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 This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.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.


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            It was about 5:00 PM on a Thursday afternoon.  There was a remaining thin overcast hanging over the San Gabriel valley.  The subdued sunshine would be gone in an hour.


            Jay knew that summer was not far off.  He loved to go camping in the High Sierra Mountains.  The combination of the high altitude, California sun, and the tall pine trees brought him back to those mountains, year after year.


            With that thought in mind, it was time to make a little extra money to pay for these pleasant activities.  There was some paid overtime available for working an extra shift.  Although he had just finished an eight hour day shift, and was scheduled to work the next morning.  He knew he could easily put in eight hours of overtime working an extra patrol shift.  Being only 25 years old he could get by with just a few hours of sleep.


            So, when the call went out for someone to fill a vacancy, he volunteered.


            He was pleased to find out, that he was working with an old friend of his tonight.  This was a buddy who he went to Los Angeles City College with.  The interesting thing about working overtime is that you can end up working with just about anyone and end up working patrol anywhere.  Jay was assigned to patrol the south district in his station area.  This is a mainly residential area.  Los Angeles City limits were about seven miles to the west.  The area was unincorporated, and known as "County area".  His patrol unit was designated Car 54--actually.


            Now Roland, his partner, for the night, was a very logical person.  Roland had quite a reputation for being an excellent cop, a hard and efficient worker, the kind of person who was always in control.  Jay felt pleased.  His old buddy was also making the grade as a professional Deputy Sheriff.  As Roland drove out of the Sheriff's Station parking lot in the black and white patrol car, Jay stretched his legs, while settling in to the passenger seat, feeling comfortable.  Yes, this afternoon should be a pleasant one.  They had a lot of old times to talk about, as they worked the policing of the streets.


            The shift had started at 3:00 P.M.  The afternoon proved very quiet, the radio was mostly silent, and nothing had happened to even mention about.  Some days a patrol shift experiences a slow or quiet start.  The radio is silent and few police calls are dispatched.  Still, as stated before; most cops have experienced that a slow period at the beginning of a shift, only means that all the hard work will of course, occur at the end of the shift.  The calm before the storm superstition is always on the cop's mind when things are slow in a usually busy patrol district.


            Jay shrugged inwardly, as he secretly hoped that this so-called "storm" would never happen, as his planned intention was to put in just a straight eight hours of overtime, and then, go home.  Any more than eight hours of overtime meant working over into what was left of his sleeping time.  That had, unfortunately, happened many times before.  He recalled working twenty-four hours straight a few times because the eight hours of overtime went into even more overtime.  His  thought kept coming back:  I hope a major incident does not go down to make this shift longer.   He shrugged off that unpleasant thought, thinking:  Let's not borrow trouble.  Maybe this will be a completely quiet night.


            Since Roland was doing the driving that night he was the one that would fish the area, looking for criminal activity.  Therefore Rowland had decided the crew was to spend some extra time, patrolling some residential areas.  Jay, on the contrary, tended to avoid the quiet residential streets.  He would rather work the main highways, looking for bad guys.  Most of the action centered on Valley Boulevard and the commercial district.  Areas around homes seemed to him, less exciting. 


            While patrolling these residential areas, they had found some cars with expired license plates, and some other relatively minor parking violations.  Roland and Jay dutifully issued some parking tickets for the offending vehicles.   Jay was just folding one of the latest citations into his clipboard, when his partner, standing on the sidewalk pointed to a yellow car driving down the street.  Roland shouted, "That's Robby Greenly."


            Jay knew the name well.  Robby was known to be involved in just about every crime that occurred in this community.  Mention car theft, burglary, drug sales, and even armed robbery, and Robby would be involved, in some way.   He was known to have a ring of followers, who did most of the dirty work for him.  On occasion, he would get involved but he never directly participated in these capers, himself.  But you can count on that he was always included in the crime in some way even if it was in the shadows of the criminal activity.  As always though, a crook finally makes a major mistake.  A captured burglar made a deal with the District Attorney's office and the police department next to the County area.  The burglar agreed to reveal his ring leader.  This information, along with further investigation revealed Robby's heavy involvement, with times, dates, places and incidents.  The justice system wheels then turned slowly but surely:  As a final result, there was an outstanding burglary and armed robbery warrant out of one of the nearby municipalities for the little crime boss, Robby Greenly.


            Jay observed that Robby was driving a ratty, somewhat rusty, and vintage:  yellow 1946 Chevrolet.  The car was a two door coupe, and was not the fastest car ever manufactured.  The factory version of the car had a six cylinder, in-line engine.  This should be no problem pulling Robby over, should he rabbit (flee) from them.


            Roland maneuvered the 1966 Plymouth Interceptor black and white radio car into following distance, which was about 50 feet.  He then hit the red lights.


            What happened next was not completely unexpected.  Robby was known to be a rabbit.


            Seeing the old Chevy pull away at such a rapid rate of acceleration actually surprised both of them.   As the suspect evaded the deputies, Jay felt that it was stupid to attempt to outrun a new patrol car, using a 1946 antique.  As the suspect's car rapidly moved away, Jay was painfully aware that Robby was going to run for it and due to this being a felony suspect a vehicle pursuit would be next.  Both deputies tightened their jaws at the same time, pulling their seat belts even tighter, as stress levels went up.  The way the car pulled away from the police unit showed this car did not have a stock engine.  Stress levels were to go even higher very soon, as the crew would find out the hard way that they had highly underestimated this vehicle, and Robby the driver.


            Robby was the kind of person that just did not have a conscience, and also absolutely no fear of doing anything dangerous.  The car had indeed, been modified, and sported a 283 cubic inch Chevrolet Corvette engine, complete with high lift camshaft, solid lifters, and twin four barrel carburetors.  This car’s engine was painstakingly upgraded and custom built for high speed and acceleration.


            Roland had flipped the selector switch on the dash from "horn" to "siren” Roland crushed the horn button.  The siren responded.  An electric motor rotated a set of fins past slots in a circular chamber.  The resulting pressure changes made a small explosion of pulsed air.  Increasing the speed of rotation compounded the violence of the pulses, as well as elevating the tone and volume.  A motor siren emits sound waves to the side, not straight ahead.  The result is a noise that causes pain for the occupants of the car that is using this siren.  As Roland wound up the mechanical siren, the painful, piercing scream forced Jay to wind up his window.  He could hardly hear himself talk on the police radio:


            "Car 54 is in pursuit, car five four."


            Roland reached down to the police radio controller, turning the volume knob all the way up.  The smoothly calm woman's voice from Sheriff's Radio Center replied: "All units on Frequency two stand by, Car 54 is in pursuit.  Fifty-four, your location and reason for the pursuit."


            The siren was so loud inside the car, even with the windows up, that he still had trouble hearing himself speak, when he replied: "Fifty-four south bound on Ralph Street, following a 459 and 211[1] warrant suspect, named as Robby Greenly.  Vehicle is a '46 Chevrolet two door, yellow in color, unknown license at this time; Now crossing Jane Street."


            The dispatcher replied.  "Speed and traffic conditions"


            Jay glanced at the speedometer, it read almost 70 at the time, and this was a residential street, for crying out loud!  Oh well, Jay lied:  "Speed is over 45 miles per hour (eventually we will slow down, right?) --and no traffic."


            "All units," the dispatcher broadcast, "54 is southbound on Ralph Street crossing Jane Street...”  She then repeated Jay’s information.


            Jay admitted to himself, that he was, at first, impressed by the performance of that old vintage car.  The pursuit continued for the next several blocks.  Going now at around fifty miles an hour, he observed that the fleeing suspect Robby almost ran over a child on a bicycle.  He never hit the brakes at this time, showing that he couldn't care less.


            But, in a few minutes Jay started to feel increasing uneasy.  Something about all this was very wrong.  Jay's partner was driving the car well.  He was staying right on this guy's tail within 100 feet.  But there was something else.  Jay looked at Roland.  He saw the look on this face, and knew what it meant:  This chase was becoming very personal. 


            Roland was doing things with the car that were making Jay more than nervous.  Roland was making him become flat fearful. 


            Now, this particular police patrol car was also a high speed performance "hotrod."  The car was equipped with a 383 cubic inch Dodge interceptor engine, and had a top speed of 130 miles per hour.   The problem of a high speed pursuit is that people do not hear, nor do they respond properly to a siren.  The very dangerous result was people were being surprised by the speeding suspect's car and the following patrol car.  After two near crashes, between Robby's car with other vehicles, Jay wished that Robby would leave these residential streets, before something terrible happened. 


            He got his wish.  Robby moved on to the main highway south of the residential area. "Now Eastbound on Ralph Ave, approaching Citrus Drive."  Jay transmitted.


            Since this four lane highway was much wider and had mild curves, the suspect's car accelerated at an awesome rate of speed.  Roland was pushing 90 miles per hour on the police car, but Robby was pulling away rapidly.  Robby decided to “cut the apex," by negotiating a left curve near to the left shoulder.  That meant that he was going to be way over on the wrong side or left of the double lines, so that he could maintain his speed and control of the vehicle at this high speed.


            Roland decided to perform the same maneuver with the patrol car by driving way left of the double line and almost hitting the side of a 20 foot cliff that was cut to expand the width of the highway.


            Jay winced, as he saw that the cliff embankment to his left completely blocked the view of any vehicles coming toward them.  Any opposing traffic here would mean a  high speed head-on collision.  Jay tightened up his safety belt, until he felt the belt hurting his waist.


            The patrol car, travelling at blinding speed, crossed over the double yellow line and touched the left edge of the roadway.  The tires on the black and white vehicle were not designed for these speeds. The patrol car started to drift or float from the centrifugal force to the right.  The speed of the radio car was so great that the deputies' car almost left the road after sliding to the far right shoulder of the roadway.  This was a four lane highway, but it was not wide enough to accommodate a vehicle reaching a speed of one hundred miles an hour.   Jay thought he smelled blood in his nose, as he anticipated a head on collision.  Fortunately there were no oncoming cars in their way.  Jay realized he was holding his breath for the whole maneuver and let out the air in his chest with a slight shudder. 


            Jay was thinking:  Thank God, there were no vehicles coming the other way. This is crazy!  If we keep going like this, we will all be killed! 


            At that very instant, they flew toward the main North and South Street, which was Onondaga Blvd also a state highway.  Roland was so busy keeping the car on the road at over one hundred miles an hour, that he had lost track of the suspect's vehicle.  As they rapidly approached the intersection, siren wailing, brakes mashed to the floor.  Roland said, “Jay, the brakes are almost gone, which way did Robby go?"  Vehicles at that time were equipped with drum brakes that faded with excessive use.  Although oversize and heavy duty, the brake shoes had warped with  the high heat reducing the stopping power of the police car by about 80%.


            That did it.  Jay had experienced enough today.  His churning innards were telling him--or was it a knowing voice--that to continue to drive this way would put the public at risk.  Oh heck, not just that, the fact was that if this pursuit kept going like this, he and Roland would probably die in a pile of twisted steel.  Jay knew without a doubt, that Roland was now personally involved in this chase, and was not thinking of anything but catching this suspect.  There were no thoughts of the consequences of any mistake or mishap.  I got to stop this, for both of us; Jay thought to himself, the pursuit should be terminated for the good of everyone, especially me.


            Still, Jay was having second and third thoughts. This was his old friend, whom he had known, way before they both joined the Sheriff's Department.  He did not want to look like a timid chicken, telling his partner to quit the pursuit of a wanted felony suspect.  Cops, to the present day, hate to admit to a friend that they are scared.  So, Jay just lied, saying; "He went left, Northbound!"


            In reality, he had seen Robby turn right, Southbound.  Jay felt torn, giving his friend and partner the wrong information.  He wanted to catch this guy as much as his partner did.  Yet, his better judgment and will to survive, actually more survival instinct than anything else, told him that this situation was not good.  He felt that someone would have to die if this chase continued.  He therefore just wanted this race to end before someone got hurt.  He decided that this pursuit was just far too dangerous to continue.  This was not the time and the place to die or go to the hospital.  Another thought: Maybe telling a lie was OK, at least this time.


            Roland made a hard left turn, red lights flashing and siren screaming.  The sliding patrol car left four wide rubber tracks in the intersection, as the car struggled to maintain traction and direction.  The four barrel carburetor sucked in great quantities of air as the left rear tire spun in an attempt to accelerate.  Heavy blue smoke poured from the left rear wheel well.  The left rear tire was spinning almost to the point of destruction, as the radio car labored to accelerate against the slipping rear tire.  Roland raced down the highway, and continued about a mile, northbound on Onondaga Boulevard.  Not seeing the suspect’s car ahead he started to slow the patrol car.  Naturally, the suspect’s car was not in sight.  Jay felt that it was time to finally end the pursuit over the radio.  He advised--microphone in hand--that car 254 had lost sight of the suspect's vehicle.  The pursuit was officially ended.


            Jay placed his hand on Roland's shoulder.  "It's over, Roland."


            But it really was not over, yet.


            It was only a few seconds later, that the radio Sergeant himself, came on the radio: "Car 54, a 902T (Traffic accident, no details), Vehicle overturned, on Onondaga Boulevard, three miles South of Meeker Avenue."


            "Ten four," Jay acknowledged the call.  Roland made a fast "U" turn, and rapidly proceeded to the scene of the accident.  Jay thought, maybe Robby crashed, after all.


            It took only a few minutes to get there.  Jay saw that something had apparently hit a 1964 Chevrolet in the front fender broadside.  "What a crash!"  Jay exclaimed.


            The apparent victim of the accident had absolutely no car left, forward of the windshield.  The frame was bent ninety degrees, toward the driver's side, and the fenders, hood, wheels, engine and transmission were gone.  Both deputies, looking down the highway at the same time, found the engine and transmission almost six hundred feet down the highway.  What was previously the front end of the 1964 Yellow Chevrolet was now in pieces and scattered down the highway.  Jay also noticed that the suspect’s engine and transmission were no longer bolted together, and were ten feet apart.


            Such were the consequences of the 1946 Chevrolet with the souped-up engine, running with 1946 brakes.  But at the speed he was going, no brakes could help, no matter how good the function.  Robby had apparently put the pedal to the metal, running flat out, and was—per the California Highway Patrol--reaching an estimated 140 miles per hour when he tried to run a red light.  A young mother, in that ill-fated 1964 Chevrolet, along with her two children, aged four and six years old were in his way.  Robby's car struck the mother's helpless vehicle broadside at the right front fender, just inches from the firewall of the engine compartment.  His car's front bumper impacted the young woman's car, slicing the entire front of the car off, hood fenders, front bumper, front wheels, engine, transmission, everything.  It looked like a giant knife had sliced the car as it rested, still in the middle of the intersection.  The suspect's car had then careened broadside to the right of the roadway, striking a heavy duty, eighteen inch thick signal pole, sideways.  As the right side of the vehicle hit the pole, Robby flew out the right door, ripping off the door completely from the car frame with his body.  His body then tumbled down the shoulder area to the right of the roadway.


            Jay saw the wreckage, and noticed the young woman still behind the steering wheel.  He marveled that the car was still sitting in the middle of the intersection, lying on the bent frame at a forward angle.


            Oh NO! There are children in that car!   Jay's thoughts were racing in his head.  He dreaded the thought of seeing injured children, and there was no question that the damage was terribly extensive.  There had to be major injuries to the little kids.  I hope they aren't all dead. He thought to himself.


            As soon as the patrol car screeched to a halt, Jay ran to the victim's car expecting the worst.  He just knew in his mind that he would see massive injuries.  Instead, he was more than happy, when he found that the only injury in the destroyed Chevrolet was caused when the six year old girl, bit her lip.


            Somewhat relieved but still apprehensive, Jay then ran to the resting point of the terribly mangled 1946 Chevrolet.  He knew that the injuries to Robby would be considerable, when he ran past a large piece of human flesh.  It was one of the suspect's ears, grotesquely lying on the ground.  Robby was lying in a fetal position with massive head trauma.  With all the blood it was hard to tell, but part of Robby's head was actually missing.  Another observation--and it was hard to believe, he was still alive.


            Jay looked back at the intersection at the Chevrolet sedan with no front end.  Years of writing traffic accident reports subsequent to specialized collision training but he never observed a  impacted vehicle that looked like this.  A vehicle going 140 miles an hour striking another car with this tremendous force would have caused the Chevrolet to roll violently several times.  There were no seat belts in use, and all three of the occupants would have been ejected from the vehicle during the high speed impact and subsequent rollover.


            No, it was impossible!  It was as if a giant hand or force had held the Chevrolet during the impact.  The vehicle had not moved one inch from the point of impact!


            At that moment, the patrol Sergeant arrived at the crash scene.  The Sergeant, a veteran of twenty-one years, had seen a lot of traffic accidents.  He had seen his fill of death, grief, and gore.  After a quick examination of what was left of Robby he shook his head.   He returned to Jay and Roland for an explanation of the circumstances. 


            The wail of the siren from the distant, approaching ambulance was growing stronger, as Jay told his supervisor, how the pursuit had gone down.  That they had terminated the chase, way before the crash occurred, and that Robby was speeding on his own, with nobody following him.  There was no one that Robby or his family could blame for his speeding and running the red light.  The Sergeant nodded, as he agreed.


            The final field decision by the patrol Sergeant, created an interesting legal situation.  Since no pursuit was in progress, it meant that the traffic accident was just that.  It was an incident involving serious reckless driving and probably fatal injuries but was determined to be a traffic accident period.  As a result, the investigative responsibility would be handled by the California Highway Patrol.  As the pursuing vehicle lost sight of Robby, it could not be implied that he had tried to evade arrest.  No arrest would be made.


            As related previously, the reason for the chase in the first place was an outstanding felony warrant for Robby.  The warrant had been issued by the local court for a nearby Municipality.   A detective unit, from that department, also responded to the scene, arriving just before the suspect was transported to the hospital in the ambulance.   Both detectives winced when they saw Robby's injuries.  As a result of the nature of the suspect's injuries, and his slim chances for survival, the detectives decided to not serve the warrant at the present time.  This decision had a profound impact on the taxpayers of Los Angeles County.  That end result was that the County of Los Angeles would not be liable for the care and treatment of the suspect.  The suspect was never arrested.  By not being in custody, there was no obligation for the County to undertake the necessary medical expenses.  The taxpayers did not have to pay for the emergency medical care of this criminal.


            Robby did run a red light, causing the collision but no citation was issued by CHP.


            Robby died of massive brain trauma four days later.  He never regained consciousness.  Maybe it was better that way.  Robby did not have much of a face any more.


            Robby was not the only loser in this story.  The young female driver of the 1964 Chevrolet, which Robby ran into, lost her car.  Among other things, she had not bothered to buy any liability automobile insurance.  She would not be able to sue the suspect and certainly could not claim the suspect’s car—what was left of it.


            There is an ironic postscript to this story.   Robby the local criminal was now gone and his influence on the crime in the area was more extensive than imagined.  Because of the death of only one suspected criminal, the crime rate in the south unincorporated area decreased significantly.  That is, for a little while.

            However Jay will never forget the scene of the high speed crash that defied the law of physics and the obvious fact that God protected a woman and her two small daughters for a future purpose.

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[1] 459 of the California Penal Code is Burglary.  211 is Armed Robbery