Cop Tales are true stories as told by law enforcement officers from all over the country. The stories are told in the First Person. The actual officer’s initials follow each story.
In law enforcement, we perform more tasks than just working the streets and investigations. As a lieutenant with the Highway Patrol, I had to teach an officer involved shooting/peer support class at our academy which was seven hours away from my house at least once a month. While I was going through a very difficult time in my life and a divorce, one of my sons who was in junior high school, told me his English class was having a night assembly. He told me that each student was giving a speech on stage and he wanted to make sure I was there. I never missed any of my children’s events, unless work prevented me from being there. In this case, I realized that I had to teach a class at 8 a.m. the morning after his speech. I would get out of his assembly at 10 p.m., drive seven hours, and have to teach a class with no sleep at all. As much as I wanted to attend his event, I had to teach the class. He was disappointed when I told him, but he understood. The day before his event, he asked me again if I could be there. I sadly told him I could not make it. He told me he understood.
On the day of the event, I packed for my trip and got ready to leave. I really felt bad about not attending, so I decided to give up on sleep and do the best I could. I called him and told him I would be at his event. He was very excited. That night, I sat alone next to other families. The theme of the night was “Heroes.” The other students talked about their heroes, such as Thomas Jefferson, Dr. Martin Luther King, George Washington, and Jesus. When my son got up on stage, his speech was about how his dad was his hero. He talked about how I gave CPR to a woman, and other incidents I handled. He spoke so highly of me. As he spoke, I could not control my emotions and I sobbed like a baby. The woman next to me leaned towards me, handed me a tissue and said, “That’s your son, huh?” It meant so much to me, but especially since he let me know that everything was going to be OK after the divorce.
I had to go numerous hours without sleep and teach a class the next morning, but I sure thanked God that I was there. It meant the world to me.
THE ULTIMATE PURSUIT
While working for a state police agency, I was assigned to a newly created response team called “Critical Response Unit” (CRU). The purpose for CRU was to be able to assist any agency in need of assistance, primarily in the event of a riot, natural disaster, etc. Our training exercises were conducted primarily at state university campuses throughout the state and major sporting events. One day after completing training at a large stadium, I left the parking lot and put on my police radio. I immediately heard the distinct chatter of police officers in pursuit. I proceeded onto the adjacent freeway near the stadium. As I continued to listen, I could hear the pursuit was southbound on the freeway. I was amazed when I heard one of the officers state, “The tank is slamming into the pedestrian overcrossing.” As I approached the scene, I could see what appeared to be a military tank being pursued by countless patrol vehicles.
I maneuvered my way to the front of the pack. The M60 tank attempted to cross over the cement center divider, but it got stuck. It teetered on the bottom of the tank. Needless to say, the area became a chaotic parking lot of patrol vehicles while the tank kept lurching back and forth in an attempt to dislodge. As I stopped and exited my vehicle, city police officers had already climbed onto the tank and eventually opened the hatch with bolt cutters. As I approached closer, I heard a gunshot coming from the open hatch. The driver was transported to a local hospital where he succumbed to his injury.
The driver of the tank was later identified as an honorably discharged Army veteran who had entered the National Guard storage facility that was mistakenly left unlocked while guardsmen worked late in an area away from the gate. The rampage took numerous police agencies and TV helicopters on a 23 minute pursuit through the city. The 57 ton tank easily plowed through road signs, traffic lights, utility poles, fire hydrants and crushed approximately 40 parked vehicles, including RVs. Downed power lines caused numerous outages. If the tank broke free, it could have killed a lot of people and caused a great deal more damage.
YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO REMAIN SILENT
In the summer of 1975, I graduated from the Regional Police Academy as a police officer. During the academy training, I had been instructed and trained on many topics, but one important topic was the Miranda Warnings. I learned the famous Miranda Warnings case had come from the Phoenix Police Department where I was now a young 21-year-old police officer. The Miranda Warnings are named after the landmark US Supreme Court case Miranda v. Arizona. In 1963, Ernesto Miranda was convicted for kidnapping and rape. The US Supreme Court overturned Ernesto Miranda's conviction for kidnapping and rape because he had not been informed of his legal constitutional rights prior to confessing. A second trial found him guilty.
While patrolling the downtown area, I met Ernesto Miranda a few times and he always offered to sign a Miranda Warning card for $1. Being a new police officer making $750 each month, I did not have a dollar to spare and would tell him I would get a signature later.
A year later, I was working my shift when the “hot tone” for emergency traffic was broadcast over the police radio of a stabbing at a bar which was approximately four blocks from my location. Just as the police dispatcher provided a description of the two suspects, one of them crossed the street in front of my police car.
The suspect was walking from the direction of the stabbing, and his clothing and physical description matched the description. I immediately took the suspect into custody and drove to the location of the stabbing. I contacted a detective I knew and told him I had a possible suspect in custody. The detective told me there were witnesses to the stabbing and had me remove the suspect from my police car so the witnesses could do a “one on one” identification. The suspect was identified by witnesses as one of the suspects. I turned the suspect over to another patrol officer, and went back in service to answer radio calls.
The following day while attending briefing, I learned that the victim of the stabbing was Ernesto Miranda and he had died from the wounds. If you are wondering if I advised the suspect of his Miranda Warnings, I did not, and I never got a signed Miranda Warning card signed by Ernesto Miranda.