“Sometimes it is fun to be a cop and ride patrol in your old neighborhood ”
This story is dedicated to my dear friend and brother cop, Mark Davis, Retired S.P.D. He is my hero and one of the highest decorated officers in the history of S.P.D. He also was raised in Cedar Grove. Mark, this is for you and your loving family.
I was assigned to ride Cedar Grove on graveyard shift patrol on the senior officers days off. I called the patrol desk an hour before I was to report for duty to learn where I would ride that night. The desk sergeant was a big, gruff guy with a hard shell. He was full blooded Italian which caused me to ponder.
Why do Irishmen bond so readily with Italians? Judge James (Buck) Clark once told me, “Italians are actually Mediterranean Irishmen. You’re all related!”
Profanity rolled off the sergeant’s tongue like an open water faucet. He was short with his words and orders to me. I could tell beneath his rock-hard veneer for some reason he kinda liked me.
“Mac, you know I ain’t got time to baby sit your ass. Why can’t you wait till you get to roll call to find out where you’re riding?”
Well Sarge, I was hoping I’m in Cedar Grove again tonight. I love that beat. It’s always hopping and I was raised there. I know every nook, cranny and foot trail the dirt bags take when they run from us.
“You’re in Cedar Grove Mac. I want you to do a good job out there cause my sister and mother live on Henderson near Pierremont, second house on the east side from the corner, white paint with green shutters. There’s a blue Delta 88 in the drive. Keep an eye on them. Shine your spots on it every hour and I’ll keep you riding there as much as I can.”
You got it Sarge!
“Oh, and see Popeye before you report to roll call. I saw your boots after your shift yesterday. They looked like hammered crap! Put some damned polish on them!”
Popeye was an old, black gentleman who lived in the Bottoms at the head of Texas near the First Methodist Church. He had a shoeshine stand on the front porch of his little, yellow Shotgun Shack. He knew more than anyone what happens on the streets of Shreveport and inside the police department. This includes investigative news reporters and the Chief as well.
An hour before each patrol shift, Popeye was always at his second shoeshine stand outside the booking desk in the department’s lower parking garage. He popped that cotton rag and made our black, police dress boots shine like glass. I always tipped him.
The desk sergeant knew I chased a burglar the night before. I caught him in a nasty, muddy drainage ditch near W. 71st. This was as good as it got when it came to the sergeant’s humor.
The suspect was responsible for numerous burglaries of businesses in that part of town. He rode a stolen bike and cased the businesses. He was street savvy. He would rattle the front door of a business. He would then wait down the street or in some bushes until the cops responded and checked out the business. Once the officers determined the building was secure, they left.
Again, the suspect would rattle the door, hide and watch the angry cops check the building a second time. The cops would announce on their talkies to headquarters it was a faulty alarm. The building was secure. The officers then informed headquarters to not send them on this silent alarm again that night.
The suspect waited an hour before he pried open the front door and entered the business. He took everything of value he could stuff in his backpack. Two minutes was all it took for him to get in and out. He hit so many businesses, I lost count. He never left fingerprints. We were clueless to his identity.
After learning his little M.O. (method of operation) or Latin (modus operandi), he was my primary interest when I rode in the Grove. That night I made two false, silent alarms at a nice lighting business on W.70th and Dowdell Street. I could feel him in the shadows watching me as I checked the perimeter of the business and reported it secure. I announced to headquarters in a loud voice on my talkie to not send me back here again tonight. The alarm was malfunctioning. Back in my unit I told headquarters to show my status still on this call. I advised the radio room of this. My beat partner heard and knew I was staking out the business for a while.
I parked my unit on W.69th just north of the business. I got out on foot. I worked my way south on Dowdell Street. I stayed in the shadows away from the street lights. I stood near the backyard fence of a house. This enabled me to see 70th Street and the corner of the business. I could look toward Linwood between the buildings out to 70th and to the east I could do the same. In this position, I was not able to see the front door. From my vantage point, I would see any suspect who approached the building. I waited. Being young and full of you know what, it was hard for me to stand there quietly. About 45 minutes later, I saw him. He was coming in my direction, up Dowdell from W.71st Street. I squatted and waited. He was looking at the business as he peddled. He stopped at the intersection and sat on his bike. I saw him scan the area for cop cars. Nothing was moving on the streets. He pushed off and rode to the front of the building disappearing from my vision. I whispered into my talkie. I told my beat partner what was happening. Headquarters heard the report and instructed all officers on that frequency to switch to another channel to clear this one for me and my partner. There was silence. Then I heard a screech from the front of the business. I eased along the side of the business and peeped around the corner. I saw his bike leaning against the front wall. I did not see him. In the distance, I could hear squealing tires from my backup unit as he sped to my location.
I held my powerful stream flashlight in my left hand with my thumb on the switch. In my right hand was my 357. I spotted my partner heading my way as he slid around Linwood and 70th. Apparently the suspect heard as well. He bolted out of the business carrying his loaded down backpack. He attempted to get on his bike. I was 20 feet from him when he looked up. He spun and sprinted across 70th heading for a vacant lot. I was in great shape then and was right on his heels. My partner saw us cross so he blasted south on Dowdell Street trying to cut off the suspect. Halfway down 71st from Dowdell, I saw the unit stop and my partner got out. The suspect saw him too. He jumped into the nasty drainage ditch to run under the small bridge just ahead on 71st. I caught him under that bridge. The fight was on. We fell to the ground struggling in the knee high water and mud. With the help of my partner, we overpowered him in seconds. He needed a little first aid. During the struggle, the suspect bumped his head. Once he was cuffed, he stopped resisting. We loaded him in my partner’s unit. I rode with them to my unit. Other officers secured the scene and retrieved the bike as they waited for the store owner to respond. I transferred the suspect to my unit and took him to L.S.U.M.C. for treatment. The E.R. doc gave him a couple of stitches in the cut above his left eye and plugged cotton in his nostrils to stop the bleeding.
When I walked the suspect in for booking, the desk sergeant smirked. Detectives met me and took him to the interview room to question him.
Once I learned I was going to ride the Grove again this night, I was pleased. I always came to work early. I fully intended to ask Popeye to clean and polish my boots per the sergeant. I had all my police gear loaded in my personal pickup and headed for the station.
At the time, I lived on Alma Street in Caddo Heights, two blocks west of Linwood Avenue. Each night I drove north on Linwood to S.P.D. As I drove, I flipped on my talkie to hear what was happening on the streets. As I reached Kings Highway, I heard officers being dispatched to a silent alarm call on Kings, one block west of my location. I was not officially on duty. I told headquarters I was in a red truck and responding. The officers were quite a distance from my location. They reported they were rolling my way from Southern Avenue several blocks east.
I slowly approached the beer joint on Kings. I wanted my backup to roll in with me. As I eased by the bar and continued west, I saw the smashed front glass door. I turned my truck around in the street a half block west and stopped. I kept my eyes on the front door. I looked further east for my backup. Soon I saw headlights bouncing as they traveled to the call at a high rate of speed. The lone suspect exited the bar carrying a large, brown paper bag that looked heavy. As luck would have it, he looked to his left at me. I was rolling about three miles per hour toward him. I flipped my headlights to bright and kept his attention. He was unsure of the red pickup. He continued to look my way as he walked toward the officers approaching him from the east. I radioed them about the suspect. I honked my horn. The suspect stopped. I eased closer, about 50 feet from him. I knew if I got any closer, he would see I was a uniformed cop. I sped up. He started walking fast. He kept his head turned looking at me over his shoulder. I came up on him. I knew he was about to bolt. I gassed my pickup and barreled down on him. He saw I was a cop and went in to a full run. He looked up and saw the marked units almost on him. At that moment, my instincts kicked in. I knew the only way to catch him was here and now. I rammed him from behind as I had done once before to another suspect. I knocked him down on to the sidewalk. The big, heavy bag flew into the air. I heard whiskey bottles shatter when it landed. I was out of my truck and on his back before he could get his feet under him. The other officers jumped in and quickly cuffed him.
Following in my pickup, I parked in the lower police parking garage in an empty space. Private vehicles were not permitted in this garage. I did not care. I wanted to see the guy booked so I tagged along.
The sergeant was standing at the desk watching as I parked my truck. The officer opened the back door and escorted the suspect in for booking. The sergeant asked the officer what was going on. The officer quickly gave him the details on the arrest. He told how I knocked the suspect down with my personal truck.
He looked at me and said, “Didn’t I just speak to you on the phone?”
“You mean to tell me, you couldn’t wait to get on duty to start arresting folks?”
Well Sarge, I was…
He cut me off. “Get that fu………..g truck out from my garage and get your ass in here to write this S…….t up! When you finish that f………g report, go see Popeye and get those f………g boots polished. Then get your ass back in here and get the keys to your f………g unit. Then get your ass on the streets and check on that house on Henderson St. like I told you!”
I looked in his eyes and saw a tiny glimmer of humor. His bulldog face never cracked a grin as he spoke. I could tell he kinda liked me.