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Mayor Mark Funkhouser and the City Council were invited, but City Hall is a no-show.
Hundley greets Hopkins, then ambles back to his shiny squad car. He turns on the Ford's lights and siren, startling the assembly of people. They cluster around Hopkins, who begins to speak.
"That's our official call to signal a state of emergency," Hopkins says. Today he is declaring war against what he calls "criminal terrorists running amok." He will go from door to door to tell law-abiding citizens that they needn't be afraid in their own neighborhood anymore. As for the criminals, he says, now is the time to get out while they can.
Military metaphors pepper his speech, as do references to Sun Tzu and Genghis Khan. He draws parallels between the U.S. "war on terror" and his war against crime in Kansas City. About Operation Promise Land, he says, "You're either with us or against us."
In Hopkins' view, spotlight-hoarding activists are terrorists. Grandstanding, do-nothing politicians are terrorists. Employers who refuse to hire ex-felons are terrorists. Landlords who rent homes to drug dealers are terrorists. And people who won't stand up against criminals in their communities are terrorists.
After taking questions from a few reporters, Hopkins jogs up steep front steps to knock on the door of a house with faded siding. Three cameramen chase him. The rest of the crowd isn't sure what to do.
McMillan hangs back, surveying the scene with a veteran activist's eye.
"He should have had a press release printed up to pass out, with all his information on it," McMillan says quietly. "But that's all right. He's just getting started. He'll learn. And we gotta support him."
Hopkins is new to this fight, but he's not new to fighting.
The day after the QuikTrip robbery, Kansas police released Hopkins. But they arrested him that October, when Johnson County prosecutor Robin Lewis charged Hopkins in the crime. His gunnery sergeant visited him in jail. The Persian Gulf War was just beginning, and Hopkins' unit of "tank hunters" was to be among the first on the ground. Hopkins says his sergeant told him, "We need to get you out of here because we need you in Kuwait."
With his sergeant's help, and over Lewis' protests, Hopkins bonded out of jail and left for training in North Carolina in October of 1990. The unit shipped out to the Persian Gulf that December. He was in Kuwait when his January court date came and went. A judge issued a bench warrant for his arrest.
His fellow Marines at first regarded Hopkins as a criminal and a disgrace to their unit. In combat, though, Hopkins earned the trust of the other lance corporals in what he dubbed the Lance Coolie Club. They served in Kuwait for six months. Hopkins flushed Iraqi fighters from their bunkers, capturing them as prisoners of war. He volunteered to help free an American military vehicle that was stuck in a sand dune, dodging both friendly and enemy fire.
A group of soldiers went out to the bars on the first night of their return to Camp Lejeune in North Carolina in May 1991. After a fight over a woman, two of the Marines jumped in their vehicles and chased each other through Jacksonville's streets. Hopkins and another soldier were in the bed of one Marine's truck when the driver lost control going around a sharp curve.