Something new to worry about: ‘Mortgage rage’

Because metro Atlanta is what it is, you have a good grasp of what road rage is.

But consider that – again, because metro Atlanta is what it is — we may need to add another syndrome to our list of social ills:

Call it mortgage rage.

Several days ago, Jean-Joseph Kalonji and his wife Angelica drove to a Newton County home just purchased by their grown son. The couple was in the midst of changing the locks on the doors when they were surprised by two strangers clutching semi-automatic rifles.

Robert Canoles and his teenaged son Branden figured the Kalonji’s for trespassers and ordered the unarmed, middle-aged pair to freeze. Deputies were summoned – and rather than listen to the Kalonjis, locked the newcomers up.

In the end, the Canoles were the ones who ended up being charged with aggravated assault, false imprisonment – and trespass. The judgment of the Newton County deputies is under formal review.

It isn’t premature to declare that this single event probably generated enough watts of stupidity to light up Congress for a month. Race is one obvious subtext of the incident. Jean-Joseph is from Zaire – his wife is from Romania. Vigilantism, and the hurried rush to weaponry by the Canoles, has been another point of conversational entry.

The last thing anyone wants is to excuse the inexcusable, but in the Newton County incident, the one fact that leaped out at me was this: The home and 11 acres purchased by Bruno Kalonji, a well-employed electrician, had lain vacant for seven months, in foreclosure.

Tens of thousands of homeowners in metro Atlanta have staked their life savings on 30-year mortgages – and have been forced to walk away. Whole communities have been depopulated, and the survivors are more than skittish. Paranoid visions of what’s happening to the empty house across the way – and what remains of the neighborhood’s property values — become part of the package.

Not long ago, our daughter landed a student teaching gig at Hiram High School in Paulding County. Her classroom was in a trailer at the farthest reach of the campus – right up against a subdivision. Her parents weren’t particularly happy about the isolation.

So on a bright Sunday afternoon, after a bike ride, we decided to scout the geography. As cyclists, we wear tight black shorts and gaudy shirts. This is not something to be proud of, but it figures into the tale.

With the tandem strapped to the back of a small pick-up, we drove to the high school – but found access blocked by construction. So we drove into the subdivision to have a look from the back side.

More than 1,500 subdivisions in the Atlanta region have sat dormant for at least a year in the wake of the housing bust, according to one study. This was one of them. The neighborhood was a forest of PVC pipes and bare dirt.

We drove down one empty street, then another – and spotted a cul-de-sac that overlooked our daughter’s trailer. As we approached the high ground, we passed the only two occupied homes in the neighborhood.

In front of one, a man was doing yard work with his wife and young son. We waved.

The man approached, and with a smile and a very friendly manner, asked us our business. We told him – slightly embarrassed to engage in conversation in our bicycle togs.

“There’s nothing for you to see there,” he said. We thanked him for his opinion, and I took my foot off the truck’s brake, prepared to continue.

The friendly man disappeared, replaced by one whose face was twisted in anger. He stepped back, reached behind his back, pulled out a badge and declared himself to be a law enforcement officer.

This road was private, he roared. (Not true — street had been deeded to the county years earlier.) He ordered us to leave. When we demurred, he pulled out a cell phone and feigned a phone call to the sheriff’s office.

The man was not armed. But had we kept going, that condition might have changed by the time we made the return trip past his house – and so we retreated.

I called the Paulding County sheriff’s department the next day. They took the incident seriously, and presumably paid the fellow a visit.

My point is this: Like the Kalonjis, my wife and I were engaged in nothing suspicious. We wore no hoodies. Our clothing might have been purchased at Barnum & Bailey—that’s how threatening our appearance was.

But put a mortgage underwater, in a subdivision unlikely to be filled out for years if not decades, and many a person’s judgment would begin to fail. Everyone, everything becomes a threat.

Mortgage rage.

Certainly, that’s not the only thing that happened in Newton County. But I’m willing to bet it was part of the goulash.

- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider

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40 comments Add your comment

td

April 26th, 2012
7:30 pm

Do not know if I am buying the reasoning Jim behind the anger. I think it was just an officer being an a$$ and thinking the whole neighborhood belonged to him. At least you can feel better that your daughter is safe because there is a police officer behind her classroom with an attitude.

zeke

April 26th, 2012
7:42 pm

thanks repubs/coward dems for repealing predatory lending laws paving the way for many more foreclosures and short sales than necessary…

BP

April 26th, 2012
8:12 pm

Zeke please tell me there is medication involved. That would be the only reason for your post.

rick dent

April 26th, 2012
8:13 pm

Jim, I think the real outrage is u walking around in public in tight black bike shorts. MY EYES, MY EYES……

zeke

April 26th, 2012
8:21 pm

bp, why do you think atl is one of the leading states in foreclosure? and the accompanying vacant subdivisions….tune in to the frontline series on the 2008 crash, you might learn something….with a moniker like BP, i guess you have sprung a leak…..bet your a hit on the gulf coast.

William Smith

April 26th, 2012
8:37 pm

Lowes and Home Depot are do it yourself stores. Now with everyone armed an not needing to wait for police we have do it yourself police departments poping up in every city. I hate to think of the ultimate outcome of these actions. According to many people the answer is to better arm everyone. To protect yourself and others from a known danger is one thing, but to shoot and ask questions later is quite another.

fred stoddard

April 26th, 2012
8:41 pm

figures a loser like galloway would live in paulding county.

Bennie

April 26th, 2012
8:53 pm

What happened in Newton county could be subject to a number of interpretations. One think is for sure. Both Jay Bookman and Galloway made a big deal of the fact that homeowner armed his teenaged son. Both neglected to mention that the teenager was an 18 year old adult. If this is like Martin killing it will be a while before we find out the truth and get behind the lies and shades of the truth that we are told by the likes of Bookmann and Galloway.

TruthBe

April 26th, 2012
8:59 pm

Obama and his gang of communist traitors in his administration must go. Vote this POS out of office now.

Lynn43

April 26th, 2012
9:01 pm

This incident would never have happened if crazies didn’t have access to high powered guns. This is nothing but a male ego thing. Guns are not sexy.

Wishmaker

April 26th, 2012
9:07 pm

So, the hicks in Newton County claim their rifles weren’t even loaded, EVEN THOUGH their reasoning for confronting the (legal) home owners with their AR-15s was based on the premise that this couple were CRIMINALS BREAKING INTO a property?? OK, how stupid (are y’all, that is)? I know better. They are lucky it wasn’t me, because I would have put to the test whether or not their weapons were loaded., and if not…their @$$es would be in the grave by now. Why? Because I would have stood my ground.

td

April 26th, 2012
9:08 pm

Lynn43

April 26th, 2012
9:01 pm

Guns may or may not be sexy but they are fundamental right written into our Constitution. You got to love those facts.

alex reager

April 26th, 2012
9:50 pm

This is one of the stupidest articles I have read. Is this what passes for journalism? 1. Comparing changes your locks at night to driving around in a partialy complete subdivision in the day. 2 there is no evidence that race played any role in Kalonjis’s situation. 3 ascribing motive to the anger expressed by the homeowner. This article belongs in a collection of fictional short stories, or at best the OpEd section.

Centrist

April 26th, 2012
10:08 pm

In neither incident was there a “shoot first, ask questions later” as described by one above. No doubt both of the above certainly seemed like over-reactions, but again – nobody hurt. We don’t know what may have triggered these incidents – maybe legitimate concerns from past problems.

The only way things could have gone badly is if there was a ‘Wishmaker” type who wanted to escalate the incident instead of being rational. Then it would have been like one of those road rage incidents we read about.

I have a carry license, but have yet to have reason to DEFEND myself. In either of the above incidents, I would not have tried to do so – there was no threat as long as I understood that it I who was perceived to be the threat, and de-escalating the situation as the Galloways did was the prudent thing to do.

Don't Tread

April 26th, 2012
10:58 pm

Um…Lynn…Being declared mentally incompetent puts you on the no-buy list. Therefore, “crazies” can’t just go into a store and buy a gun. But that wasn’t what your post was about, now was it?

It’s called the Second Amendment, and despite you commies’ best efforts, it’s still part of the Constitution. Get used to it. Or move to New York, Chicago, The People’s Republik of Kalifornia, Cuba, North Korea, or China.

Big Hat

April 26th, 2012
11:09 pm

Shoot first, ask questions never, I say. When we all have guns, we won’t need cops. Or judges, juries, courthouses, jails, prisons, jailers, sheriffs, deputies, DAs and lawyers. Think of the cost savings to state and local governments. Then all those worthless bums I just listed will have to go out and get real jobs like the rest of us. 2nd amendment today, 2nd amendment tomorrow, 2nd amendment forever.

Centrist

April 27th, 2012
12:08 am

Many people can’t successfully screen to get weapon carry permit – you have to be squeaky clean, and they fingerprint/background check.

My gut reaction is a lot of folks who wouldn’t screen/ should never be near a weapon (or machinery, stairs, or scissors for that matter) post here.

Will Jones - Atlanta Jeffersonian Exegesis

April 27th, 2012
3:57 am

The present reign in our society of Taboo over Truth has understandably gotten under the skin of otherwise good and decent neighbors and Americans, and any dismissing the possibility of racism’s adding to the Newton County case, of what very well may be “mortgage rage,” is truly a stranger in this greatest part of the world, or simply oblivious.

Journalism is about finding and telling the truth. Building on that as an opinion writer, Jim Galloway may be one of the only journalists around. Those who don’t think so probably just have “an issue” with the truth; which, given the prevailing taboos is perfectly understandable.

legionaire

April 27th, 2012
4:53 am

The Newton Co. men were stupid to leave their property with drawn weapons. I have 3 loaded pistols in my house and carry one in any vehicle I drive and usually ride in. The house next door has been empty for 2 years and if I saw vandals and/or theives my only reaction is 911 and see that they don’t try my property or house. Galloway needs to understand that there are morons everywhere and just because he was rousted does not make it a trend, just an incident where no harm was done. When I worked we had a security expert (retired APD dectective) to give us pointers on self protection. His 1st rule was to encourage break-in thugs to go to another house. You can only worry about your own. Put up no trespass and beware of dog signs, motion lights, burglar alarm, and keep a loaded weapon if you are trained to use it.

Lynn43

April 27th, 2012
5:42 am

td, Along with shouting about your 2nd amendment rights comes the responsibility to not misuse these rights. These “oh boy, I get to play cops” ego obsessed men had already called the cops. They didn’t need to even go over to the neighbor’s house. But after they saw the old man and old woman, something should have registered that maybe this wasn’t a robbery. This incident was a total lack of common sense and was nothing more than redneck bullying.

Attack Dog

April 27th, 2012
6:45 am

1. When those complained about predatory lending Dixiecrats thought it was only a “Black Thing,” so they ignored the problem. 2. We are all thankful that the Kalonjis’ made it in this “Kill at Will” state. 3. It is not about how one is able to obtain a gun permit, even though the NRA is even against permitting, it is about the types of guns and geography. 4. Morons, nitwits, bums, Dixicrats, etc. can legally buy guns at places other than gun shops, so what category do we place Zimmerman, and others who have used “Kill at Will” laws to justify their knee-jerk reactions?

Chris

April 27th, 2012
6:47 am

Rather than rage against your fellow citizens, why not focus your anger on the real villains in this story: the banks?

The banks wrote all kinds of garbage loans during the bubble, knowing full well they would not have to face the consequences of their bad behavior. They got bailed out, while you didn’t. The small developers and private citizens who took on too much risk paid the price, but the big banks didn’t.

And the banks lobbied CON-gress to get Glass-Steagall repealed and reserve ratios relaxed so that they could evade regulations that were put in place after the Great Depression to prevent just such a disaster.

Focus people, focus. It’s Greenspan and Congress you should be furious with, not each other.

Attack Dog

April 27th, 2012
7:11 am

1. Is there meaning in legal gun owners being much more prone to shoot themselves than shoot someone to “protect” themselves? 2. Did the 2nd amendment anticipate AK-47’s, Mac-9’s, and fully automatic weapons when they wrote about a “well REGULATED militia?” 3. Let’s be clear, it was Greenspan and a GOP controlled Congress that re-enforced the deregulation of the financial industry. 4. Now Romney’s Dixiecrats are calling to overturn the Dodd-Frank law that was put into place to reduce the opportunity for crooks to cause mortgage and wallstreet meltdowns in the future.

Sean Smith

April 27th, 2012
7:16 am

Its a shame the Kalonji’s weren’t armed. Because if they were they should have shot to kill the Canoles’s. Someone comes at me on MY land with a gun and they get shot. Isn’t that the new law of the land?

Everyone carrying guns is not a good thing and will only lead to more unintended killings.

nelson

April 27th, 2012
7:36 am

I see what your talking about, homeowners being paranoid about people passing through their almost deserted development. They see anyone, unknown coming around and they take vigilante action.
I remember 15 years ago when I was visiting relatives in Alpharetta. There were a plethora of subdivisions all of them nearly full, each with a sign $200,000 and up, $500,000 and up, pick an area that fits your wallet. Apparently that has all changed.
Metropolitan Atlanta grew too fast without the infrastructure to go with it like sidewalks.
The welcome wagon with those baskets of goodies for newcomers is all gone.

Barry Stephens

April 27th, 2012
7:40 am

How can any sane person say that there was “no harm done” to a couple who are approached by two armed men and then carted off by law enforcement officers to spend a night in jail? To me, if some shows me that they have the key to a vacant house and actually have new locks that they are intending to install, I would be inclined to believe their story that they bought they house and are changing the locks.

I was wondering if the armed men were going to be charged with an offense and am glad upon further review that they were. Having a gun pointed at you by strangers is a frightful event – trust me.

Swinging Stefan

April 27th, 2012
7:46 am

Ignorant, gun-loving redneck’s acting like Zimmerman in Georgia-nothing to see here, just another day in regressive con haterville.

honested

April 27th, 2012
8:06 am

Zeke, (from last night)

Ain’t it a shame that most of our fellow Georgians are completely unaware of Gov. Barnes’ efforts at passing just the sort of law that would have PREVENTED the mortgage abuse/housing bubble in this state? All it took was a little common sense and forward thinking. However, when the Dark Side took over in 2003, they had completely eviscerated and rescinded the Mortgage Protection before Crossover Day.
Of course they were more worried about what defeated enemy of the United States had it’s battle emblem on the State flag, you know really important stuff.

J Throckmorton Malcontent

April 27th, 2012
8:43 am

Jim, if you want to see the future of America under GOP rule, read “Snow Crash”.

Will Jones - Atlanta Jeffersonian Exegesis

April 27th, 2012
8:45 am

“Annuit Coeptis” is supposed to rule our moral philosophy of Adam Smithian Capitalism’s full recognition that all blessings come from our covenanted “King of America,” the Creator – worshipped by “E Pluribus Unum,” in unity, in American Exceptionalism’s credal civil religion.

Wonder why “our endeavors” have not only gone sour but appear to be leading us to financial catastrophe? Think G-d doesn’t know we’ve yet to bring Bush and Cheney to justice for 9/11, or that John Kennedy ended the Fed?

America’s about Truth and Justice; Righteousness for all: the Source of, and reason for Our Nation’s prosperity and divine abundance.

Let’s get back with “the program,” Atlanta is America’s “wheel horse,” spiritually, culturally, and economically: Dr. King didn’t lick It off the wall.

Edward Ruffin

April 27th, 2012
8:47 am

As pretty thoughtful article, but Jim forgot to thank those responsible for the situation: CHRIS DODD AND BARNEY FRANK, and a room full of socialists, democrats, and liberals who are primarily responsible for the crash of the real estate market.

zeke

April 27th, 2012
8:54 am

how true, and while i think obama is mostly bought by corporate america, i can guarantee that mitt is wholly owned as is the ga general assembly. many corps are really doing well, but want to seize even more profits by getting mitt in. good many of the folks in ga vote repub for social issues, but the repub corporate machine just licks its chops. salaries for average joe will remain flat as there is more supply than demand. yet the execs will continue to reap ungodly sums as their board members form a nice little club. believe me these guys are almost a dime a dozen too (remember nardelli).

look at europe where austerity was the choice and see how that is working out. w’s economic policies and execution totally failed and folks expect us to just hop out of the great recession. america, especially main street, took big hit in 2008 and salaries are flat. yet the repubs think you can turn around without buying power of middle america. just reduce taxes and the job creators will create jobs….what a farce. they’ll just stuff the coffers with more money and try to figure out which country to move business to. if citizens united said these corporate powers are persons (mitt said so too), they should be tried for treason. choice unfortunately seems to boil down to big govt or big corporations. at least we get to vote on big govt directly. as corps morph into undeclared monopolies it is doubtful withholding our purchasing will impact big corps that much.

zeke

April 27th, 2012
8:59 am

ed ruffin, your view of what caused crash extremely myopic. dumb probably a better word. try catching the pbs frontline show on the crash. sure it has a tinge of bias, but anyone with a brain knows corporate greed is even more responsible. phil gramm, clinton, rubin and all repubs pushed repeal of glass steagal and w’s sec could not manage a one car funeral. derivatives took a housing bubble and exploded it into a mega bubble and because repubs watered down financial reform it will burst again soon.

Michael #1

April 27th, 2012
9:00 am

Ed, I think more than just those two people are responsible. Thank your local and Big Banks and Wall St.. Truth Be, how about you move out of country, as we would all be better off w/out people like you.

Big Lou

April 27th, 2012
9:10 am

Based on the extreme stupidity of the comments I have read and Galloway’s blog post, it is clear that most of the people commenting and Galloway have early warning signs of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or just mild retardation.

Also, just an FYI for Jim, Zaire hasn’t existed for about 15 years. I am guessing those gumshoe skills you exhibited in your story didn’t help you figure that out before writing your blog.

Swinging Stefan

April 27th, 2012
9:56 am

Big Lou,

You should call a wambulance.

Marlboro Man

April 27th, 2012
10:12 am

Greed and fear was the cause, it goes on every day on wall st.

Will Jones - Atlanta Jeffersonian Exegesis

April 27th, 2012
10:29 am

Homeowner and no mortgage here: America must follow Iceland and hit “reset” on debt and usury generated by money manipulators’ corruption of biblical proportions feeding off the People believed by satanic, Mammon-worshipping traitors to be a “mindless herd” for their exploitation.

Time to declare a Jubilee: all debts wiped off the books, constitutional money restored, and the “Federal Reserve System” fraud audited and expropriated by the American People. A ceremony memorializing this healing event can take place on the National Mall as Bush and Cheney walk the gallows steps at Ft. McNair, with Rumsfeld, Rove, Condi and the rest right behind them.

Swinging Stefan

April 27th, 2012
10:33 am

Will,

U damn right!

Dumb and Dumber

April 27th, 2012
12:23 pm

Um, Big Lou, the Kalonji’s are in there 60s, and when they left Africa, they lived in Zaire. They describe themselves as being from Zaire, so Jim reports it that way. So perhaps you need to dial back on your inner a-hole a bit.

And Centrist, pulling guns an unarmed couple in their 60’s, is an over-reaction. Whatever happened to just saying “hello, I live next door. My name is ___, is there something I can help you with?” But that would take civility, and we know what you think of that.