I call this Drug War Story “The death of the chicken man”.
We were working on a trip, I can’t remember which one. There was always something trying to happen, and most of it didn’t. Pretty much what should be expected from a group of guys that could charitably be described as “white punks on dope”. Or millionaire white punks. Or whatever.
“El Rodadero”, Colombia was the most civilized and appealing place I had ever seen in the third world. At least I thought so until the guy that owned the little fast food stand that cooked and sold barbecued chickens was killed by a couple of drunk Guajiros (Indians from the Guajira region) for running out of chicken.
On the main highway from Barranquilla, just before you get into Santa Marta, there’s a turnoff that goes down to a little beach front stretch that is just gorgeous and is made up mostly of small condo towers. And some pretty nice shops and restaurants. No bad neighborhood, so I guess that the cleaners and so forth probably lived in Santa Marta and just bussed over for work. Most of the people around, though, were locals who were doing good off of the booming weed business, and some folks from around Colombia who wanted a nice beach place, but didn’t really care for the tourist driven scene that Cartagena had become. It was a place where I was well connected and well cared for.
I learned about the chicken man when I asked what the deal was with the police visiting the club I was in the night before and frisking everyone. I was told about the shooting and that it brought the cops out in routine search mode.
The official policy was to keep guns off of the streets, so most guys didn’t carry unless they wanted to kill someone. For business we usually hired a squad of military for escort and let them carry the hardware.
The chicken man might or might not have been armed. I bet that it wouldn’t have cost more than a free chicken dinner now and again to get the police to look the other way. It wouldn’t have mattered, though. He was probably already shot by the time that he knew there was a problem, and the Guajiros probably didn’t know that they even did it until they got a little sober the next day.
And as far as bystanders carrying, it would surprise the hell out of me if there weren’t several guns in the vicinity but most folks are bright enough to avoid a gunfight in that situation. People with something to live for won’t choose a shootout with a couple of guys who know what they’re doing, and aren’t bright enough to care whether they kill or die, unless there’s no other choice.