Table of Contents here.
June 16, 2022 – Since they lived nearly 700 miles apart, Hopper talked to his best friend Huey Newton Wallace via weekly Zoom calls. These calls were check-ins, wide-ranging discussions between two men – one white, one Black — who had shed the fear of offending the other. Each conversation also included a digression to the subject of Hopper’s sister Olympia, whose last boyfriend had been Huey. After the relationship between Huey and Olympia ended, the relationship Huey developed with Hopper strengthened.
During their last conversation, they discussed an article both had randomly read about the impossibly tall, impossibly thin residential skyscraper located on East 57th Street in Manhattan, whose mailing address nonetheless was 432 Park Avenue, in front of which Hopper now stood. Hopper, with his well-established fear of heights, mentioned that, were he to live in one of the super-high apartments, he would occupy only about 25 percent of the square footage because he would not go anywhere near the windows. Huey, who had recently received his doctorate in applied mathematics marveled at the architecture and engineering advances that made these buildings possible.
“It’s the mathematics,” Huey told Hopper. “Everything in life comes down to math.”
Huey had just attended a ceremony at the University of Maryland where doctoral degree were conferred. He handed his diploma to his parents. “Go ahead and frame it,” he told them. “Put it in your dining room to show off. I’ll pick it up a few years down the road when I settle down in a home of my own.”
Huey then got into his graduation present from his parents — a new black Tesla Model 3 — to drive across the country to start a new job at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in southern California. He Though he was technically a mathematician, he had dreamed for years about walking into white people’s cocktail parties and hearing the whispers of “there’s the black rocket scientist.” It had been his favorite inside joke with Olympia.
Huey had calculated that he would need to make 11 stops to recharge the Tesla while driving cross country. His last recharging stop before arriving in Chicago, where he was to stay overnight with Hopper, was South Bend, Indiana. He texted Hopper from the charging station in South Bend to give an estimated arrival time and remark about “the usual terror over DWB while surrounded by whypeeple.”
What happened next is part of several widely divergent and predictable narratives, but every single narrative ended with Huey’s death.
The Indiana State Police official report on the incident noted that Huey’s new car did not display a license plate, though the report acknowledged the presence of a temporary tag taped inside a window that the trooper had missed.
The Indiana State Police official report on the incident claimed that Huey was uncooperative with the trooper and refused to answer questions regarding the ownership of the car and Huey’s itinerary. The report claimed that Huey belligerently told the officer, “Name, rank, and serial number’s all I have to give you.”
The Indiana State Police official report on the incident claimed that when the trooper threatened Huey with arrest for not cooperating, Huey had held his hands out and said, “Go ahead and try to arrest me, cracker. I will destroy you.”
The Indiana State Police official report on the incident claimed that Huey resisted being handcuffed and reached for the trooper’s duty pistol, a SIG-Sauer P227. The report claimed that the trooper and Huey wrestled for control of the pistol and that, in the struggle, the pistol discharged. The report noted that four bullets from the SIG-Sauer P227 hit Huey, none from point-blank range. The coroner’s report indicated that the fatal shot entered Huey’s back, piercing his heart.
There were no witnesses. The trooper’s body camera was not functioning. The Indiana State Police and the Indiana State Police Alliance issued a joint statement: “Because body cameras were introduced into use by state troopers only recently, regrettably not all troopers have been fully trained in their use. We regret that Trooper [redacted]’s body camera was not functioning on the evening in question but look forward to creating a remedy for that situation in the near future. We also regret that outside agitators have unnecessarily injected the issue of race into this incident. Leadership and members of the Indiana State Police condemn all forms of racism.”
The prosecuting attorney in St. Joseph County, in which the South Bend charging station is located, who is white like almost 90 percent of Indiana state troopers, investigated the death of Huey and issued a report filled with words like “regrettable,” “necessary,” and “tragic.” The report concluded that Huey’s words and actions had given the trooper cause to fear for his life and that the trooper had followed his training in responding with lethal force.
At Huey’s memorial service, Hopper’s eulogy recalled the words from their conversation about 432 Park Avenue. “The world – and the Indiana State Police — can try to change the rules of math and claim that 2+2 does not equal four,” Hopper said, “but Huey would be quick to point out that any builder who thinks otherwise will see their creations crash to the ground.”
The Indiana State Police and the Indiana State Police Alliance condemned Hopper’s eulogy, stating that “law and order in the state of Indiana is and always has been color-blind.”
Over lunch earlier in the day, Hopper’s editor Lola had expressed a personal concern about his author. “You don’t have any friends anymore,” Lola said, “only your students and subjects, people like me who get paid to be nice to you, and all those goddamn women in your life.”
Hopper had just stared out the window of the dining room of Eleven Madison Park, admiring the window treatments.
“It’s not healthy,” Lola said.
“I know,” Hopper responded. “Jesus, I know.”
As Hopper stared up towards the top of 432 Park Avenue, he did not experience the tingling in the soles of his feet and palms of his hands that almost always accompanied his encounters with extraordinarily tall buildings and structures.
Continue to Chapter 15 here.