“Pray For Me”


One night I responded to a crash and noticed a white car with major damage to its left rear area. At first glance I could tell it was broadsided. The other vehicle had damage to its front end with most of it on the right front area. I could also tell the white car had spun around from the impact. The driver of the white car was being loaded into the ambulance and she was my priority because I wanted to speak to her before she left for the hospital.

I jumped into the ambulance with the two paramedics and the EMT. The first thing I noticed was how wide open her eyes were as they darted side to side. She was about thirty years old with blond hair. She was strapped down to the backboard with a cervical collar around her neck. She was being asked questions from all different directions and she seemed overwhelmed by everything. There was something in her eyes that made me notice her more though. They were wide with fear. I stood there as the paramedics asked her numerous medical questions, but I only remember two of them.

“Are you pregnant?” asked one of paramedics.
“How far along are you? he asked.
“Twenty weeks.”

Now I knew why she looked the way she did and I didn’t blame her. I learned she wasn’t from the area and she was trying to get back to her hotel when the collision occurred. She was alone and two hours away from home. That’s a lot for anyone to deal with by themselves. When it was my turn, I started asking her questions about the collision.

She told me she had been in one of the right lanes when she started to move over to get into the left turn lane. She wanted to turn left at the light because her hotel was at the northeast corner of the intersection. She was then struck as she changed lanes. Based on the damage to both vehicles I could tell she had tried to cut perpendicular across the eastbound lanes from the far right to get to the far left when she was broadsided. Not a safe thing to do on any street.

During the interview, I felt bad for her because I could tell she was worried about the baby. When I was done I handed her a card with my name and the report number written on it. I then told her I had to leave.

Just as I was about to get out of the ambulance she said, “Pray for me.”

What she said was powerful and there was something about how she said it that stuck with me. It was as if a rope had been thrown around me to prevent me from leaving the ambulance when she said it. Without hesitation I said, “I already am.” I left and was hopeful nothing would happen to the baby.

A few days later I found out the baby had died.

Less than a week later the woman’s husband called the follow up traffic investigator to tell him what happened. On the night of the collision the baby still had a heart beat when she left the hospital with instructions to follow up with her doctor. It was a holiday weekend so she couldn’t see her doctor until Tuesday. It was supposed to be a routine checkup, but that all changed when her doctor couldn’t find a heartbeat. She called her husband, who then called the police department. He was crying when he told the investigator what happened.

I felt bad because the woman was at fault for the collision and she would probably blame herself for the rest of her life. She could have driven two hundred yards to the next traffic signal and turned into the hotel parking lot also. This never would have happened if she had done that. Instead she tried to cut across traffic, which was coming up from behind her at about forty miles per hour as the cars approached a green light. If she could only have those five seconds back again.

I can still see her face as she said those words that hit me like thunder and lightening in  a mid-west summer storm. The only difference was this storm will haunt her for the rest of her life……….

She Just Threw Her Arm At Me!

fake arm

This one afternoon, we were dispatched to a hit and run collision in which the victim had followed the suspect into an alley. When we arrived I spoke to the victim first, who told me the suspect had collided into her and then fled the scene into the alley after a brief chase. I then spoke with the suspect, but after about five seconds I could tell she suffered from some serious mental and emotional problems. She also had been drinking. The fact that she was drinking didn’t make this call unusual. What made it unusual was the suspect was missing an arm and a leg. The missing limbs were on opposite sides of the body and she was in a wheelchair with a prosthetic arm. Her clothes were disheveled and dirty looking.

After hearing the story about how the collision occurred, I knew a DUI investigation had to be done on the one arm, one leg, mentally ill person in a wheelchair. That fell upon the motor officer, who was my follow up. This was definitely a first for both of us.

This suspect wanted nothing to do with us and she was very mean. I don’t remember what she told us, but she spewed venom like no other. Insult after insult made me laugh. Her foul mouth told me things about my mom I never heard of before. I wished I had video of her because she had a total meltdown right there in the alley. At one point she said, “I’m leaving.” She turned her wheelchair around and started rolling away.

We looked on in disbelief as she started rolling away with one leg on the ground as she used her arm to propel herself in the chair. The motor officer told her to stop, but she ignored him like a four year who didn’t get their way. The officer started walking after her as he told her to stop again, but she tried to go faster. He started to jog after her as he went in wheelchair pursuit. This call was getting crazier by the second.

When he caught up to her, he grabbed the wheelchair handles and turned her around. He then pushed the wheelchair back to where we were trying talk with her. She had a look of defeat, and utter disgust for us. The officer pulled out his handcuffs and attached them to the wheelchair and the fence she was next to.

Now she was stuck and really upset. After the first meltdown I didn’t think it was possible for her to get any madder, but she did. She was so upset she took off her arm and threw it at us. Yes, you read that right. She threw her fake arm at us! It’s not every day a drunk woman throws her fake arm at you. It wasn’t a very good throw, but the arm did fly through the air and came to a skidding stop a few feet away from me.

She then got out of her wheelchair and threw herself onto the ground as she had another tantrum. She went through her bag and started throwing stuff at us. It was a large bag and I wasn’t sure if she had a leg in there to throw at me also. It was so crazy I wanted to look around to see if there was camera filming us for a TV show. Unfortunately this was real life and not staged. It was one of the funniest things to be part of and also very sad at the same time.

This woman was about as low as you can get emotionally, but you still can’t drive drunk and take off in a hit and run. You also can’t throw your arm at the police either. This went down in history as one of the most unusual DUI crashes I’ve ever been part of.

As a collision investigator I dodge cars at crash scenes, but I never had to dodge a flying arm before. This was just another example how anything can happen at work.

The Cat Tried to Kill My Wife


On Saturday night, I was in the office doing my paperwork when I plugged my phone into a charger on another desk. I never do this and I soon forgot about it. My partner and I got a late call and we left with my phone still sitting on the desk. We were about to drive away when I realized my phone wasn’t in my shirt pocket.

“Do you want to go back?” my partner asked.
“No, it’s OK. No one is going to call me,” I replied, as we drove away.

About thirty minutes later, dispatch contacted us on the radio, asking me to call them. Of course, now I needed my phone and I was glad my partner had his. I was working a triple hit and run crash with the same suspect vehicle, which had been dumped in the city north of ours. Officers were impounding the suspect vehicle for me and I was just about to drive over there to look at it before the tow truck took it away. I just assumed the phone call to dispatch was related to the incident I was on. I called dispatch and a familiar voice answered. I said hello and waited to hear that someone was trying to report the car stolen because that’s such an original idea in a hit and run crash.

The dispatcher said, “Karen hit her head. She needs you to call her.”
“What?” I asked, because this wasn’t what I was expecting to hear.
“Karen hit her head and she’s bleeding. She wants you to call her,” the dispatcher explained.
“OK, thanks,” as I hung up.

I instantly thought of my phone on the desk and knew my wife had tried to call me. She would never call dispatch unless it was an emergency. I called her cell phone and my wife told me I had to come home now because she needed help. She briefly told me she had tripped over the cat and hit her head on the corner of the fireplace mantel. She had ended up on the floor after the impact and was still bleeding. I got off the phone and we cleared the hit and run call. I couldn’t just go home at the moment because we still had to drive back to the station, unload our gear and then change.

Thirty minutes later I called and said I was on my way home. My wife said the bleeding stopped, but started again. I told her to call my mom to watch the kids because she going to need stitches. I ended up meeting them at the emergency room and my mom took my kids home so they could go back to sleep. This was my second time in a different ER tonight. Earlier I had gone to check up on a pedestrian who had been struck by a car. When I’m at work I’m used to walking into the ER and getting what I need from the nurses. I’m usually out of there pretty fast. Now I was in regular clothes and had to sit and wait.

They checked her head out and said she was going to need stitches for sure. We then went to the waiting room and waited… And waited…

While I was sitting there she retold the story of how the cat had tried to kill her. She had been walking to the restroom when the cat went in front of her. She tried to avoid the cat and stepped one way. She had to step a different way because the cat went left and then right. She then tripped and lost her balance. She described in great detail how her head hit the corner of the fireplace mantel, which made me cringe at the thought. She then ended up on her back. With a dazed feeling my wife instinctively reached up to her head while on the floor and felt blood on her hand. She finally was able to get up and dripped blood on the floor down the hallway as she tried to turn on the light. She described it looking like a homicide scene with blood on her face, on her nightgown, the carpet, the bathroom floor and on the light switch.

My wife told me the cat looked like she knew something was wrong. This cat loves my wife more than the rest of the family combined because she feeds her. I’m sure the cat was worried about her next meal of canned food after she saw the blood running down my wife’s face. My wife then went on to tell me what my mom had said after she called her to come over.

“Your mom thought you were shot.”
“Why?” I asked.
“She saw the phone number and thought something had happened to you when I called.”

I thought “wow” to myself. I never even thought about that when I asked my wife to call my mom to watch the kids.

Hours later we were home and my wife had five brand new staples in her head confirming the epic clash that occurred with the cat and fireplace mantel. It was a reminder of my wife’s cat like ninja reflexes and the assault our pet made in the dark. My mom was at my house and told me it was good to see me as I gave her a kiss on the cheek before heading upstairs for bed at 8:45AM. She ended up taking my kids to visit my grandparents and I went to pick them up later.

When I saw my mom that night she described how she felt when she saw my wife’s number pop up on her phone at 4AM. This is because nothing good ever happens from a phone call at that time of night. She then heard my wife’s upset voice and my mom described how her heart froze when she heard my wife say she needed her to come watch the kids. This was before she learned about my wife’s injury.

My mom said, “I was scared because I thought something happened to you,” as she hugged me.

I recently went to seminar on officer stress and suicide and one of the topics brought up was how our children feel when we go to work. Most kids don’t usually have to worry about mom or dad going to work, but ours do because we don’t have a normal job like other people. The instructor told a story about picking up their son early from school one day. The parents wanted to surprise him by taking him to lunch because he was getting his braces off. The son thought the braces were coming off next week, but the officer’s wife had scheduled it for a week earlier so it would be a big surprise. They ended up with the surprise instead.

When the son was pulled from class he was told he wasn’t coming back for the rest of the day and to report to the office. The son then cried as he walked to the office because he thought his father had been shot at work. When he saw his dad he ran to him and hugged him as he told them he was scared. It was big wake up call to his parents, who never thought their child worried about this the way he did. The instructor encouraged us to go home and ask out kids about this and talk about it.

I went home and asked my son, who is twelve, if he worried when I went to work at night. My son told me he did. I asked him what he worried about.

“That you’re going to get shot,” he replied.

I was surprised he actually thought that. I next asked my daughter, who is nine years old, and she gave me the same answer. I had never thought to ask them until I took that class. I explained how well we’re trained and how my goal every night was to be safe. I told them it was OK to worry, but not to let it bother them because I planned on coming home after work no matter what. My wife is used to me working the night shift. I’ve worked it ever since I met her and we’ve been married over thirteen years. I always knew my mom worried, but I guess I never really thought about it after twenty years until this past Sunday.

In closing, I leave you with this.

Hitting your head on the corner of the fireplace mantel is something to avoid in the middle of the night. The cat and my wife had made up and are friends again.

Secondly, talk to your kids about the job because chances are they’re worrying about it a lot and you don’t even know it. Depending on their age, some might even be stressed out about it because of what they have seen on TV, regardless if it’s the news or a cop show. Give them an extra hug and kiss on the cheek because they might need it.

Be safe.

Do You Play Candy Crush?

photo (2)

Say the words “Candy Crush” and you’ll find someone who has heard of the game. They might not play it, but they know someone who does. They might even be that annoyed person who cringes at seeing a Facebook request to play. This person can’t delete the request fast enough as they wish the entire Candy Crush world would blow up in a nuclear holocaust of sweet destruction.

If they play, they have the look in their eye of a hardened warrior. The candy crusher will have many stories of how they were one move away from immortality or how the thrill of victory was achieved with a life saving booster. They all have stories of frustration, self doubt and at times, have questioned the meaning of life.

The candy crushing warrior also knows that the next game could be the big breakthrough they have been waiting for, where self-satisfaction is like no other, but with no doubt, all their dreams will be crushed on the next level. I started playing in June of 2013 and I can admit that I was sucked into it.

When I started it seemed like everyone was playing it. One day on the way to work I decided to do something random. I was going to ask people if they played Candy Crush just to see their reaction. I got to work and loaded up my car with candy crushing anticipation for my first call, which was a non-injury crash involving two vehicles. After checking to make sure there were no injuries, I started my interviews. The first person I interviewed was a woman in her early forties, who was driving a minivan. I got a good vibe from her so I sprung the question.

“Do you play Candy Crush?”
With a suspicious look the woman asked, “Why?”
I replied, “I wanted to ask a random question about Candy Crush to see people’s reaction.”
With a huge smile she said, “Yes!”
“What level are you on?” I asked.
With a look of embarrassment she said, “221.”

The stress that came with the car accident seemed to melt away from this woman with one simple and silly question. I gave her the report number and moved on to the next person. While I was finishing up my investigation, a family member of my candy crushing amigo arrived. As I walked by I heard the woman say, “That’s the cop who asked about Candy Crush.” When it was time to leave I got a big wave and thank you from the woman. It was funny how crushed candy and crushed cars could go together.

In August of that year I had a civilian report writer ride with me for a few weeks of traffic training. He had never heard of Candy Crush so I told him we were going to ask people on every call if they played. From that point on for two straight weeks I asked at least one person at a crash scene if they played. Of course, it depended on the situation who I asked. I wasn’t going to ask someone in the ambulance if they played, but everyone else was fair game.

The reactions from witnesses and drivers were hilarious. These strangers would start talking to me about what level they were stuck on and what type of frustration they had gone through. It seemed like half the people played and the other half didn’t want to start because they heard it was too addicting. One driver once told me she passed three levels while waiting for me to arrive at her crash.

One night at a DUI crash there was a group of about ten people standing on the corner of a large intersection watching the scene. They were there because a friend was involved in the collision. The group happened to be standing next to my car. I couldn’t resist and I asked the group, “Who plays Candy Crush?” It seemed like everyone at once laughed and within seconds they were all talking about it. One woman told me she had been stuck on level 65 forever. She even jokingly asked if she could friend me on Facebook so I could send her extra lives because none of her friends sent her any.

One night at a crash a witness stopped and gave me her statement. As she was about to leave she mentioned she and her husband were truck drivers and were leaving for Utah as soon as she walked back to the truck. When I heard she was going to Utah I asked if she played Candy Crush. The woman didn’t know what Candy Crush was so I told her to download it now and she would thank me by Barstow (two hours away off the 15 freeway). She went to the App Store and downloaded it right on the spot.

One night a fellow officer and I were talking at a crash while I waited for the gas company to respond for a leak. He downloaded Candy Crush on the spot and was on level 4 by the time he left. A week later he told me he didn’t do anything else besides play on his phone. He also mentioned hating me for letting him download it.

Another Candy Crush story involved a gang member from L.A. who was on parole for assault with a deadly weapon. He was with two other males who were possibly involved in a fight and the police helicopter had directed us to their location. While record checks were being done I made small talk with the male, who told me the gangs in Orange County were nothing compared to L.A. This guy had his gang’s name tattooed across his chin in large letters.

I asked, “Do you play Candy Crush?”
With an embarrassed look, he grinned and turned his head as he said, “Yeah.”
“What level on you on?” I inquired.
“Level 3.” he replied.
“Level 3? You’re not even trying then.”
With a surprised look he said, “What do you mean?”
I told him level 3 was easy on Candy Crush.
The gangster then said, “I meant I’m on level three in prison.”

I started laughing and told him we were talking about Candy Crush. He laughed too and then told me he wasn’t sure what level he was on, but it was in the twenties. He also told me he played the game on friend’s phones. The last thing he said about Candy Crush was, “I don’t like those chocolates.”

And finally, this last Candy Crush story happened this past weekend when this woman flagged me down. She was yelling at her husband on the phone and said she had a question. With her husband still on the phone, she told me he was an alcoholic and a fool. She was not upset, but very talkative about her situation. I saw my opportunity and asked if she played Candy Crush. With a smile she asked why. I told her I liked to joke around and bring up random things to make people laugh. Her demeanor seemed to relax after the Candy Crush question. I asked her more questions about her husband and her situation to see if I could help.

She went on to tell me they had been married for a year, but she didn’t know he was an alcoholic when they met. I asked how long she knew him before they got married. At first she wouldn’t tell me, but then said they only knew each other for a month. She explained he was an illegal alien and they got married to get him legal status. I asked her how things were between them in the beginning. She told me things were good in the beginning because it’s always like that in a new relationship.

I told the woman that life was like Candy Crush. She gave me a puzzled look, wondering how I could relate this game to life. I said Candy Crush was like a new relationship. At first everything is easy, but as you play more, things start to get hard. As you play more the bombs and chocolate appear, making things harder and more challenging. She laughed and thanked me for listening. I gave her kids some badge stickers and she waved with a huge smile as she drove away.

Some might think it’s silly to ask about Candy Crush, but it is also a way to have a good time at work and show the public we are human too. Part of this job is about connecting with people in a short span of time in situations that are not normal for most.

Do you play Candy Crush?

It’s A Small World

One thing that’s funny about police work is you never know what you’re going to learn by asking a few more questions. I’m naturally curious and I can usually get people to tell me things they normally wouldn’t say. Sometimes things come up during interviews that are just too good to pass up.

Two weeks ago I responded to a minor injury crash in the eastern end of the city involving two cars. When I got there I spoke with both drivers and there was nothing out of the ordinary involving the crash. One of the drivers was a male in his mid-twenties. I asked him if he had been alone in the vehicle or if there was a passenger. The driver replied there had been a female passenger in his car, but she left to use the restroom. This wasn’t unusual because it was 1AM and there were no restrooms available at the collision location.

I needed the passenger’s information for the report so I asked the driver for her name. The driver could only tell me the girl’s first name. When I asked for her last name he told me, “I don’t know it.” With a raised eyebrow, I was curious because there had to be a good story here and I was pretty sure I would find out with a few more questions. I asked him why he didn’t know her last name. The driver told me he had been dating the girl for two weeks, but he had no idea what her last name was. He also seemed proud that he didn’t know it.

I asked, “How did you meet?”
“On the internet.”
“Wasn’t her name on her profile?”
With a cocky smirk the driver said, “I honestly don’t know it.”
I joked, “I guess this relationship isn’t going very far.”

He laughed and again told me he had no idea what her last name was.  I next asked him if he had her address,  thinking he didn’t know it either. To my surprise he pulled out his phone and showed me his contacts list, which had her first name and her address. I copied the information down, but I still needed her last name for the report. About ten minutes later, the female arrived and the driver brought her over to where I was standing. I asked her what her last name was and she told me. It was a unique name and she spelled it for me. After she spelled it I told her I knew her father. This story was getting better by the minute as I gave him a sly smile. He seemed uncomfortable as he returned my gaze.

What a small world, which probably seemed to get smaller for the guy who was still standing next to her. I told her I used to work with her father and I knew he worked for the city in a different department. She was very friendly and was genuinely happy that I knew him. She asked me for my name so she could tell her dad who had helped her. I told her my name and then said, “I’ll email him. I have a story for him.”

I really wanted to look at the guy to see his reaction, but I would’ve busted up laughing if I had. As they walked away it seemed like the guy didn’t have the same skip in his step anymore. In fact, the cockiness he once showed was pretty much flushed down the toilet. Something tells me he knows her last name now and I’d like to think I motivated him a little bit.

And in case you’re wondering about that email…… Yes, I emailed dad the entire story.