a patsy: the unofficial story
chief of security at the meyers building–home of sal’s former office–is a 64 year old former cop named dale shigella. for a 20 year veteran of the police force, shigella seems a remarkably warm and gentle man. he patrols the office building’s grounds, keys jangling at his hip, and offers a joke or weather observation to every passerby. outside on the property, a stray tabby slouches through some bushes. dale makes a high pitched, silly voice and says, ‘hear kitty, kitty.’
dale remembers the events of the fateful day well. back in his office, he pours his coffee in a plastic thermos and offers me a cup of my own. behind me he says, ‘and of course anything i remember, it’s already on record for the feds. you know that, dont ya?’
i say i do and turn down the coffee. i say, ‘i want to hear it again. for sal.’
‘i suppose he deserves it,’ dale says as he circles back around his desk. ‘i was never quite sure how he coulda done it, the way they had this place set up.’
he leans back and perches his feet atop his desk. quietly he combs his greying mustache with an index finger and says, ‘well, let’s see.’
‘it was august the fourth of 2007 and it was hot. i remember that because i was on the roof in my collared shirt sweating like a pig. i stood out on the roof with the secret service fella. as a law-enforcement officer, i’d always admired their job so it was fun to see him operate.’
‘there were four. one was set up on the stage with senator carson. one was in front of the stage. one was set up off to the side of the crowd. and then there was the guy on the roof of my building across the street from her.’
but that was only secret service. the police were everywhere, including swat. on this roof alone there were two or three snipers holding position. and of course they’d already combed through the building before anything happened to make sure the premises were secure.’
‘we locked it down tight,’ shigella says. ‘that day was a big deal.’
new hampshire senator belinda carson’s appearance at the united auto worker’s association headquarters in toledo, ohio–the building directly across the street from dale and sal’s workplace–was, indeed, a big deal.
her campaign staffers viewed the trip as a litmus test. ‘how will she fare?’ they wondered, in one of the nation’s most sought-after battlegrounds. ‘it wasn’t only about that day,’ says former aide lisa treadwell, ‘it was about her future. we only went to ohio to see if she could generate enough buzz there to possibly carry the state in a primary.’
workers viewed the speech as a rally. union advocates, a vanishing breed, had received a second wind from carson’s pro-labor agenda. ‘union membership was on the rise for the first time since hoffa,’ says chuck ligano, a uawa leader. ‘and it wasn’t only auto workers who were there; it was fast-food people and retail associates. she had the people excited about their own power as workers.’ as a result, thousands of workers in ohio organized trips to cheer on the first–and possibly the last–vehement pro-labor candidate they’d ever see in ohio.
conservatives viewed her existence as a challenge. at the time, belinda carson was quickly becoming ‘the most dangerous woman in politics’ according to some conservative news outlets. as a result, she may have been the most endangered woman in politics: fundamentalists opposed her pro-choice stance, big business opposed her labor stance, the nra opposed her weapons stance, the defense department opposed her anti-war stance, and the department of homeland security opposed her overhaul to national security budgets and procedures.
with assurances from her security detail, belinda carson took the stage at 9:15 am. but by 9:24 am she was dead. the fatal bullet had been shot from a remington 700. the gun had been fired from the meyers building.
‘at least i thought we had it locked down tight,’ says dale. he takes his legs down and leans onto his large oak desk. somber, he looks across the space towards me. ‘that was just a horrible day. seeing her get shot down like that. in front of all those people. and knowing that the shot came from my building.’
‘i almost retired after it happened,’ says dale, ‘but i know it wasn’t my fault. if somebody wanted to get her, they’d have gotten her. looking back on how it happened, that i’m sure of.’
‘i’ll tell you this though,’ dale says smirking ‘i never thought it was gonna be sal winkler who’d do it. or even try it. that guy was as simple as my shoe.’