Every beat cop has at least one arrest in their repertoire that stands out more than any other. Some great arrests come about from complicated investigative work, some you just stumble upon. The arrest I am about to describe to you is neither — it is what I call a “miracle arrest.” I will be telling the story of the arrest of these two ‘turds’ for a long, long time. I can see it now — I’ll be sitting in some assisted living facility wearing an adult diaper, wondering how the barbed wire tattoo on my wrist got there when it used to be around my bicep!
I call this a ‘Miracle Arrest’ because that is exactly what it was. Its how any first rate dictionary would describe it: an extraordinary event that surpasses all human or natural powers and is ascribed to a supernatural cause. The two villains were so dangerous, they had the nerve to call the FBI and announce they would never be taken alive (no apologies to the white shirts reading this column for the earlier use of the word ‘turds’). If this column were to ever be cartooned that is exactly how they would be depicted, whole corn included!
Right Place, Right Time
One very hot July summer night I was training a transplant from Queens. Maybe he was from Brooklyn, I can’t remember. All I know is that he had a thick New York accent which made my southern ears sour. Anyway, this rookie was sharp and he was a natural if there ever was such a thing. We received a robbery in progress call from dispatch at the same time we saw a suspicious vehicle we were going to stop for being ugly in a no ugly zone. “In Progress” trumps “No Ugly.” Fortunately, my Yankee PPO got a good look at “Ugly” because that turned out to be our suspect vehicle according to our victim at the “In Progress.”
This was an observation which would become important down the road about a week later. On that night, I began my shift with Astros baseball fans exiting the Astrodome. I’m checking by on a stranded motorist on a busy thoroughfare. A lot of traffic and a stalled vehicle are in a moving lane of traffic. The rookie was with an evaluator that night, and they check by to help me with traffic control. If you believe in miracles, this is where it starts.
With thousands of vehicles in the area heading home, there’s nothing worse than arterial plaque in the form of a pickup truck blocking a moving lane of traffic! Fixing the problem meant we had to stop traffic for a few seconds to push the vehicle out of the way. That’s when the rookie takes it upon himself to stop traffic. Right in front of him, in the very first car in the lane of stopped vehicles, is the suspicious vehicle from last weeks robbery in progress! If you’re keeping track of the number of miracles, this is a good time to notch one. A needle in the haystack the size of a four-door sedan, jumping out and looking right at us with total surprise in their eyes! Rookie points this out to me and I approach the driver of the vehicle and instruct him to pull over to the side street so we can get to know each other a little better.
I get in my patrol car and fall in behind what was at the time a 15-year-old Volvo four-door that had more dings and damage on it than a UFC fighter’s face. Then, in the blink of an eye, the chase was on. Fortunately, my sergeant and rookie were right behind me and took over calling out the chase. All I had to do now was keep up with this Volvo we’d nicknamed “Ugly” just last week. I was driving a new Ford Crown Vic, had been to pursuit driving school, and I knew the streets, so how hard could this be?
It amazes me what goes through your mind in a high-speed chase. You’re in tunnel-vision mode, traveling at dangerously-high speeds, thinking, “Is my patrol car outrunning the red and blue LED lights on my lightbar?!”
You know in your head that can’t be happening, because you’d be going 186,000 miles per second (give or take a few miles). Then you ask yourself, “Am I outrunning my siren?!”
Probably not. That’d mean you’d be traveling at 768 mph, which equates to one mile every five seconds.
Maybe it’s just me, but tunnel-vision makes me ask myself why I didn’t study harder in school so I could be a doctor or a lawyer or a scientist. Then I could figure out what that crap in the middle of a Fig Newton really is!
Back to the chase! This old Volvo is taking 90-degree turns at Mach one! He’s either a professional race car driver or he has some sort of jet propulsion thing going on under the hood. Maybe both! All I know is this ancient Volvo is flying! Maybe it’s a Volvo commercial and I’m being “punked!”
What I didn’t know at the time was that I now had three or four patrol units behind me and a police helicopter just minutes away. The pursuit brought us through Rice Village, past the Medical Center, the Zoo, and the Museum District, Mid Town and straight into the downtown area within a matter of maybe two minutes. If Guinness World Records has a category for pursuit driving, we’re contenders!
A quick left turn by the speeding Volvo down a dark street, with abandoned and boarded-up houses on both sides of the street. At the end of the street was a city park that could double as a movie set for zombie burial grounds. As I made my way down the street a hundred yards behind two felons that desperately did not want to be caught, I suddenly saw the two small taillights of the Volvo explode into a fireball! The Volvo had wrapped itself around a 100-year old Oak tree and caught on fire.
As I skidded to a stop, I saw the driver bail out and run across the zombie park into the darkness. He had a 50-yard head start on me.
Zombie park. Darkness. A 50-yard head start. Crap!
Well, in he beam of my Kel-Lite — not to date myself, but this is the flashlight that used seven D-cell batteries and could double as a baseball bat at the annual police picnic! — I could see him running because of the reflective material on the back of his one running shoe. The other shoe had come off on impact with the tree. All I could see was a one-inch piece of reflective material going up and down making its way across a pitch-black park. How many miracles are we up to now?
The third patrol car in the chase happened to be a K-9 unit and he could see me running through the park. He continued on and circled around the park and met me at the back of an abandoned house where I had last seen the lone sneaker. Meanwhile, the other units pulling up to the Volvo extricated an unconscious passenger from the burning car.
This particular K-9 unit had a canine I had never seen before. It looked like a cross between a long-haired German Shepherd and a Tyrannosaurus Rex! The fangs on this animal had to be at least five inches, but I wasn’t getting close enough to get an exact measurement! I called out for the suspect to come out with his hands up in my best Harry Callahan impersonation, but I got nothing. I tried again with my best impression of Jack Lord played by Steve McGarrett on Hawaii Five-O. Still nothing.
It was time to send in T-Rex.
Within seconds all you could hear were blood-curdling screams from the suspect telling us to get the dog off of him. What probably seemed like minutes to this turd was only about 30 seconds. T-Rex was called off the suspect with a magic command by his handler and I went about the business of putting on the handcuffs. With about two dozen punctures wounds down the left side of his shoulder, forearm, and thigh, we walked back to the 100-year-old Oak tree and what was once an “Ugly” Volvo.
By now an ambulance and fire truck had shown up, extinguished the fire, and treated our injured suspects. The officer in charge of inventorying the Volvo found seven (7!!!) handguns in the vehicle — three in the backseat, two in the front seat, and two that had rocketed through the glove box and firewall and lodged in the engine compartment upon impact with the tree. The backseat also had dozens of purses and wallets belonging to little old ladies who had been robbed at ATM machines, kidnapped, beaten, and thrown from the moving Volvo all within the past two weeks.
In all, this arrest cleared 22 robberies.
Booking these two suspects was interesting. After a doctor medically cleared them, the punctures of Suspect #1 received from T-Rex and his five-inch fangs was setting in and it was like rigor mortis had tapped him on the shoulder, arm and thigh. It made me smile that he was alive to experience it!
Suspect #2, was the “tough guy” — the one who actually did the robberies and beatings. He had a nasty cut on his nose from when he ate the windshield. When he would breathe through his nose it would make a huge blood bubble like a kid with bubble gum! It was hard to keep a straight face. Suspect #2 ended up getting three consecutive 99-year sentences at his trial — Suspect #1 pled out to three 45-year sentences.
Never underestimate the ability to experience “miracles on top of miracles.” For me it was being at the right place at the right time, followed closely by the fashionable reflective heel of an lone sneaker, ending with an assist from a canine with five-inch fangs.