Where Mercy Is Shown, Mercy Is Given (2010)

BOOK: Where Mercy Is Shown, Mercy Is Given (2010)
13.37Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
Where Mercy Is Shown Mercy Is Given
Duane “Dog” Chapman
with Laura Morton


“We make a living by what we get.

We make a life by what we give.”




Chapter 1

“Duane, Duane. Big Daddy, wake up. You’re dreaming again.” Beth…

Chapter 2

The impact of what happened in Mexico was hard on…

Chapter 3

Beth was positive something wasn’t right. She instinctively thought things…

Chapter 4

It had been a crazy couple of years for Beth…

Chapter 5

Once we had new legal representation, things began happening. Alberto…

Chapter 6

“Duane,” Beth whispered.

Chapter 7

When I was a young boy, my mother would often…

Chapter 8

Although we were already wrapped for the season, the network…

Chapter 9

My life has been filled with trying moments when my…


Chapter 10

When I started out as a bounty hunter in Denver…

Chapter 11

Bounty hunting for Mary Ellen was never dull. Some of the…

Chapter 12

When I was a young boy, my grandpa used to…

Chapter 13

Although I was slowly mending fences in the African-American community,…

Chapter 14

People rarely like to admit they’ve made a mistake, especially…

Chapter 15

Jail is a wake-up call for most people. But once…


Chapter 16

“Your momma sure does have some sexy panties,” I said…

Chapter 17

One of the greatest benefits of being on television is…

Chapter 18

There’s a famous saying, “The difference between a wise man…

Chapter 19

The greatest feeling in the world for a bounty hunter—especially…


July 17, 1971


t was an unusually hot summer day in Colorado. I tried to beat the heat by taking a ride on my Harley from Denver up to Boulder. I roared along the interstate for thirty minutes, and as I rolled over the last ridge before the exit, the majestic foothills of the great Rocky Mountains came into sight. The flatirons are breathtaking, especially when the summer haze beats down on their jagged copper-colored edges.

Life was good. I was in the Devil’s Disciples, had money in my pocket and my chopped Harley under me. When I pulled into town, my engine rumbled loudly as I slowly cruised along Broadway, Boulder’s main strip. I couldn’t help but notice people turning their heads to check me out. I stopped at a red light, placed my feet on the pavement to balance my machine, and then looked to my right. I recognized the guy on the bike next to me. It was Magic, a member of a rival gang, the Husky Hustlers. I was in no mood for trouble. It was too hot, and even though I never backed down from someone like Magic, I didn’t have the fight in me that day. At least, that’s what I was thinking when I opened my leather vest to show Magic my .45 automatic. He saw the gun and looked me right in the eyes as if to say, “Yeah, so what?” Magic was tough like that.

When the light turned green, I took off, but not before pulling the hammer back on my .45.


I shot him.

I didn’t feel a thing as I watched the bullet pierce his chest. It appeared to be moving in slow motion as I pulled away. I kept riding as Magic fell to the street, splattering his bike and brains all over the pavement.

It was an unwritten rule in our gang that if you pulled a gun, you’d better shoot. What’s the point of shooting to wound? There is none. You had to aim to kill or be prepared to take a bullet for your hesitation.

I knew I’d killed him. I punched the throttle so that the sound of my engine would drown out the thoughts of prison racing through my head.

Police cars sped past me as I made my way out of town. The last image of Boulder I recall that day was the spinning red lights of an ambulance in my rearview mirrors.

I made my way back to Denver in less than twenty minutes. I was flying down the highway. I spent the entire ride figuring out what I would do, where I could hide, who I could tell, and what I would say if I got pulled over.

I wasn’t worried about being popped. I had been pulling off robberies for years and never got caught. I rolled hippies in Washington Park in Denver for their drugs and cash. I had battled and survived the infamous shoot-out on Mission Hill. After that incident, I had convinced myself I was invincible. And for a time, I was. Nothing could stop me or take me down, especially a dead biker hood from a rival gang. Who would give a damn about him anyway? At least, that’s what I kept telling myself all the way back to Denver.

When I got home, I hid my bike in a neighbor’s garage. I wanted to be careful not to give the cops a reason to come knocking on my door. If they showed up, I’d have to run. If I headed back to Phoenix, they’d probably find me there. I could go to New Mexico or Texas. I had been thinking of getting out of the Disciples anyway. Maybe this was the right time. I had to think, clear my head. I took a couple of Valium and slammed an ice-cold beer to help calm my nerves. My anxiety was growing with each passing minute. I jumped every time I heard a car outside, thinking it might be the cops.

I was tired—mentally exhausted—so I lay down on my old worn couch. I kept my heavy black boots on just in case I had to run. It didn’t take long for the Valium to kick in. Soon I was out cold. It seemed like I had been sleeping for only a few minutes before I heard a loud pounding on the door.

“Open up. It’s the police. We know you’re in there. Come out with your hands up and no one will get hurt.”

I immediately jumped into action. I thought that if I got a running start out the door I could make it over the hedges in the backyard. I checked for my wallet and a picture of my mom. I was making a run for it. I wasn’t about to go down without a fight. Hell, at the very least, I’d give them a good run.

I bolted through the door and leapt across the yard in two giant steps. I put my entire body into it. I was up and over the hedges like an Olympic high jumper. I hit the ground hard, so hard I momentarily lost my breath. I rolled out of my fall and made it to my feet in one fast motion. My legs were moving as fast as they could run. I was in a full sprint. Sweat from my brow stung my eyes. I turned the corner onto Sixteenth Street to find it barricaded with cops and patrol cars. The police had formed a human chain so I couldn’t bust through. I scanned the perimeter to see if I could take a chance. But it was clear I had nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. I threw my hands up in the air.

“You got me.” I began to laugh, but it wasn’t funny. No, there wasn’t anything funny about what was happening. I was screwed and everyone knew it.

As I stood in front of the judge on my day of reckoning, I heard him say, “Duane Lee Chapman, you have been found guilty of murder in the first degree. I hereby sentence you to death. You will suffer as your victim did. I sentence you to the gas chamber.” The judge slammed his gavel down like he was hammering nails. And he was—the nails to my coffin.

The next thing I knew, a guard held each of my arms as two of them led me to the chamber where I was set to die. I sat straight up, scared and confused as they strapped me in so tight that I was unable to move.
I could barely see the bucket underneath me, but I knew it was there because I could hear the bubbling sound of toxic substances as the guard slowly switched on the gas.

“Breathe in, Chapman. Long, deep breaths.” The officer was instructing me on how to die. I closed my eyes, squeezing them tight.

I didn’t want to be there. “Please God. Make this stop,” I pleaded.

Suddenly I heard a voice I’ll never forget. It was the voice of the Almighty.

“There’s a thin line between success and failure, Duane. You have crossed that line one too many times. I have waited for you to find your way, but you failed me, and now, you will be eternally lost, my son.”

Suddenly images began flashing in my head. My mind became cluttered but my heart was strangely calm. I saw myself thirty-five years older. I had a family. Children, grandchildren, and a beautiful buxom blonde I didn’t recognize by my side. The Lord was showing me a television show.
show. How could that be? I looked exactly the same, only older.

“Take another deep breath, Chapman,” the guard demanded.

“Wait!” I screamed. “Stop! This can’t be happening. I’m too young to die. I want to live. I’ll do better. I promise.” I was pleading for my life.

“Ain’t no one gonna help you now, Chapman. You’re a dead man. Breathe in.” And that was the last thing I heard.

Lucy Pemoni



October 31, 2007


uane, Duane. Big Daddy, wake up. You’re dreaming again.” Beth gently shook me as she often does when I have a nightmare. It took me a second to realize I was safe.

Hell, it took me a second to realize that I was still alive.

I’d been having a lot of bad dreams lately. I get scared once in a while, especially when things are going good. I was enjoying the success of my first book,
You Can Run, but You Can’t Hide,
which debuted number one on the
New York Times
bestseller list. The charges against me in Mexico for the capture of Andrew Luster were about to be dropped, and my show on A&E was enjoying great success. When things are going like that, I often wonder if I will wake up someday and realize it was all a dream.

There’s some deep hidden fear inside me that all of my hard work and perseverance don’t mean squat—that it could go away in the flash of a moment. When I let my thoughts go there, I try to snap myself out of it so I don’t dwell on the negative, but rather focus on the positive—all the good things in my life that surround me. Ever since I went to prison in Mexico, I’ve frequently had terrible dreams of doing bad things like robbing a bank or, worse, killing someone. When I wake up after having one of those dreams, I have to remind myself,
You didn’t
commit that felony. It was only a dream. You’re the Dog! You don’t kill people, you help them. It’ll be OK.

Thankfully, I didn’t kill Magic that day in Boulder, but I could have. What actually happened was that I did take a shot at him, but I purposely shot too low. I missed the front of his bike by an eighth of an inch. I saw my bullet ricochet off the pavement. I don’t know why I pulled my gun at all, but I guess I just wanted to show off. Or maybe I wanted Magic to know he couldn’t…or shouldn’t mess with me.

I didn’t want anyone to know I had chickened out and purposely missed, because that went against everything I was as a Disciple. The Lord was right. There is a fine line between success and failure. I walked it for years. I have been to the edge many times, but I’m no killer. Never was, never will be. Even so, ever since Mexico, I keep having those dreams and they scare the living hell out of me.

For those of you who might not know about the Andrew Luster situation, here’s a quick overview of what happened. In the summer of 2003, Tim “Youngblood” Chapman, my son Leland, and I went to Mexico to track down Andrew Luster, the heir to the Max Factor family fortune. Luster was arrested in 2000 suspected of eighty-seven counts of rape and was standing trial in Ventura County, just north of Los Angeles.

Luster was considered a wealthy playboy who spent his days surfing off the beaches of Southern California and his nights partying at his beachfront home or college bars in Santa Barbara. He was a complete womanizer with $31 million in the bank to support his party-boy lifestyle.

Beth and I were flying from Honolulu to Los Angeles on January 5, 2003, when twenty minutes into the flight Beth woke me up to show me the headline from the
Los Angeles Times:




By the time our plane landed in L.A., Luster was officially on the run. He failed to show up for his court date. He had removed his court-
ordered ankle monitor two days prior and hadn’t been heard from since. By the time we deplaned, he’d been declared a fugitive and a warrant had been issued for his arrest.

We knew finding Luster would be a challenge, which made hunting him all the more interesting. Beth took the reins to make sure we did everything by the book. She also was intent on seeing to it that we all really understood who we were chasing. We viewed Luster to be an arrogant, rude, opinionated, and egotistical punk. But we had to be careful because his family was rich and powerful, which meant they had friends in high places.

To find a fugitive, you have to think and act like him. You have to understand his needs, desires, strengths, and weaknesses. You have to know everything about the person you’re looking for. Who is he? Who is his family? Who are his friends? Where does he hang out? More information means greater insight into the mind of the man you’re chasing.

On January 15, 2003, Andrew Luster was charged with flight to avoid prosecution. That put him on the FBI’s Most Wanted list. It also made him “Dog’s Most Wanted.” I went up to Ventura County Court to get a copy of the warrant. I told the court clerk who I was and said, “I’m the guy who is going to capture Andrew Luster.” As charming as I thought I was, she told me to wait in the corridor while she went to talk to Judge Riley, the judge who was presiding over the case. When she came back, she handed me a copy of the warrant, Luster’s mug shots, and a personal message from the judge.

“He said, ‘Good luck,’ Dog.”

On February 18, 2003, a jury found Andrew Luster guilty of eighty-six of the eighty-seven criminal charges against him. The jury was deadlocked on one count of poisoning. These convictions were enough to get Luster 124 years in jail and he was sentenced in absentia.

By the time he was convicted, Luster had been on the run for more than a month. He might have changed his appearance and begun living under a new identity. He could have been thousands of miles away or right under my nose. I had no idea where he was, but I knew I would find him.

Months of research and investigation went by before all signs pointed me toward Mexico. I took a giant leap of faith, as did my son Leland and Tim “Youngblood” Chapman, and we headed for the border. On June 18, 2003, we finally got our guy in Puerto Vallarta.

I wrestled him to the ground, cuffed him, stood up, and said, “You are under arrest in the name of the United States government and Mexico!”

We took Luster into custody so that we could hand him over to the Mexican police. The station was only a couple blocks away from where we’d captured that son of a bitch. On the way, we were pulled over by the Mexican police and ordered to get out of our truck. I didn’t want to move. I had the fugitive in my grips, and nothing was going to stop me from handing him over to the proper authorities—nothing, except a bunch of Mexican police officers pointing machine guns at me.

I tried to explain that I was Dog Chapman and the man in custody was Andrew Luster, who was wanted in America. When they asked Luster his name, he replied, “David Carrera.” That was the name he’d been living under while he was on the run. Luster started speaking Spanish. He told the police officers we had kidnapped him, that he was the victim.

I knew this couldn’t be good. As they began to uncuff him, I pleaded with the officers, telling them they were making a huge mistake. They took us all to the station to get confirmation of the story. Despite Luster’s story being bogus, the authorities decided to throw Leland, Tim, and me in a cell until our story could be verified.

I had walked out of the Texas State Penitentiary almost a quarter century earlier. I promised God I would never go back to jail. From the moment I left Huntsville, having served eighteen months on a bunk murder-one rap, I had dedicated myself to living a good clean life. No more crimes. My number one purpose as a bounty hunter has been to serve truth and justice. I swore I would never hear the sound of the steel door slam shut and lock behind me again. Now here I was, sitting in a Mexican prison, with thin steel bars between me and freedom. My heart ached from the thought of being back in hell. And I was scared,
too. The next day, we were told that the boys and I were being charged with kidnapping. I was nauseous at the thought that we could all go down for twenty years for capturing a rapist. Even though we’d done everything by the book, at the time it was Luster’s word against ours.

Within a couple of days, Luster was sent back to America to serve his sentence, while the boys and I remained locked up for two weeks. Unable to make the kidnapping charges stick, the judge charged us with “deprivation of liberty,” a paltry misdemeanor. We were released from jail but were told to stay in Mexico to appear in court for that charge.

While we were waiting for our court date, my Mexican lawyer told me there was a rumor around Puerto Vallarta that some guys connected to Andrew Luster were in town looking for me. My lawyer had heard they were flashing around a lot of money to influence certain people in the Mexican legal system to reinstate the kidnapping charges. He also told me he’d heard there was a hit man looking for me, too. His professional legal advice was to flee. I wasn’t comfortable with the idea of running. Even though I was staying at the Westin and was out of jail, I was still under house arrest. If I ran, I’d be a Mexican fugitive for the rest of my life. I didn’t want that hanging over my head, and besides, I’ve always said, “This blood don’t run.” I was the guy who chased fugitives. I wasn’t about to become one. But the alternative was to stay in Mexico until my case went to trial. It could be six weeks, six months, or six years before that happened. No one knew for sure.

I thought long and hard about what my lawyer was saying. He told me I was as good as dead if I stayed. That’s when I realized he was probably right. It was time to leave Mexico. I was assured that the misdemeanor charge was nonextraditable, so if I somehow made it over the border, there was no way I’d ever be sent back.

I called Beth to let her know we had concocted a plan, but I had to be cryptic in my explanation because I was certain that the feds were recording all of our calls. She understood what I was telling her, even though no one else who might have been listening could have. The boys and I packed up our stuff, loaded it into a rented van, and headed
out as if we were going sightseeing for the day. I tried to act cool, but deep down I was scared to death. If we got caught, we’d be doing a lot more time than we were already facing. Thankfully, we were able to make it over the border without anyone catching on. I fell to my knees when I realized I was back in America. I looked up and saw the largest, most beautiful American flag waving above me. I was free, blessed, safe, loved, relieved, and very lucky. I kissed the ground beneath me. Thank God, I was home.

I had been counting on receiving at least $300,000 in compensation for capturing Luster. I’d funded the apprehension of this criminal with my own money under the assumption that I’d be entitled to recoup my cost plus a fee for his return to justice.

Unfortunately, the money never came through. When I went to collect my fees from the state, Judge Brodie, the judge who was now overseeing the reward case in Ventura County, California, said he wouldn’t give it to me because I broke the law in Mexico. He was duped into believing the allegations against me because of a document he had been given that had been signed by twenty-five hundred California bail agents expressing their displeasure with me and my conduct. Although the judge believed the document was authentic, it was not. An administrative person at the California Bond Agents Association offered up the letter without the consent of the organization’s members, making it look like the entire association was against me.

The judge persisted in his belief that I was a wanted man in Mexico and therefore wasn’t entitled to a dime. He told me that he wouldn’t “condone my vigilante tactics.” I couldn’t believe the judge saw me as a vigilante. It broke my heart that my good deed and pursuit of justice were being misconstrued. I was one of the good guys, and yet here I was being painted as a criminal for something I had done for my country, the state of California, and Ventura County. Let’s be honest. No one—not one single person but this old dog—went out of their way to search for and capture Luster. Where was the crime in that?

I want to believe that Judge Brodie would have ruled differently if he had been given a brief from our attorney that would have clearly
outlined how I’d captured Luster, why I expected to get paid, and the case law that supported my claim. We didn’t face any objections from the district attorney, so the hearing should have been a walk in the park. We used a very high-profile lawyer who we expected would work his magic on this pretty straightforward case. Man, were we mistaken. When it came time to go in front of the judge, our superstar lawyer was ill-prepared, didn’t know the facts of the case, hadn’t read a single document before the hearing, and presented our story all wrong, even claiming Beth had posted the bond on Luster, which she hadn’t. When the judge began asking our attorney questions, he got all flustered, fumbled around, and blew it for us. We were destroyed in court.

Somewhere in the middle of the judge’s “holier than thou” speech that day, Beth and I stood up, grabbed each other’s hand, and turned our backs on him as we walked out of the courtroom. I didn’t understand his anger toward me. I had just spent my life savings helping the United States government capture one of their most wanted fugitives and all I got was a lecture on my conduct? It was absurd. No one wanted to pay me for the work I had done.
America’s Most Wanted
didn’t pay, Crime Stoppers didn’t pay, and now Ventura County wouldn’t pay us. The FBI didn’t pay us either. All of the rewards that had been offered for Luster were jive. We had nothing and would get nothing.

BOOK: Where Mercy Is Shown, Mercy Is Given (2010)
13.37Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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