When an official with the Middleton Police Department told me it was going to be a while before they knew more details about a string of arsons because the suspects were "still sobering up" at ten in the morning, I knew it was going to be a good story.
Of course, that was more than a week ago on February 13, and as the tale of 23-year-old Christopher Ripp and 19-year-old Collin Tubbs's (alleged) bender has emerged since, I've been proved more right with each detail.
A wise, albeit fictional, man once said, "If you can't do something smart, do something right." While there's certainly nothing intelligent (or admirable, for that matter) about what these two braniacs did, when it comes to history's great nights of mayhem, their (alleged) actions in the wee hours of February 13, 2009 certainly deserve a page in the book.
Of course, Ripp and Tubbs are presumed innocent until they stand trial for their actions, but here's the story as I've been able to piece it together, mostly through conversations with the Middleton Police Department.
It was Thirsty Thursday, and Ripp and Tubbs were throwing a few back at a house party in Middleton. We may never know what started it, and frankly it doesn't matter, but in the course of their carousing, a brawl erupted with some other partiers, words were exchanged, fists were thrown, and feelings were hurt.
After a brief breather, the fighters decided to "take it outside," where the perceived insult became so egregious as to necessitate the introduction of knifeplay into the fray. But stabbing one of the other brawling parties in the hand was only the beginning for Ripp and Tubbs, who then jumped into their car and went tearing through the sleepy, residential streets of Middleton exchanging gunfire with other cars full of window-lickers.
It's no small miracle an innocent bystander wasn't wounded in the ensuing firefight, although I'm sure a few of Middleton's citizenry found perforated mailboxes, garage doors and lawn ornaments the next morning.
After some time, cops say the chase ended without blood, and Ripp and Tubbs returned to their home. That's where a normal night of mayhem might have ended, as they staggered into the living room and passed out cold, only to awake the next morning with Jaeger on their breath, bulletholes in their car and no idea what connection there was between the two.
But what set Ripp and Tubbs apart from your average drunken losers was the decision they made next. Apparently none-too-thrilled with the new "speed holes" in their automobile, they took to the streets again with a gas can, delusions of revenge and not a thread of common sense or decency.
They threw a burning propane cylinder through the window of a house in Middleton, where a guy who had spent the night trying to mediate between the warring parties resides with his wife, who's eight months pregnant. To get back at one of the guys they were fighting, they set fire to a five-unit apartment building in Madison, where four other people with no involvement whatsoever lived. For their coup de grace, they tried to get back at another one of the brawlers by torching the outside of a house in Cross Plains.
Right block, wrong house. I don't envy the family that woke up in the dead of night with no idea why their house was on fire.
All tuckered out, Ripp and Tubbs returned home to sleep the sleep of angels... that is, until they awoke at 7:30 in the morning to find Middleton Police poking around the bullet-riddled car they'd left parked in plain view on the street.
Still drunk, they went charging out the front door yelling at the police, who were in the process of impounding the vehicle as evidence. You have to credit the officers on scene for being able to catch the scent of gasoline on Tubbs and Ripp over the booze they must have reeked of.
If anything, we should be grateful these two menaces made themselves so easy to catch. They've been banged up in the Dane County jail since the thirteenth, and the DA's office is weighing a laundry list of 32 charges against them that include arson and attempted murder.
Personally, I hope they're charged too with Mayhem, which actually is an imprisonable, if vague, offense in Wisconsin, for no other reason than the morning of the thirteenth is a definition of the term worthy of Webster's.
I've also got some healthy respect for Tubbs's dad, Capitol Police Chief Charles Tubbs, for leaving his no-good kid to rot in jail this long. Bail was set at 40-grand in cash, and while I'm sure posting it or making other arrangements to get the punk out of lockup are not outside Chief Tubbs's means, it doesn't sound like he's made any effort.
The scope of this little crime spree goes well beyond the realm of poor choices and crosses the line of recklessly endangering innocent lives. If Christopher Ripp and Collin Tubbs are ever to become productive members of society, it's tough love that's going to do the job -- the kind of tough love that drops like a hammer.
Theirs is the behavior of dangerous children with no connection to the reality they live in, only a simplistic perception of themselves as the stars in their own private television crime drama.