Just Like The Movies

GUMSHOE-DANNY-PITOCCO[su_dropcap style=”flat”]G[/su_dropcap]REETINGS TO ONE AND ALL from the newly retired Gumshoe. Now that I have plenty of time to reflect and muse upon my law enforcement career and with some gentle prodding from the Editor; I have decided to continue my series of escapades from behind the badge. The truth is always stranger than fiction and sometimes good police work is simply a matter of being at the right place at the right time and stumbling upon a situation that you only see in the movies.

It was back in the early 80’s when I was wearing the uniform of an Orange Police Officer, in Orange County, California. I was a canine officer and it was a beautiful Saturday afternoon while I just left my residence with my partner King, a Bouvier de Flanders, who basically resembled a very large poodle. You see, as a canine officer, I was able to take my police car home and my partner lived with me.

I resided in the north end of the city of Orange and I decided to take the main boulevard, Tustin Avenue, to the police department rather than take the adjoining freeway. It was a warm summer day and I knew that King enjoyed having his rather large head out of the card window instead of being behind a closed car window if we cruised the freeway.

Our shift started at 1400 hours (2:00 pm civilian time) and I always went to the station early to make patrol briefing and to make sure King got to stretch his legs and maybe convince a young patrol officer to take a practice bite from King. I proceeded southbound on Tustin Avenue and I stopped for the red light signal at a major intersection at Lincoln Avenue. The boulevards were crowded with Saturday traffic and pedestrians since there were many stores and shopping centers in the area along with one of the city’s major parks.

You are always taught from day one in basic patrol procedures in the police academy to keep situational awareness in that be aware of your present surroundings and look for things that just don’t fit the time and place that would be considered suspicious. In other words, don’t become complacent since that can lull you into a situation that can develop in a heartbeat that can surprise you and leave you to be reactive rather than proactive. The old saying “the quick and the dead” comes to mind and I never wanted to be in the latter. In police terms, HUA (Head Up Ass) might seem more appropriate.

I looked south across the intersection and I definitely saw something right out of the movies: a male adult dressed in dark clothing and carrying a white bank bag running southbound along the west sidewalk. He appeared to be running from a Von’s Supermarket employee and they both had appeared from the east side driveway (that slanted down hill into the Von’s Supermarket parking lot). Being a very alert and eager police officer, I considered this a pretty good clue that this did not seem ordinary for this time and place.

Sure enough within mill-a-seconds of my astute observation, the annoying alert tone of “beep beep” came blaring across my unit’s radio in which the dispatcher announced “211 (robbery) just occurred at the Von’s Supermarket, Lincoln and Tustin Avenue . . . male, adult suspect, wearing dark clothing, carrying a white bank bag, fleeing on foot from the location and that he was being pursued by store clerks!”

Yippy-ki-aaaa! This is every patrol cop’s dream to catch a robbery in progress and this was playing out just like on TV but for real outside of my front windshield. I picked-up my radio mic and I attempted to get on the air to let dispatch know that I was 10-97 on the scene but the air traffic was too busy with responding officers stating their locations and that they were en rout and so I decided to make a command decision – hit my siren and bust the intersection and then pursue the clerk who was pursuing the bad guy!

My siren immediately caused my K-9 partner King to start barking that further complicated any further radio traffic that would only sound like noises from the Call of the Wild. I proceeded through the intersection and I saw the robber make a U-turn in his tracks and start back towards the Von’s driveway exit that cause the clerk to finally get the idea that just maybe this bad guy might have a gun and the clerk made the same U-turn and ran through some near-by foliage into an adjacent car dealership.

I then screeched to a stop directly into the on-going path of the bad guy who actually bounded off of my hood and landed on his back as I jumped out of my car and put my front sites of my trusty 9mm Smith & Wesson semi-auto on his noggin. I heard the sounds of sirens of the on-coming police cavalry grow closer as I shouted over the sounds of my barking partner to the suspect to roll over and plant his face into the warm asphalt.

My patrol car was in a position that effectively blocked the Von’s driveway entrance and exit during this time of my positive police contact with asphalt face, but sure enough, some guy driving a compact white pickup truck decided to drive up the exit towards my unit. I guess it was a case of divided attention on my part when I motioned this confused driver to stop with my gun hand that caused him to immediately stop and he raised his hands with a shocked expression on his face. I kind of figured that he would just put his truck in reverse and just skaaaaadaddle back down from where he emerged, but nooooooo! He just remained motionless with his hands up and his eyes big as full moons.

Finally, several police cars arrived at the scene and they effectively blocked all of the major intersections and parking lots while asphalt face was placed into handcuffs and into a caged police unit. Another Von’s clerk appeared at the scene (not the same clerk who disappeared into the adjacent car lot foliage) and he immediately pointed to pickup guy with his hands still up as the asphalt face guy’s get-away driver. Immediately, about a half-dozen 9mm Smith & Wesson semiautomatic pistols were directed that this guy and he was unceremoniously removed from his vehicle and placed into handcuffs. A loaded .45 caliber semiautomatic pistol was lying on the inside floorboard of his truck.

Whew! God is good! This pickup guy later told me that he was attempting to pickup asphalt face guy when he saw me point my gun at him and right then and there he decided that I would shoot him if he moved. He also saw my K-9 partner with his big head sticking out of my police car’s window and he just knew he did not want to get eaten my an overgrown poodle.

Well folks, this was just like movies except it was not scripted nor rehearsed. It was just dumb luck for me and bad luck for the two partners in crime. That’s my story for now and I will be sticking to it! Until next time, be well and take care of the folks that love you.

Editor’s Note: Enjoy Danny’s entire “Gumshoe” Series HERE


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. Too funny. I couldn’t stop laughing at this one. “I motioned this confused driver to stop with my gun hand that caused him to immediately stop and he raised his hands with a shocked expression on his face….. He just remained motionless with his hands up and his eyes big as full moons.” I’m sure that would have been me. Frozen in time wondering, do I stay or do I go?