LA MARQUE — While shopping for supplies one night as Tropical Storm Edouard churned in the Gulf, Kathryn Fridge uttered the granddaddy of expletives.
Fridge, 28, said she didn’t know she was within earshot of an assistant fire marshal.
What transpired next has Fridge in disbelief and authorities saying Assistant La Marque Fire Marshal Alfred A. Decker IV had no alternative but to issue her a citation for disorderly conduct.
Fridge said she went with her 2-year-old daughter and mother to Wal-Mart on Aug. 4 to buy batteries just in case Edouard left the county without electricity the following day.
The family went to the sporting goods section, and Fridge saw there were no lantern batteries on the shelf.
She turned to her mother and said, “They don’t have any f---ing more.”
“All of the sudden he comes from around the corner two to three feet away and said, ‘You need to watch your mouth,’” Fridge said.
Fridge said she walked away to leave, but Decker told her she needed to come to his car and started to pull out his handcuffs.
Decker, a former Hitchcock police officer, is a licensed peace officer with the state, according to state records.
A message left for Decker wasn’t returned.
La Marque Fire Chief Todd Zacherl said Decker went to the store to buy an inflatable mattress in case firefighters needed somewhere to sleep after the storm.
Decker wore his marshal’s uniform, badge and gun belt, Zacherl said. He said Decker identified himself, but Fridge said she didn’t know who Decker was at first.
“He was dressed like a firefighter, and I wasn’t about to let somebody I didn’t know make me go outside with him,” Fridge said.
As Fridge went to Decker’s car parked outside the automotive section, she said she uttered another curse word but didn’t explode on him. She said she didn’t know it was against the law to curse in public.
“He tried to talk to her, but he didn’t have a choice,” Zacherl said. “There were people standing around, kids and parents wondering if he was going to do anything about this.”
Zacherl said Fridge made a huge scene, cursing more, as she was led outside, handcuffed and then issued the citation.
“If she would have said, ‘yes sir,’ there would have been no problem and she would have been able to walk off, but there was not really much else he could do. He has to uphold the law,” Zacherl said.
Zacherl said Decker chose to cite Fridge rather than take her to jail, because the city would have been responsible for her well-being during the impending storm.
Zacherl also said there were witnesses to the incident, and if a complaint was filed against Decker, he would request the store’s security tape.
Fridge said Decker’s behavior was rude.
“I probably wouldn’t have acted that way if I knew what was going on,” Fridge said. “It happened so fast, I didn’t know how to react. He was being a real smart-ass himself,” Fridge said.
Fridge said Decker asked her whether she was always this rude.
“I told him only when people are treating me wrongly,” Fridge said. “I get tired of (cops) always having an attitude right off the bat.
“It’s not like I robbed anybody, to have that attitude with me when all I did was cuss.”
Fridge said she normally doesn’t curse in front of her child.
Zacherl said it’s extremely rare that a marshal would arrest someone.
“You just can’t go off swearing and hollering. You just can’t do it,” Zacherl said.