Morning after morning, Henry Hubbard Jr. sat among dozens of San Diego police officers at regular briefings, taking in details of police beach stakeouts in areas where several young men had been robbed and young women raped.
At one briefing in July, shortly after two teen-age girls were raped, detectives described the suspect as tall, thin and black. According to one officer who was there, a sergeant turned to Hubbard and smiled. "Sounds like you, Henry," he quipped, repeating a bit of gallows humor often used by officers to ease tension in a profession saturated with bad news.
But to the surprise of his colleagues, usually even-tempered and soft-spoken Hubbard glowered, his body tensed and he clenched his fists, the officer said. He walked away quickly without a word.
Ever since Hubbard was arrested a week ago, hours after two men were shot in the chest during a robbery attempt on a La Jolla beach, fellow officers in the Northern Division have tried without success to draw a parallel between Hubbard, a loyal and likable officer, and the horrible early-morning crimes of which he is accused.
Sure, they say, Hubbard seemed to linger at his work locker a little too long, often waiting behind an hour after his 1 a.m. shift when others were eager to head home or meet for "choir practice," otherwise known as a beer with the boys.
But he was respected and on the rise at the department, and, because of his amiability, colleagues are struggling to accept the news. Some are being more aggressive and hostile at work. Some, according to police administrators, are finding it hard to function at all. Others wish they had never heard of Henry Hubbard Jr.
Overall, most officers are trying hard not to believe that Hubbard, idolized for his prowess at professional baseball, could have been involved in any trouble beyond showing up late for work, administrators say.
The prime suspect in a series of seven attacks on young couples beginning in mid-June, Hubbard, 29, has been charged with two counts of attempted murder and three counts of attempted robbery in last Thursday's incident. He is to be arraigned today and is expected to plead not guilty.
Hubbard is from Lancaster, S.C., a town of 55,000 where news travels so slowly that the local Lancaster News printed the first story of Hubbard's arrest Wednesday, six days after it occurred. For those who already have learned of Hubbard's predicament, the reaction is the same. Not only do people not believe it, they refuse to accept it.
"He's not the guy," said Fred Thomas, a publicist who grew up with Hubbard and now lives in Chicago. "Henry didn't even get into trouble like the rest of us hell-raisers did. You couldn't even get him to speed in his car. When we'd all go out drinking, he was saying, 'No, thanks. I'll be out on the baseball field tomorrow.' And he would be out there, hitting his home runs and running like a gazelle."
Police and prosecutors say differently, pointing out that a flashlight with Hubbard's name was found on the beach at the scene of the attack. That 21-year-old Charisma Carpenter, a woman whom detectives say was the suspect's intended rape victim, lives and works in the same apartment complex and accepts rent checks from all the tenants.
That all of the attacks occurred shortly after 1 a.m., when Hubbard got off work. That Hubbard patrolled the beach areas and knew the territory intimately. That a sheriff's detective suspected their man might be a cop because of the way he held his gun and flashlight. That he deftly avoided every stakeout.
According to a police description of last Thursday's events, the gunman sat in a lifeguard tower, a ski mask covering his face and a handgun at his side. Carpenter and two friends were swimming. When she emerged from the foam, Carpenter walked to the tower and screamed, and the two men rushed to her aid. The attacker ordered Aldo Ochoa, 21, to bind the hands of Arthur Gracia, 23.
After Gracia tied Ochoa's hands, the gunman demanded that Carpenter bind Gracia, but she refused and ran away. Gracia and Ochoa rushed their attacker and six gunshots were fired. One hit Ochoa in the chest. The other struck Gracia. Gracia has been released from the hospital. Ochoa is in fair condition at Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla.
A third bullet accidentally hit the attacker, who ran off.
Several hours after the attack, Hubbard was at the hospital, where he had been taken by his wife with a bullet wound in the hand. The hospital, following routine, notified police that they were treating the victim of a gunshot wound.
Hubbard explained his wound to his wife and investigators by saying his car had broken down and he had been beaten and shot by three men.
That explanation is what Hubbard's family and friends have clung to in the past week. They will not accept Hubbard portrayed in any other light.