Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Always Eat Your Dinner! By Lt. Pata

Early in 2004 (or so) I was called by nightshift and told that one of our local street guys was in a fight with another guy at a flophouse in our city. The fight was over a girl. The bad guy kind of saw himself as the big-brother type in this community and thought my victim was taking advantage of this girl’s not so brilliant mind. The suspect decided to invite the victim over for a little talk. Not a good idea.

The talk leads to a declaration of love from the victim, and his plans to enter into the sacrament of marriage with his inamorata, to whoever would hear it in the apartment. This could have been touching had the victim asked the girl’s father, and maybe did it with a little panache, you know, dinner, candle, bottle of fortified wine, down on a knee…uh maybe a ring! I feel qualified to make this statement because I have done this a few times. I would just not be the right guy to give the bride and groom to be the “pick wisely” talk. Instead my victim would rub his undying love for his girlfriend in the suspect’s face – at her apartment.

What Mr. Victim did not know, was that Mr. Suspect had planned on intimidating him or even killing him with a rather sizeable knife. The suspect kind of set up the confrontation by placing a knife in a location that he could get to it. Of course you know what happened next, right? Wrong, he did not kill him, but he did stab him. Some would later argue that I killed him. Let me explain…

Of course the suspect stabbed the victim. This would not be interesting if he just left really angry. So when my victim tries to leave, the suspect perforates him, oh about 3 maybe 4 times in the back. Thankfully, the victim had a Mediterranean type body, much like mine, but a little heftier, and the knife never made it through the nice protective layer of fat. See? Another reason to eat all of your dinner.

The victim’s problem was not so much that he was stabbed, but that he had some very professional and thorough care at the local trauma center. When he arrived with his new sharp-force wounds, he was taken to surgery where they gave him another sharp-force wound. After they unzipped him, they found that he was saved by a few too many desserts. Kind of interesting isn’t it that the treatment for a stabbing is…another stabbing. Medically sanctioned, of course.

The next day, I took then Sgt. Masterson with me to the trauma center, so we could have a little talk with the victim who was resting uncomfortably in the ICU. I could plainly see he was not in a good mood. Maybe he was worried that the suspect would give his betrothed away at the pending sacred event. I mean, really, if you get stabbed for just announcing the engagement, what could befall you if you go through with it?

Despite having all these tubes in him I was able to get a good statement. Sgt. Masterson and I left him so he could rest in peace. Unfortunately, he literally took us up on that. At about 6PM I got a call from my boss advising me that my victim was dead. I told him he was mistaken, because I just saw him, talked to him and found out that none of the stab wounds was life threatening.

I did that Candid Camera thing and looked around and out the window to see if maybe my pals were outside of my home looking in for a gag during my dinner. But no one was there. The tone of my voice changed and I said, “You’re not kidding, are you?”

The next call came from my friend, Coroner’s Investigator Pam Carter. I asked her what happened. She told me that as a result of the surgery and the stabbing, the victim had a heart attack in the ICU. All of the stress on his body from the event caused his demise. That, my friend, equals murder. Guess who ended up going back to work, minus dinner?

I arrived at the police station around 7PM and re-read the report. I knew the suspect and victim from past contacts as a street cop and thought I could use that familiarity to get a statement. I took a partner with me and drove to the Marin County Jail where he was housed for the stabbing. As far as this guy knew, he was there for ADW, assault with a deadly weapon.

Now this guy is intimidating. Not because he wants to be intimidating, he is just a big guy with a really big stomach. He had bright red hair and a scraggly beard. His hair was all over the place, frizzy and it was falling out on the top.

I made nice with the bad guy when he came in. I am not big on handshaking murderers or prostitutes for that matter, but I gave him a complementary bottle of water, courtesy of the County of Marin, and sat across from him. This guy was weird. He acted like some bad “B” list movie character I had seen, but did not have the smarts to pull it off completely.

He tried the “tough guy” stuff on me. Amateur crooks and the kids always try this. He was not a kid and had been around, but I think he had been kicked in the head maybe one too many times to be an effective with his Hannibal Lechter act. He tried to lead the conversation, so I let him. Some good comes from that. I love it when these guys use stuff they have seen in the movies to try and get me to believe their story.

I liked doing the Colombo thing and I acted like he was in control, until I had enough to slowly pick his story apart. My favorite move was to ask suspects to be the cop. Then I would present the case to them and ask them what they would do. Many would arrest themselves. It’s beautiful when they say this clearly over the audio and video tape recorders. It’s pretty cool when you get to play that in front of 12 jurors. I tell ya, Perry Mason can’t help them of that little courtroom drama.
This guy was not making a move. He was not buying my sales pitch and frankly I was starving and wanted this game of cat and mouse over. I finally had enough and told him those life changing words: “Brother, you’re under arrest for murder…he died. That - (pause for emphasis…) is murder.”

What happened next was spooky. He looked me in the eyes and started to grind his teeth. I am telling you, I expected him to spit out a dozen teeth. This guy was literally chewing his molars. I would not have been surprised if someone later told me the jail had to call out their dentist that night. My fillings started to get sore watching this guy.

This guy gave me the creeps. I remember I pushed back away from the table and prepared for a fight. I was waiting for this guy to flip the table over and squeeze my neck. Instead, he took the plastic cap from his water bottle and bent it in half with two fingers. Try that some day. It is not so easy. All of this as he stared in my eyes and never made a statement. The only two things he moved on his body were his jaws and his right thumb and forefinger. He did not say a word for what seemed like an hour, but was only maybe 3 minutes. Seriously-freaky!

When he was done doing his homeopathic dental work, he said “OK” and we were done. I wanted to get the heck out of that room and go to a church. This guy seemed possessed. It was a new kind of anger for me. I needed to light a candle and say a little prayer to whatever patron saint handled the “weird events” department of heaven. I left the jail at about 11PM and drove back to the station.

I now had a date at 8:00AM with the autopsy surgeon and another visit with my victim. This guy had a few too many knives in his life in the last 24 hours. It was time for him to finally get that peace he deserved, of course after another appointment with yet another knife.

I ate a bag of chips out of the police dining facility (vending machine) on the way home. I remember I had classical music on in the car and tried to crunch my corn chips to the music and maybe come up with a beat. I sometimes listen to classical tunes to decompress or to help me think. I also went over the events of the last 24 hours.

Morning was a few hours away and I needed to start to plan my case for the next day. Sleep would not come without a little help from a handful of my friends, Tylenol PM’s. I don’t mind telling you that sometimes, I play war with them. They never seem to stand up, but that’s ok, I act like Godzilla and eat them as they scream all the way down to my stomach.

Stay safe. See ya around the block. Ralph.