Tag Archives: police

Carl Wants to Go Home

221? 221, go ahead. Be en route to the jail for a prisoner release. Wow, that is an exciting call, I thought. 221 en route. Sometimes in law enforcement what starts out mundane, turns into a war story that you are still telling your friends about 20 years later….this is one such story.

I arrived at the jail at about 11:30 p.m. and entered its fetor confines. If you are ever unfortunate enough to be in jail, you will quickly pick up on a unique combo of smells….think urine with a healthy dose of gym locker room.

We shall call this calamitous guy Carl…well, because it sounds good with calamitous. Carl had sat in our jail for four days rather than pay some old traffic tickets. He was on parole for aggravated robbery, having served several years in the Texas Department of Corrections, (TDC). The traffic tickets were nothing for him to worry about and would have no effect on his paroled status.

Carl was institutionalized, TDC tends to do that to someone. I used to like dealing with guys like Carl, you knew exactly what to expect…and so did they. Believe it or not, arresting a local dentist for DWI was a larger pain in the ass than dealing with Carl.

I did the discharge paperwork and Carl was sent walking. As I checked back into service, I watched his shadow disappear westbound up the access road to the highway. Carl’s mother lived about 2 miles from the police station, he was headed in the right direction.

Driving around for eights hours, alone in the dark, is a unique way to make a living. I drove alley ways, checked businesses, checked backyards for scared old ladies….I did whatever came across the radio.
The dog shift was a mix of calls for service relayed to you by dispatch and self-generated activity. I excelled in self-generated activity…for the stats, but mostly to just stay awake.

After leaving the station, I mozied on down to the 7-11 to get a coke. Diane, the manager, appreciated that I took short breaks there, it made her feel safer and she enjoyed the company. I walked into the store and Diane cut her eyes quickly to a guy standing by the ATM.

She said one thing, “10-56.” That let me know the guy was drunk. We had prearranged radio signals and other buzz words for almost any situation that I might walk into on my frequent visits.

I approached the white male and began checking him for signs of intoxication. He showed me a driver’s license, and told me he had been to a local honky-tonk….honesty…I liked that.

221? 221 go ahead. The burglar alarm is going off at the junior high on Church Street. 221 en route. In small departments, improvisation is also needed on a nightly basis. The dude was intoxicated and not getting back in his truck. I asked him for his keys, told him to call a ride and he could pick up his keys the next day at the front desk of the police department.

I pulled onto the 200 block of Church street and killed my headlights, taking the last three blocks blacked out. There would be no back-up coming, all units were handling other calls. I hit the foot release and pulled the shot-gun out of its floor rack. I got out of the unit and started to check the perimeter windows and doors. It was about 12:20 a.m. on a Thursday morning.

Alarms went off every night, the trick was to never get lazy. Sure, ninety-nine percent were false….caused by the weather, a stray cat, or the owner of the property…but you had to treat each call like the real deal.

At the back southwest corner of the school I found a window broken. The glass was blasted in and I could see a couple drops of fresh blood on the sill. I knocked out the remaining jagged pieces, stepped back into the shadows, and assessed my predicament.

There was no vehicle that I could see in the area, telling me that this “burglar” was on foot and not too bright. Not too bright because of the blood and the window that he chose to break….it was the only window at the back of the school with a giant spotlight right above it.

I softly told the dispatcher my location and notified her of the open window. Another officer was wrapping up a traffic accident and would be on his way in about 9 minutes. Just at that moment I saw the outline of a six-foot tall man walking in the school.

I would like to tell you that I did the right thing…waited the 9 minutes before entering the school. I always did the right thing when talking about officer safety….except this night.

I put the shotgun inside the window first, then I jumped up and went in head first. My hands came down on the classroom floor, right on the broken glass. As I pulled myself through the opening, my brass buttons popped off the front of my uniform shirt…..one at a time. This was not my finest moment of grace….and I wasn’t too quiet either.

I quickly jumped to my feet, grabbed my shotgun and walked towards the door. As I took my first step into the hall, I could see a man walking towards me…he had something in his hands. I racked a round into the shotgun…an unmistakeable sound…what we called a “scum-bag alert.”

I leveled the shotgun at the man and told him to drop what was in his hands. He released two boxes and about 200 pencils hit the floor and scattered. I got the guy proned out on the floor…and we held our positions. I could hear my back-up checking out at the school.

As the other officer walked up behind me and illuminated my bad guy for the first time…..I recognized him….it was Carl. “What on earth are you doing here and why are you stealing pencils, I asked?? Carl replied with five words, “I want to go home.”

We stood him up, walked him back to the same open window and pushed Carl through it, head first, and handcuffed. Back at the station I booked Carl in jail for burglary of a building….a felony…one that would ensure that he went back to TDC, his home.

I knew Carl was institutionalized when I set him walking to his mother’s earlier in the night….I just didn’t know to what level. He had a made a decision that he could not function in the real world. Breaking into a building without the effective consent of the owner, to commit a theft or other felony, while on parole in Texas, gets you a ticket to TDC….even if you are stealing 2 boxes of pencils.

Carl walked into the holding cell, sat down on the iron cot and took a very deep breath. The air that repelled most and the 4 by 8 cell others avoided, was the one place on earth where Carl felt normal.

I drove back to the 7-11, the ice in my coke had surely melted….maybe I would pick one up for Carl.

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The Monster on Sugarberry Lane (part two)

PART TWO

I was two minutes out when the dispatcher toned out the ambulance and fire department, telling me the neighbors were reporting a full structure fire at the house on Sugarberry Lane. I turned on the street passing the point where just over two hours earlier I had the encounter with Penny. I could see the house, smoke was filtering out the front windows.

I pulled up and exited the patrol car, running across the yard. A neighbor standing in the street asked if he could help. I yelled for him to stay away, as I heard screams from the rear of the house. The driveway was in the rear of the house and fed into the back alleyway. I continued to hear a woman screaming as I ran along the side of the house. At the back alley I located the woman, another neighbor, she was screaming, “the kids, the kids!!”

I asked her if any of the kids were still in the house? She responded that she didn’t know, but saw three of them running down the street. Thinking at least two small kids were in the burning house, as well as Penny and Zahhak, I entered the garage and observed the door leading to the kitchen open. I could hear my back-up arriving out front, as I drew my weapon.

I entered the kitchen and came face to face with Zahhak. My back-up entered right behind me, his name was Wilson. Thick black smoke was filling the kitchen and it was burning my eyes and throat. It was obvious that Zahhak had burns on both forearms, severe burns…as well as on his torso. He also had a butcher knife in his right hand and had appeared to have cut his hands…blood was pooling at his feet.

I told Zahhak to drop the knife or he would be shot….he dropped it in quick order. Wilson and I grabbed him and drug him out on the driveway. Wilson quickly returned to the house to attempt to find the children and Penny. I rolled Zahhak on his stomach and handcuffed his hands behind his back. The skin on his forearms was rolling up, burned and shriveling….falling off to my touch. With his injuries, I knew he was not moving, so I left him and ran back into the house.

On the return trip to the kitchen I had to immediately get down on my hands and knees. The only available air was at the one foot level, everything above that was total blackness. I could hear Wilson shouting, still calling out for the kids. Wilson checked several rooms and could not find any sign of life.

I made it as far as the living room and could go no further. I had never experienced heat at that level before. I could feel my eyebrows synging as I faced a veritable wall of hot air. I could not make myself move another inch…my mind wanted to find Penny and the children…my body would not allow it. Wilson had bravely made it farther than I did, but even he was retreating, not making it to the master bedroom. The house belched both of us back on the driveway, along with big billows of black smoke.

What had seemed like an eternity was only about eight minutes and the fire department was now on scene fighting the fire. The Careflight medical evacuation helicopter was ordered by the fire department Captain, as Zahhak’s injuries were life threatening.

Wilson stayed with Zahhak and would be traveling to Parkland Hospital in the helicopter with him. The fire was now extinguished as I looked down the alleyway and saw five small kids standing beside a woman. Thank goodness, Penny and the kids had made it out!! I took a deep breath of the fresh air and sighed. The woman was now running towards me, getting closer….it was sadly not Penny.

The woman was a neighbor from four houses down, she stated her kids were playmates of Penny’s children. They had run to her house in sheer panic, looking for help. I told her to take the kids to her house and keep them inside until someone was sent to get them. She turned to walk back and said that the kids had told her, “Daddy set Mommy on fire!”

The fire department Captain was calling my name and standing at the kitchen door. I met him there and followed him back through the smoldering house. The fire originated in the master bedroom without extending past the attached hall. The bedroom was completely black as we walked through it towards the master bathroom.

The Captain motioned into the bathroom and I entered alone. There was Penny, motionless in the bathtub. From the breasts down her clothes were burned and melted to her skin. I could see several knife puncture wounds on her breasts as well as her neck. She was staring at me in frozen disbelief….Penny was dead.

Zahhak had waited for Penny’s return that day, sitting in the driveway. He shouted as she pulled up and the shouting followed her as she escorted the children into the house. The fight had escalated to the point where Zahhak had grabbed the butcher knife and chased Penny around the house. At one point pinning her down on the floor of the master bedroom, stabbing her repeatedly.

The twelve-year-old son had watched as Zahhak had drug Penny to the bathtub, and threw her down. A waiting gas can was on the bathroom floor. Zahhak poured the gas over a screaming Penny. Zahhak was sloppy in his crime and got gasoline on his chest and arms. When he flipped the lit match into the tub, flames shot up and licked at his body.

I worked the crime scene and didn’t leave the house for four more hours. I helped lift Penny from the bathtub and watched as something shiny fell out of the side of her burnt jeans. Upon closer inspection I could see a gold-colored coin glistening on the blackened floor. I picked it up and found it was a token, a token for games from Chuck E. Cheese.

Officer Wilson was treated for smoke inhalation at the hospital. His valiant effort was done with no thought for his own safety. He was a good officer and had acted heroically on that “slow” Sunday.

Zahhak lived, but had to endure painful skin graphs and the loss of one testicle. He was convicted of murder in a Dallas County District Court. His plea bargain and attached sentence was so incredibly low, I cannot make myself include it in this blog. Zahhak would, at sometime in his life, walk the streets a free man again. I have no reasonable explanation for this fact, as I did not take part in the prosecution, past the point of arrest.

The five children were adopted by Penny’s mother…this is all I know about them. The last time I saw the twelve-year-old is when I walked down the street and told him and his grandmother that Penny was dead.

The coroner ruled Penny’s official cause of death as smoke inhalation. Could I have saved her if I could have made myself move beyond the living room? I don’t know the answer to that question, but I can still relive the unbelievable force and heat of that burning room sixteen years later.

I would have liked to have finished this blog with a happy ending or a funny phrase or twist. But there is no such ending to relate….domestic violence ends really badly sometimes….people get hurt…people die.
I would continue to go on domestic violence calls for the rest of my law enforcement career. I would look into the eyes of aggressive men and women…volatile and angry again. I would see others that had intent to cause harm and that were on the brink of madness.

But I would never see the blackness or evil-heart of Zahhak matched again. Nor would I forget a woman named Penny and her last Mother’s Day on Sugarberry Lane.

The Monster on Sugarberry Lane (part one)

The black Labrador came ambling up to me and said, “howdy do” in dog-speak. His name was Jake and I recognized him and his purple collar immediately. No sooner had I exited my patrol car to greet him, did I see his owner approaching in the green Dodge mini-van. There were five kids hanging out both sides, screaming Jake’s name, and a mother behind the steering wheel. For the sake of this blog, her name was “Penny.”

I had met Penny a couple of times in the months preceding Jake’s dash from their yard. She was a good mom. The unfortunate thing about Penny was that she was married to a monster. We shall call the husband, “Zahhak.” Zahhak was a figure in Iranian mythology known to be a monster, so my pseudonym is approppo.

Zahhak was a waiter at a very high-end restaurant/hotel in Dallas. The type of place where you could make $60,000.00 a year in the mid-nineties. He was very meticulous and took great care of his customers. Zahhak was well liked by his co-workers, they described him as a very earnest immigrant. They said he had come from Iran and had found his American dream. All good monsters have an outer façade that enables them to walk among the general populace. This monster excelled in appearing normal…to most.

Zahhak had been in the city jail two times for domestic violence assault. I first met Penny one early evening on a Saturday. Penny and Zahhak had five children, under the age of 12. They lived in a well-maintained, two-story Ranch style home and were known to keep to themselves in the sub-division. Penny had originally fallen in love with Zahhak because of, and these are her words, “his dark good-looks and the intensity of his love.” The children had come in quick succession and they had settled in this bedroom community of Dallas in what was to them, an idyllic setting.

But on this day, it seemed that Zahhak had bounced Penny’s head off the kitchen wall for messing up his dinner. He was arrested and charged with a misdemeanor assault, bonding out 4 hours later. Zahhak received 6 months probation and took an anger management class as his penance for the crime. Penny accepted his apology, but this pattern had been established years ago.

Two months passed and my department was, once again, dispatched to the two-story house on Sugarberry Lane. This time was even worse, Penny was bleeding from a small cut over her left eye. Zahhak had back-handed her, in front of their five children, for “disrespecting” him.

Penny had finally reached the end of her rope after the second assault. She took the kids and moved out of the house. Zahhak came home from jail the next night and found a copy of a signed protective order, along with a petition for divorce, laying on the dining room table. It had taken Penny fourteen years, but she had made her break. He had never assaulted her before in view of the children, she knew his madness was escalating.

The details of the divorce matter not, except that Penny got primary custody and Zahhak had a standard visitation schedule for the five kids. Zahhak remained in the house and Penny moved into her mother’s home with her children…a safe 15 miles away.
My police department had a copy of the divorce decree at the station on file. Zahhak hated me and every other police officer he had met because we knew his secret…we knew the truth.

Eight months had gone by the wayside since Penny escaped the grip of her abuser. She bounded out of the van, her kids leading the way. I was happy to be talking to her in a non-exigent environment. There was a relaxed, ease about her and a smile from ear to ear. I told her she looked great and inquired why she looked so darned happy? Then I remembered, it was Mother’s Day,…it was May 8, 1994.

Penny told me she was going to take Jake back to the house, then she and the kids were off to Chuck E Cheese. The kids were treating her to lunch for Mother’s Day and we both had a chuckle at their culinary choice! Penny related that Zahhak had the children for the weekend, but had let her come to Sugarberry Lane that morning to pick them up for their special lunch. I helped her get the kids and Jake back into the mini-van and they drove back to the house to deliver the randy canine.

Zahhak was to have the kids until 6pm that Sunday and was none too pleased about the 2 hours he was “giving” to Penny for her Mother’s Day lunch of pizza. He had been promised that she would drop the kids back at 2:30pm. He would then keep the kids until 6pm, when Penny would again return to retrieve them. Zahhak sat in a lawn chair, on his driveway and waited for her return. The façade was beginning to slip, the neighbors could have seen true evil that day, if they had dared a glance in his direction.

I had come in early that Sunday to work a double-shift. A friend on the day shift wanted the holiday off to spend with his wife and kids, so I had traded 8 hours with him. I would use my 8 from him another day. It was about 12:30pm when I said my goodbye to Penny and her troop. I drove off to patrol my district on a very slow Sunday afternoon.

By the time May of 1994 had rolled around I had changed departments and made the rank of sergeant. I was supervising the evening shift in a Dallas suburb of about forty-thousand people. I was biding time, wanting to leave it all for law school, but until then I did my job, and I liked to think I did it well. My badge number was 212 and all hot calls were dispatched through me. A “hot” call was one in which you proceeded, code 3, lights and sirens.

212? 212, go ahead. Code 3, domestic on Sugarberry Lane…she didn’t even have to give me the numbers…I was flying towards the scene. It was standard for one more unit to be dispatched as back-up, he was 6 minutes out…I was less than 3. The time was 2:55 p.m., oh my, I thought….Penny had returned the kids late.

My heart raced with the car as I made my way, siren blasting. A sense of foreboding came over me, this time things would be different.

END OF PART ONE

On Broadway

Mrs. Broadway liked to lay down naked, right in the middle of the road, on the double yellow lines. She really wouldn’t give me an answer when I inquired about why she did this at least once a month. She wasn’t working with PETA and making some statement against furs. She wasn’t trying to block construction of the new Super Target in town…she just liked being a human traffic control device. I first met her when working a year stint on the evening shift.

It would have been bearable (pun intended) if she looked like Heidi Klum, but alas…she did not. Mrs. Broadway was 76 years old, weighed about 90 pounds and bathed rarely.

221? 221, go ahead. That 10/96 is up to her old tricks again, can you be en-route? The technical term for 10/96 was “bat-shit crazy.” I got stuck with the call EVERY time because I was the only female officer on the shift. 221 en-route.

The procedure was always the same for the “laying of the hands” on Mrs. Broadway. I would pull the car over, put on my latex gloves, and shove Vicks Vapor Rub up my nostrils. Vicks was often used on welfare check calls. You know the type…call to 911 comes in on a hot summer day and caller says they haven’t heard from Uncle Fred in two weeks, can you send someone out to his house? Vicks was always mandatory in that situation…good old Uncle Fred was usually pretty ripe after two weeks of sitting in the bark-o-lounger.

But getting back to Mrs. Broadway… notice the dispatcher didn’t give me a street name and block…because Mrs. Broadway always chose the same site. She liked a road just south of the downtown area, right in front of a convenience store. There would always be one kind stranger standing over her…sacrificing his jacket. The locals at the store would be yelling at the kind stranger to save the jacket, not the old woman!

Now before you start thinking I didn’t try with Mrs. Broadway, I did. She had been taken into custody on mental detention warrants twice before and released. Mrs. Broadway had answered the young admitting doctor’s questions correctly, devised to measure sanity, and had been quite proud of herself on both occasions. I particularly loved the 3 hour wait in the ER, handcuffed to her, that preceded each quiz.

Once again, I arrived at the scene, scooped up Mrs. Broadway and delivered her safely home. She always reveled in the walk back into her house, wearing a yellow police officer raincoat and strutting for the benefit of her nosey neighbors. I let her wear the coat, it belonged to an officer that shared the patrol car with me on the day shift. His name was Chancellor and believe me, he deserved it. One night, just for kicks, he had stayed late after his shift and filled my personal car, from floor to ceiling, with the department’s weekly total of shredded paper.

The behavior continued for another six months until the little old threadbare eventually got a legal guardian and moved into an assisted living facility. Mrs. Broadway’s days of terrorizing passing motorists and small children were over. I heard she liked to walk the halls in a long yellow raincoat that hit right about her ankles and had a funky smell.

Officer Chancellor hadn’t noticed it until one day several weeks later when a mighty rainstorm hit town. He telephoned me angrily at home asking where his yellow raincoat was? I told him it was “on Broadway.”

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

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.