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The Gumshoe – Ripping Out a Wall

GUMSHOE-DANNY-PITOCCO[su_dropcap style=”flat”]O[/su_dropcap]N AUGUST 1, 1981 AT approximately 0745 hours, I was involved in my very first police shooting. I was an officer with the City of Orange Police Department, Orange, California and I was also the assistant team leader for our Special Emergency Response Team (SERT). (I guess the SWAT acronym for Special Weapons and Tactics just seemed too much for our police administrators.) This is really beside the point, the fact is that at about 2100 hours the prior evening, I was briefed by the SERT leader, Sergeant Pete Hewitt that our Narcotic’s Detail asked for our assistance in securing a private residence located at 1073 Granada Avenue located in a very nice housing tract on the east side of our city.

I further learned that a very dangerous suspect, whose last name was Bates, was involved in the sale – and use of -methamphetamine. It was further explained to me that Bates normally conducted business with prospective meth buyers by inviting them into the residence and pointing his .45 caliber semi-automatic pistol at them during the illicit drug transaction. Suspect Bates was former military and had access to other firearms including rifles and shotguns. Finally, it was explained that suspect Bates had constant house guests who were also “tweakers” (slang for meth users) and that he conducted his sales at night and mostly “crashed” (slept) during the day.

The initial plan was for the Special Emergency Response Team to surround and secure the outer perimeter of the residence. Team “A” would do the “knock and notice” at the front door which meant they would loudly knock at the front door of the residence and announce that they were the police. They would then state they had a search warrant and would then demand entry to the residence.

In a perfect world, the sleepy-drugged-dazed occupants (including suspect Bates and his “tweaker” cohorts) would readily comply; open the front door and allow themselves to be placed in handcuffs (for their own personal safety) and then the plain clothed “Narcs” would enter the residence to conduct the search.

Meanwhile, my “B” Team would simply hold the perimeter in the rear yard area of the residence. Easy-peasy, piece of cake, no sweat!

Sergeant Pete and I looked at a hand-drawn diagram (courtesy of the narcs) of the interior and exterior of the targeted one-story residence. We noted that the master bedroom (where suspect Bates slept) contained a very large gun safe where he kept his drug stash, cash, and guns. This bedroom had a sliding glass patio door that led directly into the backyard.

The “B” Team was directed to deploy by 0730 hours to the rear of the residence and then wait for the “A” Team to make the “Knock & Announce” at the front door shortly thereafter. The “B” Team would enter the rear yard of the suspect’s residence via a next door neighbor’s backyard by scaling a six foot cedar fence. It was further planned that each of the teams would enter the neighborhood in separate vehicles and from opposing directions.

At about 2300 hours that evening, Sergeant Pete and I finished our planning with the one contingency which was the “B” Team would make a secondary “Knock & Announce” at the rear patio door of the master bedroom if there was no response at the front door.

We then left the police department and had the entire SERT back at the station at 0600 hours for mission briefing and equipment check. It was decided that the narcs would establish a very loose outer perimeter within the neighborhood until we advised them that the residence, along with the occupants, were secure.

My team consisted of three other officers, Larry, Scotty and Dave. Did I mention Dave was sort of a big guy and not too light on his feet?

Okay, briefing was over and the “A” and “B” teams, along with the long haired and bearded narcs, all drove east to the very nice residential tract where these ne’er-do-wells rented the Granada Avenue house.

My team swiftly and quietly made it to the opposing side of the adjoining six foot cedar fencing – which actually turned out to be a rickety grape stake fence of inferior quality and very questionable durability. A quick peek over the fence revealed that the doper house was all quiet. Quickly, quietly and separately, I, Larry and Scotty made it over the fence using the “spider-drop” method. Then came Dave who quickly scaled the fence but shook it due to his girth which caused quite a racket which further caused the sound of movement within the master bedroom of suspect Bates.

I was in a low crawl-crouch position facing within six feet of the sliding-glass patio door when it abruptly opened and suspect Bates jumped out brandishing an AR-16 rifle. He was leaning back against the door jamb and had a two-handed grip on the rifle as he bent into a very aggressive (and somewhat alarming) shooting stance in which the barrel of his rifle was pointed directly at my sweat-soaked forehead.

I swear to this day that I saw his first round leave the barrel and fly past my head as I screamed, rolled to my left, and fired a six round burst from my AR-18. I later learned that he did not fire a round. It turns out my first round actually struck the magazine well of his rifle which caused it to become inoperable, which, in turn, forced him to move out of the doorway as my following rounds hit the doorway jamb where he had initially crouched.

Now my cover officer, Larry, saw me scream and roll to my left as I fired my rifle. Because Larry mistakenly thought I had been shot . . . he immediately grabbed both of my feet and pulled me back to the corner of the residence. As he frantically pulled me back, a series of events simultaneously occurred (in no particular order): My pulled body was dragged over a water spigot that opened-up and saturated my torso with a lot of cold (very cold) water that Larry thought was blood which caused him to pull me even faster.

Dave heard the shots fired since he was looking along the opposite site of residence at the master bedroom window and he fired one blast of .00 buck at a subject who appeared at the window. (He missed by the way.)

Meanwhile, the “A” Team, who decided that it was best to walk in from several blocks away, heard the shots fired and they started running to the front of the residence.

Suspect Bates, who incurred some shrapnel on each of side of his body from my shot to his splintered rifle magazine well, shouted “Oh my God, it’s SWAT!” as he ran out of his bedroom (unarmed) and down the front hallway to the front door to escape just as an “A” Team member fired a gas ferret round through the front door which then exploded a gas flume directly into the suspect’s face.

With all of the shooting and shouting, radio communications ceased to exist. My team then made entry into the residence via the master bedroom after I threw in several smoke grenades.

When it was all said and done, we had six individuals in custody (all of them naked for some strange reason?); none with any serious injuries and one dead parrot (I am sorry to say) that was overcome by the smoke.

The narcs had to wait several hours for the tear gas and smoke to clear (courtesy of the fire department’s very large portable fans) before they entered the residence to conduct a very successful search in the seizure of several pounds of meth, several weapons and a large amount of cash.

Bates was later convicted and sentenced to prison for attempted murder of a police officer (yours truly) in addition to the drug and weapon charges.

Now for the real story: I was given the next few days off on paid administrative leave (following the shooting as dictated by protocol) which allowed me the time to start on some home remodeling. My plan was to knock-down a wall to allow for a new game room addition – yippy!

Well, on the second day of my very noisy and dusty wall demolition, my wife interrupted me saying there was a Lieutenant from my department at the front door. Mmmm? I thought,what was an LT doing at my house? Anyway, I brushed-off my overalls and met with the LT. He asked me if I was okay? Before I could respond, I noticed that there were several uniform officers stationed in and around the front of my house (some even peeking through the trees and shrubbery).

I told the LT that I was fine but pretty busy on the proposed game room remodel. Then he laughed and he seemed to relax. He explained to me that he had called my residence earlier, and had asked my wife how I was doing. She had told him that I was ripping out a wall.

Well folks, there you have it…the real story of my first police shooting and the aftermath of my home later being targeted. Nothing ever appears to be the way you might think and even the best laid plans of search warrants and home remodeling go up in smoke and dust!

Until next time, this is “Gumshoe” signing off for now.  Be well, be safe, people love you!

Danny Pitocco
Danny Pitocco
RETIRED (as a Detective with the Snohomish County Sherriff’s Department, Washington State), Danny has over forty years of law enforcement experience across city, county, state and federal levels of government, including service as a Special Agent for the DEA, US Department of Justice. He’s a decorated law enforcement veteran, and recipient of the "Detective of the Year" award for Snohomish County, Danny is a certified composite artist and has testified as an expert witness in the field of narcotics and modus operandi of particular crimes in state and federal courts in California, and has given testimony before federal grand juries. Danny served four years of active duty in the US Marine Corps and loves Jesus as his personal savior.

1 COMMENT

  1. I know this was sort of a serious story, but I can’t help it. I was laughing over the 300 pound gorilla going over the fence, you blasting the side of a shotgun and being pulled over the COLD water worrying your partner that you had been shot. Blood? Really? Isn’t blood red and hot or at least warm? Your partner was caring and compassionate though so that’s good. Glad you got the 6 naked guys. I would have put them into the police cars just like that. LOL

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