November 11, 2006
Chasing the Bad GuysBy Bob Weir
One of the most dangerous police activities, placing at risk not only men and women in uniform, but the general public as well, is the chasing of suspicious people driving vehicles. During my police years in plainclothes investigations, I found myself embroiled in many hair—raising episodes of homicidal behavior on the streets of Brooklyn and Queens.
One evening, my partner and I were in an unmarked unit when we spotted a 'hot' car cruising along a thoroughfare in the Bellerose section of Queens. That was before computers had been installed in police cars, so we couldn't punch in the license plate and get a quick response. Instead, it was procedural to call the dispatcher, recite the plate number and follow the vehicle at a safe distance while awaiting the 'yea' or 'nay' regarding the status.
There were 3 occupants in the suspicious 2—door sedan and they appeared to be observing us from the rearview mirror as we slowly closed the gap between us, neither car doing more than 35 mph. We could see that the trunk lock was punched out, always a sign of a stolen car, as we eagerly anticipated the dispatcher's assurance.
Suddenly, it wasn't necessary! The sound of spinning rubber filled the night air and a cloud of smoke replaced the image we had locked onto. The chase was on and my partner floored the Chevy just as we heard, '1—0—5 Crime Unit, your plate has come back stolen. The occupants are wanted for a robbery of a supermarket in Brooklyn.'
After what seemed like an eternity of twists, turns and wheelies, the fleeing driver, evidently realizing that my partner's driving skills would not allow escape, decided to go for broke. We could see the lights of Springfield Blvd. in the distance as the stolen vehicle seemed to go into turbocharged mode.
With less than a quarter—mile before reaching the heavily trafficked intersection, the light turned red against us.
'Bob, he's gonna run the light!' I yelled at my partner.
Shroeder eased back on the accelerator as we watched the maniacal trio smash into the left rear quarter panel of a car occupied by a young man and woman. The impact spun the vehicle around, hurling the woman out of the passenger seat onto the roadway. The momentum of the suspect vehicle allowed it to continue forward after the crash, jumping the sidewalk on the other side of the avenue and crunching a wooden fence and some shrubbery before coming to a smoking stop on a small patch of lawn.
As was so often the case, the felons were unhurt and they exited the car like track stars, racing into the rear yards to make their escape.
'Take care of this,' I bellowed to Shroeder, pointing to the carnage in the middle of the street, 'I'm going after them.'
The last one out of the car became my target. After chasing him through a couple of dimly lit back yards and over a few fences, I was gaining on him. As he reached a final rickety fence that bordered the next street, I slammed into him like a linebacker.
Our combined weight sent us crashing through the barrier and rolling onto the sidewalk with me on top. After a few collisions between his head and the cement walkway, he stopped fighting and was cuffed.
By the time I got back to the scene, with my bloody prisoner in tow, an ambulance attendant was already administering to the woman, who, thankfully, only sustained some bumps and bruises. Also at the scene was my commanding officer, who looked as though he had been sucking on a lemon.
'You're lucky you got one of them,' he said ominously. 'After a mess like this, your butts would be mine if you had nothing to show for it.'
As we began to get the info for our reports, my partner bowed at the waist toward me a few times with his palms held together as in prayer.
Bob Weir is a former detective sergeant in the New York City Police Department. He is the excutive editor of The News Connection in Highland Village, Texas. Email Bob