Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Just Another Day at the Office

It had been a while since I had last joined my partner Ken on patrol of the various parks in the city, so instead of going to class last night, I donned by city-supplied shirt, police radio and the keys to the volunteer truck and headed out for a few hours of crime fighting on the mean streets.
The night was going smoothly, so much so that the radio was mostly quiet, which is always nice. It means that nothing was going on and the city was somewhat crime free. There’s always something going on, like domestic problems or alarms tripped, etc., but there was nothing serious. We started our patrol on the west side of town, which is usually the easiest to do first and get out of the way. There aren’t that many parks to visit and they are sparsely visited, which means that nothing ever happens there. As we made our way to the east side of town, we received a call on the radio requesting our assistance to patrol the big park, a park I’ll call Central Park. It’s the oldest and largest of the parks in the city, and it is in the worst neighborhood. Frankly, I don’t like going there, and at 10pm, the only people in the park are dealing drugs, passed out drunk or homeless (or all three). It was difficult to tell what exactly was going on, but from what I could read into the police radio jargon, there was some guy with a gun in the area.

What they wanted us to do was to circle the park (it takes up a city block) and keep our eyes open for a guy matching the description they provided… of course, the description they provided matched approximately two-thirds of the people you’d expect to see at 10pm on a Monday night in Central Park: dark long hair, dirty complexion, white shirt, dark pants.

I got to speak on the radio, which is always pretty cool. After the request, I said, “Pace One, Affirmative.” It always gives me little butterflies when I press on the button and say something, because only about 200 people are listening, but it’s a lot like being on stage with everyone looking at you. The last thing I want to do is say something stupid… so I kept it short and simple. Affirmative.

We made about three revolutions around the park, and when we drove by the south driveway into the park, we saw a guy matching the description, but we weren’t entirely sure. I turned the truck into the driveway to take a closer look, and as I did so, the guy we were looking at, jumped up and ran into a break in the bushes next to several trees. It was highly suspicious, so instead of sticking around, I pulled the truck around to the right toward the middle of the parking lot under a big bright light. Ken and I figured it was a safe place to hold up while we observe the area where the guy disappeared.

We didn’t expect to see him again. What criminal is dumb enough to approach a city truck, especially when half the police force is looking for him. Of course, maybe he didn’t know that we were looking for him…but the next thing I knew, the guy was standing right next to my window, which was cracked a couple of inches. He looked dazed, glassy eyed and ruffled. His face was unshaven and he looked dirty, like he’d been living in the woods for a few months. My first thought was that he looked like Charlie Manson, which is never a good first impression of someone. I jumped because it scared me, and I started to say something to him when he began yelling obscenities in a nonsense way. I could only make out a few of the words—which I won’t repeat here—but while he was frothing at the mouth, he reached his fingers into the cracks of the windows and yanked down. The driver’s window shattered, spraying glass all over my face and in my lap and he reached in and grabbed my shirt and arm. From when I saw him until he did that, it took about two seconds to happen, long enough for me to throw the truck into drive and mash the gas pedal to the floor.

The truck’s tires spun on the loose gravelly blacktop and we slid to the right a little before it lurched forward about twenty or thirty feet. As Ken was fumbling for the radio to call in a Code 3, which is an emergency call for backup—one of those calls to the cavalry they teach us how to make and reassure us that we’ll never have to use it. As I’m yelling at him to make the call and he’s yelling at me to watch the road, two things happened that I wasn’t expecting. The first one is that, in the confusion, I wasn’t watching the road and I popped the truck up the embankment at the opposite end of the parking lot. The second was that I heard these weird popping sounds from behind us, like someone banging down the lid of a metal trash can, three times in quick secession. I thought something was wrong with the truck, like it backfired when we hit the curb and embankment.

Just right then, the rear window of the truck shattered, spraying those little beads of safety glass all over the inside of the cab of the truck, and when it did, those three popping sounds were followed by two more, only they weren’t trash can lids slamming down or the truck backfiring. The guy was shooting at us and we were just sitting there with the front tires stuck on the embankment. The windshield in front of us burst apart too, spider webbing in three places, a wide-patterned triangle between both of our heads. They always say that “bullets where whizzing by,” but I heard nothing but the banging of the gun, the breaking of the rear window and my heartbeat suddenly exploding in my chest. Ken was yelling, “The guy’s shooting at us.! He’s shooting at us! Get us the **** out of here!”

I remember yelling back, “I’m trying, I’m trying. The truck won’t go!” The gas pedal was pushed to the floor and the rear tires were spinning, digging the front end of the truck deeper into the grassy embankment. We weren’t moving.

Obviously, I couldn’t go forward up the hill, and I looked the rear view mirror through the large hole that was blown out by the shots and the guy was running towards us with the gun still in his hand. There was nothing I could do but throw it into reverse. There was a large grinding noise as the truck until it found reverse with a jolting lurch. We bounced back over the embankment and the small curb and the jostling knocked the radio out of Ken’s hand just as he was frantically calling in the situation to dispatch. As he’s bent over scrambling on the floor for the radio, we hit something with a banging thump. I wasn’t sure what it was, but the truck didn’t slow down. I looked up from the floor and the radio (on which the dispatch was answering our jumbled partial call with that calm voice that clearly didn’t fit our problem)…anyway, I looked over my shoulder as the truck careened backwards across the parking lot, and what we hit was the guy with the gun! The tailgate must have hit him in the chest with enough force to sweep him off his feet and into the back of the truck. He was face down in the bed of the truck with his legs sprawled up the tailgate. I didn’t see the gun wasn’t in his hand but he looked clearly upset. He got up on his hands and knees and swept the hair from his face.

He still had the gun! By now, Ken had retrieved the radio and was calling in for backup in a frantic voice, yelling into the radio that the guy was in our truck. In shock, my foot relaxed off of the gas pedal and the truck slowly crawled to a slow roll. When that happened, the guy in the back of the truck was able to steady himself to a kneeling position, and he brought the gun up to shoulder level, just about four feet away from us. Instinctively, I pounded my foot back down on the gas pedal, as if to get way from what was happening, and this is where the situation turned from bad to worse.

The truck was still in reverse, so the sudden acceleration threw the guy forward…through the blown out window and over the front seats of the cab, right into our laps. The gun was torn from his hand and bounced onto the floor by my feet. I stomped onto the brakes, as I felt that it was the right time to abandon the truck to the this guy. But the gun must have slid underneath the brake pedal, because the pedal did nothing. I stomped down several times and we were still rocketing backwards across the parking lot with a gun wielding crazy guy in our laps. Meanwhile, Ken and the guy were wrestling over control of the radio, for whatever reason, and I started to hit the guy with anything I could find, a flashlight, the megaphone, papers, the clipboard, a hard hat…anything. Nothing seemed to faze him as he was intent on getting hold of the radio. Maybe he thought it was the gun. He reached around and grabbed the steering wheel, pulling it hard towards him, like he was trying to lift himself upright again. What happened was that it sent us into a dizzying backwards spin.

The wheels were squealing as we spun around in a circle, which threw everything in the truck towards me, including Ken and the guy. Of course, it didn’t occur to me to stop the truck or turn off the key, but I think the longer we were moving, the better off we were for some reason. My right hand was stuck under the guys legs anyways, so there was very little I could do but add to the confusion by continuing to hit the guy with anything else I could find in the truck. I considered unleashing a barrage of pepper spray but I figured it would affect us as much as him, so instead, I smacked in the back of the head with it.

By this time, Ken had unbuckled his seatbelt and was on top of the guy, pounding away at him too, yelling all sorts of strange things. In fact, I was surprised how loud it all was. The engine was redlined and whining in reverse; the front wheels were squealing and filling the cab with smoke from the tires and all three of us were screaming at each other! Things were being thrown around and everything was banging around on the doors, the seats and the roof of the truck.

At this point, the guy must have found out where the gun had gone and he was trying to reach it, his legs kicking wildly in the air between us. He broke the cab light off of the roof and it hit me in the head, which stung surprisingly, given all that was occurring.

The guy’s head and shoulders were upside-down, near the center consol, and his left hand was now grappling for the gun that was stuck under the brake pedal (his other hand still had a death grip on the steering wheel). The area around us was now filled with the red and blue lights from the police cars that must have been surrounding us and the air was full of smoke from the squealing tires, but I really couldn’t see them because I was getting dizzy from the spinning.

Down at my feet, the guy is reaching for the gun and I’m trying to push him out of the way with my legs while keeping my foot on the accelerator. Ken was still on top of him, pushing me toward the now broken driver’s window. I could see down through the spokes of the steering window that the guy had his fingers around the grips of the gun and was trying to yank it out from underneath the brake pedal, and I knew that if he did, he had one more shot left (it was a revolver of some kind and believe it or not, I did the math—three initial shots and two follow up shots).

Just then, the guy did the strangest thing: While he was down there on the floor of the truck scrambling to reach the gun, he started to pull my leg… just as I’m pulling yours.

April Fools everybody!

I was in class last night, safely drafting the covering bracket shown in Fig. 7.45.

1 comment:

Yard Sale Princess said...

OH My God, I was laughing my a** off and getting ready to reach for the phone. I was believing every darn work that you wrote, after my initial surprise that you skipped class. I even thought, "Leave it to Ryan to know how many bullets would be left in the gun." That was great Ryan! You should write more stories like that, I swear I was reading it with my nose touching the screen.


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