TALES FROM THE DONUT SHOP   BY JULES A. STAATS

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 This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.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

 

Ordinary Day:

          There are perhaps thousands of hours in a law enforcement officer’s career when absolutely nothing exciting happens.  In an eight, ten, or twelve hour shift most of the work that a police officer does is routine.  Still, there is always the possibility that something huge may happen in the next few minutes.  A call, incident, crime, traffic accident, or disaster may occur in the next instant.  It is important to note that what appears to be usual and very ordinary to most people, may be in reality a serious incident of great terror in progress, and still can be resolved successfully by the first responder.  However, this anticipation factor may be a major reason for a high incidence of heart conditions in the middle aged career police officer.

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          It was a lazy Saturday afternoon, one ordinary summer day.  Jay was finally writing in the finishing touches to the last of six burglary reports that needed to be turned in before the end of his shift.  Although he was a Los Angeles County Deputy Sheriff, he felt like a secretary after converting this massive volume of crime information to paper.  Still, even though it was Saturday and he was working today, He had weekend plans with his family; they were standing by waiting for him to come home.  Because of his urgency to get home he really wanted to get off duty without working overtime for a change.  As a result, he was now parked in a gas station in his black and white radio car and was situated close to the intersection of two major streets in one of the south reporting districts.  He watched the traffic drive by as the end of shift slowly became closer.

 Note that it is customary for law enforcement to write reports in a highly visible place, as a street corner.  As the theory goes, the presence of the police officer in the squad car deters problems, shows that the police are on the job, and allows the officer to use good observation techniques.  The gas station rest room is, of course another factor.  The ever present wish of the police officer is that maybe a bad guy will drive by.  Besides, looking like you are waiting for a traffic violator while writing routine crime reports is an excellent way to do paperwork and maybe suppress crime, traffic violations and mischief.  Sort of like killing several bugs with one rock.

          The Deputy’s hand was coming down with severe writer's cramp.  The extra pressure, needed to carefully and legibly write the numerous police first reports with a policy-required number two pencil exercised its toll on his hand.  Jay looked one more time at the large callous on his right middle finger.  Even during his years in school and college, he never had such a buildup of tough callus on that digit.  The deputy sheriff mused to himself:  What price, police work.

          He finally finished that last written crime report and as he rested, he glanced at the occasional cars approaching the intersection of this South business district.  He made mental notes of the contents of each car, as it passed, as per his training and street patrol experiences.  They were just usual Saturday afternoon drivers, some with children and some just heading home from the industrial area.

          Another car rolled by with four persons in it.  Just average people, the driver in his late twenties wearing a dark gray business suit, as was the front passenger or a total of two men in front.  Since there was no such thing as heavily tinted rear windows in California, Jay also observed that there were two young women in the back seat.

This was an ordinary car full of ordinary passengers driving by on a very ordinary day.

          Then as the new shiny full size vehicle passed by the deputy’s location, the driver of the car took just an instant to glance back through an open driver side window at the uniformed, sole law enforcement officer in the black and white patrol car.  That is all it took.  The glance of that driver, the nature of that quick look, and what the deputy saw in the eyes of that driver, was something very very wrong.  Jay felt the hairs at the back of his neck bristle.  Was it his instincts or was it something more?  The feeling of foreboding due to a mere glance of a Saturday afternoon driver was an actual first in his experience as a Deputy Sheriff.  Jay mused; did this guy just give him a guilty look, or was it something else?  In Jay's own mind, he now felt a sensation of warning bells ringing in his head.

          The deputy was keenly aware, that the driver of this new blue 1966, Ford had not committed any crime or even any traffic violations.  The driver was clean shaven and just looked ordinary.    At this time there was actually no legal reason to stop this vehicle, there was no probable cause to believe that any crime had been committed.

          Then, he remembered a recent case a few months back, where an informant told him of a major drug trafficking ring.  It was a very cleaver plan that had actually worked for years without anyone being detected and arrested.   A very well dressed man in a business suit would rent a brand new Cadillac 4 door sedan and take suitcases of heroin to Las Vegas.  His return trip included one to five million in cash in $100 dollar bills.  The courier was never stopped by police as he was driving a rented expensive car, was groomed well and dressed properly to fit the luxury car.  Jay wrote down all this information and had contacted a buddy who worked for the California Highway Patrol.  The methods of this drug and money transportation were given to the officer.  Subsequently the word went out to the Barstow California CHP units and two weeks later the north bound currier was stopped with a large cargo of heroin in it.  Jay got the positive feedback of the arrest from his friend in the CHP.  So, criminals had learned to pose as important wealthy persons to avoid detection or police interest.  This tactic is still used today to fool law enforcement.

          Jay shifted the car in drive, and left his vantage point in the gas station, driving after his new suspects.  He quickly caught up with the suspects’ car, and pulled behind their Ford, writing down the license number on his note pad.  Palming the microphone of the police radio, he ran the license number for possible stolen vehicle over the air as he continued to follow behind.

          "Car 255, 10-29 for a roller, California license, Sam Adam Mary, One Two Three."

A reminder:  Radio traffic in that day was full-duplex, also called frequency-division duplex, which means separate frequencies were used for transmission and reception.  The field units could not hear the patrol unit responses but all units could hear the downtown Los Angeles County Dispatcher.       

The response was unusually prompt, in an age prior to the present fast response of national NCIC computers.  The word "roller" told Sheriff's Radio Center, that he was following persons driving a vehicle, and subjects were inside--not just checking out a parked car.  There is almost always more risk to an officer, when numerous subjects are present with a stolen car.

          "No wants, California license SAM 123," a female voice replied as she read from the current Los Angeles Police Department list of stolen vehicles in the greater L.A. area. [1]

          Jay realized that this was a dead end on this vehicle.  He mused;  So much for that.  Still, the bad feeling in his head refused to go away, and now he felt it in his gut.  The bells were still ringing, and that was unusual for the deputy to feel that way.  Something is terribly wrong here, was the thought that would not go away.  He decided to see if he could fabricate a reason to stop the car on suspicion of "G.P.", or just on General Principals. He knew that if he should try to do that, he was treading on thin ice, as there were Constitutional Rules on unlawful search and seizure and even performing an unconstitutional act under color of authority.

          The deputy flipped the red light switch upward, activating the red lights on the roof of the patrol car.  His suspects confirmed that the driver was very aware of the patrol car and they immediately pulled over to the right curb.  Usually, you have to honk the horn, even use the siren to get a driver's attention.  Jay did not have good probable cause but the rapid actions of the driver were now of grave concern to him.  By this time, the deputy now felt certain that somehow, these people were "dirty" or guilty of something, but of what?

          As the deputy got out of the car, he scanned the area and noticed that he had stopped in a very desolate part of this vast industrial area.  All around him were vacant lots.  Nobody was to be seen walking in the area.  He took a step backward, leaned through the window of his patrol car and picked up the police radio microphone that he had moved to his dashboard by the spotlight.  "Two Fifty-five, request a backup on my roller, four in the vehicle, Robert Street, East of Central.  Traffic stop."  At this time, a radio advice of a traffic stop was not required but a concern would result in a request for a “fill” or backup.  That procedure done, with a unit on the way, made the deputy feel better.  He turned back to the suspect's car.

          As Jay cautiously approached the left driver's side of the car, the driver of the car turned back, poking his head out of the window.  It is a little unusual for the violator to speak first, but it happens now and then.  "Hi deputy, what's the trouble?"  The voice was obviously professional in nature, relaxed and even a bit friendly.

          Ignoring the question, since he wanted to establish control of the situation, Jay replied; "Could I see your driver's license and registration, please?"

          "Sure," the driver said, in a soft, calm voice, "But please, tell me, officer, what did I do wrong?"

          Jay replied; “You have problem with your brake lights they did not come on when you slowed down before the signal changed green."

          "Oh, I didn't know.  Now what?"  The driver gestured, with his palms up.  Jay knew that many of the current new Fords used a brake light switch that relied on the hydraulic pressure in the brake line system.  His experience was that many of these switches did not function until relativity heavy pressure was applied to the brakes.  Some new Ford police cars even had this problem.  In fact the 1964 Ford patrol car that Jay was driving would not turn on the stop lamps with light pressure on the brake pedal.   He had written numerous repair chits for some of the Ford patrol cars that had this problem and also had written a large number of “fix it” citations to other civilians for this very issue.  He decided to apply this well-known problem to the situation at hand.

          "Tell you what," Jay forced an uneasy grin, "I feel like giving you a break today.  I am going to make out a warning citation.  Just fix the problem, and there will be no court, no fine, no record, no nothing."  The driver advised that he was just fine with that.  Jay told the driver to please wait in his vehicle while he retreated back to the squad car

          Using the driver's license, Jay requested clearance for a warrant check over the radio.

          The radio room Sergeant immediately replied this time, using a deep radio announcer type voice; "Car 55, be advised, that the record bureau is currently not available by land line, and you cannot run your subject."

          Jay was swiftly running out of time and options, but the bells were still ringing in his head.  He decided that he absolutely was not going to give up yet.  He made a decision to try a long shot, since the driver's license was from San Anselmo California, which is near San Francisco.  He pressed the red mike button:  “Car 255, 10-29 the plate, California license SAM 123 again, and check San Francisco City-County please." 

          A female voice acknowledged the call with a “ten-four.”  A few seconds later, an obviously irritated radio room Sergeant came back on the air.  "Car 55, Code 1" (Acknowledge)

          Jay replied, "55, by."

          The voice sounded like a scolding father, correcting his child;  "Car 55, we are busy on another frequency with a pursuit in the South Central area.  You understand that I will have to land-line San Francisco for this information and we are very busy right now.  What IS your reason for wanting this check?"

          Jay felt committed by now, and was up to his neck anyway, so he really ended in stepping in it;  "I think the car is stolen."

          "Ten-four, 55, AND IT BETTER BE STOLEN!  Stand by!"  The Sergeant replied in an almost angry voice.

          At this moment, two back up units arrived.  The responding deputies were curious of the situation.  Jay filled them in, relating that he was doing all this on a personal gut feeling and was using the Ford brake light switch problem for his Probable Cause to make the traffic stop.  Most other cops understand this, and even though this appeared to be a bogus traffic stop, sometimes called a roust situation, they decided to stand behind the deputy.  The assisting officers played their part, to keep the suspects busy.  The suspects were subsequently distracted with the conversation and small talk.  Such chatting is an art, and many police officers are great at it. These deputies were masters of the art of conversation.

          Both men in the front seat were, in the jargon, super cool, as well as polite and cooperative with the backup deputies.  Both young women in the back seat were extremely quiet, but they answered when spoken to, by the deputies.  The girl behind the driver said that everything was "cool."

          Ten minutes went by.  The conversation between the backup deputies with these suspects tended to exonerate them from any involvement in wrong doing.  After a short meeting, the backup deputies agreed, there was no problem here.  The two assisting deputies felt that there was really no reason to stay there.  There was no Patrol Sergeant in the field, so the deputies could make their own field decisions.  Jay admitted to his backup units that he was possibly mistaken in suspecting these people, and he would take it from there.

          He then shrugged, and thanked his backup.  Within a minute, he was again alone, with his car full of no longer possible—who knows what--suspects in a vehicle that actually did not have a burned out brake light or a defective brake light switch. 

          With the backup no longer standing by the deputy, the suspect driver took on an expected attitude of annoyance and arrogance.

          "How much longer, deputy?" the driver barked out the window, obviously at Jay.

          He now felt that he had really lost this one and he was inching ever so close to being disciplined by his Department.  He had acted if he found and completed a warning citation that did not exist about an equipment violation that did not exist.  Maybe it would be best to kick this guy loose before the Watch Commander calls him on the radio.  He knew, that he was asking for a reprimand, by not quickly releasing these people to proceed on their way.

          Jay had turned his outside speaker off, just in case the abusive Sergeant said something the public should not hear.  Since the radio was almost too quiet to hear, He almost missed the return of his information.

          The deep voice of the Sergeant came from the interior of his radio car and the voice showed absolutely no hint of anger:  "Car fifty-five, Code one.  (also stating a special code advising confidential information), 55?"

          "Fifty-five is by," Jay replied with a curious voice.

          The Radio Sergeant's voice was now obviously intense and very serious.  There was both stress and concern in his statement, as he again transmitted a secret Sheriff’s Department code to Jay.  This radio code is rarely used.  This procedure warns the deputy sheriff that he has an extremely high risk stop and that the radio room has information that is confidential, about subjects that are armed and dangerous.  The code stopped Jay in his tracks.  He had heard that code only once before on the air.  He felt his neck hairs bristle once again.  A glance around, reminded him that his backup was no longer with him.  He then pressed the microphone button firmly and replied:  "Fifty five is by."

          "Stand by, fifty-five.  Attention, any unit in the vicinity, to backup car two fifty-five, code 2."  The Sergeant continued after a unit gave the nearest E.T.A. of three minutes. (Estimated Time of Arrival.)  "Fifty-five, you have a San Francisco Stolen, suspects are wanted for 187 PC. (First Degree Murder)  The suspects are also wanted as serial killers and may have with them two females, possible kidnap victims, 16 years of age.  San Francisco Sheriff advises that these suspects should be considered extremely armed and dangerous.  We are on the phone with the F.B.I.”

          Jay could hear in the distance the sound of a police car four barrel carburetor at full acceleration, but it was still blocks away.  Then the driver got out of his car, an angry look on his face as he started to walk back to the patrol car.  There was no time to position backup for a high risk vehicle stop.  If the suspects are in possession of guns, a fire fight might be next and there were two young girls that would be caught in the crossfire.  Still alone, he used a procedure that is presently frowned upon by some police departments.  He made it a point to now appear very timid, ashamed, and apologetic as if not a little bit stupid, as he walked alongside the driver and back to the suspects' car.   He then opened the car door for the driver and again apologized profusely for taking up their time stuttering at times.  He even stated that he had been in trouble several times with his department and that he would appreciate it if nothing was said about his mistakenly stopping this driver.  Further he will go back and tear up the “fix it” ticket. (That did not exist)

          In a very short while, the deputy’s stammering and prater started to obviously annoy the two male suspects.  To the suspects it was obvious, that this deputy sheriff was some kind of a fool.  That was the impression, Jay wanted to make.  The driver was again seated in the car and had has hand out by the steering wheel as he expected to get back his California Driver License back.

          Jay reached past the driver’s outstretched hand and held the license in front of his chest.  The man who had now been conditioned to think that this deputy sheriff was absolutely no threat, moved his arm inside to grasp the card.  As the driver started to take the license, Jay dropped the license into his lap.

          Without warning, the driver suspect found a .38 six inch barrel revolver shoved firmly in his left ear.  The driver started to move forward reaching his hand down to a concealed gun, down below the car seat.  The deputy cocked his revolver and held his thumb on the hammer to prevent an accidental discharge of the weapon.  All the driver knew was that the sound of the hammer of the revolver cocking against the suspect's ear conveyed a warning of immediate impending death.  The suspect froze in fear.

          Jay tried not to smile.  He had to bite down on his tongue to control his face muscles.  He was now, finally winning this one.  He felt at this moment, that he could not lose, and he was determined to achieve complete success in this arrest, by being in control.  He had to be as tough as he could muster.

          The male passenger also immediately started to reach under the front seat, a .45 M-1911 automatic was there, and it was ready to fire.  The deputy's words were quick but very calm. "Don’t do it, I have a magnum pointed at your buddy's head.  If I blow his head off, the bullet kills you, too.”  The passenger, now hunched over, hesitated in his attempted grasp for the firearm. Don't move a muscle, pal, or both of you die, right now!”  The driver cried out in a frightened voice; “He has a gun cocked in my ear!”  Jay had successfully instilled abject fright in the two men.  Both suspects now appeared frozen.  Jay instructed both men to place their palms flat on the windshield as numerous black and white sheriff’s patrol cars now converged on the scene.

          The assisting deputies, which eventually numbered seven, converged on the car, taking the two male suspects into custody quickly without undue force or incident.  In seconds, both men were handcuffed, and separated in the back seats of two radio cars.  This procedure keeps criminals from working up a mutual story, alibies, or lies. 

          The girls in the back—relieved of their captivity--started to cry, sobbing uncontrollably.  They had been in terrible danger, before and during this traffic stop.  They had been both sexually assaulted and sternly warned by the two suspects, that any attempt to get the attention of police would result in the killing of the police officers and the girls.  Jay’s unusual direct close up arrest procedure took immediate and complete control of the suspects, and prevented a possible drive away, pursuit, gunfight or hostage situation.

          The girl’s bras and panties were found, stuffed under the driver's seat.  This was grim evidence of what had happened the previous day.  Two fully loaded handguns were also found under the front seat.

          Later it was determined, that these two men planned to kill the two young women in the desert north of Los Angeles.  They had done this before.  At the present day, we call such people serial killers.

          The Watch Sergeant and Lieutenant had rolled from the Sheriff’s Station as this was a major incident.  The FBI had called the Sheriff’s station and indicated that it was involved in the case and would respond to the scene immediately.  Shortly after the arrival of the deputy’s supervisors, three new black sedans with government license plates arrived with men wearing business suits.  The men quickly walked up to the Sergeant and Lieutenant and made some statements.  After that the two male suspects were taken out of the patrol vehicles, and handcuffs were exchanged for ones from the FBI Agents.  The two female victims were placed in the back of the third FBI vehicle.  Without an additional word, the Federal Agents drove away with all the suspects, weapons and victims.

          Jay was then told by the Sergeant to just impound the vehicle for the FBI and write a short Supplemental or “Sup.” Report on a routine traffic stop that resulted in persons with warrants being taken into custody by the FBI.  Then indicate that the incident and persons in the vehicle would be handled by the Los Angeles office of the FBI.  No names or details should be on this report. 

He later learned that the actions of the rescue of these two girls was never printed on any newspaper nor mentioned on the TV news.  The news services and media never found out about this incident.  It was hushed up by persons unknown, and the public never found out the details of this rescue of two kidnapped young women.  His Lieutenant did make one statement;  Jay this will probably be the most important arrest in your career.  Too bad we can never officially mention it.”

          He definitely knows to this day that his “hunch” was something more.  He had later felt that the kidnapping situation with the planned killing of the two girls just was not destined to happen.  He was pushed and suggested by an outside force to take action and stop this evil team.  His facing and overcoming of the armed killers in their vehicle was possible by a wonderful power, an inner Spirit that gave him the insight and bravery to defeat these evil people.  When it was all over two young women’s lives were spared so that they could live their lives and accomplish many other things.

          Except for that, it was just an ordinary day.

 

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[1]  A check for stolen vehicles was almost always made with a current Los Angeles Police Department Auto Theft sheet.  There was no other stolen car database at that time unless a police agency was directly contacted.