Friday, July 16, 2010

Black Powder Man

As young cop I was working the first watch, midnight to 8 AM shift, with Tuesday -Wednesday off for my weekend. On many of my days off I would have to testify in court between 9AM and 5PM and then I would try to get a couple of hours of sleep prior to going to work. Prior to going to work on Wednesday evening about 11:30 PM I had been trying to live a normal life on my weekend while testifying in court. I was tired and my wing man (the officer working an adjoining district that usually covered me on calls for service and vice versa) was also a young cop and was exhibiting fatigue with behavior that sometimes was lacking good judgment because of lack of sleep.

As I left role call it was a cool night, the tree leaves were turning bright colors, and the night air had a crispness that invigorated my lungs. I went to my patrol car as it was lightly raining and there was a heavy mist in the air. I tested all the emergency lights on the patrol car and the mist in the air would catch the bright lights filling the night with patriotic red, white, and blue flashes like fireworks in the night sky. My body charged with adrenalin as I locked my loaded shotgun into its rack and pinned my badge onto my outer jacket.

About 1:00 AM I got a call regarding a fight in a bar. This tavern had a reputation for attracting a rough crowd. My wing man and another adjoining district car were dispatched to cover me. The third officer was always welcome cover. His nick name was no-neck. He had played football in college and was as big around in the chest as he was tall, with no neck; it was all muscle.

As we arrived we could hear the brawl inside with shouts of, “He’s got a gun and they have a knives.” There were dozens of bodies to plow through so no-neck ducked his head and drove himself forward like a wedge into the center of the commotion. We were right behind him when we heard a gunshot and the room immediately filled with thick black powder smoke. Several friends of each combatant were trying to keep them from shooting and stabbing each other. Their friends had pulled the arm of the man with the gun downward causing the black powder pistol to discharge. I took down and arrested the man holding the pistol and handcuffed him. My wing man and no-neck arrested two other men brandishing large Buck knives.

We each took one of the subjects to our patrol car and obtained their statement then whisked them off to jail knowing they would never testify against each other and that this event was just another peace keeping exercise. The tavern owner would not file a complaint either because he didn’t want to lose his liquor license or be ticketed for serving drunken patrons.

After booking these thugs into jail I drove to no-neck’s district to meet with him and get his report to attach to mine. I next met with my wing man and while visiting with each other we positioned our squad cars side by side, facing opposite directions, so the drivers’ windows were together. As I collected his report and the knives (so I could put them into evidence) he requested to see the black powder pistol my subject had discharged. I suggested we not handle the pistol because it had been hand loaded too long ago with black powder and may have been loaded with too much black powder. The back powder was deteriorating and beginning to weep from the chambers. Also the percussion caps were split and looked unstable. He persisted until I relented and handed him the pistol advising him to keep it pointed away from me.

My wing man then began manipulating the weapon when all of a sudden I heard a thundering blast. I quickly looked towards his car window and all I could see was black powder smoke boiling out of his window like a volcano bellowing smoke. I yelled at him twice asking if he was OK but there was no response. I was now concerned he had shot himself, so I pulled my car forward so I could open my door and find out what had happened. As the smoke was clearing I again inquired if he was OK. He responded, now with tears rolling down both cheeks, that he was OK but that he had wet his pants. His face and hands were covered with black powder soot. I then saw that the windshield had been blown completely out of the car and was lying on the hood.

I called our sergeant who had the patrol car towed to the repair shop for a new windshield and I took my wing man back to the precinct for a change of clothing. Wing man now had a new role call name; Black Powder Man. For the next few months he would answer; Yeah, yeah, I’m here, when his new nick name was called amid snickering in the background.

Lack of sleep, fatigue, and poor judgment caused a near fatal accident. Black Powder Man learned what he should have already known; you don’t play with loaded guns. Sometimes we make mistakes and some of those mistakes have eternal consequences. However, when we are truly sorry for our mistakes Jesus Christ will forgive us through His atonement. Then we must try our best to not repeat the mistake, keep His commandments (laws) and serve Him all the days of our lives.

It’s a wonderful blessing to know we can move forward and improve each day of our lives as we call upon our Savior for forgiveness. His has paid the price for our mistakes and wants us to accept Him as our Savior. To learn more about Christ’s atonement visit or

Spot Removal

In past episodes of Mormon Cop I have avoided using names and locations because communication techniques are getting so advanced I worry about embarrassing someone if they should see their story on this blog. Police do not see people at their best; usually officers see them at their absolute worst. Many times I have met the subject of a police contact some time later and they want to apologize for their extreme behavior that required police intervention. However, this incident is correlated to a person’s name so I will risk telling his story, hopefully without offending or embarrassing him.

On a beautiful Sunday morning I was on patrol out of East Precinct on the day watch. It was during the month of June about 10:30 in the morning. The cool morning air and dew were giving way to warm sunshine and clear skies. Dispatch sent me to the international airport that has an area where people can park their cars and watch planes take off and land on a nearby runway. This is such a popular area there are usually food cart vendors in this parking lot. One such vendor was just setting up his hotdog stand when he noticed a man sitting in a vehicle with the engine running and he was drinking a large can of dry cleaning fluid with the brand name; Super Spot Removal. Yes, there were two skull and crossbones insignias on the can and large written warnings alerting users to not drink this fluid.

When I pulled into the parking area I could see steaming exhaust coming from the tail pipe of an older Chrysler four door sedan. The back seat was full of personal clothing and belongings. The driver side window was down about three inches. I pulled my cruiser up tight to his vehicle rear bumper to prevent him from backing up or trying to flee. On police vehicles there are large push bars on the front bumper to push vehicles off the road, pin them in, or when necessary pit eluding vehicles. (to pit a fleeing car is a maneuver that uses the front bumper push bars to hit the suspect’s rear bumper causing their his to spin around during a high speed chase causing the vehicle engine to stall.) In front of this car was an old telephone pole cradled in brackets horizontal to the ground to prevent cars from hitting the airport fence. After I put my push bars on his rear bumper I was confident he would not be able to move his car.

As I walked up to the window I could see this person drinking from a large can of Super Spot Removal. I inquired if he was OK and he responded he wasn’t. Inquiring what was wrong I requested he roll his window down so I could hear him better and when he did I reached inside and turned off the vehicle ignition and removed the keys. I then requested he give me the flammable fluid he was drinking.

The can felt about half empty as he handed it to me. I again inquired what was wrong and he told me after he got home about 3 AM this morning and his live-in girlfriend had piled all of his clothing and personal belongings on the apartment porch and left him a note stating she didn’t want to see him anymore. He had developed a bad habit of staying out late on the weekend drinking and visiting bars.

He explained his life was worthless and that he had nowhere to go and didn’t know anyone that would help him. He was young so I inquired if he had family in the area. He said no and that he didn’t have any money to relocate near them for support. I then asked him if he believed in God. He said he did. I then asked him if believed in a loving Heavenly Father. He said he did. I then asked him if he felt his Heavenly Father would want him to be trying to end the life He gave him. He felt his Heavenly Father would not be very pleased with him. This vein of conversation continued for a few minute and then he vomited. I had called for an ambulance and was keeping him engaged in conversation until they arrived because he was becoming groggy and beginning to slip in and out of consciousness.

When the medics arrived I gave them the bottle of cleaner and they rushed him to the hospital to have his stomach pumped. As they were leaving I collected his identification and noticed his last name was Spott. I thought it was ironic he was trying to end his life with spot remover.

Those who attempt suicide are admitted to a psychiatric hospital for 72 hours of observation and stabilization prior to being released. A couple of days later I stopped by the psych ward to visit with him and see how he was doing. He thanked me for reminding him that he does have a Heavenly Father who loves him and that he was ready to give life another try. I encouraged him to pray daily to his Heavenly Father to find comfort and to get direction for his life.

“God is our father. We are His children. He loves us. He weeps with us when we suffer and rejoices when we do what is right. He wants to communicate with us, and we can communicate with Him through sincere prayer. He has given us this experience on the earth so we can learn and grow. We can show our love for Him through our choices…” Preach My Gospel p.31

To learn more about your loving Heavenly Father please visit or

Mistaken Identity

I was working the Day Watch out of East Precinct and the weather was turning colder, signaling the fall season was coming. It was mid afternoon and I was directed by dispatch to meet three Military Police Officers near my district. They told me of an Army deserter that was living nearby and requested my assistance to help arrest him. He had stolen an M-16 rifle when he deserted so this made the suspect a high profile arrest for the MP’s. The Army usually does not send three MP’s to arrest one deserter.

When we arrived at the home of the suspected deserter two of the three Military Police Officers positioned themselves on opposing corners of the house so all sides of the house could be observed. The other MP, a sergeant supervisor, and I knocked on the front door. A male person matching the description of the deserter answered the door and I requested permission to enter his home and to speak with him. Once inside we obtained identification from this suspect, his driver license and Social Security card, and it matched the military record exactly, with one exception. He had the same name, same date of birth, same Social Security number, same height and weight, but the eye color was different. This person’s eyes were brown and the deserter’s eyes were listed as green on the military records. I asked this person if he wore contact lenses and he stated he had never worn glasses or contacts.

The MP Sergeant with me called the other two MPs into the house and they handcuffed the suspect. I then asked him if he had served in the Army and then deserted. He told us with enough shock and sincerity that he had never been in the Army that I became concerned we may not have the right person. The MPs were ready to haul him off to a brig (military jail) about one hundred miles away and lock him up as a deserter. I requested a little more time to question him but they assured me he was lying and that they had the right guy.

I asked the suspect if he had ever had his identification stolen or lost. He said no adding that about a year ago he couldn’t find his wallet for a few days but then it showed up on the floor of his bedroom with nothing missing. This did not seem like enough information to not arrest him so I offered to take him to our jail booking facility for identification processing.

At the booking facility they would fingerprint him then send his fingerprints to the Presidio Military Base in San Francisco to verify his status as a deserter. The MPs assured me they had the right person and that all deserters lie to avoid arrest. They then searched his residence for the M-16 without finding it. So it was off to the brig where this suspect would stay without further processing for the next several weeks.

About two months later I received a subpoena to give a deposition regarding this arrest. The suspect was now suing the city that I worked for and the Federal Government for false arrest and malicious incarceration. I learned that this suspect had been in the military brig for about 30 days before he finally got a Military Chaplin to help correctly identify him, by using his fingerprints, and sure enough, they had the wrong guy. By now he had lost his job, was behind on consumer debt payments and was physically sick from the stress of this arrest and incarceration.

After I provided my deposition, providing evidence of doubt about the identity of this suspect, the suit against my employer was dropped. The Federal Government now felt they were liable for falsely arresting this person, false imprisonment and liable for other economic damages, so they settled the lawsuit out of court.

A couple of years later I saw this victim working in his yard and stopped to visit with him. He told me he received sufficient compensation from the Federal Government to offset his loses but the mental trauma from the incident would haunt him for the rest of his life. He explained a former roommate had taken his wallet and used his identification to enlist in the Army. Then when they were out of college for summer break his roommate entered boot camp and was only in boot camp for a few weeks before he walked away during rifle range training taking his M-16 rifle with him.

Sometimes in life we become over confident in ourselves and our decisions and fail to be humble enough to listen to reason. This arrest could have been significantly minimized if the MPs would have allowed me to have the suspected deserter fingerprinted before taking him to a military post and locking him up in the brig.

Sometimes in life we all become rigid, fixed in our position, feeling we are right, and fail to heed the advice or counsel that may prevent us from making a mistake. The Lord states; “Be thou humble; and the Lord thy God shall lead thee by the hand, and give thee answer to thy prayers.” Doctrine and Covenants 112: 10

In the scriptures we often read of the need to humble ourselves. One such instance involves Moses as he brought Israel up out of the Land of Egypt by the power of God. The people spoke against God and Moses. As a result “. . . the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died.”

Because of this punishment the people realized they had sinned and they came unto Moses and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD, and against thee; pray unto the LORD, that he take away the serpents from us.”

So Moses prayed unto the Lord in behalf of the people. “And the LORD said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live. And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.”

So, the only thing the people had to do if they were bitten by the fiery serpents was to look. But it seemed too easy and many would not humble themselves to follow this simple act, that of looking upon the brass serpent. We learn of their fate in the scriptures, “. . . and because of the simpleness of the way, or the easiness of it, there were many who perished.” Because the people would not humble themselves, they perished.

In this episode the MPs wouldn’t humble themselves and perform the simple act of fingerprinting a suspect. As a result a life was damaged and the Army lost a significant amount of money. To learn more about the importance of being humble visit or

Burma Shave

In my youth I studied the Old Testament and used many of these lessons in my life. One of these bible stories is about Joshua. After Moses departed, Joshua was chosen by the Lord to lead the children of Israel to the Promised Land, now occupied by the people of Jericho. When the spies entered Jericho they used a harlot named Rahab to find safety and gather information on how to overthrow this city. She hid them under stalks of flax on the roof of her home.

Rahab knew the reputation of Israel and how they overcame all of their enemies so she asked that her family be preserved in exchange for giving them protection. Later, Joshua had his armed men marched around the city seven times, with seven priest blowing trumpets. On the seventh time Joshua said, “Shout; for the LORD hath given you the city. And the city shall be accursed, even it, and all that are therein, to the LORD; only Rahab the harlot shall live, she and all that are with her in the house because she hid the messengers that we sent.” Joshua 6:16-17. So, on the seventh time around the city, the people shouted when the priests blew with the trumpets with a great shout and the wall fell down and the city was utterly destroyed, save Rahab and her family.

In police work we often use informants who are criminals. This allows us to control more serious crimes while overlooking a less serious crime. The object is to keep our cities as safe as possible. And in this police event, like Joshua, I used a prostitute to overthrow the wrong doings of a criminal. This criminal was a fence, a person who buys and sells stolen goods.

It was a hot summer day as I loaded my shotgun to prepare for patrol duty on the day watch. I had developed a reliable informant, a woman that went by the code name of Running Red. She lived in a neighborhood full of thieves, burglars, robbers and drug dealers.

As I was working this day the dispatcher called me and requested that I contact “Running Red” as soon as possible. When she called it was to let me know stolen goods were being delivered to a fence that lived across the street from her. This fence took orders from customers in bars then would have one of his thieves steal the items and deliver the goods to his home for resale to his customer.

Running Red, who was a bar fly and prostitute, let me know the thief would be delivering a set of truck chrome wheels with tires that retail for about $2,000. The fence would sell them for $300 paying the thief $100 and keeping $200 for himself. In exchange for this information, I agreed not monitor her prostitution activities too closely until I needed more information to help keep crime down in my district.

I called for a cover car with a police dog in case the delivering thief tried to run from us. The K-9 officer set up behind the house and when he was in place I waited, out of sight, for the thief to drive up with the stolen goods in his car. I didn’t have to wait long when a utility type van pulled into the front yard of the fence’s home. I turned on the cruiser’s overhead lights and pulled up tight to the van so he couldn’t back up. I removed the shotgun from the rack and approached the driver’s door to look inside the van for the wheels.

As I was approaching the van’s driver I was watching his face and body movements in the van door’s rear view mirror. I was about four feet from him when he floored the gas pedal and smashed into the corner of the house as he tried to get away. He turned sharply and drove through the side yard, around back of the house then through the fence in the backyard into an alleyway. The K-9 officer was in the narrow alleyway with his dog as the van sped towards him. He had nowhere to go with a chain link fence on one side of him and a garage on the other. He put up his hand signaling to the driver to stop and when it immediately became obvious he was going to be run over he fired his service revolver three times at the van.

As I ran around the corner of the house I could see the van swerve sharply, just missing the K-9 officer and the garage, then hitting a culvert and flipping on its side. The driver climbed out of the driver’s door window covered in white foam, only to be met by a highly agitated K-9. I ordered the suspect to spread eagle on the ground while I searched him for weapons. He didn’t have any weapons on his person, but he did have a pistol that he wisely decided to leave in the van. The rear doors on the van had popped open when the van rolled on its side exposing the stolen wheels. The wheels were also covered in white foam.

I ask the suspect what the white foam was all about and he told me it was from the bomb we threw into his van. Upon closer examination we learned one of the rounds the K-9 officer fired into the van had hit a can of Burma Shave and it had exploded. He said that when the bomb went off he decide to give up and stop trying to get away.

The moral of this story is to live righteously so you don’t have to always be looking over your shoulder. Also none of us want to be found on the left hand of the Savior when He returns to earth because we have not been keeping His commandments.

In the Doctrine and Covenants Section 43 we read, "For the great Millennium, of which I have spoken by the mouth of my servants, shall come. 33 And the wicked shall go away into unquenchable fire, and their end no man knoweth on earth, nor ever shall know, until they come before me in judgment. 34 Hearken ye to these words. Behold, I am Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world. Treasure these things up in your hearts, and let the solemnities of eternity rest upon your minds. 35 Be sober. Keep all my commandments. Even so. Amen."

To learn more about keeping the Lord’s commandments see or

Fishing for Felons

I was working patrol out of East Precinct on a balmy spring evening as it was just getting dark. The district I was patrolling had several active known felons living in a high crime area. One of them was a female drug dealer that sold drugs to middle age school kids to feed her own methamphetamine addiction. She was about 28 years of age and looked like she was 60 years old. She was skinny with sunken facial features, rotten teeth and visible injection marks (tracks) up and down her arms and legs. Drugs are not cosmetics, they don’t make you beautiful.
She had been arrested in the past for unlawful delivery of methamphetamines within 1,000 feet of a public school and she was also selling meth to kids. Vice officers had developed enough evidence to obtain a no-knock warrant (a court issued arrest warrant to enter her home without knocking). I had attempted to arrest her in the past but she was cunning enough to slip out the back door or get away somehow. However, this night I thought I would fish for a felon. This is how I did it:

I knew most people like to know what is going on in their neighborhood when they hear police sirens or see police lights and that they will come out of their houses or look out of their windows. I drove within a block of the suspect’s home with my cruiser lights flashing and siren blaring. I pulled behind an unoccupied vehicle and sat there just long enough for people to look out or come out of their homes. Sure enough she opened her front door and looked down the street to see what was going on. I then walked up to the unoccupied vehicle and stayed just long enough to appear to be giving the motorist a warning for a traffic violation. I then made a u-turn and drove off.

A block or two away I called for a cover officer and ask him to cover the back of the residence while I approached the front door. Once the cover officer was in place I kicked open the front door and announced my presence. I could hear the back door open then close. My cover officer radioed me that the suspect went back inside the house when she saw him. However, I couldn’t see her anywhere, so I searched every room and under every bed but she was nowhere to be found. I was just about ready to give up, thinking she had somehow slipped away one more time, when I saw a large pile of clothing on the floor of a small closet.

Kicking the pile I heard her wince from the contact. I had a fish on and had to reel her in. I commanded her to put her hands out where I could see them and to come out from under the clothes. I hooked her up (hand cuffed her) and another felon was off to jail to be held accountable for selling drugs to kids.

Like this poor drug addict wincing when called upon to be accountable for her crimes, we sometimes want to avoid being accountable for our actions. We may try to hide from God like this drug addict tried to hide from me, but when we pass from this life each one of us will stand before Christ to be judged because, “… as soon as they (you or I) are departed from this mortal body, yea, the spirits of all men, whether they be good or evil, are taken home to that God who gave them life.* … the Holy One of Israel; and he employeth no servant there; and there is none other way save it be by the gate; for he cannot be deceived, for the Lord God is his name.”** Alma 40:11*, 2 Nephi 9:41**
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A Voice of Warning

It was a warm summer evening just after midnight and I was working traffic enforcement. Another officer was also assigned to work the same stretch of highway. We focused on this highway because the police department had received complaints from several people that many other motorists were creating dangerous driving conditions by speeding and weaving in and out of traffic at very high speeds in the early morning hours. Also, I had investigated a fatal pedestrian accident a week earlier. A man had walked out of a bar, and having his judgment impaired by alcohol consumption attempted to cross all four lanes of traffic to reach his vehicle. He was DOA (dead on arrival) when I arrived and his life blood was filling the gutter.

I set up my radar in a 55 mph zone just outside an industrial area where shift workers would be getting off work at midnight. My partner set up his radar unit about 5 miles from me just before traffic would enter the business area where the pedestrian had been killed a week earlier.

During my shift that evening, I had issued a couple of citations to drivers for speeding 20 or more miles per hour over the speed limit. I had just gotten back into position when my radar screen lit up and the miles per hour speed reader started climbing. It went from 65 to 75, 85 to 95, and kept climbing to 105. I honestly thought my radar unit had malfunctioned so I reset it. I realized my radar unit was functioning properly and that the car coming toward me was now traveling at 125 miles per hour! I felt that there was no way I would be able to catch this speeding motorist with the quality of cruiser I was driving. I set the radar when the oncoming motorist’s speed reached 125 mph and then threw on the overhead lights before he reached my position in an attempt to slow him down so I would be able to catch up to him. It worked and he began to slow down, but it still took me a couple miles to catch him.

He was driving a customized El Camino. After I issued him a citation for driving 125 mph in a 55 mph zone and affixed a bail of $550 I warned him that my partner was also working radar a couple of miles farther up the road and that he should obey the speed limit of 55 mph. He called me a (profanity) liar and left. About 15 minutes later my partner called me on the radio stating he had just stopped an El Camino traveling 115 mph and that the driver tried to get out of receiving another citation by showing him the one I had just issued him. My partner informed me that he issued him another citation and set the court date for his citation at the same time I cited the driver into court. We never went to court to testify because the driver pled guilty, had his license suspended for one year, and was fined more than $1,000.

It would have been much better for this motorist had he listened to my voice of warning and reduced his speed to 55 mph to avoid the second citation, the loss of his driving privileges for a year and a fine of more than $1,000. In our daily lives we are warned by living prophets to conduct our lives in conformity with the teachings of Jesus Christ.                    
                                                           President Thomas S. Monson
I know Thomas S. Monson is a living prophet of the Lord and that we should all listen to his counsel and heed his warnings. Click here for more information about true prophets that warn us to following the teachings of Jesus Christ. or

Doctrine and Covenants 88:81 - Behold, I sent you out to testify and warn the people, and it becometh every man who hath been warned to warn his neighbor.

My Unseen Partner

I served in law enforcement for over 35 years. During some of that time I also served as a Bishop and a Stake President for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The following is just one of many instances where I served with one seen partner and one unseen partner.

While working the afternoon shift one warm summer evening, in a two-man squad car, my partner and I got a call for help from a woman who was afraid she was about to be assaulted by her drunk husband. We parked our prowl car about a block away and walked quietly to their home to hear and view what was happening before we made our presence known. As we approached the house, we could hear screams for help from the wife and loud shouts from the husband demanding she get him another beer or he would beat her up. They were both standing outside their residence on a large covered porch.

We stepped onto the porch and positioned ourselves between the man and woman while we stayed close together. As we attempted to calm the volatile situation down the husband slipped quietly into the darkness of the night and I saw him enter a side door of the house. Immediately, my unseen partner (the Holy Ghost) warned me the man was going for a gun. I told my fellow officer I felt we were in danger and that the husband may be getting a weapon to harm us.

My partner pointed out that we did not have enough probable cause to enter the private home without a warrant because he had calmed down and retreated into his house. I agreed and then asked his wife if he owned a gun. She stated he did own a shotgun.

My unseen partner prompted me to follow after him to prevent a possible deadly situation from occurring. So, I again told my partner I felt we were in danger and I was going to enter the home to prevent harm to one or all of us. My partner was hesitant but followed me into the residence.

As we entered the front room the husband was marching towards us while beginning to swing a shotgun into position to shoot us. We quickly drew our service revolvers and moved into a tactical position so we both could not be shot at once. I shouted for him to put the weapon down, as the hammer on my pistol was moving backward to fire. He saw he could shoot one of us, but that the other one would kill him, so he lowered his loaded weapon and submitted to arrest.

The Holy Ghost was my companion in this instance, because I was living worthy of this blessing. We lost this case in court because the judged ruled we did not have sufficient probable cause to enter the home without the wife’s testimony, which she withheld. One spouse cannot be compelled to testify against their partner. At this point I just smiled and thanked the Lord that I was alive and would work another day as a peace keeper in the big city. I know the Holy Ghost warned me of trouble and preserved my life. To learn more about having the Holy Ghost as your constant companion see or