At about 6:45 p.m. Monday evening, I was driving south on Broadway and was about to turn right onto Park Avenue when a Ford Ranger sped by me.
The driver in the Ranger held his arm high, pointing it toward the sky out the window.
He was making the peace sign with his fingers – the familiar V sign that we have come to know over the years.
He was screaming something inaudible that seemed to say – “I am out of my mind and here I go.”
He was accelerating as he sped by me. He must have been going 60 miles per hour – and there was traffic in front of him.
There was nowhere to go.
He swerved the Ranger into the on-coming traffic, into the oncoming lane. He barely missed a yellow school bus – still making the peace sign and screaming – and then the inevitable happened.
The Ranger swerved wildly one last time, crashing into oncoming traffic trying to avoid him.
There was a thunderous crash with a horrifying sound of steel buckling under and glass shattering when the Ranger smashed into a Dodge Ram – and then there was silence.
The center of Broadway about 25 yards from the Post Office was now a crash site, littered with two wrecked cars and a third car that was side swiped.
A crowd of curious onlookers began to collect around the wrecked cars.
The Ranger and the Dodge Ram smoked and leaked fluids onto Broadway.
There was glass everywhere.
Paulson Mendez, 34, the driver of the Ranger, was still holding his arm outside of the window with the peace sign looking straight ahead as though nothing had happened but his air bag had gone off. With a scary pop, it exploded. Mendez didn’t move from his pose.
One of two men in the Dodge, a man about 35 wearing shorts and a t-shirt was bleeding heavily from a head wound. He struggled to stand outside of the truck holding onto the door.
The driver of the Dodge was shaking but he appeared OK.
The bleeding man was crying out. He was in pain. “My leg is broke. My leg is broken,” he repeated over and over.
By this time a large crowd had formed around the accident scene. Traffic was stopped on both sides of Broadway from Park Avenue to the Post Office.
Mendez’s mother was hysterical, speaking entirely in Spanish. “He no good. He crazy,” she said in Spanish over and over. “He crazy.” She walked over the broken glass without shoes.
Perhaps four minutes passed before a Revere Police cruiser driven by Patrolman Mike Trovato arrived at the scene.
If there was a hero to this incident – he was it.
Trovato got out of his vehicle and ran to the center of the twisted wrecks and the injured.
I watched him scan the scene.
His first action was to check the bleeding man, who was crying out in pain. Then he went to the third vehicle, a Jeep and asked if those passengers needed medical attention.
They said they were OK.
Then he checked Mendez.
He was sitting as though all pumped up – a muscular guy seemingly unable to let his muscles relax.
Mendez was holding both arms upward flashing the V symbol.
He didn’t appear able to get out of the truck.
Mendez’s mother was shouting incessantly.
Trovato ordered her to be restrained.
Then he called for two ambulances.
Police, fire apparatus with first responders and EMTs showed up at the scene moments later.
It was almost 7:00 p.m. on a warm, late spring day.
Trovato turned and gave aid and comfort to the badly injured man who was bleeding. He remained with him until EMT’s took over.
Trovato remained cool going from the bleeding man to Mendez to the other officers who had arrived.
At all times he was in control, conveying information to his fellow officers and to the sergeant that had arrived.
He ordered another officer to take statements from witnesses.
He told another officer to control the crowd.
EMTs and firefighters swarmed over the chaotic scene.
Now he checked on Mendez.
“Mr. Mendez,” he later wrote in his official report, “had an odd demeanor and wobbly gaze.” An EMT told him it might be due to him hitting his head on the windshield at impact. “Or it might be mental illness,” another EMT postulated.
Mendez was bleeding from his mouth.
His condition was being evaluated when Mendez was heard to say: “This is their fault. They made this happen.”
He said it over and over.
Now Mendez was placed in the back of a Cataldo ambulance with the aid of a Revere Police officer for the ride to the Whidden Hospital.
A police search of Mendez’s truck produced a plastic vial of pills.
As Trovato checked out the scene once again, Mendez punched an EMT in the face. He began flailing about wildly; acting out in such a way that he was out of control.
Now Revere police tried to restrain Mendez.
He spit blood and saliva at everyone within reach.
With the aid of Trovato and four police officers, firefighters and police cuffed his hands and put straps in place on the gurney he was put on to keep him from causing further injury to himself.
EMTs placed a mask over his face so he couldn’t spit on everyone trying to help him.
Action Towing showed up on the scene, spreading sand on the street and sweeping away the broken glass and fluid residue that came out of the wrecked engines of the automobiles.
Officer Trovato checked out Mendez’s license. No outstanding warrants and no other serious offenses were listed. A further search of Mendez’s truck revealed a large knife.
A cell phone belonging to Mendez was also found. Trovato made the decision to confiscate Mendez’s license.
An hour later, Broadway had been swept clean. The wrecked cars had been towed away and traffic began moving on both sides of the street again.
The crowd dispersed. Everything returned to normal.
Officer Trovato went on with the remainder of his shift as if this accident were just another incident.
Later on Officer Trovato filed his report.
He cited Mendez for negligent operation, operating recklessly to endanger and speeding.
A criminal complaint application will be filed later, he wrote.
Another Revere Police officer went to the Whidden Hospital to deliver the police citation to Mendez.
According to the officer, as reported by Trovato, Mendez was calm. He apologized to the officer.
“I’m sorry. I overreacted. I was off my meds,” he told the officer, Trovato wrote.