By Hal Collier, LAPD, Retired
Hal is a thirty-five year veteran of LAPD. We are pleased he is sharing his stories with us.
Police officers deal with crime on a daily basis and far too often, that crime is violent. Cops see death regularly and they have to deal with it. We often suppress our emotions and treat the violence as a simple part of the job. It’s how we keep our sanity, or at least that’s what we think. Every so often, a crime hits close to home, a friend, a partner, or your family. Then it becomes personal. It also helps you understand how your everyday victims feel.
My first “family” incident occurred when I was on probation. I came home after a long night working the grave yard shift and see my Ruger 22 caliber pistol on the dining room table. It’s cocked! I keep it in the bedroom and not cocked. I have taught my wife, Terri, how to use it and I’ve even taken her shooting. Terri is a crack shot, I’ll remember that.
I asked Terri what happened. She said that Boone, our dog, was barking at the back door about midnight. She got up and walked into the kitchen. A man was standing at the back door. Our back door is in a fenced yard. Terri goes back into the bedroom and retrieves my Ruger. She walks back into the kitchen and the man is still there. Terri points the gun at the man and cocks the pistol. The man flees. Don’t mess with Terri! I ask Terri, “What did the police say?” She replies, “I didn’t call them!” I give her a very short lecture; after all, she’s armed. “Next time call the police!”
About a week later, I’m at work in the middle of the night. I hear a “code 4” come out at my house address. “Code 4” means no further assistance needed. I panic, that’s my house and my wife. It seems Boone started barking and Terri heard the crackling of leaves on the side of the house. Terri called the police and got her gun! I made sure it was accessible. The cops showed up and politely asked Terri to put her gun down. The noise was an opossum walking in the side yard. Better safe than sorry.
Everyone in law enforcement has that fear when they hear that a policeman has been hurt or killed. We pray that we’ll never hear that knock at the door in the middle of the night. We still go through that because our son is a cop and we still have friends in law enforcement.
I’ve been retired for over nine years now and am pretty safe in my own home. Terri still can handle a loaded handgun.
Flash forward to August 13, 2014. A little background, my daughter is a first grade teacher at Allesandro Elementary School [for the news story, click here]. Allesandro is just down the hill from Dodger Stadium. Public school in the LA area started on August 12th. A day after school started I was sitting at home and watching the news. “Breaking News” Allesandro Elementary School is on lock down. Someone reported 2 men with guns had entered the campus. I texted my daughter. She hadn’t been notified. Her class is in a bungalow and the word hadn’t reached her yet. She will bring that up at the next faculty meeting!
Back to Allesandro: Lock down, means all classroom doors are locked, no one enters and no one leaves, including students who have to use the bathroom. During lock down the bathroom is a bucket in the closet. That’s also for the teacher. The teachers continue to teach class but the kids are upset because they’ll miss recess. Imagine trying to calm down thirty first graders after a police officer comes into class with a drawn gun.
I’m sitting at home and watching the news helicopter showing officers with guns drawn and going classroom to classroom. I’m not worried, like hell. Not only is my daughter in one of those classrooms, two of my grandsons also attend that school.
I’ve read about Columbine and Sandy Hook and I was even a Hollywood Division instructor for a rapid response team in active shooter scenarios. It sends chills down your spine and I will never understand how anyone could shoot children or teachers?
After about an hour, the crisis is over. Another false call. Later my daughter tells me the same individual has phoned in four bomb threat calls to her school. Some nut with a grudge. Why, did a 1st grader ride his bike across your lawn?
Sept. 9, 2014, another call of a man with a gun threat is phoned in at Allesandro. The caller is using one of those prepaid disposable phones and he calls into the 911 emergency number. The school goes on lockdown and the teachers put the bucket in the closet. Again I’m watching armed police walking through my daughter’s school. I should have given a gun to my daughter. After another search, the police leave. They have received over 200 false calls from the same cell phone at different locations. So it’s not just my daughter’s school.
That afternoon we picked up our grandsons from school. They’ve become nonchalant about the lock downs. That’s the part that scares me. Will the police and school faculty become complacent also? Have all these false calls been a test run for the real thing? Is this some nut or a domestic terrorist or a terrorist from the Middle East.
I don’t know what the answer is but it’s “Too Close to Home!”