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 This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.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.
Marked For Immediate Death:
Why did this truck driver want to kill this deputy sheriff?
Jay was assigned to prisoner transportation. He had worked for the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Department for only six months. Far from being a law enforcement rookie, he had worked for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department for twenty-two years. After retiring, he had left the dense, choking smog of the Los Angeles area for the less dense, choking smog of the San Jose, Northern California area. At first he reflected that his decision was that he would not stay at this job very long. Besides, the work badly irritated some old injuries. When he applied for this position he was never asked about any injuries that could affect his work as an Extra Deputy Sheriff paid by the hour. Jay had to reluctantly admit to himself that if the nagging internal pain continued; it appeared that his days as a deputy sheriff here, were soon to be over.
He had just finished the morning court run which involved moving fifteen prisoners to three courts in the County. He had patiently stood in place by the door of the ten year old Bluebird School bus that had been converted into a caged and screened prisoner transportation vehicle. The bouncing bus ride —once again—had done a number on his innards. A few years ago he had been the victim of an on-duty assault that resulted in a major stomach injury. The doctors had warned him that much of his insides were still sewn together with silk thread. He was not even supposed to be working, but the bills were there and just had to be paid. This was the only job he knew how to do well. Maybe, in just a few weeks, he could afford to retire again.
Without showing any discomfort to others, he strode through the hallways of the Jail to a room reserved for deputy break time. Almost there, he then walked through the Transportation Sergeant’s office which was the only path to the squad room where the coffee and sodas beckoned. Unfortunately, his walk to the break area of the squad room was interrupted.
The transportation Sergeant had an assignment for him. The Sergeant was fully aware of Jay's previous experience as a Deputy Sheriff. He also knew the Jay was hurting from his old on-duty injuries. The Sergeant kept that information to himself and did not share this personal information with the supervisor staff.
"Jay, I have an easy prisoner run for you." The uniformed deputy winced emotionally, as he had just walked through the Operations Office with the expectation that he could sit down in the squad room, kick back for ten minutes and nurse a cup of coffee. The morning prisoner court run had also made him very tired. He certainly did not feel very happy about pulling another work assignment without a break.
"What do you have, Sergeant?" He replied, trying to act casual and friendly.
The Sergeant was a slender man, about 50 years old. His straight grey hair needed combing around his right temple. That meant that the Sergeant was nervous. He always ran his fingers through the right side of the hair on his head when things were not going well. Years of police work on the street indicated to Jay through personal observation that something was not right and that the Sergeant was uneasy.
The Sergeant replied, "I want you to run a prisoner solo, up to Folsom State Prison."
"Alone, Bob? That will be transportation of a convicted felon, right?" Jay replied in a quiet voice but the subject of that last statement caused him concern and caused him to just stare at the seated Sergeant.
"Alone." The Sergeant knew that any Transportation Deputy does not like to run prisoners by himself. Especially convicted felons. And if there were such a term of “most especially” that would apply in this situation. Transportation of convicted prisoners is an inherently dangerous job to start with. The felons can have hostile friends still on the street who could harass even lynch the prisoner from police custody. Too many situations can develop with no second person as a backup and too many things can go wrong. He knew that any of the other fully compensated transportation deputy sheriffs would be concerned. Still, the Sergeant evidently had a rehearsed explanation. “Jay, calm down! This is a no-sweat milk run."
Hearing this, he still did not answer but just continued to stare back without any expression as he just was not liking this. He had read the book, and Department policy was specific that convicted prisoners transported to a State Prison would be accompanied by two Deputy Sheriffs, not one.
"All right, Jay this is the deal, we are really extra short on deputies today. Everybody seems to have caught the bug and called in. I only have two other deputies, and I need them for the afternoon court run. They will have to work without you also. Anyway, this prisoner is definitely low risk. He is only a young paraplegic serial burglar. He is mellow, not a friend in the world, in a wheelchair, can't walk at all, and you can take 'Reggie', the car with the prisoner cage."
Jay cracked a half-smile at that statement. The transportation deputies had named the high mileage Dodge Saint Regis an affectionate "Reggie." All the men in the detail really liked that green and white marked patrol car with a big sheriff star on the door. Besides a prisoner cage, the rear doors could not be opened from within, so this prisoner had no option to escape if his legs actually did function.
He finally shrugged in submission, took a deep breath, and then replied: "O.K., Serge, I can handle it. Where is the prisoner?"
"Pick him up by the hospital sally port. He is ready to go. Get him to Folsom as soon as you can. They are expecting him."
The word “expecting” was not a word he wanted to hear. If Folsom Prison staff had this information that the prisoner was on the way, a person who leaked the information could really complicate this transportation and increase the possible danger greatly. Placing this last thought to the back of his mind, he grabbed his bag of items that could be necessary in case of an unexpected emergency, which included a first aid kit, rubber gloves, extra flashlight, and oh yes–extra ammunition for his .357 Service Revolver. There were no shotguns available to this unit, so the revolver he carried was to be the total defense available.
The next step was to find the transport radio car. He needed to park the patrol car in the alley by the jail prisoner hospital intake door. He left the jail in search of his what had become his favorite transportation vehicle.
He quickly located the car called "Reggie" in the back parking lot. It was full of gas, and appeared ready to make the trip. He then drove around the block tested the brakes, radio, red/blue lights and squawked the siren. Everything was working OK. He then drove into the Jail service alley, and found that there was no parking place by the Jail hospital door. He settled on a spot on the left side of the alley and about 300 feet past the door. He muttered to himself and started to feel somewhat uneasy, his racing thoughts calmed down when he recalled; Oh well, at least he is in a wheelchair. Besides, I will have the usual deputy backup as I load the prisoner.
Jay signed for the prisoner at the second floor Jail hospital. The prisoner seemed like a decent person. He looked more like a clean shaven college football player. The prisoner had light brown hair that was nicely trimmed. In fact he did not look at all like a burglar. Jay opened the file folder that he was to take to the State Prison. The papers and reports said it all. This cripple, soon to be a California State inmate, was at that time an 18 year old former high school student.
A year ago, this young man was driving a car at high speed on a back road. The report indicated he crashed the car, was hospitalized and found to be a drunk driver. He was subsequently convicted of drunk driving. The report also indicated that he suffered a severed lower spinal cord injury and as a result, completely lost control of his legs.
Other papers showed a pattern as reports and Court papers chronicled that Randy went downhill from there. He had rolled his wheelchair into several stores, time after time, and started shoplifting. He used a box in his lap at times, and at others used a backpack to hide stolen merchandise.
He got caught. Then he got caught again. Altogether, he was arrested five times for the same type of crime. The penalties became worse. The last time, since Randy used a shopping bag with a hole in the bottom—called a Booster Device, the District Attorney with the willing cooperation of the Department Store filed felony burglary charges. He was subsequently tried by jury and convicted of Second Degree Burglary. With so many priors, Randy went to the California State prison system for a minimum of four years.
Jay shook his head. This was a success story in reverse. He actually felt a wave of pity, thinking about the sadness of the story in the report of a young man going downhill.
Still another security problem came up. He then could not find another deputy to help him move the prisoner into the transportation patrol car. That was very unusual as Policy once again dictated that any movement of a prisoner from the jail door to the transportation car be accomplished with a minimum of two Deputy Sheriffs. Jay did not worry about the Policy issue, but centered his thoughts on his own present physical condition. This was going to be tough; as Jay could not lift anything over twenty pounds without pain due to that previous on-duty injury. I'll do it anyway, just like I always do. Jay mused. He was starting to feel another little wave of pity for himself too. Jay pushed Randy in the wheelchair, who was handcuffed in front of him and held the official folder in his lap. The only deputy Jay observed was the one who opened the sally port that led to the alley. Feeling even more nervous, he glanced left and right to see if there was anyone standing in the alley. There were no deputies, police or civilians. He was alone in an alley with his prisoner in a wheelchair.
Numerous cars and busses were now parked on both sides of the Jail service alley. Jay visually confirmed that the patrol car was still parked on the left curb of the alley and was just as he left it. Due to the amount of parked police vehicles in the alley, there was just enough room for a full size Prisoner Transportation Crown Bus to squeak through. Since there was no vehicle traffic in the alley at that moment, Jay could open the right back door of the patrol vehicle and hold the wheelchair steady. He had to uncuff the prisoner first, though. Randy, who had lost use of his legs still had strong shoulders, had just minor difficulty in swinging himself into the right rear seat. Jay positioned himself with his sidearm away from the prisoner until Randy was seated, then he reapplied the handcuffs.
A San Jose Police unit, bringing a prisoner to the County Jail stopped behind Jay. The crew waited patiently while the deputy loaded the prisoner into "Reggie." He finally had his backup for a few minutes. After that, the two police officers found a parking spot several vehicles down the alley and then took their prisoner to the Prisoner Intake Door which closed behind the officers and their prisoner. Jay realized that he was once again alone in the alley. What he did not know, that he was now being observed.
Jay closed the rear door, and pushed the empty wheelchair to the back of the patrol car. He collapsed the chair, and placed it into the trunk. A sharp pain in his stomach reminded him that he should not lift things. All done, he thought, time to hit the road.
As he slammed the trunk shut, he glanced at the tires on the left side of the car. He had overlooked that important check previously but both looked O.K. He then checked the right side of the patrol car. The tires were all right, but the right rear door was not completely closed. Jay thought: It might have hit his foot, I'll just reclose it.
Since Jay had locked the rear door, it was necessary to open the right front door, then reach back to pull up the locking button to the back door. He had to properly close the rear passenger door, since Randy might have a foot pressed against it. The paraplegic could not feel it, but a foot could be pinched and that could cause a bad medical problem if not corrected immediately.
Jay pulled up the locking button on the rear door, then locked and slammed the passenger front door. He walked back to the right rear door, and pulled the handle. It seemed stuck. Jay's full attention was on the door handle, as he stepped back, with his right arm outstretched, hand on the door handle. He was going to give it a strong tug.
Suddenly two large strong hands struck him in the back, right between the shoulders. Jay's air rushed out of his lungs, as he was violently pushed forward. Due to the element of surprise, he had no time to brace, as he collapsed, helplessly against the side of the car, arms outstretched over the roof of the vehicle. What little air in his lungs was now painfully forced out as the side of the car roof dug into his upper body. The sudden pain of the impact was substantial.
Jay, reacting quickly, started to reach down to his gun belt for his .357 magnum service revolver. He did not know who he was up against, but it was probably a lynching by friends of his prisoner. Someone was setting up an escape! He immediately reacted to this attack and realized that he was going to have to fight for his life!
As his right hand instinctively grasped his service revolver hand grip and released the safety snap, he was turning slightly to the right as he started to draw the weapon, an attempt to defend himself against this obviously very strong attacker. At that split second of time, a side view mirror of a large 1 ½ ton panel type white delivery truck passed by his right ear with a "whoosh." The west coast type truck mirror missed him by less than an inch. The bed of the truck missed him by maybe mere inches. Almost out of the corner of his right eye, Jay saw a glimpse of the driver. He saw a man with a dark completion, with the facial characteristic of a Caucasian and appearing to be snarling with sunken and very evil eyes. Yes, and somehow, he felt that he had seen this man before, years ago when he worked for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department as a deputy. In any case, the man was looking right at him, this was direct eye contact, as he drove by the stunned deputy while the truck was accelerating. The truck squeezed between the parked police vehicles at high speed without striking one of them.
Jay did not see a license plate. It was probably under the bed of the truck, perhaps covered with dirt. Maybe the license plate had been removed. There were no distinguishing signs on the truck. The vehicle quickly turned right at the end of the alley, and was now out of sight.
His response options were very limited. The police radio in the patrol car was not even turned on and the vacuum tubes took their sweet time before the unit was operational. The deputy did not have a portable radio. He could not quickly broadcast information to apprehend this reckless driver who would have run him down. At that moment he realized that he had just escaped certain death.
It started to sink in. Jay’s thought caused his head to pound in a frustrated wonder: Who pushed me out of the way of that truck? There is no one else in this alley!
Jay felt a cold chill as this incredible event exploded in his mind. He now realized and felt that his chest was painfully bruised. The reality was having the air knocked out of him, and being slammed against the car. He also knew that this truck did not even touch him. This was without question--two hands, pushing him hard in the back. No question that he definitely knew what he felt and he was painfully feeling the aftermath. More reality sunk in; the person who pushed him would definitely be run down, the truck was too big. His eyes scanned the alley looking for the injured or deceased person that pushed him while in the path of the truck. The thought once again repeated in his mind. There is no one else in this alley!
The deputy considered reporting this as a possible attempt murder of a Law Enforcement Officer. However, having retired from another Sheriff’s Department he knew all about incidents, reporting, investigating, District Attorney Policy, evidence, witnesses and reasonable doubt. It would be his word against the unidentified driver. This looked like a lost cause, lots of paperwork, and no satisfaction. Further, he had a prisoner in the patrol car that needed to be transported to Folsom Prison as soon as possible.
He then decided to not report this, since this could be interpreted as just an “error” in driving. However he actually knew better, as the look on that truck driver’s face was of a person who wanted to kill him. No doubt at all, he had been marked for immediate death.
Jay felt a surprise in his demeanor changing, as he opened the rear car door, moved the prisoner’s leg and shut the door—he was not shaken but now felt calmness and had a strong feeling of security. He felt as if he were in the company of persons who loved him and will protect him from anything. This very strong feeling and emotion re-enforced his decision to not report the incident.
He then climbed into the patrol car, secured his seat belt and started the long drive to State Prison. Nothing was said. For some strange reason the recent saving of his life by an invisible person would not stick in his mind. It was is if his mind was being programmed to just disregard the entire amazing thing that just occurred while a person attempted to kill him with a delivery truck. He actually lost his ability to recall that an invisible person pushed him out of the way.
Jay was driving silently for almost an hour, when he heard Randy speak through the diamond mesh screen cage behind him. In a hesitating and timid voice he heard the words: "Deputy, would you mind answering a question for me?"
Jay now welcomed some conversation. "Sure, go ahead, pal."
He felt like a jolt of electricity struck him, when Randy stated: "Are you a Christian?"
Yes, he was, and the total reality of the situation became clear. Now he knew what pushed him. No wonder he did not see anyone.
An Angel! An Angel pushed me out of the way of that truck!
Jay's voice was slightly hoarse, as he replied to Randy, the burglar now revealed that he was a prisoner without any hope. Jay swallowed hard and he made sure that his voice was a little stronger and more composed, as he replied; “Yes, Randy, I am a Christian. Why do you ask?"
"Back in the Jail Hospital I saw you read my file back there, Deputy. You know how I have gone downhill. I was the captain of my high school football team. I had it all, local fame, the girls, my grades were good; I knew I had the good looks. I was slated for a fantastic future. It was great. Well, it was Prom night. I had drunk a lot of stuff that night. My date even decided that she did not want to drive with me. She made a good choice. I was driving in a drunken fog and things did not look real. I guess I was driving fast. Something went wrong, and the car left the road. They told me that the car rolled over and I was ejected. Yeah I did not believe in safety belts and that decision cost me dearly. My body flew through the air and I struck a tree, and my back was broken. The doctors said that the damage to my spine was so bad that there was no chance that the injury could be undone.”
“Deputy, when I was younger before all my high school fame and success I had been a Christian, went to church with my parents, and even prayed to God now and then.”
“Hey, I did a lot more and worse things that I did not get caught for. I guess that I was thinking right now in the car, that I will probably go to hell and that I lost my chance at Eternal Life. Deputy, I really wanted that once. Yes I am a thief, and the Bible states that thieves cannot go to heaven. But it was almost as if a voice was telling me to talk to you. I had a feeling that I should ask you about this, deputy, even though I know the answer. When I eventually die, I will be burnt toast.”
Jay thought of another thief, who was on a cross next to Jesus, when He was crucified. That thief was forgiven on the spot. He then related that account from the Bible as he informed Randy of that significant concept. It underscored that only God’s Grace means everything and that so-called good works really mean nothing. That thief had no opportunity to be a changed person as he died himself soon after talking to Jesus.
Jay spent the next half hour explaining the basic things about Christianity: He felt that someone else was shaping and speaking his words: How to be born again, forgiveness, Grace, and a lot more. He told Randy that it was never too late, as long as he was alive, to ask for forgiveness of his misdeeds. In that police car, on the way to State Prison, Jay recognized that the Lord really moved the soul of Randy that day. Strangely, he never mentioned to the prisoner about the recent miraculous event--that is-- being pushed out of the way of the truck that would have run him down. That was just not to be mentioned as he once again just temporarily forgot it. This was the year 1982 when this all occurred. In years past, the moment of being touched—pushed—violently by an Angel or Spirit of The Lord became a vivid reminder to Jay of the very real involvement of God in all our lives--that is, only if we allow this involvement. We are free to handle everything ourselves if we choose. Protection is optional. However protection from God is very powerful.
Over the years he has wondered many times what finally happened to this now middle age person.
To the present day, Jay knows full well that without a doubt he actually was physically pushed out of the way of a speeding truck by the Hand of God--call it an Angel, so that he could then answer a simple question from a person who was now without any hope: "Are you a Christian?"