Sunday, June 21, 2009

Nothing Better to Do.

It was getting late and I was a little disappointed with myself. I was working one of the worst neighborhoods in Arizona in the middle of the night and I had still not found anything to do. At this point I was willing to stop anyone for any simple violation I could explore.

I turned west from 111 Ave and passed an ordinary looking minivan. There was nothing suspicious but I was willing to stop it if I found a quick violation. As is customary for me to do at this time of night, I glanced in my side mirror as the van passed to see if the it had a license plate light. It did not.

After viewing the traffic violation, I nonchalantly gave my patrol car a u-turn to make a traffic stop.

Before I completed the turn, I heard the van’s tires squeal as I watched the driver quickly round the corner at the end of the street.

With a little more aggression, I fish tailed out of my u-turn to advance to the corner as quickly as possible.

The van was gone.

I made a guess as to which street the van went down and I guessed right.

I saw the van, now blacked out, speeding down Cocopah St.

(They teach you in the academy to not get “tunnel vision”. They want you to stay aware of your surroundings and not become fully focused on only one thing in order to keep you, and those around you, safe.)

My training went out the window.

My right foot became heavy and the engine roared all the way down Cocopah St. I slid around the corner and made a sharp left at the next street to follow the van.

I flew around the next turn in time to see the minivan turn up Mohave St.

With my engine temperature rising and brakes smoking, I was glad to see the van decelerate to a slow roll.

All of a sudden the driver door flew open. A skinny male suspect hit the ground sprinting.

He dashed down the street and whipped around the corner down a dark alleyway.

I quickly learned that a car can (but shouldn’t) be put into park while still rolling.

I flew out of the patrol car and ran full speed toward the alleyway. As I ran I helplessly watched the van continue to roll down the street and crash into a house.

I whipped around the corner into the alley and watched the suspect run from a distance as I quickly gained ground.

I had to dart around trash cans, overgrown weeds, large boulders, telephone poles, and the occasional barking dog as I continued the pursuit.

After trailing the suspect for a complete block he must have thought he lost me, or was extremely tired, because he started to slow.

I rounded the last corner in time to tell the suspect to “Stop!”

I was almost caught off guard when he did. He put his hands in the air and went down to his knees.

I slapped cuffs on the kid and escorted him back to where I left my patrol car.

I was somewhat relieved when I saw that my smoking overheated patrol car was not missing. In my excited departure I left the door open, keys in the ignition and the engine running.

I tossed the kid in the back of the vehicle and started to put the pieces of the puzzle back together, now I had to figure out why he ran……

It turned out that the minivan did not run into the side of a house, it rammed a chain link fence (not much damage). The vehicle had no license plate so I checked the VIN number. The car did not come back as stolen. As a matter of fact, there was a key in the ignition.

Would a snot nose kid flee from the cops because he was driving without a license?

The vehicle registration came back to a car dealer out of phoenix. The car dealer address did not exist and there were no valid phone numbers.

How could I know if the van was stolen?

I slid my tape recorder into my pocket and spoke to the juvenile, or as we call them, "J". I had to read him his rights but he was still willing to talk.

Though I was clueless thus far about the true nature of the case, I continued the interrogation. Using a ruse, I told the J that I knew he stole the car.

I told him that the vehicle was under surveillance by under cover officers and they had trailed him. I told him that I had his photo from the hidden cameras inside the passenger compartment. I lead him to understand that I already knew anything he was going to tell me so he should be honest.

I knew very well that the ruse was either going to blow up in my face, or the J would buy every word.

He caved.

Almost in tears the J told me everything. He told me that he saw the parked van and found the door unlocked. He told me the key was in the ashtray and the engine started so he took it.

While I finished up the interview and daylight broke, I saw that people began to gather around the scene. Most onlookers were just curious neighbors. But one J in the crowd stood out. He was wearing a baggie shirt, like my suspect, and was about the same age. I also noted that his shirt was little dirty.

Most people, especially kids, do not wake up at the crack of dawn to put on a dirty shirt to see what happened to the distant neighbor’s fence.

I separated the J from the crowd and asked him, using a ruse (because I had no inkling of an idea that someone else was in the car), why he jumped out of the car to run then decide to come back.
The J said he did not know what I was talking about as he looked down and to left. With the signs of a true liar, I pushed the issue and told him not to lie to me because I already knew the truth. (When I lied…I mean used a ruse…., I did not look down and to the left).

This J caved too.

After he admitted to being in the stolen car with his buddy I slapped some shinny bracelets on his fragile wrists and hauled him off to jail with his friend.

I have heard many people ask, many times, "Do you have nothing better to do then stop me for that!?" To be honest, sometimes I don't and cases like this are the reason why.
So the next time I stop “you” for some silly traffic violation, please know that I do it because I am in the process of keeping “your” neighborhood safe.

Monday, June 15, 2009

I Gotta Go....

It was the middle of the week, probably a Thursday, and still daylight. There was not much traffic, vehicle or pedestrian, and we where cruising on our bikes looking for someone to chat with. The day, thus far, was fairly mundane as we had made our usual stops with the same people he had talked to a hundred times.

Freeman and I were riding down Harrison St from 4th St when I got a call from my wife. The day was slow and no one was around so I had time to answer. I continued to ride my bike westbound on Harrison St as I spoke to her on the phone about whatever we had going on.

Just then I saw an ordinary subject fail to stop at a stop sign as he crossed the road in front of me. Without speaking a word I gave Freeman a look that he promptly returned. The look was understood by both of us as meaning it was someone we were going to stop. Freeman rode ahead to speak to the subject while I casually turned south and continued to talk on my phone.

I half watched as Freeman swiftly caught up to the subject. Though I was not close enough to hear, Freeman must have said something to the effect of, “Can you stop and chat with us for a second?”

I watched with more attentiveness as the subject on the bike failed to make eye contact with Freeman or slow his bike. I knew what was about to take place so I gave my wife a quick “I gotta go” while she was in mid sentence. I hung up the phone and slid it into my pocket.

The chase well on its way as the suspect quickened his pace and turned down Davis St, fleeing to the east on his bike. Freeman was easily following behind with a determined, almost fiery, look on his face, knowing that this guy was not going to get away.

I was at full speed as I few around the corner in time to see Freeman cut in front of the suspect. The suspect either had to hit the curb, try to go through Freeman, or stop. He chose wisely as he skidded to a stop and lost his balance. Freeman reached out and helped guide the suspect in the direction he was already headed, to the street.

The suspect hit the ground with a thud but promptly bounced back to his feet and started to run. As smoothly and simultaneously as two Olympic synchronized swimmers, Freeman and I dismounted our bikes and pursued the chase.

The chase ended as quickly as it began with Freeman pile driving the suspect into the curb head first. The suspect, who surprisingly remained consciences after two hard falls, now refused to listen to verbal commands. He placed his hands in his front waist band area; out of view (This area is where a criminal is most likely to store a weapon).

Almost unconscientiously, I found that my taser was removed from its holster and in my hand. The taser quickly found the center of the suspects back where I squeezed the trigger and released 50,000 volts of unforgiving hurt.

The suspect let out a shrill scream as he unwillingly took the five second ride. When the five seconds were up, he grunted with the last bit of breath left in his lungs saying, “you got me.”
As Freeman grasped onto the suspect’s left arm, I watched his right arm slide back to his waist. I heard another exasperated grunt and watched the suspect’s face wince in indescribable pain as my finger found the trigger again. After the unlearned lesson was retaught, I heard an exhausted voice say,”I’m done,” as he willingly placed his hands and arms out to the side.

After he was fully detained, we searched his waist for what we believed would be a knife or gun. Instead of a weapon we located an opened cigarette package containing a meth pipe, $80 worth of recently purchased meth, and some marijuana.

The suspect had used the last of his money to purchase meth and was unwilling to have it taken from him without a fight.

The suspect was later booked on his new drug charges, failing to obey a police officer, and two outstanding felony warrants.

Monday, June 1, 2009

All In A Days Work

Chapter One

I promised my boys that I would ride bikes with them as soon as I finished edging and mowing the backyard lawn with my wife. They played in the backyard and let me work while anxiously waiting for me to finish.

I just finished edging the backyard when I received a phone call from Reggie. Reggie, a fellow SWAT team member, does not call me much, so I knew it meant we were getting a call out.

I helped my wife move the trampoline so she could finish mowing the lawn, then I called Freeman; my bike, carpool, and SWAT partner. I called to see if he got the text message for the call out. He had and was on his way to pick me up.

I gathered my equipment and told my boys that Dad was getting called to work to get a bad guy. My oldest boy told me that I can get bad guys anytime as his eyes swelled up with tears. He reminded me of my promise to take him on a bike ride as soon as I finished the yard. He pointed out the completion of my first task.

I patted my boys on the head and told them I was sorry, I gave my wife a kiss, and gave the little one a kiss on her forehead as I headed out the door. I promised I would be home first thing in the morning to do whatever they wanted.

Freeman arrived at my home on cue and I clambered into his truck and headed to the South Station.

At the station we gathered our gear from the lockers (vest, helmet, goggles, rifle, ammo, gloves, radio, flash bangs, zip tie hand cuffs, knee pads, ear protection, boots, pants, and shirt) and headed to the briefing room.

Every SWAT member did their part to prepare the armored car with plenty of water for the scorching Arizona morning. We got dressed with our equipment and made sure the rifles were well oiled. We started hydrating in preparation for the long afternoon.

We sat through briefing and were advised of the reason for the callout. On 5-28-2009 at about 2353 hours our suspect found the later fatally wounded victim he had been looking for. With one close range shot gun blast to the upper chest, the victim bled out on the doorstep of the witness.

The suspect was identified by several witnesses and it was later learned that he was hanging out at his girlfriend’s apartment in the projects: hence the SWAT callout.

The briefing concluded as two neighboring SWAT teams arrived to assist. They brought their far superior armored vehicles known as the Bear and the Bear Cat. Our assignment was to extract the well armed homicide suspect from the government project housing.

With several contingency plans in place we arrived on scene and quickly surrounded the duplex apartment. I was the first operator off of the Bear armored vehicle and took a position of cover in front. I covered down on the front door to the apartment.
Our sniper was positioned just south of me in an open field. He had equal cover on the front and side doors. Freeman was in the second armored vehicle and immediately contacted the occupants of the attached apartment (duplex) and extracted the family to safety.

I moved the small red dot from my AR15 rifle EOTech around the front door and expected it to open at any moment.

With all the SWAT operators in place, the driver of the Bear got on the bull horn and told the suspect that his residence was surrounded. He told everyone to exit the residence through the front door with their hands in the air.

Within moments the front door opened. My heart skipped a beat as my little red dot found it’s way to the bridge of the suspects nose. I immediately recognized the suspect from his picture as I told him to place his hands high in the air. My little red dot moved from the bridge of his nose to the center of his chest and back again as I coached him on how to exit the residence.

To most everyone’s surprise, the suspect complied with every order without a fight. He was quickly taken into custody by the arrest team and hauled off to jail for processing. We finished clearing the residence of any additional suspects and turned the home over to detectives for the completion of their search warrant.

After hours of preparation and a surprisingly speedy execution, we were done. Freeman and I made it back to the station in time to eat a quick lunch and start our bike patrol shift.

We changed out of our SWAT garb and put on the patrol gear. After hydrating for a brief moment, we left out the back gate.

Chapter Two

Right out the gate, Freeman and I made some quick stops. We spoke to some suspicious characters but had nothing major. The sun began to set and the scorching heat dwindled to a sweltering heat.

We rounded the corner at Hill and Central and saw two bicyclists at Madden Dr and Central.

We had some civil bike infractions and had every intention of stopping the two bike riders at the corner. As we told them to stop, however, the younger Hispanic male, riding a small BMX style bike, failed to make eye contact and started to turn north down the center of Central Ave.

I followed the young Hispanic male as every bit of my five years of experience told me he was about to flee.

Just as the suspect started peddling faster I knew why I recognized him.

At the beginning of my workweek the detectives sent out a press release photo and synopsis regarding a known armed robber and burglar known as Shawn. Everyone in the department was looking for the squirrelly thief. A verity of complete squads held special details in his honor with no avail. I had studied the photo, even kept it in my pocket, and knew I would recognize the Dumbo size ears anywhere.

Freeman zoomed past me to follow Shawn as I grabbed my radio and told dispatch that Bike-11 was in pursuit.

Though I could not remember his name, I wanted everyone to know that it was Shawn we were chasing.

I told dispatch, “We are in pursuit northbound on Central Ave from Madden Dr with…..I don’t remember his name but the detectives are looking for him.”

With that exceptionally long statement out of the way I refocused on the chase. Freeman and I followed Shawn down an unpaved alley where he luckily escaped a crash into a block wall.

We came out of the alley and Shawn chose to head down a dead end street. Shawn, having peddled his little tired legs as fast as he could, attempted to dismount his bike to flee on foot. As his feet connected with the pavement his legs turned to rubber. Shawn threw his hands in the air and appeared to be attempting an Olympic dive as he slammed head first into the hardened dirt of the unkept front yard. He let out an exasperated grunt as his body collided with the dirt floor.

Shawn tried to leap back up to his feet but his rubber legs gave way again, causing him to do another swan dive into the dirt. Freeman, who had somehow dismounted his bike and run to the far side of Shawn before the Olympic flop, now had his knee at the middle of Shawn’s back.

I came to a screeching halt and nearly ran over Shawn’s midsection with my front tire. I dismounted my bike and grabbed Shawn’s arm with a hard twist before we were able to get him into custody. I thought to myself, “You don’t run from the Bike Squad,” as I told dispatch our current location.

To add a twist of irony to the story, I remembered that Shawn is Bubba’s step brother (See previous Blog “You Don’t Run from the Bike Squad!”).
I had to muster the strength to keep a strait face as I told Shawn, “When you get to prison with Bubba, tell him that the same people who caught him, caught you.”

Shawn was turned over to the first arriving unit and we continued our bike patrol.

Chapter Three

Freeman and I, still glowing with excitement from the last catch, turned a corner or two in time to catch up to four juveniles walking down the road. As we caught up with them, and before we could get any words out, we could smell a strong odor of marijuana.

With a few, “we know one of you has weed, hand it over,” phrases, one of them handed over a bag of marijuana with a glass pipe.

After calling mom, completing an interview, and collecting all evidence, we were off in search of another.

We rode down the street and into a Mobile home park. As we turned past the front office we found a group of teens drinking alcohol. Four arrests later, with at least two angry parents (angry with the kids not us), we rolled into the station.

After impounding the evidence and securing our paperwork, we dressed down and headed home for the night.

With smiles on our faces we reflected on the day. Not everyone can say that they detained a homicide suspect, chased down a robbery suspect (on a bike), caught and arrested a group of preteens with drugs, and busted a group of teens drinking beer, all in one day.

I still have a smile on my face. I enjoy what I do and though small, I make a difference. You can say it's all in a days work.