More Street Stories


From Charlie Metcalf, retired San Rafael Police Department:

Here’s a vehicle pursuit story.

I was driving in a residential area in the hills at night.   Suddenly a motorcycle pulled in front of me with no lights on.  It accelerated rapidly to a speed that was clearly unsafe.  Normally I would figure 20-25 was about it on that narrow and winding road.  It’s been about 15 years so I don’t recall just how fast it was going.  I hit the red lights and called in the stop.  The rider had other ideas and increased speed.  
How it might have looked behind the handlebars
How it might have looked behind the handlebars

Knowing that I had little chance of catching the rider in the Ford Crown Victoria patrol car I called in a full description of the bike and rider.  I had my hands full negotiating the curves while working the radio.  Part of the description was that the rider was not wearing a helmet.  Once that was done it was both hands back on the wheel, keep the guy in sight, and try not to lose him.  I knew other units were coming into the area.  

Going faster and faster it was time to update my location for the incoming units.  During that transmission I gave the new speed (faster still), and mentioned that the rider was having trouble controlling the motorcycle and I thought he was likely to crash.  Based on all of the circumstances I thought the bike had just been stolen.   As soon as dispatch answered the Sergeant got on the air.  He told me to terminate.   I was pissed.   I wanted to catch the guy.   I had been running on adrenaline.  
In the old days we would have chased and chased and chased, until we either lost him or caught him.  Not any more.  The Sergeant was weighing the risk to the public and the potential downside against the potential upside.  He had heard, 1)  no lights;   2)  no helmet;   3)  no skill as a rider.    He and I met later in the night.  He explained what his thinking was.  I had to agree, he was right.  Even if it was vehicle theft, which is a felony on paper, it’s a low grade misdemeanor at sentencing time.  

Thanks to Joe Leonard, retired from San Rafael PD (Ca) for the following stories:

Thonie, this was my favorite pursuit.  The pursuit after this one involved Phil Green, in 1964, before I joined the [San Rafael] police dept.  The last one involved Hank Ingwersen and me.


Sometime around September or October of 1980, I was working day shift.  I had just made a traffic stop on Third St., between Irwin and Grand.  This was around 10:30-11:00 AM.  I was just getting ready to call it in on the radio, when I got a call of a 10-33 (Alarm) at Crocker Bank in the Montecito shopping center, which was a block away from my location. 

I broke off from the traffic stop and proceeded over to the shopping center.  I stopped my unit by the N.E. corner of the Thrifty Drug Store, exited my vehicle, and looked towards the bank.  I saw a lady in front of the bank, pointing to a black man walking by the entrance of Thrifty Drug.  When I looked at him, I saw that he had a large amount of bills (Money) in each hand.  I yelled at him to stop, but instead, he took off running towards Grand Ave.  I started running after him.

As he ran past the used car lot, an employee at the lot saw me chasing the black man and yelled at me “What’s going on”.  I yelled back “He just robbed the bank”.  I continued chasing the robber, with the used car lot employee joining in.  When we got to Grand Ave. and East Francisco Blvd.(a distance of about a block), the car lot employee broke off from the chase and went back to the car lot to get a car.

I continued chasing the robber on foot for about another block, block and a half.  At the Toyota dealership, there was a person exiting from their parking lot in a Ford P/U.  The robber, simulating a gun in his jacket pocket, ordered the driver of the P/U out of the vehicle.  He then got in and took off down East Francisco Blvd.  The car lot employee had gotten a car from his lot and picked me up at the Toyota Lot, so we began giving chase.  From the time that I first saw the robber, I had been talking on my portable radio, keeping the dispatcher and other officers advised.  After I had got in the car with the car lot employee, I continued to do so.

We traveled down Francisco Blvd., then went beneath the underpass and got on Highway 17, headed towards the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge.  At this time, there were a couple of San Rafael Police cars and one Mill Valley police car, plus myself, involved in the chase.  The chase continued onto and across the bridge.  The San Rafael Police Dispatcher had called Richmond Police Dept and advised them of the chase and why, etc.  Richmond PD had their airplane in the air, so as soon as the robber came off the bridge, they had him in their sight.

After about another five minutes of pursuit, we were able to get the robber stopped.  A Richmond Police Officer was the first one to the driver’s side of the pickup.  He reached in through the open driver’s door window, grabbed the robber’s shirt, and pulled him through the window.  The robber landed on the ground about three feet past the pickup.  The robber was arrested on the spot, handcuffed, and then placed in the backseat of one of the San Rafael Police cars that was there. (As a side story to this incident, when the robber was placed in the police car, we didn’t know that he had gone to the bathroom in his pants.  He sat in the car for about an hour, with the windows up.  The smell permeated that car for six months)

After collecting evidence and getting the pickup towed back to San Rafael, I caught a ride with one of our officers at the scene back to the police department.  I had contacted my Sgt. by radio, asking him to take control of my car, which I had left at the bank.



I don’t know the date of this pursuit, other than it was in 1964.  I also don’t know the details or the reason for the pursuit.


Phil Green, who was a patrolman at the time, initiated a pursuit that ended up on Highway 101 Northbound.  Phil is rolling code three, in the fast lane of the highway.  At the time of the pursuit, the speed limit on the highway was 65 MPH.  Phil had a slight problem.  The patrol unit (I believe it was a Ford) would only do 55 MPH.  Here’s Phil, driving code three, in the fast lane, and he’s being passed by cars in the middle and slow lane.  This pursuit lasted until Rohnert Park (Other patrol units were also involved)  About 5-10 minutes after the stop, Phil finally rolled onto the scene.  Phil said it was a little embarrassing, but he also thoought it was funny.



Another pursuit story.  The arrest of this person resulted in clearing about 300 burglaries

We got into Hank’s patrol unit, called in that we were back in service and started to leave the Mental Health Center.  As we were approaching Sir Francis Brake Blvd, the dispatcher put out a broadcast.  A residential burglary had just occurred in the South End of San Rafael on “C” St.  The Suspect was seen leaving the scene in a vehicle (I don’t remember now what the car description was, but I do remember that a brand, model and color, plus the license plate number, were given at the time)

 The vehicle was last seen going S/B on “D” St, and then up and over Wolfe Grade, headed towards Sir Francis Drake Blvd.

               Hank, who was driving, looked over at me and said “Let’s Go.” We turned W/B onto Sir Francis Drake Blvd, then N/B onto Wolfe Grade.  We were about a third of the way up Wolfe Grade, when we spotted the vehicle in question.  Hank turned the car around, turned on the red lights and siren and the chase was on.  The suspect vehicle got down to the intersection, and then turned W/B on Sir Francis Drake Blvd.  Sir Francis Drake Blvd, at this point, is a four lane, divided roadway, with two lanes going East and two lanes going west.  The road continues this way until the main intersection at College of Marin, where it narrows down to one lane in each direction and no center divider, until it goes into San Anselmo, where it once again goes into a four lane divided roadway.

During the chase, we reached speeds of 90 MPH.  The suspect vehicle was involved in four hit and run accident.  He slid sideways into a M/C that was stopped for a red light in Ross, knocking it down and dumping the passengers onto the ground.  I thought that they had been injured, but they hadn’t.

We arrived in San Anselmo, where the suspect vehicle was involved in a third accident, sideswiping a parked pickup as it was turning from Drake Blvd. onto a side street.  The suspect vehicle went another 50-60 feet and then rear ended a parked car and stopped moving. 

The driver of the car then jumped out of his vehicle and started running.  He ran back towards Drake Blvd. then crossed it.  From the time he jumped out of his vehicle and ran, the distance that he ran was only three of four blocks.  When he exited his vehicle, I got out of the patrol unit and started chasing him on foot. 

After he crossed Drake Blvd. He went behind a corner gas station, then down into a dry creek.  At that point, he hollered out “I give up”.  I went down into the creek, handcuffed him, and then placed him in our patrol unit.  Chief Brusatori, who had ridden to the scene of the stop with Art Myers, rode back with Hank and the prisoner to the police station while Art gave me a ride out to Terra Linda to pickup my M/C.  I then returned to the police station.


Be On the Look-Out:

I’m looking for comments, stories, observations, or recollections about pursuits–mainly vehicle pursuit as foot pursuits will be addressed at another time by law enforcement officers and dispatchers…from both sides of the radio. Just add a comment (paragraph, several paragraphs–no limit to word count) at the end of this blog.

I rode along once with a young officer who had a growing reputation for getting into lots of pursuits. I found out why when I sat in the passenger seat.
He observed a violation from some distance, several blocks at least. He flipped on his emergency lights to initiate a stop but he was at a great enough distance that the driver didn’t see them. The driver continued on. The officer jumped on the gas, grabbed the mike and called in a pursuit. Sheesh.
The poor driver stopped eventually when he realized the cop car was coming after him. He got a ticket, if he was lucky. Jail if he wasn’t.
It didn’t take too long for his shift partners to figure this out. Fortunately, he worked for a savvy enough sergeant who corrected this burgeoning bad behavior. “A training issue”, he said.  

A pursuit is one of the most galvanizing events in the life of a cop. When a voice over the radio says, “I’m in pursuit,” virtually everything and everyone (cop-wise) rally around the incident. Dispatch readies jurisdiction notifications, maps, traffic hazards, and the cops (whether under the radar or not) flock to the area with spike strips, scenarios of Pit maneuver and whatever tricks they can come up with to thwart the bad guy.

So tell me your story, with or without names. Funny, tragic, imaginative–whatever. Tell me about your favorite pursuit. In the meantime, check out this video. It may jumpstart your imagination!

Police motorcycle pursuit

By Thonie Hevron

Mysteries to keep you reading through the night.

Welcome to Thonie's world!

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