Helmet Heist Presages Tawdry Kerfuffle – August 3, 2012
Kevin L. Hoover
ARCATA – Phylis Geller’s Fickle Hill Road front yard features a Linda Wise “Beer Belly” Junk Art Sculpture depicting someone doing what she involves herself in often as possible – riding a motorcycle.
On Saturday morning, July 7, just before 7 a.m., Geller was headed into town when she noticed “a strange fellow ambling down Fickle Hill Road just below the Redwood Park water tank. The man, clad in green sweat pants, was wearing what looked like a duct-taped crash helmet and a trench coat.
Because of his “clownish” look, Geller, a frequent Facebook poster, considered taking a picture of him, but thought better of it.
Within minutes, Green Pants Man had generated a call to police about “a subject yelling on Trail 1,” a white male adult wearing a silver helmet.
Around 11 a.m., the man – later identified as Richard Harnden, 30, of Arcata, made a big splash at the Farmers’ Market on the Plaza. According to Arcata Police Lt. Ryan Peterson, the man was “acting strangely and engaging people in an aggressive manner.”
Clad in the trench coat, helmet and green sweat pants, Harnden was walking in traffic and, Peterson said, “yelling all kinds of vulgar things very loudly.”
A witness said Harnden had threatened to “stomp babies,” evoking the April incident in which traveler Molly Barnes did just that on the Plaza. The witness said Harnden was bracketed by mothers with strollers when the incident occurred. One of the moms appeared aware of the menace; the other was oblivious.
When Park Ranger David Miller contacted Harnden, Peterson said, “it went downhill from there.” The deranged-acting man clenched his fist and took a swing at the officer, resulting in “a bit of a scuffle.”
Harnden was arrested on charges of resisting arrest and violation of probation. He was on probation for prior convictions for disorderly conduct and public intoxication.
Sgt. Ernie Stewart of the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office said that Harnden had been booked into the Humboldt County Correctional Facility “in excess of 25 times” for violations including public intoxication, vandalism and resisting arrest.
Harnden was arrested again on July 12 for alleged public intoxication.
Geller later realized that Harnden’s headgear that morning had been pulled off of her yard sculpture. The HCSO had possesion of the property Harden was carrying that day, and after a certain amount of rigamarole, on July 13, Geller was able to reclaim it and replace it on her sculpture.
“Well done, Jan at APD and Deputy La Garda at the HC Sheriff’s Dept.,” Geller wrote on her Facebook page.
A caller to the Eye claiming to be a relative said Harnden suffers from a bi-polar disorder, and is a person of fine character.