Book Excerpt: Chicago Street Cop
A veteran cop shares gritty stories from the crime frontlines of Chi-Town
The following stories are excerpted from Pat McCarthy’s “Chicago Street Cop: Amazing True Stories from the Mean Streets of Chicago and Beyond.” McCarthy’s book can be purchased here.
“A gritty memoir that gives readers a cop’s perspective on Chicago crime.”—Kirkus Reviews
As the doomed plane taxied down the runway for takeoff, parts of the aircraft’s number-one engine began to fall off the wing. Eventually, the entire engine completely separated from the airplane and fell to the runway. The plane was able to lift off the runway and gain an altitude of approximately 400 feet before it nosedived into the ground killing all 271 people on board . . . To this day American Airlines Flight 191 is still the deadliest commercial airliner crash in U.S. history.
The burning wreckage had long been extinguished but smoke still hung in the air and eerily seeped from the ground. Police officers and firefighters milled around with dazed looks on their faces, all appeared to be in various states of shock. The size of the crash site was equivalent to about three football fields. It was total devastation. The first things I noticed were clothes and broken suitcases scattered throughout the site. When I first arrived at the crash site I expected to see an airplane broken apart on the ground, but very little of the airplane wreckage was even recognizable. It was just a twisted mess of burned and smoldering pieces of metal . . .
As we slowly made our way through the crash site, collecting human remains, I came across what looked like a charred basketball on the ground in front of me. I bent down to get a closer look and was horrified when I realized it was a human head. After a few seconds I had to pick it up and bag it, but a cold chill traveled up my spine. Once part of a living, breathing human being just a short time ago, it was now just a burned piece of bone and flesh . . . I’ll never forget the disturbing feelings I had that night. Many of the cops, firefighters, and other emergency personnel who took part in this disaster needed grief counseling after witnessing the aftermath of this tragic plane crash.
What it’s Really Like
All of a sudden, the quiet summer night on West Catalpa Street on Chicago’s north side exploded with the sound of gunfire. The young teenager stood frozen in fear in the shadow of a big oak tree; the poor kid was too afraid to move as death and bloody carnage unfolded before him on a nearby porch . . . It was a murder scene that could have been right out of a horror movie. Three people gunned down in a matter of seconds while sitting on a front porch of a brick two-flat building as they drank beer and shot the shit with each other.
When the gunfire ended it was eerily quiet for a few seconds, then suddenly an ear-piercing, blood-chilling anguished scream of a young woman filled the night air. The kid who witnessed this brutal triple murder . . . just wanted to get away from the bloody murder scene as quickly as possible. As he ran toward the safety of his home, he told himself: I’ll never tell anyone what I saw tonight.
He was going to lock what he saw that night away in the deep recesses of his mind, afraid that if he ever told anyone, the monsters might find out and kill him too. But he didn’t know that while he had seen the murderers, they had also seen him . . .
A car with two young Hispanic men slowly drove by, eyeing him menacingly . . . Suddenly, several gunshots rang out. Holy shit, he thought, these guys are shooting at me. He dove to the ground as fast as he could as several shots whizzed right past him. The car quickly sped away, leaving him scared to death and shaking with fear on the ground . . .
The kid’s father contacted the police and said, “My son witnessed a shooting several days ago on West Catalpa Street, and tonight he was shot at by two Spanish-looking guys who drove by him on his way home.” The Gang Unit was immediately notified and soon it had a witness who would help break the case wide open.
That’s how Maniac Latin Disciple, Fernando Zayas was finally taken off the streets for good.
One of the saddest murder cases I became involved in while assigned to the Asian Task Force took place at 908 Arch Street in Philadelphia’s Chinatown. The murder victim was Todd Manga, a twenty-three-year-old security guard.
Todd Manga was shot in the head three times and once in the face and killed when six Vietnamese gang bangers stormed the massage parlor armed with guns. After murdering Todd, the gang members robbed and ransacked the place, tying up customers, taking their drivers licenses, and threatening them if they cooperated with the police. Manga’s murder was supposed to warn the female owner to pay extortion money to the gang “or else.”
. . . the Thai prostitutes working there grabbed a few belongings and also left before the police arrived. The girls are all illegally in the US from Thailand, and they wanted nothing to do with the police . . .
I knew I had to meet them to solve the case . . .
Finally, the door opened and in walked the five Thai hookers, all decked out to the max, wearing short skirts, high heels, and a ton of makeup. I was surprised by how young and beautiful they all were . . . Every eye in the place stared at the Thai girls as they walked toward me.
I can’t begin to imagine what the people in the restaurant were thinking, but it was show time for me: I really had to be on my game tonight if I was going to get the job done. My job was to solve the brutal murder of Todd Manga, who, by all the accounts, was a good kid who had wanted to become a police officer. If I had to buy beer and pizza for Thai hookers, so be it. Todd’s family deserved closure and justice for his brutal murder. I was bound and determined to get them that justice, no matter what it took.
Reprinted from “Chicago Street Cop: Amazing True Stories from the Mean Streets of Chicago and Beyond” with permission from Pat McCarthy Productions, Inc. Order the book here.