How a Heroin Addict Inadvertently Saved My Life


[su_dropcap style=”flat”]W[/su_dropcap]ELCOME BACK kind readers to another Gumshoe saga. This time I will be back working as an “undercover” street “Narc” back in the “Golden City” of Santa Ana, California.

The “M.O.” (Modus operandi) – of how things normally work for a street Narc such as myself is to always look and live the part so you don’t get “burned” by the dopers as a Narc. It is not just you won’t be able to make the under-cover buy of dope but it can also be a tad dangerous to your personal well-being.

Accordingly, I had my hair down past my shoulders, a very scraggly beard, excellent tattoos (thanks to our contacts in the Hollywood film industry); pupils constricted (I never wore my glasses); dirty fingernails (Yucks! Mother Superior from my parochial school days would be rolling-over in her grave!); bad breath (I always had some garlic powder beneath my tongue before a drug meet); no jewelry (doper’s would have pawned it to get the cash to get their fix); authentic looking “track marks” on the inside of both of my arms (previously made before the “buy” with a sterilized needle and by rubbing the end of a pencil eraser over your veins – ouch!); not to mention I wore the same clothes all of the time that had their own “aroma”.

Did I mention that I would arrive at the buy location (alley; apartment; residence) by driving-up on one of our asset forfeiture seized motorcycles?   . . . Or sometimes in a very dilapidated and nondescript filthy pick-up truck with junk inside the bed. You see, your doper-mobile had to fit the same image that you portrayed.

I did have authentic fake ID and a .380 semi-automatic pistol strapped to my inside left calf of my skinny leg and a buck knife on my belt. I also dropped any semblance of polite talk and definitely no police slang or jargon.

Now with all of this being said to you fine folks, I then had to check the daily complaint log for locations of possible (in most cases definitely) drug sales. Our unit “targeted” drug infested as well as gang infested areas of our burg and the drugs of choice ranged from PCP, cocaine, heroin, meth, bootleg px pain killers and on occasion some marijuana (if it was a large enough score).

I then would either personally “stake-out” the drug location or have one of my teammates put eyes on it just to confirm the complaint of the suspected drug sales.

Our team would then put a stop (a few blocks away by a marked SAPD unit) on a “buyer” who had frequented the location. This would then result in me interviewing/interrogating this mope who in the majority of cases would agree to accompany me to the location of the drug sales later on in the day or the evening normally within an hour or two.

This mope (who we would not charge with “drug possession” in exchange for their cooperation) and I (they would come with me inside of my “dope-mobile” or on the back of my “cycle”) to the dope location and they would introduce me to the dope dealer where I would buy the product – normally a very small amount of dope so not to arouse suspicion.

The very next day and normally a day or two after that, I would frequent go back to the same location (alone) and buy more dope. After about two or three buys (larger quantities); I would then write-up an affidavit for a search warrant that would be reviewed by a narcotic’s prosecutor and then presented to a judge for their signature. The search warrant would normally be executed at the doper’s place at 0700 hours (7:00 a.m.) sharp on the following Friday by my team.

Ok now, all of your civilian folks now have a very good idea of the “M.O.” for how I worked as a street Narc.

I was working a suspected drug house in the north side of Santa Ana (just about a block from a community Methadone center). Previously, I was “intro-ed” by a heroin addict who I had arrested in an alley while she had been engaged in an act of prostitution. She actually directed me to three drug sale locations that day and thus her illicit sex trade charge went bye-bye.

This particular location was a single-story bungalow that looked more like an old wooden garage than a residence (dopers can’t be choosers, I suppose). On my initial “intro” by my newly found friend with loose morals (that covers a lot of folks, including cops); I purchased a “teener” – slang for a tenth of a gram of black tar heroin for $10.00 of “buy money” and left.

Note: “Black Tar Heroin” – looks just like the tar you would see on a telephone pole on a hot day. It is really heroin that had not gone through the final refining process that leaves it appearing as an off-white powder. Black tar heroin is a lot more concentrated since in has not been “stepped-on” (narcotic slang on being cut with other non-addictive substances).

Note: All of the “buy money” was copied at my office so that it would be listed in a future search warrant as some of the items to be seized.

I then drove-up to this location in my pick-up truck (my partner stayed inside the truck as my “eye-ball”) while I walked into this house that also served as a “shooting-alley” – drug slang for addicts who would buy their dope and then immediately use it at the location.

Three gang-types met with me as I walked into the living room and I told them that I needed some more “shit” (slang for heroin). I was then directed into an adjoining room about the size of a double closet where a chubby, 40-some, male Hispanic sat on a brown couch with a small coffee table in front of him.

He asked me what I wanted and I told him that I needed an “eight-ball” (3.5 grams of dope). He asked me to show him my arms and my neck (I was very happy that I had my “tracks” looking good) and he appeared satisfied. In and out – great! I purchased the “eight-ball” and I started to turn around to depart from this business venture, Chubby said, “Wait!”

(Not so easy, I thought; another wrinkle!) Chubby then took out his kit (bottle cap with a make-shift paper clip handle; cotton; medicine dropper with a crudely attached hypodermic needle; butane lighter). He had some lime juice on the table and he proceeded to put a match-head size piece of black tar heroin into the bottle cap; poured in some lime juice; struck-up the lighter beneath the cap.

Note: My narc brain saw that Chubby put in the entire “teener” into the cap rather than just scrap off a piece. He was preparing way too much unless he was expecting to “party” with the clients from the near-by methadone clinic.

He then exclaimed in a very-serious voice as he looked at me through his blood-shot eyes – “You fix first, before you get your shit”. (Yikes! There was no way on this God’s green earth that I was about to give myself a shot of heroin!)

Now this chubby-guy’s friends (two other cholo’s) were standing behind me and this posed a tactical problem for me. Do I just attempt to bluff my way back out of this situation without making the buy and blowing my cover? Risk a very physical confrontation? Do I wait for my partner back outside in the pick-up truck to come in to check on me? Either way, if I had to do something post haste.

I immediately said “Okay, I fix and then you fix “jefe”. (Spanish for boss). I then took over the “cooking” duties from chubby and I pulled out my own “spike” (syringe). I inserted the needle into the cotton that I put into the cap and I then very deliberately and slowly and tantalizingly had the mixture from the cap go up and down into my syringe – right in front for chubby’s sweaty face.

Apparently, it was just too much for him when he blurted out, “Fix me first!” (You can probably think of an alcoholic attending an AA meeting and then thinking of a bar tender mixes his favorite drink of choice; his mouth waters and he just craves for that drink!)

No different for my new best friend chubby. He extended his left wrist and he grabbed the syringe full of dissolved black tar heroin (before I was able to squirt some of it back into the cap) with his right hand from me and he immediately injected all of this poison into one of his purple (almost collapsed veins) behind his fingers on top of his wrist.

Right then and there, Chubby’s eyes rolled-back into his head, his arms dropped limped to his robust girth and he sank back into the brown sofa and felling on to his left side and then fell forward onto the linoleum floor. Chubby had apparently forgot about the concentrated heroin in the syringe in his zeal to “fix” and he had unintentionally given himself a “hot shot” (slang for over-dosed).

Immediately, his two compadres bent down over Chubby (the syringe still stuck in his wrist) as I simultaneously “got out of Dodge in short fashion”.

My rejoined my partner and once were several blocks away from the scene; I alerted the SAPD Dispatcher to send a black and white or two or three back to the location to check on a “disturbance”.

I later learned from one of the responding officers that the house was void of any occupants and the mystery of the fate of “Chubby” still remains to this day. Needless to say, several days later I served a search warrant at this location and the house’s only occupant was a cat with several of her new-born kittens.

Well, that’s my story and I am sticking to it my friends. I firmly believe that the Divine Hand played a part in the demise of Chubby and saved me for another day!

Till next time readers – love the ones who love you. Gumshoe …


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.

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  1. I have long believed that we each have a guardian angel assigned to us. Those assigned to cops clearly have all the work they can handle. The “average Joe” (I’m sure that cops have a term for us) has no idea how ugly and dangerous the underworld is at that level.