Jim Brown illustration
A while back, I was working a “C” tour, 3:00pm to 11:00pm, with a new recruit on his 10th day on the job, when we got a call about a stolen car. The victim suspected her boyfriend, an ex-con with whom she had argued earlier in the day. She told the dispatch officer her boyfriend liked to hang out at a local bowling alley and since that was in our patrol area we were asked to check for the missing vehicle.
We easily spotted the 1969 Plymouth wagon parked near the entrance. I radioed dispatch and told them we had their car, unoccupied, and asked if the owner wanted to come get it or should we have it towed. After a short period of time, I was asked to call the station. This usually meant they had some information they didn’t want to put over the air. We drove to the nearest payphone, since cell phones were still somewhere in the future, and I dug in my pocket for a dime.
The Trooper on the desk explained that there had been a burglary that day not far from the lady’s home with a bunch of jewelry and electronics stolen. He asked if we could see inside the car on the chance this citizen had somehow fallen back into his old habits. I approached the wagon, and sure enough, jewelry, electronics and a few other goodies were there on the rear seat. Since it would be better to catch the suspect in possession of the stolen property, I jumped back into the cruiser’s passenger seat and directed my partner across the street, where we tucked into an alley to see if anyone would lay claim to the spoils.
Before long, a slender, longhaired man with plenty of tattoos strolled out of the bowling alley and hopped behind the wheel. He spotted us right away and took off, gunning the engine through a busy plaza, narrowly avoiding other motorists. As we closed the distance, he then tried to evade us by driving through a residential area.
Suddenly, the Plymouth attempted a U-turn, slid across a grassy median and slammed into a telephone pole. We maneuvered the patrol car just behind and to the left of the wagon as the driver’s door popped open. I had my shoulder into the cruiser’s passenger door, getting ready for a foot chase, when I felt a sudden spray of broken glass across my face and caught sight through the shattered windshield of several flashes coming from the Plymouth. As I bailed out of the vehicle, I could hear the pop of gunfire and almost feel puffs of heat pass by.
I took cover behind the trunk of the old wagon and drew my issue Smith & Wesson .357 Magnum. Only 15 feet away, I had a clear line of sight as I squeezed the trigger, and just at that moment, I heard him dry-firing. I have often wondered why I didn’t pull that trigger the quarter-inch more it would have taken to fire. Instead, I screamed for him to drop it, which he wisely did. We had him face down on the ground and handcuffed so quickly it still amazes me.
It was only then that I noticed blood running from my partner’s forehead, but I was not as surprised as he was when I told him he had been shot. He never felt a thing. Adrenalin can be
a funny thing sometimes. As I sat on the prisoner, I looked back at our car. Three rounds had gone through the windshield and the other three had struck the passenger door I was exiting. One of the rounds that struck the windshield had broken up and part of it lodged in my partner’s forehead. Fortunately, the wound was superficial.
After help arrived, I found the weapon lying on the ground, a .22 six-shot revolver, one of seven handguns we found in the car. The handguns, all stolen, were hidden under the driver’s seat and included a couple .38 revolvers, a .357 Magnum, two 9mm pistols and a .45 ACP. The suspect later told one of our investigators that after he hit the pole he just grabbed the first gun he felt, jumped out and started firing. If he had grabbed any of the guns other than the .22, the rounds would have gone through the car door and me.
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