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Barricade, shots fired:


          This incident occurred approximately during the month of September1964.  The afternoon weather was sunny, mild, and clear.  The future terrible events of the Los Angeles Watts six day riot on August 11, 1965 were less than a year away.  Prior to the time of this so called riot which was a never before experienced major incident; police officers acted individually.  When a gun fight occurred or when an individual barricaded themselves in a house there were no set tactical plans in place.  Remember that there was no 911 call center and Paramedics were yet to be deployed in the Greater Los Angeles area.  As a result, all the actions in this story were accepted standards of policy and behavior.  When a barricade occurred with the additional danger of shots fired by a suspect the tactical policy was somewhat drafted on the spot.


          A barricade call where an individual had an armed standoff with the Police was very unusual in 1964 and such a call drew law enforcement units like a magnet.  Deputies in Los Angeles County rarely became involved in actual firing of their duty pistol which in that day was a .38 special revolver that was purchased by the individual deputy.  The pistol held six rounds of solid round nose lead bullet ammunition.  Hollow point police bullets were in the distant future.  Added to the revolver ammunition, deputies carried a Sam Brown belt with a double ammo pouch that usually held twelve rounds, six rounds in each section.  It was possible to stuff additional bullets in the pouch, but the leather would cause at least the top round to stick, and extra rounds could just fall on the ground during a reloading action.


          Police Officers experienced a different society in the fall season of 1964.  Drug use had not yet infiltrated society to the extent that the many troubled and dangerously impaired persons really did not exist yet.  The statistics were that one out of every two or possibly three law enforcement officers would ever fire their duty weapon in self-defense or to stop an attack on another that would lead to death or serious injury.  The inherent deadly danger of this barricade call was not carefully considered by most of the responding deputies.


          It always seemed to happen that way.  The police radio had been silent for at least a full hour.  Instead of a calming effect, the radio being quiet caused a sense of tension even foreboding.  Cops do not feel comfortable when there is no radio traffic and all seems peaceful.  The volume of the Motorola radio that transmitted a voice with the assistance of a Dynamotor in the trunk was at maximum volume, after Jay had checked the squelch knob to see if the radio was even working.  As a result the loud call from Station B startled both deputies to rapt attention to the dispatch. The practiced and professional female voice of the Radio Operator or RTO showed no emotion and stated the call in a completely objective manner:


          "Car fifty-four handle, any two units to assist, attention fifty Sam, be advised that fifty Lincoln rolling from the station. A 417 (man with a gun) shots fired, 11 Ralph Street. Rescue, fire and ambulance rolling.  Five Four?”


          Jay and Joe were Car 54 (Actually) and both were now hoping to be the first unit to get there.  Jay was the junior man tonight.  He had transferred a few months ago from working the Hall of Justice Jail.  Also, he was the passenger or “Booker”.  He was the person who had to write all the reports for the night.  He grabbed the mike. "Fifty-four, ten four, five four."  With a squeal of tires, Joe expertly drove the Plymouth Police Interceptor as it roared into the afternoon traffic.


          Joe was trying even harder now to get there first.  No Code three was authorized, so Joe did not have the assistance in traffic of the red lights and siren.  It did not seem to matter, as he expertly mashed the brake and gas pedals at the proper time.  Joe was getting there fast, as he wheeled around numerous and surprised commuting cars, in moderately heavy traffic.  It would be many years later when a Court ruling finally came down that high speed driving without red lights and siren would make the County liable for a resulting traffic accident.  At this time driving Code 2 ½ was a common practice by patrol deputies and enforced by Station Commanders.  In 1964 and for many years later a code 3 was almost never issued for most emergency situations.  The deputies were also forbidden to drive code 3 to a call on their own no matter what the circumstances and traffic conditions existed.  As a result, there was a lot of reckless driving going on as patrols responded to calls with only the rear flashing amber “excuse me” light on.


          Car fifty-three Tom, the traffic car was there already as Joe parked the patrol car down the street, safely to the right of the house.  Roger, the traffic deputy, was also parked down the street on past the other side of the house.


          The wail of the L.A. County Fire Department rescue truck siren was four blocks away.  There were no other sounds.  Funny, Joe thought, as he glanced at his partner, that there were no citizens on the street.  Something may be dangerous, here.


          The Patrol Sergeant, Fifty Sam, rolled up, behind Joe and Jay's car.  As the Sergeant got out of the patrol car Joe asked him an important question.  "Are you taking charge of this, Larry?" 


          Larry unconsciously touched the sergeant's stripes on his left sleeve, with his right hand, as if he pondered the question for a second.  There was no option, he had to state that he was taking charge unless a senior ranking Deputy Lieutenant or higher arrived and made that statement.  "Yeah, Joe, it's mine, now.  We didn't get much info over the radio, and since the Lieutenant is rolling from the station, we should wait a few minutes more.  Joe, Jay, keep your eyes open until more units get here."


          It was only minutes later, when the Lieutenant, fifty-Lincoln, arrived on scene.  He had much more important information, since he had personally talked with the barricaded suspect’s wife, about a serious problem, involving her husband.  The Lieutenant had the suspect’s wife with him.  Yes, there was going to be a man with a gun in that house.  She had gone to the sheriff’s station to report that her husband wanted to shoot it out with the police.  Further, that he wanted to commit suicide but could not do it himself.  He wanted the police to kill him.


          Apparently, the 45 year old man had fired some shots, but fortunately had confined the bullets to the interior of the house.  The arrival of the numerous Sheriff's patrol units could change that.


          Another field interview with the wife of the armed suspect then disclosed that this was a case of a person refusing to take medications for a serious mental condition.  As a result, the personality of this suspect had deteriorated to a point of almost animal behavior.  The wife had never seen her husband in such a wild and angry condition.  When asked about the wish to end his own life, the wife admitted that she thought he was capable of shooting at deputies in his possible altered and mad state.


          A telephone link was arranged with the man with the gun, who still lurked, somewhere inside the home.  The barricaded suspect answered the phone but stated words that made no sense.  In a few moments, the armed man hung up, subsequently refusing to answer the phone any more. 


          Then, another loud single pistol shot was fired, inside the house.  After that, no movement or sounds could be seen or heard.  The gathered deputies had crouched for cover at the sound of the gunshot, and could hear the telephone ringing but no one answered.  Everyone continued to wait.


          After a full hour of patient waiting for something to happen, it was decided, by the Lieutenant, that the man should be ordered out, using public address speakers on one of the patrol cars.  After making three loud orders to come out of the house with hands up, the deputies still could not see any movement. They continued to watch the house with all the doors closed for another half hour and heard no sound or saw any movement.  The suspect was apparently not going to comply and come out of the house or he could have possibly ended his own life.


          The Sergeant and Lieutenant considered what had happened so far.  Yes, they had heard a single shot and absolutely nothing had happened after that.  Therefore they also formed the opinion that the man inside, could have taken his own life.  Or, on the other hand, maybe not.  The shooter could possibly be lying in wait for someone to enter the house The Lieutenant decided to find out by using a tactic that would not place his deputies in grave danger.  Several hand held teargas grenades had been brought to the location per order of the Lieutenant.  He had made the decision to deploy this method of force.  The Lieutenant walked up to the Captain of the local Fire Station and advised that these grenades burn very hot and that a house fire was definitely possible.  Use of teargas grenades was never taken lightly due to the fire danger.


          "Joe, take these teargas hand grenades, and throw them in the side window.  Roger, you break out the window with your nightstick.  Jay, back them up, with the shotgun."

Jay took a position behind a hedge that gave him a clear view of the target window.  However he had a second thought about his position.  He was only concealed and the hedge was absolutely no protective cover.  His Army training told him that he was hard to see, but a bullet would tear through the hedge and could very easily end his life.  Still, he maintained his position, as it was the only location with a clear field of fire that would back up the other deputies as they threw the teargas through the south side window.


          There were now about fifteen deputy sheriffs at the scene.  Note- that at this time there were no established SWAT teams to handle barricade situations.  All resources available for this incident were the patrol station deputies that were now arrived at this location.


          It was still daylight and only late-afternoon.  The two deputies with the teargas were very aware that they could be visible to the suspect.  They carefully made their way from two directions, rubbing their uniforms against the house until they made it to the side window, 20 feet to the rear of the property from the driveway.


          Roger hit the window with his nightstick.   However the single pane glass did not break.  He hit it again, and it cracked.  Two more hits, and a two foot hole appeared in the glass.  Joe pulled the pin on the teargas hand grenade in his right hand, throwing it well inside the room.


          Immediately the suspect came into the room by the window as if out of nowhere, and was therefore obviously alive.  The man quickly picked up the smoking teargas grenade holding it and not dropping it.  The device through design had become red hot, and was burning the flesh of the suspect's hand causing third and fourth degree burn damage.  He apparently felt nothing, however, and successfully lobbed the smoking teargas hand grenade back out the window, with it ending up right next to Joe and Roger.  Suddenly, they both realized that being in this toxic smoke cloud was the wrong place to be as the fumes burned their lungs.  Both deputies headed to the back of the property, down the driveway, towards the unattached garage.


          Now Jay was in an excellent shooting position, and through the window, saw the suspect pick up the teargas bomb.  He had yelled, "Look out!" but it was too late.    As the two deputies ran down the driveway toward the garage and eventual cover from gunfire, the suspect pressed his body, completely out the hole in the glass, breaking out the sash frame of the window.  Most of the glass broke out, from the press of his stomach.  He had a handgun in each hand and was leaning completely out of the shattered window.


          "He's got guns!" Jay yelled, as he forcefully racked the slide on the Model 37 Ithaca Shotgun.  A twelve gage high power double-ought buckshot shell rattled into the chamber.  The suspect was waiving both guns in the air, while screaming obscenities at the fleeing deputy sheriffs.


          Jay saw the split second moment coming, where the suspect could conceivably shoot both deputies in the back, as they ran.  He knew that to protect his fellow deputies, he must immediately act to stop this man, using deadly force and today, right this second, now.


          At a distance of twenty-five feet, directly across from the window, he knew that he had the position of advantage.  His previous U.S. Army training had helped him obtain a very good if not somewhat exposed location to shoot. Using the rifle sight on the weapon, he aimed the shotgun for center mass of the suspect.  His finger moved from the trigger guard to the trigger as he decided it was necessary to take the shot to protect the two deputies. 


He now focused his attention on the deadly weapons and watched the two handguns, still pointed up, at the sky.  One gun started to come down just a bit, more toward firing position against Joe then it immediately went back up and pointed to the sky.  Jay felt the sear of the trigger start to release.  It was going to happen.  Jay had made the decision to shoot, but needed at least one gun to come down just a little bit–not in firing position–just enough movement to show a specific intent to engage in the deadly use of the two firearms against the deputies.


As the scene converted into slow motion and the running deputies seem to spend seconds in every stride he experienced a strange feeling.  Something or somebody he could not see seemed to be by his side, advising him be calm and to now respond in a completely objective manner. His moment of anxiety then left him.  He was now objectively looking at this man and completely prepared to fire this shotgun and end his life.  With all the perceived time available to react, he found that the suspect was not going to bring either of his two pistols into a firing position.  Actually, both guns were pointed high into the air and absolutely no further movement to lower the weapons was observed.


          The two deputies made it safely around the corner out of range of the suspects and were therefore out of danger.  The suspect still had both guns pointed at the sky.  Jay had not fired.  He took his finger off the trigger and applied the safety.  The safety catch seemed to require an extra push as the hammer of the shotgun was only a hair from firing.


          He then asked himself, (Did I make a mistake?  I should have shot him.  No, he never made an overt act to harm anyone.  All he did was yelling and screaming, and shake two guns at the sky.  How did he do that with a burned hand, anyway?)


          A few minutes later, another deputy arrived with a Federal Labs 1.5 inch bore Teargas Gun, which may also be known as the "No. 210-Z teargas gun.”   Although first manufactured in 1933 this weapon was commonly used by Law Enforcement.  Using this military teargas gun would assure that the shells would get inside.  Enough of them, and the suspect would not wish to endure the CN gas, nor would he be able to easily throw any more teargas projectiles back outside.  The fire hazard from these projectiles was still considerable.


          The Patrol Sergeant took charge of the Teargas Gun and fired five of the 1 1/2 inch thick shells into the home.  The fourth and fifth rounds were fired through other front windows.  Thick smoke from the shells started to waft out several open windows and the broken side window of the house.  The firemen, who were standing by, should the house catch fire from the teargas, shifted on their feet, fire hoses charged with water, the valves leaking slightly.  They were uneasy about how to proceed, should a fire occur, and should the man start shooting at the Fire Fighters


          The sun was just starting to drop below the horizon, on the far side of the house, away from the picture window.  Two station detectives, rather heavy set, but physically fit, decided that it would be their job to knock down the side entrance door, next to the broken window.


          Then the unmistakable sound of glass breaking and wood splintering.  Two deputies, Clint, and Kent, had entered the house through the front door, wearing fire department Scott air packs per the order of the Lieutenant, assisted by one brave fireman, who used a sledge hammer to open the front door and then stood back as the deputies entered.


          Shots rang out, in quick succession, six shots.  It became deathly quiet inside for a tense moment.  Then loud yelling and the sounds of a fight in the house were unmistakably heard by the deputies posted outside.


          The two plain clothes deputies positioned by the side door were assigned as adult station detectives reacted immediately to the shooting and subsequent fight.  They each weighed over 250 pounds and were built like football players.  The two detectives were both kicking either side of the driveway side entry door.  The door flew open as the door jamb shattered and the top hinge tore from the right side of the doorway.  Both detectives ran inside but ran quickly back outside.  The teargas was too thick, it was choking them and the detectives could not see what was going on due to their loss of vision.


          Jay was a few feet behind the detectives and had for an instant--seen the other two uniformed deputies now hidden from view by the teargas smoke.  They were on the ground and they were fighting the suspect with their bare hands.  Since the deputies were wearing fire department Scott air packs they could see, breathe and shoot, but the heavy and bulky Fire Department air packs were never designed for wrestling a person with deadly weapons.  Jay thought: who was there to help them, now?  Jay had also seen a police service revolver on the floor that was dropped by one of the deputies.


          Jay keenly knew teargas from his two year induction into the U.S. Army and he had his fill of the irritating CN gas.  One thing he learned from the many exposures was that he could handle it for a while, well maybe.  He handed the shotgun to one of the red eyed detectives, and closed one eye, his right.  Leaving his gun snapped in his holster, he darted into the room holding his breath.  He fully knew no one could aim a gun in this choking atmosphere. Jay could smell the initial tell-tale signature of CN gas, which was like Apple Blossoms.  That lasted for a second as the irritating agent attacked exposed skin and now his lungs as he started to breathe.    He staggered  to the center of the living room, fifteen feet away from the broken window; feeling intense pain in his open eye, nose, throat and lungs.   His forehead and face started to sting. 


There were three men fighting.  Two were deputies.  He saw a gun in each hand of the non-uniformed man.  As he fully expected he then went blind from the Teargas agent.


          He opened the other eye, seeing for another instant, which allowed him to confirm that there were two deputy sheriffs wrestling with a man in a white tee shirt.  He again saw a gun in each hand of the man with the tee shirt.  There was blood on everybody.  He then lost vision in the remaining eye.


          Using position memory and some instinct, as he was now unable to see with both eyes, Jay announced himself as a Deputy Sheriff, entered the scuffle and found an arm.  It had a long sleeve shirt.  It was a deputy.  He felt and found another arm.  This one was bare and therefore had to be the suspect.  He followed the flailing arm, and clutched the hand.  It had a gun in it, and it felt like an automatic.


          He ripped the gun out of the suspect's hand, and twisted the arm the way he had been trained to do.  In a moment, the suspect was finally disarmed and handcuffed.  The gunman had fought hard, requiring three deputies to finally subdue him. That was amazing, considering that the suspect had been shot six times, three by each deputy and had third and actual fourth degree burns to his right hand.


          The now weary and sick deputy finally made his way, outside.  He was experiencing pain from the toxic gas in all the parts of his head, neck and arms that were now drenched with sweat.  His lungs felt that they were on fire.  He gasped for the fresh outside air, using his fingers to manually force his eyes open in a feeble attempt to clear the irritating agent from the fragile ocular tissues.  In ten minutes, his vision had somehow partially returned.  The pain did not go away for an hour.  Jay felt very ill but could not get help at the scene.  Either the firemen did not observe him or they did not know how to treat a victim of teargas in those days.  He had his partner drive him back to the Sheriff’s Station where he slapped cold water in his eyes to wash away the CN teargas agent.   Jay ended up calling in sick for a full week but he never saw a doctor.  Cops seldom saw a doctor in 1964 and in most cases of receiving an injury they just toughed it out.


          A year later, during a physical examination and a chest X-ray he found out that he had visible and permanent damage to his lungs.  He still stayed on the job, for another sixteen years, before retiring but always had some difficulty handling the L.A. Smog from that day on.


          Two days after this barricade incident, the suspect died from his gunshot wounds.


          The Crime Lab and County Coroner’s Office finally determined that only one police bullet caused the suspect's death.  The two deputies were not told which one of them fired the fatal shot.  It was felt, at the time, that this was a good theory.


          (Yes, they both found out.  They made a point of it.)


          Jay and the two other deputies received a nice letter from the Sheriff.  The letter was very unusual, in those days.  Police were just expected to do their jobs and thank you letters were rare.


          Also, it was finally determined, that the suspect had gone completely mad.  In this altered state he could no longer feel pain, and he had no trouble breathing the searing teargas smoke.  As the door burst open, the suspect aimed two handguns, a .22 revolver, and a .380 automatic, at the deputies.  The officers each reacted to save their own lives and each deputy fired three shots, all of which struck the suspect.


          The suspect never fired back at the two deputies.


          The suspect's guns were both fully loaded, ready to fire and had been previously fired several times within the house.  It appears, that all this poor deranged man wanted to do, was to stop living.  He was willing to provoke deadly fire from police officers to do something he could not do himself.  He wanted to commit suicide, but at the hands of another.  It was called suicide by cop.


          Maybe, that was part of the reason that the Department initially did not wish to reveal who fired the fatal bullet. Jay never forgot that incident due to his breathing disability.   He remembers that he felt that there was actually someone—a strong “person” at his side.  The fact that he did not shoot the suspect was something that nagged him constantly.  It was almost as if his invisible partner told him to hold fire until the suspect brought one of his guns down ever so slightly.  The entire incident at that moment was in slow motion, and he had what seemed forever, or plenty of time to pull that shotgun trigger if necessary.  The run for the door, and entry into a gunfight in progress with heavy CN teargas in the room was an action or reaction on his part completely without fear.  However he never stopped wondering why he felt that he was not alone in this deadly situation.

It was about 20 years later, but he finally realized Who was invisibly at his side and had actually backed him up.  He was given protection and guidance by a God that he barely knew at that time.  His protection, guidance and resolve were graced on him before the event of his willing acceptance.  He also then knew, years later that he would always have the Lord by his side until he was called by Him to conclude this fleeting life on earth.


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[1] Teargas grenades use an incendiary device or heat to turn the military CN agent into a gas and therefore these devices usually cause a residence to catch fire.