Fred Grimm

Fred Grimm: Story of disabled combat vet muddled by strange ‘only in Florida’ mug shot

Craig Bolin
Craig Bolin

We played Case No. 16001719MM10A for laughs, of course.

A strange jailhouse mug shot of a man whose face was smeared with black grease paint — that was irresistible stuff for a local media ever vigilant for bizarro material. We’re always looking for proof that we’re living in a cauldron of crazy.

NBC 6 added the story to its “Only in Florida” feature: “A Virginia man was arrested in South Florida after several 911 callers claimed he was acting suspiciously.” There was a link to another story in the same category: “Naked woman kicks out police car window.”

Both ABC Channel 10 and the Sun Sentinel ran with reports of the incident early Monday in Oakland Park, describing an arrest following 911 calls about a young man’s strange and threatening behavior. When a Broward Sheriff’s deputy searched 29-year-old Craig Bolin, he found brass knuckles in Bolin’s pocket, a knife strapped to his boot.

Bolin was arrested for loitering and carrying a concealed weapon. He posted $100 bond and was freed, which led a reader to add a disparaging comment under the Sun Sentinel story: “Great, so he's out. Free to prey on us all. Look for him at the local minstrel show.”

Because, really, that crazy mug shot told us all we needed to know about Craig Bolin.

Except for a few missing details: like Bolin’s three combat tours. With actual combat, including a stint with Charlie 1-26, the storied infantry outfit that lost more men in Iraq combat than any Army battalion since Vietnam. Sgt. Bolin posted a YouTube video in 2006 of a harrowing night fight as his unit fended off a siege of an Iraqi police station.

In 2009, Stars and Stripes featured a photograph of young Sgt. Bolin patrolling the Jamilla market on the outskirts of Sadr City, “a volatile Shiite slum in east Baghdad.” In 2009, volatile Shiite slum had become just another euphemism for hell.

A longtime friend of Bolin’s told me Wednesday that Bolin left the Army after his three tours still suffering from combat trauma. “He was given 100 percent disability for post traumatic stress disorder.”

A relative back in Virginia said that Bolin, who had joined the Army just after graduating from high school back in Centerville, Virginia, “has found it hard. Jobs haven’t been that easy to find. And there hasn’t been much support for him trying to make the transition from war life to normal. Someone has been telling him what to do for 10 years and now … well … it’s been a hard adjustment for him.”

The relative added that Bolin’s mother had died of breast cancer while he was away in Iraq. His father, an Army Blackhawk helicopter pilot, was killed in a training accident when Craig was just a toddler.

The friend (who, like the relative, didn’t want his name published) said, “He’s been in a fragile mindset. And now his face is all over the Web.

“After all he’s done for the country, now if you Google his name, he just comes across as a crazy person. With no explanation.”