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Wednesday, February 27, 2008



It was a summer night in the high mountain desert of eastern Nevada. I had worked the 3 to 11 shift. Got home and the wife and son were asleep. Watched the Johnny Carson Show and was headed for bed when it ended, at 1:00 AM. At 1:04 AM the entire house rocked. A tremendous explosion, somewhere. I quickly redonned my uniform and headed out. My personal car had a police radio in it and I checked in and asked the dispatcher where she needed me. All she knew was that an explosion had occurred in the downtown area. She was excited but very much under control. She was in the turn of the century courthouse, which was just 1 block from the downtown casino area. I lived on the east end of town, about 1 mile from downtown, and as I approached the scene the dispatcher came on the radio with:
"Armed robbery in progress at the bowling alley."
I made a u-turn as one of the 2 marked patrol cars on duty passed me, running EMERGENCY, to the scene of the robbery. I fell in behind him. He silenced the siren as we neared the bowling alley. He would cover the front door and I would cover the side door.

Then dispatch advised that the suspects had fled the scene and were last observed driving a white over blue Chevy Blazer, headed south from the bowling alley. I turned down the street prior to the bowling alley and, EUREKA!, there was a white over blue Blazer one block in front of me, driving very fast and disappearing into an alleyway. My car didn't have emergency lights or siren but it was a big engined former CHP car and I knew that there was nothing in the county that could outrun me. I was "In Pursuit" and advised dispatch.

In situations such as this, your cognitive process is moving just below warp speed. I surmised that the explosion had been a ruse to distract attention so the robbery could go down. Twisting and turning, I chased the guys for a few blocks, into alleys, back on streets and, finally, he came to a stop.

"OH SHIT!" was my first thought. I don't have any backup. This was going to be just me against 2 armed suspects and all I had was my revolver and 12 rounds of extra ammo. He stopped half turned around a corner, blocking my view of the drivers door. I swung out wide, so I could see that door, and braked. Throwing the gear lever into "park", I bailed out and went prone under the door, protected by the front wheel and engine block. This made me a very small target and I had a clear view (and shot if necessary). My heart was racing. The driver leapt out and I ordered him to
He froze.

And my car drove right into the left rear of the suspect's vehicle.
"You just hit my car!" the driver exclaimed and I recognized his voice. It was another off-duty officer who lived right behind the bowling alley and had been inside when the robbery had occurred, unarmed. He had just purchased the Blazer that day, which is why I didn't recognize it.

Now we had nothing to followup on. By this time almost every police officer and deputy sheriff were out, searching the immediate area. The only info was that it was a "Mutt & Jeff" team. One extremely tall and one very short. Wearing ski masks, gloves and long sleeved shirts.

They had filled a 100 foot garden hose, that was stored under the bandstand in the County park, with black powder and detonated it. Blowing out every window for a 10 block radius. Including the windows at the courthouse where the dispatcher was sitting, less than 300 feet from the explosion. Luckily, the courthouse was constructed of granite stone blocks and the window where she was sitting was facing perpendicular from the blast. The biggest piece of the old bandstand was a 4x4, about 6 feet long, buried 3 feet into the courthouse's front lawn. Some people had been slightly injured from flying glass and the property damage (buildings, vehicles, etc) was extensive but not serious. All the windows in the high school, which was located across the street from the park, were gone. On all sides.

During the followup investigation, we learned that a county parks groundskeeper had a teenage boy who was almost 6'5" tall. This kid's best buddy was a shrimp that stood just 5'. Both these kids had extensive juvenile records.

ATF agents, out of the Las Vegas office, responded and did the on-scene forensics. We knew who had done it and eventually we were able to bring before the juvenile court a comprehensive case. Which we lost, due to the incompetent District Attorney. But the long arm of the law never rests. Every time these punks screwed up, we were there and busted them. Finally, both were sent to the State Reformatory, in Sparks, until they turned 18. By which time I had moved back to California and returned to my old sheriff's office.

Oh, the officer whose new Blazer I had hit, he let his insurance cover it. Both he and his wife agreed that, given the circumstances, he would have done exactly the same thing.

Have a fantastic day.

See you tomorrow?





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"Let's all be careful out there!"