Warning! Graphic content
Above photo in memory of my father, Shreveport Police Officer Rayburn McGaha Sr. 1947. Next photo he is with my sister, Sue, and his Harley.
“If we ever meet for a cup of coffee, be advised it might be dangerous” – Pat McGaha
I was assigned to graveyard shift patrol in the western part of town. I was a supervisor now and loved the men and women with whom I served. They were my second family. I spent more time with them than my wife and son and felt guilty. Street crimes changed in winter. During the humid summer months, tempers were on edge which drove up the number of street fights, family fights, murders and rapes. When fall arrived and the temperature eased from triple digits to lower 70’s, everyone seemed to calm a little. However, there was a downside to this. We saw a drastic increase of armed men. When they began to wear jackets and coats, they often carried firearms because concealment was easier.
When shopping malls and clothing stores changed their clothing line from summer to fall, it had a direct impact on the street thugs. Most did not have the money to buy the new style leather jackets and coats but that did not prevent them from acquiring a new wardrobe. We saw major increases in smash and grabs as we called them. Suspects rode around town collecting bricks and large rocks to knock out storefront windows and grab what was on display. The upscale stores were frequented by them as shoppers during the day. They would enter the stores and scope out the lay of the land. They learned where the special things were that appeared on their shopping list. I recall the air was fresh and had a touch of a bite to it that night. I was driving a very nice Crown Vic. Being a supervisor, my unit did not come equipped with a protective shield between the front and rear seats.
To this day, S.P.D.’s school of thought has not changed. They still do not install shields in supervisor units. “Supervisors are to supervise and not make arrests and transport prisoners to jail.” Well, I was not one to order people around and sit back and watch. I was a leader and I lead by example. I was known as a working supervisor by the officers who served next to me. I resented the lazy and incompetent supervisors who would not hit a lick. I did not respect them and neither did the men and women they bossed around. It felt good when officers in other sections of town requested to work under my command rather than working under one of the common semi-retired duds. I did not like the duds and the feelings were mutual. I made them look bad, which was not difficult. I hated to hear them respond to headquarters on the radio.
“Sergeant so and so, we have a street fight at the corner of whatever and whatever, guns and knifes are involved. No patrol units available. What do you advise?”
Well headquarters, when you have one of my officers available, send them to the call. Meantime I’m a long way off but heading in that direction.
Everyone knew the sergeant was always a long way from the calls. They were parked behind a vacant building hiding. They had a rule they followed. The best way to stay out of trouble with the upper command was to not do anything. If you did not do anything, you could not be blamed for doing it wrong. Another reason I hated them. They were scared to make a real decision or do their job. I was not. I would drive across town to backup their officers. I also hated the terms they used. “Send one of my men, or one of my officers there.” Bull! The officers were not owned by this loser. He did not possess them, like his kids. Sorry, I digress.
We were having an onslaught of smash and grabs. Thieves were hammering our businesses. They were knocking out giant windows and stealing carloads of valuable jackets and coats all over town. Our patrol commander, Ken (Punchy) Anderson, was a great guy and loved by the real cops who worked his shift. The duds hated him because he nailed them on a regular basis for being what they were. Punchy and I got along well. He too was a former Marine and a golden glove champ. We respected one another, plain and simple. The chief was on him hard at the time and he was on the Duds because you know what rolls down hill. Too bad there is no one left on the department like him. The duds have taken over like roaches. You cannot kill or run them off from the hog trough. I feel so sorry for the young men and women working under the upper command these days. On a rare occasion when I end up at the station, it is a last resort I assure you. I do sometimes bump into an officer who worked with me or even young officers who know of my reputation but have not met me. They wish I was still there and the duds they work for today were gone. Makes me feel good until I realize my days of being a cop are long gone and there is no chance I will go back and lead them again. I feel bad knowing they have years ahead of them under the new P.C. leaders. Makes me sick.
It was a Friday night and we were bouncing from call to call. I just finished helping officers clear an injury accident at Broadway and Hollywood. The wrecker driver was sweeping up the last mounds of broken glass and pieces of plastic with a big push broom as I blocked traffic for him when the alert tone came over the radio. The two officers on the accident report were finished and quickly dispatched to a family fight a few blocks away. When the wrecker pulled away, I was going to swing by their call and check on them. My ears perked up as did every officer on duty. Headquarters announced a high-end clothing store in Sunset Acres was receiving a silent alarm code. The alarm company was hearing glass breakage and voices. We all knew they were at it again. I told the wrecker driver I was out of there and spun my new unit around heading east toward the call.
Traffic was light but I knew most every car I met was driven by a likely D.W.I. so I was on guard when I came close to one. I caught a green light when I hit Jewella and was doing about 60 when I went through it. I knew we had at least 30 smash and grabs across town and felt it was probably the same team responsible. I topped the hill on Hollywood near Victoria Lumber and went down the slope beneath the railroad overpass. As I started up the other side, I saw a set of headlights headed my way. I could tell the car was traveling well over 60 because of the way it bounced and was closing in on my location. My mind was on autopilot. I did not need to do a lot of deep thinking. That was a good thing because I was never known as a deep thinker. I pressed hard on my brakes just above locking my wheels following only my gut instincts. The nose of my Vic squatted down with the weight and speed. When they passed, I spotted two male passengers inside a 2-door late model, light blue Cutlass Supreme. They spotted me at the same time and the nose of their car dove down also. They slowed to 35 and I fell in behind them.
I called in the license plate numbers and followed my instincts. I looked in their rear window and told headquarters what I saw. The entire back seat was filled with new leather jackets on clothes hangers with price tags attached. The mound of stolen clothes was so high I could not see the heads of the two suspects. I called for backup and listened. The closest unit was James Clark, a great street cop. He was a handsome guy if ever there was one. Tall, slim, strong, thick black hair and single. He was also one of the top ranked Louisiana kick box champions. I could not ask for a better backup officer on my call. He told headquarters he was rolling out of Queensborough two miles away to my location. I knew it would take him a few minutes to reach me. It only took a second to make my decision. As we traveled back under the railroad overpass, I popped on my overhead blue and red lights. I also hit the two bright, white overhead take-down lights and my left spot light. The car slowed but did not stop. I knew they were thinking of running. I prayed this did not turn into another high speed chase. As we traveled up the hill near the entrance to the Victoria Lumber company, they came to a stop. We were in a valley like setting with high grass covered hills on either side of the street. I had released my seatbelt, pulled out my weapon with my right hand and was opening my door when my unit stopped. I adjusted my left spot light to aim directly at the driver’s outside mirror. The bright beam blasted the small mirror and reflected directly into the face of the suspect. I could see him as clear as day now. I left my unit running and my door open in case they took off in the car. With my left hand I grabbed the large can of mace on my rig.
When I first hit the streets as a rookie cop, we were not allowed to carry mace. Instead we carried big, black police batons called night sticks. For years when suspects resisted arrest, we fought them with those damn clubs like cave men. I hated hitting people with a stinking club. We were taught to never hit a person in the face or head when we used one. I did learn in the real world on the streets with mean men who wanted to kill you, one could not always avoid hitting them on the head. When that happened, it caused deep cuts that required stitches or even brain damage. I saw many suspects lose teeth because of night stick blows. When we transitioned to mace, I loved it. You could blind the suspect and make him start coughing. A good, quick shot of mace to the eyes took the fight out of most of them. No more trips to the emergency rooms. No more front page newspaper stories with the punk showing his numerous stitches on his face and head declaring he did everything the officers told him and they beat him down because they could. When I got my first can of mace, I was tickled.
As I approached the suspect’s car, I was on my toes. I did not walk in the spotlight beam which was blinding the driver. I walked in the street left of the beam in the darkness. I held my weapon directly behind the right cheek of my butt by my billfold so the suspects could not see it. I could draw it on them much faster. I held the can of mace with my free hand in a palming manner with my index finger on the button. The driver had to crane his head over his left shoulder to see me. I smiled at him and did my best traffic cop performance.
He rolled down the window and gave me back a worried half smile.
I said, “Sir, I clocked you speeding at 50 miles per hour in a 35 speed zone. I hate to bother you sir, but I have to give you a little ticket before you can go on home, OK?”
Uh, yeah man, that’s, that’s cool.
“Sir, will you please join me for just a moment at the rear of the car while I write the little ticket?”
Uh, yeah man, that’s cool.
“Thank you sir. I promise you will be on your way home soon. This will only take a minute, OK?”
Cool man, yeah man, That’s cool officer.
I never let my eyes leave his hands. I never looked him in the eyes until I knew his hands were empty of weapons. I stepped back a safe distance from him. If he was going to lunge, I had time to react with the mace. If his hand went for a pocket or his lower back, only then would I draw my firearm on him. He eased the door closed and lead the way back between the Cutlass and the front of my unit.
“Sir, may I please see your driver license so I can issue the ticket and you can be on your way?”
He quickly looked up and down the street, thinking of bolting as he repeated my request. He used both hands and reached to his upper shirt pockets and patted them like he was trying to remember where his license was. He patted his front pants pockets and crunched his hands like he was feeling for the license.
“Driving license, driving license, man I done left them at the home.”
I stepped within four feet of him and said, “That’s alright sir. I’m just going to give you a warning this time and I want you to stop all this speeding. I want you to promise me you will not speed anymore, OK?”
Uh yeah man, you cool, you cool officer!
As the fake smile came to his face, just before he turned to head back to his car, I blasted him directly in the face with a load of mace. When I quickly raised my left hand, his eyes widened as the powerful pepper spray struck him. His hands instinctively went to his face but it was too late. He lost his breath. He was totally blinded and bent over with his head even with his knees. I pushed him to the ground and cuffed him so fast he did not realize it. He flopped around on the ground like a fish as I walked to the passenger side of the Cutlass. I tapped on the window and the suspect rolled it down.
“Sir, your friend wants to talk to you. Can you step to the rear of the car, please sir?”
Uh, yeah man, I can do that.
As he opened the door, I kept my eyes on his hands. They were clear. He closed the door and started to walk to the rear of the car. I said the word mace.
He said, “What?” I said, “Say mace!” I blasted suspect #2 and to the ground he went. I quickly cuffed him and waited for Clark to arrive. Moments later Clark rolled up with smoke boiling from the front brakes of his unit. He busted his ass to back me up. He heard the two suspects screaming in pain and saw them on the ground cuffed. Clark did a double take at me and grinned. He pulled out his talkie and told headquarters to roll Smokey, the fire department. He advised two suspects were in custody and needed their eyes washed out because they had been sprayed with mace.
The fire unit rolled up and used a plastic milk jug filled with water to rinse the mace from the crying suspects.
The Cutlass was stolen and we recovered several thousand dollars worth of stolen leather jackets. The paddy wagon rolled up and off to jail they went.
I had used both sets of cuffs I carried on my rig so I reached into my police equipment bag and grabbed the third and last set I had. Clark and I felt good knowing we had caught the guys responsible for numerous burglaries. We needed to write our arrest reports and I wanted a cup of coffee, We could knock out the reports in a well lighted business with restrooms and plenty of hot coffee. I suggested we head to the hill as we called it. The hill was the intersection of I-20 & Monkhouse Drive near the regional airport. James agreed and off we went. By then, all the bars in town were closed. Every greasy spoon dive coffee shop would be filled with drunks. I did not think about that. I was high on catching the bad guys. I had been on the job long enough to know better than to go to a coffee shop late at night on a weekend.
I was never known as an intelligent guy. If you know a cop who worked with me and ask about me, here is the common reaction. They will smile and shake their heads. That says it all.
We rolled up in tandem on the north side of the Kettle Coffee shop. We parked our units next to the fire exit door and slipped in a two person booth just inside. The parking lot should have been a give away. It was filled with cars. Every chair and booth was filled except for the little booth we took reserved for the waitresses and cops. The place was loud with drunks talking and laughing. I could smell the nasty, sweet odor of liquor in the air. I felt sorry for the waitresses who where shoving out greasy breakfast platters to the crowd of stinking drunks. I scanned the room and a cowboy caught my eye. He was seated up front near a large plate glass window alone in a four person booth. He instantly reminded me of the character Hoss, Dan Blocker played on the TV western show Bonanza. He was as big and had the matching hat. He looked my way and nodded. I waved and he went back to eating a giant platter of scrambled eggs with diced ham. I sipped a little coffee and opened my report book. I noticed Cindy, a little waitress with long blonde hair, waddling by carrying three platters of grub to the front near the cowboy. She was over eight months pregnant. Her belly was the size of a dang beach ball. It amazed me she did not topple over. I watched her place the platters on a booth table next to Hoss. Three very large women were squeezed in tightly and having a good time. Cindy turned and started taking a new order at a nearby table when one of the big gals yelled out across the restaurant.
“Hey bitch! Bring me some fucking A-1 over here! I done fucking toll you I wanted some fucking A-1!”
The place fell strangely silent. James and I knew this was not going well. Cindy went to the condiment station and picked up a new bottle of A-1 steak sauce and went to the loud mouth woman up front. Still not a person in the place spoke. The entire crowd waited to hear what was going on.
Cindy told the woman she did not need to yell across the restaurant. If she needed something, all she had to do was raise her hand.
The big, drunk woman grabbed a wooden handle steak knife from the table. She held the knife tightly in her right hand with the blade sticking out from the heel of her fist. She drew the knife toward her large chest as if she was going to stab Cindy in her big belly. Then she said, “Bitch, I ain’t in no fucking school house. You just bring me the fucking A-1 when I fucking tell you, Bitch, or I just stab you in your big fucking belly, bitch. Now get the fuck out my face, bitch!”
Cindy spun and walked toward James and me. Her eyes were wide and fear was all over her little face. I stood and looked to the cash register station where Rose the manager was. I walked to the front keeping an eye on the big drunk woman still holding the knife as if she was ready to stab someone rather than cut her greasy pork chop. I asked Rose how she wanted to handle this. She said she wanted that woman out of her business and she would never be allowed back. James stood off to my right as I was just outside the big woman’s reach. I told her to lay the knife down, get up and get out of the business.
She said, “I ain’t fucking leaving till I eat my food, man, so get the fuck out my face!” I drew my big can of mace and began to shake it so it was well mixed. I told her, “Get up and get out now.”
“What you going to do with that shit you got in your hand?”
I said, “Lay the knife down, get up and get out of here right now or I will spray you with this mace.”
“Fuck you man!”
Her mouth was still wide open when the powerful blast of mace struck her. It hosed her eyes and shot into her mouth. The knife fell from her hand. I reached to drag her from the booth. She weighed 300 pounds easily and I had my hands full. James watched my back and made sure the crowd stood down. Suddenly the two big women on the other side of the booth reached and grabbed my neck and right arm. I hosed both of them in the next blast. James jumped in and we drug the three women outside. They were cuffed and stuffed into the rear seat of James’s unit. He called another patty wagon because they were covered with mace. We called another Fire truck to bring out a water jug. The women were removed from the car and washed down with water. They yelled and cussed us non-stop. They tried to incite the crowd to join in and set them free. James stood at the front door making sure the crowd stayed at their tables. The patty wagon was across town and would take 10 or so minutes to reach us. We stuffed the women back into the patrol unit. I stood outside the unit and looked through the window at Hoss. He was now eating his second platter of ham and eggs. During the time I sprayed the women and fought them, I saw him out of the corner of my eye. He never stopped filling his fork and lifting it to his mouth.
Since the big gals were in the police unit like a crock-pot, James and I went back inside to get Cindy and Rose’s last names, addresses and phone numbers for our reports. I noticed a quick movement outside the big plate glass near Hoss. It was a skinny, young woman who left the restaurant and was heading for our prisoners. She snatched the rear door open like she was the police. James and I ran outside as the drunks inside yelled and cheered for the skinny woman who was trying to free the big gals. James had his hands full trying to shove two of them back into his unit while I addressed Olive Oyl. She was yelling her friends had not done anything wrong. I had no right to arrest them. She spun and started walking back to the front door and I caught her. I told her she was under arrest and the fight was on. She was so skinny I held back so I would not hurt her. I used only the amount of force needed to overpower her. She did her best to break free. She kicked at me and tried to scratch my face. I spun her around facing away from me and shoved her against the big plate glass window. I got one of her hands behind her back and could only control her by attaching my left hand to the large bun of hair on the back of her head. Her hair was slicked down with something oily.
She had on a short leather skirt, black fishnet hose, high heels and a purple silk blouse. She was so skinny she could have hidden behind a telephone pole. I was out of cuffs. James was out of cuffs so we called for back up to bring more cuffs. I held her against the big glass window until the other officers arrived. She stopped struggling as much so I released some of the pressure. I looked through the window and saw Hoss still eating. He had eaten two thirds of the second platter. As he lifted another fork full to his mouth, he looked out at me and grinned.
Once Olive Oyl and her big friends were hauled off, I went back to finish gathering information for my report. Rose brought me a fresh cup of coffee and I began to write. Motion caught my attention. He was a tall man in an expensive dress suit and tie. He was walking directly my way so I stood. In his hand was a business card. I do not remember his name but I recall what he said. He was a senior executive with Blue Cross, based in Dallas. He was here on business. He told me he witnessed everything and would be willing to go to court and testify. I was confused why he was giving me his card if he was going to court with the women. I was wrong. He was not on their side. He said if this incident had occurred in Dallas, the cops would have fatally shot the woman holding a deadly weapon instead of spraying with mace. He commended me and told me to keep his card if I wanted a state’s witness.
The Kettle was not as nice as Waffle Houses. For the following three weeks at least, there were two large racing stripes of purple lipstick on the window where Hoss sat that night.
Monday rolled around and all four of those citizens appeared in the I.A.D. offices where they filed a formal complaint against me for excessive use of force. The investigator is still there today as a high ranking official. He fits into the category I do not favor. When he was a rookie, he hit the streets and got his ass handed to him by a big thug. He quickly found a career path where he could remain a cop but not the kind officers like me completely respect. He transferred from patrol to motorcycles. For years he rode predominately affluent neighborhoods writing rich business men and soccer moms speeding tickets. When he was young, he was handsome and his extra job was as a male model. After years as a revenue gatherer in the traffic division, he brown nosed his way to I.A.D. There he flourished. He could sit in his office and take complaints from sleaze bags like these four women. He sipped his coffee reading my reports and judging me. While I was on the streets fighting crime, he was home in bed asleep. He could not last a week with real cops in the ghettos and he knew it. When I was ordered to his office to give a statement the day after the complaint was filed, he was cocky and judgmental. He offered his opinion as to how I should have handled the drunk women. It was hard for me to bite my tongue and let him play his little game. In the end, I gave him the gentleman’s name and number from Dallas. I was cleared a few weeks later.
“Would you care to join me for a cup of coffee sometime? It may be dangerous.”