What Police Work is Really Like, Episode VII: A Pleasant Evening at a Local Nightclub
So there I was, minding my own business, parked in a dark parking lot watching a crime hot spot across the street. This was years back, when worry about terrorism was way high. Officers were still assigned to guard critical sites like electrical stations and water purification plants. A friend of mine was guarding one of those spots, elsewhere in my beat. Close by the site she was guarding stood a nightclub, the kind any decent person avoids and gangsters love.
This club was notorious for fights, shootings and just generally being a pain in the ass. Customers sometimes stole cars just so they could drive there and show them off. People would wander out of the club high on PCP, then stand in the street freaking out. One time a super-high guy outside the club actually flagged down a police car, then climbed onto the hood and started screaming at the officer through the windshield. When I heard her yell for help on the radio I thought she sounded, shall we say, a tad concerned. I had been in a couple of stolen car chases that started there and had worked several shootings in and around the club.
One night a friend and I parked our patrol cars in a huge, well-lit parking lot behind the club. As we were talking, someone outside the club started shooting. My friend and I couldn’t see far past the club’s fence; just on the other side of the fence, I saw a guy crawling under a car. About 15 shots were fired. I thought, Oh hell, I’m about to get into a shooting. We took off, screeched around the corner and rushed into the club parking lot. Not only did we not see anyone shot, we couldn’t get anyone to talk to us. Nobody would even look at us. And nobody called the police.
So I guess you could say this club was a total craphole.
So on this early Sunday morning, I didn’t feel like prowling around that club looking for stolen cars driven by gunmen high on PCP. Instead I decided to watch this other bad spot in my beat. But unfortunately my friend, on guard at a critical site, decided to ruin my quiet morning. At around 3 a.m., she sent me a message on my computer:
I just heard a loud crash and gunshots at the club.
I knew that whatever happened at the club, it was going to be a mess. I checked the computer for calls holding in the beat. Seven calls for an accident or shooting had just dropped. I headed that way before the dispatcher told me to.
When I arrived there was mass chaos. Four wrecked cars were scattered in front of the club. People were running around screaming. Backup units showed up as I did, and we started trying to figure out what happened. Only a couple of people would talk to us, but eventually we pieced together some of it.
At this club, patrons would just stop in the middle of a busy street to drop people off or pick them up. Four cars were stopped in front of the club. And an old pickup came flying down the street and smashed right into the last car.
The last car hit the one ahead, which hit the one ahead, and so on. People in and around the cars were knocked to the street and probably injured. The old truck was badly damaged and smoking, but the driver backed up, swerved around the wreck he caused and tried to speed off.
At this point, a concerned citizen outside the club pulled his pistol and emptied a magazine at the fleeing truck. He did this despite the fact that hundreds of club patrons were scattered everywhere. More on this later.
Backup units started trying to find the drivers of the wrecked cars and I drove in the direction the pickup had fled. A couple of minutes later, I found it. The front end was smashed in and still smoking. The driver had made two quick turns, then drove into a heavily wooded dead end. A bullet hole was in the back window, above the headrest, perfectly placed to nail someone right in the back of the head. But it was on the passenger side, not the driver’s. I looked inside the truck. It was empty, nobody had been hit.
Now I was pissed. I’m not saying I wished I had found the driver with a bullet in his head. But I was hoping he’d still be inside the truck.
Meanwhile, my friends had no luck finding any occupants of the other cars. Four vehicles full of people, and they all fled the scene before we showed up. Maybe they took off because they had warrants, were high or had drugs on them. They didn’t show up at local hospitals.
I was frustrated as hell, knowing I wouldn’t get home for hours after the end of my shift. Now I had a hit and run accident with five vehicles involved, and the at-fault driver on the loose. Spent shells needed to be collected as evidence. We had tons of reports to fill out. And at the end of all that work, I wouldn’t even have a bad guy to throw in jail.
I called K9 to help me search for the driver. It was just a formality; I figured the driver was long gone, having a beer at a friend’s house and laughing about how he had smashed up a bunch of gangster cars at a gangster club, barely missed being shot and got away. And all he lost was his twenty-year old piece of crap pickup, which he’d spend $100 to replace the next day.
Right around the time I was fuming over my escaped hit and run driver, he stumbled out of the woods. Right next to the club.
Fortunately for him, an officer grabbed him before the crowd did. He was slobbering, stupid drunk. I headed back to the club to put him in my patrol car.
I was ecstatic that my bad guy was under arrest. But there was a downside. Now I had a five vehicle hit and run accident, a drunk driving arrest that could take hours to complete, evidence to be tagged, and tons-plus of reports to write. Then the dispatcher called me on the radio and made it worse.
A gunshot victim had arrived at a nearby emergency room. He told the doctor he had been shot in the hand while standing across the street from the club. Our concerned citizen had – shockingly – managed to shoot an uninvolved spectator. Of course the victim was suffering momentary amnesia from the gunshot: “Man, I didn’t see nuthin’. I just heard gunshots and then somethin’ hit me in the hand.” Now I had a five vehicle hit and run, a drunk driver to process, evidence, a gunshot victim, and metric tons of reports to write.
Then we checked the drunk for warrants. And found out he was an illegal alien wanted for sexually abusing a child in another state.
Putting his punk ass in jail was worth writing the metric ton of reports.
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Tags: police work, veteran writers