Posted on March 30, 2010
Law Enforcement Stories
Few things get your attention as quickly.
The sound of an officer in serious trouble over the radio. The gasping, breathless, half strangled attempt to call for backup. Clipped, short, half sentences, never finished. With the sound of a desperate struggle going on, cursing, yelling. You can almost sense the blows landing, the fists beating on faces, and always there is that horrible hint of maybe worse to come. Knives, guns.
Maybe serious injury. Maybe Death.
I was listening to it now, streaking low and fast through the dark Arizona night. Going as fast as my OH58 would carry me.
What the f….k is going on?
I had no idea. All I knew is that I had been called out of bed after 1 a.m. With a curt Dispatcher order to launch immediately, and head for a small town. No observer available. That was all I knew. She sounded stressed, in a hurry, and the phone clicked dead before I could ask any further questions.
I had legged it out to my car, raced to the hangar, and now I was at 500 feet, heading North. I was following the main road, and to my surprise I could see the night sky lit up with flashing blue. Endless cop cars were running code. Not in a convoy, as in a car chase, but spread out over miles. As if many had been called out of bed, thrown their clothes on, and were now simply getting there as fast as they could.
Not good…. but what the…. is going on?
I started picking up hints as to what was happening. There was some kind of fight going on, then a foot pursuit, then more fighting. For so many cops to be called out, there had to be a whole gang of bad guys. It was also telling that no observer had been sent to the hangar to ride with me. That post belonged to who ever was on duty, and trained up. They had obviously sent the assigned observer straight there. Rather than wait the ten minutes for me to get to the hangar. Again, not good.
More officers were now arriving on the actual scene. In the distance ahead, I could see a mass of flashing blue. I was converging on the scene as fast as I could pedal. I was picking up more radio traffic now. A vague description of the suspect. One… suspect.
All this was for ONE bad guy? Wow…
I switched on the light. The ‘Starburst’ glowed dully for a few seconds, and then lit off. Now the guys could all see the helicopter approaching, and the long silver tongue of light, licking the ground. Like a serpent, tasting, smelling, hunting…
There were more cops on the scene, and the foot chase was now becoming more organized. Instructions were being shouted.
“There he goes! Past that feed bin! “
“He went round the back! Round the back! “
“Rob! Go left! Go left! “
Then, the first call to me:
“Air One! We need the light over here! I’m flashing my light! “
I could see a flashlight pointing at me, waving deliberately. I headed over.
Soon I was in a slow orbit, washing the light slowly over a range of outbuildings and sheds. The tongue licked testingly over rusty corrugated iron, fences, trees, some houses, a double garage. I had become quite adept at operating the search light whilst flying. It had taken a lot of practice, but now I could pretty well aim it where anybody requested it. And all the while I was orbiting, orbiting.
Now I was getting a description of the single suspect. Blue jeans, dirty white T-shirt, stocky, black hair tied in a pony tail. It appeared he was highly violent, and had already fought with several officers in the half darkness, escaping each time. An ambulance had been called. At least one of the officers involved had been hurt. The Patrol Commander was enroute now. He was inquiring about weapons. The suspect had wielded a knife, but that had been dropped in one of the skirmishes. Nobody had seen a gun on him, but that didn’t mean he didn’t have one.
I caught sight of rapid movement. I manipulated the ‘StarBurst’ control toggle, and lit up one of our deputies. He wouldn’t like that. I moved the light on. Another movement. Another tweak on the control toggle. Another deputy. The tongue tasted, and moved on. Yet another quick movement. The tongue flicked…
Blue jeans, dirty white T-shirt…. running like crazy…
Instantly the radio frequency went into a weird squeal. Too many people transmitting at the same time.
SCREEEEE-WARBLE-That’s him!-SCREEE-WARBLE-Jim, at the back, at the back!-SCREEEE…..
I saw the suspect stare up at the helicopter for a fleeting second, then run around a corner…
Then a voice. Ron. One of our sergeants. Always cool under stress.
“Okay, everybody, listen up! He’s run into that brick storage building! The one with the bars over the windows. Cover the perimeters! “
Within a minute, the storage building was surrounded. I settled into a stable orbit, washing the light over the scene. Ron spoke up again, a note of satisfaction in his voice.
“Air One! Okay, keep that light going just like that. Everybody, settle down, we’ve got him penned up! “
You could sense the relief. At least that was something. The various voices on frequency, previously panting and sounding very much out of breath, started to calm down. Now we could just take our time. The bad guy wasn’t going anywhere. There was no rush…
Or so we all thought…
I thought I could see movement. Somebody spoke up.
“He’s smashing out the window! Take cover in case he’s armed! “
That was strange. Ominous. Everybody ducked behind cover. Why else would he be breaking out the window? He had to be armed. The danger to the cops had now ratcheted right back up again.
Accidentally, I ran the light over one of our guys, hiding behind somewhat inadequate cover.
“Air One! “
His voice sounded indignant.
“You’re lighting ME up! “
With a muttered “Sorry! “, I slid the light off him. One handed, without my observer, it wasn’t as easy as maybe he thought. But at least we had the Bad Guy penned up.
Now I could see bits of glass flying out onto the ground. He had to be smashing out the window with an iron bar or something. What on earth was he up to?
I thought I saw something. On the next slow orbit, I could see his arms, waving out the window. But it was no surrender gesture.
“Air One! “
There was a certain disbelief in somebody’s voice.
“I think he’s flipping you the bird! “
I smiled to myself. He could flip me off all he liked. We had him, and he could cool off for a while. I was pleased. This maintained my 100% success rate. If I saw the suspect, or the car, so far, I had scored 100%. I never lost them, day or night, and we had a 100% arrest rate. I was just a member of a team, but it sure was rewarding.
I wondered idly how the guys would play this one. Probably just wait him out. Let him stew for a while.
Now I could see something shiny on the wall beneath the obscenely gesturing arms.
He was screaming abuse as well. I could hear him in the background, taunting and cursing, whenever somebody keyed their radios.
I dropped a little lower for a few seconds, and popped back up again. Strange. There was red all down the wall beneath the waving arms. Horrified, I hit the mike:
“Hey guys! Am I seeing what I’m seeing…? “
A weary voice replied to me. Weary. Tired. Exhausted. And really, really ticked off.
“Yeah, you’re seeing what you’re seeing… “
The red was blood. The Bad Guy had deliberately slashed both wrists on the broken pieces of glass, and was still flipping the bird to the helicopter, with arterial spurters erupting blood all over the white washed wall.
It was defiance. Pure defiance.
“Fuck you! You can’t touch me….! “
The situation was now totally changed. It was no longer possible to sit and wait the fugitive out. Wait until he got fed up, hungry, or sobered up. Wait until somebody could talk common sense into him. Or wait until the SWAT team assembled. The harassed cops, including those previously fighting with the suspect, now had to concern themselves with immediate intervention, to save the suspect’s life.
I listened to the radio discussions sadly. I really wondered if the sleeping citizenry, asleep now in the comfort of their beds, had any idea of what it was like to be a cop on the front line. Dealing with the crazies.
The K-9 unit had arrived, and the discussion now was to as to the possibility that the suspect was maybe armed with a gun. There was no telling. The decision was made to aim weapons at the ready at all the windows, to offer cover for the officers who would attempt to force in the door, which was believed to barricaded.
I watched from the helicopter, orbiting slowly, playing out the light.
With great difficulty, they managed to force the door open a crack. The first Law Enforcement unit in through the narrow opening was the dog. A massive Alsatian. I wouldn’t argue with the pooch, not if you gave me a thousand bucks, but our suspect in no time was on top of the dog, beating hell out of the dog. Next in was the angry dog handler, who met the same fate. It took four cops, pepper spray, night sticks, and a whole bunch of yelling and screaming before our suspect was over powered. It was only now that the medics could go to work on his wrists, in order to save his life.
It emerged our crazy dude was high on PCP. A truly pernicious and evil drug. It made him impervious to pain, incredibly strong, invincible in his own mind, and totally irrational. What sane man would possibly slash his own wrists in order to signal defiance?
“Fuck you! You can’t touch me….! “
When it was over, I landed the bird not far from the scene. The crazy guy was leaving in the ambulance, with several cops on board. The rest of the guys were just recovering. I remember noticing how little banter there was. Just tired, tired, and very hacked off cops. Unsung heroes. I was proud of them.
It was a strange sight, and hard to forget. Two arms, waving out the window, flipping the bird at the helicopter, with blood spattering all over the wall. Our friend owed his life to the unstinting dedication of the pigs.
Not that he would ever likely say ‘thank-you’…