Return to Table of Contents Page:


Copyright 2014, Jules A. Staats; Library of Congress, USA.  All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. This work may be previewed only.


Shot fired;

Death at the end of the road:   by Jules A. Staats


          It was a quiet and rather sunny day.  Jay was working the City of Duarte area.  Since this was a day unit, he was working this shift alone.  This was relatively easy duty, though.  Except for around a half dozen burglary reports, most of the dangerous police problems were left to the evening and early morning shifts.  Over his last two years at this station he had acquired a mindset that bad things only occurred at night and the day watch was easy money.  He would find that this particular concept was greatly flawed.


          Working quickly without any distractions or calls for service, he was caught up on his burglary reports.  The paperwork was finally all done, and the Patrol Sergeant had picked up the completed reports a half hour before.  There were about three hours to go, and this day's work would be done.                            


          Jay liked the thought of everything being under control.  Since overtime was not yet compensated, he had good reason to see that all the paperwork was done, prior to the end of the shift.  He thought fondly, about a good dinner, and a quiet evening at home with the wife and three children.


          Some of his peers had voiced that he had gravitated to this work on day shift, as he did not like to expose himself to the dangers of the night shifts.  He had certainly done his share of night work before, and never backed down from a threat.  With one boy and two daughters--children born to him in the last three years, he felt that he needed some easy time and evenings with his family rather than another Deputy Sheriff partner in the patrol car.


          His thoughts of home were interrupted as his attention was drawn to the Police radio.  "Temple 58, car five eight.  A 415 family, 4545 Duegood Road, South Monrovia area.  Possible 417 (gun) involved, any unit to assist?"


          The radio dispatcher continued: "58?"


          Jay replied, "58, ten four."


          "Any unit to assist?" The dispatcher continued.


          "Fifty-eight Tom will assist, in two minutes” Dave was working the traffic enforcement patrol car.  He was a good man.  Went to the Sheriff's Academy with him, Jay thought.  Good man to have around.  He will be a Lieutenant, for sure, someday.


          It turned out that Dave beat Jay to the scene by about a minute.  As a result, he had started questioning a small group of excited residents in the front yard of this quiet residential area.


          As he was getting out of the black and white patrolcar, he saw Dave hold up four fingers.  That meant it was Code four.  No further assistance needed, and that the situation was deemed to be under control.  This could or could not mean that there was absolutely no further danger.  The Code four only gave a notification to any other patrol units enroute that there was no further necessity for additional units to respond to the in


          Jay took a minute to transmit the Code four over the police radio.  The radio dispatcher duly repeated the message to any other units that were moving that way.


          Jay walked up to Dave and the small group with his notebook in his left hand, wanting to appraise the situation himself; "Any major problems, Dave?"  Jay quizzed the other deputy.


          "Nope.  Just a family problem.  A husband-wife dispute.”  (The term Domestic Violence had not been coined yet.)”  Apparently, we have an estranged husband with a drinking problem.  He was involved in some serious family fights and the wife had enough.  He moved out a month ago.  Today he was still drinking but he said he came back to make up.  She refused, and he made her take off with him in his car."


          Jay needed information for a local broadcast of the incident and the type of vehicle involved.  If a patrol crew spotted this vehicle they could possibly resolve this incident by arresting the drunk driver.  He asked the other deputy; "Got a vehicle description, Dave?"


          "Yeah, it's a 1963 Chevrolet, two door, maroon.  No license plate, as there wasn't anyone nearby to observe the vehicle as it left.  Probably does not matter as California DMV is not available right now."


          Information about a vehicle involved a phone call to the local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) office and necessitated a hand search for information.


          "Dave, where does this guy live, anyway."  Jay responded.


          "Your guess is as good as mine.  I checked with everyone here and nobody has a clue where this guy has moved to.”


          Jay took a few minutes to try to talk to all the neighbors in this group of curious neighbor onlookers.  His main question was now at the heart of this call.  Jay asked the group;   did anybody see any kind of a gun?


          Some in the group did not respond at all, but most either shook their head or said no.


          Then another woman in her seventies walked up to the group.  She said that she was pulling some weeds from her front garden and observed a man force her neighbor’s female friend into what she described as a purple car.  She was absolutely positive in her mind that the man was holding a black gun with a very thick barrel.


          Jay pondered this new information; Twelve "no's" versus one "yes" on the gun.  True, this woman described a gun with a very thick barrel.  This description of the possible firearm may have been the guy holding some other object that she misunderstood to be a gun.  Jay added this information to his notebook.


          Both of the responding deputies felt that there probably was no gun involved, but they would be careful anyway if they should confront this suspect.  Jay picked up the radio microphone and asked for car to car communication with 50 Sam.  After giving the circumstances to the Field Sergeant he was told to put out a local broadcast using the car to car frequency and that this should be sufficient as there was no hard evidence that a gun was involved. 


          Just then, another car rolled up, with a man and woman in it.  They were in their late forties.  The woman told Jay and Dave, that they were the parents of the wife.  Also, they stated that they would care for the two children of the couple, until someone returned home.


          That was good, as Jay did not want to have to take the kids to juvenile hall.  Apparently the possibly abducted woman—if she actually left against her will—was just visiting friends at this location who did not wish to take charge of the children.  Another problem solved.


          Both deputies felt that there was no further workable information available here.  However there was enough information for a Suspicious Circumstances report.  A clear-cut crime was apparently not committed yet.  Sure, this was possibly a kidnapping but there has been a history of numerous disputes between them.  The way the law worked, if the so-called victim refused to say that it was a crime, making a court case that would lead to prosecution next to impossible.  It may just be a family dispute, leading to a future and expected reconciliation.  The "Suspicious Circumstances" report suggested by the Sergeant would have to do for now.  [1]


          Dave wanted to check out the northern part of the city known as the Fish Canyon area, since there was a gun club and rifle range up there.  Since that area was somewhat isolated, and it was suitable for a gun range, it seemed to be a good place for the missing couple to talk over their differences.  It was about five miles away.


          Jay decided to cruise the local residential area, looking for the couple's car on a nearby residential street.  He drove for about twenty minutes covering every street in the housing tract, finding nothing. 


          Then, he recalled that there was an isolated dead end street, where Mountain Avenue terminated at an abandoned and fenced off rock quarry pit.  There were no homes within a block of this spot.   He thought that this might be a good location to check for the vehicle and subjects.  He turned the patrol car toward Mountain Avenue and then proceeded south.


           He was about 500 feet away when he noticed a maroon parked vehicle at the end of the road.  "Bingo" Jay said out loud to himself, as he verified that this was the suspect Chevrolet he was looking for.  He observed that the vehicle was parked off the road in the gravel, facing toward him.


          He looked the car over carefully, as he slowly rolled the patrol car closer.  Then he stopped in the road, about sixty feet from the vehicle.  He only saw one occupant.  There was a man at the wheel, and he was staring back at him.


          Jay had a few years of patrol experience but he was still a man in his ‘twenties.  This was where an experienced cop that was still young and invincible was about to make a bad mistake.  He looked at the man, and saw a slightly built 30 year old Caucasian person, who did not look the least bit dangerous.  Besides it was broad daylight, right?


          He compounded the mistake by feeling that he really did not need assistance, but his common sense told him that the total circumstances called for a backup, because of the slim possibility of a gun being involved.  He picked up the patrol car radio microphone. 


          A new policy had been implemented just a few days ago, and a certain code was to be given if the deputy wanted the radio room to follow up on the deputy’s welfare after a few minutes passed to check out a suspicious circumstance.  Jay mentioned that code to the radio room:


          "Car fifty-eight, is Code ----- on a vehicle, California License SAM 123 in sight.  One male occupant." (The code is still confidential)


          "Ten four, 58, (beep) attention units, 58 is Code ----- on SAM123."  The traffic unit advised he would stop by to back him up.


          Jay decided not to wait.  He felt that this guy really looked like a wimp and was just not all that dangerous, after all.  he felt this way from looking at the suspect for several minutes now.  He thought; all he did, was sit there, and look at him.  Who really needs a backup, anyway?


          Jay walked up to the suspect's car from the front.  He had his six inch .357 magnum revolver.  The gun stayed in the holster with a firm right hand on the weapon.  The man just appeared to stare at him with his eyes.


          As the deputy got closer  he had made a wide circle, and now walked directly toward the driver's door.  He had no eye contact and the suspect was staring straight ahead.  There was no movement going on.  The deputy confidently felt completely in control of the situation.


          Then, he saw everything at once.  The missing woman was indeed with this man.  Her head was in his lap.  There was bloody spot on her right temple and ther wound was apparently pooling blood on the suspect’s right leg.  Next to her face, in his lap, the suspect was holding a thick barrel .22 caliber automatic pistol.  It was pointed right at Jay's face.


          The startled deputy thought he felt and smelled his own blood in his nose as he realized his mortal danger.  He was about to be immediately shot and was actually looking down the business bore of the firearm.  Without thinking, he dived down below the driver window.  He did not hear a noise of a shot so the gun had not been fired-yet.  He reflected to himself that he was still alive but on the ground next to an open window of a vehicle.  Further the man with the gun who had just shot a woman in the head was right next to him.  This was a bad place to be and things needed to change right now.          


Jay scrambled across the front of the car which shielded him and gave him cover from a possible bullet.  He glanced at the patrol car and confirmed that it was slightly to the right of the windshield, meaning that the suspect would have to exit the car to get a good shot at him.  Feeling that he had to get better cover he dashed for his radio car. 


          The radio room was still working on Jay's use of this new code where an investigation might involve a threat.  A third unit acknowledged that he was enroute. 


Jay squeezed the microphone button and broke in:


          "Ten Thirty-three."


          The female voice responded.  "All units stand by for a ten thirty-three.  Unit with the emergency go ahead."


          Jay started, "Fifty-eight requesting assistance..."


          A shot rang out.  Jay continued.  "Shot fired.  Roll assistance, and an ambulance.  Dead end of Mountain Ave and that is my present location."


          Jay heard at least three sirens start to wail in the distance.  You could hear a long distance over this vast, flat rock quarry pit area.  There also were four police agencies nearby.  The Field Sergeant who had been rolling north to the location announced he was rolling Code 3.


          The radio dispatcher was giving Estimated Times of Arrival of the Deputy Sheriff assisting units.  The best ETA was not really close; five minutes with red lights and siren.


          Jay decided that he was going to finally use his previous training and common sense to really wait it out now, but a new sound from the car, changed his mind.  He could hear the woman moaning.  She was still alive.  He had to try to save her life but this man with the gun was a deadly threat between the rescue of his victim and him.


          Jay pulled the twelve gauge Ithaca 12 gauge shotgun from the rack in front of the driver’s seat.  The weapon had been completely checked by him at the beginning of his shift and was absolutely cruiser ready.  He released the shotgun slide safety latch firmly racked the weapon chambering a double ought express shell in the chamber.  The weapon was now loaded and locked in his hands.  He was now focused, looking at the man, still behind the wheel.  Jay was ready for a possible gun fight.  He was having conflicts with his planned strategy to handle this situation, as he definitely heard a shot but the suspect was still looking at him.


          Jay decided to change his position, for better cover.  He felt he should move behind a very large boulder, about thirty feet to his left.  The rock could stop bullets better than the car could.  As Jay sprinted to the rock, he kept the shotgun pointed the car windshield and directly at the suspect.  It was then, that he noticed that the suspect was still looking out the windshield, even though Jay was now positioned opposite the passenger door.


          Jay wondered, what gives, the man is not paying attention to his new position?


          Then, it started to sink in.  He had heard the single shot and he evaluated what could have happened.  The thought popped up; maybe the guy had shot himself also.


          His senses told him that any actual assistance was at this moment at least three minutes away.  The sirens were still in the distance and the actual driving approach was difficult due to the several dead end streets in this area.  He could hear the woman moaning constantly.  He could not just stand by when she needed help; he had to make a move now.


          Still holding the shotgun at the ready after disengaging the safety, Jay approached the right passenger door.  The window was open, and he had a clear view and line of sight shot at the male suspect.  The woman was lying below the window view.  If the suspect turned toward him, he would have to fire point blank at his head.  He probably had plenty of time to get off the first shot at the suspect should he move.


          Jay continued his approach, until the shotgun barrel of the Model 67 Ithaca was even with the window of the car.  He then observed the small bloody hole in the right temple of the suspect.  The man's eyes were looking straight ahead, the gun still clenched in his fist and pointed at the dashboard.


          Jay quickly opened the passenger car door, while pointing the barrel against the right side of the suspect's chest.  No reaction by the suspect.  Still holding his finger to the side of the shotgun frame, Jay grabbed the suspect's pistol.  He successfully pulled it away without any resistance.  The suspect was now hopefully unarmed.  Jay locked the shotgun safety.


          Jay looked at the woman, still laying partly on the front seat and floor.  She was alive, but the bullet had entered the left of her temple.  The bullet had also exited the middle right side of her head.  Jay realized she could not possibly survive such a gunshot wound.


          Since she was still breathing, Jay ran to the patrol car to give an update of the situation, and most of all, cancel the assistance since the suspect had a gunshot hole in his head and was now disarmed.


          Jay broadcast the code four.  The radio room repeated it twice.  The sounds of sirens, much closer now, continued.  A lot of cops wanted to know what the heck was going on, and continued to roll, ignoring the Code 4 which indicated no emergency assistance was needed.


          Jay went back to the car, tending to the young woman with the bullet wound making sure, her airway was clear.  Dave's unit, red lights flashing, was in sight now.  Jay watched the patrol car approach.  Then he felt something.  There was a change to the woman in his arms that he actually felt to the core of his being.  She had passed away and he experienced something.  Did he actually feel her soul leaving her body?


          In a few more minutes, a total of twenty-seven patrol cars, from Sheriff, Highway Patrol, and three other police departments were clogging the street.  In addition, five Highway patrol units responded to South El Monte, which also has a Mountain Avenue dead end.


          The suspect himself lived for five more hours, even with a bullet in his brain.  With his eventual death, the homicide charges were suspended.  There would be no further court action.


          After the coroner took away the remains of the young mother, it was Jay's sad duty to go back to the house where this all began.  The woman’s parents had not yet left to go home.  They were well aware of the numerous police units that had responded and took the death notification badly.  As Jay quietly told the young woman's parents the bad news, he kept glancing at the five year old boy, and the four year old girl.  He knew only too well that because of the senseless actions by this man, these two children would never know their mother who had been killed, and father who had decided to kill himself to avoid prosecution and the rest of his life in prison.


          This also was a major learning experience for Jay.  He would never ever make such a sloppy approach of a vehicle with someone inside.  In the future when he became a Training Officer this tale would be a stern warning to new deputies.



Return to Table of Contents Page:


[1]   Domestic Violence laws had not been added to the books at this time.