Wednesday, January 30, 2008

New York Frankie

There's a pizza parlor in my beat owned by a guy named Frankie. Frankie is an authentic "New Yorker": A great guy and one of the biggest supporters of police I've met. The walls of his restaurant are decorated with police patches from all different agencies and he had a small memorial for one of his officer-regulars that died last year.

Too bad his decision making isn't as great as his pizza making. Here's a few stories I like to tell about my friend Frankie.

A long time back he was telling another officer and me about a suspicious car that parked at the far end of his parking lot several nights a week. The driver sat in his car for hours at a time. Frankie didn't know why the driver did this and asked us what he should do. The other officer told him, "Next time the car is parked there and it seems suspicious, get the license plate and we can investigate it."

A few weeks later we stopped in for a visit and a slice of pizza. Frankie became excited and started fidgeting behind the counter. Then he holds up a metal license plate and proudly exclaims, "Here's the license plate you told me to get. I had to sneak up and take it off while the guy left his car for a few minutes."

The other officer's jaw dropped. "I meant get the NUMBER of the license plate, not the actual thing." he nervously replied (thinking about being an accomplice to theft.) "C'mon Frankie, now I've got to return this to the owner and do report."

"Oh, sorry." replied a disappointed Frankie. "I thought you wanted the plate."

Another time my partner and I were at Frankie's and he was proudly showing off his new alarm system. The windows and doors were now equipped with the typical burglary sensors but he was most proud of his new armed robbery panic button. He explained how this expensive feature would allow one of his workers to trip the panic button ensuring a rapid response from the police.

We told him we well aware of these and how we respond to them all the time from banks and check cashing stores.

"Watch this!", Frankie announced, and slammed the button on the wall.

My partner and I looked at each other anticipating the emergency armed robbery call that would be broadcast over the radio in the next minute or so. We readied our radios to answer the broadcast quickly so no other units would speed to the scene.

We waited a few minutes. Then a few more. Then a few more. No emergency call. Frankie could hear our radio and could tell his alarm was not working. After fifteen minutes we finally got the radio call..... "Armed robbery alarm -coming from keypad panic" My partner responded that we were on scene and everything was okay.

Well, not for Frankie, that is. He launched into a tirade of curses about the alarm company and how much money it cost him. He was on the phone immediately with the alarm service cussing out some poor phone representative. We waved goodbye and heard Frankie screaming, "Fifteen f**cking minutes! I'd be dead by then! I paid good money for this....! What's the point of a panic button if it takes you guys fifteen minutes to notify the police!

The next time we were in I asked if the alarm company refunded his money. "No, they fixed the panic button instead." He walked towards the wall where the button was mounted.
"Watch this", he said.
"NO!!!!" my partner and I yelled in unison.

One night Frankie told me about a car that had been left in the parking lot for months. He wanted it towed and asked what to do. I asked him if the property had a contract with a towing company to remove abandoned vehicles. "No", he replied.

I explained that police only towed vehicles that were left in the roadway, blocking a driveway, in an alley, etc. that posed a hazard to other vehicles or blocked public access.

Frankie nodded in understanding and we moved on to a different topic of conversation.

On my way out the door Frankie asks me, "After I push that car out into the street, do I call 911 or the non-emergency number?"

With a sigh I re-enter the store to have another chat with Frankie.

Monday, January 28, 2008


I don't know how you Seattlites do it -living in all that rain. It hardly ever rains in my city but when it does it's usually quick bursts of summer Monsoon downpours.

Today was one of those rare winter rain storms in the desert city. I was soaked just responding to a few calls early in my shift. Then, the power went out at a few major intersections rendering them black voids of vehicular madness. After parking 4 patrol cars strategically around one intersection with lights flashing, you'd think drivers would have the notion to slow down and cautiously await direction from us officers. Well, it wouldn't be that exciting of a job if there weren't any idiots driving. It was a miracle no cars collided considering the number of times they encroached upon each other from all 4 directions while we screamed in vain for them to stop.

I now know why the phrase "seeing the light" has Godly connotations 'cause once the traffic signals and street lights came back on I found myself rejoicing the Savior.

I listened to an officer shooting unfold over the radio from another part of the city. I switched to the appropriate channel the second I heard the dreaded emergency tone and the dispatcher announcing "9-9-8".
The officer was breathing heavily and announced, "I don't think I'm hit. I fired back."
I could tell he was running and then he started screaming the direction the shooter was running:

"Northbound on 55 avenue!! Has a silver revolver!! He just got into a red 4-door newer model car!! A Ford Taurus, I think!! Get the air unit and a K-9!! Responding units: Car turned west on Campbell!! He's on the passenger side!!"

He was trying to keep up on foot and was starting to lose his breath while running and screaming.

I could hear each of the responding units give their call sign over the sound of their sirens. I knew they were only seconds away.

Then I heard from one of the responding units, "I've got a maroon Taurus stopped at the red light." Another unit arrived to back him up. "He's not stopping."

I listened intensely and pictured the whole scene unfolding in my mind. Then I heard the distinctive beep of an emergency button engaged on a police radio. This allows the officer to speak for 30 seconds without interruption and without the need to manually keep the talk key depressed on the radio.

I could hear him and other officers screaming at the suspect and other occupants of the car to get on the ground and not move. My heart raced at the thought of a shootout but I soon calmed when I heard officers take the suspects into custody. The original officer came to the scene of the vehicle stop and identified the passenger as the one who shot at him.

It was a huge relief to hear nobody was hurt. The officer couldn't have reacted any more perfectly. He had the nerve to chase down his would-be killer, broadcast the direction of travel and accurate vehicle description all within seconds of being shot at. He coordinated the position and direction of responding units which ensured his capture. Most of all he did everything possible to ensure he returned home to his family that night and ensured the wanna-be cop killer didn't return to the community.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

That's professor-officer gary to you, pal

I know I haven't been posting very frequently on my blog lately but I've vowed to make a better effort. I was sent to a hospital last week to check up on some painters who fell off a high scaffolding unit. One of the workers was okay but the other was in critical condition and not expected to live. After the detective arrived to take over, I swung by my old employer to check in on my fellow ex-coworkers.

I had not been back to the corporate cubicle world for over two years but it seemed just like yesterday when I walked in. I think they were shocked to see me drop in unexpectantly in my uniform. I received a very warm welcome and felt a bit nostalgic. Many of them mentioned their appreciation for my blog and asked why I hadn't updated it lately. I guess I'm getting used to the job cause most of my nights seem unworthy of a blog entry. My wife and friends, however, still seem anxious to hear my stories (even the ones I think are boring).

With this boost of encouragement from my former coworkers, I'll make a better effort to update the blog more regularly.

My two year anniversary from academy graduation arrived and I was finally able to take the state certified 'General Instructor' course. This 40 hour course is required in order to teach the multitude of specialized courses to others (like firearms, driving, defensive tactics, etc.)

The class was made up mostly of officers from different agencies with a few civilians. We were required to get up in front of the class and give a 2 minute impromptu speech about ourselves. Most of us did okay but a few speakers were terrified. It's ironic we've entered a career steeped with moments of terror, panic, and fear and willingly run TOWARDS gunfire but have trouble talking in front of 15 peers.

The class gradually built up our speaking abilities and climaxed with a 20 minute presentation on the final day. I used my prior knowledge of finance to talk about participating in our employer retirement plan. I think I successfully scared enough of them into signing up for the plan later that day.

I felt sorry for the instructor as he had to listen to presentation after presentation of motorcycles, ATV's, guns, ammunition, and fishing. He's been doing this for about 15 years and must have heard these topics a million times.

Now that I've completed the class, I'm certified to teach at the academy. It's hard to believe I'm eligible to be an instructor at the same academy I feel like I just left.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Live and Let Live

I was on my way to take photographs of a minor crime scene when a shooting call was broadcast in my area. I was about 3 minutes away and raced to the scene. Witnesses called 911 to report a man shooting at a woman in an apartment complex parking lot.

I pulled onto the street behind my Sergeant and saw a body lying on the ground next to a parked vehicle. A car pulled up with a security guard who witnessed the incident. A Hispanic male just shot a woman 5 times; he left north into the apartment complex; he's wearing black shorts, a black t-shirt over a white t-shirt and has white shoes.

The helicopter is soon overhead as my squad mates take up perimeter positions all around the complex. A K9 officer arrives with his dog to begin a search. The security guard stays with me as I move to a corner perimeter position. He tells me how he saw a couple fighting in an SUV as it drove down the road. At a stoplight, the female passenger tried to get out of the SUV but the male driver pulled her back in by the hair. She screamed for help but the driver took off before anyone could do anything. The security guard followed them to the apartment complex. The driver got out of the vehicle, went around to the passenger side and opened her door. He leaned in, hugged her, and caressed her face. "Everything will be all right." he assured her.

He then took two steps back, pulled a handgun and shot her 4 or 5 times. The security guard feared for his life and drove off when the shooting started.

As I try to calm him down and get more details, the K9 officer comes over and asks the witness again for a description of the shooter. The security guard gives the description and the K9 officer seems somewhat relieved.

"What's up?" I ask the officer.
"Looks like the shooter did himself in."

The body I saw on the ground turned out to be the shooter himself. After killing the girl, he put a bullet in his own head. I took the guard over to the scene where he positively identified the dead male as the shooter.

When the detectives arrived I was able to get a close up look at the victim and the killer. She was slumped over in the passenger seat of the SUV with multiple fatal gunshot wounds. The young man had a large exit wound near his right temple. A handgun rested on the ground between his knees. They appeared to be in their early twenties.

The news media arrived soon after and set up multiple live broadcasts from the scene. News vans, lights, reporters, and cameramen massed outside the crime scene tape I strung from my patrol car.

I couldn't imagine how a relationship could end like this. The New Year is a time for change, resolution, and renewal. I found myself wondering if her New Year resolution was to improve her life by breaking up with this guy. If so, it's a shame they way he responded. Why can't people just live their own life and let others do the same?