Denton Musician Richard Haskins Attempted to Rob a Bank. He Was Also My Friend.
This was, I believe, the start of his downward spiral. From 2010 to the end of 2012, I didn't see him much, and I would hear about his exploits from people in the scene; some exploits ambitious and brilliant, furthering his status in the music world, and some exploits impetuous and sophomoric, the type you might expect from a people-using junkie.
In July of 2011, I met him at J&J's Pizza to give him $400, money I had spent months collecting and had allocated specifically for Richard so he could launch the album he recorded for me two years prior. I don't know what he did with the money, but I never saw him again after that, and so I wrote him off. Never were we to be friends again, and that ended up being fine with me.
The next time I heard anything about him was Tuesday, December 11. The Denton Record-Chronicle reported that he had turned himself in to the police on December 7 in connection with an attempted bank robbery at a Wells Fargo on University Drive. (In fact, he turned himself in the next afternoon.)
Despite his sometimes reckless and immature behavior, attempted bank robbery was not something that I, let alone anyone, would have expected from him. He is not a violent person (aside from when he's performing on stage, and that's all schtick anyway), nor was he particularly felonious in any other regard.
I visited him at Denton County Jail the following Saturday, December 15, and when he walked in to the visitor's atrium dressed in the standard issue orange jumpsuit that read "Denton County Jail" across the front, he looked confused. He scanned all the visitors on the other side of the glass partition but didn't recognize me. I waved and he suddenly realized who I was. He walked over to my area, sat down on the stool and picked up the phone to talk to me.
His face was sunken and sad. He seemed on the verge of tears and said, "I'm damn glad you came to see me." His tone was apologetic and contrite throughout the 20 minutes I was allowed to speak with him. He asked me if we could be friends, and I said that I didn't think so, and that I just wanted to talk with him about what he had done.
"I feel like everything I touch, I fuck up," he said through the crackling, tinny phone. He said that he didn't belong there, and that all he wanted to do the whole week he was in jail was cry, but he couldn't because the inmates would have seen his weakness and messed with him even more than they already were. He related that he was being intimidated by many other inmates regularly, and that he couldn't wait to get out.
"It took me forever to get a phone card," he said. "But when I finally did, I just memorized the number and tore it up and threw it in the trash because I didn't want anyone to steal it."
He said that his bipolar disorder and the fact he took himself off his medication, which included Lithium and Celexa, has a great deal to do with his current situation.
"My son would visit," he explained, "and it got to the point where... I knew that I loved my son, and I knew that I loved him being there, but my emotions were so dead [because of the medication] that I did not take joy in playing with him. I did not take joy in seeing him smile. I knew that I was supposed to, and that scared the living fuck out of me. I couldn't write songs because I had no emotions anymore, and it scared me. I lied to everyone and told them that I was still on the medicine, but I wasn't, and things just got worse and worse and worse."
The same day that I visited him, his father, Richard Sr., showed up to the county jail to bail his son out. Later that night, I called the number Richard had given me to memorize when I was speaking to him (you are not allowed any kind of recording devices or pens when you talk with an inmate, at least not at Denton County), and Haskins answered the phone.
He agreed to speak with me the next day, and during that interview, he couldn't stop crying at various points. It was hard to believe that this was the same person I was first introduced to nine years ago; the same person who has worked with music legends from Greg Ginn to Brave Combo; the same gifted punk front man who frequently played for captive audiences numbering in the hundreds, sometimes even thousands. The Richard Haskins that I was speaking to now was a broken man. He was lost, and wearing the same clothes he had on when he turned himself in: the Misfits shirt, shorts and Converse. He said that all he had to his name were his clothes and a dollar in his pocket. He said that his situation was bleak and that he was looking at hard prison time ranging from two to 20 years, and that was only if the crime didn't go federal.
Richard Sr. still holds out hope for his son. "He was trying to get back on his feet, and was having a hard time getting a job, and he just got desperate," he said outside of the jail, just before he bailed his son out. "I haven't seen any paperwork that says he's bipolar. All I've heard is stories. I think he's just a young man that lost his family and hasn't been able to figure out yet what's going on. But I don't want to say anything to hurt Richard, and I don't want to say anything to hurt anybody. I think Richard, he lost a lot, but I think this is the point where he's reached bottom, and he'll get back out of it. I think that if he's committed this crime, and he's confessed to it, then he's man enough to go through the court system and then move forward."
Some of the last words Haskins said kept echoing through my mind as he walked away. "I'm just sorry to everybody, you know? And not just because of this, but everybody that I've affected negatively over the past few years with what's been going on with me. I'm sorry that, for whatever reason, it just feels like I'm no good, like I just can't get it together. And I feel like [that about] a lot of people, especially my son. I'm sorry to him."