I was sitting in my squad car in my driveway close to the end of my shift. The radio had been quiet on a Sunday morning, not much happening, my bed was sending out a warm invitation. I was jolted back to the reality that my shift wasn’t over until the clock strikes 6:00AM.
An alarm had tripped at a house which had been the location of burglaries in the past. The owners of the house had moved out and was trying to sell it. A vacant house, valuable tools in the basement, and a rural location was a tempting prize for burglars to hit. And they had- twice in fact.
The chances were good that this alarm indicated that the burglary was currently happening and the suspects were still on sight, looting the house. The chance of catching them in the act made my adrenaline flow. Nearly all the time, cops simply respond to burglary calls to take the report, snap pictures, list the items that had been stolen and pass it on to an investigator. Maybe this time it would be different.
The location of the house was in a rural area. Houses are spread out and there are plenty of places to hide a vehicle and spend time stealing items from a house without being noticed. I cut the headlights on my squad car and parked about 100 yards from the house. My plan was to walk up on foot, make any observations that I could, and wait for other deputies to arrive and set up a perimeter.
I had scouted the house during the daylight on the previous day to familiarize myself with the location if such a situation like this would come up. I knew a large pickup truck was parked in the driveway that belonged to the owner and I planned to use that for concealment. I had the cover of darkness to move up to the truck without being seen.
As I took a knee behind the truck, I looked through the windows and could see flashlights sweeping back and forth in the house. I relayed this information to the other deputies over the radio as they were racing towards the house like Blinky, Pinky, Inky and Clyde descending on Pac-Man all at once. We were going to lock the house down in a perimeter and make sure these guys didn’t slip the through the net we were going to lay.
My first partner arrived, moved silently passed me in the driveway and setup on the backside of the house (we refer to it as the 3 side as each side of a house is numbered to avoid confusion). A full minute passed and the plan was to wait for at least one more deputy before making the next move. As the adage goes, however; “No battle plan survives contact with the enemy.”
I heard the garage door open. With my vantage point and the darkness that was still present I could not see who had opened the garage door or where the person was. I had correctly assumed that one of the suspects had opened the garage door manually from the inside. The third squad was still 30 seconds out. Not enough time to wait.
I stepped out from my position behind the truck, drew my handgun, and flipped on my TLR-1 light mounted beneath my Glock 19. The light flooded the garage area and I could see the man turn around and face me, clearly stunned that someone had just interrupted his second degree burglary. I pointed my gun at him, began closing the distance between the two of us, and gave him commands to get on the ground.
Either he was intentionally not complying with me or his OODA loop was frozen and his mind couldn’t process what was happening. I told him three times to get on the ground and the final command was followed by a squarely placed Danner boot planted on his sternum. He dropped to the ground and my partner, hearing the cacophony of noise, came from the back of the house to make sure I was ok. It was the right move, but it collapsed the already weak perimeter that we had set up.
Knowing that there was more than one person in the house, I left suspect number one with my partner. I went into the house, started clearing rooms, and looked down the stairwell into the basement. I saw a flash of a black sweatshirt as suspect number two ran out the back door. Within a few seconds it was all over. One of them was in custody and the other was on the run through the back country of the township.
During the ensuing minutes the day shift came on duty, we setup a wider perimeter with squad cars, and called out a K9 deputy to begin a track for suspect number two. Usually that would be the end of the story, but this call was the one where it all came together. The one where fortune was on the side of the good guys for a refreshing change.
We never located suspect number two. We weren’t able to pick up a track on him and that was aggravating because we felt like we had established a solid perimeter within a few minutes after he ran out the back door. Two days later he was picked up. He told an investigator that he wished he would have not ran because he spent hours walking up lonely roads in frigid temperatures. He had ran through a swamp and the wet clothes did not help his situation. I call that providential street justice.
Suspect number one started complaining about chest pain as he sat in handcuffs. He wanted to know who it was that had kicked him because, “That guy kicks like a ninja.” A day shift deputy eventually transported him to the hospital to be checked out by a doctor.
While at the hospital he had the handcuffs removed while laying in a bed and waiting for an X-ray. His injuries must not have been that debilitating because he tried making a break for the fresh air of freedom. He tried running away from the deputy, hospital gown flapping in the wind, not realizing that the swift justice of an unsuspecting hospital nurse would derail him and add an additional criminal charge.
As he rounded a corner in the hall he ran face first into a nurse. The nurse was holding a hot cup of coffee which spilled onto her as they both crashed to the ground. The nurse got some slight burns from the coffee which gave suspect number one an assault charge on an emergency care provider. It was also discovered two days later that he had given a false name to us. Another charge. Boom.
And then there was suspect number three. He was the driver of the vehicle and had parked behind a detached garage. Like a solid, reliable criminal he had fallen asleep while his two friends were ransacking the house. We found him sleeping in the driver’s seat with burglary tools spread throughout the back seat. A felony.
I had the car towed to our district office where an investigator would write a warrant for it two days later. Once the warrant was signed and the vehicle was cracked open the icing on the cake was enjoyed. The trunk contained a mobile meth lab and a shotgun. Since the driver was a convicted felon it was illegal for him to be in possession of a firearm. Two additional felonies.
The icing on the cake was delicious. It was the one that all came together.