Wednesday, December 15, 2010
It was the Christmas season when family togetherness and joy should be filling our hearts. Unfortunately this night jealousy and assault with a deadly weapon would be the offerings for the holiday season.
I was working the graveyard shift and pulled the short straw for an undesirable assignment. I was assigned to guard a home in the lower southeast side of town that had been quarantined by the County Health Officer because the residents were all highly contagious with the very communicable disease of hepatitis.
When I arrived, I found out the entire family had been quarantined and on their large wraparound porch there were huge piles of dirty clothing and diapers. Charitable organizations had given this family clothing and diapers and they never washed the clothing or disposed of the diapers properly; they would just throw them outside onto one of the piles. Rats infested the property and the County Health Officer had placed multiple traps around the home to catch some of them. The rats were likely infected with disease.
My responsibility was to make sure no one came onto the property or left the home. Midway through my shift, I was relieved by the district patrol officer so I could have a lunch break. It was about 2:30 AM and I was driving down a major avenue looking for a hamburger joint to buy a heart attack in a sack.
I got to a major intersection with the following establishments on the corners: a church, a battery repair shop, a fast food place (my destination), and a tavern. As I approached this intersection the traffic signal turned red. Stopping at the light, I could see several patrons from the tavern standing around a female body lying on the pavement. When they saw me, two of them ran towards me and told me the lady had just been shot by someone resting a rifle over the hood of a pickup truck that was across the street in the church parking lot.
I called for backup and a code three ambulance to respond. As I was pulling into the tavern parking lot to offer first aid to the victim, several more patrons yelled to me the assailant was just now leaving the church, heading westbound without his truck headlights on. I could see the victim was shot just above the elbow and her arm bone was severely shattered. One of the patrons said she was a nurse and would render first aid if I wanted to go after the bad guy.
I took off, running code three after the suspect, that I could now barely see driving down the street in his truck as fast as he could go. It was an old truck and was geared really low so I knew I could catch him. He too knew I could catch him so he started making quick turns into a dark neighborhood while trying to lose me.
I was staying back far enough from the truck so the suspect would not stop, jump out, and start running through yards or turn his rifle on me. By holding back some distance it would allow covering officers time to arrive to assist me in making a felony car stop. All of a sudden without warning the driver braked the truck very hard and pulled to the curb.
Occasionally a fleeing operator of a van or pickup will stop quickly for one of four reasons.
1. When an officer pulls up behind the suspect he can back up, ramming his trailer hitch through the patrol cars’ radiator. He knows the officer won’t be able to follow him for very long before the patrol car overheats and the engine freezes.
2. The fleeing suspect might get out to shoot at the officer. Being shot at was my biggest concern in this chase.
3. The suspect tries to escape on foot.
4. The fleeing suspect wants to surrender
I stopped several car lengths behind the suspect and jumped out of my car with a loaded shotgun. I got behind a large tree that offered great cover. I then yelled for the suspect to turn off his vehicle, drop the keys on the pavement and put his hands on his head. He didn’t follow any of these commands. He just fell over in the seat towards the passenger side like he had been shot. I didn’t shoot him so I couldn’t figure out why he as behaving this way.
I again ordered him to get out of the truck on the passenger side and keep his hands where I could see them. Again he didn’t follow my commands, but I could see him moving around like he was trying to hide something under the truck seat. Next I went to the passenger side of my patrol car and used the bull horn to order him out of the truck because I thought maybe he couldn’t hear my commands. This time he complied and followed my commands by exiting the passenger door, lying on the ground, putting his arms out to his sides (spread eagle) and crossing his legs and feet as directed.
I waited for a cover officer to arrive to search the suspect and handcuff him while I held him at gunpoint. When he exited the passenger side of the truck he left the door open and I could see the barrel of a high powered rifle poking out from under the seat. Witnesses at the tavern had told me they heard a high powered rifle shot just as the victim fell to the ground.
Once I had the suspect secured in the back seat of my patrol car I recovered the rifle carefully so as not to disturb fingerprints. The chamber was still radiating heat that could be felt in the cold night air. It was a bolt action 30.06 rifle. Opening the chamber I carefully removed the cartridge with a pencil so it could be dusted for fingerprints. I could also smell the fresh burnt power.
I advised the suspect of his Miranda rights and then called for detectives to come process the crime scene as an attempted murder. I radioed the dispatcher to inquire where the victim was being taken for treatment and when the bad guy heard the dispatcher say they were taking “HER” to a nearby hospital he went berserk.
In a voice filled with shock and panic he asked me why they were taking “her” to the hospital. I told him because “you shot her”. As he realized he shot his girlfriend instead of his intended target, her date, he started to scream and cry. He gave me several spontaneous statements about what a cheating despicable person the new boyfriend was, especially since he used to be his trusted friend and now he was trying to steal his girlfriend. In order to get his girlfriend back he intended to kill his former friend as they came out of the tavern.
After detectives relieved me of this guy, to take him to the interrogation room for questioning, I decided to return to the scene of the shooting to look for additional evidence. To my amazement I didn’t have to search very long or hard to find the slug that had passed through her arm. I had the crime scene photographer take a picture of the location then I collected the slug as evidence. Later lab tests would verify that the rifling marks on the slug matched the riflings from the weapon and the tissue embedded in the slug matched the victim’s, so the slug became a valuable piece of evidence. After the judicial process this man spent the next 25 years in the state penitentiary for attempted murder.
When we feel others are taking advantage of us by taking something from us, our natural reaction is to take it back. But if we will allow the Lord to guide us to a higher level of existence, He will bless us with wanted relationships and things of this world that we may need. He is the giver of all good gifts, possessions, and relationships that are righteous. He teaches us the correct way to respond when someone is trying to take advantage of us in, Matthew 5:44
“But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;”
This can be hard counsel to follow, but I know that if we will trust the Lord to give us all good gifts He will guide along the path of happiness.
As I drove home that night I felt I had experienced the sad message from one of the verses of the Christmas song, I heard the Bells on Christmas Day –
And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”
Yet the Gospel of Jesus Christ does give us peace and hope, as the author of the song realized when he penned another verse:
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor does he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men.”
Text: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Music: John Baptiste Calkin
I look forward with each passing year for that great day when the Lord will return to earth to restore lasting peace.
Posted by Elder Watts at 10:42 PM