At 6-foot-4 and 270 pounds, Rod Harrison was not a person you’d ever want to fuck with. People literally crossed the street when they saw his hulking figure walking up the sidewalk. He stepped into my life when I was 7, looming larger than life. My mom often recounted the first time she saw him back in high school, delivering a lightning-fast round kick to the temple of a classmate who dared challenge him.
He was a highly gifted martial artist and an accomplished street thug, mostly defending his turf from rival drug dealers. He took on all comers, from a pack of Hells Angels to swarms of angry cops trying to cuff him. Being a father to two young children was the last thing you’d imagine Rod doing, and yet, there he was, sitting on the kitchen floor with my little sis and me, showing us how to color inside the lines.
He had a movie-star smile, a quick wit and a contagious laugh that drew people to him effortlessly. He was frighteningly charismatic, with a brilliant, sharp mind, a dangerous combination for a criminal. Rod organized a small crew of outlaws and began home-invasion robberies of drug dealers. He and his crew didn’t hesitate to resort to violence, pistol-whipping their victims to shake the drugs and money loose. Soon, they graduated to hitting banks, jewelry stores and pharmacies, with my mom often driving the getaway car. Later, she’d collect newspaper clippings of their exploits for our family scrapbook.