Friday, July 25, 2008
Somebody Slap Me
In Sandbox one and two, I gave you an idea about my life when I was just a kid, playing my life out in a sandbox. The continuing stories will be about some of the unusual true life events that took place long after the sandbox was gone and after the badge became a part of my life. I hope you enjoy reading them.
A good dream, as well as a bad one, can leave an impression on you like a song that you just can’t clear from your mind. Early on in my career, I had one of those dreams, actually, more of a nightmare. It was so realistic that I sat straight up in bed and realized that I was soaked with sweat. At least I hope it was sweat.
The dream put me behind the wheel of my patrol car while I was working the graveyard shift. I can still see it like it was yesterday. In this dream, I was driving slowly on Colville’s main street and as I went past a sporting goods store on my right, I heard the tell-tale sound of my tires rolling over broken glass. I could even see small shards reflecting the light from my headlights like an early morning layer of snow. I aimed my spotlight at the front of the sporting goods store and saw large, jagged holes in the picture windows that lined the front of the building. The sidewalk was covered with glass as well and it was apparent that the holes had been created by a large caliber weapon from the inside out. I bent my right arm at the elbow and my hand wrapped around the pistol grip of the jet black, Hi Standard Model 10 semi-auto shotgun, which was stored in an upright, locked position just to my right. Once the release button was pushed, it fell into my arm like an old friend. It was my favorite weapon while I was with the Colville Police Department. I pulled my patrol car past the end of the building, stepped out of my car and took a position at the front corner of the store. Things slowed down to a movie dream sequence as I looked across the street toward a restaurant that was located about a half-block away. Standing in the doorway was a man yelling, “He’s in here, he’s in here”, all the while beckoning me with his arm. I left my position and walked in slow motion across the street. The man who had beckoned me was no where to be found. I entered the doorway and pulled the door open. A white flash, an explosion, and I was wide awake fighting to get the sheets off. My wife turned on the light, looked at me, and wondered if she should run. I was bothered by the realism of this dream and was unable to sleep the rest of the day.
When I went to work that afternoon, I shared the dream with another officer, who had been my trusted field training officer and always a good person to talk to. He listened patiently, but being a man of few words I don’t recall him commenting on my experience.
It was the middle of the week and I was well into my graveyard shift. It was a cool, summer night and the town appeared to be quiet. It was about one-thirty in the morning when dispatch told me that they had received a strange phone call from an unidentified man. He had said that he was involved in a minor car accident in an alley behind some businesses located on Colville’s main street. I responded from the other side of town. A Stevens County deputy called me on the radio. He said he was in the area and would assist me. The deputy arrived moments before me and I turned into the alley about a half-block behind him. I could see him moving forward checking the buildings to his left with his spotlight. He was adjacent to the sporting goods store when his brake lights briefly came on and then his backup lights. I looked on curiously as his big green and white cruiser accelerated so fast that the rear end began to bounce as it tried to keep up with the command of the deputy’s right foot. I slapped my transmission into reverse and did the same thing, but other than trying to avoid being hit, I wasn’t sure why. The deputy was yelling on his radio, but since we were so close, I wasn’t able to understand him until I cleared the alley and slid sideways into the street. The deputy stopped in the alley after turning his car sideways. “There’s a man with a shotgun at the back of the sports shop and he aimed it at my head. Take the front!” I heard that loud and clear and it wasn’t until I was turning the last corner and traveling up the main street of Colville that I started to recall the dream of a few nights before. I turned off my headlights, but in the dull light of the surrounding street lights, I could see the glimmer of shattered glass on the roadway. The sound of it being crushed under my tires as I drove past was unmistakable and I began to sweat.
I pulled my car to the curb and hit the release on my 12-gauge friend. It fell into my right arm just as it had in my dream. I took my position and waited for off-duty officers to arrive. Jim, the officer I had shared my unusual dream with just a few nights before, arrived and surveyed the numerous holes in the front window of the sporting goods shop. He and another senior officer went inside the building to search for suspects. Moments after they completed the building search, the sound of someone yelling caught my attention. It was a man standing in the doorway of the restaurant located down the street, just as it had played out in my dream. I was scared at this point and really, who wouldn’t be? The other two officers came out and looked at the man who was still beckoning us to the front door of the establishment. The three of us walked to the entrance. Jim, looking a bit spooked, instructed me not to go through the doorway, so I covered the entrance from the corner near the alley. This allowed me to watch the front door as well as the exit to the alley. The other two officers went through the front door and a short time later exited to the alley. The suspect had left the back way before our arrival. I was relieved that he had left the building and that the grip of the dream had been released.
The moments of relief were short-lived as the dispatcher advised that a woman had called in a panic stating that a man had just broken down the back door of her house. The specific address of the incident was given as the 700 block of Pine Street. I did say specific, but to me it didn’t matter as my house was located at 710 Pine Street, but I was so full of fear that I had forgotten my own address. All I could envision was that the person who had killed me in my dream would fulfill his obligation by harming my family instead. I drove like a mad man to get to my house, rules no longer applied. I turned my patrol car onto Pine Street to find the two senior officers standing in the middle of the road with the suspect. He had given up without a fight after being chased out of my next door neighbor’s house at gun point. Thank God it wasn’t my house and that no one was hurt.
The caller who had reported the accident earlier in the evening had been identified and was taken to the police department for questioning. He said that he had been riding around with the suspect all night and they had indulged in alcohol as well as other stimulants. The suspect, who was the driver of the 1970 green Ford Maverick, became paranoid and felt he needed to acquire a weapon. Although he couldn’t see straight, he somehow managed to travel down the alley behind the sporting good store at a high rate of speed. He almost made a ninety-degree left turn, crashing through two double freight doors at the back of the building. The doors simply closed behind the vehicle and without close examination you never would have known it was inside. The amazing thing was that the Maverick had less than a half-inch clearance on either side. The passenger ran from the scene not knowing what his buddy was going to do and decided to report a minor traffic accident. The only reason the deputy had not been shot that night was because the cocking mechanism on the shotgun had been damaged by the suspect while he was blowing holes in the front of the building.
Needless to say, that night proved to be one of the most exciting nights I had ever had during my 19 years as a cop – and also one of the strangest.