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Bad Joke Ends With Tragic Punch Line

By Sam Bakken in News on Feb 21, 2005 1:07AM

DN-0071246, Chicago Daily News negatives collection, Chicago Historical SocietyWe should really be a headline writer. Isn't this one killer? Get it? "Killer"? Oh wait, since you only get your news from Chicagoist you wouldn't get it because you haven't heard or read anything about the story yet. So, ladies and gentlemen, without further ado, the story of a prank gone wrong in Calumet City.

An off-duty Cook County corrections officer shot and killed another officer, his friend, around 1:12 a.m. Saturday. The friend, Arlin McClendon, headed home from a bowling alley with other co-workers, spotted his friend's SUV driving down a street, where 24 (or 25, reports are conflicting) carjackings have occurred since August, and decided it would be great to play pretend and stage a faux carjacking.

The driver of the car McClendon was in flashed the car's lights and honked its horn in an effort to get the SUV's driver to pull over. And pull over they did. Ladies and gents, if a car is honking and flashing its brights at you and isn't a police car, don't pull over immediately. Instead, find a clean, well-lighted place with a lot of people around and stop there. McClendon promptly leapt out of the car and began banging on the SUV's windows, jumping up and down, pulling on the door handle and yelling, "Get out of the car! Get out of the car!" Unfortunately his friend wasn't in the SUV. It was his friend's wife and 4-year-old kid. However, daddy was in a car just a few cars back (or ahead, again, reports are conflicting). The officer thought his wife was being attacked, promptly leapt out of his car, identified himself as a police officer, shot McClendon multiple times and yelled, "Joke's on you muthafucka! Ha Ha!" He didn't really yell that. McClendon died at the scene.

The tragedy has been blamed on both low-light and blinding headlights. Of course we don't know exactly what went down, but it sounds like it couldn't have hurt the officer to take a few deep breaths before pulling the trigger. McClendon probably wasn't all that committed to the role and would have broken character. What if mommy just had to pull over because the SUV's rear gate wasn't closed tightly, junior thought it would be funny to lock mommy out and mommy was yelling "Lemme in this car! Lemme in the car goddammitt!"? He could have shot his wife.

No charges have been filed, and because of the mistaken identity, they're probably not likely to be. The officer has been "de-deputized" until a criminal investigation and an internal investigation by the sheriff's office finish up.

On Friday, Calumet City police said they'd arrested three men they believe were responsible for the wave of carjackings. Go here for another story about law enforcement officials shooting each other.

Image: DN-0071246, Chicago Daily News negatives collection, Chicago Historical Society