Sneaking up to his friend’s apartment via the fire escape seemed like a good idea at the time.
But not so much when he fell from a third-story window onto a brick sidewalk, only to be arrested and taken to jail on charges of breaking into Harmon’s & Barton’s, a florist at 584 Congress St. in Portland.
The 29-year-old Portland man, who goes by the single name RookSye, concedes he had been drinking beer, probably too much, when he decided at about 10 p.m. Saturday to surprise his friend Cara Taggersell, who lives on Congress Street opposite Forest Avenue. Although jail records list him as RookSye, the name he has taken for himself, police later said his given name is Ronald Podlaski.
RookSye knew Taggersell had a fire escape off the back of her apartment, so he went around the block looking for it, he said during an interview outside the Cumberland County Jail after he was released Monday.
Once on Free Street, RookSye says he climbed the fire escape, which seemed like the best candidate for getting him to the friend’s apartment – two courses of cast-iron stairs just reachable from the ground. On the way up the whitewashed escape, he had to step over a section where a few of the stairs were missing, he said.
At the top, he pulled open a third-floor window, hoping he could climb into a common area of the apartment building – even though in reality he was actually two buildings away. Inside was an attic storage space, so he made his way down a set of interior stairs that took him into a second-floor room.
“There were like these figurines and I realized I was in a place I wasn’t supposed to be,” he said. The figures were actually mannequins used by the flower shop in its window displays.
RookSye headed back up the stairs, but suddenly a burglar alarm started sounding. “It was really loud,” he said.
RookSye ran to get out of the building, but managed to get his feet tangled in raffia, a vine-like material used in floral arrangements. Instead of climbing out, he tumbled out the third-floor window onto the fire escape and then down through the opening created by the missing stairs.
He landed on the sidewalk, spraining his wrist and banging the back of his head on the bricks. He’s not sure if he lost consciousness, but when he opened his eyes he was staring into the faces of two Portland police officers.
When she heard the story – and after making sure RookSye was OK – Taggersell laughed.
“He and I used to be roommates,” she said. “He’s always up for a good time. Sometimes he might lack common sense about some things.”
It’s not unusual for him to walk by the apartment she shares with her fiancé and throw stones at their window to get their attention, she said. Sometimes he crashes on their couch.
On Saturday, Taggersell wasn’t even home. She was with her fiancé in El Salvador, where she was serving as a referee for international fencing matches.
When police arrived to find RookSye on the ground, they concluded he had broken into the florist shop and then tried to rappel off the fire escape, but fell when his rope broke. He was handcuffed and charged with burglary and criminal mischief. He also was charged with theft because a candelabra was hanging from the fire escape.
RookSye says no way.
“I’m not a bad person. I’m in no way a thief,” he said. “I’m a foolish young man who ended up in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
He probably didn’t help his cause when he asked the officers that if martial law were declared, would they do the right and moral thing or follow orders. He says they decided he was crazy and bound his feet together to be transported to jail.
RookSye says his extensive tattoos, including on his face, also may have worked against him. RookSye is a freelance artist and is working in a retail store while he studies to be a tattoo artist.
Police also didn’t appreciate that whenever they asked him for his name, he would only say, “RookSye.”
Police say rescue workers checked him out and then he was taken to jail, but RookSye insists there were no emergency medical technicians who checked on his condition.
Detectives interviewed RookSye and conveyed his story to prosecutors in the office of Cumberland County District Attorney Stephanie Anderson. Prosecutors determined that the most they could charge him with was criminal trespass, but they cut him a break instead, said Assistant Police Chief Vern Malloch.
“He spent the weekend in jail and received some injuries as a result of his escapades, so she’s treating him kindly and not charging him with anything,” Malloch said.
RookSye, who lives on George Street, said he has called the florist and is trying to arrange a time when he can apologize in person.
“Today has brought many great sighs of relief,” he said in an email. “I do feel foolish, but I am equally thankful that I was eventually seen for who I truly am, and am able to return to my normal life – a hard lesson learned.”