(pronounced 5 oh 9)
I had been living in Arizona less than a year, out of the academy for a few months, and on the street as a beat cop, on my own, for only a few weeks. I was trying to get used to the grave yard shift and, more importantly, the type of criminals out while most people were fast asleep.
It was starting to get late and all the normal street traffic was dwindling. The major streets might have had a car or two every half hour but the overall car and foot traffic had dissipated.
My last FTO (Field Training Officer) had a knack and a passion for finding 509’s. (509 is police code for stolen vehicles). His obsession, as some would call it, for finding 509’s rubbed off on me. Yes, I could find an abandoned 509 here and there, but all that would lead to was a report with no suspects. I wanted to find an occupied 509!
For this reason I patrolled one of the high crime area’s of the city for most the night. At this hour any moving vehicle on the road probably needed to be checked out.
I was patrolling northbound on 111 Ave and Pima St when I saw some red tail lights in the distance to the west. I turned west on Pima St and sped up behind the vehicle to get a look at the license plate.
As soon as I pulled up behind the vehicle I heard an engine roar and tires squeal. The race was on as the white in color Honda vehicle blew the stop sign at 113 Ave and headed north toward MC 85. The car was probably stolen and the suspect was going to do what he could to get away.
I did not have to be a cop very long to know that bad guys doing bad things always wanted to get away. For some, it is running when they have a warrant. For you that want to run on foot, thank you, I enjoy the chase and love the tackle. For others, such as this driver, it means driving carelessly and endangering the life of anyone that gets in their way. For you, unfortunately I will call off the chase. I do so, however, in order to avoid the inevitable crash into the unsuspecting mother of three on her way home from the store. A stolen car is what my boss calls a “TV on wheels”, its just a piece of property.
I advised dispatch saying, “Paul 115 (my badge number at the time), I have a white in color Honda vehicle leaving the area of 113 Ave and MC 85 at a high rate of speed.”
“I am not following [to avoid the aforementioned crash] and will be stopped at 113 Ave and Flanagan St.” My heart sank a little as I thought of another occupied 509, or bad guy, getting away.
I watched from a distance as the fleeing Honda blew another stop sign at 113 Ave, sliding sideways onto MC 85.
As I silently watched the vehicle fly around the corner I heard a loud “CRACK!” The vehicle’s engine went silent and the once reckless speed began descending. I crept up to MC 85 and heard a softer “click, click, click” as the driver tried to restart the vehicle. This was my chance!
I sped up to behind the vehicle as it slowed to a stop in front of the Fry’s Food and Drug parking lot. The driver gave the engine one more hopeless attempt to start as I heard the last, “click.”
The driver door swung open and the white male suspect flew out of the car sprinting south toward the Fry’s parking lot. As quickly as his door opened, I was out of my car to join the chase. I slowly passed the Honda to be sure no suspect was left inside. As soon as I was certain, I was off at full speed.
The suspect started running toward a sidewalk followed by a half wall made of bricks. He looked back to see me chasing at full speed. He did not, however, look back at the sidewalk in time to avoid clumsily tripping over the curb and slamming into the half wall head first.
I slowed my pursuit enough to draw my gun and tell him to show me his hands. The suspect stood up with his back to me and his hands out of view saying, “What are you going to do, shoot me?”
The suspect started running again down the sidewalk toward the empty Fry’s parking lot. As soon as I saw his hands without a weapon I holstered my gun and resumed the chase.
The suspect most likely expected me to be following right behind, I had a different plan! I started flanking the suspect to his right so he would have a hard time knowing my exact position.
After running a moment or two the suspect decided he wanted to know how close I was to him. He looked over his left shoulder and with no one there he started to slow.
Little did he know that I was on the right and had gone from a fast run to a full sprint like a stock car on a strait-a-way. I picked a spot on his back somewhere between his shoulder blades and lower back. I quickly closed the distance and saw his eyes get as big as silver dollars as he finally looked to the right to see my right shoulder slam into his back. I held onto his sides and we both flew into the air. The suspect came down onto the blacktop as hard as he had left it. He slapped onto the blacktop with a loud thud and slid a foot or two. I held on and rode his back across the blacktop as a surfer might ride his board on a wave.
Once the short ride was over I placed him in hand cuffs and listened to him strain for a breath as I asked him why he was running. I helped him up off the ground and watched him limp dramatically as I escorted him to the curb.
Once the suspect was seated on the curb I saw the old Fry’s security guard driving his golf cart over to me saying, “That was the hardest hit I had ever seen.” He continued, “the Cardinals could use someone who hits like that.” He asked if I needed help which I gratefully declined.
The white Honda, as you might have guessed, was stolen. The suspect was booked in jail knowing that if he was going to steal again he would either, 1) Not come back to my city 2) Make sure the car is in working condition before fleeing or 3) Not run from the police if his stolen car breaks down.
Either way, I got my occupied 509.