in South Carolina

zombie dave.jpg

Illustration by Ben Cantwell.

Illustration by Ben Cantwell.

If you go more than half a mile north or south of Main Street in downtown Spartanburg, South Carolina, there’s a good chance you’ll get shanked, shot, robbed, offered fentanyl, or all of those things at once. My favorite degenerates are in this small city of about 37,000 people, also known as Murderburg due to the violent crime rate. You could call it “Sparkle City,” but Murderburg sounds way cooler.

One thing you find out as a police officer in this city is that where there is rampant violent crime, there are drugs. And where there are drugs, there are many interesting people on those drugs.

For example, I’ve got my fair share of stories about no one checking in on Nana, only to find out she turned into people soup after she died and decomposed in a sweltering 110-degree house all summer. But we’ll keep this true story on a happier note and instead talk about things like homeless dudes eating raw chicken and fighting the police.

Super Crackhead Dave

“Dave” (I probably shouldn’t use real names out of respect for the families) was probably 60 years old, with short gray hair and the bright yellow eyes that meant his liver was about as useful as a football bat. He consumed enough alcohol and drugs daily to kill your average crackhead, but Dave was not average. Dave was a super crackhead.

Crackheads defy all laws of biology, and sometimes even time and space. They can fit anywhere, can sneak anywhere, feel no pain, and will turn on you like a rabid honey badger at any given moment. In fact, Dave had already been hit by a moving train — twice! — and just bounced back up and walked it off like it was nothing. Like I said, Dave was no average crackhead.

The problem with Dave was not that he abused every substance known to man daily, but that he had an equally impressive addiction to fighting. He fought other degens for booze and drugs; he fought family members and, of course, the police. It was actually a pretty decent brawl every time ol’ Dave got a wild hair up his ass and wanted to fight three, four, or even five police officers. He had that wiry old man strength that came from a lifetime of roofing and construction jobs. You know the type.

“They just mad ‘cause I took a Dave-sized sip.”

Fucking Dave was also a biter though, and once bit a buddy of mine during a fight. What most people don’t know is that when this happens (or you get poked with a needle), you have to wear a condom with your significant other for six months while you are regularly tested for that one disease that you can’t get rid of. Is this a good time to pitch you on joining your local law enforcement agency? No? Moving on.

I think every police officer at my department had bounced him off the ground at least once for trying to emulate The Walking Dead. All except the old-timers; Dave only fought the young guys. He was around back in the day when they would crack an eight D-cell-battery flashlight over his head and leave him bleeding on the ground. That was sufficient motivation for Dave to leave the old-timers alone.

One time a buddy and I answered a call where Dave had gotten his ass kicked by a couple other degens. This was one of the very rare times he called the police for help because normally he had heroin or crack on him. This little degen gang was passing around a bottle of Blue Top vodka, and when it was passed to Dave he chugged the entire thing. When four grown men can only afford one small bottle of that hood rotgut liquor, and one of them chugs the whole thing, you’re asking to get gang-stomped by the other three.

When we showed up, he was already beat to shit. Of course, no one saw anything — including the guys who beat his ass. Dave was bloody, pissed off, and causing a ruckus. We asked him what was wrong.

“They just mad ’cause I took a Dave-sized sip!” he replied as loud as he could.

From that day forward, all my friends referred to getting accidentally plastered at the bar as “Oh shit, I must have taken a Dave-sized sip.” Of course, we didn’t arrest him. It was a dick move, and he deserved the ass-whooping. That was punishment enough.

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Illustration by Ben Cantwell.

Illustration by Ben Cantwell.

Zombie Bill

We called Bill “Patient Zero” because we were 90% sure he was an actual zombie. Why? Because Bill would get piss high or drunk and ramble around the empty streets of the hood at night looking exactly like an actual zombie. It was pretty goddamned startling turning a corner during night shift on a foggy night and seeing this ominous figure out looking for other humans to gnaw on. Probably.

He had a lot of similarities to Dave. They had both been hit by a train and walked it off. They both loved substance abuse. They were both banned from every business in the city, and they were both biters.

I’d take a bite from Dave way before I’d take a bite from Bill though. Bill was much dirtier. Much dirtier. Bill walked around pissing and shitting in the same pants until they rotted and fell off of him. Eventually, someone would be nice enough to give him another pair.

His favorite meal was raw chicken wings that he kept in his shitty, pissy pockets. The sound and visuals of him pulling those raw chicken wings out of his pocket and crunching on them, bones and all, haunts me even more than the baby spaghetti I witnessed after some mom decided to get drunk and ram into another car at 110 miles per hour.

Because Bill was the pee-pee, poo-poo man whose diet consisted solely of cheap vodka and uncooked meats, no one wanted to arrest him. Once in a patrol vehicle, his smell would permeate every square inch. Not even the inmates at the jail who cleaned our cars could get the smell out.

“Look, we know he’s not supposed to be in here. He’s crazy,” we’d explain every time he assaulted a random passerby or trespassed (which was every single day). My fellow officers and I always had to go into negotiation mode with his victims to avoid the horror of driving Bill to jail. “Please just let us shoo him off.”

“Look, I know he stole your crack, but you’re dumb and I’m going to arrest you both if you try to file another police report about someone stealing a controlled substance.”

“Look, we know he stole beef jerky, but it’s your company policy to not prosecute shoplifters, so what’s the point in pretending like you’re gonna show up in court to prosecute him,” I’d argue. “I’ll even pay for the fucking beef jerky if it makes you happy.”

We obviously had to change our arguments to fit the audience. What works for a gas station manager doesn’t necessarily work for a degen threatening to lawyer up.

“I know he stole your crack, but you’re dumb and I’m going to arrest you both if you try to file another police report about someone stealing a controlled substance.”

One time, Bill shuffled into a Dollar General, bought raw chicken and a loaf of bread to make some good ol’ Salmonella Sandwiches™, but pushed a lady on his way out of the store. She called the police over the minor infraction.

I was 15 minutes into negotiating with this very pissed-off lady, trying to convince her to not press charges, when I turn and see Bill chomping on raw chicken.

“He’s eating fucking raw chicken for Christ’s sake,” I said to the lady. “He doesn’t even know what planet he’s on and probably didn’t mean to push you.”

“Damn boy, you right. Have a blessed day, officer,” she said very matter-of-factly.

Thank god for Bill’s tremendous appetite for raw chicken.

We had been trying to get a judge to let us put him in some kind of rehabilitation center to get him off the streets instead of just putting him in jail every day, which always resulted in us vomiting behind the jail due to the horrendous odor of our now tainted police cars. The problem was he wasn’t crazy enough. He was still pretty cognizant and could talk clearly every once in a while when his brain wasn’t clouded with whatever shit he injected into his body.

Guess what made a judge quickly sign an emergency order for treatment? The picture I snapped of him that same day gleefully eating raw chicken in front of the Dollar General.

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Spartansburg, South Carolina, circa 1909. They probably had hobos and drug addicts on the street back then, too. Public domain photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Public domain photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

A Spartanburg Happy-ish Ending

Now before you get mad for what you might see as me shitting all over two dudes with drug problems and clear mental instability, it’s okay: They’re both dead.

Just kidding! Only one of them is. Poor Dave got Blue Top shit-wrecked on a cold winter night, passed out in a parking garage, and became a hobo-cicle. Rest in peace, Super Crackhead Dave. May the bite fights in the afterlife be even better than the ones we shared.

I heard Bill, on the other hand, got the help he needed and turned his life around. I guess there were tens of thousands of dollars of Social Security money and other state benefits that had been pouring into a bank account for years that he either had forgotten about or didn’t realize he even had. Last I heard, he was clean, had a job, and didn’t do zombie shit anymore. Good on you, Not-Zombie Bill.

People like this are in your city, no matter how small or remote. Do yourself a favor and ask your local police about their favorite degenerate — you might hear a pretty good story. While you’re at it, thank them for their service. The boys and girls in blue have to unwillingly deal with piss, shit, blood, brains, guts, baby spaghetti, people soup, and raw chicken more than any other job on this planet.

Next time I’ll tell you about the time my friend and fellow officer, Chocolate, accidentally did cocaine and beat a guy into the hospital. Until then, have a fantastic day!


This article first appeared in the Summer 2022 print edition of The Forward Observer as “Super Crackhead Dave and Zombie Bill: A police officer’s ode to Spartanburg.”

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Cody Garrett, who goes by Donut Operator, is a content creator who currently owns and operates the largest law enforcement channel on YouTube. He served five years in the Navy before spending three years as a police officer in Spartanburg, South Carolina.
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