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The Gumshoe Returns: Light’s Out!

GUMSHOE-DANNY-PITOCCO[su_dropcap style=”flat”]A[/su_dropcap]FTER A PROLONGED hiatus, this retired Gumshoe has decided to put another saga to print for the benefit of my loyal readers and with some strong and enthusiastic encouragement from my brother Dennis (Publisher & Executive Editor).

When you think of police work and officer involved shootings, naturally, one would figure it was a cop with his (or her) department issued firearm who had as a last resort (in a blink of an eye) had to use deadly force in discharging their firearm to either protect themselves or others from imminent grievous bodily harm and or death. In most cases you would be right!

Let me take you back to the mid 1980’s while I was working a uniform patrol officer for the City of Santa Ana Police Department, in Orange County, California. Once again, I found myself working the “dog-watch” shift that spanned between the hours of 1900 hours to 0300 hours. We were considered the guys and gals in blue who would automatically roll (without being dispatched) to any “hot” calls any where in the city since we were not assigned a patrol beat. This was a great shift to work since you never ever got bored and you always got to go where the action was happening! Of course, this shift attracted the “type-A” personalities who subscribed to the “pro-active” approach to street police work of “hooking them and booking them!” Yours truly just loved this shift and the adrenaline rush that really becomes an addiction after a while, not to mention the “work stories” that would later become part of an officer’s legacy.

Okay, you guys now get the picture; late night, early morning calls with highly motivated and thrill seeking (no death wishes mind you) blue suited studs and studdesses in black and whites chasing the 911 emergency calls – yippee-ki-yey let the games begin!

On one of these fateful evening adventures our shift sergeant advised us during pre-patrol briefing that an unmarked FBI car had been stolen earlier in the day from the El Toro Marine Corps Air Station that was within a reasonable driving distance from our city. It was also noted by our sergeant that inside of the trunk of this unlucky special agent’s FBI car (normally called a “G” ride – the “G” meaning government) was the agent’s issued firearms, ammunition, ballistic vest, FBI raid jacket and hand-held radio and other assorted sundry official items. Needless to say, (but he said it anyway) the sergeant emphasized that this dastardly evildoer, who stole this FBI ride, would be considered heavily armed and a wee bit dangerous.

Now let’s fast forward through the late night hours when the weather was cool, the sky clear and the streets were dry and empty of civilians to the bewitching hour of about 0145 hours when our “red channel” (county-wide broadcast band) awoke with the sounds of background sirens and the excited voice of an officer from the adjoining city of Tustin, who advised the Control One Dispatch Center that he was in pursuit of the FBI stolen that was occupied by one lone suspect-driver.

I monitored the pursuit that was coming southbound on the interstate freeway 5 and it was entering the jurisdiction of the “Golden City” (motto of Santa Ana). Destiny put good old gumshoe Danny (before I was a gumshoe) on a major boulevard called Edinger Avenue and so I started eastbound towards the I5 freeway. I could see all of the pretty Christmas tree lights on top of all of the pursing police cars as they were on the southbound I5 freeway and the lead pursuing officer stated that the suspect had just exited onto westbound Edinger Avenue.

Well, as I drove eastbound Edinger, I could see some fast approaching headlights that were a clue that the suspect was heading my way. Now I had to think very quickly on what course of action I should take – pull a “U-turn” and get behind the suspect? – go “mano a mano” and play chicken with the fleeing felon? – hmmmmmmm? – or just do an improvised roadblock with my black and white? None of these seemed viable as the seconds ticked-by and this “get out of Dodge” suspect closed with me.

Dear Readers; did I fail to mention that my police unit had been recently outfitted with dual twin spotlights that were actually brighter than aircraft landing lights?

Immediately, I decided to pull over the cement curbs that incased a median strip that separated eastbound and westbound traffic on Edinger. This median strip was just wide enough to accommodate my police rig as I faced eastbound. I turned off all of my running lights because I did not want to become a target or collateral damage

I could see that the suspect was weaving from side to side and I assumed he was looking for a side street off of Edinger Avenue to abandon the hot G-ride and beat feet into the residential yards, however, he just did not grasp the concept that you have to slow down to a reasonable speed to attempt such a turning maneuver. Additionally, the cement curbed -encased median strip kept him within the westbound traffic lanes. I adjusted both my left-front driver’s side spotlight as well as my right-front passenger side spotlight at the on-coming suspect’s front windshield.

One push of my console light switch and I could readily see the suspect go “wide eyed and his mouth opened wide” (I swear he probably shouted “Oh shit!”) and he violently and abruptly turned his speeding vehicle (later estimated of traveling over 80 mph) to his left (northbound) that caused him to actually hit the center median strip. I could actually see the entire undercarriage of the FBI car as it continued airborne over the eastbound traffic lanes of Edinger Avenue and just come down on a spiked wrought-iron fence that was built on top of a residential brick wall.

Did I fail to mention kind readers that almost all of the private residences along Edinger Avenue were fortified with these spiked wrought-iron fences to as burglar deterrents’? Well, now you guys know.

This hapless suspect was ejected from the driver’s window (a good lesson to wear seat belts) and ultimately impaled on several of the wrought-iron fence spikes (yucks!). The pursuit was terminated. I then self-assigned myself to block off the eastbound lanes of Edinger with crime scene tape while the collision investigation unit along with FBI muckety-mucks and other supervisory police personnel gathered at the scene.

Approximately, an hour later, a rather middle-aged and slightly rotund FBI guy approached me and asked me about how I had ended the pursuit. I just calmly explained to him that I just turned my lights on. He chuckled and pulled out of his suit coat (only FBI guys would wear a suit coat that late at night) a long cigar and gave it to me. Even though I don’t smoke, I took it anyway with a word of thanks as he wandered off to see the remains of the mounted suspect.

So there you have it folks, no use of force, no discharge of any police side arm, no police car ramming, just two spot lights that guided the poor suspect to eternity – LIGHTS OUT!

Until next time kind readers, be safe and love your loved ones!


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

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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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4 CONVERSATIONS

  1. I’m sure there are some out there that rank such stories as improbable at best. However, as I have a daughter that works the 6 pm to 6 am shift in a very rough area of South Florida, I believe. Some of her stories are too bizarre to be concocted. She too prefers the night shift where the action is. Thanks for sharing your experiences with us.

  2. OMGoodness, Gumshoe Danny where have you been. This story had me rivited to the page. The story is amazing and even funny. I love your storytelling style. I hope you have a lot more. You said you do. I could just see the undercarriage of that car going airborne! Love the story immensely. I hope you don’t take too long to write more. I have two brothers who spent their careers as police officers and now a nephew wears blue – or maybe it’s brown, but he is a trusted member of the law enforcement squad. Thank you for taking me out on patrol with you in this revisit to your beat.

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