The Third Man

A bar brawl; a stabbing; a missing suspect; a surprise ending

But Joshua and Murphy still wouldn't give up Reyes' name. Learning that Reyes was a patrol special may have muted their fears of a police cover-up but not their desire to increase their cash position.

They quickly thought up another possible lawsuit, this one aimed at Reyes' father, Sam Reyes, the president of the Patrol Special Officers Association. Joshua says he talked to attorneys about suing Mike Reyes, operating under the assumption that his father would cough up a cash settlement in order to avoid the negative publicity.

As the victims were hunting for the right attorney, the police concluded the case against Hirst and Sansouci: Hirst got six to eight years in a plea bargain and Sansouci pleaded to a misdemeanor battery charge and got probation. With the convictions, the search for the third man had all but ended.

But the rumors wouldn't die. Reyes' name was being bandied about among criminal justice insiders after Burris' investigator started making calls. Soon Jiminez caught wind of Reyes' name.

"This was so incredibly frustrating for me," the veteran inspector says, discussing the victims' decision to withhold their assailant's name for eight months. "Here I break my hump for these guys [Joshua and Murphy] and when I confront them they say, 'Oh well, you know with Rodney King and with the cops fixing evidence in the O.J. trail.' Jeez."

So why didn't Joshua tip off police? He stumbles when posed with the question, mixing his mistrust of the police with references to a movie or book deal. "I want to go national with this," he says at first. "I want to write a book."

The preparation of this article angers Joshua. He has a keen sense of owning the information. "If you do a story about Reyes, then I'll go to your competition and get it out before you can," he says.

Which may explain, more than anything, why he kept the crucial piece of information from police. Maybe he didn't want to lose control over the story. Maybe he began to see his experience as a commodity, a confluence of real life and fiction, like the O.J. trial or a script for NYPD Blue.

"I don't know if you've ever been traumatized," he says. "You don't think straight. Maybe it was from watching too much TV and reading too many suspense novels."

Full disclosure: George Cothran roomed with Jonathan Hirst for several months in 1993.

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