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Stories of a Chicago Police Officer

30+ years of what it's like being an officer of Chicago

What Do You Mean a Dead End?

As a new arrival to the 17th District, I probably wasn’t the best choice for this assignment.  I was assigned to  block traffic on Peterson Avenue after a request from the fire department to shut down all traffic while they battled  a raging house fire.  I quickly arrived at my post and swung the squad across Peterson blocking both Westbound lanes.  I stood by my car with flashing blue lights and disposed of the vehicle traffic down the side street.  After a few minutes I noticed that the traffic coming out of the side street looked very familiar. I had been sending the cars down the side street that ran into a culd-da-sac and they were returning in full force.  Nobody looked very happy.

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Sergeant Gets Ambushed

Police work is difficult enough, then you run into a person who has an cold-blooded hatred for the police.  I just started my shift in the old 18th District.  It was customary for me to receive the most unflattering assignments because of my recruit status.  I was dispatched to Henrotin Hospital to guard a prisoner who woke up one day and decided to kill a Chicago Police Officer.  After creating a barricade to block an alley, the offender called 911 and reported shots fired to the dispatcher.  The 911 operator dispatched the call as shots fired in an alley where a Sergeant happened to be close by.  He slowly made the transition from the street to the alley, attempting to be as stealthy as a blue and white squad car would allow him.  He drove down the alley with an ear out the window, listening intently for the sounds of danger.  Squinting his eyes, he spotted something half way down the alley.  Garbage cans and other debris blocked the alley.  With the hair on his neck standing up, the Sergeant stopped short and quickly exited his squad.  Before he had time to find cover, a man appeared directly in front of him pointing a .22 caliber sawed-off riffle at his mid-section.  The Sergeant had drawn his revolver and with the drama of the old wild west, he and the unknown assailant stared into each other’s eyes.  The Sergeant fired first, striking his assailant twice.  The first round struck the attacker directly in the knee and the second round found his other leg, separating the bone just above the knee.  The offender was down.  Recovering the rifle and scanning the yards and bushes for other assailants, the Sergeant screamed out his situation over the police radio.  Within seconds squad cars poured into the alley.  The lone gunman was eventually loaded into an ambulance and I was now guarding him at Henrotin Hospital.

Now for the other part of the story.  As I relieved the earlier police guard, I was informed that this guy had a broken bone above the knee and the other leg had a bullet lodged in the kneecap.  Both his knees by now, had swollen to size of watermelons.  This guy was going nowhere.  Just the same, I handcuffed one of his wrists to the bed rail, just to make him a little more uncomfortable.  He did try to kill a Chicago Police Sergeant.
About a half hour after I started my guard duty, a male attendant came to take this arrestee to x-ray, before continuing on to surgery.  Chit-chatting as I walked alongside the gurney with our arrestee, I noticed that his feet were stretched over the edge of the gurney in order to make him more comfortable.  Waiting for the elevator, the young attendant asked what the patient had done to get shot by the police.  I informed him about the ambush he set for the responding officers.  I explained that miraculously, his .22 caliber rifle jammed, and the Sergeant was able to defend himself without being harmed.  The elevator doors slowly opened and without alerting me, the attendant pushed the gurney into the elevator and bounced the arrestee’s feet off the rear of the elevator wall.  The screams echoed off the inside of the elevator, and I immediately felt sympathy pains shoot into my knees. The attendant looked at me and with a very calm voice announced, that it was so morally wrong for anyone to attempt to kill a police officer.  After a lingering smile, the attendant pushed the button and the elevator began to move. We do have friends out there.

It Could Have Been Real Bad

Officer Dick and I were driving down Montrose when we were flagged down at about the 3700 block.  A frantic man was shouting:  “He has a gun.”  Dick and I broadcast the information we gathered from the hysterical victim and went to the front door of a moving company.  Drawing our weapons and counting 1,2,3, we rushed through the front door.  Sitting at a desk just five feet inside was our offender.  Dick and I instinctively moved right and left, all the while aiming our pistols at the seated target.  In unison, we continued to shout, “Show me your hands,”  and after a few very, very long seconds, the offender placed his hands on top of the desk.  Sitting in his lap was a cocked .45 caliber automatic.  My gun still trained at his head, Dick reached in and recovered the fully loaded 45.  After handcuffing the subject, Dick and I came to the realization of just how close we came to killing this person, or even worse, being shot by this guy.  In situations like this one, training and experience kick in and your body just seems to go on automatic pilot. You look back and try and decide how and why you made certain decisions and you realize it was all done subconsciously.

This Is How You Do It

 

On my day off, I was bowling on the 18th District’s bowling team, when someone asked me how I was going to like the 17th District.  I was confused. He informed that he had seen the transfer list and I was on it.  I called the 17th District and not only was I transferred, but I was working that night.  This was all before union protection. Anyway, off to 17 I went.  I was assigned to work alone in a District I had never worked before.  Officer Bill had also been dumped from 18 and was the only familiar face at roll call. Along with a radio and squad car keys, I was handed a district map.

Soon afterward I was speeding to a call of a burglary in progress. Officer Bill announced on the radio he was in the front of the location with his partner and I quickly set out to the rear of the house.  Bill was shouting into his radio that the offenders were running through the backyard toward the alley.  I spotted the first one dart across the alley and I attempted to strike the second one with the squad car, but he was too fast and made good on his alley crossing.  I bailed from the squad and took up foot pursuit.  I was maintaining the distance between us when we ran through a gangway blocks from the burglary scene.  Once in the yard, one offender took the fence on my right, while the other ran straight and started to climb that fence.  With revolver in hand, I let one go in the air.  The burglar on the right took off like he had afterburners strapped on his ass.  The other was scared and followed my orders to lie prone and show me his hands.  Just about that time, Bill came galloping into the back yard sucking air.  He handed me another bullet to replace the one I expired and in a singular motion kicked our burglar in the ribs, quickly followed by, “Don’t ever run on me mother fucker.” This was the start on a long run in the 17th district, good, bad, and everything in between.

Some Things You Want To Forget

Climbing into my squad car, the dispatcher announced a robbery offender being held by a store owner.  Pulling out of the station, we turned the corner to State Street.  Being the third squad car on the scene, I made my way through the front door of a small mom and pop grocery store in time to observe the offender still laying on the floor after being knocked unconscious by the store owner.  The owner handed the offender’s pistol to the first officer on the scene ,while his partner rolled the offender over to handcuff him.  The officer shuddered and  announced with disbelief that the offender was a police officer who worked the midnight shift in our very own station.  That was one hell of a way for me to start my police career.

“El” Robbery on Montrose

While we were on our way to breakfast, after a long and boring midnight shift, the dispatcher broadcasted a woman stabbed at Montrose and Cicero.  My partner Pete and I responded.  Pulling into a gas station on the corner, we observed a woman laying on the filthy floor inside the gas station.  Reporting that the incident was bonafide, we requested assistance.  Determining that she was stabbed in the chest and groin, we immediately requested an ambulance and tried to comfort her.  The station attendant was now complaining about the customers having to walk around this woman to pay for their gas.  He demanded that we remove her from in front of the register. I went outside and shut down the gas station.  Assist units arrived and blocked the entrances to the station, except for the responding emergency personnel.  We interviewed the young lady and she explained that she was robbed at the Montrose El station.  The person who robbed and stabbed her also stabbed a man who came to her assistance.  We broadcasted all the available information and after the paper-car (squad car assigned the job) was briefed, we rushed over to the Montrose El station to find a man down with two stab wounds to his chest.  Collecting more information, my partner broadcasted that the offenders were five male blacks, dressed in varying colors of sweat-shirts and sweat-pants.  The stabber was dressed in a red jogging suit.  After the stabbing, they ran south down side streets on the west side of the Kennedy Expressway.  Pete and I assumed that they would try and get back on the El going south. Our hunch paid off. We drove onto the Kennedy and observed three male blacks standing on the Irving Park platform, one dressed in all red. I pulled the squad onto the inner median and while Pete broadcast our situation on the radio, I exited the car shouting commands to the three offenders waiting for the El train.  They were on the far end of the platform, away from the other commuters.  Standing about fifty feet from them, I ordered them to lie down and show me their hands.  Ignoring my commands, they began to run toward an approaching train and a group of commuters.  Fearing that they would make good on their escape on the  El train, I fired a round at the stabber, missing him.  A second round also missed its target.  As I was lining up my third shot, I could see the panicked faces of at least a hundred commuters that the offender ran in front of.  I withheld the next shot.  But, the shots fired caused the offenders to run past the stopping El train and descend the stairs into the waiting hands of police responding to Pete’s radio instructions.  Jumping back in to the squad, we soon skid to a stop under the Irving Park El platform.  I informed my sergeant that I had shot at one offender.  I further explained that the two errant rounds probably struck the side of a three flat just east of the El station which was immediately broadcast and notifications were made. The Watch Commander was on his way as well as detectives and the on duty Street Deputy.  For me the day had just begun.

Three offenders were captured at the Irving Park El Station and two others were taken off the train at the Belmont stop by officers of the 14th District. Investigation revealed that the five offenders rode the El throughout the night on the north side committing seven reported robberies, all while drinking and smoking marijuana. With the last robbery, they became more brazen and almost killed two people. They stabbed the woman deliberately in the breasts and the groin after becoming angry over how little cash she had on her.  The man who had come to her rescue was taken directly into surgery which saved his life. Three millimeters more to one side and his heart would have had a hole in it.

After the dust settled, I did a “walk-through” with the Watch Commander showing him where I was when I fired the two shots relative to where my target was. I explained the necessity of choosing to use my weapon to stop the primary offender. Once on the train he could have jumped off at any time and made good on his escape. I explained that I refrained from taking a third shot when it became apparent that it may have endangered commuters.  Furthermore, I described how I personally interviewed both victims and I had an absolute identification of the person who committed the stabbing.  I told him I understood that, minimally I had an armed robbery, aggravated battery, and, possibly, a homicide.  The Watch Commander agreed with my overall assessment of the situation and declared all my actions adhered to department rules and regulations and Illinois state law.

The Deputy arrived on the scene and interviewed me about my actions regarding shooting at the suspect.  We again did a walk-through and I explained the locations of the offenders compared to my vantage point.  I had the side of a brick apartment building as a backstop for the rounds that did not find their target.  I had a personal and positive identification of the person responsible for an armed robbery and 2 stabbings, both victims in critical condition.  I stressed that if the offender made good on his escape, there was a very good chance he would never be brought to justice. The Deputy disagreed with me and out of the blue asked me if I shot at this offender because he was black.  I was stunned and speechless. With five years experience on the police department and a couple of them working a Chicago Housing Project, I was appalled at this question.  The politically correct Deputy did not believe that I had enough information on the person responsible for stabbing our two victims. He initiated a U-Number, an internal investigation on why I fired my weapon.

Officer Pete and all the assisting officers, including myself, were showered with accolades for the fine police work in assisting two critically injured robbery/aggravated battery victims.  This included the quick apprehensions of five offenders who committed about a dozen robberies throughout the night.  All in all, it was very good police work.

As to the investigation, the day the Deputy initiated it was the last day I heard  about it.

Found Baby

About three o’clock on a bitterly cold January morning, the dispatcher, in a broken voice, announced that a two year old baby walked out his parents’ apartment, dressed in only pajamas.  It was critical that we find him before he froze to death.  Additional cars raced to the scene and quickly started a methodical search of the streets and alleys nearby the residence.  I assumed that if he walked out the rear door he would be in the alley nearby.  I drove the alleys and within minutes I had the little fellow spotted, captured, and wrapped warmly in my police leather jacket, a little cold, but in good spirits and happy to see me. Immediately, I got on the radio and called off the search, allowing the dozen or so squad cars to return to their duties.  I returned my gift-wrapped package to the waiting arms of a tearful mother.

Our follow-up investigation revealed that junior awoke and went to the back door of the apartment for some unknown reason.  The door was locked but a quick turn of the knob allowed it to open.  Out for a wintery stroll went the adventurous two year old.  Mother awoke to a chilly breeze entering her bedroom and immediately notified the 911 dispatcher of the missing child.  We estimated that our young man was probably only outside for a few minutes.

To this day, all I have to do is close my eyes to envision the baby, illuminated in my headlights, waddling from side to side, making his escape down the snow-covered alley.

Surprise!

I assisted another officer on a disturbance call on Lawrence Avenue.  A man about thirty years old had chained himself to his automobile.  The problem was that a tow truck had the vehicle attached to the back of his truck and off the ground.  He was towing it for being in a private parking lot when the owner came out and wrapped chains around himself and the car, causing the tow driver to contact the police.  It was explained to the vehicle owner that once the vehicle is attached and raised, it cannot be returned to the owner without payment.  The owner was overcome with emotion and refused to unchain himself.  He was eventually placed under arrest.  The chains were removed,  he was handcuffed and put into the back seat of my squad car.  I had a cage car and Officer John did not, so I transported the prisoner into the station. He was not a problem and went willingly.  The trouble started when we arrived in the station lot.
John followed me into the station as was protocol.  I parked the squad car in the first space nearest the front door.  I opened the rear door and told the arrestee to exit the squad car.  He tried to comply but was having great difficulty maneuvering his long legs in the short seat with the protective cage banging into his knees.  I decided to help him.  I took hold of his pants by the ankles and swung his legs around and up on the seat.  Then I grabbed this guy’s legs and started to pull, sliding him across the rear seat and to the door’s edge.  As John made the turn into the lot, I began pulling on this guy’s ankles.  All of a sudden something gave and I went flying backwards across the front of John’s car holding this guys prosthetic leg.  As I stumbled  through the parking lot, I saw this horrified expression on John’s face.  Luckily, I regained my balance before I fell on my ass.  The guy never told me he had an artificial leg and I never thought to ask.  But, that expression on John’s face was priceless.

Location Location Location

The regular officer assigned to the foot post was day off, so the sergeant needed a warm body to fill in.  I was assigned to Michigan and Chicago Avenues to direct traffic.  It was explained to me that I should be there for the morning rush hour, then “disappear” for a couple of hours and return for the afternoon rush hour.  I asked where I should go and was told, “Kid, the world’s your oyster, go find your pearl.”  Meandering down Michigan, with time to kill, I turned onto Cedar St.  About mid-block, I spotted an old fashioned  barbershop and decided to get a trim.  As I relaxed in the chair, a burglary in progress call came out on the next street over, at approximately the same address as the barber shop.  I walked out the rear of the barber shop and announced on my radio that I was on the scene in the rear of the building talking to the complainant.

A gentleman had started to walk his dog, when he observed a male black climb through a rear window to his neighbor’s apartment.  He immediately called the police and began watching the window.  Within minutes my backup arrived and we located the building manager who supplied a key to the front door.  After successfully opening the door, our entry was stopped by the security chain on the inside of the door. This is an old burglar’s trick.  If the residents came in the front door , it allowed him time to escape out the rear door.  However, in this apartment, both front and rear doors emptied into the same hallway, and his entry, the bedroom window was controlled by the police.

Breaking the chain with a good kick, we made entry with weapons drawn.  We searched the tiny apartment in a matter of seconds but to no avail.  I then spotted a curly head of hair just behind the couch.  Being a smart ass I took my revolver and tapped the hair with the barrel of my .38 caliber pistol.  In a fright, I leaped backward as a furry black cat on the end table sprang straight up.  Catching my breath and trying to slow my heart rate, I still believed the culprit to be trapped in this tiny two room apartment.  Re-interviewing the witness, he swore nobody escaped through the apartment window while he and his dog stood watch.  Standing in the tiny front room, my eyes wandered around.  They became fixed on an old style record cabinet about two feet high and four feet long.  I slid the thin door to the left and saw a real head of hair.  The subject was pulled from the cabinet and instantly bombarded with fists by four police officers.  He was “accidentally” knocked unconscious. Standing over the motionless subject, an experienced  officer requested a neighbor retrieve a glass of water.  Just like in the movies, the neighbor returned and handed me a large glass of ice cold water. I thanked him and began to drink from the container.  The senior officer reached over, grabbed the water from my hand and threw it in the old boy’s face, awakening our arrestee.  Many lessons were learned that day, the most important one was, it’s better to be lucky than good.

 

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