I was mugged!

The Plaza Hotel on Akard Street, Dallas, Texas

The Plaza Hotel on Akard Street, Dallas, Texas (Click to enlarge.)

In January 1983, I was a high school senior and I was mugged next to the Plaza Hotel on the edge of downtown Dallas.

Early that morning, I had been taken to the United States Military Entrance Processing Command (MEPS) by my Marine Corps recruiter. The command was a centralized location to process recruits for all branches of the military. At MEPS, the recruits complete aptitude tests, background screening, and a physical. From what I remember, the process was quite streamlined; the recruits arrived early, were put through their paces (mental and physical exams), then sent to lunch at the Plaza Hotel on Akard Street just across I-30.  After returning from lunch, the recruits were inducted by swearing an oath of service to end the day.

Everything went fine until lunch. We were instructed to walk over to the Plaza Hotel, which back then, was only a few minutes walk from the location of the processing center. Since I was the only recruit from the Grand Prairie station, I walked to lunch by myself. As I crossed the Akard Street bridge, I passed a group of guys going the opposite direction. They were about my age and a little older, and there were five or six of them. Ten, fifteen, maybe twenty seconds after I passed them, I had a strange feeling and looked over my shoulder. At that moment, they had turned around and started back my direction. I kept walking toward the hotel, which was located immediately at the end of the bridge. After a few paces, I looked back again. By now, they had started to run my direction. I continued to walk toward the hotel, which was even closer by this point. However, the entrance was around the corner, and before I got there, I was surrounded.

Craig Dunning was mugged under this tree at the Dallas Plaza Hotel on Akard Street in January 1983

Craig Dunning was mugged under this tree at the Dallas Plaza Hotel on Akard Street in January 1983.

One of the most vivid memories of the event was the tree. I had been herded off the sidewalk into the grass, and the tree was right there. Until recently, I hadn’t been back to that location since it happened, which is now 33 years ago. When I arrived at the location, not only was the tree still there the memories were still there, too. It’s amazing how vivid the memories are all these years later considering the encounter was not more than 1 minute long.

The group of guys surrounded me. And as I turned toward the tree to see the guys on that side of me, one of them hit me square on the chin and another grabbed for my wallet in my back pocket. Although I was staggered, I was able to slap his hand away from my pocket with my right hand and gather myself without falling to the ground. As I stood up straight, we all froze in place … the prey surrounded by the hunters. I looked at them. They looked at me. And after a few seconds, I said, “That’s enough!” and proceeded to exit the circle toward the entrance to the hotel. They remained frozen as I walked between them. I have no idea why they let me leave. Perhaps they were stunned that I resisted. Or that I decided to leave. Or that I didn’t fall to the ground from the knockout punch. I don’t know, and it sounds unbelievable as I type it. But, that’s what happened.

As I walked away, they broke full speed in the opposite direction. Once inside the hotel, I found a seat among other recruits and sat down. I was stunned and apparently disheveled enough that one of the guys asked me what was wrong? “I just got mugged,” I said without emotion. Everyone at the table looked at me in disbelief. I explained the details, and one tough young recruit scolded me for not fighting them. He went on to describe what he would have done had he been in the same situation. Everyone at the table laughed at his bravado before describing to him how poor his chances would be against a group of five or six guys. He insisted he would have wiped the floor with those “blankety-blanks.”

Eventually, I was able to eat and when I finished, I walked back to MEPS with a couple of the guys. Immediately upon our arrival, they reported the incident. One of the managers brought me in to find out the details before calling the police. The police showed up pretty quickly and began to scour the area for the gang, but never saw anyone fitting the description I had provided.

My recruiter finally returned to bring me back home. He was shocked at my story and was humored by the machismo of the tough guy at lunch. He assured me I did the right thing by not engaging with the gang, but he also said that once I finished boot camp I would be able to manage five or six guys with no problems.

I never had nightmares nor flashbacks from the event, but I did have sharp jaw and ear pain for a few years. I also began to keep a better watch on my surroundings when I’m out and about. One other thing: I don’t think I would keep walking if such a situation were to occur again. I. Would. Run.

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