[su_dropcap style=”flat”]W[/su_dropcap]ELL FOLKS, AFTER pounding-out my last article, “Dying Before My Eyes”, I figured it was time to share a couple of “being in the right place at the right time” situations. Hopefully, these accounts will change the dark tenor of my previous sad story and shine some light on just a few situations I have encountered in police work which illustrate that sometimes – through fate, luck or what I believe to be “The Divine Hand” – offered me the opportunity to save two people who were in dire straits. Maybe a few more along the way, but these two individuals stand out for some strange reason.
First off, I am not a hero in any way, shape or form! It is just being yourself in unforeseen situations when you least expect it. I was just fortunate enough to “act” rather than “freeze” and now that I think about it, I did not take the time to think about it, I just did it! (Sounds a little bit like Yoda?)
I was working day watch in the central residential area of the City of Orange, California, during a very hot and humid day in the month of July back in 1990. My unit’s air conditioner was only blowing out hot air, so I elected to create “4 x 25” air conditioning by driving about 25mph with all four windows down in my Chevy (with the police package) Nova.
It was about noon as I headed eastbound on a very non-descript residential street with the thought of where I was going to go for my Code 7 (meal break). About a block ahead of me on my driver’s side, I could see a rather large male wearing a black t-shirt and faded Levis leaning forward at his waist with his arms outstretched and swinging about wildly. As I drove closer to this man, I noticed that his face was actually blue and that his mouth was open but it uttered no sounds.
I immediately got out of my car while I summoned for the paramedics on my radio, “unknown trouble, male adult in distress”, to my location.
It appeared to me this guy was choking to death in my presence. I am roughly 6’-1” tall and I weighed about 180 lbs. (naked without all my police gear). This gasping-for-breath male had at least four inches of height on me and he definitely tipped the scales around 300 + pounds. He reminded me of the wrestler, “Haystacks Calhoun”, who wore bib overalls.
I quickly figured there was no way I would be able to reach around his more than ample girth to attempt a Heimlich maneuver – all the while, his face continued to turn a dark blue and his eyes appeared to bulge out of their respective sockets.
Fortunately, he was leaning in front of a very old Ford or Chevy pick-up truck that had the rounded front hood. I was able to turn him swiftly around so that his large bulging torso faced the truck’s hood and, with all of my physical might, forced him directly into the hood with a pretty good impact, I must say. He immediately and simultaneously coughed and spit out a large red colored chunk. (Luckily, there was no hood ornament, so he was not impaled!)
He started to take some deep breaths and he had to do some more coughing and gasping, but the color quickly returned to his ruddy, unshaven face. He turned around to face me and gave me a very awkward bear hug and, in a very thin, raspy voice, he exclaimed, “Thanks!!”.
About this time the fire department paramedic unit arrived on the scene. I learned this gentleman had taken a rather large bite out of a large tomato (which was now lying on the pavement nearby) that apparently lodged in his windpipe. He told the paramedics that his name was Bible, John Bible. And that’s how I saved the Bible on that long ago, hot and humid, July afternoon.
Okay now, part two, about having a sharp knife. It was several years later when I was working uniform patrol for the Santa Ana Police Department, Santa Ana, California. I was just completing my graveyard shift on the far south side of city when a dispatch came over the air announcing a single-car versus a block wall collision had just occurred, unknown injury, fire department en route.
Well, I was really, really tired after a long night of chasing 911 calls throughout the south coast district, but I figured I would mosey on by this routine crash and stand-by for a day watch officer to handle the paper (report).
Moments later, I pulled onto the scene where I saw a large older model American made car (a large hunk of steel) that had not only hit the 6’ solid block wall, but had penetrated it up to its smashed, spider-webbed cracked front windshield of this smoking crunched metal behemoth. No other emergency personnel had yet arrived at the scene – except yours truly.
A morning crowd of “looky-loos”, comprised of near-by residents, motorists, and kids walking to school, assembled around the scene to watch a real-life-honest-to-goodness happening! (No picture taking cell phones had been invented yet, by the way.)
I quickly exited my black & white and ran to the driver’s door that was partially open, but stuck. I could see a male driver who was passed-out unconscious – either from the recent crash or from his obvious signs (and smells too) of being intoxicated. As I attempted to force open his driver’s door, my lone driver occupant came-to and attempted to open his seat belt (he may have been drunk, but he did buckle-up for safety) but it was stuck in place.
Now that “smoking” soon became a full-fledged fire with flames erupting from the hood compartment and the vehicle’s firewall (note: firewalls are not fire proof, you gotta know). I managed to force the driver’s door a wee bit more using the added flames and acrid smelling smoke coming our way as motivation. I, too, tried without any success to unlock this hapless driver from the seat belt that now became a death harness.
I then managed to pull out my trusty “Leatherman” (a combination tool comprised of a knife, pliers and screw drivers – no can-opener, though) and used it to quickly and efficiently cut the belt straps. I was able to drag my very cooperative driver out of his ride and over to the near-by curb where he and I both fell backwards as the entire passenger compartment of the dead car was engulfed in flames and smoke (it could have been smoke and flames, I am not sure?).
The fire captain witnessed this event as he arrived on the scene and a few months later, much to my chagrin, I was awarded a life-saving medal for my fearless actions. Well, the real story is that I just wanted to go home to bed and where was that day watch officer, anyway?
There you have it folks, two instances of me being in the right place at the right time through no fault of my own. I do believe in God, and just maybe these two individuals found Jesus also!
Until next time, this is Gumshoe signing off for now. Be well, be safe, people love you!