By Mikey, Retired LAPD
The LAPD has many specialized units that do some pretty spectacular things. With few exceptions, the officers who work these units all started in patrol, the back bone of the department. Wilshire Division is in the mid-city part of Los Angeles and I had the opportunity to work patrol as a police officer and as a supervisor. During that time as patrol officer, my rank was Senior Lead Officer. These officers have two stripes and a star and are responsible for the running of a basic car. They can choose their watch (shift) to work. My basic car was 7A33, and it goes like this:
7= Wilshire, each division has their own number, A=two officer patrol unit, 33= the patrol beat.
Located near 7A33 on Western Avenue was a very good Mexican Restaurant that was well visited and always crowded. Reports started to come in that folks who parked on the streets were being robbed at their vehicles after their stay at the restaurant. It didn’t take long to figure out that someone inside the restaurant was sizing up “victims” for the robbery suspects outside. Those who flashed cash, bright jewelry or just looked like they were worth something got a visit at their cars.
It got so bad that even “extra patrol” did not deter the crimes. So, the specialized units were called in to supplement Wilshire’s patrol units. Try as they might, the robbers alluded the department’s efforts to capture them and the robberies continued. One evening, Wilshire units received a call that a victim had been shot and killed on a street near the restaurant. The victim was laying on his back, his pants pockets pulled out as if he had been showing the robbers that he had nothing to offer them. The weapon used was a shot gun. If these were the Mexican restaurant robbers, their MO had just changed.
I mentioned this to the homicide detectives and that would have been all had my watch commander not followed up with a phone call to my home. It was a Saturday and I was off when at about 11am he called me and asked if I had been drinking. I said, “It’s 11 o’clock in the morning Sarge.”
He asked the question again and I told him no. He said he wanted me to come in and work the restaurant robbery problem. Seriously? He was serious so I asked that he call my partner and I would be at the station at 1700. In the locker room, Nick, my partner and I were talking about the sergeant’s phone call. Nick asked if Sarge had asked me the “drinking” question. In the cruiser, without any real plan, we began cruising the area of the restaurant. At about 1830, communications instructed us to call the Watch Commander so we stopped at the nearest call box and phoned the station.
Sarge answered the phone and asked what we were doing.
I said, “Looking for the 211 suspects.”
“Then why am I talking to two robbery victims from the restaurant?” Oh crap!
The victims told us the suspects were last seen in a late model black Mustang or Cougar and the suspects had used a shot gun. It was summer and we still had some daylight left so Nick and I went out again this time with suspect and vehicle description. If there is a patrol patron saint, the saint was riding with Nick and me this day. We were west bound Pico Boulevard at Saint Andrews Place when I looked south on St. Andrews and saw a black Mustang or Cougar northbound approaching Pico.
They saw us. I made a U-turn, waiting for the vehicle to arrive at Pico. At the time I felt the vehicle should have arrived, nothing happened! I drove to St. Andrews and saw the vehicle heading south, away from us at a high rate of speed. I lit the roof up and saw the vehicle turn west onto 15th Street. Turning west onto 15th Street, we saw the vehicle come to rest in a front yard on the south side of the street. The doors stood open—the occupants had bailed before the car came to rest on the lawn. Looking around for any evidence of where the suspects had fled, we observed an elderly couple sitting on their porch.  Rocking back and forth in his chair, the man “gently” pointed at a house and shook his head up and down.  Additional units arrived and after several minutes, we located one suspect. With the assistance of a K-9, the second suspect was located a short distance away.
So, on the way back to the station I’m thinking, “How the heck did Sarge know, think, feel, this was gonna happen. HOW?”
After securing the suspects on the holding bench, I went into the watch commander’s office. There was Sarge, feet on his desk, smoking his pipe. Before I could say anything, he said, “I was right there and heard it. What took you so long?”
I asked him the how and why questions and all he did was shrug his shoulders. Go figure.