This piece is dedicated to the men and women of the Corona PD, and any other
LE agency night crew who prowls the darkness of twilight without fear. . . .
I don't recall what woke me up that night.
We had been in the new apartment for over a year and had grown accustomed
to the usual bumps and burps that are a part of apartment life, the noises
that come with living in such close quarters with so many other people. But
I got up anyway, to get a drink, and to see if all was well.
I walked down the hallway in the dark,
my direction lit by the small night lights that my wife had scattered throughout
the floor layout just in case our young daughter had to find her way in the
night. On a whim, I stepped out on the balcony to see what was happening
on the deserted street in the front of the complex.
The church parking lot across the street
was lit by a few big lights and the perimeter of the building was lit by
an array of smaller ones. It was cold, and not a soul was in sight. The distant
noise of the traffic on the freeway was barely audible. Local auto and pedestrian
traffic was all but non-existent as is usual for any small town in the dead
of night. I remember glancing at the clock and seeing it was 1:30
Then I heard it.
The all to familiar sound of breaking
glass. A sound that cuts through the night air--so out of place for this
time of night, like a women's laughter in a men's locker room. My attention
was drawn to the row of apartment houses that ran parallel to the church
parking lot, to my right. A high block wall was between the church parking
lot, the row of apartment buildings, and the narrow alleyway that ran in-between
the both of them.
A young, but adult, male stepped out
into the night, from under the parking structure of the first building, the
closest one to the street. All the apartment buildings were built over their
respective parking areas. Room enough for five cars in a row, to each building.
The lights were always on or off in any one at any one time. This one was
He stood motionless at the edge of the
building and observed the street for about five minutes, looking up and down
to see if anyone had heard the glass breaking and if they were investigating.
I was. I was crouched down behind the potted plants on the balcony, having
ascertained by now that he wasn't a resident, or some drunk who had dropped
his bottle of "Night Train."
Feeling confident he was unobserved, he
backed into the parking area. I slipped inside and grabbed the phone. My
heart was going again, but I was a little more level-headed at this time,
knowing no one was in immediate danger. All we had was an auto burglary in
"Nine One One operator, what are you
"I guess it would be an auto
"When did this happen?"
"It's happening right now!" I
"It's in progress?" she queried. The frantic
tapping on the keyboard was a familiar sound to my ears as she started the
initial reporting procedure to the city law enforcement agency, and their
dispatcher, on her end.
"Did you see what he was wearing? What
did he look like?" I went through the standard ID of the suspect, the negative
reporting of a weapon sighted, and started clarifying the exact place were
it was happening. By this time I was back on the balcony, watching the scene
more closely with my binoculars, a Father's Day present from my Wife for
just such a situation. The actor was obscured behind a small tree, but I
could see his shadow moving around, as if he was stashing something in a
corner of the garage, and then going back to the particular car he was breaking
into. He would every once in a while step out by the corner of the building
to see again if anyone was watching him. The operator had asked for any special
identifying characteristics of the individual.
"Yes, ma'am. He has on white knee socks,"
I answered. Shorts and white knee socks. All his other clothes were dark
and hid him somewhat in the darkness, but those white knee socks could be
seen quite a distance away.
"Officers are responding to the scene
now," she said. The only sound was the quiet, incessant buzz of the small
town night noise in the background. Everything else in the immediate area
was dead still. From the time I had called, to the point I saw the first
cruiser, was about three minutes. I was too preoccupied with the operator,
and the bad guy, to keenly observe any other activity around
The cruiser glided across the parking
lot dark, and slowed to a quiet stop behind the high brick wall where it
met the sidewalk and the street. The bad guy didn't even notice him pull
up, confident and secure behind his own side of the wall. He had no idea
what was coming. I then observed the other officers creeping down the opposite
end of the alley, holding close to the edge. The officer in the cruiser across
from me got out and gently closed the door so the interior light went out.
Another pair of officers who had pulled up at the rear of our building, and
walked into the area, quietly moved up the sidewalk from my left, and they
all started advancing into the area of the crime in progress. The whole group
was quickly closing in on the parking structure.
Trying to get the operator to convey
the proper directions as far as the specific topography of the immediate
area of the crime scene was very tricky. She wasn't there, but I realized
the officers on the street would better understand the particulars. I heard
her tell the radio operator,
"It's the second building from the west
of Grand. . . ."
"No! No, it's the first building on Grand,
the last building on the west end of the alley," I corrected her. She conveyed
the correction to the radio operator. I felt an enormous sense of responsibility,
knowing that my specific directions were being transmitted to the officers
on the street. They had to be clear. The officer who had pulled up in the
car in the parking lot then slowly walked up to the edge of the wall, and
pulling his firearm, peeked around the corner of the wall, and up the alley.
His target was now about twenty feet away from him. The tension in the air
could have been cut with a knife. The other officers were moving in behind
And then I saw the lead officer barely
crouch. . . .
I swear, if he had been a Tomcat, his
tail would have been twitching like crazy. The Hunter, with his quarry in
sight. The strain in the air went through the roof.
And then they pounced! All of them closed
in at a quick walk, weapons drawn, until they were in plain site of the
"POLICE OFFICERS! FREEZE! DON'T MOVE!
GET YOUR HANDS UP! DOWN ON THE GROUND! MOVE AWAY FROM THE CAR! KEEP YOUR
HANDS WHERE WE CAN SEE THEM! GET ON YOUR FACE! DO IT! MOVE, MOVE,
The bad guy was down on his face in a second,
the shouted commands and the sight of a half dozen officers around him enough
to shock even the most focused person into complete submission. I felt an
enormous amount of pressure lift off my shoulders as the whole operation
came to an immediate and flawless close. The 911 operator thanked me and
hung up, and I went back out on the balcony to see the wrap up of
The phone rang. I went to pick it up,
as my Wife and daughter were still asleep, oblivious to what just happened.
Like everyone else in the neighborhood.
"Hi, this is the Corona Police Department
Dispatcher. The officers on the scene are asking if you can come down on
the street and ID the individual in custody?" I was a little surprised, but
"Yes! Sure! Tell them I will be right
down. I have to get dressed." I went to the bedroom and started getting dressed.
My Wife woke up and asked where in the world I thought I was going. I gave
her the details of the incident real fast, and then went out into the cold
night. I always hated approaching a group of officers who have just been
in a pursuit/arrest situation, because I know they are still wired pretty
tight, but as I approached the end of the alley across the street, I noticed
the rest had left, and only two officers remained.
I said "Hello!" when I was still about
twenty feet off, so they wouldn't be startled and irritated. One officer
was a tall, big guy with a buzz haircut and a no nonsense look on his face.
He was in uniform, with short sleeves, and I remember thinking that he had
to be cold. He responded first,
"Are you the caller?"
"Is this the guy you saw?" I looked down
at the bad guy in custody, a sorry looking sap who had his head down, and
was sitting with his back to the wall, his hands cuffed behind his
"Yeah, that's him."
"You're sure?!" I was a little startled
by his tone of voice. But I knew he was just covering all the angles and
making sure the arrest was solid.
"Yeah I'm sure. You could see those white knee
socks a good three hundred feet off. That's him."
"Where were you at?" I directed his attention
to our balcony to his rear, and told him I saw the whole operation. His tone
of voice changed as he showed me the car the bad guy had broken into. The
glass of the rear wing window of the dark colored Mustang lay all over the
ground. Through the open door I saw the knobs of the radio laying on the
front seat, as the officer told me they nailed him before he could get it
out. The guy had placed a few personal items of the owner of the car in the
other corner of the garage. The officer said he was just another hype looking
for something to sell fast, to support his drug habit.
We talked for a few more minutes, and
as I turned to go, the other officer, dressed in civilian clothes, wearing
a blue wind breaker that said "POLICE" on the back, and wearing a nylon waist
gun rig with a nickel-plated .45 auto, grinned and gave me a hearty "Thanks
for getting involved!" I still remember seeing his badge mounted on his belt.
And then I went home.
This was one of three arrests that I
called in involving this alley. I remember one where the auto burglary was
a few more buildings down from this previous incident. I will never forget
the pair of officers, one a tall, dark, lean guy, and the other a short,
blond, female officer, as they proceeded up that alley in perfect military
fashion. Advance, crouch, cover the partner's advance. Advance, crouch, cover
the partner's advance, leap frogging all the way up the alley. Cool,
professional, flawless. When they got to the crime scene, he swung out wide
from the edge, and she went in for the take-down. I remember watching her
as she held the suspect by the arm and quite confidently emptied his pockets
out on the ground.
One arrestee was a previously convicted
felon, another had a warrant out on him for a parole violation. Just a small
representation of the criminal community in any town. Just a highly trained
group of Police officers doing what they do best. Keeping the night safe
for the law abiding. Protecting the vulnerable from the dregs of
I introduced myself to the owners of the
Mustang the next afternoon, because I noticed them out by the car. He had
already replaced the window, an easy and cheap find at the auto wrecking
yard. They thanked me for helping them, and I gave them the blow-by-blow
from the night before, and credited the Cops. It was so cool. It's great
knowing there is a group of people like that out there, prowling the night,
ready, willing, and able to respond at a moments notice to any situation,
day or night, with extreme prejudice. Just a phone call away.
The tree in front of our place has grown
up these past few years and pretty much obscured my view of the alley. I'm
sure there has been other break-ins since, but I haven't heard about them.
Maybe I haven't been checking the streets enough at night. I know the Police
have been back there periodically, as I get up early in the morning, and
sometimes see the cruisers parked in the alley, with the officers concentrating
on securing a suspect, or taking a report.
Who knows? Maybe tonight I will be shaken
awake. . . by something, and I will step out into the cold of my elevated
lookout to survey the neighborhood surroundings, to check for anything out
of place. . . .
"Nine One One operator, what are you