Tag Archives: war story

The Pink Moon

The suspect was wanted on two theft warrants out of Fort Worth. I was standing on his front porch with him, about to relate the bad news. We were meeting because his wife felt the need to call 911 after he bounced her head off of the refrigerator.

My back-up was walking up the sidewalk as I told him to turn around and put his hands behind his back. The suspect turned and in one motion ran right through the front screen door of the house…with me right behind him. He was running towards his kitchen and the back door to the house. I always hated standing around kitchens…too many knives and other sharp utensils. Yeah buddy, keep running!! We both crashed through the back door and were racing to a chain link fence on the west side of the suspect’s backyard.

You find out early on as a cop…chain link fences can hurt you! They have sharp points at the top that extend above the top bar. The suspect vaulted over the fence like Carl Lewis and then it was my turn.
My hands hit the top of the fence and the points entered my palms and I swung both legs …or at least that was the plan…over the top. I had seen the move on Starsky and Hutch, it looked like a good move. Starsky always had on jeans and sneakers though…I had on my full uniform, duty belt, and bullet proof vest with metal shock plate. My point being…..I didn’t bend well at all and my legs didn’t make it clear of the sharp pointy things at the top of the fence.

My pant leg caught and I heard an extremely loud rip as I fell on the other side of the fence. I felt instant pain in my palms and a slight breeze in the region of my crotch. My back-up had smartly ran around a neighbor’s house and was waiting to greet the suspect as he ran toward the adjacent street. I walked up to the other officer and assisted him in cuffing the guy. We were walking back to a patrol car when the other officer said, “is that pink flowers on those granny panties?”

I got the wise guy to take my prisoner and I was going to zip to the station to retrieve another pair of pants. I generally kept a second uniform in my locker at the station just in case. The need had arisen before, but it was usually when you got blood on your shirt or some drunk puked on you….this was my first pair of ripped pants.

I was working for a suburban department at the time and we usually were short-handed. The citizens would have been shocked if they knew just how few units were on the streets at any given point. We compensated by doing a lot of driving….to be seen by as many people as possible on your beat. This night was no different…before I could pull my unit into the department’s parking lot, the dispatcher was giving me another call. If it had not been urgent, I could have ran in and switched pants….but, you guessed it…the 911 operator dispatched me hot to a possible burglary in progress. The rip started on the inside of my left pant leg at about my knee and went all the way up north to…well….Canada.

Darkness was falling, but not fast enough for me. I was speeding towards a western wear store that was approximately 3 miles from the police department. The store was in a small strip shopping center that was nestled beside a residential area. I noticed 2 guys working on a car in a driveway as I pulled up and parked on a residential street about 200 feet from the shopping center and out of sight of anyone that might be in the western store.

It was about 8:00 pm and all the businesses in the strip center were closed…I was very relieved when I saw an empty parking lot. It was going to be a full moon that night, but not as full as the big pink moon that was hanging out the back side of my dark blue uniform.

I exited my unit and started to walk away from the driveway mechanics and toward the store. I heard a whistle and then the laughter came…I waived at the men. I probably gave them a story to tell to their buddies for a while. I checked the perimeter of the store, established it was a false alarm and asked the dispatcher if the owner had been notified. He had and was en-route to my location to reset his alarm, requesting that I stay to meet him.

The owner arrived and thanked me for my response. He unlocked the front door and I told him to wait as I checked the inside and motioned all clear. I turned to see the store owner blushing the same color as my ass. He said, “you know I can help you out.” I nodded in appreciation and soon after left the store wearing a new pair of Levi’s.

I finally did get back to the station that night to get my second pair of uniform pants. But for sometime after that I would catch people looking my way and pointing….giggling even. It was a small town and evidently the two mechanics had big mouths or lots of friends. And my fellow officers? Well, cops are the absolute worst with pranks and harassing other officers.

For seven days after “the rip heard round the town”….I had a different pair of pink granny panties tied to the radio antenna of my unit waiting on me. The moral of this story is: You will never be a bad-ass cop modeling your moves after a 1970s TV actor, especially while wearing panties your mother gave you for Christmas. And to answer your question: they are white, low rise, sport brief cut.


Five Minutes

The recruits ran with six rows of three for three miles at a time. This was after an hour of weight training, where we had to run in place while waiting for the next piece of equipment to be open. They stuck me pretty much in the middle of the class when we ran, at my request. I needed the guys behind my ass pushing me to go faster…and the momentum of the guys in front pulling me forward. It is much easier to run distances in a group, there is a reason why the military and police academies use the method, plus it builds camaraderie. Move your ass Billhymer! Okay, okay….I am going as fast as I can, I barked back. We were seventeen men and one woman…and we broke into the same song every day as we ran….I Feel Good by James Brown. The class drill instructor was threatening another mile if we didn’t pick up the speed. I was going to be a full-fledged cop in a couple of months, he could do whatever he wanted to do to me at that point. “How do you feel Billhymer?” came the yell. I feel good Drill Sergeant!

There were women in law enforcement in the late eighties, but nothing like the numbers you see today. I knew that I would have to jump in head-first at the police academy. I knew that I would have to go the extra mile if that is what it took….and I knew at one point I would have to knock one of the guys on his ass. I would have to garner the respect of my seventeen classmates by showing them that I could hold my own. Not only hold my own but also back them up when the shit hit the proverbial fan. I have always used the five-minute rule regarding aptitude to be an officer. The rule is simple…if you want to be a cop, regardless of gender, you have to maintain yourself for five minutes under ANY situation. Even if it is just rolling on the ground trying to keep someone from taking your own gun away from you. Whether under gun-fire, or fighting a lunatic on the side of the road, it’s five minutes usually until back-up arrives. If you failed in less than five minutes, you might be an injured or even dead officer.

After running everyday we would go back to the gym and practice arrest scenarios and hand to hand stuff. I was at the top of the class in academics. I was very good at the gun range and in handling scenarios where we dealt with people…live actors the academy brought in for help. The physical agility obstacle course and the running were very difficult for me though, but I gutted it out. I passed every timed performance test in the end…nothing was stopping me from being a cop, except one thing….hand to hand combat. That darn five minutes. Even though I was 5’11” tall and had size…it sure as hell wasn’t muscle! Let’s face it, men are stronger and faster in most cases. Technique was going to be key…the skinniest man in the class could bench press 4o more pounds than I could! He was not my target though, I was plotting to fight the biggest guy in the class. I needed to know if I had what it took to hit the streets. It was more than a woman versus man thing, my darn life was on the line. I needed to know that I had five minutes in me.

Taking someone down and handcuffing them was a vital part of my new job description. Generally people don’t like to go to jail, so you are trained to expect resistance. We were taught a handcuffing technique known as Aikido. This method enables someone to put themselves in a position to take anyone down, regardless of size or gender. It leveled the playing field when done correctly and I knew I had to get good at it. (YouTube it if you are curious or bored)

The problem with using the Aikido method on my male classmates was that they knew the moves too and had defensive measures to counter with. I was going to have to be clinically great with the method and maybe just a little dirty in my assigned fights. There are no rules on the street…there were very few when the whistle blew at the academy. We practiced technique and listened to instructions for about a week, then we were told the next day would be “full on” fighting. We would have to show we could fight for five minutes and then get a suspect under control….cuff and stuff him. Graduation from the academy after 4 months was soon thereafter….I would have to succeed or fail to make the cut.

We had a couple of pretty big guys in my class, but Alan was by far the biggest. He had been a college football lineman, he stood 6’4″ tall and weighed about 240…all muscle. I prearranged with the Drill Sergeant to get paired with Alan….he looked at me like I was suicidal when I whispered my request to him. The Sergeant yelled out the days pairings…there were whoops and hollers when my name was called out with the big guy. For months we had wrestled around on the mats, and learned the handcuffing technique for just about any scenario. I felt ready.

The first part of the test was demonstrating the handcuffing procedures on your paired partner. We both did well and sailed on to the last test….the fight…the five minutes I had dreaded for some time. We got into the protective padding…something we wouldn’t have on the street, and prepared for battle. Alan walked over and whispered in my ear…”don’t worry, I am not going to try and hurt you.”

I pushed him back away from me and kicked him in the groin as hard as I could with my right foot. Now mind you, there was padding in all the right places, but the kick still sent him to the ground. My point was taken as Alan then looked at me like he was going to rip my head off! The rest of the class was laughing, jumping up and down….yelling for more! I jumped on Alan before he was on his feet again and the fight was on…a legitimate fight. We rolled around on the floor and I did everything I could to prevent him from ever getting back on his feet again. Men like to fight upright with fists and punches…women tend to avoid the fight rules…anything counts.

Alan hit me several times in the head…and even with a padded helmet I felt stunned…but I kept him rolling around the floor. I locked my legs around his and held on for dear life! It seemed like an eternity, but the five minute whistle went off…we both rolled on our backs in total exhaustion. I had done it…I had survived for five minutes with as big a guy as I would ever face on the street. And…I knew he had given it his all….I felt beat up and happy.

After the class that day, Alan approached me and we chatted. He apologized about the remark before the fight, he said he realized that it was not what I needed to hear. Not what I needed to be a good cop. He said he have never fought a woman before….that he thought we played rough! I told him a woman will do whatever it takes against a man…he better be prepared for that on the street as well. Valuable lessons had been learned that day.

Five minutes doesn’t seem like a long time, it has taken me longer than that to write this blog. But engaging another person with your body and using every ounce of strength you have is totally exhausting. Adrenalin helps, but technique and training is what it is all about….that and a properly placed foot. In my entire law enforcement career I never fought a man as big as Alan again. He did call me once and laughed telling me that every drunk or doped up woman he had fought had tried to kick him in the crotch! Alan told me he always thought of me during those fights. It’s nice to know there is at least one man out there that thinks of me and his crotch in the same moment…even if it is only for five minutes.

Did You Say Pickaxe?

The call came in at about 12:30am one early Sunday morning. It was a domestic violence call, about the most dangerous call for service a cop gets…and you usually got about 3-4 a week. This one was interesting because the woman was running around the outside of her house as her crazed husband chased her in circles. That wasn’t the interesting part though, the part that had her screaming on 911 and the detail that made it memorable was what the husband was carrying in his hands. “My husband is chasing me with a pickaxe!” “Help!” she screamed to the dispatcher.

Did you say pickaxe? I asked the dispatcher. Yes, that’s what she said, came the response. I was given the address that was out on a very dark farm road. I was told to look for the junkyard, that the chase was around the house that sat beside it. My back-up that night was my buddy Dave, who was also speeding his way to the location. We both got to the scene about the same time and parked the squad cars at the end of a long dirt driveway. The woman was still screaming, but this time it was directed at us and she pointed to the junkyard. It seems the husband had observed us driving up and had run off into the darkness. The junkyard was situated on about 10 acres, the man owned the property. The junk cars were in fairly structured rows and seemed to go on forever. The pickaxe wielding maniac definitely had the upper hand at the moment. He was lurking in the darkness of a piece of property he knew well…he had the element of surprise. Dave and I set out to walk the property, weapons drawn.

We walked down the rows of the junkyard positioning ourselves so that a pickaxe didn’t wind up in our backs…covering each other’s weak side. In the distance we could hear a loud, repetitive sound…a banging on metal. The maniac was going down a row and burying the pickaxe in the hood of each car he passed. Hmmm, a dumb and/or drunk maniac, it was getting better for us. We followed the sound and were relieved that we now knew he was definitely in front of us. Dave called out, “Police, come on now, no one gets hurt. Put down the weapon.” Then out of the darkness came the response, “I am not going to jail mother-fuckers!” Game on, I thought…we slowly walked farther into the darkness. How far could a guy throw an ax, I wondered? We knew we were okay as long as we heard the steady beat of that ax pounding the junk vehicles. The dispatcher came over the radio for a “status check”…they were trained to do that on dangerous calls every five minutes. I requested that the radio channel go silent and to leave it open for our traffic only…just in case.

It was pitch black, can’t see your hand in front of your face black. We had flashlights of course, but didn’t want to illuminate a nice target for the maniac. The banging from car to car stopped….total silence. We walked on towards the last sound we had heard…crossing over two rows. We still could see nothing, so we stood there in the darkness. It was time for us to go fish.

“You really know how to treat a woman,” I yelled out…”really great chasing your wife around with an ax, tough guy!” After about 15 seconds came a shout from about 20 feet in front of us, “that bitch has drove me crazy, she is lucky I couldn’t catch her!” Dave and I were now pretty sure of his location and separated to circle around to him from two different directions. I got close enough to actually smell the maniac before I could see him. He smelled of beer and that panic-type sweat most drunks reeked of when you put them in the back of your patrol car. The maniac heard my last step and turned quickly, the pickaxe was suddenly raised….my weapon was already trained on his center body-mass.

The maniac next felt the metal of Dave’s pistol up against the back of his head. Very softly Dave said, “drop the weapon asshole.” The maniac let the ax fall to the ground and we quickly handcuffed him. Dave led our prisoner back to his squad car and I followed carrying the pickaxe.

The next day, five minutes after the bond was set by our Judge, a cash bond was posted and the maniac was released. The husband and wife drove off in a beat up pick-up truck, back to their home at the junkyard.

That same Sunday, back again to start our shift at 11pm, Dave and I got into our squad cars. I had driven about a mile when the dispatcher called out, “221?” 221 go ahead. Be en route to a domestic, woman says her husband is drunk and…

Rolling Through the Years

So I am sitting in the hallway of the courthouse, on floor number 5. I have my client seated beside me and we are going over the terms of the plea bargain we are about to sign. The courtroom door is slammed open down at the other end of the hall…smashing up against the wall. I turn to my right to see a black male running down the hall, towards me in an orange jump suit….a bailiff running in chase behind him!

I sat there motionless as the orange blur ran right past me. He was gang tackled by other bailiffs before he could get to the stairwell. I sat there motionless??? I chuckled a little and my client asked me what I was laughing about. I told her…my 28-year-old self would have body checked the fleeing prisoner into the wall and I would have had my knee on his head and his wrist in a lock before the bailiff got to us!! My 48-year-old self had become a spectator…no impulse had rushed through my body whatsoever, no trained reaction …reacted. That was the day I knew I was a middle-aged attorney…I was surely not a cop any longer.

The screen fades to black.

In the next scene we see Julya standing beside a gurney in the ER at about 10pm one night. A 21-year-old is handcuffed to said gurney. Laying there he looks quite stupid in bare feet, jeans, Black Sabbath T-shirt, and with gold paint all over his face. Oh yeah, this kid had killed some brain cells, some that he did not have to spare. After running his truck into a fire hydrant he had been amazed when I had guessed that he had been “huffing” paint for cheap thrills. I told him to look in his rear-view mirror and he had chuckled upon seeing his clownish face.

He was cooperative enough and not giving me any trouble, so I took the handcuffs off. He was a local kid and he started telling me how he and his friends “huffed” or inhaled anything they could to get high…all right off of the shelf of the local drug or hardware store. For some reason it was very popular to use the metallic gold or silver paint, that was the “good stuff.” I had taken him to the hospital to have him checked out before escorting him to jail. I was charging him with DUI and he had traffic warrants out of four different agencies.

The nurse approached us with a hypodermic needle to take a sample of his blood. He screamed, “no needles!” The kid elevated off of the gurney, screaming in sheer terror…”I hate needles!!” He tried to bolt for the door and the fight was on! He was about 6 feet tall and real skinny….he tried to punch me and missed. I grabbed him by his long hair and pulled him to the floor where the fight became more of a wrestling match….the two of us rolling all over the ER floor! I clearly had my hands full, what else was this kid on I thought, he seemed to have the power of two men…I was trying to get his hands behind his back to put the darn cuffs on him again! As we rolled into trays and instruments fell about the place….two doctors and three nurses were seemingly enjoying the show. An episode of Cops right before their eyes!

This ER had a 911 red hotline phone that went right to my dispatcher. One of the doctors was leaning against the wall right by the hotline!! In between exchanging punches with the kid, I looked up and said to the Doc, “do you think you can pick up that phone and get me some back-up?” The kid wiggled away from my grip and made a dash to swinging, double doors that led into the main lobby of the hospital. Our audience was about to get much bigger…he was headed to the ER exit. I knew once he got to the exit of the hospital, he would be gone…the skinny kid was going to be able to out run me easily.

I “horse-collared” him in front of about 12 people in the lobby…grabbing the back collar of his T-shirt…just barely getting it with my fingertips. We both went to the floor again…this time mopping up the dusty lobby and smashing into the Coke machine. We just kept rolling, exchanging punches, kicks, he was even trying to bite me. The automatic doors opened to the ambulance bay and we rolled right out onto the driveway…that’s when I heard the tires screeching!! The kid and I both turned to see a patrol car sliding towards us as we layed on the ground, looking at this point like we were embracing each other. We both let out a scream as the front left tire of my back-up’s unit came withing inches of the kid’s head!

The officer jumped out of his unit, along with his rookie ride-a-long, it took three of us to cuff the hopped up kid and get him back on the gurney in the ER. The people in the lobby, that had enjoyed the show, politely applauded as I walked past them in my now filthy uniform. Lesson learned rookie….don’t un-cuff someone who is high on sniffing paint and whatever else that kid was on…lesson learned.

The training officer laughed so hard at me that night….he told me that I was really lucky that he didn’t run right over the both of us. The lighting at the back of the hospital was lacking and we both had on dark shirts. I asked him when did he notice us laying on the black top? He responded, “I saw the flicker of metallic gold paint!”

I write this blog trying to show the reader little snippets of my life. The cop stories are me in my twenties. Even I don’t agree with the way I handled some calls, but I have tried to be honest here…brutally honest at times. Readers have remarked for the most part positively, but one or two have called me a smart-ass, pig, and even a sadist…among other things. That is fine, that is their opinion and their right to not like how the twenty something me handled different problems. It is truly a “walk a mile” type scenario though…until you have been a police officer, you don’t know how you would handle certain calls. The perfect combination would be my smarter and mature self with the physical abilities of my younger self….but reality won’t abide. Reality today has me sitting in the hallway as the kid in the orange jumpsuit sprints by me.

I walked back into the courtroom and apologized to the bailiffs. For what they asked? Look guys, I used to be a cop…I should have tackled the guy, or at least stuck out a foot and tripped him!! I repeated my apology….there was an awkward moment, then the 3 officers filled the courtroom with laughter. My younger self was apologizing and they were laughing at my reality. Time to let the years roll on past me…I am fine with that…time to let them roll just like I did that prisoner, but hopefully not as fast.

In a Glance

Parked in a ditch and drinking a Slurpee, I was thinking about generating some activity. It was early on a Wednesday morning and I was bored to tears. Fishing for drunks seemed liked a good use of my time. I had already drove alleys for two hours and felt my district was secure. I was working in an affluent suburb of Dallas, a town where trouble never came up and introduced itself…you had to go reel it in yourself.

It was about 3AM when the speed flashed 83 on the display of my radar…I hit the button locking it in. I put my patrol car in drive, turned on the overheads and took off after the violator…yeehaw, something to do! I had to exceed 90 mph before the black Pontiac Trans Am pulled over on the shoulder of a major 6 lane highway. The driver was perfectly still and looking straight ahead.

I have OCD, obsessive compulsive disorder. Not as bad as Jack Nicholson in that movie As Good As It Gets, but enough so that it is sometimes bothersome. My degree of OCD is what I call, “anal pre-occupation” or AP for short. Don’t bother looking it up in the American Medical Association Journal for verification, they haven’t returned my calls.

AP is actually what I consider the “golden child” of the OCD family. AP people have clean houses and very organized lives. We play by the rules…exactly by the rules, and get upset when others don’t. In the high school play, we not only knew our lines, but the lines of the ENTIRE cast. AP was responsible for my personal car being in the same parking spot every night at the station, at the same angle. AP made me sit in patrol cars and memorize the entire Texas Penal Code. AP made me spray cleanser on the steering wheel and radio mike in my patrol car at the start of each shift. AP helped me become the first female Sergeant in my police department. AP is making me stop this list because the length of this paragraph is starting to bug me. AP makes you pre-occupied with the details…it makes you sweat the details.

Officer safety standards are drilled into your head from the first day of the police academy. I paid close attention and never forgot the warnings of my instructors. Dallas and the surrounding suburbs had 19 officers die in the line of duty during the eight years I worked patrol. Looking back at statistics now, it was a particularly brutal time period for being a cop.

Your training as a police officer dictates exactly how you will conduct yourself in an emergency. My AP had me very sharp in the category of officer safety…I used a tragedy that occurred out west in the late 1980s as my touchstone. The CA case is my “best evidence” of how sweating the details…and utilyzing proper training habits, can save your life.

It was a very tragic story involving the California Highway Patrol, or CHips. It seems there were two patrol cars stopping a suspected bank robber, the suspect vehicle pulled into a parking lot. A shoot-out ensued and 3 CHips officers were dead..the suspect fled the scene.

An eye-witness recounted the story that the 3rd officer killed was crouched at the back of his unit. He was drawing fire as the suspect advanced on him…the suspect made it all the way to the rear of the patrol unit and shot him in the head…there was no return fire. The witness said the officer was fidgeting with something in his hand.

That officer was known to go to the shooting range at least once a week to practice…he was a classified “expert” at shooting with his revolver. He had a habit of dumping his spent shells in his right hand and shoving them in his pocket to recycle them. The officer had a re-loader at his house, it saved him money on ammo…because he practiced all the time.

The investigators found six spent shells in the dead officer’s right pocket. Even in the heat of the shoot-out, …with his life on the line…the officer reverted to his training. He had “trained” himself to dump that brass in his pocket. I am sure without even being conscious of the fact, he fumbled to secure the brass, then tried to re-load…as the bad guy advanced…and it was over.

A scumbag wasn’t going to take me out…that wasn’t an option…it was going to be in the details.

I checked out with the dispatcher, giving her a quick description of the Trans Am, with the license plate, occupied one time. I walked slowly up to the left side of the vehicle, checking the trunk to see if it was secured. You didn’t want scumbag number two waiting until you got to the driver side window, then popping out to shoot you in the back. I had my flashlight in my left hand…gun hand always remained free. I approached and illuminated the interior of the car….he turned to look at me and our eyes met.

The white male in the black shirt had his hands at 10 and 2 on the steering wheel. I introduced myself and told him that I had stopped him for traveling 83 mph in a 55 mph speed zone. I asked him for his proof of insurance and his driver’s license… he gave me a glance and told me that he would have to reach inside the glove box to retrieve his wallet. In one quick move I drew my 9mm pistol and stuck it in his left ear. Make one move towards the glove box and you are a dead man!!

There was a pregnant pause before the man told me that his wallet was in the glove box. There was a look that he gave me that made the hairs on the back of my neck stand at attention. That coupled with the fact that as I had walked up to the car, I had shown my flashlight in the backseat …and noticed a wallet resting on top of a leather jacket.

I booked the parolee on possession of controlled substance, having found meth-amphetamine in the center console of the Trans Am. Oh yeah, and unlawful carrying of a weapon by a felon, a .45 automatic, nickle-plated and loaded was found…in the glove box.

The guy walked into the cell and I locked the door behind him. He said, “you could see it in my eyes, couldn’t you?” Yeah I responded, you would make a lousy poker player, you gave me a “tell” with just that one glance. I would have pulled my weapon even if I hadn’t have seen the wallet on the jacket. I told him his answer would stay between us, but what was he thinking, what thought had crossed his mind? “I knew I was going back to prison…I was thinking I could kill you and move on down the highway.”

It is funny how life whizzes by so fast that we usually just deal with the big picture, the macro and not the micro. But if you really think about it…your most brilliant and your darkest memories can all be reduced to very small moments.

Nowadays things are different, I know if I miss something in the courtroom, my life will not be in jeopardy. I do punch for the elevator with a knuckle though and not the tip of my finger. I like to sit in the jury box and try and guess the offense of each new defendant that approaches the bench. I carry hand cleanser and wash up as I leave each courtroom because I always wish a client well with a firm handshake. I sometimes count how many steps I take as I leave the courthouse for my car.

The AP is still with me and it’s okay. I don’t sweat the details now, I just marvel in the minutia of a life that I am living…a life that could have ended, in just one glance.

Assault with a Deadly Dr. Pepper

(Read “Shots Fired, Officer Down!” parts one and two before proceeding)

It was the night after Officer Ross got shot and I was seated in the briefing room of the police department. At the beginning of the shift, the off-going Sergeant would come to the briefing room and fill in the on-coming shift on the day’s events….a swapping of information essential to patrolling the streets. Quite often, some of the evening shift officers would hang around and it would become a major bull-shit session too.

This night was no different, the evening shift had arrested a volatile thief..there had been a fight involving 3 officers in the booking room of the jail. We were told to keep a close eye on him, they had already removed his mattress from the cell …and made him remove his belt and shoe-laces. I actually had worked two suicides in the jail since I began at this department….even with video monitors, it sometimes happened. Where there was a will…there was a way.

The subject of the shooting was a hot topic…we had never had an officer shot at this suburban police department. Comments and barbs were made, in good nature, about the TV news story…and the fact that Ross got shot in the ass.

But there was one officer that zeroed in on my participation and actions regarding the previous night. I had always sensed that he had a problem with women officers. I think it infuriated him that this big event had happened on my watch….and I had handled it well.

The radio recording of the events had been passed around the department all that day…everyone had heard the drama unfold…from my checking out at the tire store until the bitter end. Civilian employees and officers alike had patted me on the back that day and congratulated me on a good job…..all but this officer…his name was O’Riley.

There he sat in the briefing room, leaning back in his chair, his combat boots resting on the table before him. O’Riley was a tall, thin red-head…he always kept his uniform perfectly creased and pressed. He looked like a Irish cop right out of central casting…..with an accompanying brusque behavior.

No compliment came from his lips….he began to mock me in front of two shifts of officers. I sat across the room and watched as his laughter grew louder and he gesticulated wildly with his arms. O’Riley was talking about the pitch of my voice…..how it went up a couple of octaves when I arrived at the scene of the shooting.

O’Riley was told to simmer down by the Sergeant, but he continued…he did a crude imitation of me, talking very high and repeating my commands to the ambulance and my back-up…the very commands that had saved Ross’ life just over 24 hours earlier. He didn’t care to notice, that no one in the room, save his best buddy, was sharing in his sardonic laugh and verbal attack.

After the shooting, I had gone home and slept for a few hours. After a big rush of adrenalin, comes the crash….and I did just that on my sofa.
Upon waking, I joined some other officers and we went to visit Ross at the hospital. Dinner followed..then another short rest…then I found myself back at the briefing room. Here I was…watching a red-headed, chauvinistic buffoon belittling me in front of my peers.

I hadn’t cried the night before…..I hadn’t screamed in an emotional release. I had pushed down anger, fear, and excitement…suppressing all in my attempt to be a good cop…to be professional. To do the job better than any man would have done it….to avoid the very thing I found myself witnessing. I could take not one more moment of this idiot’s rant!!

I rose slowly from my chair….walked over to O’Riley….picked up the only thing on the table besides his size 12s…..a full can of Dr. Pepper.
I popped the top…..and poured the entire contents over his red hair…sent it cascading down his starched uniform…all over his leather duty belt…until it puddled right at his crotch area!

O’Riley did not move an inch…he sat perfectly still as I drained the entire soft drink all over him! It did stop his mouth though….he uttered not another single syllable. He stood up….and walked back to the locker room alone. You could have heard a pin drop in that briefing room….good grief, two Sergeants had witnessed my assault on O’Riley.

When you are the only woman in the department and you do such a thing…well, let me tell you…..I have never shut up 14 men at one time again in my life! They all stared at me with funny shit-eating grins on their faces, as I collected my stuff and went out on patrol.

I had to give my Sergeant a written statement about what I did…and he wrote up a report, complete with witness accounts. The Chief called me to his office the next day…..I sat down directly across from him, ready for my punishment.

The Chief smiled and ever so slowly grabbed a Coke that was on his desk and placed it on the floor behind him…out of my reach. His opening statement was, “O’Riley is a prick and got what was coming to him!” “Walk out of here like I scolded you and go home to get some rest!” As I was about to shut the Chief’s door…he said one last thing to me…..something I have never forgotten. “You are the only woman at this department because when I hired you…I knew you would be a fantastic officer, regardless of gender, and the night before last, you proved me right.”

Recently I was in court in a county south of Fort Worth. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw O’Riley walking around the district attorney’s office! He was now an investigator for this particular county, assigned to the very court where I was standing. He and I exchanged awkward pleasantries…then I went to the back of the court to hang out with other defense attorneys. O’Riley had never spoken to me about the Dr. Pepper after that night….not a word. We continued to work together..but the subject was never addressed.

At the back of courtrooms you will find defense attorneys gathered about, shooting the bull….very similar to police briefing rooms. The other defense attorneys were talking about O’Riley…he was difficult to deal with and very surly. They relayed to me that he required a lot of information to just get a copy of your client’s DWI tape and often kicked back requests that had minor errors. I felt compelled to tell them the story of my assault and we all agreed O’Riley had a twenty year tenure as a prick.

What can I say, I am now beloved by all defense attorneys in that county. I meet someone new every time I go down there and they have all heard about the cascading soda…the prosecutors even treat me better now!

I think O’Riley knows that I shared the story with my fellow defense attorneys. Every time he rejects a request for a DWI videotape because of a typo or other minor errors…he finds a Dr. Pepper sitting on his desk the next day.

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.

The Monster on Sugarberry Lane (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.


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.”