Fullerton cop relishes rarity of witnessing lifelong drug, alcohol addict clean up his act
He was down to 11 teeth, his body and mind a chemical wasteland, when the narcotics officers showed up at his trashed home in Fullerton, search warrant in hand.
For 45 of his 60 years, Bill Easton had been abusing alcohol and drugs, with methamphetamine his latest poison of choice.
After smoking meth for two straight days, Easton was thinking of finally trying to get some sleep when the FPD officers came calling.
Undercover narc officers had collected enough evidence to serve the warrant on Easton’s rented home on Lincoln Avenue at about 8 p.m. on Sept. 27, 2013.
They arrested him and two others on suspicion of drug-related offenses.
Cops say they found in Easton’s room 5 ounces of meth — enough to last, for a devoted user like him, five to six months.
When FPD Corporal Kenny Edgar, sporting a full beard and wearing street clothes for the drug bust, cuffed the ashen-faced Easton, who in addition to sleep was in desperate need of a shower, the usual thoughts crossed his mind.
If he lives much longer, this addict will end up behind bars for a while and then be out on the streets again, using and selling drugs.
Just another lost cause.
“He had the look of defeat,” Edgar recalled.
But a rare and beautiful thing happened between that night and this Thursday, Sept. 17, when Edgar and Easton, now 62, met up at the FPD.
Easton, who had struggled to hide his lifelong drug and alcohol addiction, finally had had enough.
His health deteriorating and the love of his life, his adult daughter, living out of state because she couldn’t stand watching her father slowly kill himself, Easton decided to finally get serious about getting sober.
He credits his arrest by Edgar, and the help of a defense attorney, for getting the difficult journey started.
“God did for me what I never could do for myself,” Easton said.
Easton identified with the drug culture of the 1960s. He had his first drink of alcohol in 1968, when he was 15.
“I grew up in the’60s,” he said with a rueful chuckle, “and I got stuck in them.”
He soon added drugs to his daily toxic cocktail.
Easton made hash pipes from lamp parts he got from the electrical department of the hardware store where he worked.
He spent his 18th birthday in the cooler for possession of pot.
He recalls climbing up a crane at a construction site in Anaheim with some buddies when they all were zonked out on acid.
Miraculously, no one died.
Easton used drugs for fun but also for stamina at work. Speed made his days as a construction worker zip by. Booze at night calmed his racing heart.
Easton raised his daughter, Jessica, as a single father beginning when she was about 4.
Meanwhile, in early 2004, Edgar started working at the FPD as a police officer after serving as a cadet at the agency.
By then, Easton had been arrested a few more times and had tried AA, but he still was using and boozing.
“I thought, ‘What a bunch of losers,’” Easton said of going to an Alcoholic Anonymous meeting.
On Father’s Day in 2008, Jessica Easton wrote her father a note.
I love you very much. There is help out there.
I’m not going to stick around and watch you kill yourself.
Then Jessica moved to Nevada.
The move broke Easton’s heart, but not enough to get him to sober up.
That would happen a few months after his arrest on Sept. 27, 2013.
Lloyd Freeberg is a well-known criminal defense attorney in Fullerton who has been practicing law since 1973.
For the last 33 years, Freeberg has specialized in helping clients who are facing criminal charges stemming from drugs and alcohol. His website, sobrietylaw.com, is filled with stories about clients who made the commitment to enter a treatment program and get sober.
Easton is one of Freeberg’s clients.
In December 2013, the Orange County District Attorney’s Office charged William Dwight Easton with three felonies: possession for sale of a controlled substance, possession of ammunition by a prohibited person, and possession of a controlled substance.
“Are you done (using drugs and drinking)?” Freeberg asked Easton when they met in his office.
“Yes,” Easton lied.
But on May 13, 2014, he was done.
Easton entered a five-month outpatient program at Twin Town in Orange.
A few months into his sobriety, Easton visited his 89-year-old mother in Santa Ana. He confessed to being a lifelong drug and alcohol addict.
“I know,” his mother, Elsie, said. “I’ve known all along. I never said much about it because it’s a personal matter.”
Elsie Easton died two months later. Bill Easton said it gives him peace to know he became sober before she died.
Shortly into his sobriety, Easton called his daughter. Thrilled he was finally getting clean, Jessica moved back to Orange County to support his recovery and to spend time with him.
On May 13, 2015, Edgar, now working on the gang unit, got a phone call from Freeberg. The attorney invited the officer to court to see Easton plead guilty to the drug charges.
Because Easton successfully had completed treatment for alcohol and drug addiction, he was sentenced to 365 days in jail but the sentence was waived. He also was put on three years of formal probation.
After the hearing, Freeberg and Easton invited Edgar to have cake at the attorney’s office to celebrate Easton’s first year of sobriety. Easton showed Edgar his one-year sobriety “chip” from AA.
Edgar also met, for the first time, Easton’s daughter.
“I didn’t even know he had one,” the officer said.
“Instead of putting handcuffs on him,” Freeberg said of Edgar, “he was shaking his hand.”
On Thursday, Sept. 17, Easton gave Edgar a one-year sobriety chip to thank the officer for arresting him.
“I’m very proud of you,” said Edgar, 32.
Added the cop: “Most addicts won’t quit. It really comes down to whether you want to quit for yourself. Until that person actually makes that commitment, it’s never going to happen.”
Said Easton: “I like the fact that he knows I’ve been trying to change my life, and he sees that I have.”
Thursday was Easton’s 490th day of sobriety.
“I still feel as though I’m an infant thrown into a man’s body, learning all over how to live,” said Easton, who now has a full set of 32 teeth.
“Although I have barely learned to walk,” Easton added, “ I can stand proud of the person I’m growing up to be.”
Freeberg said Easton’s recovery would not have been possible without Corp. Edgar and his colleagues at the Fullerton PD.
“He wouldn’t be sitting here if it wasn’t for his (Edgar’s) work,” Freeberg said.
“My clients don’t figure their (stuff) out until they’re forced to.
“It was that arrest that got him to rethink his journey.”
In a hand-written note to the Fullerton PD, Easton thanked the agency, saying he never would have addressed his addictions had he not been arrested.
He ended the letter with this post script:
I used to think we were on opposite teams but have come to realize
just maybe, we might be on the same one.