Saturday, September 29, 2007

Another Proud Moment

I had one of those days that solidified my decision to become a police officer. You know, the kind if prideful moments that define our character.

It all started when I chose keys for my daily patrol car only to find it dead in the parking lot with a drained battery. I charged it up from a portable terminal and headed towards a shoplifting call. When I was done with the call I returned to my car and found it dead again. A fellow officer came by to give me a jump start and I continued my shift.

We always carry two sets of keys so I decided to leave my car running at the next call. I got out, locked the door and handled a civil matter between a daughter and step father arguing.

I walked back to my running patrol car, inserted the key into the locked door, and was unable to move the key in either direction. I tried twisted, rotated, jiggled, and cranked the key in all directions using both soft and hard pressure. The door lock did not give. I tried the passenger door with equal disappointment. I realized my second key did not belong to this vehicle and the good key was in the ignition. I radiod my dispatcher to send a motorist-unit with a slim-jim but none was available.

I called my best friend who happened to live a few blocks away and asked him to bring wire coat hangers, pry bars, and screwdrivers. My friend arrived and started working on opening the passenger side door while I did my best on the driver's door. After a few minutes I was able to pull the door lever with my hanger and open the door. My friend and I then stood at back of my car and started chatting.

Out of nowhere, an undercover unit drove up. I thought he was stopping by to visit so I told him hello. He looked at me funny and said, "Are you all right?"
"Yeah, why?", I asked.
"Didn't you just hear the hot call on the radio for this location?"
"No" (getting alarmed) "What was it for?"
"Someone just called 911 about a guy in a red shirt breaking into a police car."
(My friend had a red shirt and was obviously the reason for the call)

Just then, another patrol car flew around the corner and raced over to where we were standing.
"What the hell's going on!?" he yelled.
"Just trying to get into my locked car", I replied.
"Don't you have you're radio on?"
"Yes, I just didn't hear the emergency call."
"Well, pay attention." he said and expressed his disgust by muttering a few obscenities as he drove off.

I then got on the radio and told my dispatcher everything was okay and it was only me breaking into my own car so no more units needed to come over.

For the rest of the night I had the pleasure of enduring the endless comments, jokes, and put-downs that flow so easily from the mouths of my fellow officers.

P.S. Tammy says, Hi:

Friday, September 21, 2007


I visited Officer Erfle's growing memorial today while on duty for the first time since his death. A stream of officers from other agencies around the state and country have been stopping by to leave patches, notes, flowers, and cards.

One resident, a Vietnam Vet even left his purple heart medal and a letter thanking Nick for his service and sacrifice. Another citizen came with a brush and water to scrub away Nick's blood from the sidewalk where he died.

The outpouring of condolences, affection, gratitude, and respect is a welcomed sight. The most heart-wrenching are the letters from school kids:

The most touching is this one written by Nick's son:

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Not Again

Another one of my colleagues has lost his life. Officer Nick Erfle was shot and killed this morning while trying to arrest a man with an outstanding misdemeanor warrant.

Nick worked out of my police station and I've met up with him on several occasions at various scenes. He and his partner stopped three people for jaywalking and discovered one of them had an outstanding warrant. He attempted to take the man into custody when a struggle ensued and Nick was shot in the head. The suspect fled on foot and then hijacked a car -forcing the driver to speed away from the scene as he sat in the passenger seat. Nick's partner was unable to return fire due to numerous innocent citizens downrange.

Thankfully, a witness was able to get the fleeing car's license plate and the hunt was on. An hour later, the car was spotted by an undercover officer. With the helicopter overhead, several SWAT members in unmarked vehicles converged on the suspect and his hostage driver. They boxed the car in and shot and killed the shooter when he raised his gun. This coward will never have the chance to 'brag' about his cop-killing to his gangster friends. The driver was unharmed.

I listened to the whole thing unfold on my radio while at home on my day off. I've been numb all day and can't believe another young life has been taken by a pathetic criminal. It has only been a few weeks since Shaggy died and now we're preparing for another funeral. Tragically, like Officer George Cortez , he is leaving behind a wife and two young kids.

I'm sickened over the increasing frequency and seriousness of violent crimes. Gangs, drugs, and apathy seem to have taken a foothold on a growing segment of today's population. I don't know what the answer to this is but something has got to be done. Thank God I live in a city where citizens cooperate with police by willingly providing information and giving support. Without their help, we'd have a hell of a time solving crimes and catching those responsible.

Thank you, Nick, for your service and sacrifice. I know you'll be looking down on us along with George and Jonathan. Please let this be the last time I have to write this kind of entry.

Monday, September 17, 2007

What Happened?

Back in the late 80's, the worst drug offenders in my high school were the pot smokers who dabbled with Cocaine once in awhile. Heroin was a drug only shown in movies and used by unknown street junkies and criminals. I don't know what happened since then but I can't believe the number of teenagers and young adults I've come across who are Heroin addicts.

Some of them have told me it's cheaper and easier to get than ever and the terrible stigma it used to have has gone away.

This 21 kid started using it shortly after the attacks of 911. He and a bunch of his high school friends thought they would just "experiment" with it in a recreational way.

Six years later, he lies dead on the floor of an apartment. The apartment owner was the kid's friend and former drug counselor and had let him spend the night there.

As I completed my investigation of the scene, the boy's family began to arrive. His father came in and pulled back the towel covering his face. He put his hand on his son's bare chest and just held it there. He then sat in the recliner, let out a long sigh, and just stared at his dead son. Mom was still outside trembling and crying -unsure if she had the strength to see her eldest son like this. After a few minutes, she came in and knelt down on the floor near his head. She immediately turned to me and asked if there was any way he could be revived. I shook my head (no) and explained the paramedics had already responded and confirmed he was gone.

She caressed his color-faded cheeks and ran her fingers through his hair. Dad shook his head in and muttered words like, "damn shame", "only 21", "what could I have done", and "my son".

A few more family members came and said their final goodbyes. I could tell this kid was loved and cherished. His father told me about his son's depression, stints in rehab, counseling sessions, and the inevitable relapses. He was not surprised by the death but felt defeated and helpless. He told me of a neighbor kid who shot up with his son and how his arm is nearly useless and will require amputation. He told me about his son's best friend who died of a heroin overdose a few months ago. He had talked to his boy that morning over the phone and everything sounded normal.

He then got up, walked over to his son's body and stood over him. He wants others to know what could happen, how lives are ruined, how families are broken. He talks of years of anguish, fear, helplessness, anger, despair, and dashed hopes. He then turns to me, points to his son's lifeless and expressionless face and says,

"I wish you could show this to others so they could see what heroin does-and maybe stop somebody else from even trying it."

Well, Dad, I'll show what I can and join you in your wish:

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Pack Rat

I know people who keep all kinds of weird things for no reason. My brother amassed an impressive collection of Big Gulp cups once that he kept in stacked towers in his bedroom. In my teens I had a few hundred 'New Times' newspapers tucked away in my closet. My brother and I were no match for this guy, however.

His small hatchback was so full of newspapers, coffee cups, plastic cup lids and straws there were barely room for him in the driver seat. The stick shift was hidden inside a small cove of stacked paper and the entire view through the windshield was blocked except for a small area above the steering wheel. If the passenger door was ever opened an avalanche of paper goods would pour out onto the ground.

He was stopped for the obvious hazard his internal load posed. If his little car was packed this full of items I wondered what the inside of his house looked like. I asked him if he collected things for his home too, and he told me his house was much fuller.


"911 -what is your emergency?"

"I've been shot!!"

"What happened?"

"I don't know -I just got out of my car and someone shot me!!"

Several officers raced to the scene and found a man lying on the ground next to the driver's side door of his car. Blood poured from his right leg as he rolled around in pain. We quickly set up a perimeter and called for the helicopter. The victim told us he was alone in his car when he parked and got out. Then, he heard a gunshot and was hit in the leg.

His car was under a covered parking spot with vehicles parked on both sides of him. A wall of apartments surrounded the front and both sides of the parking lot. He did not see a shooter, nor did any of the several people who were outsided and heard the gunshot. We looked in his car and saw a single shell casing on the floor in front of the front passenger seat. Since all the windows were up the only way the bullet casing could get there would be if the gun was fired from inside the car. The victim insisted there was nobody with him in the car. There was blood on the driver's seat and inside the driver's door. It didn't take a detective to figure out he was shot from inside the car while he was sitting in the driver's seat. We then found a gun under the passenger seat.

Later, at the hospital, he admitted the obvious: He reached for the unholstered gun under the passenger seat and accidentally pulled the trigger when he grasped the handle. He was a prior convicted felon and was prohibited from having a firearm.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Fight For Your PARTY

This guy must have been a fan of the 80's song from the Beastie Boys. He and a male friend spent the day drinking in his small Social Security funded apartment. His large shirtless friend ran out of the apartment with the 12 pack of beer under his arm. This guy was outraged and ran after him holding a gallon jug of cheap wine and wearing only a pair of whitey-tightie underwear.

A fist fight in the middle of the street ensued with both males slugging it out for possession of the alcohol. We broke up the fight and had both guys sit down and cool off while we checked their records for outstanding warrants. The two sweaty sloppy-drunk males sat on the ground gasping for breath.

I learned a few things that night from this guy:
1. Getting your teeth knocked out is worth a 12 pack of Natural Light Ice beer (in cans).
2. Don't try to steal beer from a guy who looks like a character from Lord of The Rings
3. It's possible for underwear to have 'skid marks' in the front.

The guys agreed to go their separate ways and I made the following deal with the guy above: Go home and change into some clean underwear to avoid jail. He gathered up his beer and quickly marched back to his apartment across the street. His friend agreed to clean up the broken glass wine jug and he, too, was sent walking.

I came across a new level of extra-sensory perception the other day. A call was sent to my patrol car computer of a car accident that read:

Caller believes cars have crashed outside his house -he only heard the collision. It's a red SUV and a white Volvo.

I had no idea some humans had developed a sense of hearing so acute, they can distinguish the number, type and color of vehicles based on the sound of their crashing.