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If My Head Wasn’t Attached, I’d Forget it…
You ever have one of those shift that you look back on with a bit of embarrassment, a bit of relief and a lot of excitement? I’ve had a couple of those and this one fits all three of those categories. One in particular still seems like it happened yesterday.
Like I said in the last story, it seems that all the real excitement starts in Hondo, Texas.
Dean Sinclair, Greg Metcalf, Mark Marquez and I had created a midnight shift. It was an eventful shift and seldom did we not stop an alien smuggling load or have some other excitement…
Our nights almost always started the same. We’d go to coffee for the first hour usually accompanied by a couple PD guys. Then we’d made our strategy. This night Dean wanted to ride with Greg and that left me with Mark. Mark and I didn’t get along the best at that time but that’s another story.
During coffee we received a call from Medina County saying they had a criminal alien that was ready to pick up. Mark and I headed that way while Dean and Greg went up north to work anti-smuggling in the Campwood area.
At Medina County we picked up a car thief who no one would have thought was an alien illegally in the United States. Perfectly Americanized and spoke good English and he took an immediate dislike to Mark.
As we handcuffed him he looked at Mark and said, “You’re a disgrace to our race!” The alien spat on the floor of jail. A complete sign of disrespect.
Well, Mark wasn’t in a good mood already and this immediately catapulted him over the edge. When the alien resisted the handcuffing procedure, Mark immediately escalated. I was afraid we’d go too far so I reminded him about the cameras. With a lot of effort to control ourselves, we got the guy out to our car with him resisting the whole way. We opened the back door of the sedan and he stiffened trying to keep us from getting him in, then he tried to stomp Mark’s foot unsuccessfully. We finally shoved him in and slammed the door.
“Let’s get outta here!” I said after slamming the back door of the sedan.
As Mark opened the door, he said something to the prisoner who immediately began cussing both of us out. Great. I just wanted to get him to Uvalde and get him on his way to Mexico. I plopped myself in the driver’s seat, grabbed the mike and said, “Sallie Port East Door please.” The door opened and as soon as Mark got in I had the vehicle moving.
West bound to Uvalde. The worst was over or at least I thought so. We had barely made it outside of the city limits when Medina County called and advised that they had a possible burglary just occur just west of Hondo. They gave a description and with our luck the vehicle passed right by us going back into Hondo.
Mark called and advised as I turned the sedan around. Medina County asked if we could stop the vehicle as their deputies were enroute but were across town. Mark advised them we would.
A possible burglary creates the necessity of a felony stop so we waited till we got into town, called in the plate and hit the lights. The vehicle, an older sedan with two occupants pulled into a large strip mall parking lot just at the edge of town. I angled the sedan slightly off canter as we’d been taught. Put the spotlight on the driver, slammed the vehicle into park and even remembered to put the radio to its loud speaker mode. I slid out of the driver’s seat in one fluid motion.
It was a perfectly executed felony stop so far…
As I’m sliding out of the seat and standing, I’m reaching for my revolver and instantly a shot of panic went through me. I had forgotten to grab my weapon from the Medina County lockup. I looked over at Mark and he had an equivalent look of panic on his face. Shit! Immediately I was sure that we’d end up dead because of my mistake! How could I have driven off without my weapon? I was more scared than embarrassed at the time but that would change.
Mark grabbed the shotgun, our only weapon. I took a few deep breaths and grabbed the radio mike. “Driver, turn your vehicle off!” He complied.
“Driver step out with your hands above your head. Face away from me.” Again the driver complied. I had the passenger do the same thing and he too didn’t resist.
Suddenly a Medina County deputy was behind us. I turned my gun side away from him so he wouldn’t know that I was unarmed. I couldn’t even think of admitting that. Two deputies, under our cover, went up and handcuffed the subjects.
“Appreciate your assistance!” Both stated and loaded their prisoners into the back of their squad car.
“We’ve got to get this guy back to Uvalde for the bus,” I stated remember that not only had we forgotten our weapons but we just did a felony stop with a prisoner in the back. Hmm.
We drove back to the county jail and when they asked why we needed in I stated that we’d forgotten something in the gun lock up. I grabbed our two weapons, handed Mark his and got back in. We’d survived. I felt a huge amount of embarrassment but we’d lived.
If you leave your unmarked Police Car unlocked and running in front of your home in the middle of the night don’t expect it to be there when you come out…
Mark and I headed back to Uvalde. “We need to get gas first thing,” I stated but Mark was looking out the window or already dozing on the forty-minute trip back to Uvalde and didn’t answer me.
I settled in for the drive back. It was that late part of early morning when there isn’t another car anywhere which made it easy to drive. I was tired. All the adrenalin and excitement had drained me so I to was ready for an easy drive back without any more issues coming up. We needed to drop our prisoner off, get gas and go have some breakfast tacos as soon as the Town House restaurant opened. It was a good plan.
We were just coming into Uvalde when I saw the lights of a car approaching us from the rear. The lights suddenly dipped right and then back left and I knew the car had gone off the road. Mark appeared to be dozing in the passenger seat. “Hey, we have a drunk or someone that’s falling asleep.” I told him.
“So?” was his response. Some agents didn’t mess with drunks and others did. I guess I felt it was my civic duty to at least advise Uvalde. I pulled over to the right and turned so my lights illuminated the highway. As the car passed us I saw that it was a four door sedan and two shirtless Hispanics were in the front seat. I pulled behind the car and it slowed down instantly. The car had Texas Exempt plates which made me really curious. It floated over the center line a couple more times.
“910-Uvalde,” I’d said the same thing hundreds of times before.
“Go ahead,” the dispatcher, a female who had worked with them for years, answered.
“We have a four door sedan bearing Texas Exempt plates, west bound coming into Uvalde. I believe it may be a DUI.” Over the years I’d called in a lot of possible DUIs and most turned out to be just that.
Johnny Longoria and Mondo Martinez were eating at What-A-Burger and Johnny, surely not wanting his meal to be interrupted replied. “910 could you stop that car and we’ll be there in just a couple,”
“10-4,” I replied. We’d all done this before so it was no big deal to stop a car for the PD. I got behind the vehicle and hit my overhead lights. The car continued on for a ways and then came to a stop right next to the Inn of Uvalde. I looked over at Mark but I’m sure he was upset with me for getting involved.
As I walked up to the rear driver side of the car, I noticed that the driver was doing something with his hands. Suddenly I knew I was in trouble and instinctively jumped back and drew my weapon. The car then lurched forward and accelerated away from us.
I ran back to the car and off we went. “Uvalde be advised that the vehicle is fleeing west bound on main. We are in pursuit.” Mark said into the mike, finally losing his irritation with me and becoming part of our team.
“315-910,” Johnny Longoria’s voice, now not nearly so nonchalant, came over the radio.
“Go ahead,” Mark answered.
“We’re just passing Town House!” I looked in the rearview mirror and saw the red and blues flashing of Johnny and Mondo’s cruiser.
“Uvalde All Units. Uvalde All Units,” the dispatcher’s voice seemed strained. “Be advised that the suspect vehicle was reported stolen this AM from San Antonio and that it does belong to San Antonio Police Department. Stand by for more,”
“Stolen police car!” I quipped happy now with my decision to stop a possible drunk for the PD.
We passed through Uvalde accelerating to well above 90 before we hit the west end. Johnny and Mondo took over the lead spot with us right behind them.
“Uvalde All Units. Uvalde All Units!” The dispatcher’s voice came across the radio. “Be advised that San Antonio PD believes there should be a shotgun in the stolen car and possibly other weapons!”
The chase instantly became very serious. As we left Uvalde breaking the 100 mph marker with our lights and siren blaring, I looked down at the fuel gauge and saw that it read a little under a quarter tank. “Mark, WE ARE GOING TO RUN OUT OF GAS IF this chase goes very far,” I said to him.
He was instantly upset as if it was completely my fault. In reality it was. I should have gassed up in Hondo but didn’t. My thought was that it’d be a nice leisurely trip back to Uvalde. We’d fuel up then. Shit.
I was in a panic. I couldn’t imagine abandoning the chase and leaving Johnny, who was a good friend, and Mondo who we often had coffee with, to deal a stolen police car with a shotgun in it by themselves. West bound out of Uvalde has nothing for 40 miles except for a Border Patrol Checkpoint at Cline and then Brackettville which is a small town of a couple thousand people at the max. But Brackettville did have a large contingency of Border Patrol Agents and they said they would be waiting for us at Cline.
“315-910,” I said over the car to car frequency.
“910 go ahead,” Mondo’s voice came over the radio.
“Hey we’re having vehicle issues. I’m not sure how much further we can continue.”
There was a long period of dead air and then Johnny’s voice came over the radio. “Bob, don’t you quit this chase! Don’t you leave us!” Johnny was mad. His voice was slightly panicked and I understood exactly where he was coming from. If he’d told me the same thing my heart would have sank completely.
“We’ve got Brackettville Agents up ahead. We’ll make it to them,” Looking down at the fuel gauge I was sure I was lying because it read at E already. Going twice the speed limit isn’t a very good way to conserve fuel.
I didn’t want to tell them that we were running out of gas but instead contacted Junior Helbig who was the son in law of one of the old timers in Uvalde and a nice guy. I told him over the radio that we were having vehicle issues and that I wasn’t sure how long our sedan would go on.
Junior said he would pick one of us up and have another agent pick up the other. I bit my lip hard to keep the stress level down and remember it tasting weird. I prayed we could just make it the few more miles to the Brackettville agents.
Luck was with us for we soon passed the agents, about five of them, sitting beside the highway watching us go by at Mach 1! I wasn’t sure what I’d expected them to do but this wasn’t it.
The chase was now Johnny and Mondo, us and about half a dozen Brackettville Agents. Two or three miles past them, I felt the car lurch and cough. It was out of gas. “We’re stopping here, Junior.” Mark advised. Sure enough as we dropped out of the race and braked hard, Junior and another agent were right behind us.
Mark jumped in with Junior and I, luckily remembering the prisoner we were breaking all kinds of rules with, grabbed him and pushed him into the cage of another agent’s vehicle who wasn’t exactly happy with this surprise.
I figured we would be out of the race completely but surprisingly we were only a minute behind the hoard of Border Patrol vehicles and the lead Uvalde PD.
As the suspect vehicle came around the corner to the outskirts of Brackettville, it was met with a road block which included a young Kinney County Deputy pointing and firing a shotgun.
The stolen San Antonio Police slid out of control, hit the edge of a culvert and flipped sideways on a gradual decline and landed about 100 feet away from the highway on its wheels. Both suspects, young and stupid climbed out.
Johnny Longoria from the Uvalde PD, was out of his car immediately and running to intercept the two suspects. Probably not the smartest move and soon he found he was in the line of fire.
Mondo Martinez said he saw what he believed to be the shotgun in one of their hands and opened up with his handgun. Johnny says he heard the shots being fired and the bullets whizzing by him and hit the dirt.
Both suspects were able to escape into the brush. Again, bad idea. The two ran shirtless into the South Texas brush which consists of exclusively of brush with long, unforgiving thorns and cactus. Not a great scenario for a couple of city boys from San Antonio. Plus, it was almost daylight and Brackettville has a large Border Patrol Station where everyone is trained to be an expert sign-cutter(tracker). And the local law enforcement had blood hounds just for situations like this.
Just after day break both subjects were rounded up. They looked like they had been massaged by a cheese grater. Thorns and cactus…
Johnny and I chatted afterwards and he told me something I’ll never forget. He said, “Bob, when I was running down to the car and then I heard the shots, I knew I was going to be hit. I thought, ‘Great, these guys will stand around and look at my body and laugh and joke,’ but then I thought that maybe you wouldn’t let them do that and cover me up and give me a little bit of dignity…” Those were somber words and we became close friends for a long time after that…