Have you stood somewhere and let your mind wonder? What if you had a time machine and you scrolled back in 100 year increments? When I stand on the banks of the Old Red River, I think of times gone by, riverboats, steam whistles, black smoke, paddlewheelers churning muddy water, mules, giant cotton bales and men hard at work.
When I was in high school, I was not interested in American history. When my brother and I enlisted in the Marines in ’69, neither of us imagined during boot camp we would sit in a classroom studying the history of the Marines thus American History. I thought I would crawl beneath barbed wire in nasty mud and water while a machine gun fired live ammo inches over my head. Or I would learn hand to hand combat. There we sat with a spiral notebook in front of us taking detailed notes. Our drill instructors called our little notebooks our “knowledge”. Everywhere we went regardless of on the firing range or gas chamber, our knowledge was tucked between our green fatigues and our sweat soaked white tee shirts. I would give anything to hold that old book in my hands today and read the notes I made at age 17.
Bubba Ogden was a great street cop and helped me in so many ways. I first rode Cedar Grove, my childhood stomping grounds, as a rookie in training with D.E. Stevens. After a couple months, D.E. made detective and I had to link up with another training officer. Bubba and I hit it off right away. I liked his name because my older brother, Rayburn Jr., was called Bubba. Ogden had a nickname beyond Bubba. People in eastern Shreveport referred to him as Smiley. Anyone who knows Bubba knows this is appropriate. Rarely is he without a smile. Bubba was easy to work with. He let me drive our police unit the first night I was assigned to him. The citizens of Shreveport were on pins and needless then as the scenic Clyde Fant Parkway was well under construction. When the parkway was completed, it would run beside the west bank of the Red River that divides Shreveport and Bossier City. The head of the parkway began beneath the Texas Street bridge downtown and ended several miles south beneath the Jimmy Davis bridge.
It was kinda cool being a cop back then. Road closed signs did not apply to me and Bubba. He said we are the police and need to go beyond these barricades that prevent public access. Anything could be happening down this road and we need to patrol every square foot of our beat. Rights of way had been cleared, trees removed, mountains of red sand were built up for overpass approaches and such. It was graded and smooth for driving on dry summer nights. During rainy days it was slick as ice. Several police units were towed out before officers were reprimanded.
One evening as the summer sun was setting, Bubba and I drove to the southern end and turned around near the Jimmy Davis bridge. We drove back north about a quarter of a mile. Bubba stopped in the middle of the dusty roadway. Once the cloud of dust settled, we got out. Bubba walked to the front of the unit and leaned his butt against the front grill of the Chevy Impala. He nodded toward the river and asked if I saw anything strange. I followed his eyes to several large hills of red river dirt between the parkway and the river. I studied the mounds of soil and stated, “Looks like a stockpile of river sand, Bubba. Looks like the road crews are loading trucks here.”
He nodded affirmatively then shared his information.
“Seems those giant mounds of dirt were made back during the Civil War. They were made by Confederate soldiers. They built it as cannon embankments and aimed their big guns toward the river. When the construction crews were clearing this land for this project, these long forgotten mounds were rediscovered.”
We stood and stared at the mounds for a few minutes in silence before we loaded up and headed back to the streets. I cannot count the times since that day with Bubba I have returned to wonder what it must have been like back then.
Once again I found myself standing on top of the mounds looking out over the river in deep thought. This time was different than all the rest. I was playing back in my mind the events of this day. I was glad it was at the end of my shift as a criminal investigator and I would be home soon. I could not head straight home with the things on my mind. I wanted to clear them before I went to be with the ones I loved.
She finished all her classes by mid Friday afternoon in Ruston, Louisiana where she attended Louisiana Tech University. In just over an hour drive, she was home with her parents. Her Dad was a high ranking and well respected elected official in Bossier City. Her Mom was a stay at home housewife. She spent the evening at home having dinner and telling her parents all about college life in Ruston. She was a nice young lady who rarely dated. Her nose was in her books and she took college seriously.
The next morning she got up early as always and loaded her bike on the rack attached to her mid-size car. She knew a great place to ride for exercise before the heat of the day. She crossed the Shreveport Barksdale Bridge from Bossier into Shreveport and turned on to the Clyde Fant Parkway. She drove north to the Texas Street bridge area and found a space in a public parking lot near the bike trail.
She was pleased few runners and bikers were out on this early Saturday morning. She wanted to be alone and ride with the wind in her face along the river. She looked forward to the six mile round trip. She knew when she finished she would be exhausted and that was her goal. She enjoyed pushing herself and keeping in shape. She was making good time as she rounded the curve north of the railroad bridge when she first saw him. He looked out of place. She made this trip many times and had not seen him here before. He was sitting on a park bench watching her as she approached. An uneasy feeling came over her as she passed by him. She glanced back over her shoulder making sure he was still seated. He was and she let go of the deep breath she was holding. She shook off the bad feeling and got back into her pace. Her legs were starting to feel the burn as she continued to build speed along the bike path.
She made the three mile mark at the Jimmy Davis Bridge on schedule and made her u-turn heading back to her car. Along the way, she waved as she met several joggers and a few bikers heading the opposite direction. Ahead of her, she spotted two men running in the same direction. By the time she reached the railroad bridge, they were about a quarter mile behind her.
The bad feeling returned as she rounded the curve and spotted him again. He had not moved from his seat. The bench was on a grassy hill about 20 feet above the bike path. She tightened her grip on the handle bars and wished she had her mace clipped on as she often did. She left it in the car this morning because she felt safe when she unloaded her bike. As she came within 20 feet of him, he suddenly stood and ran down the hill at full speed. She did not have time to react, to hit her brakes or raise her hands. He bulldozed her and the bike down the hill and deep into the thick, green underbrush. He knocked her to the ground so hard it took her breath away. She was tangled in the bike and thick vines. He was on her instantly groping her breasts and between her legs. He held a large pocketknife in his hand and shoved it near her left eye. He told her he would stab her in the eye if she did not do what he wanted. She tried to push him off but he was much stronger. She yelled for help and he slapped her several times busting her lower lip.
She regretted pushing herself so hard on the bike as she did not have the strength to fight him off. She feared all those years of protecting her innocence would soon be lost. She was 20 years old and intended to save herself for her wedding night, when and if it ever came. Now this animal, who smelled like a dog, was all over her. He tried to pull down her spandex shorts but was not able. He took the knife, placed it near the waistband and began to cut. He cut the shorts along the outside near her hip and went to the other side. Moments later her shorts were tossed in the bushes. He was on his knees breathing heavily with the knife to her throat as he unbuckled his belt. He slid his nasty pants down his legs and pulled out his erect penis. He stroked himself as he eased toward her. He laid down and tried to force himself inside her. She held her legs together to prevent his entry. She cried, yelled and squirmed away from him. He pressed hard against her and pulled her back down the hill still trying to shove himself into her.
She heard several voices on the trail above her. Men knew she was on the river bank being attacked. She heard them throw rocks into the bushes near her. Several of the men crashed into the brush just feet away from the attacker. The suspect made another attempt to enter her and this time he was in a position that allowed it. She felt his penis enter her just a fraction as she spun away from him and screamed for her life. One of the men on the hill yelled the cops were on the way and going to arrest him. He stood and pulled on his pants as the men crashed closer in on him. He sensed they would apprehend him so he spun and dove into the river. He swam slowly in his long jeans and tennis shoes.
The joggers heard her screaming and resisting. They saw the path made by the suspect in the bushes as he dragged her. One of the men ran up to the roadway to flag down a motorist. The car stopped and the driver agreed to call the cops. The joggers heard him splash into the water. They rushed deeper into the brush to her aid. One of the men took off his shorts for her to wear, leaving him in his undershorts. They helped her back up the hill and waited for S.P.D. to respond. Moments later the first officer rolled up and called headquarters about the suspect swimming towards Bossier. Soon Bossier officers appeared on the other bank waiting for the suspect. By the time he reached the other side, he was exhausted. The officers dragged him out of the water and recovered the Barlow pocketknife.
The Shreveport officer loaded the victim in his unit and drove to the Bossier side. He parked his unit a good distance from the unit the suspect was in and contacted the arresting officers. The suspect was ordered out of the car so the victim could confirm this was her attacker. It made her skin crawl to see him again. At least he was hand cuffed and under arrest. She stated he was the man who attacked her. She was transported to L.S.U.M.C. to undergo a rape exam while the suspect was booked into the Bossier City jail. He was then transported to Shreveport where he was booked into the S.P.D. jail.
That is when I got the call. I went to the hospital to meet her. A volunteer from the Y.W.C.A. rape crisis center was with her when I entered the room. I introduced myself and recorded her account of the attack. I did my best to be sensitive. I realized she had just been attacked by a man. Based on previous cases, I knew some women did not want to be anywhere near another man after being attacked. I sensed she tolerated my presence as she told me the details. I asked her very intimate questions. In order for there to be a rape, the suspect must have vaginal penetration. I took it easy on her and spoke in a tender voice. I had to know if she had been penetrated. She told me he did penetrate her about a quarter of an inch but that was all. The lady from the Y brought her a fresh set of clothing. It was standard procedure for her clothes to be collected and sent to the crime lab for processing.
Once the ordeal at the hospital was finished, I drove her to my office and waited for her parents to arrive. I had never met the father but had seen him on the news many times. He was upset as was the Mom. I assured him I would do my best to see that the suspect received many years in the state pen.
It was time to pay this dirt bag in jail a visit. I took my recorder, legal pad, pen and found a free detective to sit in the interview with me. As we rode the elevator up to the city jail, I gave him a quick run down. He knew I would cover every detail. The only reason I needed him was departmental policy to have a witness present. The suspect was wearing white coveralls with hand cuffs and leg shackles. I enjoyed seeing him struggle to not fall face first as he walked. He was clearly irritated as he took baby steps. This gave me a little pleasure. He caused my victim much pain and suffering. He could dish it out but could not take it. I smiled as we sat down. That made him more irritated so I continued to smile as much as possible. After I read him his rights and told him he was under arrest for Aggravated Rape, I smiled again. He did not seem to care he would spend at least 40 years in prison. He only wanted to know why I was smiling at him. I replied I was pleased he had been arrested and looked forward to sending him to Angola for the next 40 years. I told him he would not be liked by his fellow inmates. Chances were, in jail, he would be someone’s girlfriend and would learn what it is like to be raped.
It did not take long to get the confession. He lived on Sprague Street with his Aunt, was a high school drop out, had no work skills or ever held a job. He lived with her until she kicked him out when he turned 18 a few weeks ago. His aunt allowed him to live with her because she was his guardian and drew a monthly state check on him. Once he turned 18, the checks stopped and she rented his room to a prostitute. I probed more about his background. He never knew his father. His mother was a street hooker and got pregnant. She was with so many men she did not know who the daddy was. She rented a room from an elderly lady who babysat her son. His mother was killed by an unknown suspect and had no other known relatives. He stayed with the landlord he called aunt but was of no blood relation.
I took him back to the rape as I wanted more information. I asked him why he was on the parkway a half mile from where he lived. He was living on the streets now and woke up early that morning. He always wanted to have sex with a white girl so decided today he would. He knew many girls ran or rode bikes on the parkway. He headed there to find one. He had his pocketknife and found a good place far away from the road and near a curve. He knew eventually one would run or ride by. He would let her go to the end of the trail and when she came back by she would be tired and easy to take. He tried to hide a little smile as he told how the plan worked for him.
Part of me felt sorry for him, raised and unwanted all his life. He had no real chance to amount to anything. I thought back to the years I lived with strangers in foster homes. They too only wanted the checks the state sent for my brother, sister and me. I thought how grateful I was at least the people helped us stay in school. We were raised in church and for the most part treated with kindness. We were not loved but when I looked at this young man, I realized how much better I had it growing up.
Regardless of how he was raised, I felt he knew the difference from right and wrong. He seemed pleased he accomplished his goal of having a white girl. Sympathy I had moments earlier vanished and I called for the jailer to take him away.
I left the station and found the crime scene on the riverbank. I wanted to see exactly where it happened. I drove along the bike path to the spot described by responding officers. I replayed the victim and suspect’s statements in my mind as I studied the landscape. I looked across the river and wondered how he ever made it. The currents were powerful. I doubted I could have done that. I got back in my car and drove south. Once I reached Stoner Avenue, I got on the parkway headed home. When I reached the city park where the large mounds stood, I pulled in. I climbed to the top as I had done many times before and found a good place to sit. From my vantage point, I could see the water flowing south. I wanted my mind off the victim and the suspect so I let my mind wander. I thought back to the day Bubba first brought me there. I thought of the story about the men who made these hills. I thought of the fact I was sitting on history that had long been forgotten and then rediscovered. When I stood and walked back to my unit, my head was clear and I wondered what I would have for supper.
The next time I saw the suspect, I took the witness stand in state court to testify against him. The case was airtight. The court appointed lawyer assigned to defend him had no viable defense. The jury quickly convicted him and off he went to the state pen for 40 years.
During the court proceedings, I spent time with the victim and her parents. They seemed polite but clearly uncomfortable as they talked to me. When the case was over, I shook her dad’s hand and hugged the victim and her mom. We said goodbye and parted company. Over the years, I had several occasions to bump into the Dad at civic events. He was always polite but clearly my presence brought back bad memories. I never saw the victim again and often wonder how she is doing. Once I realized how my presence caused the family to feel, I stopped approaching the Dad in public.