TALES FROM THE DONUT SHOP   BY JULES A. STAATS

 

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 This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.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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A SURPRISE INCIDENT AND A BAD GIRL MISSING

Jay was a member of the complaint desk staff.  He was working the front desk at the Sheriff’s station.  It had been an uneventful day with few calls for service.  His duties involved making sure that emergency and routine calls for service were handled quickly and properly.  He also sometimes met with the public when they entered the lobby of the Station.

At this time there was no 911 center in the Los Angeles area.  In the County of Los Angeles and the contract cities served by the Sheriff of Los Angeles County, all calls whether routine, medical emergency, traffic accidents, and fire went to the station complaint desks.  A switchboard Telephone Operator took the initial calls and rang a bell when an emergency call needed to be picked up. There was a direct line to the Los Angeles Fire Department, and some fire calls went to them direct when there was a fire or fire hazard.  Because of the way everything was set up, any emergency could end up routed to the local Station Sheriff Complaint Desk.  The information that was from the person calling in was written on an incident ticket and given to the Dispatcher.  The Dispatcher then picked up a “hot line” to Downtown Los Angeles Station B radio room and passed on to an RTO operator.  The call then went out to the Sheriff’s radio system to the appropriate district patrol unit as designated by the Dispatcher Deputy.   A few months later the paper incident tickets would be replaced by one of the first computer systems.  The new system consisted of large consoles with small computer screens with green letters.  This call information would be sent to the Dispatcher.  The Dispatcher would determine which unit the call should go to, and then send it downtown.  That would be the system for several years.

This story and others are intentionally presented out of order to protect the victims and their families.

 

Jay was watching the multi-line phones, checking how many of the five lights were lit.  Only two lines were in use.  Not much was happening this afternoon.  Suddenly he felt as if his eyes were almost forcibly shifted back to the phone in front of him.  One line was steady and the other was on hold—blinking.  The line had been answered by another complaint desk deputy and placed in limbo.

He quickly picked up the phone and announced the sheriff station and his name.  He heard a calm male voice on the other end of the phone line.  (These are almost the exact words heard) “This is Officer John Doe, and his police department,” The calm voice may have been the reason for the phone being placed on hold to answer another call.  “I am giving C.P.R. to my five day old son.  He stopped breathing in his crib.” The soft voice continued; “please send help.”  The off-duty officer followed with the home address and cross street.

Within seconds the dispatcher had sent a patrol car Code 3 to the residence and advised the Fire Department of the emergency.  At that time there were no Paramedics and the Rescue Squad had only oxygen and a First Aid Kit to contribute to the incident.  However by this time many Firemen had been trained in life saving procedures.  The patrol car was less than a minute away and did a “grab and run” to the hospital with the off-duty officer and the baby.  The baby survived a “crib death” event due to the fact that the off-duty police officer just happened to be at home during this particular day and was next to the stricken child when he stopped breathing.

After that emergency was over several hours passed.  Nothing notable happened.  Jay noticed that the evening shift was being promulgated by the Watch Sergeant.  He walked into the office to see how the shift roster was shaping up for tonight.

The Watch Sergeant then advised that two persons had called in sick and needed to be replaced for the evening shift, 4 PM to 12 Midnight.  Replacements had to be made from volunteers that would work the shift for time and a half pay.  The sergeant filled one spot at once with another deputy who always wanted paid overtime, but a subsequent radio call to the patrol crews in the field yielded no more takers.

Faced with no volunteers, and always needing some extra cash on payday, Jay wrote his name in the replacement spot.  He was to work the East District unincorporated area with a partner.  However as 4 PM neared, the Watch Lieutenant received still another call from another deputy that also was ill and unable to make it to work.  Due to the inherently dangerous work as a patrol law enforcement officer, the policy was to not force an ill deputy sheriff to work while not 100% fit for duty.

The sergeant again tried to find a replacement by putting out another volunteer request but received no responses.  He then called several deputies at home who had previously expressed a willingness to come in for overtime.  All his phone calls yielded negative results.  The Watch Sergeant, after finding that no replacements for this car were possible decided that this would be a one man car tonight.  Jay had many years’ experience and had worked solo in a night patrol car more times than he could remember.  He informed and assured the Sergeant that he would be OK with working in the car alone, without a partner.

The relief PM shift desk deputies arrived and were advised of the changes made to the evening shift roster.  That said, he went downstairs for a short break and a cup of coffee as his duty shift briefing would not start until 3:30 PM which was a half hour away.

At 3:30 he and other deputies filed into the briefing room.  The PM Shift Sergeant went through all the incident and hazard sheets as usual, asked for suggestions and comments, then ordered the crews to hit the streets.  Nothing was out of the ordinary.

As Jay checked out his 1979 Chevrolet Nova patrol car he mused to himself that the day shift had—for the most part--been unusually quiet.  He hoped that this peaceful trend would continue until midnight.  Hey, he thought; he got paid the same for being busy or not.

He also had carefully removed the rear seat of the patrol vehicle to determine if any contraband had been discarded by a previous person in custody.  He yanked on the prisoner metal screen to see if it was securely attached.  He then placed the Ithaca Model 37; 12 gauge shotgun in the horizontal rack in front seat.  A metal box full of report forms, citations, and extra .38 special caliber ammunition rested on the right front seat, secured by the seat belt.  He was ready to start his shift.

The quiet trend of the day shift seemed to extend into the PM shift.  There were a few report calls to other crews, but no emergencies.  Jay convinced himself that this was going to be an easy money overtime shift if this quiet just continued.

Almost as a direct response to his thought, the radio issued him a call.  It was a missing teen in the East District area.  Actually, he welcomed the call as it would be something to do which would make his perception of the shift go by faster.  A few minutes later he pulled in front of a nice and well-kept middle class home.  He brought his clipboard and a report form with him, as a missing person report could be completed mostly on the spot although without unusual circumstances the report would be held, pending action for a few days, per policy.

He was greeted by both parents who appeared anxious about their missing daughter but also showed obvious signs of frustration.  The deputy was told by the father that their daughter, who had turned 16 years of age four months ago, had run away from home once again.  The father related that this child had run away twice before, and this was within the last three months.  After being missing for two days, the daughter was found by police both times in the nearby city of Pomona, walking the streets and heavily under the influence of drugs.

Jay was a parent of four children himself, and fully understood how the parents were frustrated as he wrote down all these prior circumstances.  He asked for and received a recent photograph of the missing teenager.  He was somewhat surprised to see a picture of what looked to be a wholesome and attractive teen age girl.  Somehow this photograph did not fit the circumstances.  He was told that the photo was three months old.

Further interviewing of the parents disclosed that there were no notes from the daughter indicating she had actually planned to run away.  The mother added that the daughter would not tell them anything about the previous runaway incidents, complaining to both of them that she could not remember anything.

The deputy advised that he would submit the report, but it would not be acted upon for a few days as this was not a very young girl, which would be classified as a critical missing juvenile person.  The incident would be handled by the Station Juvenile Detectives.   After that he returned to his patrol duties, driving around the residential areas in no particular pattern and just doing his patrol duty.

He was waiting for a red traffic signal to turn green when a thought hit him.  It was almost as if he had been spoken to, but he was alone in the patrol car.  Jay remembered the parent’s statement about where the teenager hung out with friends.  Only one location in the area was given that sold fast food and malts.  Following this suggestion in his mind he drove to this fast food shop.

This was a small independent walk up fast food restaurant, not one of the major chains.  He spoke to the manager and his employee, asking if they knew this girl.  The answer was that they did not know her name but they had seen this girl recently, and that she frequented their place.  Usually she was seen with another boy about the same age; sixteen or seventeen years old.  Neither one knew the name of this boy; only that he drove an older, dark blue Pontiac GTO.

The sun had set some time ago and most of the through highways at this time had few if any streetlights. He had not received any more calls so he spent the rest of the patrol shift looking for this dark blue GTO.  It was 45 minutes before midnight and almost time to end the shift, so he drove the patrol car to the nearby city limits then made a final U turn.  Jay pointed the patrol car west.  He planned that he would get back to the Sheriff’s Station just as the shift ended.

Just then, going the opposite way, and toward the city was a blue Pontiac GTO.  Jay was faced with his shift ending soon and his first thought was to just let it go.  After all, the girl had been missing for several hours and probably was miles away by now.  Then it hit him and he once again felt as if cold air seemed to touch the back of his neck.  He now felt that he was compelled to check this vehicle out, but he had no real reason to stop it at this moment.  Jay made a U turn and followed it as it crossed the line from county unincorporated to city streets.  However he knew that Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputies had police powers in any city in the County.  He decided to make a traffic stop, as one of the several GTO taillight bulbs was actually burned out.  This gave him acceptable if not weak reasonable cause to make a vehicle stop which is a form of the arrest powers given by California State law to Law Enforcement Officers.  Since there was no actual crime reported at this time, it was the only legal way to stop this vehicle.  The reason would be to advise the driver of a safety hazard on his vehicle.  He noticed that there were no street lights in this area and no traffic at all this close to midnight.

Jay approached the driver side of the car and observed a seventeen year old male at the wheel.  He had his driver license out and had a pleasant smile on his face.  Nothing suspicious so far, Jay thought to himself.  His plan was to ask this boy if he knew the missing girl and the last time he saw her.  However, before asking the question, he scanned the interior of the vehicle which was illuminated by his vehicle spotlight.  He had noticed another teen male passenger in the front seat and two other young males of the same age in the back seat.

He moved the beam of his flashlight to the back seat.  There was a blanket covering the floor between the rear seat passengers.  Then he saw it:  The blanket moved ever so slightly. 

The deputy quickly reassessed all the passengers with the beam of his flashlight, quickly looking at hands and checking for possible weapons.  There were none visible but these people presented a high risk if there was in fact a victim under that blanket.  This may very well be an interception of a kidnapping in progress if the missing girl he was looking for was under that blanket.

          He needed to stall the driver without causing suspicion.  There were 4 people in the car, and they could be armed and dangerous.  If the driver had the girl in the back, he then had a hostage; he could flee in the car. 

          An attempt to escape from authorities would cause a subsequent vehicle pursuit that could lead to property damage, injuries or even death.  To relax the suspect and prevent this incident from escalating, Jay asked the driver to exit the vehicle, and had him actually look at the one burned out taillight bulb.  The deputy advised that he would issue a “fix it” ticket which would not go on his driver record, but he need to show proof to a police officer and have the ticket signed off showing that the bulb was replaced.  The driver was obviously cool with that, and now did not appear anxious at all.  The deputy asked the driver to wait in the car while he wrote the ticket.

          Instead, he asked for urgent silent assistance which was to respond with no red lights and siren and a blacked out response.  He advised over the radio that he had a high risk stop with a possible kidnap victim or hostage and that the suspects were unaware that police were aware of it.  Within three minutes he had three patrol cars behind him, headlights off. 

          Two deputy patrols arrived at the scene within three minutes.  He advised assisting deputies that he would neutralize the driver and at that an assisting deputy would activate the passenger side patrol car spotlight to increase visibility.  Jay then approached the driver with his Xeon police flashlight on as bright as it would go.  He handed the driver a blank piece of paper and managed to shine the flashlight into everyone’s eyes while he spoke about how to sign off the citation.  When the subsequent spotlights further overpowered the suspect’s night vision, he ordered all occupants to put their hands up and with the assistance of the four assisting deputies; the four young men were taken out of the car and handcuffed without any resistance.  No weapons were found in the vehicle.

          The deputy then removed the blanket covering the rear floor of the vehicle, revealing the unconscious girl that he remembered was in the photograph.  This was an era before paramedics.  He requested an ambulance and the Los Angeles County Rescue unit.  The girl was subsequently transported to the nearest hospital.  His 8 hour shift stretched to 13 hours as he handled the interview with the attending physician, had the station call the parents, consult with them upon arrival at the hospital and put the details of this entire kidnapping incident in a clear and concise report format.

          All that was finally completed and Jay returned to the Sheriff’s Station to end a very long shift.  Two hours later he was back at work putting in another eight hour day shift.  He drank a lot of coffee that day and did not volunteer for overtime for some time.

          Jay was working another day shift as the Station Jailer a week later when the Captain who was the Commander of the station approached his desk.  He was told that there were two people who wanted to talk with him.

          He walked to the Station lobby and saw the parents of the missing girl.  The father of the girl related to the deputy that their daughter had actually never run away from home.  What happened were three kidnapping and sexual assaults by the four teen suspects that Jay arrested.  This was a well thought out abduction plan.  The girl was presented with a milkshake laced with Chloral Hydrate, a drug that caused her to pass out.  The boys then violated her repeatedly and kept her under the influence of various drugs for about two days.  The girl was then taken to a quiet street in the city and dropped off in the gutter.  The incidents were interpreted as a runaway delinquent and a bad girl using drugs.  Previously the station Juvenile Detectives had advised Jay what had really happed.  He knew all the details of this criminal case.  Nevertheless the story retold by the father caused Jay to feel a strong rush of emotions.  He felt choked up; unable to reply to the father’s story.  He could only nod his head and shake the hands of this couple.  However there was something that was unsaid.  The father had one more thing to say to the deputy who had been in the perfect place at the perfect time.

Jay will never forget the tearful words of this father.  “Thank you for giving us our daughter back to us.”

 

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