Welcome to our friendly City
“To cut a fat hog in the ass”
The Shreveport Regional Airport is located on the western side of the city. I-20 is one block north. Occasionally poor unsuspecting souls make the mistake of leaving the airport and turning right before they reach the interstate. Their reception is a culture shock to put it mildly. As they head east on Hollywood deeper into the city, they soon realize they should not stop; they should lock the car doors and roll up all windows. When they stop at traffic lights, they need to know not to make eye contact with the motorist next to them or the people on the streets. Their instincts should tell them not to stop and ask anyone for directions. If they knew when they left the airport they were about to travel through one of the most crime riddled sections of our city, with a crime rate higher than most of the country, they would have taken the freeway.
If I am ever elected mayor, I will order all airport employees to give small maps of danger areas in our city to visitors for their safety. The pamphlets will include safe hotels to stay while visiting our friendly little city and those to avoid. The major intersection of I-20 and Monkhouse Drive north of the airport is surrounded with motels. During my career, I worked many serious crime cases in this area. Most of the suspects drove or walked from nearby Mooretown neighborhood. This case is about a couple of young men who lived in Mooretown and walked to the hotels and other food and drink establishments there. They were violent men who took pleasure in hurting the victims of their armed robberies.
For many months, S.P.D. received numerous reports of guests at these motels being robbed. Many were beaten and at least one male robbery victim was shot in the face. The M.O. (method of operation) selected by these two punks was simple. They waited in the bushes behind the motel until nighttime. When a guest checked in to a room at the back of the motel, they naturally drove around back to park close to their room. While getting their luggage from the car, the two armed thugs slipped up behind them. The suspect preyed on couples. One would approach the male victim while the other moved toward the female. The punk with the female jammed his pistol against her head to show her husband she would die if he tired to resist. Both victims were ordered down on their knees. In every case, the victims complied. Over time, the suspects hit every motel around this interchange. They alternated from one side of the interstate to the other. Uniformed officers increased their patrols checking the parking lots constantly each night. Still the robberies continued. Women were robbed of their jewelry and purses. The suspect groped the women taunting their husbands. The men were helpless. The encounters were forever burned in their minds. They too were demeaned in front of their wives by being punched and beaten to the ground.
These two suspects robbed over 17 couples on what cops back then called the “Hill”. I read one offense report that caused me to wage a personal war on these two bastards. A couple traveling from Dallas to Atlanta stopped in Shreveport overnight to eat and rest. They were in the back parking lot of a motel on the east side of Monkhouse Drive north of I-20. It was late and they were exhausted from traveling. The male victim was carrying two suitcases when the two punks rushed in and confronted the couple. The male victim’s last name was Marino. The officer’s report stated, he was told to get down on his knees and place his hands on top of his head. Mr. Marino did exactly as he was instructed. His wife was on her knees beside him. He was told to remove his wallet and hand it to the suspect. He did. For no apparent reason, the armed suspect pulled the trigger of his large handgun. The barrel was pressed against Mr. Marino’s cheek. When the gun was fired, the bullet went through his cheek and blasted out several teeth and part of his jaw. The suspects fled on foot heading for a drainage ditch we called “Lower I-20” because it ran underneath I-20 from the hill all the way through Mooretown. It was a fast track used by many street thugs to escape capture by the police. One minute they were robbing people on the hill and minutes later counting the cash in their roach infested government subsidized homes. For years I asked our department leaders to meet with the mayor and city council to have bars welded across this tunnel beneath I-20. Probably today it is still open and accessible to these creatures. I shudder to think of the hurt and heartache caused by our city’s negligence.
After the thugs disappeared into the drainage ditch, Mr. Marino and his wife called for help from guests who opened their doors when the shots were fired. The fire rescue units soon arrived and treated him. He survived the wound and surgery at a nearby hospital. As I read deeper in the police report, I saw I.D. officers had collected several teeth belonging to the victim. They were photographed and held as evidence.
At the time, I was assigned to the graveyard shift in the criminal investigations division. My Lt. was a man I greatly respected. His name was Troy Morgan. He taught me more than anyone about investigations. He too had been raised in the Shreveport neighborhood of Cedar Grove. He was my boss but even more, he was my friend. He treated me like his little brother. Scolding and correcting me at times; commending and awarding me at others. Unfortunately our commander was a drunkard slime bag. I mentioned him in previous chapters. In this story, I refer to him as Ole Bill Smith, not his real name. Oddly he rose from sergeant to the rank of major seemingly overnight. No one senior to him could pass the major’s promotional exam. He shot to the top ranks of our department. I always called our promotional system the “Buffet Plan”. If a cop stands in line long enough, he can and will be promoted. Promotion is not based on merit and performance. It is solely based on seniority and passing a simple test. I cannot count the times I bit my tongue when someone introduced themselves with great pride as a son or daughter of a Captain, Major, Assistant Chief or even the Chief of Police. When I retired from the job, I was next in line for Lieutenant. I have no doubt had I stood at the feeding trough longer, I would have been promoted to Major or Assistant Chief. With this said, I am never impressed when someone tells me their Daddy or whoever rose to the high rank of whatever. Ask any member today and they will say the same thing.
Ole Bill Smith hated me with a passion. I was always on his hit list. Time and time again he did his best to have me busted back to uniformed services division. Each time I was cleared of the petty allegations he levied against me and remained a detective. This made him want to take me out even more.
One night I visited with a fellow detective who made several of the Monkhouse Drive robberies. I learned the suspects were becoming more aggressive. In one of his cases, the suspects confronted a complete family, husband, wife and small children. They were getting out of the car when the punks ran to them. The Dad and Mom were forced to the ground and robbed while the small children remained in the car. The children were horrified during this event. They will never forget seeing their loving parents robbed and humiliated in front of them. I began to see red. I made up my mind to stick close to the hill from then on. I would do my best to catch or take out these two nasty thugs. Night after night, I rode from motel to motel. Strangely I rarely saw a marked police unit doing the same thing. One night a close friend in uniform was riding the hill. I called him to meet me to discuss these robberies.
After finishing my reports that night, I hit the streets. I drove through Mooretown along Hollywood Avenue until I reached the airport. I flipped my car radio frequency to patrol and called my friend. He answered and we agreed to meet for a cup of coffee at the Kettle Coffeehouse on the west side of Monkhouse one block north of I-20. I was assigned a cool unmarked unit. Most detectives drove plain Jane Ford LTD’s. I was lucky enough to receive a nice little Ford Granada. It had a maroon vinyl top with bright white paint. I loved that it looked nothing like a typical detective unit. I was about to have coffee with Ed Jackson, a great friend and tremendous street cop. As I crossed I-20 and eased to the left lane of traffic, no other car was in sight on Monkhouse down the hill to Greenwood. I slowed and flipped my signal on to turn. Before I slowed enough to make the turn, headquarters sounded the radio alert tone. I listened to her give out the important call.
“Headquarters to any unit in the vicinity of Greenwood Road and Monkhouse. Be advised there is an armed robbery in progress at the Westwood Lounge. Two black male suspects armed with large blue steel handguns fled the scene on foot.”
I was looking down the hill at the traffic light at Monkhouse and Greenwood Road. It was a 1/4 mile from my location, no car or person in sight. I picked up my mic and advised I was rolling and a very short distance away. I nailed the little Granada to the floor and screamed down the hill to the intersection. I scanned the area for the suspects on foot. I radioed all other officers I would advise the last known direction of the suspects.
When I turned into the gravel parking lot, there was no doubt I was looking at the robbery victim. He was the only guy in the lot and stood at the edge the street. I took in his appearance, tall, lean and strong, cowboy hat, boots, snap down western long sleeve shirt and a big fancy rodeo belt buckle. He looked to be in his 40’s and was one mad cowpoke. I was wearing snakeskin boots, western dress shirt, and a big jackass shoulder holster. I always wanted to be a cowboy. Since I spent many years on a farm near Hall Summit, Louisiana, I felt worthy to call myself one, even though I was really just a farmboy raised in Cedar Grove. I stepped from the unit holding my talkie and began to interview him. We stood talking as we looked east down Greenwood Road.
He pointed east and said they ran behind the building next door. I asked what they took from him. He said his watch and a wad of cash totaling about $700 held together with a gold money clip. I radioed all officers the suspects fled on foot heading east from the bar. Just as I unkeyed the mic, the Cowboy and I saw the two suspects run across Greenwood Road headed behind the Westport Truckstop. I keyed it back up and alerted all other responding officers of the suspects’ location and direction of travel. I told the victim to stay put as I jumped in my unit and spun around after the two thugs. I hear numerous officers heading my way. I called and asked that they respond setting up a perimeter. I quickly rounded the corner of Monkhouse heading south in a parallel manner to the suspects. It had rained heavily the last several days and the ground was wet. There was a vacant lot on the west side of Monkhouse several hundred feet south of the truckstop. I knew the suspects had several fences to jump as they headed to the lower I-20 ditch. One officer announced he was in the ditch below I-20 waiting for them if they got pass the circle of officers. I jumped the curb and parked on the sidewalk. I left my engine running with headlights on. I hit the ground running wishing I was wearing tennis shoes instead of the expensive cowboy boots. The lot was large and the grass was mowed like a golf course. I ran at full speed with my flashlight in my left hand and my big stainless steel S&W 357 in my right. My talkie bounced in my back pocket. I stopped and held my breath to listen. To my left, I heard the suspect run into the five foot tall chainlink fence heading my way. He was about 100 feet deeper in the lot. I broke in to a full run once again. When I heard him clear the fence, his feet hitting the wet grass with a thud, I lit him up with my powerful stream light. I saw him running and I had a good angle on him. In an open race, this guy would out run me any day. Good thing I was smarter. I came within 10 feet of him and raised my voice speaking a language he would understand. I convinced him if he did not hit the ground, he would not live to cross the fence ahead of him. He was so convinced he dove to the ground skidding face down like a major league ball player trying to steal home plate.
I made him spread eagle with his palms facing up. I held my gun to his head and made him place his hands behind his lower back. I had learned to cuff someone with only my left hand. I did it with ease. I kept him on the ground and radioed other officers I had one in custody. The other was still at large. K-9 officer Clint Cain rolled up on the scene and found the trail where the suspects ran behind the truckstop. His dog picked up the scent and tracked down the second suspect. Or should I say up? The track lead Clint to a giant oak tree. The suspect had shimmied up the tree and was quickly surrounded by cops all pointing large guns at his head. He tossed down his gun and was cuffed as soon as he landed beneath the tree.
I waited for back up officers to come to my location as I had yet to search my cuffed suspect. It was a few minutes before officers arrived at my scene. I was amazed at the number of officers standing there as I searched my suspect and recovered his blue steel revolver. I found the cash and money clip. The officers who arrested the second suspect recovered the victim’s watch. When I stood and looked around, I noticed faces that should not have been there. I saw about eight detectives who normally worked dayshift. They all had on camouflage clothing and some had dark makeup on their faces. Most had large caliber sniper rifles on their shoulders. One dayshift detective approached me and asked if I had fired a warning shot in order to capture the suspect. He was a smart ass and a proven kiss ass that loved to brown nose ole Major Bill Smith. I will call him D. Nose in this story. Since I was equal in rank, I set him straight. I had not fired a warning shot.
He was not convinced and pushed the matter. He was part of the special stakeout team and was on the rooftop of the Motel 6 down the street. He stated he distinctly heard a 357 pistol discharged just before I came on the air and announced one suspect in custody.
I smiled and told him what he heard. It was an 18 wheeler blowout on I-20 down the street, not a shot from my gun. He wanted to challenge me. I could tell he was getting angry. I looked at the crowd of dayshift detectives and saw some friendly faces in the camouflage and sniper rifles. I asked what in the hell was going on? He looked at the others before he responded.
“A few days ago, we formed a special stakeout team from dayshift personnel and set up on rooftops. The front office is taking a lot of heat on these robberies and he (the chief) ordered the Major to use whatever means necessary to stop these two guys. We had our team on every motel out here tonight and were ready to take them down when the robbery at the Westwood went down.”
I thought about the special team on the ground as I walked back to secure my unit. I turned off the engine and lights and thought some more. The stakeout team dispersed and headed to their units. I noticed the grim expressions of disappointment on their faces as they walked away. A few days later I learned the reason my graveyard shift partners in investigations did not know about this operation. It was clearly on the shoulders of a certain dayshift lieutenant, Ole Bill Smith. Detectives on the special team were given a mission, catch the two robbers. They were given special radios with frequencies not compatible with radios used by our patrol officers and detectives. This allowed the team to communicate covertly with no cops listening in on the team.
I went with the officers to book the suspects into the city jail. I wanted to interview them but my boss wanted dayshift guys to handle it. I did not want a hassle over this. I was pleased to have caught the suspects so let the special dayshift guys wipe off their makeup and take over. I went home after writing my arrest reports.
The next night I got in my detective take home unit and reported to headquarters I was now on duty and available. I received a call from Troy Morgan. He asked me to meet him at the police garage. I did. When we met, he shook my hand and said, “Great police work Pat. You were instrumental in catching the two most wanted suspects in Shreveport last night. I want you to know how proud you make me.”
I smiled and accepted the compliments and began to walk away.
“Hold up for a second, Pat. I have something to talk to you about.”
“D. Nose reported to Major Smith you fired a warning shot last night at the suspect. That is the only way you captured him. The Major called me at home and ordered me to investigate you for violating departmental rules for firing a warning shot.”
“So what I am about to ask you is from Lt. Troy Morgan to Detective Pat McGaha. Got it?”
“Detective McGaha, did you fire a warning shot as you arrested the robbery suspect last night?”
No sir, I did not.
“Now it’s Troy to Pat, as friends. Got it?”
“Can you tell me if you fired a warning shot while arresting the guy last night?”
“No, meaning you didn’t fire a warning shot or no you can’t answer me?”
No, Troy. Now can we go get a cup of coffee?
“By all means, Pat. I’m buying.”
The suspects were charged with 17 Armed Robberies and one count each for attempted 1st degree murder when Mr. Marino was shot. If the arresting officer was anyone but Pat McGaha, Ole Bill would have submitted him for a departmental commendation. Not surprisingly, I got jack. After this case, not only did Ole Bill want me even more than before, he had a little brown noser at his side to lend him a hand.
There was an old phrase we used when I was a detective. Whenever someone was planning to do something big, we said “He’s going to cut a fat hog in the ass.”
The special stakeout team of mostly good detectives with a couple of exceptions was given a mission by Ole Bill to cut that fat hog in the ass. As it turned out, they had their asses handed back to them by an average guy doing his job.
Have you ever wondered how police accidentally shoot friendly officers? The secret operation by the dayshift officers without the knowledge of the nightshift officers is an excellent example how this occurs. It happens more often than you think.