On A Full Moon 8

Copyright 1-4992347791-2017

What major factor in our society do you think contributes to crime in the United States?

In a previous story under the title of Rookie Cop, I wrote about a former F.B.I. agent who was my professor at LSU where I studied Law Enforcement.  He presented the most difficult question any cop will ever face.  “Why do you want to be a police officer?”

His answer was branded into my feeble little brain.

“Some one did something to someone else and it is not right and someone needs to do something about it right now.”

As I wrote this part of the story, I described a purse snatching I would later investigate. I find this case to be the most applicable example in my career. I only scratched the surface in the earlier reference. In this story, I hope to dive deeper into the ugly depths of what made this hateful human become the career criminal he was.

I bounced around SPD so much during my career, I cannot keep up with all my moves. At the time of this case, I was on dayshift criminal investigations and assigned the call.  My partner was Gary Alderman, a great investigator.  We clicked on many levels.  We hired on to SPD at the same time, rode Cedar Grove as rookie cops, became detectives, and worked many serious cases together.  We complimented each other and had great mutual respect for one another.

It was a hot summer morning at the crime scene in central Shreveport  It was just before noon and the temperature was almost 100 degrees. I hated wearing dress ties especially in the field working a crime scene in the hot months. I loosened my tie and unbuttoned the top button of my white oxford dress shirt as Gary drove from the station down Southern Avenue.

I worked the radio and learned Fire Rescue units were on the scene treating the victim. We rolled up near the main entrance to a pharmacy within the mall. A large crowd was gathered around the lady being loaded on a stretcher. As she was jostled around, she moaned and wept. She was in tremendous pain which caused my heart to sink. I waded through the line of people to find the patrol officer in charge of the case. Gary and I quickly learned the facts. He was senior officer, laid back and well-liked by most in the department. He was easy to work with and gave us the overview of the crime. The victim was in her late 80’s and parked her car in the handicapped space outside the door leading to the drug store. She was intending to go inside for her prescriptions when she was viciously attacked. Several witnesses saw the entire crime. The victim was between her car and the front door in the driving lane that skirts around the mall.  A young male ran toward her. It happened so fast none of the witnesses could shout warnings to her. He grabbed the strap of her inexpensive vinyl purse draped over her shoulder and snatched it in a full run. He never slowed as he passed her. In less than two seconds, she was spun around by the strap before it broke loose. As she spun, she lost her footing and slammed on to the hot, black asphalt.  The impact shattered her hip. She cried out in pain. Several citizens rushed to her side to minister to her until rescue units relieved them. The direct contact to the hot pavement burned her skin. Her caregivers removed their shirts to place between the pavement and her skin.

Other witnesses saw she was being cared for and immediately looked for the suspect. By now he was sprinting south across the parking lot. He knew the area well. He ran as fast as he could toward a drainage ditch on the south perimeter of the mall property. The ditch ran underneath Southern Avenue and continued beneath the K.C.S. railroad tracks west of Southern. A tunnel was there to help make his escape. It would take him to the Forest Park Cemetery, a great place for concealment.  In seconds, heroes were instantly created! Several men gave chase, some in vehicles, others on foot.

As the alleged perp was about to jump into the concrete ditch, he was tackled. The citizens overpowered him and hog tied him with their belts. These heroes were of a cross section of professions. One was a banker; others were blue collar workers. If I knew where they were today, I would buy them lunch. I do not recall their names but I will always greatly respect them.

Patrol officers responded quickly and took custody of the dirt bag purse snatcher. I watched him through the back window of the unit as it drove by in route to the city jail. When we finished at the scene, Gary and I went to the hospital where the victim was being treated. In the car as we talked, I felt my anger growing inside. Gary was laid back and I envied this trait very much. It seemed very little got under his skin. On the other hand, I was an open book. He quietly listened as I expressed my anger until we arrived at the Schumpert Hospital emergency room entrance. We spoke to the attending nurses taking good care of this sweet grandmother. Her daughter was in route. Gary and I waited to meet with her. We knew she would be upset when she arrived and not yet able to see her mother. I knew if it were my mother, I would desperately want to know everything that happened. I always did my best to put myself in the shoes of victims and their families. I treated them with respect regardless of race, age or profession.

When the automatic doors parted, a woman walked through. We had no doubt she was the victim’s daughter. She had eye makeup streaks down her cheeks, the look of shock in her bloodshot eyes, and a fast deliberate gait directly to the two cops in cheap clothing with guns and gold badges. We took her to a private waiting room before we spoke. Gary asked the charge nurse to tell the daughter the extent of her mother’s injuries. The nurse sat next to her taking both her hands like they were sisters. The woman to woman bond was instantaneous even though they were complete strangers. The nurse stayed with her as we informed her of the details of her mother’s attack. We explained how several good people without hesitation went to her aid. Other men chased the punk and tackled him. She told us her mother never carried more than $35 in her purse. She added if he had asked, she would have given it to him. I saw her hurt and frustration as she tried to rationalize this horrible ordeal.  All we could offer was our deepest regards and the meaningless promise to see the suspect face the full extent of the law in court. My words felt hollow as I offered them and handed her my business card. Gary and I left this distraught woman with the nurse, both of who were crying now.

Gary and I checked our firearms into the gun locker and headed upstairs to the city jail. We had our notepads and a small recorder.  We asked a jailer to bring the suspect to the interview room located directly across from the jail booking desk. There was a large window made of safety glass that allowed the jailers to keep an eye on prisoners being interviewed. I must confess. I had thoughts that if the window was not there, I may have acted unprofessionally in this case. The hate seed had been planted in my heart. It was taking root and growing by the minute. When he was brought in, his leg shackles and hand cuffs rattled as he shuffled into the room and sat across from me. He was in his early twenties, lean and angry looking. He was clearly hostile about being in jail.  His anger fueled the fire I was trying my best to control. He had no right to be angry about being in jail. His arrogance pissed me off. I wanted to choke him to his knees. I made myself check these wrongful thoughts because I had taken a solemn oath to uphold the law and not become the judge, jury and executioner. I had never violated my oath and this was not going to be the case that made me cross that line. The next thought struck me hard. I silently asked myself, “How on earth could a human being viciously attack an innocent elderly lady without showing any expression of remorse?” I was deeply concerned by his expressions and body language. Gary and I did not need a confession. We had great witnesses who had made a citizen arrest. This was an airtight case with no chance of this guy getting off. He would spend many years in prison doing hard labor. Many cops would have read him his rights, informed him of the official charges and locked him up back in jail. They would not waste their time talking to such a low life but Gary and I wanted to talk to him. We wanted to see deep inside his mind and heart. We wanted to know what made him tick. Gary and I learned the more we communicated with people like him, we would learn and hopefully understand their mindsets. Getting someone to confess was important to us even with a slam-dunk case such as this. We still wanted him to admit the wrong and make a full confession.

I can close my eyes and still see the smirk on his face, the way the extra large, coveralls sagged on his slim body, the way he cocked his head and the hate in his eyes for us. He was angry at himself for being caught, not for the wrong he had done. Gary read him his rights and he scribbled his name on the card. Gary took the lead and began to hold a standard conversation.

“You are under arrest for purse snatching and second degree battery. You knocked that lady down so hard it shattered her hip. She is elderly and may never walk again. Her bones are weak and brittle. Her heart may not be strong enough for her to withstand surgery. Does that mean anything to you?”

He shrugged his shoulders.

I was watching his face as Gary talked. When he spoke, he expressed no sympathy or shame. He was only interested in eating. He ducked Gary’s line of questions and asked when we would feed him lunch. I looked at his long fingernails and noticed the jet black layers of dirt embedded beneath them. He had not bathed in many days nor brushed his yellow teeth. He took no pride in himself and no respect for another person.

Before America became smoke-a-phobic, I smoked and so did Gary. We always had smokes in our upper dress shirt pockets with leaking Zippo cigarette lighters. I saw his eyes shift to my red and white pack of Marlboroughs. I pulled out my pack and fired up one. I inhaled deeply and blew the smoke to the ceiling in an exaggerated, refreshing fashion. I concealed the tickle deep inside my throat and lungs that caused me to want to cough. I kept my eyes on him as I slid the pack and lighter across the table without a word. He fired up one without a thank your or even a head nod which did not surprise me. I wondered about his childhood. As a flawed man, a sinner and a Christian, I know how screwed up I am but I know God does not make mistakes. He blesses us with babies in this world that come here without sin or flaws. They/we are like clean sponges so to speak. If parents submerge these sponges into pure clean water and squeeze it out on society, we have done good. Unfortunately, some babies are shoved into nasty water like sewage. When it comes out later in life, it is very bad. I knew without a doubt which liquid this man was filled with in his formative years. To better understand the secrets locked in a mind like his, I wanted to open the lock and become a better interviewer. I wanted to be good at obtaining confessions. Instead of tossing this thug back in his cell and going to lunch with Gary, I wanted him to open up and tell me everything I could think to ask. The hate and anger I felt earlier diminished. I had a real purpose as I took over the interview.

I stood and went to the head jailer. I asked him to fix our prisoner a lunch plate and bring it to the interview room. He quickly refused citing jail house rules that prohibit such a thing. I told him either he would fix the plate or I would. We had never had a disagreement before and he realized my request was not such a big deal after all. When he returned with a plastic school lunch tray, I thanked him and took it to the suspect. I placed it in front of him and walked back to the booking desk. Gary got up from the interview room and joined me.  We wanted him to eat in peace and he did. That small act of kindness seemed to work much better than the Good Cop-Bad Cop crap that only lives in the simple minds of Hollywood movie scene writers.

What I learned when we went back to talk with him opened my mind and enabled me to become successful in the art of gaining confessions. I knew he was uneducated but that did not mean he was not intelligent. Many cops never learn the difference. I know lots of stupid people with Master’s degrees. I knew I needed to talk to him with as much sincere respect as I could muster and that was a personal challenge. I began with talking about his family and learned the following. The light came on in my simple mind.

He lived in Cedar Grove off Line Avenue in a low end rent house section I knew well. He never had a relationship with his father. He did not know who his father was. He was raised by his single mother with no other relatives or assistance. She was second generation of uneducated, unwed and unskilled. She never finished school nor acquired skills or held a job. She lived strictly off government assistance. She saw her son as a pay raise so to speak. She was only 15 years older than her son. Once he began to open up, we just sat there and listened attentively. It took very little prodding to hear about his mother’s drug addiction. She had always smoked grass and did coke. When rock cocaine hit the streets, she was quickly addicted. Drug dealers worked the street corner two houses from where they lived. He gave graphic descriptions of events without playing the victim. It was a common occurrence for his mother to go to the corner and beg for rocks. Most of the time they slapped her around and sent her packing. Sometimes one would agree to give her a rock if she would have sex with him. She would lead the man into the front room and have sex on the couch next to her son while he watched cartoons on television. At age three, he saw his mother have regular sex with strangers in front of him. One dealer almost always brought his buddies with him and they gang banged her all morning. He shared many horrible experiences from his childhood without any emotion. He was numb to human feelings.

When we finished, I had my sad answer. “How on earth could a human being ever knock down an elderly lady and hurt her without shame or feelings?”  Now I better understood. I used this understanding to my advantage in the following years. I cannot say it always worked or that some of the partners I teamed with liked my approach. Several times my new partners became upset and left after they failed at the Good Cop crap. I started my approach with respect and understanding. Sometimes the cons tired to play me but I soon set things right. I was not a bleeding heart liberal but I found a way to get confessions when others failed. Many times when the confession was vital to a case and the primary detectives tried and failed, they turned to me for help. I usually got the confession in the end. In this case, there was part of me that truly hated this young man and another part of me that felt sorry he came into the world illegitimate, unwanted, unloved, and so on. Although I was raised in an awful childhood, I am grateful for the blessings I have because it could have been much worse. I took my dysfunctional childhood experiences and used them to better understand the criminals I encountered. I almost felt sorry for the detectives raised in loving homes with a mother and father. These guys were not able to relate to messed up criminals like I could.

When I started this story I asked you a question. “What major factor in society do you think contributes to crime in the United States?” 

I feel one of the major reasons crime has increased to this level is a result of L.B.J.’s 1964 War On Poverty. I recommend that you read the history on this war and today’s results.

Pat McGaha

15 thoughts on “On A Full Moon 8

  1. My heart sank when you described that precious little grandmother falling. That could have been my mother.God love her. You have such a good heart Pat. The emotions you were going through were mixed….compassion stepped in and took over. I really did not know you struggled in your childhood and it really breaks my heart that you had to endure this and grow up fast. But that is what made you a better man today. God Bless you.

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    1. Connie you and Bonnie are two special friends of mine. You have known me all these years and always been dear friends. You are right. My childhood only made me stronger and I used this knowledge in a positive way as a cop and as a man. Thank you for supporting my blog short stories. Love, Pat

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  2. Pat, I thank you once again for sharing your crime stories. This is an eye opener for me. I wasn’t aware of these statistics. Hopefully, these will change in the near future. It is up to all of us to do something about it. By you sharing these cases with us helps us have a greater understanding. I will see about helping out in some of these areas. Not sure how yet but I will…
    Thanks again,
    K

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  3. Interesting read, I enjoyed your story quite a bit, as I, at one time, aspired to have a career in law enforcement. Like you, I was and still am keenly interested in what makes criminals tick. I took a class in college about the psychology of criminality. One of tenets focused on what they called the goal-means gap, in which, the criminal often-times covets a particular item or overall lifestyle and then uses whatever means necessary in criminal behavior to obtain it. This is because they lack the means to obtain it legally, at least most of the time. Either they don’t have a good enough job or education to obtain one. Like the young man in your story that was the case, but it also involved being numb or indifferent to the behavior because that is what they are used to seeing and see it as normal behavior.

    As for the article and research you included about poverty I found in reading it was biased and opinion based versus totally reliant on fact. This being because they relied heavily on what they feel are abuses of the system and that the poor lead better lives. I don’t disagree that there are those who rely on the system or abuse it. I just see it written out of a stereotypical nature. At one time I too thought this way, until I became disabled and thrust into poverty myself. What I have in terms of material goods such as an air conditioner and tv (without cable or internet) are all things I had from when I was working. Beyond the cellphone in which I am typing all of this I don’t have anything new.

    Even though I am poverty level I am just a hair above the line to qualify for housing or food stamps, so I struggle to pay the rent and afford quality food for myself and my son. I found the article to be insulting to people like me. I worked for 25 years and now am being looked down upon as though I am a drain on the system and cheating on the good taxpaying person in society. If I feel this way after being in the middle class most of my life I can only imagine what people who never had it as good as me think.

    Like you said just because people are uneducated doesn’t mean they aren’t intelligent. Yet, articles such as this one shape many peoples views that the poor lead better lives. We don’t and its a shame that many don’t see it until they have to live it. I worked in low income housing for many years, I saw abuses, but mostly saw good and decent people who were genuinely in need.

    In 2013 the building I worked at was sold and the new company didn’t keep us, so we were let go. I had to go on assistance the following winter. Our local social services office makes people line up outside the building and wait before they open the doors, its also adjacent to the county probation department and probationers have to stand in the same line we did. On a very cold sub zero temperature morning I found myself in line, bundled up as best I could, waiting so I could get assistance to keep my electricity from being shut off (my only source of heat). I stood waiting until my feet were numb and as a diabetic that’s dangerous. We had to wait while the staff filed in after getting out of the nicely heated shuttle van that dropped them off..so they didn’t have to walk the 2 blocks from the parking lot. All of them looked right at us standing there freezing, but they didn’t care I had to wait my turn as did the others. While in line people drove by giving us the finger and one person shouted out “Get a job scumbags.” I swallowed my pride and stood on, unable to even cry in the cold. Those insults are a result of articles such as this which make it appear we have it better than we do.

    We have lost core values such as work ethic and morality. That is what people should blame instead of the poor themselves. It doesn’t excuse criminal behavior, but many even in law enforcement don’t understand poverty. Its a vicious cycle. I could elaborateeven further, but I have written enough. My apologies for going into a diatribe, as that wasn’t my intention.

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    1. Sharron, Thank you for opening your heart and feelings to us. I will approve your comments and share them here on my comments section which is public to my followers. First I apologize that the biased article I shared insulted you, as that was not my intention. Your response counters the article and is so well written that I feel it evens the scales on the topic of poverty in America. I used the article primarily because I do feel our governments programs have not only failed to reduce poverty they have basically destroyed the family unit in poor communities across the nation. The program has builtin disincentives for couples to become married, thus single moms raise their children on their own. Adult males are driven from the homes to live elsewhere. Take a quick glance at the marriage rates in poor communities before the L.B.J’s war on poverty and compare it to this day. Over 70% of black children are born out of wedlock. I attribute this directly to L.B.J.’s war. I agree the article was biased in several areas regarding abuse but that is not the reason I attached it to my story about a young male criminal. Forget about the article and ask yourself how did he become so numb to hurt this grandmother? I offered my opinion from a detectives perspective. I too was raised in a highly dysfunctional environment and lived at or below the poverty level so I relate not only as a cop delving deeply into such matters but as a survivor as well. I am considering removing the artical because it takes away from my stories and I find myself diverted into a public debate on poverty in our country, even though I see a connection between the two. I see you have a big wonderful heart based on your years of community service and I commend you from the bottom of my heart. This is my response to your comprehensive comments and I hope you continue to read my true crime short stories. One more thing. It hurts my heart to read the way you stood in line and people insulted and humiliated you so cruelly. That was so wrong of them. I wish you the best and Thank you again. Pat McGaha

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  4. Hi Pat,

    Thank you for your very timely and insightful reply. What you said made a lot of sense. I had actually written another reply, but somehow it got lost so I will try to recount what I said as much as I can.

    When I was 8 years old I read my first Nancy Drew book and from that point on I was hooked about what made criminals think and why they committed that specific crime etc. My dream of being a cop didn’t happen because of injuries. So life happened and at one point I was trying to obtain a degree to work in Parole. Unfortunately my disabilities happened and my goals cut short. So I appreciate reading your stories because they are real and raw. A fresh perspective that we rarely see, even in reading other recounts. So I will absolutely keep reading (and responding lol).

    As for your question about why and how he could be so numb to have done this to the grandmother. Its because from the moment he was born he lived a life devoid of love and caring. He learned early on to do what he needed to do in order to survive..obtaining food and clothing, probably from the time he was a toddler. He never had any real parental guidance, especially lacking learning how to care and be compassionate. So how could he care about the grandmother? The act was impulsive, yet instinctive(because that is what he learned as a means to survive) to obtain what he needed, the fact that she was an elderly grandmother was irrelevant to him. He would have forgotten about her the moment he threw away that purse if he hadn’t been captured. His goal was to get whatever money she had, she just happened to be the means..a relatively easy mark.

    He probably wasn’t even thinking about her as you and he sat in the interview room. She most likely only entered his mind in court, only to be forgotten about as he left. When he sat with you sneering and acting defiant his mind was thinking about survival in jail, his 2 hots and a cot. He did this not because he was a rotten human, but because he never learned any other way. That is what many don’t understand. They cannot see the abstract in criminality.

    His mother probably never learned those skills either and when she had him dismissed it. Then fell into her own world. He had no love, no shielding from harm and he grew up thinking it was normal. Society failed him by not stepping in to ensure his mother had supports early on. The answer is moral and systemic ineptness.

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    1. Well stated Sharon !! I am sure you would have made a good detective if life had not turned in another direction for you. Thank you for reading my little stories and for your insightful comments. Pat

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  5. The break down of family, education, and most of all religious assimilation creates a society of one parent families, lack of intelligence from little education, and a assimilation in religious beliefs. Breaking down society causes a dependency on the government. Therefore, giving control over the citizens by dependency. When a person has a life such as this young man did, he grew up taking with no remorse or feelings. He was never taught right from wrong and only knew survival. Nonetheless, he committed a horrible crime! He should have to pay the consequences! Psychologically he was doomed from the beginning. Crime is deeply rooted but goes back to the breakdown of society… of family… of education… and so importantly religion!

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