Street crime short stories # 5
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It was misting cold rain in Shreveport this winter night. I finished typing a rapist’s confession in a tiny closet within the Investigations Division of Shreveport Police Department. My commander called it my office; I called it my cave. It did not have a window. The jail cells were one floor directly above. The difference was I had a door and was allowed to go home at the end of my graveyard shift. My desk phone rattled as it rang on top of the old, scarred, military surplus desk. I glanced at my watch.
“Investigations, McGaha speaking”.
“Pat, this is the radio room. We need you and your partner to head to the Key Note Lounge. Patrol is working a shooting there. I.D. is already in route”.
A.J. Price was a great detective. He was educated and polished, unlike me. I admired him greatly. I stood in amazement of this man. A.J. served with his best friend as an Army M.P. They were stationed in the U.K. when discharged from the service. Instead of flying back to the states, they pooled their money and bought a 30 foot sailboat. They had enough left over to buy food, water and supplies to live for two weeks and they sailed across the Atlantic Ocean to the good ole U.S.A.
He never bragged. He was a gentle, humble kind of guy, again so unlike me. Often I asked him to repeat the story. He obliged. The crossing took the full two weeks. He was a skilled sailor and knowledgeable of ocean currents, prevailing winds and such things. They headed north toward Greenland, turned west toward Canada, then south to New England. He told of sea sickness lasting for several days, being dehydrated and often hungry. I respected his courage. This man was not afraid of anything or anyone. He was not arrogant like I was, and never started trouble. But boy when it came his way, he handled it and always came out on top. I respected his voyage because I too had sailed the Atlantic. When I was in the Marines at age 17, I was placed on the U.S.S. Hermitage L.S.D. or Landing Ship Dock. The ship was designed to carry a complete Marine Tank Platoon of M-48, Mod B’s. They each weighed 52 tons. Our ship left Morehead City, N.C. and a week later arrived at the port of Rota, Spain. We relieved another squadron of Sailors and Marines assigned to a six month tour of duty, part of the U.S. N.A.T.O. forces. The Hermitage was a giant ship. However, in the middle of the dangerous Atlantic, I felt I was in my homemade pirogue in the middle of Cross Lake on a stormy day. I can only imagine how A.J. and his buddy felt on a 30 footer.
Recently the no smoking policy inside our lush office suites was handed down by the Commander of Investigations. A.J. was on the stairs leading to the detectives parking lot. We called it the back porch. I opened the glass door and was blasted with a cold, moist wind. It took my breath away! A.J. stood there wearing his leather jacket, cowboy boots and dress slacks. He looked comfortable as he smiled and drew in a deep lung full of smoke.
“What’s the call, Pat?” “I knew when I saw you wearing your overcoat we had a call.”
“Shooting at the Key Note Lounge on St. Vincent Avenue,” I replied.
We loaded up in A.J.’s unmarked unit as he continued to smoke. I had given up the habit when my son Paxton was born, but I still wanted one badly. I could have eaten a cigarette. A few blocks away from the station, the heater finally warmed. It helped a little since A.J. kept the driver’s window rolled down to let the smoke out. He did not realize the smoke stayed in the car while cold air came in and around the back seat blasting the back of my neck.
We rolled up to the flashing lights of a Shreveport Fire Rescue unit about to haul the young, black male away from the scene to L.S.U.M.C. emergency room. I held up my hand to the young fireman behind the wheel as he was putting the big red and white ambulance into drive. He tapped his watch with his index finger. I had only a minute to interview the gunshot victim. I had seen so many violent cases by this time I often said you either laugh or cry about these cases. I had clearly become jaded. When I could sometimes walk far enough away from a horrible murder scene so no other cops could see, I cried. In the presence of my peers, I did what they did; I laughed. These were the good old days before we invented political correctness. I yanked the rear door of the ambulance open and climbed inside to speak to the victim. A.J. went inside the bar to interview witnesses. I knew the importance of interviewing a gunshot or stabbing victim. We had a saying, “if they don’t kill you on the streets, be assured the hospital will do their best to finish the job.”
The E.M.T. was steadily plugging in life saving tubes, wires and such to the body of the young man. I saw the blood soaked bandage about an inch above his right nipple where the bullet entered. The E.M.T. stated this was an in and out. This meant the bullet entered near his nipple and exited his back.
I leaned over the gurney and looked in his eyes. Tears were flooding them. He batted his lids to clear them as I introduced myself.
“Hey son, tell me what happened please,” I asked.
“Man, I was walking up St. Vincent Street when these four dudes in a beige deuce and quarter rolled up on me and the dude in the front seat on my side stuck out a big pistol and shot me for no f………..g reason at all!”
The E.M.T. ordered me to leave the ambulance unless I wanted to ride to the E.R. I bailed and stood in the parking lot of the lounge. The cold, misty rain was drifting in. The wind picked up causing a tiny funnel to blow the firemen’s left over bandage wrappers to twirl in circles. The ambulance siren faded into the darkness. I placed my talkie to my mouth to broadcast the description of the four white males in the beige Buick Electra 225. Be on the look out for these four men. They are armed with a large caliber hand gun and responsible for a drive by.
I went in the bar to meet with A.J. He was seated on a bar stool talking to the old crusty bartender. He looked at me as he slid off the stool and lead me to the front door.
“There were six redneck customers in here drinking with the bartender. The victim staggered in bleeding from his chest wound. He asked them to call an ambulance. None of the witnesses saw or heard a thing. One smart ass said, “If he wasn’t shot before he came in, he likely would have been before he left.”
I told A.J. what the victim reported. I placed a B.O.L.O. (Be On The Look Out) for the white boys in the Buick.
We looked around a few minutes. Before we left to check on the vic at the ER, was there anything we had missed?
As we got in the unit, an emergency call came across the police radio.
“Attention units, we just received a silent burglar alarm at the office of Forest Park Cemetery in the 3600 block of St. Vincent.” We were close. The officers at our scene were responding to the alarm. We followed to assist.
We were less than a block from the call and quickly arrived. I jumped out with my stream light and so did A.J. I took the street side of the building while A.J. and the two patrolmen went to the back. As I worked my way along my side of the building, I checked each french style window. Halfway down, I noticed a broken out window pane beneath the interior window twist lock. Using my ink pen and flash light, I inserted them between the louvers of the blinds and shined my flashlight into the office. On the floor of the office was a black pistol with black electrical tape on the grips. I called A.J. to my side of the building. We studied the point of entry. Upon closer inspection, we spotted a freshly made gouge mark on the bottom of the french window slat. It took us only a minute to decipher what happened. In the fashion of an old western where a Sheriff would hold his gun by the barrel to tack up a wanted poster, the burglar used it to bust in the window. As the butt penetrated the glass, the hammer of the cheap pistol struck the wooden window slat causing it to discharge.
We looked at one another smiling. In unison we said, “Zeno!” the name of our gunshot victim. We hurried to the E.R. where medical staff was about to wheel him into surgery. Many doctors and nurses were around him. The foot of the gurney was as close as I could get. He was undressed with shoes and socks removed. I asked them to hold up for a second. They stopped.
“Zeno Davenport, you are going to the O.R. for surgery. If you survive, you will be booked into the Shreveport City Jail for aggravated burglary. We found there is a warrant for your arrest for attempted 2nd degree murder. The gun you used to shoot that victim was a large caliber, black pistol with black electrical tape on the grips. You are also under arrest for filing a false police report on four dudes in a beige deuce and a quarter.”
I pulled my police detective business card from my pocket and slid it between his exposed toes. I told him to call when he got out of recovery.
By the time A.J. and I finished our reports, it was time to man the front desk and take calls from the news media. It was my turn in the barrel so I began answering the calls.
Tony King, a buddy of mine and news reporter on KRMD radio called. As always he was recording my overnight police investigations. When I finished giving him the Zeno Davenport story, he was eager to get off the phone and give his news report.
It went like this.
“Good morning! Have you ever had one of those days when nothing seems to go as planned?” (Long pause) Well, Zeno Davenport had one last night.”
King then played my recorded story and the radio station phone lines lit up. They stayed that way the entire morning. The listeners wanted copies of this report to play to their friends and families. In addition, national news agencies picked up the recording. It spread across the country. Nowadays we call this “going viral.” I cannot count the calls from out of state reporters who I declined to call back.
That night I returned for another graveyard shift tour of duty. I was called into my Lieutenant’s office and informed a formal complaint had been filed against me by a day shift detective supervisor. He is no longer alive so I will withhold his name. His complaint: I had been “insensitive.” I accepted an oral reprimand by my boss and went back to work. In minutes A.J. and I were in his smoke filled detective unit heading to another shooting call.