Tuesday, June 19, 2007

You Can Run...

I've been randomly checking license plates for over a year and have never had a 'hit' on a stolen vehicle. A new guy joined our squad and found a stolen vehicle in his second week. As he followed, another unit and me (with a partner) converged on the convertible Ford Mustang.

The Mustang stopped and we positioned our three patrol cars behind him. With four guns drawn on the driver, I commanded him to turn off the engine.

"What'd I do?!", he yelled back.
"Turn off the engine NOW!", I repeated.
(He kept the car in 'drive' and was slowly lurching forward.)
"What's wrong? I didn't do anything?", he repeated.
(We all knew he was going to take off as he refused to turn off the engine.)
"Turn off the motor! NOW!", I tried again.

His reply was sqealing tires on asphalt as he gunned the accelerator and sped away Eastbound. Our Sargeant advised us not to pursue the vehicle so my partner and I got into our car and drove South hoping he would double back into our path. Even though he refused to obey my commands, our little "conversation" bought us just enough time to get the helicopter overhead before he took off.

The helicopter followed him as he eventually turned south and then west (crossing our path as we had hoped). He was going much too fast for us to follow directly so we stayed on parallel streets trying to anticipate his direction. As he headed for a notorious gang neighborhood, a few undercover officers joined the fun and closed in. He parked in an alley and ran on foot through the neighborhoods. With the helicopter directly overhead, it took only a few seconds for us to locate and apprehend him.

It was quite satisfying to have him look up from the ground and see me standing over him. I could tell he recoginzed me from the traffic stop and had no idea how we caught him since we were never visibly behind him as he fled. I asked him why he didn't obey my command to shut off the car engine.
In typical dirtbag fashion, he responded, "I seen all them guns and didn't know what to do. I didn't steal that car, man."
"I never said anything about a stolen car. I just told you to shut off the engine", I replied.

Knowing he just admitted to being in a stolen vehicle, he cursed at himself under his breath.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Happy Sesquicentennial to Me

This is my 150th (or sesquicentennial) post. I would celebrate by attempting to 'pop a wheelie' on my motorcycle while not wearing a helmet but somebody already beat me to that stunt. Here's what remains of his motorcycle after he lost control and slammed into an unuasually sturdy metal railing. I'm not sure why the railing was installed along the side of the street (except maybe to keep reckless motorcyclists from ruining the perfectly manicured river-rock landscape look).

The driver usually wears a helmet but told his friends minutes before the crash, "I don't need a helmet; It's the weekend." I'm not sure what his reasoning was but he's now in the hospital with a ruptured spleen and some nasty road rash.

Remember the telegraph game you played as a kid where someone whispers something to the person next to them and he then whispers to the next person with the message being delivered subsequently to each person in the circle? By the time the last person receives the message, it's totally distorted or even unintelligible.

Even in the high-tech modern world of advanced communications, police officers are sometimes met with challenging messages from witnesses. Awhile ago, I received an urgent call from a witness who saw a man hitting a woman as she held a baby. He then fled the scene in a red crew cab truck. The police helicopter was overhead and soon spotted a red truck getting onto a nearby freeway. Two officers gave chase while I sped to the scene to check the victim's injuries and get her account of what happened. As I neared the parking lot where the assault occured, I listened to my squadmates conducting a traffic stop of the red truck on the freeway.

I drove into the parking lot and was met by an off-duty federal agent on his cell phone still talking to the 911 operator. "I'm the one who called." he announced and produced his badge. "I told the dispatcher I'd be waiting in this red truck so you could find me easily."

Standing next to the agent was a calm man holding a baby car seat. An infant was strapped in the seat and gurgling happily.

"What happened?", I asked.

The man told me he was holding his son when his girlfriend got angry and slapped him in the parking lot. The federal agent saw this and called 911. The man was not injured and did not want any charges pressed against his girlfriend for the slap. This personal account was quite different than the information given to me and I realized there was no emergency.

Meanwhile, a completely innocent man was being patted down for weapons at the side of the busy freeway for happening to own a red truck. I can only imagine the confusion and anxiety he felt when told he was being stopped for fleeing the scene of an assault on a woman and child.