It was a nice, warm, summer evening when I got a call from a law enforcement friend who asked to ride along with me for the night.

I enjoyed ride-alongs. They were company, an extra set of eyes and ears, and made the night go by much quicker. The department encouraged ride-alongs for people interested in being troopers; It provided them with firsthand knowledge of what it was like in the real world.

The only problem was that I had to go to Skowhegan to pick him up. It was a ways outside of my patrol area, and sometimes it was hard to get away. But I committed to it and made a mad dash to get him and get back to my zone as quickly as possible.

The other situation was that I could come across an incident requiring law enforcement assistance while traveling outside of my assigned area and get tied up. Of course, this is exactly what happened on this particular night.

It was the summer of 1996, and my cruiser was a bright red Camaro sports car with a huge Corvette engine. To say I enjoyed this cruiser is a slight understatement. I had to pinch myself every moment I drove it so I didn’t think it was a dream. It was also a public relations tool that I used at every opportunity.

I had picked up the ride-along and was heading back across Route 2 from Skowhegan to get back to my patrol area. Going by a store in Canaan, I observed a vehicle approaching me. After I got past the store, my ride-along said he thought a fight was taking place in the store’s parking lot.

“Are you sure?” I inquired.

“I’m pretty sure.”

“Well, let’s go check it out.”

I flipped the cruiser around on Route 2 and headed back to the store a few hundred yards away. In the parking lot, four men surrounded one man lying on the ground. The four men were in different stages of assaulting the man. One was bent over the victim’s head and pummeling him with his fists. The other three were kicking at him. The man was curled up as best as he could in the fetal position to protect himself.

And then there were the onlookers. It became quite clear it was a group thing and these guys were after the one man.

How could I tell this? Easy. The people pelting the victim were part of an outlaw motorcycle gang delivering their brand of justice.

I slammed on the brakes and came to a screeching halt within feet of the scuffle in the parking lot. These guys must have been quite surprised when a bright red sports car came out of nowhere and landed beside them.

I jumped out of the cruiser, ran to the so-called fight, grabbed the man bent over the defenseless victim and stood him up. He was still swinging until he saw that a trooper was holding him up.

He abruptly stopped and his eyes widened. All the bystanders quickly retreated to their cars and motorcycles. They looked like scurrying rats trying to find the nearest hole in which to crawl. Cars and bikes started up all over the place and took off like rockets. I honestly felt like Batman coming to the rescue of a poor victim.

I still had a hold of the coward who had ganged up on the victim with three others. The victim quickly got to his feet, and I recognized him immediately. He recognized me as well and very excitedly hollered, “Am I gladĀ  to see you, Mark!”

“I bet you are,” I told him.

I knew the underlying problem with the outlaw motorcycle group. The members were ticked because the victim and some others had started their own motorcycle group, using part of the outlaw motorcycle gang’s logo for their logo.

This apparently did not set well with the outlaw members, and they were willing to commit criminal acts to protect the logo.

I had the swinger by the nape of his neck and asked the victim, “What do you want to do with this guy? You want him arrested and taken to jail? You want to press charges?”

My victim thought for a minute and finally said, “No, let him go. I’ll deal with this another way.”

“Are you sure about that?” I protested.

“Yep, let him go.”

When I released him, I never saw a man scurry off as quickly as he did. All the rest of his group had taken off and left him behind without a ride. He ran off on foot down the road to get away, finally disappearing in the dark.

I made sure the victim didn’t need medical attention and that he could get to wherever he needed to go. Once he was taken care of, I started off for my patrol area, shaking my head wondering why in the world he wouldn’t press charges. But he didn’t.

Just another day in the life of a trooper.

Mark Nickerson is a retired Maine State Police trooper. The 28-year veteran lives in Unity. The award-winning columnist may be reached at menick@uninet.net.