“Impaired vision, we look alike”
I continued to be bounced around other beats. One fall evening, I was assigned to Mooretown on graveyard shift. It was not as busy as Cedar Grove but it had many similarities, poor working class folks, run down rent houses, street crimes, thefts, murders, rapes and all the other bad things man does to his neighbors. L.L. was riding Queensborough. We were busy during the first few hours of the shift. We had made a new friend, a State Trooper. Whenever he was assigned near our area, we tried to meet for coffee or a meal. He loved hearing about the things we did as street officers in the high crime areas of Shreveport. Not to say he had it easy. He had our respect. When we called for help, the cavalry was minutes away. In the troopers world, he was all alone. Sometimes the closest officer was 30 miles down the highway. When he stopped a vehicle, he had no back-up. He had to be on his toes.
L.L. and I had been on the force a few years now. We felt we did not deserve the departmental label of Rookie any longer. Before this shift was over, the label may have been spot on. We knew it was not wise for officers to go to coffee houses or greasy spoon restaurants after midnight on any given night. However, neither of us claimed to be wise. L.L. called me on the air to meet him for breakfast around midnight at Howard Johnson’s on Monkhouse Dr. next to I-20. I felt a little uneasy about it but overrode my instincts. As I pulled in the parking lot, I saw it was almost overflowing with expensive cars. I found a place by the street and parked. As I approached the building, I called L.L. to ask where he was. He was parked behind the building and was inside at a table behind the large folding partition used to separate the main dining room from the rear dining room. The trooper was also parked behind the building and was inside with L.L.
As I entered the front dining room, a waitress motioned for me to slip between the gap of the big curtain to our table. I waved to her and followed her directions. The room was packed with well dressed men in tuxedos and women wearing long, flowing evening gowns. They were loud with their laughter and conversations. I did my best not to make eye contact. I could tell most had been drinking heavily. I nodded at a couple of men I slid passed. They nodded in return. Having been to many countries in the Marines, I learned to recognize foreign languages. I overheard several in this party speaking Italian. I quickly slipped through the gap and joined L.L. and his buddy. I ordered coffee and breakfast. I sipped my coffee and listened to L.L. talk about a shooting call he made earlier. The Trooper hung on his every word. L.L. is one of the most passionate speakers I have known. My breakfast arrived and I dove in. I wanted to eat and get out of this place as soon as possible. Something just did not feel right.
I was halfway through my meal when L.L. received a family fight over the air. He was a long distance away from the call. His beat partner was down the street from the call. L.L. hurried to respond to back up his beat partner. He shot through the gap of the curtain and away he went.
About three minutes later as I casually chatted with the Trooper, a lovely lady in her 40’s wearing a sky blue evening gown came through the gap shoving it open several feet. She was unsteady in her high heels. She smiled and walked to the table never taking her eyes off me. As she came to my side, I stood as any gentleman should. I smiled and extended a good evening greeting to her. She looked in my eyes for a long time. I thought I saw anger in them even though she was smiling. Her eyes shifted to my badge and then to my name tag. She asked if she could borrow my pen and a piece of paper. At first I thought she was being nice and would call the chief or commissioner to commend me, for what I did not know. I was happy to hand her my pen and a small page from my pocket notebook. As she took down my name, she asked how I pronounced my last name. I said it slowly so she could remember, Pat Mac Gay Hay.
“Thank you. I will remember it!” Her voice rose slightly. “My brother is a sergeant with S.P.D. I am a long time family friend of the commissioner and your chief. I’m going to have your job young man! You have no idea who you are messing with tonight!’
Dumbfounded, I took my seat trying to disengage with this clearly drunk lady. Soon several men and women from the party barged through the gap and crowded around our table. The lady continued to threaten me and promised she would have me fired. I had no idea what she was talking about.
She moved right next to me, leaning in over my food and in my face. I could smell the strong, sweet and sour odor of the wine she had been drinking all evening. Her eyes were flashing hate at me. She never looked at the Trooper. She slammed her hand down on the table. My coffee spilled on the table cloth.
I stood and looked to the men in the group. I told them to remove her now.
They gently reached for her arm. She quickly snatched it back. She almost chest butted me trying to make me touch her. I took a step back and told the men once again to remove her from this business or I would have to arrest her. Again they tried but she pulled away from them. I often heard the only temper worse than an Irishman’s is an Italian’s. She convinced me that night. Finally, I had enough and looked at the Trooper. His face was pale. He knew this was going to get bad and he would be in the middle of it.
I told the lady once more to leave me alone and go back to her table. She continued to yell at me. I grabbed her and tried to handcuff her. She put up one hell of a fight. At that point, the men were trying to pull her away from me by her arm. I held the other arm with my right hand. With my left hand, I grabbed my talkie and called for help. The code at that time was 10-50, officer needs assistance. Every officer in the western half of Shreveport was heading my way now. The Trooper stood by making sure no one jumped on my back. He was doing his best not to get involved in this mess.
The struggle took us across the entire dining room and out to the front parking lot. A crowd of 40 or so people in the party flooded out surrounding me and the men with the drunk lady in our grasps. The tug of war continued until backup officers poured into the lot. Nothing needed to be said. They saw me trying to arrest the drunk lady and pitched in. They quickly pushed the men back and helped me put her arms behind her back. At this point, we were standing near the opened rear door of a responder’s unit. Her left wrist was cuffed. I was struggling to connect the right one while doing my best not to hurt her. She was screaming at the top of her voice and kicking at me. I was about to close the right cuff when I felt a man’s arm around my neck from behind pulling me backwards. At that moment, I closed the cuff shut but the ratchet part punched through the long, flowing wings of her fancy evening gown. I would later learn the dress was valued over $600.
I held on to her trying to push her into the back seat as the arm around my neck pulled me back. Finally I shoved her in and slammed the door behind her. I spun around and came face to face with an elderly man in his late 70’s. He was trying to choke me. With the help of officers, we cuffed him and loaded him in the back of the paddy wagon. The angry crowd shouted and cussed us. More arrests of men were made. Women pushing at officers were pushed back into the crowd and not arrested.
Several of the men in the paddy wagon yelled the old man was now having a heart attack. He needed an ambulance. We opened the door and carried the older man out. He clearly was having an attack. We took the cuffs off and waited for the fire rescue units to respond. Ambulances, rescue units and big red and white fire engines rolled in from every direction. We had 10 marked police units and at least the same amount of fire units now. It was a total cluster. I was sick and worried about what was happening. L.L. finished his call and returned to help. Before the ambulance pulled away from the scene with the old man, an elderly lady passed out and fell to the ground. The crowd yelled even louder. The old man was the drunk lady’s father. The old woman on the ground was his wife. I did not see how this could get much worse.
L.L. asked what in the hell happened after he left. When things settled down, I told him all about it. It took almost an hour to clear the lot of angry, drunk Italians. I had a short conversation with one guy who was sober and not too angry at me. Two Italian families had been at a wedding and reception that afternoon. On their way home, they decided to stop for breakfast at Howard Johnson’s. Just my luck I thought as I crawled in my unit headed to the station to book those we arrested and write my reports.
When I pulled in the parking garage, I saw a crowd of more angry people who beat me to the station. They were inside the booking area waiting for me. Needless to say, the booking process was confrontational. The crowd of people knew my favorite desk sergeant who until that night kinda liked me. The look on his face said it all. He was close personal friends with this family and with the sergeant who was the brother to the lady I arrested. I had arrested the Sergeant’s little sister, his Daddy and other relatives. His mother and daddy were in the emergency room being treated. I felt like you know what!. The brother/sergeant stood near the booking desk staring at me. We had never met but he already hated me with all his heart.
The next night I was assigned to downtown, the next night Queensborough. From that time on, I never rode Cedar Grove again. My reputation went from a good rookie to an ass. Officers I never met looked at my name tag and instantly hated me. Some would take me aside to tell me my day would come. I had broken a hard rule of the police family. I arrested family members on chicken shit charges. It would never be forgotten. They reminded me I had family and sent the message they were fair game. About a year later, a thug cop wrongfully arrested and beat my brother Bubba. I hired a good lawyer and Bubba beat the charge. I would later deal with the crooked cop responsible for that.
A month later, I was contacted by the F.B.I. I was questioned by them in their offices for police brutality and false imprisonment of the drunk lady and her family members. They filed a $290,000 civil law suit again me and L.L.
Two months later, I was promoted to detective and assigned to evenings in the criminal investigations division. I must say, I was happy to get off the streets. I would spend several years as a detective before I needed R and R on patrol again.
Later that year, the case went to court and the truth finally came out. The family hired a renowned lawyer, Graves Thomas. He was young, cocky and very good. He raked me over the coals as I testified. During the trial for simple drunk and resisting an officer, we learned what happened on the night of the wedding.
Here is how it all happened.
L.L. parked his car in the back and walked through the front doors of Howard Johnson’s dining room. The wedding party was having a great time. The lady in question loved her big brother, the police sergeant, with all her heart. She loved S.P.D. for that matter. She was drinking, very happy and spending time on this special evening with her Mom and Dad. L.L. strolled in the room in his crisp police uniform, determined not to engage the party. As he came upon the lady, she stood in his path wanting to hug his neck in an innocent way. L.L. was not having it. As she reached up to him, he pushed her away like she was not worthy to touch him. He told her to keep her hands off him or he would arrest her.
She sat down hurt and angry. She talked to her family about the rudeness. L.L. went behind the curtain and was joined by the Trooper. I came in a few minutes later and slipped through the gap in the curtain.
L.L. received a call about a family fight and hurried out. The lady never saw him leave. She thought he was still behind the curtain. When her hurt feelings and anger peaked, she went to the back to confront L.L.
She was a little impaired and angry. She saw me thinking I was L.L. She wanted to report my conduct and have me fired. I did look like L.L., same age, height, weight, mustache and dark hair plus both in uniform. I understand her mistaken identity.
Once the case was over, I went to the lady, her Dad and Mom and offered my apology. I did not need to explain the details because they observed the entire trial. They now knew I was not the one who pushed the lady away from her attempted hug. They realized what happened and why I made the arrest. They carried so much hate for me over the months leading up to the court case, it was hard for them to quickly forgive me. They understood why I did what I did. As the years passed, I was forgiven by them. My favorite desk sergeant later forgave me too once he knew the facts. He did kinda like me a little after all. The civil suit was dropped against L.L. and me. We were cleared of any criminal wrongdoing by the F.B.I.
I love L.L. and always will but he almost cost me my job when I had done absolutely nothing wrong.
“Impaired vision, we look alike”