Monthly Archives: January 2010

Just Hum.

It’s probably some sort of mental tick or deficiency, I just know it. I hum all the time. My father was a hummer, genetic you see. Some say it is a sign of a happy heart,…I tend to think it is one of those threads that I hang on to, just to maintain my sanity.

I was consulting a new client today, he has a pending assault charge, the result of a domestic violence disturbance at his house. He said, “I was drunk, we argued, I punched her.” The guy was reviewing the employment contract, that I have all my clients sign, when I realized I was doing it. I was humming, “Bad Bad Leroy Brown” by Jim Croce. The client looked up at me and we both smiled…..he hired me.

Maybe I am blogging about this today to see if there are anymore like me out there? I have my own internal soundtrack playing at all times, really don’t even need to turn on the car radio. Recently, I have been stuck in 1973. If you check the Billboard Top 100 from 1973, you will be amazed…some really great music.

My mother used to take my sister Junene and I to the Army Navy Store, circa 1973, to shop for jeans. They had the bell-bottom/hip-huggers we loved, in every conceivable color. They were cheap so we could afford to buy several pair each. We would go home and throw them on our bed and start matching up the colors with our tops.

We had orange shag carpet in our room and a black light. Junene had every inch of the walls and ceiling covered with black light posters. We would switch on the turn-table and listen to Santana, Chicago, Cat Stevens, Sly and the Family Stone, and Elton John…just to name a few. We would lay on the floor with our feet stuck up on the bed, reading album liner notes. I was one cool chick in the fifth grade.

That is the about the time I told my mother whatever happened to me in life…I never wanted to get “raked!” She asked what I was talking about? I told her I saw on the news where 3 young girls were “raked” in Dallas. I envisioned a scary man with a large lawn implement, lurking in our front shrubs.

I used to play touch football with all the neighborhood kids. We would come home, throw our books on the kitchen table, and run out of the house. No childhood obesity to worry about in those days. If we weren’t playing football, we were riding our bikes…constantly. I had a red Schwinn with a banana seat, of course. My friend, Rod, and I disassembled the swing set in my backyard and used the long metal rod supports for front-fork extenders. We made a standard bicycle into an “Easy Rider” chopper in short order. Then of course, you had to attach a playing card to the front wheel spokes, with a clothes pin, to add just the right audio for our cruises on Oak Street.

The neighborhood was abuzz one summer when a new restaurant, we had never heard of before opened, called “Pizza Inn,” on Pipeline Road. A tall kid, with sandy hair came knocking one day and my mother answered the front door. He was handing out coupons for one free, small, pizza..trying to get the locals to try the new hang-out in town. My mother asked the kid if he was tired and he responded affirmatively. She said, “If I give you five bucks, you can quit for the day. Just give me that stack of coupons and no one will be the wiser.” We ate pizza that summer like nobody’s business….my mother made a different kid go in each time and pick up the goods. She figured out a seven man rotation would help us elude detection….it worked.

We had a driveway that was on an steep incline. My father would arrive home every day about 6pm and park his 1968 tan Cadillac Deville. Invariably, he would forget to set the emergency brake and the car would slide down the drive, cross the street and wind up in our neighbor’s front yard. This happened at least 5 times, never once hitting the neighbor’s house, always settling down nicely right up against their shrubs. They had a sense of humor about it…one evening my father pulled up to find a 2 ft by 2 ft sign in the neighbor’s yard. It read, “Reserved Parking, Jim Only.” He walked across the street, and ripped the sign out of the yard, embarrassed.

I was standing on the sidewalk, playing with with my Clackers that evening. You remember that toy with the two acrylic balls, on rope tethers that you smashed together? They were taken off the market after several kids Clackered themselves right into brain-damage. My father walked past me, threw the sign in the trash can, and proceeded into the house…..I think I heard him humming.

Rudy and Me.

Have you ever seen the movie, “Rudy?” If not, I highly recommend it. It was released in 1993 and stars Sean Astin, very inspirational. It tells the true story of a young man’s dream to play football for Notre Dame, against all odds…and I mean ALL odds.

Mid-way through the movie, you witness the pivotal scene where Rudy gets a letter, for the fourth semester in a row, from the Notre Dame Admissions office. Three rejections have preceded it and Rudy nervously sits on a park bench, holding the unopened letter.

I sat in a dark movie theater one afternoon and watched this movie alone. As I watched the movie unfold and with it, Rudy’s dream…..it touched a nerve. I was a police officer and had reached the rank of sergeant, supervising an entire shift, composed of all men. It dawned on me that I was not happy, I was 32 years old and had abandoned my dream.

My path to get to this moment of clarity was quite different from what you would expect. I have written, in earlier posts, that I thought about being a cop as a child, but I started college as a pre-med major. I wanted to be a doctor until my junior year when I hit organic chemistry….the law, the law sounded good at that point, my professor agreed!

I worked my way through Texas Woman’s University by working at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. You know the parking booths that take your money as you exit? I worked the midnight shift there in the early 80s. I would sit in the booth and do my homework, with minimal interruptions, from scant motorists. I would leave the job at 7 a.m. and travel to Denton for day classes, sleeping in the evenings.

A funny thing happens when all the forces in the world align for you….Kismet they call it. Switching to criminal justice as a junior and picking up a Constitutional law-book was THE moment of Kismet for me. Like taking a deep breath and truly tasting sweet air for the first time. No wonder I sucked at organic chemistry!

I spent countless nights in the toll booth, with a small heater, blowing stale warm air at my face, as I studied. I loved all the work that my professors threw at me. It didn’t matter if it was a paper on adult corrections or modern law enforcement…I always finished wanting more. I didn’t think about being a police officer at that point, law school was the goal.

After 3 years of motorists bitching about parking fees and inhabiting my own claustrophobic cell, I left DFW Airport. My sister owned a deli, in a suburb of Fort Worth, and I dropped in one day for a sandwich. I overheard two cops, in the next booth, discussing a 911 dispatcher opening at their department. I applied that day and got the job the following week. So long motorists, say hello 40 foot tall Jesus!

Yes, I said hello 40 foot tall Jesus. On the first week on the job, I handled a four fatality, car accident and Mrs. Miller. Mrs. Miller was a regular caller to the department and liked to talk about seeing Jesus in her backyard. I played along with her, she seemed to like that. No use in filing charges on an eighty-nine year old woman, for 911 abuse, just because she liked to chat it up with the big guy.

I was a dispatcher for about 12 months, then the department sent me to the police academy. I finished police training and my B.S. in Criminal Justice in close proximity. I decided to be a cop after listening to one year of people having all the fun on the other end of my radio transmissions. That and reading the atrocious police reports that came across my desk to type. Good grief, where did these guys go to school? I thought, “I could do this job, I could write a better report than this!!”

I worked in about every capacity you can, on my way to becoming a patrol sergeant. I gained my stripes, and war stories with hard work…..all because I didn’t want to sit in a parking booth or type other people’s reports….but my dream was fading.

I took a week vacation and took the law school entrance exam. What is the problem with that I asked myself? Take it and see how you measure up… go from there. My grade point average in under grad was not pristine. Lack of sleep was not something that made me aspire to graduating with “summa cum laude” after my name.

Was law school something I could even think about at this time? I had a good paying position, could I walk away to chase a dream? My score came back competitive, but it didn’t send me doing cartwheels in my yard. Time to load up my gear and go to work…. my dream was placed nicely in an old shoe box, along with my test report.

Two years passed until the day I found myself sitting in that dark theater watching Rudy with his fourth letter. He opened it up and read the words, “we are pleased to accept…”
The good news sends him sprinting to go tell his dad about his acceptance to Notre Dame. I won’t ruin the rest of the movie for those of you yet to see it, but Rudy woke me up.

A new law school had opened up in my home town and became my focus. I owned a home and could not feasibly pick up and move out-of-town. My attempt to get into law school would ride on one application. If it was truly meant to be for me…surely they would accept me. I was wrong. The rejection letter was received in quick turn-around. I imagined the admissions board passing my packet around and sharing a good laugh at my expense. I imagined 20 years of law enforcement and an unfulfilled dream.

Even though it was a new law school, they routinely got about 2000 applicants each year for a class that would be approximately 220. Mind you these applicants are not under-achievers…a lot of them do have those Greek honors after their names, getting in would not be easy.

I grew another year older and continued to chase bad guys every night. The time rolled around to try it again and I put together another application packet. One of the requirements of the law school was for each applicant to write a letter expressing why they feel they should be accepted. What do you think I wrote? If you guessed a war story, you would be correct.

I poured out my heart, I wrote about my friend Officer Ross getting shot and my participation in the arrest of the shooter. I wrote about my beginnings and how I found my way to criminal law….I wrote about my profound desire to become an advocate for others….then I waited.

I collected my mail that day and noticed the return address of the law school. My hands started shaking as I walked to my backyard. I sat down on a lawn chair and started watching the trees as they swayed in the breeze. I laughed a nervous laugh remembering Rudy on the park bench. Well, look at me…no movie music in the background this time. I feared my dream would float away, on that same breeze, with a second rejection.

I ripped the envelope and saw the words I had longed to read….”we are pleased to offer you a seat in the next class…!!”

I would like to tell you that I went running off down the street, as the music crescendoed, and the credits rolled or that I had a vision of a 40 foot tall Jesus…but that did not happen…this was reality folks, come on!!

I did run around the backyard yelling and crying like a happy fool for a full five minutes. And then a couple of days later I drove out to the DFW airport. I drove from the north end to the south, a fifty cent fee at that time. I gave the girl who took my ticket a fifty-dollar bill, told her to keep the change, and told her to never give up on her dreams. She looked at me like I was a freak and opened up the gate for my exit….she shoulda seen the movie.

Shots Fired, Officer Down! (Part Two)

And after that brief commercial break….our story continues.

Well, the keys explained why the car wasn’t moving. The wife told me that her husband wasn’t hit. Ross’s return shots had all went right through the center of the back window and out the front….unbelievably missing both occupants.

I could hear the siren of back-up Officer Fritz approaching the scene from my west. The hammer on my Smith & Wesson was ready to strike it’s mark….as the suspect started to exit the vehicle. I asked for hands and he showed me hands, no gun. He was screaming, “please, kill me!!” I would have gladly obliged him, but again, no gun.

In a split second, he turned and ran right into the path of eastbound traffic and headed across the center median of the four lane highway. Officer Fritz saw this and drove his unit across the median, in hot pursuit.

I quickly slammed handcuffs on my pregnant prisoner and left her where she sat. Ross was protected by his vehicle and not laying on the roadway. I needed to pursue the suspect and help Fritz. I got into my unit and went back to the crossover.

The suspect had crossed the westbound traffic, without becoming road-kill, and was now running towards a small grouping of houses just off the highway. I knew that if he jumped a couple of fences, he would have to come out on the street that my patrol car was fast approaching. I told the dispatcher to tell the ambulance to pull up and help Ross. I could hear screaming sirens from EVERY direction!

Looking back now, this was not a guy that wanted to commit “suicide by cop.” That is a technique where someone wants to end it, but doesn’t have the balls to do it themselves. They point a weapon towards an officer and let law enforcement do the deed. This guy was a coward, through and through.

Officer Fritz rammed the back fence of a house just as the suspect’s feet cleared the top of the chain link. Fritz jumped the fence and was now in foot pursuit. As I turned the corner and hit the street…I saw the suspect running from the side of a house, directly in front of me. I stopped, jumped out of the car and did my best impression of Lawrence Taylor. (football reference for all non-sporty girls and guys)

I hit him from the front as Officer Fritz hit him from the back….the three of us tumbled onto the gravel driveway in one big heap. Now when an officer is shot…your friend…and you don’t know yet, his condition….and you find yourself sitting on top of the suspect…well…let’s just say the suspect was injured in the “fall.” He also got the business end of my .357 pointed right between his eyes…this time he did not plead for me to kill him, but begged for mercy…..I gave it to him…mercy people, I gave him mercy.

We made the evening news the next day and watched it from the hospital room of Officer Ross. His bullet-proof vest stopped 3 rounds that were surely fatal…the fourth hit him in the left buttock region. The doctors decided to leave the round in as more damage would occur trying to remove it than it was worth. The suspect would forever more…you guessed it, literally be a pain in the ass for Officer Ross.

Officer Ross recounted that as he initially approached the vehicle on the traffic stop, the suspect had raised his weapon from his waistline, a .380 automatic pistol, and started shooting. The first shot hit Ross in the metal plate of his vest, right at his heart, and knocked him backwards. Three more hit their mark as he tumbled to the rear of the suspect vehicle. Ross stood up and fired four shots through the back window before falling where I found him.

The suspect received 60 years for his deed and would not be eligible for parole until after 15 years of that sentence because of his use of a deadly weapon. The baby born, the next day, would graduate high school before ever meeting his father. Some guys just don’t want to go to jail for DWI and for driving a stolen car.

My department, shockingly, up until that night, did not require its officers to wear bullet-proof vests, it was optional. Optional because they cost about $600.00 each and the budget did not have any room for the expense.

Officer Ross liked arresting DWI offenders and was number 2 in the department in that statistic. I often have wondered what would have happened if I had not checked out the tire store, but instead had observed a weaving tan four door, with no license plate, entering my district.

Number 1 in the department for DWI arrests was not wearing a bullet-proof vest on that fateful night in November of 1988…and that, to quote Paul Harvey,…is the “rest of the story.”

Shots Fired, Officer Down! (Part One)

It was November 6, 1988 at about 12:40 a.m. and I was on patrol on the east side of the city. I checked out at a tire store because I saw a suspicious car pulled up by the back door. I gave the dispatcher the plate number of the vehicle to run on the computer and began to investigate.

I let my guard down a little when I checked the hood of the car and found the engine was cold. I started walking the perimeter, along with my handy Mag light. The dispatcher called out, “221?” Go ahead, I replied. He told me the vehicle was “clear,” meaning not stolen and no warrants attached to the registered owner. The address was local, so I checked a few doors and went back to my unit.

I had graduated the police academy just 9 months before this night.
Low seniority had bestowed upon me a place on the midnight shift, 11pm-7am….some cops call it the “dog shift,” for obvious reasons.

As I was walking back to my patrol car, I could hear another officer alert the dispatcher that he was stopping a car for investigation of driving while intoxicated, it did not have a rear plate. The officer was working the district next to mine and I was a mere 4 blocks away from him.

The officer was a friend, in small departments you tend to develop close bonds to people. Although I don’t have any military experience, I hear soldiers say the same thing. When you entrust another with your life, you develop a connection that is tough to match in other occupations. His name was Officer Ross, and his radio number was 230. He loved arresting drunks, so I figured I was about to get stuck waiting on a tow truck.

I pulled out of the tire store parking lot. Even though it was a cold November night, I kept the driver side window down about 2 inches. This enabled me to hear my surroundings, plus the police radio, and the regular car radio or “good times radio,” as it is called in law enforcement. Even then I listened to the oldies channel and Peter Frampton was singing about how he loved my ways….pop, pop, pop, pop!!!

I was now driving west on an access road that ran along side a major four lane highway. The traffic stop site was eastbound, still two blocks up, on that same highway. An old truck was passing me in the parallel westbound lanes of the highway. Did I just hear gunshots or did that old clunker just back-fire? BOOM, BOOM, BOOM, BOOM!

Holy shit, that’s gunfire! Dispatch! I hear gunshots, start additional 10/27 towards 230! We used 10 codes to talk on the radio and 10/27 meant back-up. I flipped on my overheads, took off my seatbelt and sped towards my fellow officer.

This particular highway did not have on-ramps but had crossovers. I had worked several fatality accidents at the very intersection I was now crossing, because…well, crossovers are really hazardous. The time was about 12:50 a.m. and traffic was light in both directions.

As I hit the center of the crossover and looked to my right, I could see the suspect vehicle facing me, a tan four door, with Officer Ross’s unit parked right behind it. The spotlight from his car blocked my view of anything further at that point. On the radio, Officer Ross screamed,”230!!”….then silence.

Small caliber guns pop when discharged and are sometimes confused with other sounds. When I heard the returns, I knew it was the larger caliber of Officer Ross and his .357 revolver. I knew this because I had a Smith & Wesson .357 caliber gun just like it on my duty belt.

I crossed over the eastbound traffic and turned west on the opposite side of the highway, on the access road once again. I slammed the car into park and got out. I used the engine block for cover and draped myself against the left front quarter panel. My unit was cattey-corner from the suspect’s vehicle, with about 12 yards of the grass median between us. That is when I got my first look at my friend, Officer Ross. Shots fired, officer down!

Ross was laying on his back at the right rear of his unit. He was conscious and holding his weapon in his right hand…it was shaking violently. I asked him if he was hit. Ross responded, “four times.” He was giving it his all just to maintain, as I focused on the suspect vehicle.

I had arrived so quickly to the scene, the suspect was miraculously still in the driver’s seat. The thought went through my mind that he too might be hit or dead. The car would have already made hasty exit but for not that very reason, right?

The passenger window was somewhat foggy and I could see there were not one, but two passengers. I had my gun directed at the head of the driver. I was fully ready to use deadly force, I could not let anyone exit the vehicle, walk back to the downed officer and finish the job!

Also during this time, I advised the dispatch that we needed an ambulance, but to have them stay 2 blocks off until the scene was secured. My backup was flying towards me, as were two Texas Department of Public Safety troopers. The troopers had monitored my radio channel while on a coffee break in the next town over. If you want to see it “rain” police, yell “shots fired, officer down” across the airwaves. Help was on the way, but the welfare of Ross was all mine.

Don’t get me wrong, I was not calm…I was professional, but I was not calm. My normal voice went up a couple of octaves and I was screaming at the shooter to obey my commands. I wanted the driver to exit the vehicle showing me his hands, so I could get him prone on the pavement and create some stability. Getting him out of the car would prevent a vehicle chase. Believe me, my requests were loud enough for him to hear and littered with language better left out of this war story.

I maintained a line of site, but it was not a clear one. The right front passenger was moving about the car. I also had eastbound traffic passing on the other side of the suspect car. A round not stopped by metal or body, could pass through to an innocent.

The right front passenger made a move and exited the car. My finger was definitely applying more pressure to the trigger…and then I saw her. A Hispanic woman, appearing to be, about nine months pregnant, was running right towards me screaming. I couldn’t make out her scream and her hands were holding her stomach at a low point where I could not see them.

Well, this is a scenario that they didn’t go over in the police academy, a potential pregnant killer charging you! I didn’t know at that time if she was the shooter or not, couldn’t see her hands, and didn’t know if she intended me harm. I had 3 seconds to make up my mind. Count to three and tell me what you would do?

In hindsight, it would have been a justified use of deadly force. I let her get to within arms length, then with my left hand, pulled her to the ground beside my unit. I kept my gun trained on the suspect car and could see she didn’t have a weapon. She told me her husband was the driver, he had a gun, and he wanted to die. I told her to sit down on the access road and if she moved, she would die.

Officer Ross had now lost consciousness. I asked the woman if her husband spoke English and she responded, “yes.” I asked her why he hadn’t fled the scene? I glanced down as she opened her hand to show me the car keys.

End of Part One

Growing Up Juju (part 18 in a series)

Long before people knew me to be queer, they found me to be sporty. A “sporty girl” in the 1970s was basically code for being a queer girl. This was a time when Martina Navratilova hadn’t yet come out of the closet. I found it funny then, and quite hysterical now that she had to come out at all. She had bigger biceps than the middle linebacker on my high school football team. Martina was indeed, a sporty girl.

Anyway, sporty girls played every game there was and were busy during all seasons. I was in two basketball leagues in the winter, played on the high school volleyball team in the fall, the spring meant track and the summer was all about softball.

I actually was on a state championship softball team in 1980 and was picked all-state at first base two years in a row. You should of chuckled though at the aforementioned reference to the track team. Most people think of sprinters and jumpers when you talk track. When you are 5’11” and went right from size 6x to 16…..you throw the shot-put.

I sucked at throwing the shot-put. So, thankfully for you, this blog is not about track or any sport at all. Now, we can get to the 1978 Mercury Bobcat.

It was my first car, brand spanking new. I have told you before, I was spoiled and this is further evidence of that. My father died in 1976 and my mother re-married to a man named Lawrence. He didn’t hurt for cash and neither one of them wanted to tote me around to a million practices and games…biff, bang, boom, new car.

I didn’t get to pick the car, with the money goes the control. I wanted a maroon Chevy Camaro with a rear spoiler. Why did they buy me the Bobcat, Mercury’s answer to the Ford Pinto? It resembled the Pinto except it had a front grill that was on steroids. Blowing up after rear-end collisions would also have been a good argument for the future attorney….but we didn’t know that back then. The Camaro would have launched a 10th grader’s popularity into the stratosphere!

I had turned 16 in December of 1977, passed the driving test and received my license without a hitch. The Bobcat didn’t land in the driveway until about the first week of March of 78. After a few weeks of driving with my mother, the final examiner, I was released to drive for the very first time………solo.

Independence day was a Monday, I was set to drive to school and back with zero detours. The car was sparkling clean, my school gear was under the hatch-back, the soundtrack from Saturday Night Fever….eight-track, of course….in the deck. Gas? Check. Pop-tart? Check. All clear for accelerating into my motorized future!

The drive to school was uneventful and I pulled into the student parking lot and took my place as a mobile sophomore. After a full day of classes I got my gear and headed to the track for practice.

The big girls that threw the shot-put practiced with the even bigger guys that threw it. So there I was, standing around the concrete square from which we launched those 16- pound balls, with 3 of the offensive linemen from the football team.

As one of the guys spoke to me, he began casually tossing the shot-put he had from one hand and back to the other. I could see his mouth moving, but I was drifting off from the conversation. My mind was on the drive home and what would be my soundtrack.

A shock of pain brought me back to the present moment. The shot-put had missed the big jock’s left paw and had come crashing down on my right foot. A 16-pound ball of steel landing on a human foot, that is standing on concrete….well that, my friends, is what you call a big hurt.

A friend drove my car home that day. The Bobcat sat in the driveway for the next 6 weeks, alone and longing for the Bee Gees. Bones had been broken, nerves had been damaged, and the sport of track and field was in my rear view mirror forever.

Sometimes in life, things come along too easy for you. It takes some sort of challenge for you to fully appreciate an award. After my foot was able to depress the gas pedal again, the Bobcat made a sporty girl proud.

Jojo the Mutt

I am a criminal. Yes, I am a criminal defense attorney too. But my introductory confession is spot on. I am complicit in a theft. The statute of limitations has not run yet, but still I am compelled to tell you this story.

My partner in crime, let’s call her “Maggie,” she called me up one day crying. It seems she had not slept in days. A puppy was within feet of her bedroom window, sitting lonely in a metal cage with no floor. Just resting on a concrete slab, with no food or water to be seen.

Maggie had watched intently for some sign of love to come out of the house next door, but none had appeared. She lives in a neighborhood where quaint prairie style houses are often quite close to shacks that have seen better days. Maggie won’t mind my description of her neighborhood, for it is the truth. I am a thief, not a liar.

The puppy was crying incessantly, as would I in that predicament. What kind of a person procures a puppy to just abuse?

I advised Maggie to call animal control and report the neglect. She followed my suggestion and also starting tossing chunks of food over her fence to help the puppy make it until the calvary arrived.

Two more days of crying and no sleep followed. Animal control was a no show, Maggie and the puppy were getting weaker by the minute.

I was advised of the location and left my office to go investigate. I pulled my car up street-side and my heart broke. Peering out through the metal cage was, what looked like, a tan lab puppy mixed with an unknown gene cocktail. Was I wrong to assimilate the puppy with someone in a concentration camp? Yes, in hindsight, I let my emotions get the better of me, but that was my culpable mental state.

I called Maggie and told her to go knock on her neighbor’s door. I would give her two crisp one-hundred dollar bills and she could offer a purchase agreement. Maggie advised it had been three days since she had seen her neighbors. She feared they had skipped out on the landlord, but didn’t have reliable proof. I drove away, leaving the pup, and crying like a baby.

And then the premeditation of the crime began. Maggie finally snapped and stated that “if” the puppy were to “break out” of the cage….she would be a good Samaritan and swoop up the “stray” to safety.

The next morning at 4:30am, my doorbell rang. I looked out my front door and there was Maggie. It was raining, cold, and she was holding a wet, stinky….delighted puppy. It was the most incredible coincidence I had ever experienced. The very next night after my conversation with Maggie, the pup did break free and was found roaming the streets!
Oh, good grief…well…okay, …I am not a liar, I am not a liar, I am not a liar.

At 5am I was standing in my shower, giving a tan mutt his first bubble bath. At 8am that same puppy was costing me $375.00 at my vet’s office, getting a slew of tests done. The pup was otherwise healthy, except for a case of worms. The doctor said the worms were a sign of poor diet and neglect.

Jojo the mutt lives on two acres with his new family. He has a big brother named Cowboy and enjoys harassing two horses that are his best friends. His human keepers are five children that smother him with hugs and slobbery kisses. His favorite pastime is sitting on the couch with a six-year old, sharing Cheetos and watching Dora the Explorer.

I guess by now you will agree with me, I am a thief. If investigated and prosecuted, I will gladly spend some time incarcerated, in a metal cage, with a concrete floor….for Jojo.

My baby, My baby!

Cops and ex-cops have past experiences that you just cannot find in other professions. These experiences are called “war stories.” If you ever have an hour to kill, walk up to an ex-cop and ask him a question on any subject and he will have a corresponding war story.

I have been punched in the face, spit on, puked on, almost hit by an 18 wheeler, chased around a junk-yard by an ax-wielding lunatic and bit….and that was just in one winter. I wore the badge for 8 years so I have a wealth of stories at my disposal. A close friend appreciated the blog I wrote on being bitten by the prostitute and requested another. I think he takes evil pleasure in picturing me in these unusual circumstances, so distant in time and place from the person I am today.

It was about 7pm, it was hot, it was August. The kind of heat you feel steaming off the streets after a rare summer shower in Texas. I had a new hire in the patrol car, riding shotgun, about one week out of the police academy. I was his field training officer and he would ride with me for a six week final training period. We will call him Hal for the purpose of this blog. We were working on officer safety during traffic stops.

It is cliche, but it is on point. Police work could often be 5 hours of boredom, followed by 5 minutes of sheer terror or whatever is on the other end of that 911 call. Don’t look around for help, you are the help. No time to ponder your actions, …just move your ass and go do what they pay you for…notice I didn’t say “big bucks.” This was before the internet, Starbucks, and Lindsey Lohan. Police officers made very little money, we did it to serve the community. Some did it to be John Wayne, but I truly did it to serve people….to protect and serve.

I grew up watching Ponch and John patrol California Highways and Rampart calling Engine 51 about the next fire. All emergencies were settled in one hour or less, including commercials, then you went back to the station to goof around with your buddies. Count me in!

But I digress, back to the rookie. So there we were driving down the road talking about spotlight positioning and command presence on traffic stops when the dispatcher called out my number. 221?

221 here, go ahead. Proceed to 118 Elm (not real address), code 3, woman screaming…all I can get out of her is “my baby, my baby!”

Hal was a country boy, married with 3 kids. I tell you this because men with kids have a harder time with calls like this than those without them. They put themselves in the position of the caller and sometimes lose professionalism….they lose the distance that cops have to have in place in order to take care of things…when the shit hits the fan.

I flipped on the overheads and siren and hung a U-turn to head towards the call location. I began talking to Hal and getting him prepared for what I thought we were about to see.

I had been to calls before with screaming moms, with similar outcries and they had involved crib deaths, SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome). I was talking Hal through what I expected him to do upon arrival at this house. We began discussing CPR procedure on infants.

I could see him tightening up in his demeanor and his breaths were coming quick. Deep breath Hal, we are going to do whatever it is we need to do…and we are going to start doing it in about 2 minutes.

I pulled into the cul de sac, parked and we ran for the front door. The ambulance was enroute, but about 5 minutes behind us. The door was open and the mother was standing in the middle of the living room screaming. “My baby, my baby!!” I asked her where her baby was and all she did was point up the staircase. I didn’t break stride, running up the stairs with the rookie right behind me.

At the top of the stairs I looked right and saw an empty bathroom. I turned left quickly. I ran right into a teenage girl. Her eyes were half way open, her mouth had a white foam seeping out. The girl was suspended from the top of a closet door jam by a rolled up bed sheet. She was sixteen years old, on the high school volleyball team, and she had killed herself 6 hours earlier.

The rookie handled it that night pretty well. It was a tough call for his first dead body. Dealing with cases like this is not like you see on CSI the TV show. The reality is you request the medical examiner and you work the scene. And you wait…the examiner’s office is usually busy,… you have to secure the scene until the person is declared dead and the body is removed.

The rookie spent 2 hours standing in the same room with the suspended body. He did everything that was asked of him and wrote a superior report and schematic of the crime scene.

I spent my time between him and the mother until her pastor was called and neighbors arrived to help. The father arrived home to a horrific site. I told him his daughter was dead. No matter how many times I advised people of a loved-one’s death, it was never easy…shouldn’t be easy.

Why did she do it? Whatever I tell you won’t be good enough, so we will skip this part of the story. That is not the point really anyway. Dead is dead, gone is gone….forever, like they say, is a mighty long time.

The point I am trying to make is all about perception. That woman’s “baby” died. My “rookie” handled a tragic situation admirably. And “war stories” are not just an old cop’s way of shooting the bull…they are sometimes graphic reminders of what it was like to protect and serve.

Growing Up Juju (part 11 in a series)

Her name will be my secret. It is tough being a thirteen year old girl, in 1974 Texas, or any geographic location for that matter. Try being a little gay girl in love with an older woman, in 1974 Texas.

My father was a chef at the local country club. It was the kind of place where people belonged just to distinguish themselves. No shopping at Sears for this crowd, and God forbid you pulled into the parking lot in a Oldsmobile. The men played golf, while their wives swigged gin and tonics poolside, their eyes tilted at the lifeguards, not their kids. We were the hired help and I got that, immediately upon setting foot on the place.

I was “hired”…won’t even get into child labor laws, to work the concession stand to the pool. The side kitchen window where those same gin and tonics flew out of, along with burgers, fries, and cherry cokes.

Technically, I wasn’t supposed to touch the alcohol, so I would take the order and go retrieve a waitress to deliver the goods. I got to share the commission of alcohol sales and tips with the wait staff. That side pot, combined with an hourly wage of $1.10, was the beginning of my love affair with money, but that is another blog, another day.

In no time, my father let me be his short-order cook and I soon became accustomed to handling the morning rush. So picture a kid in softball cleats, plating eggs, as ordered, by the hungry “elite” of Euless, Texas….if they only knew!

She was a local girl, home from college, picking up extra money for the next semester by waiting tables. The details, they don’t matter here. Let’s just say I was in love. Of course, she didn’t know it and neither did anyone else. When you are queer, you get really good, really early in life at hiding yourself. I had known since I was five that I was different, as I hit puberty, it all made sense.

I used to watch all the Elvis movies, my mother thought I was in love with the hipster…little did she know I was head over heels for Ann Margaret. By the time Charlie’s Angels came along I had figured out that I would never join those women poolside.

For three months my heart beat like a rabbit every time she walked into a room. The brush of her arm or the smell of her perfume sent me into a tizzy. It was the perfect love, secreted in my heart, never to be tarnished by the spoken word.

Her temporary servitude came to an end, one late August afternoon. I walked with her to her car, she hugged me and drove away, never to be seen again. All first loves end, hence the title, and this was no exception.

I put up my emotional protective shield and returned to the confines of the kitchen. I started to help prep for the next morning’s breakfast run.

I looked over at my father, we shared a smile. He cocked his head to one side and started to speak. Oh good grief, did he know? Did he pick up on something? I couldn’t believe I was busted!

“Could you not wear the softball cleats on my kitchen floor anymore, they scar it,” he said.

His floor and my heart.