My first shooting call: U.S. Copyright #1-4992347701, 2017
As I have shared before, my upbringing was partially spent in the country on a remote farm near Hall Summit, LA. When I reached the age of 12, we moved to Shreveport and settled into the blue collar neighborhood of Cedar Grove. I was an A/B student in Hall Summit. I soon became a C/D/F student. The reasons are complex and will be written about in a separate story.
As a rookie police officer, I graduated from the Shreveport Police Training Academy directed by a great cop named Lt. Neil Shields. As soon as my class graduated, we were sent to L.S.U. Baton Rouge to attend the state of Louisiana basic police training academy.
Upon the completion of L.S.U., we were assigned a street training officer to undergo field training. I was blessed to be assigned to one of the best street officers in the history of our department, D.E. Stevens. He became my F.T.O. (field training officer). His beat was none other than Cedar Grove. I was happy to learn I would be trained by a professional officer in my old neighborhood.
In the summer of 1975, my second week of field training, I worked evening shift. I rode shotgun with D.E. On duty a couple of hours, we stopped at a traffic light at Linwood and W. 70th. Headquarters sounded a special tone over the airwaves for two seconds alerting all officers on duty that a major call was about to be announced. We listened attentively as the operator assigned an active shooter on a vacant lot of Line Ave. and E. 68th.
I was familiar with the lot. A house once stood there but now it was torn down. It had several giant oak trees that provided a nice shady canopy for the men who gathered there every afternoon and evening. The neighborhood men sat on old rusty buckets, worn out chairs and tailgates of old pick-up trucks. Since the lot was on private property, we could not prevent them from playing poker or dominoes and drinking whiskey, wine and beer.
D.E. flipped on the red lights and hit the siren as we safely eased through the red traffic light. Instantly my adrenaline began to flow as I realized I was responding to a real gun call. D.E. calmly instructed me to pull the sawed off 12 gauge police shotgun from its dashboard rack. The butt of the weapon sat near my left foot on the passenger side, thus the shotgun seat. I knew the gun was fully loaded with 00 buckshot. I checked before we left the station for our beat. I held the gun vertically with my left hand and placed my right hand on the door handle. I prepared to exit the unit quickly once we came to a stop at the shooting scene.
As the lot came into view, we saw a crowd of men and women gathered around the victim. He sat on one of the rusty buckets and was clearly angry, drunk and shouting at no one in particular. I bailed out of my position into a massive cloud of dust. I held the 12 gauge in the port arms manner. I stood near the right front fender of our unit watching the crowd for someone with a gun. As D.E. and I slowly approached the victim, I did not see the person responsible for the shooting. The victim was a middle age black man wearing a dirty button down plaid shirt and black slacks. At first he did not act like he had been shot. D.E. was in charge. I stood a slight distance to his right rear. He spoke to the victim who he apparently knew as James Battle.
“James, are you O.K? Were you shot?”
“Yeah man, dat bitch done shot me for no f……..g reason at all!”
“Where are you shot James?”
At that moment, members of the Shreveport Fire Department arrived on the scene. They are dispatched along with cops on every stabbing and shooting call.
The young firemen jumped from the big fire engine carrying a large, orange first aid tackle box. They quickly approached James and took control of this life or death situation. They asked James where he was shot.
“Man dat little bitch done shot my leg!”
“Show us sir,” the lead fireman requested.
James stood up, placed his left foot on top of the old rusty bucket and rolled his pants leg up above his knee. I positioned myself to see my first gun shot wound.
Looking over the fireman’s shoulder, I saw the wound. It was a small mark the size of my pinky finger nail. The fireman was wearing plastic gloves as he examined the wound. He announced to all present the bullet had not entered the knee cap.
D.E. and I concluded that James’s girlfriend shot James because he would not give her two dollars to buy beer. She was mad and shot him.
The 22 caliber pistol she used was loaded with very old ammunition, so old the rounds were now weak. When fired, the shot basically equaled the force of a sling-shot.
The bullet penetrated James’s clothing, hit his knee cap and bounced to the ground.
The fireman covered the tiny nick with salve and placed a band-aid over it.
D.E. learned James did not want the girlfriend arrested. We took down his name, address, DOB and witness statements and left the scene. We drove to a shade tree in the back parking lot of the Cedar Grove Park. I drafted my first shooting report which D.E. reviewed and approved.
My second gun shot call happened the same night around midnight. This shooting was at the Central Street apartment complex two blocks north of W. 70th at the corner of Union Street. Once again my adrenaline was pumping. I was on full alert. D.E. did not need to tell me to grab the 12 gauge this time. A large crowd gathered near the parking lot outside one of the numerous quadplex, low rent, tax subsidized buildings. The victim approached D.E. and me. He told his story. I once again encountered an ambulatory gun shot victim.
He was a tall good looking black guy with a muscular build. He wore a tight fitting white ribbed undershirt, like a tank top, that enhanced his giant muscles. His name was Nelson Youngblood. I knew of him. He was an unemployed, dope dealing, woman beating street thug. D.E. warned me to be careful. D.E. nodded at me when Nelson announced his name. I jotted his information in my pocket notebook, then balanced the 12 gauge against my left hip and the parking lot.
Nelson had apparently beaten one of his girls. Her brother found him a short time later in the parking lot of the complex. When Nelson exited his nice black Cadillac Coupe Deville, the brother of the beating victim came from behind the building and started shooting.
Nelson turned and fled from the shooter. The brother emptied his 6 shot, 22 caliber pistol at Nelson. While running Nelson was struck in the bottom of his left heel. He had jettisoned his untied tennis shoes as he ran and was barefoot when the round hit.
I asked Nelson to show me his gunshot wound. He hobbled to an upright cross-tie used as a parking lot barrier and sat down. I placed the shotgun back in the rack of my unit and walked to him. He lifted his wounded foot and once again I saw a gunshot wound. Like the other, it was small and barely bleeding. I noticed a slight bulge this time. I watched in amazement as Nelson used his very long, dirt filled index finger and thumb nails to dig the bullet from beneath the skin. Like popping a big pimple, Nelson removed the small bullet and tossed it on my police clipboard where I was writing.
I think I still have the bullet somewhere at home. Once again the firemen arrived and applied salve and a band-aid.
Nelson did not want to name the shooting suspect. Soon he got in his car and drove away.
There were 16 rookies in my class and six of us worked evening shift. Each day we parked our personal vehicles in a unlighted parking lot behind S.P.D. headquarters. At the end of this shift, we organized our little group of classmates into what was commonly called Choir Practice.
D.E. and I turned in our shooting reports and clocked off duty. He told me I did a good job that day. He said he would see me again when we reported for our next shift and then headed home for his three days off. I was pleased to gain his approval. D.E. was a man of few words. When he spoke to me, I was very proud of my actions.
I reached my old personal pickup truck heading home to my wife of three years. I noticed a crowd of my classmates standing near the bed of another pickup. The tailgate was down. Two of my buddies were seated drinking a cold beer. They called me over and wanted to hear about my big shooting cases I worked that day. Like them, I removed my uniform shirt with police badge and my gun rig. I tossed them into the front seat of my truck as we had rules against drinking in uniform.
We drank and laughed as I told the two stories about James and Nelson. As I finished my beer, I noticed two cars pull in the parking lot and slowly head our way. As they came upon us, both drivers killed their headlamps. The cars stopped. Four very attractive young ladies bounced out of the cars and walked over. One kissed a friend of mine who I knew to be happily married. In fact I had been to his house for dinner several times with my wife. I could tell he and this little hot chick had been sexually intimate. The other three girls stood near sipping beer and checking out our group of young rookies. They were clearly selecting ones. My eyes locked for a moment with the tall lovely blonde. She smiled as she walked to me. She held out her hand. I shook it as we introduced ourselves. While normal to release the hand shake, she held on tightly and smiled. The message she sent as she asked if I wanted to ride to the lake to spend time with her sent a nervous shock wave through me. I had never flirted with another woman. I was just an average looking guy, nothing special. I learned some women are attracted to sports heroes and men in powerful positions which included police officers. She wanted to be with me from the first moment, but it was only to be with a man of tremendous power over society. I departed quickly and left her with a fake pout on her pretty little face. I went home to my lovely wife who loved me with all her heart. As time passed, I grew more confidant and secure in being a street cop. I began to change and came to understand why the divorce rate of police officers is so high. I too would one day join the ranks of those who became cops and end up losing a good marriage.