Denton Musician Richard Haskins Attempted to Rob a Bank. He Was Also My Friend.
On December 7, in the diminishing dusk light of the parking lot across the street from Wells Fargo on University Drive in Denton, Richard Haskins sat alone in a red, 1984 four-door Mercedes. Wearing a black Misfits t-shirt, khaki cargo shorts and a pair of low-top black Converse, he looked at the bank and pondered his rapidly accruing debt. His ex-wife had been asking him for child support for months, and he owed money to several friends.
Mike Brooks Richard Haskins with the Wee Beasties in Denton, 2011
He was having trouble of late keeping a job. He was also having trouble landing a job, ever since his arrest for criminal trespassing in July of 2012. One of his friends invited him to a pre-Fourth of July party on the roof of the building on the north side of the square in Denton. The police busted the party, and Haskins was one of the several attendees arrested.
To add to his problems, he recently found out that his girlfriend was pregnant. He needed money, and he needed it now. It would solve everything, he thought to himself. His six-year-old son would be provided for by more than just his son's mother, and he could repay all of the friends and loved ones who were growing more and more annoyed with him. He could do right by his girlfriend.
He'd heard from some shadier friends that banks would just give up the money if he demanded it. He remembered someone telling him that was bank protocol. Sitting in the Mercedes, he began writing a note on a slip of paper. After a couple more minutes, he turned on the ignition, drove across the street, and entered the drive-through queue at Wells Fargo. While waiting, his nerves almost at their breaking point, he kept telling himself that money would solve everything.
Steve Miller's "Take the Money and Run" began playing on the local classic rock station. It was this definitive moment that strengthened his resolve as he inched closer and closer to the front of the line.
As he pulled up to the pneumatic tube in his Mercedes, he slid the hand-written note into a blue vinyl bank deposit bag, placed the bag into the receptacle and pressed the button. The note instructed the teller to put all of the money she had into the bag and send it back to him or he would rush the door.
After roughly two minutes, he noticed no employee was visible inside the bank anymore, and suddenly realized the futility of what he was attempting. Figuring the police were on their way, he sped off and tore down Sunset Street, making a left onto Alice and then another left onto Crescent. He made a right on Carroll Blvd., then cut through the center of town, heading northeast on Mingo Street. As he was driving up Mingo, his whole body shaking, an oncoming police car passed him, and that's when he decided he needed to get off the road. He took refuge at a friend's house and called his father shortly after that.
He told his father what he had done, and his dad quickly convinced him that he needed to turn himself in. The next day, on Saturday at around 1 pm, he turned himself in at the county jail, but not for the attempted bank robbery. Rather, he told the arresting officers that he was turning himself in for a warrant acquired after failing to appear in court for his aforementioned criminal trespassing arrest.
He was ushered to a holding cell, and four hours later, detectives came into his cell, removed him to a private interrogation room, and exacted a confession from him about the robbery attempt the previous evening.
I first met Richard Haskins in 2003, when he got a job at The Tomato Pizza in Denton. I had already been working there for a year, and I was tasked with training him on the ins and outs of the job. After about 30 minutes, back by the dishwashing area, he decided to test me.
"Hey, you know how sometimes when you look at a person you meet for the first time, you hear a song in your head, and that's like that person's soundtrack to you? Like, for me, the song would be, 'Any way you want it, that's the way you need it, any way you want it." He sang the lyrics to Journey's "Any Way You Want It," and I started laughing a little.
"OK, yeah, sure," I responded.
"Well, the song I hear in my head for you is..."
He proceeded to sing the entirety of the Applebee's theme song in the style of Chris Farley or Jack Black. He then said, "Sorry. I'm fat." In that instant, we became fast friends.
From then on, he would ask me on two occasions to sub as the guitar player for his band, The Wee Beasties. I was one of four witnesses at his 2006 Halloween wedding at the Denton justice of the peace, and two years later, he served as the emcee at my wedding. We played together at Wake Up '04, a short-lived music festival held at the fair grounds of Denton, and at this show, emulating one of his heroes, GG Allin, he peeled and stuck a banana up his ass, then threw it into the small crowd, part of it landing on my mother's pants.
For a few years, my then-girlfriend and I were regulars at his son's birthday parties in the suburbs of Corinth. Usually we gifted his young son some sort of kiddie musical instrument. I did odd jobs for him at his studio, Black Bottle Recording Studios, and he paid me generously when I was having trouble finding another job. When it came time for me to record an album, he recorded it for me at something like a 90 percent discount.
Then, around the beginning of 2010, he enlisted in the Navy, and was shipped off to Illinois for basic training. I received one letter from him during his stint at basic, and all it said was: "Please write back as much as you can. This is so much harder than I thought it was going to be."
About a month after that, I learned that he had been discharged from the Navy after being diagnosed with severe bipolar disorder. He returned home to a dying marriage (albeit largely due to his own infidelity), and was staying at the Super 8 Motel in Denton, off Teasley. I visited him one night while he was staying there, and the medication he was on made him so distant, so bleary-eyed and slurry, that I hardly recognized him. He dropped at least 100 pounds, though in fairness, much of it was due to the strenuousness of basic training. Shortly after my visit, he elected to go off of his medication for good.