What Police Work is Really Like, Episode III: The Midnight Snack
So there I was, minding my own business, patrolling the hood on night shift. It was a quiet weeknight, nothing too interesting had happened. The streets were almost empty. I was wandering around looking for stolen cars and hoping for a good call.
The dispatcher bumped me. “Suicide in progress” at an apartment complex. I didn’t get too excited. Those calls can be anything from a real suicide to a panicked parent calling because their son was passed out drunk. They rarely turn out to be an actual suicide attempt. I turned around and headed toward the apartment complex.
Just before I turned the corner toward the complex I heard two officers announce they had arrived. I sped up, hoping to catch them before they found the apartment. Apartment complexes are usually huge and confusing, with numbered buildings laid out in no particular order. Unless you know the complex, it takes a while to figure out where you are.
I reached the apartment complex entrance and started to turn. A car was speeding toward me in the opposing lane. I jammed on the brakes and waited for the car to pass. Then the driver started flashing the high beams and waving frantically. She stopped beside me, pointed toward a fast food restaurant a couple hundred yards ahead and yelled, “They’re robbing the hamburger place!”
Okay, now I was excited. If memory serves me correctly, stats show that more officers are killed on robberies in progress than any other type of call. The likelihood was that I would be in a gunfight within seconds of arrival. I got a quick description: black guy, about thirty, real muscular, no shirt. She didn’t know if he had a weapon.
I called it out on the radio and stomped on the gas pedal. Seconds later I pulled into the parking lot. I saw a cluster of scared restaurant employees huddled around one corner. They pointed behind the restaurant. A shirtless, muscular black man was walking away.
I sped toward the man, stopped about twenty feet behind him, kept one foot on the brake and the other on the gas, and grabbed the PA microphone. I could see the man’s hands and didn’t see a gun. But if he turned around, pulled a gun from his waistband and started shooting, my car would be a better weapon than my pistol.
I keyed the PA and ordered the man to stop. He spun around to face me. No gun visible anywhere. The man started screaming something I couldn’t understand. I threw the car in park, drew my weapon and jumped out of the car. From behind the door, I ordered the man to lie on his stomach. He stayed on his feet and kept screaming maniacally.
At this point, I noticed a few things about the man. He was sweating profusely on a cool night. He was shaking. His eyes were bugged out and face taut with fury. He had something white smeared on his head and face. I’m no expert, but by golly, I was starting to suspect the man was under the influence of an illegal drug!
I ordered the man to lie down again. He yelled back an answer I’ll never forget: “Berk grang huffsa furdis!”
Okay, maybe that’s not exactly what he said. The point is, he was screaming unintelligibly. I didn’t know what the hell he was yelling at me, but I’m fairly certain it wasn’t friendly.
I ordered him down again. He took a step toward me. I thought, Oh, crap. Only a short distance separated us. If he started running, he’d be on me in a couple seconds. I still couldn’t see a weapon, but he was bigger and looked way stronger than me. Plus he was stoned out of his mind. I didn’t have a Taser, and in my experience pepper spray and batons don’t work well on strong guys who are super high.
I ordered him to stop. He kept coming. I yelled more orders. He screamed something that sounded like the Aramaic version of “I hate you and everything you stand for.”
He reached my front bumper. I had to decide what to do. Jump in the car and back away? Holster my pistol and pull pepper spray, in the probably vain hope that it would stop the guy from beating me to death? Shoot an unarmed man? Whatever I decided to do, the end result probably wouldn’t be good.
I heard roaring engines and squealing tires. To my relief, two patrol cars raced through the parking lot and slid to a stop beside me. Officers jumped out with Tasers in their hands. As soon as the suspect saw red laser dots on his chest, he IMMEDIATELY dropped to his stomach with his hands behind his back. He hadn’t been too scared of getting shot, but apparently he’d ridden the lightning before and wanted no part of that.
We rushed up and handcuffed him. He was still shaking and speaking in tongues. When I cuffed him I got white, oily stuff on my hands. I stuck the guy in the back seat and grabbed some napkins and hand sanitizer from my car. As I cleaned my hands, I wondered, What the hell is this crap? I was afraid to smell it, and my mind went to dark places as I considered the possibilities.
We took the man back to the restaurant. The employees were terrified. Before I could interview them, a frantic young man drove into the parking lot, jumped out and said he had just been robbed.
We got everyone calmed down, and eventually figured out what had happened.
The stoned guy in my back seat was my “suicide in progress” subject from the apartment complex. It turned out he wasn’t trying to kill himself, he was just high and tearing up his girlfriend’s apartment. When she called the police, he jetted out the door.
In the parking lot he ran across a random guy getting into his car, and of course decided to carjack him. Random guy had just sat in the driver’s seat and started to close the door. Stoned guy grabbed the handle and tried to pull it open while screaming something about car keys. Random guy, understandably startled, got into a tug of war with stoned guy. Stoned guy pulled so hard on the door that the inner door panel tore off. Random guy grabbed a crowbar and jumped out. Stoned guy gave up on the carjacking, but broke the car’s side view mirror off just to make a point. Then he ran across the street, probably seconds after the first two officers arrived at the complex.
At the burger joint across the street, a young female employee was standing outside smoking a cigarette. The burger joint’s lobby doors were locked, but its drive-thru was open all night. The employee watched stoned guy run to a tree in front of the restaurant. He was ranting about something she couldn’t understand. Then he started chewing on the tree.
The young woman noticed right away that this was unusual. She called to her manager through the drive-thru window, “Hey, come check out this crazy dude chewing on a tree outside”. The manager looked outside, just as the stoned guy gave up on the tree and ran to the locked doors.
Stoned guy yanked on the doors and screamed at the employees. Leaves were falling out of his mouth. For some odd reason, nobody let him in. He ran to the other side of the restaurant, and yanked on those locked door. The lock broke. He ran inside and jumped the counter. Employees fled in mortal terror. Stoned guy ran around knocking crap off the counters. Then he scooped a handful of mayonnaise from a container, smeared it in his hair, and walked out the back door. Shortly after that, I showed up.
So the most important question was answered. The white stuff I got on my hands when I cuffed the guy was mayonnaise. I wouldn’t have to burn my outer layer of skin off after all.
I went back to my car to ID my robber. When I ran him I was shocked – shocked! – to discover he had a long history of drug-related arrests. He was speaking English now, and demanded to know why I arrested him.
“You tore up your girlfriend’s apartment, tried to rob someone in the parking lot, then broke into the burger place and wiped mayonnaise all over your head.”
“You’re lying! You set me up! I didn’t do that!”
He kept ranting about his innocence and corrupt police who were arresting him just for nuthin’. I ignored him as I completed his arrest paperwork. About ten minutes later, he had come down from the drugs enough to change his attitude a little.
“I really did all that? Damn. Serious, you’re not messing with me? Man, I gotta quit doin’ PCP.”
In the end, he wound up going to jail for trying to rob the random guy and for damaging the burger joint. His girlfriend and the tree refused to press charges. We actually had a nice conversation on the way downtown, and he wasn’t too mad at me when I handed him to the jailers.
Moral of the story? I dunno, how about, “Don’t get high on PCP, tear up your girlfriend’s apartment, fail at being a carjacker, chew on a defenseless tree, break into a burger joint and slather your head with condiments?” Or maybe a better way to say it is, “Don’t be a dumbass.”
Filed under: Cops | 22 Comments
Tags: drugs, pcp, police