Wednesday, February 28, 2007

In memory

In memory of Police Officer Anthony Holly (killed February 19, 2007)

A police officer in a neighboring city was killed last week while making backup for another officer on a routine traffic stop. The other officer pulled over a car for a minor traffic offense and was talking to the driver. As Officer Holly approached the car, a passenger in the front seat got out and shot him before he had a chance to react. As the killer fled, the original officer shot and wounded him. He's now in custody charged with first degree murder.

Officer Holly graduated a few classes ahead of me in the academy and was only 24 years old. My wife hates hearing about this kind of thing but it's a reality in this line of work and helps remind me to be extra cautious.

At his funeral service, his mother related a conversation she had with her fallen son a few months earlier. She asked him why he wanted to be a police officer when it was such a dangerous job. He replied, "Mom, I do this job so that you won't have to."

I never met Tony but when I saw the motorcade of police officers leading the funeral procession, I felt like I was watching an old friend pass by. He was known for his kindness, humor, dedication, and honor. I can't imagine the grief and anguish felt by his family and friends.

A school principal and former police officer posted a great comment in a local newspaper addressed to citizens being pulled over by police.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007


Here's a small gun I found on a routine pat-down of a guy stopped for having a suspended license plate. It's shown next to my papermate pen to give you an idea of the scale. It was loaded with five .22 caliber German subsonic bullets. The guy was cooperative and told me the gun was in his pocket but this is always a reminder of how small and easily concealable some weapons are.

A neighboring precinct was backed up with calls so I volunterred to go over and help out. The area has a reputation for being very 'active' and didn't disappoint. There were shootings, foot pursuits, robberies, assaults, and stolen vehicles all night long. The hours flew by as I raced from one hot call to another. Like I've said before: Time flies when you're having gun.

I met up for dinner with two academy classmates who work the area. They tried talking me into transferring to their precinct but I'm happy where I'm at. There's a large hispanic population in that area and I don't know how they can do their job without speaking Spanish. They raved about the non stop action but later admitted to getting burned out.

Last week a crazy guy believing himself to be God decided he needed to cleanse the Earth of Mother Theresa. He forced his way into his 65 year old neighbor's house (named Theresa) and attacked her. She tried to defend herself with a kitchen knife and cut up his hands pretty severly. Is wasn't enough for the psycho, though, as he beat her to the ground and then stomped her to death with his bare feet. He was a bloody mess when police arrived but was calm and content he had acted with holy grace. I've never understood the seemingly frequent connection between crazy people and religion (especially when the outcome is violent).

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The Lowdown on Lojack

I was driving my patrol car when a loud beeping sound filled the interior of the car. At first I thought my computer terminal was malfunctioning but the beeping was too loud for that. Then my attention was directed to the small plastic display box mounted from the ceiling of my car.

Each car is equipped with different tracking devices. Some have Lojack (for tracking stolen cars), some have Pronet (for locating stolen bank money implanted with a tracking device), and some have nothing. The cars I get usually fit into the third category.

I'm still a rookie on my squad and the daily assignment of patrol cars is based on seniority. By the time the box of car keys reaches me, there's usually a choice between older, roomier Ford Crown Victorias with way too many miles, or newer, cramped Chevy Impala's with barely enough room for my eight year old daughter to fit in. We have a few luxurious Chevy Tahoes but my chances at getting one of these is astronomically remote.

On this day, however, I had a car equipped with a Lojack detector. I've never had one before which explains why I didn't recognize the beeping when it was triggered. The device beeps and displays an arrow pointing in the direction of the signal. As you get closer, the beeping increases in volume and frequency. My signal was strong and I drove through the nearby neighborhoods until I located the stolen bright yellow H3 Hummer parked in an apartment complex. You'd have difficulty choosing a more conspicous vehicle to steal than this one.

There was nobody in the vehicle so I called for a tow truck to impound it until the owner could be notified to pick it up. An officer from another squad arrived to help me process the vehicle. Just then, a woman came out of the apartment directly in front of where the Hummer was parked. "Is this your Hummer?", I asked. "No, the guy in my apartment just drove up in it.", she replied. "What guy?" "I only know him as 'Ace'. He just got out of prison and is inside visiting my husband." She then opened her door and yelled to Ace to come outside to talk to the police.

As soon as I saw who she was talking to, me and the other officer dashed into the apartment with guns drawn. Any time we confront a person believed to have committed a felony, we assume he is armed and therefor display deadly force to ensure compliance.
"Stand up! Turn around and put your hands in the air!", I commanded.
The 6 foot tall, 200 pound man stood up from the couch, raised his arms but kept turning around to look at me and my partner.
"Face away from me and keep your hands up!", I shouted.

He kept looking back at us and was probably deciding if he could escape out the door behind us. Realizing it would be difficult to run past two officers with guns drawn, he started moving slowly forward to the back door of the apartment.

This is the moment my 5 foot 5 inch, 125 pound female partner holstered her gun, charged him, and slammed him into the wall. I put my gun away and forced him to the ground before handcuffing him.

He tried denying any knowledge of the Hummer but later admitted to 'borrowing' it from a woman he was dating. He asked to use her car one night while at a bar together and just never gave it back. He didn't know her last name, phone number, or address and only met her a few times. He also didn't know the vehicle was equipped with a Lojack device.

I wondered what kind of woman would give a brand new $40,000 car to a man she just met in a bar. A quick search of her car gave me the answer: The rear cargo area was filled with crates of bras, panties, and other intimate apparel items. The glovebox contained an invoice from a medical lab with venerial disease test results -Happy Valentine's Day, Loverboy! I hope the temporary 'free' car was worth it.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Love Thy Neighbor, and, Thank you, 'Sir'.

A man called 911 and reported, "I just hit someone over the head with a bottle and he's bleeding real bad-send someone quick."

I arrived at the house to find a very drunk 40 year old male standing in the front yard of his house. I asked him what happened but he was unwilling to tell me anything. He kept saying, "I don't know." I asked him why he called 911 and he just looked at me and shrugged.

Then a large bald man came staggering from around the back side of his house. His head was smeared with blood and I could see a large gash on the back of his head. Chunks of coagulated blood were clinging to his shirt sleeves like spilled red pudding. I couldn't tell if his confused stupor was the result of too many beers or the head injury. "What happened?", I asked. "Nothing, why are you here?", he replied. I told him to look at his blood smeared hands, bloody shirt and oozing head wound. He kept wiping his head with his hands and acted surprised to see his fingers dripping with blood. The fire department arrived and began treating him at the scene.

Then the story came out: Bloody man came over to his neighbor's house for a night of companionship. There's nothing like a few cases of beer and a backyard shack to bring neighbors together. After both men were good and hammered, one decided he could no longer keep his true feelings for his friend a secret and declared his love for him. The recipient of this adoration was not pleased and told him he was not interested. When loverboy touched him on the leg and whispered, "I care for you, man." he could take no more and smashed a large wine bottle over the back of his head. The romantic mood was ruined as the pool of blood gushing from his head pooled on the floor and became an instant snack for the litter of underfed puppies cohabitating in the shack. Luckily, this was not a homicide, for the evidence was quickly disposed of by a half dozen puppy tongues.

The bottle wielding party pooper was placed in custody but soon released after the victim refused to press charges. They say love is blind and I guess that's true (especially when one's eyes are saturated with the stinging of salty blood). The guy thought it was perfectly acceptable to smash someone's skull in for making an unwanted romantic gesture. I tried to explain that physical force is only legally justified when defending against a harmful attack (not a loving one).
I returned to the victim to check on his progress with the paramedics. As he sat in a lawn chair with a mile of gauze wrapped around his bloody head, he gazed wantingly at a firefighter and and said, "Hey, Baby. How are you tonight?"

I guess it will take more than a smashed skull to teach this guy not to come onto other men without first checking on their sexual orientation.

While eating with my squadmates at a local cajun restaurant, I spotted former NBA All-Star Charles "Sir Charles" Barkly dining with his beautiful wife and another couple. One of the guys on my squad walked by their table and said hello on his way to the restroom. Our appetites were well sated by the delicious gumbo, jumbalya, red beans and rice, pulled-pork po' boy sandwiches, and chicken wings. We got our cash and credit cards ready as the waitress approached. "No need, officers. Charles Barkley already paid for your tab." Sir Charles had already left so we were unable to give him a proper thanks. I always liked this guy and believe his title of 'Sir' is well deserved.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Richy Rich's Day in Court

Awhile back I wrote about a wealthy car owner who complained about the citation I wrote for parking his vehicle on a dirt lot. He called my Sergeant to complain and promised to fight the ticket in court (see the original post).

Well, our day in court finally arrived. As he and I were sworn in and seated before the judge, I was asked to present my case. I told the judge about the man's SUV parked on a vacant dirt lot. The city code violation states vehicles cannot be parked on a 'non dust-free lot'. The definition of which is: anything not paved with cement or asphalt (or, if in a residential yard with a single family home, three inches of crused rock enclosed in a border is considered okay).

He countered by announcing he was the owner of the lot (irrelevant) and that it was not a dirt lot. He claimed the entire lot was covered with crushed granite over three inches deep and, therefore, did not meet the definition of a non dust-free lot. He went on to ask if I've ever written anyone else a ticket for this violation (yes) and bragged about his numerous properties that have never been cited for poor landscape maintenance (again, irrelevant). He asked me about the names of the registered owner of the vehicle and when I gave his name, he wanted to know why I wrote the ticket out to his wife. I explained the car was registered to both him and his wife and that either name would suffice.

In closing, I explained to the judge how this guy complained to my Sergeant so I returned to the lot to double check my citation was valid. I even took pictures (but forgot to bring to court) to document the violation. I told the judge there were some scattered rocks on the property but it was almost entirely loose dirt and was certain the ticket was valid.

The man again denied the lot was dirt and stated in his best lawyer-wanna be voice, "If you are certain the lot was made of dirt, then why didn't you bring the photographs?"

The judge intervened and advised an officer's verbal testimony is valid evidence and pictures are not necessary. He then clarified the law and advised the crushed rock only applies to residential lots with a house on them.
"Well, my lot is zoned for residential and/or commercial use.", he stated.
"Is there a house built on the lot?" the judge asked.
"No, but it's zoned for it."
"There needs to be an existing house for the crushed rock to be an excuse. Therefore, I find you responsible as cited and order you to pay $140. Please see the bailiff for payment."
"Your honor! What am I supposed to do to ensure I don't get cited for parking on my lot?"
"I cannot give legal advice but you are welcome to look up the city ordinances at any library and make your own decision."

The guy was furious over being found responsible and couldn't believe a rookie cop beat him in court. It was a satisfying feeling to watch the angry rich guy come in with complete arrogance and leave in a much different attitude.

I'm proud to say I haven't lost a court case yet. I've had a dozen or so people challenge my citations and/or arrest in court and have yet to lose. We're told not to take court cases personally but I know it's a good feeling to have a judge uphold a ticket I've written.