When a burglar made off with his marijuana and $2,800 in cash, Garfield Reid called the cops—and reported his ganja generosity had come back to bite him.
Reid (pictured), who’s 80, recounted the story Tuesday evening in his Vernon Street home in the Hill, a block away from Yale-New Haven Hospital.
First he told his story to the cops. Then he removed a metal bed frame that was blocking his broken front door and let a reporter inside.
The Jamaican-born retiree walked down the hallway to the scene of the crime—a first-floor smoking den piled high with papers, cigarettes, bicycle parts and single-portion packets of Smucker’s peanut butter.
Reid said he lives on the second floor with his wife. Tuesday afternoon, he left the house to go to an eye doctor on Chapel Street. His wife left shortly after.
“I came home at 4:30, just when it was getting dark,” he said. “I put the keys in the door,” and it swung right open. It turned out someone had pried it open with some kind of crowbar.
Reid looked in the first-floor living room, where he often gathers with friends to smoke marijuana. He noticed that someone had moved his small black backpack, which he had used to store his stash and some money. He looked inside and found it empty.
He called the police to report that someone stole his marijuana and a large sum of cash. It wasn’t expensive marijuana, he said, just the “regular” kind.
A police dispatcher relaying the message issued an alarming report: $3,000 worth of marijuana had been stolen from Reid’s home.
“I came right over” upon hearing that call, said Lt. Holly Wasilewski, the Hill’s top cop.
At 6:30 p.m., she stood in Reid’s house with another police officer, taking his report.
Wasilewski emerged from the house shortly before 7 p.m. into a light drizzle.
“It wasn’t what it sounded like,” she said.
She learned the theft had been of approximately $3,000 in cash, not reefer. She said Reid didn’t witness the crime, and police had no way to track down who did it.
Lt. Wasilewski said Reid gave a straightforward report.
“He admitted ‘I don’t mind smoking now and then,’” she said.
After she left, he said honesty was the best path, even though he had a lot of explaining to do when police arrived.
He reported to cops that he was missing 1 or 2 ounces of marijuana and the $2,800 in cash. He said he knew that made him sound like a drug dealer.
“I don’t sell drugs, I buy drugs,” he said. He said he accumulated the money over the course of many months, little by little, during trips to the bank to withdraw Social Security checks. He was saving it up to buy some more smoke and Christmas presents, he said. The money was his hidden reserve: “Not even my wife know I keep so much here.”
“I tried to be secretive with it,” he said, but he suspects “somebody knew.”
He suspected the person was someone who had been inside the house to smoke with him before. He said he often invites people in to share a joint.
“I’m just a social person,” he explained. “I’m old now. I can’t just sit here on my own.”
He said his generosity has extended to many parts of life. For starters, he always buys Newport menthol cigarettes any time he’s picking up a pack of Marlboros, even though he never smokes menthols. Everyone else smokes menthol, and they might need a puff, he explained.
Reid immigrated to the States 42 years ago, following his wife’s family to New Haven. He worked for years as a mechanic, then went on to become the first black business owner in North Haven, where he ran his own gas station, he said. He bought and rented properties.
Over the years, he has helped other people move from Jamaica to New Haven, and helped them find work when they got here, he said. He gave away houses to some of his nine children.
And he always shared his smoke.
“I try to help people all my life,” he said.
That generosity has punished him time and again, he reflected Tuesday evening.
“I’m too generous. I help too much people.”
About two months ago, he invited a couple in to smoke, and they ended up begging him for money for Pampers diapers and bus tokens. When he finally gave them a couple of bus tokens, the girlfriend made for the door.
“She grabbed my herb and run out with it,” he recalled. He ran after her, but she was too quick.
Tuesday was the first time anyone had broken into his Vernon Street house for marijuana, he said.
He said he chose to tell the cops about it because he wanted a police report documenting that someone had harassed him. The marijuana was a relevant part of the report, he reckoned, because that was likely the reason they broke in.
“They were after the marijuana, but the money was in the bag, too,” he said. He said he has an idea who the culprits might be—his wife spotted three people in their late 20s on the porch on her way out of the three-family home—but he didn’t know who they were.
He said he wanted cops to have record that he had been “harassed,” in case the intruders come back.
“If I’m here,” he said, “I’m going to hurt them very bad.”
“I have a piece of security,” he said, picking up a splintery piece of wood.
Wasilewski and Sgt. Rich Miller popped back in a few moments later to report that they had canvassed the block and found no one who had witnessed the crime. Canvassing didn’t take long: The two-story home sits on a block of the Hill near Yale-New Haven Hospital that is half boarded-up and vacant. The hospital has slowly bought up the land over time; much of it consists of empty lots.
Wasilewski said having someone report missing drugs is unusual. She said there’s no reason to pursue charges against the elderly man. Police have never had problems with his house, she said. And she pointed out that possession of less than half an ounce of marijuana is now an infraction, not a misdemeanor—similar to a speeding ticket. Reid didn’t have any marijuana at the time they showed up to his house, anyway.
In cases like these, she said, “we appreciate someone’s honesty.”
For his part, Reid said he learned a lesson about safely storing valuables.
“I don’t think I’m going to keep anything like that here again,” he said.