Tag Archive for Police Officer

What Police Work Is Really Like: Episode 2

 

Arc Electronics

So there I was, minding my own business, ordering breakfast with a few other officers. It was 6:30 a.m. on a school day. Our shift had just started, all was quiet. Then the radio came to life.

Fatal accident. On a quiet residential street. Less than two miles from where we stood.

We ditched our orders and headed to our cars. As we left the parking lot, I wondered, How do you have a fatal accident on a street with a 30 mph speed limit? Did someone run over a kid or something?

About twenty seconds later, the dispatcher piped up again. It wasn’t an accident. It was a shooting.

We punched it. A minute later we turned the corner onto the street. An old car with doors thrown open was awkwardly parked in the street near a fire truck. Half a block away, a young man stood next to a firefighter. We drove to them. The young man was shaking in terror and covered in blood. He spoke only Spanish and the firefighter couldn’t understand him. I asked him what happened and he yelled, “She’s in her house! Over there!”

At that point, I had to make a decision. Should I believe anything he said? After all, he could be the murderer himself. But he looked literally almost scared to death. I went with my gut and listened to him.

He pointed down the street. I told him to show me, and we jogged toward a house. As we passed the old car, I glimpsed a shattered body lying in the back seat. Blood covered all the windows. The shaking young man gave me a description of the suspect. Hispanic female, 40ish, short and dumpy, armed with a pistol. She had shot the young man’s friend in the head as they sat together in his back seat.

He pointed out the house and backed off. Officers surrounded the house. My partner, who had almost 20 years on the street, pointed at me and said, “Good luck, brother. God bless.” For some reason, I’ve never forgotten that moment.

My partner and I pounded on the door and stood to the side with weapons drawn. I was nervous. This wasn’t the first murderer I had pursued, but it was the first one I had pursued rights after they killed someone. I didn’t know if she would answer with a gun, shoot at us through the door, or what.

A teenage boy opened the door. I asked him if any women were in the house.

“Just my mom,” he said.

“Where is she?”

“She’s in her bedroom.” He pointed down the hall, just as a short, dumpy Hispanic woman in her 40’s walked into view. We ordered her out of the house. She came outside with a confident look on her face. We handcuffed her. Her dress was clean, but her bare feet were covered with blood.

I walked her to my patrol car. She didn’t say a word. I opened the back door and turned her toward me to sit her down. And then I saw something I had never seen before, and haven’t seen since. The sight froze me for a moment.

A small piece of brain, about the size of my pinky nail, was in her hair, just above the center of her forehead. Everything else was clean, but this piece of brain was clearly visible. I had seen brain matter before several times in shootings, accidents and on a bridge-jumper scene. There was no question about what it was.

I stopped putting her in the back seat and called other officers over. Several crowded around. We stared in amazement at the piece of brain, and one officer took photos for evidence. The woman looked at us in confusion. She didn’t speak English or understand what we said, but apparently she figured out something significant was on her head.

I put her in the back seat and went to the old car in the street. The man in the back seat wasn’t just dead, he was more like. . . destroyed. He had been shot three times in the head with a .357 at close range. For those who think bullets always make a clean little hole going in and a clean little hole going out, I hope you never see what they actually do. The car’s entire interior was covered with blood and tissue.

The terrified friend of the victim told us the story. People who watch CSI and other stupid “cop” shows might think murders are committed by criminal masterminds with a plan that is just barely foiled by astute investigators. If this doesn’t show you how convoluted and stupid murders and murderers can really be, nothing can convince you.

The survivor and his friend had met the woman at a bar the night before. They went back to her house and stayed up all night drinking and snorting cocaine. It was a good time all around.

But sometime in the morning, one of the men (aka “the victim”) finally made a sexual advance on the woman. She got angry and said no. The victim called her a bitch. She said, “Oh yeah? Well I got something for you, wait here.” She went to her bedroom and came back loading a .357 revolver.

At this point the survivor, who on the relative scale stands out as a genius, jumped up, said “I don’t want any part of this” and walked outside to his car. The victim followed a minute later. As soon as the victim got into the front passenger seat, the woman ran outside and jumped into the back seat of the car. Her hand and a large object shaped suspiciously like a .357 revolver were under her t-shirt.

She told the victim, “You’re a coward. If you were a real man, you’d sit back here next to me.”

Of course, the victim had to prove he was a real man. So he said, “Bitch, I’m not afraid of you!” and got in the back seat. The woman told the survivor, “Take me to my friend’s house down the street.”

So our survivor knows he’s got a pissed off, drunk, cocaine-ravaged woman with a pistol under her shirt sitting directly behind him. What does he do? He follows her orders and drives down the street. And remember, of the three people in the car, he’s the genius.

The survivor drove away from the house. Parents were standing at the curb with their children, waiting for the school bus. The woman continued insulting the victim. “You’re a queer, you’re a coward. I should have killed you.”

The victim’s famous last words, no doubt spoken in a confident, masculine manner, were, “Bitch, if you’re going to kill me, just f**king kill me!”

The woman pulled the pistol from under her shirt, put it to the victim’s head, and fired until it was empty. Her first three rounds shattered the victim’s skull. The recoil made her hand rise, and she put the last three through the car’s roof. The woman did this just as they were passing the school bus.

Blood splattered on the car’s windows. The survivor screamed, slammed on the brakes and turned around. The woman pointed the empty pistol at him. He scrambled from the car and ran. The woman got out, covered in gore, stuck the pistol under her shirt and walked home.

Neighbors who were outside with their children saw her drenched in blood, but didn’t know exactly what had happened. They asked her if they should call an ambulance. She answered, “I don’t give a damn, call whoever you want,” and walked into her house.

Someone did call 911 to report. . . an accident. The neighbors heard gunshots. They saw a terrified, blood-covered young man flee from the car. They saw their neighbor walk back to her house covered in blood and who knew what else, with something under her shirt, acting strangely. But they reported an accident, not a shooting. It wasn’t until a fire truck arrived that anyone knew it was a murder.

In my experience, when good people who aren’t used to violence see horrible violence, they don’t believe what they’re seeing. They think it has to be something else. I once arrived on a scene where a bank robber and police officer had just fired over thirty rounds at each other in the street in front of expensive townhomes. Two witnesses told us, “I didn’t think it was real. I thought someone was filming a movie or something.”

So, back to the arrest. After the piece of brain was photographed and I put the woman in the back seat, one of our sergeants talked to her and got her ID info. She was an illegal alien from Central America. The sergeant asked her, “Why’d you kill that guy?”

Her answer was, “I don’t know what you’re talking about. I didn’t kill that guy. I’ve killed people before, but I didn’t kill that guy.”

At that point I finally got it. Short, dumpy, way older, drunk, high on coke, and a murderer? I mean, what guy could pass that up in a bar?

A little while later the homicide investigators showed up. I told them about the piece of brain in the woman’s hair. An investigator said, “Oh man, I gotta see this.”

I took him to the car and let the woman out. She was smiling. I looked above her forehead. The piece of brain was gone. I looked on her hair and face, turned her around, checked her all over. No piece of brain. I leaned into the back seat and searched for it. No brain. My partner tore out the entire back seat. No brain.

I’m pretty sure she ate it. We never found it. Whatever she did with it, she was real proud of herself.

She went to jail. Later that week, we found out the woman actually posted bail. The judge knew she was illegal, knew she would jet right back across the border, and still set her bail at only $30,000. I didn’t expect to ever see her again.

Months later her trial came up. I figured I was wasting my time going since she wouldn’t show up, but I went anyway. To my amazement, she was there.

The first day of the trial went baaaaaddd for her. The jury saw brutal crime scene photos. They heard the survivor’s testimony. They saw a picture of the woman with the piece of brain in her hair, and heard me testify that it was there when we put her in the back seat but then disappeared. They must have had the same suspicion I did about what happened to that piece of brain. I don’t even know what the woman’s defense was, other than “I didn’t do it.” When we were released for the day, I thought, This woman is screwed for sure.

As I left the courthouse I saw the woman. She was at a bus stop with her daughter, staring at me. I shook my head and walked to my car. There was no way she would show up the next day. It would be insane for her to come back.

The next day she came back. And was convicted of murder. And sentenced to life in prison.

I don’t know what shocked me more: the murder, the cannibalism or her appearance in court. Either way, I’m glad I helped put her away. And I’ll never forget her.

That was one hardcore, dangerous woman.

Chris Hernandez is a 22 year police officer, former Marine and recently retired National Guard soldier with over 25 years of military service. He is a combat veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan and also served 18 months as a United Nations police officer in Kosovo. He writes for BreachBangClear.com and Iron Mike magazine and has published three military fiction novels, Proof of Our ResolveLine in the Valley and Safe From the War through Tactical16 Publishing. He can be reached at chris_hernandez_author@yahoo.com or on his Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/ProofofOurResolve).

What Police Work is Really Like: Episode 1

Maglite

So there I was, minding my own business, driving down a dark street in the ‘hood’. Ahead of me, a traffic light turned red. I slowed to a stop as an old Buick coming the other way punched it. The Buick blew the light, passed me and kept going.

I wasn’t real concerned. There was no traffic on the road, and plenty of otherwise good drivers have barely missed a yellow light. I considered letting it go, then decided, What the hell, I’m bored. I guess I should at least run the plate and make sure it’s clear.

I turned around and started after the Buick. The driver sped up. My interest rose. Was this something good, or just someone trying to avoid a ticket? I punched it to catch up. The Buick’s lights turned off. That was it, the chase was on.

I called out the pursuit and stomped on the gas. The driver accelerated to nearly a hundred. I hit the buttons to turn on the lights and siren. Then the Buick’s driver slammed a hard left turn onto a side street.

Oh crap, I thought. Things were about to get interesting. I knew this street; it was a dead end. The driver was going to either run to a house, where he would have family, friends and a psychological this is my house and you have no right to be here advantage, or he was going to hit the dead end and run on foot.

Fortunately for me, he hit the dead end. The driver and passenger bailed out into a cloud of black, burned-rubber smoke. My braking tires left dark streaks on the street as I for once managed the complex symphony of end-of-pursuit actions: throw the gear shift into park, hit the button to turn the siren off (but leave the lights on so backup could find me), turn the ignition off, yank the keys out, kick the door open, hit the lock button so the suspect couldn’t circle back and steal my patrol car, slam the door, stuff the car keys into my back pocket, then charge after the driver as I keyed the radio mike to give the suspect’s description and direction of travel.

This was back in the days when every officer carried a big Mag-Lite or Streamlight flashlight. Whenever we ran from our patrol cars we had to remember to grab the flashlight, or we’d wind up chasing someone in the dark with no light. I, however, was a smart guy. I took a small flashlight, put an elastic sleeve with an extra loop over it, and attached it to my handcuff case flap. That way I could bail out without worrying about forgetting my flashlight. So when I went after the driver, I left my big light behind. Because I’m a genius. I proved it to myself a few minutes later.

I didn’t bother with the passenger. The driver ran across a shallow ditch about twenty feet ahead of me. At this point in my career I was in my late twenties, weighed 125 pounds and ran like a deer. But that was without fifteen pounds of body armor, duty belt, pistol, ammo, radio, pepper spray, baton and handcuffs. With gear I ran more like a giraffe, still pretty fast but not nearly as coordinated. I crossed the ditch and started closing the distance.

The driver turned south. I turned behind him as he crossed under a street light. I got my first good look at him in the yellow halogen glow.

He was shorter than me, stocky and powerfully built. He looked to be about twenty-five. Muscles rippled under his jeans and t-shirt as he sprinted full speed across the street. What was I going to do with this guy once I caught him? If he decided to fight, things could get real ugly, real quick.

Right around this time, I decided to complicate things for myself. Okay, so maybe this wasn’t a conscious decision. I have zero sense of direction, and at this moment my tendency to get lost kicked in. The suspect had run from his car, crossed the ditch and headed south; I keyed my radio and confidently broadcast to dispatch and backup officers, “The suspect is running north!”

The driver turned onto another street. I got the direction right this time, but my previous mistake had thrown the nearest backup unit off. And I didn’t know what street I was on now.

I closed to within arm’s reach of the driver. Tackling and getting into a fistfight with a guy who outweighed me by about eighty pounds and was probably ten times stronger than me seemed like a stupid idea, so I went for plan B. I pulled my pepper spray off my belt, cut a slight angle to get next to the guy, and sprayed him.

He staggered to a stop and tried to rub the spray from his eyes. I shoved him into the ditch. Now he was nearly blind, and I had a position advantage over him. If he’d comply with my commands, I’d have him cuffed by the time backup arrived. If he tried to fight, I could probably keep him down in the ditch until backup arrived. I had this guy. He was done.

Unfortunately, the suspect didn’t see it that way. He climbed back out of the ditch swinging. I sprayed him again. No effect. I dropped the pepper spray, yanked my expandable baton from my belt, extended it and swung.

My first hit did nothing. The suspect swung again and barely missed. I swung and hit again. Twice, three, maybe four times. The suspect didn’t notice. At the academy, we were told that if we hit a suspect with a baton, he would drop to his knees, cry, suck his thumb, and pledge his life to Jesus. This guy acted like I was swinging at him with a wet strand of spaghetti. He kept coming, fists flying.

Finally – don’t ask me how, because I don’t remember – I managed to hit his foot. That had an effect. He dropped backward. I ordered him to get on his face and put his hands behind his back. He complied. I stuck my baton back onto my belt, popped my handcuff case, pulled out my only set of cuffs, and knelt on the driver’s back to cuff him.

He flipped over and swung. I jumped backward. He popped to his knees and came at me. I dropped the cuffs and went for my baton again. The suspect put his hand down to push himself up. . . and it just happened to land right on my pepper spray.

He picked up the pepper spray and looked at it in astonishment. I thought, Oh, crap, backed off and drew my pistol. I’ve been sprayed in the eyes with pepper spray before. It’s like being stabbed in the brain with an ice pick. If this guy sprayed me, he’d be able to beat and disarm me easy. So I prepared myself to shoot.

The suspect ran. I ran behind him, shouting breathlessly into the radio, “We’re running west again! I don’t know what street we’re on! He’s got my pepper spray!”

The suspect reached over his shoulder and tried to spray me. He couldn’t figure out how to work the trigger. I stayed a few feet behind him, running with my pistol in my hand, yelling “If you spray me, I’m going to shoot you!”

He gave up trying to spray me. I holstered my pistol. We ran past a group of older people sitting on the front porch of a house. I shouted to them, “What street are we on?” They didn’t answer.

Crap. We were about two blocks into the chase, and I had no idea where we were. That wasn’t good.

I decided to try something different. I charged up behind the suspect and shoved him off balance. He fell, shot right back up and kept running. Son of a. . . I tried it again. He was back on his feet running in about a second.

We passed an intersection. The street signs were missing, probably taken down by guys who don’t want cops to know where we are in situations like this one. I charged up and knocked the suspect down again. He popped back up like a weeble-wobble and kept going.

We made it about another block. I was starting to wear out. Officers called me over the radio, asked where I was. I had no idea. I heard sirens in the distance, but they weren’t coming toward us. I reached for the flashlight on my cuff case so I could signal responding units. It wasn’t there. I searched my belt frantically. The light was gone. My super genius idea had backfired on me. The light had fallen off my cuff case flap during the foot pursuit.

The suspect cut left, dove and started crawling through a hole in a front yard fence. I reached down and grabbed his waistband. We had a tug of war over his pants. Now I was feeling really tired. He clawed at the ground and kicked his way through the hole. I couldn’t hang on. He broke free and ran toward a house.

I struggled to my feet and ran toward the gate. The suspect turned the corner to the back of the house. I ran through the gate and stumbled to the backyard.

The suspect was standing to the side of the back door, pepper spray in one hand, other hand pounding on the door, shrieking “Momma!” over and over.

I stopped a ways off. Now things were bad. I radioed that I was behind a house. The sirens were louder, but still not close enough. The exertion of the four-block foot chase/fight had caught up to me. I was smoked. And now, if this really was the suspect’s house, I might be screwed.

For some families, if the cops are chasing their kid, the cops are wrong. Even if they just saw their kid set fire to a nun, it’s still the cops’ fault. So I had to get this guy in custody before his family came flying out the door.

I took stock of the situation. I still had no idea where we were. I was worn out. My cuffs were back at the ditch, I had no way to cuff the suspect. My flashlight was gone so I couldn’t signal backup. The baton hadn’t worked. The suspect had my pepper spray.

I leaned over and tried to get my breath. The suspect kept beating on the door and screaming for his mother. I made a decision.

I backed up, took a running started and slammed the suspect into the wall. His head bounced off the wood. He seemed stunned for a moment, then started pounding on the door faster and screaming “Momma!” even louder. I staggered backward, cursing in frustration, and charged him again. His head bounced off the wall again. Another stunned moment, and he went right back to screaming and hitting the door. With almost my last bit of energy, I charged him again. He bounced off the wall, kept screaming and knocking.

I felt lightheaded. I really had no idea what to do. Nothing was working. I started to accept the possibility that this guy was going to get into the house, or the family was going to come out and try to beat me to death. Either way, the result would be bad.

Right then, the most beautiful man I have ever seen ran around the corner. Another officer, a former Army paratrooper, had followed my bad directions from the dead end, ran the wrong way until he figured it out, backtracked and found the right street, then followed the screams.

Together we cuffed the suspect. Right after I got my pepper spray back, the door opened. A middle-aged woman in a robe stood in the doorway staring at the suspect. The suspect yelled, “This is my house! That’s my momma!”

I froze. This could still have turned into a riot with us two officers against the family. The woman looked back at the suspect with scorn and answered coldly, “You don’t live here.” The relief I felt was almost palpable.

Later we found out the suspect was driving a stolen car, and was high on PCP. I had somehow broken his foot when I hit him with the baton. He ran another three blocks on the broken foot. Later, at the hospital, we had a pleasant conversation about the whole incident. He even apologized to me, and we shook hands.

I learned some lessons that night. First, be prepared for everything to fail. Second, stay humble; if this guy had connected with one good punch, I would probably have been knocked out, maybe disarmed and killed. As I’ve said before, I ain’t no tough guy.

But the most important lesson I learned was: don’t give up. Hang in there, and your brothers and sisters will come to your rescue. My belief in my fellow officers and soldiers has helped me through some rough situations, and they’ve never let me down.

 

Chris Hernandez is a 22 year police officer, former Marine and recently retired National Guard soldier with over 25 years of military service. He is a combat veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan and also served 18 months as a United Nations police officer in Kosovo. He writes for BreachBangClear.com and Iron Mike magazine and has published three military fiction novels, Proof of Our ResolveLine in the Valley and Safe From the War through Tactical16 Publishing. He can be reached at chris_hernandez_author@yahoo.com or on his Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/ProofofOurResolve).