Thursday, April 23, 2009

My Bigfoot

It is almost like being thrown into the middle of a lake after only having a few swim lessons. I had finished the academy and FTO (Field Training) and I was put into a patrol car for the first time on my own.

I tried to make up for my inexperience with my enthusiasm. I felt like a kid again as I could play real cops and robbers. Even if I did not know everything, I was ready to work and I had free reign of the streets.

I was working graveyards and was given Old Town as my first beat. Being that it was well past sundown, and no calls were holding, I started to hunt.

I turned down Western Ave from 8 St and traveled as far east as I could go. This area is known as Western X. Western X was far overdue for a landscape overhaul, as the large ditch at the end of the road, which was next to some railroad tracks, was vastly overgrown with trees and weeds. This area was convenient for most transients and druggies, which are often the same person, to sleep or do drugs.

I stopped my car at this location and I used my spotlight to light up the dark crevasses between the overgrown brush. Just as I passed the last section with the spot light I saw something move. It looked a lot like a person but could have easily been Bigfoot moving behind the mammoth sized bush.

I was pretty excited with my new find and must have been talking too fast. I had to tell dispatch where I was at least ten times before they understood me.

I got out of the police car and shined my flashlight in the area where I saw the movement. I don’t know why I had my flashlight out because it almost made the area darker where my already 1,000,000 candle power spot light was shining.

With the flashlight in hand I told whoever was behind the giant bush to come out.

I heard rustling and my heart started to race as I saw a male subject jump out from behind the bushes. Like a frightened deer, he raced up a small hill onto the railroad tracks and sprinted east.

Now the only reason Western X stops at the overgrown wash, is it runs into a 20 ft embankment of a normally dry river bed called the Agua Fria River. Up the small hill and a few steps east was an old, but still used, Railroad Bridge. The bridge is about 300 ft long and looked old enough to have been built in the early 1950's.

As I watched the man run across the bridge I thought to myself, “This was my first chance at a foot pursuit, I guess I could chase him.”
“But what if I caught him and I had no charges, then what would I do?”

I further pondered, “The railroad tracks are private property, I learned that in the academy, I think. Trespassing is against the law and I am a cop that enforces the law.”
“I guess I will chase.”

This thought process must have taken longer than it was supposed to, because by the time I decided to chase the male subject was about half way down the bridge.

I clumsily clasped for my radio as I started running and called out “FOOT PURSUIT!”
I made my way past the overgrown brush and raced down the railroad tracks trying not to trip over the old wooden slats.

As I ran I couldn’t help but think about the scene from Stand By Me when they had to jump off the end of the bridge to avoid getting hit by the train. I did not want to be stuck in the middle of the bridge if a train did decide to join the chase.

With a thousand thoughts in my head as I ran, and the fact that it was my first true foot chase (SO EXCITING), I told everyone I was running westbound when in fact I was running east. I asked for assistance on Lower Buckeye Rd when what I really needed was assistance on Buckeye Rd. (These roads are about 1 mile apart)

I was huffing and puffing down the tracks to catch up. However, as I ran all the fresh adrenalin and the thousand thoughts in my head did not prepare me for what I witnessed in the middle of the bridge. I tried to adjust my eyes as I saw the runner leap from the bridge to the dry riverbed located far below.

I had to make sure sure a train was not really coming as I arrived at the location where the leap was made. I finished my visual search for the assumed-to-be seriously injured junkie but, to my surprise, I saw nothing but a dark river bottom.
I must have sounded ridiculous as I ended my foot chase with the police code “66 (Police code for disregard my last transmissions) the suspect jumped off the bridge and is nowhere in sight.”

I meandered back to my patrol car and did not look forward to my visit back to the station where I would not hear the end of my squad mates ridicule.

I lost my first foot pursuit, though I half wondered if it really was Bigfoot behind the bushes that night. I never did get a good look at him and no human being would have survived a leap from the old bridge.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Lost In Old Town

Our night drew to an end as we finished our last contact by throwing a juvenile in the back of the patrol car in hand cuffs.

As trivial as a curfew arrest might seem, juveniles were ninety percent of the problem in this area. From the armed robberies and vehicle burglaries to the shopliftings and drug use, these juveniles caused most of our troubles.

The store owners and shoppers were begging for help with the juvenile disturbances, so they sent us, the bike squad, to help deal with it.

We were making a difference too; we had chased down a drug dealer (a juvenile), and caught a group of juveniles (with guns) smoking weed in the parking lot. We accomplished all of this, and more, just by talking with some up-to-no-good kids.

So, I did not feel bad or silly when I threw a snot nosed punk kid in the back of my patrol car because he had stayed out too late.

We secured our bikes on the back of the patrol car and we left to take him home. We promptly hopped on the freeway for a short jaunt to Old Town.

As charming or nostalgic as “old town” might sound, it is quite the polar opposite. Old town is where the transient population lingers and the drug trade thrives. The highest amount of robberies, thefts, and homicides happen in old town. It was no surprise that the snot nosed kid called this place home.

My partner, Freeman, drove to the teenager’s home and walked him to the door. After he spoke to Mom to tell her to keep a better eye on her teen, he returned to the car.

I thought Freeman was joking when he said in a serious tone, “where’s your bike?” I told him to stop messing around and to get in the car. When Freeman repeated, “Where’s your bike?” with a panicked looked, I jumped out of the car.

I looked at the bike rack and saw two open flaps and one missing bike. My hart sank as I spewed out nastiest four letter word I could think of, “Crap!”

There was a reason for my uncharacteristic foul mouth, the bike was a loaner.

We were doing well as a squad so the department came to the conclusion that we needed some updated and better bikes. We found a bike shop that had two bikes they were willing to let us test.

Though the PD was concerned about the test ride, knowing that if anything happened to the bikes they would be responsible, they gave permission, reluctantly. Our week was up and the bikes were due back to the shop. You guessed it, “Oh CRAP!”

We collapsed back into the car and quickly turned around. We went down the road, made a turn or two, and felt discouraged as we saw no bike in the roadway. Sadly, it was what we expected for losing a bike in Old Town, the loathsome epicenter of theft.

After riding though Old Town, met with negative findings, we got back onto the freeway in order to continue our search on our way back to the shopping center. Once on the freeway I half expected to find mangled bike parts strewn across the road. To my surprise, there was no bike on the freeway either.

We made our way back to the shopping center with the hope that some store owner or responsible person found the bike. It was not at the shopping center either. Where could the bike be?!

We headed back to Old Town and crept along the freeway searching with the spot light. We knew we needed to give up. We had searched everywhere we could.

With all hope gone, I turned to the only source that I believed could help.

“Heavenly Father,” I said prayfully, “if anyone is going to find my bike in old town, let it be someone who is honest.”

It was past midnight and I knew that all the good people, especially in the old town area, were fast asleep.

Just then, I heard Dispatch clear on the radio, “Bike 11 (our call sign), can you give us a 21 (police code for phone call).”

I called dispatch and spoke to Diane as she said with a slight chuckle, “Are you and Freeman riding tandem?”

Diane then explained that she received a phone call from Jeremy’s parents who said they found a police bike and were returning it to the station.

Jeremy is one of the police officers who trained me. He grew up in old town area and his parents apparently still lived close by.

I don’t know why his parents, who are well into their 60’s, were driving through the heart of old town after midnight, but I was extremely grateful.

I said a little, “Thank you,” to Heavenly Father as we returned to the station and I found my bike sitting in the lobby unharmed.

Saturday, April 4, 2009


I had several months under my belt as a cop and turned in the graveyard shift for the faster paced swing shift. During swing shift hours, unlike those on graves, the streets are full of decent hard working people along with the occasional “dirt bag”.

My job, as far as I am concerned, is to sift through the decent people to find the ones who need officer intervention. My way of sifting through “Joe Hardworker” to get to “Joe Dirtbag” was by conducting traffic and pedestrian stops.

On one such occasion, I had the opportunity to contact someone riding a dirt bike on a public street without a license plate.

I positioned my patrol car directly behind the motorcycle and flipped on the overhead lights and after a moment of noncompliance I hit a couple quick siren bursts to get the rider’s attention. After following the rider for a minute or two with no change of behavior, I figured that he was debating whether to stop or flee.

He chose the latter!

As soon as we approached 119 Ave at Cocopah Cir the suspect opened up the throttle and like a jackrabbit in the desert, he sped down the street, made a sharp turn, and was out of sight.

I cruised up to Joblanca Rd, where the suspect was last seen, and he was gone. I rolled down my windows and could hear nothing; no speeding motorcycle, no crash, and no pedestrians to point him out. He was gone!

I slowly rolled through the neighborhood with the hope of seeing an open garage, possibly with a dirt bike inside, but I was met with negative findings.

I crept past the last house in the neighborhood and saw a woman in the front yard. With my last effort in finding the suspect I asked her, knowing very well that the answer was no, if she had seen anyone speeding through on a motorcycle. The female said, to my delight, that she saw a motorcycle enter a home on the north side of Pima St, just west of 119 Dr.

I gave a quick thank you as I tried to suppress my joy, but failed to do so, as my engine roared the three houses down I needed to travel. I parked my car in the street and was halfway up the driveway before I realized it.

I knocked on the front door and played it cool as a white male subject, wearing the same color shirt as my suspect, answered the door. I was overcome with the smell of alcohol as the subject opened the door and stepped outside.

I asked the subject, later identified as John, if he had been riding a motorcycle. John, while standing in the driveway, reminded me of a teeter totter going back and forth, as he slurred the word “no”. The stench of his breath caused me to take a half step back as I asked him how much he had to drink. John brought the teeter totter to a halt as he leaned against the wall and spewed out the words, “only a twelve pack.” With the subject appearing quite young, I asked him how old he was. He replied, “ninete…twenty one.”

He stalled as he told me his birthday, which to no surprise made him 19 years old, not old enough to drink.

I told John to walk with me to my patrol car as I pulled out my citation book. I started filling out a ticket at the same time mentally noting that John became noticeably nervous. He stepped backwards and started looking around. John stopped answering my questions regarding his full name and continually looked around as he kept asking why I was giving him a ticket.

I threw the cite book back into the patrol car. I had been in a few foot chases to know when someone is giving all the signs of “I’m about to run”.

I grabbed a hold of John’s right wrist as I told him to turn around. John twisted his weasely hand out of mine and started running. The chase was on!

I expected John to run so I was right behind him stride for stride as he awkwardly ran down the street toward a brick wall. I called out over the radio that I was in a foot pursuit and finished just in time to catch John half way up the brick wall.

Unfortunately, John had grabbed onto an adjacent wall and like a leach he would not let go. Holding on to John’s legs, I gave a couple of tugs with no success. With my last effort of playing nicely, I grabbed onto Johns pants, at his waist, and braced both my feet against the wall. With a heavy heave on John’s pants he still did not budge. I was surprised, though, how easily his pants slipped down his legs and onto the ground. Then I noticed it was not just his pants, it was his pants, underwear, socks and shoes. I grabbed a hold of what I had left, John’s naked legs.

John tried pulling his half naked body over the wall again but I held onto his legs and ankles. I half wondered, "How am I to explain this precarious situation to the news who is sure to be videoing this situation?". I gave John one last pull and he refused to budge.

Realizing that John’s manhood was securely resting on top of a brick wall, I came up with what I now call the cheese grater method, I rocked John’s legs back and forth on top of the fence about ten times and was astounded at his motivation stay put. I assume that most people by now would have given up, but not John in his drunken stupor.

I held on to John’s legs as my backup, “Fireballs” Debora, as she would later be known, jumped out of her car. Debora opened the gate and told John to let go of the wall. Debora told him that if he did not let go she would spray him with OC, better known as pepper spray.

John did not listen and Fireballs went to town with the OC. John was covered in OC like a freshly painted car in an auto body shop. Thinking that John would now comply, I released his legs. Like a half naked salamander, John slithered over the wall and out of sight as soon as I let go.

Knowing that several officer’s had arrived in the area and Half Naked John would not get away, I backed out and help set up a perimeter. A K9 unit was summoned and I took a position on the west side.

A moment or two passed when all of a sudden I saw a side gate open and saw an angry male subject holding a golf club in the air yelling. (The man later stated that he was quite upset when he saw a half naked man hiding in his back yard). I saw John try to hunker down behind a bush as he was shooed out of the backyard at golfclub point. John's attempt at hiding was no better then a 3-year-old playing hind-and-seek, thinking that you are not going to find him because his eyes are closed.

I told John that I could see him and he slowly stood up and said, “Okay, okay, you got me.” I told John that he was under arrest and once again, he started running. With John obviously not able to hide a weapon in his birthday suite I willingly gave chase and quickly brought him to the ground.

John was promptly hand cuffed and the chase was over.

And on queue, like a punch line at the end of a joke, John said, “Can I get up, my balls are burning!”

If you are going to run and get pepper sprayed by the police, make sure you are wearing clothes.