Street Stories The Call Box

The Call Box: Lady Hamilton

This installment of Ed Meckle’s recollection of this particular case is longer than most, but worth the read, I promise you. Knowing there are policemen and women like him out there who strive for victim’s justice is consoling. –Thonie

By Ed Meckle, Retired LAPD

Before I begin let me apologize for the lapses in my story. Time has taken the victim’s and suspect’s name together with the street name. I remembered my partner and (irony) name of the bar. Timewise the best I can do is a hot weekend in 1966/67. 

I thought about this for a long time before sharing. In the past I have begun many of my stories with, “most officers do this” or “a lot of them do that.” But here I tread carefully and can only speak for myself and hope others feel as I do. 

No matter how much time you have on the job, how much experience, or how cynical you think you are I hope that somewhere maybe deep down you did something “special” that stands out in your mind; that you occasionally remember that special thing or things. Maybe you don’t talk of it but there are incidents you can really be proud of, when everything came together, the stars aligned, and luck was in your corner. And you thought “damn, that’s why I became a cop. That’s what it’s all about.” I really hope you have it, because I have one I want to share with you.

I take pride in the fact I never held a staff job. No graphs, no crayons, no colored pencils, no calculators, just street time out where the wild things are.

I am one of approximately forty-five detectives assigned to Wilshire Division and one of six working robbery. About every tenth week I catch weekend duty with three others. If it is a quiet shift you can catch up on your paperwork, watch a game on TV, play cards or just snooze. This was not to be one of those.

It was a hot holiday Sunday and just after noon when a phone call comes in from a radio car at the scene of a homicide. As the senior sergeant I am de facto watch commander. There are no homicide detectives among the four of us. 

I take the call along with Sergeant Jim Horkan. I knew him from Metro, never as a partner but he was a good street cop, former Cleveland P.D. and like myself a former marine (this will become a factor).

The scene is a well-kept, unremarkable, three-story brownstone in the 900 block just north of Olympic. As far as we can determine the entire populous of the building were elderly retired singles and couples. 

Our victim was third floor rear and discovered when a neighbor saw her open door. At this point in my career, I had handled two homicides, both related to street robberies, one successfully and one not.

I remember as a uniform at a homicide scene I watched the detective carefully place a kitchen chair in the crime scene and sit without moving for about ten minutes. Nobody had to tell me was burning every detail into his memory. 

Our victim was female, 80+ and had lived alone. She is in a supine position slightly to the right as you enter. Feet toward the door. Her simple house dress with button front has been ripped open. Her bra pulled above her breasts, panty hose pulled down and inside out still clinging to her right foot. 

Her hands were at her sides palms down, head turned to the left, legs 12-14 inches apart. There appears to be blood and skin under her fingernails. A dime-sized crescent shaped wound was between her eyes. She had been strangled and later tests would show raped. (D.N.A. then stood for “does not apply”) 

The rooms were what I suppose you would call an “efficiency” apartment—one large room doubles as living/bedroom. Bath to left, small kitchen to the right. 

The apartment appears to have been quickly searched, drawers open, items scattered. Notable is an empty watch box, home to a “Lady Hamilton.” Back in the day, watches especially ladies, came in large ornate boxes resembling clam shells. They were so fancy you did not throw it out even though it had no secondary use. 

The watch was gone. 

The residents tell us she was very proud of the watch, receiving it along with a plaque (hanging on the wall) when she retired from the Department of Water and Power in 1949. 

Along with a couple of uniforms we did a canvas and determined a stranger had been in the building not long before she was found. Described as early to mid-20s, husky and appeared intoxicated, he had walked into one apartment and approached a lone woman. Leaving when her husband appeared, he had also knocked on several doors and tried to talk his way inside without being obvious. Here was a promising person of interest. 

I got to thinking about the intoxication angle and told Jim I was going to play a hunch. I walked the 100 or so yards to the corner where stood a bar, the Jade Room. As luck would have it, I had on occasion, enjoyed a cool refreshing beverage or two. 

The only person present was the female owner/bartender with whom I was acquainted. Like waitresses/manicurists/beauticians everywhere bartenders are good witnesses, observant and good listeners.

“Yes, he was here. Drank Oly beer from the ice tub.” The ice water put any chance of prints from the bottle to rest.

Your impression, I asked?

“A sailor from Oklahoma.” 

I shared this with Jim and as former service members we knew where he would be heading on a Sunday afternoon. While I wrapped the scene up Jim took a radio car and went straight to the bus depot downtown. 

Standing in line to board a San Diego-bound bus was a tall husky 20-something sailor. He wore a ring with a crescent shape, had scratches on his face and a Lady Hamilton watch in his pocket. Hello.

At the station he admitted everything except for being in the victim’s apartment. He had no answer for the watch in his pocket. 

I was in before daylight the next day to talk to the Hamilton people at their Pennsylvania H.Q. when they opened.

  • The watch in his pocket had been sent to a local jewelry store in 1949 (good)
  • The store was no longer in business (bad)
  • By noon we had the owner’s phone number in Sun City, Arizona (good)
  • The son answered the phone; dad died some time ago and all sales records, serial numbers, etc. are long gone (bad)

Before hanging up the son actually said, “I thought things like this only happened in the movies.” 

The victim’s fingernail scrapings turned out to be consistent with human skin, beard stubble and blood but were not conclusive. There was trace blood in the ring, not enough to type. The lab however made a nice overlay match with the ring and the head wound. 

We borrowed five watches from Sears next door and did a “show up” with her friends and neighbors.  “It looks like it but I can’t be sure.” “Maybe it could be but…” Not a lot of help. 

We had to go to the D.A. soon for filing and still could not nail the watch down.

Think dammit, think. Ok the neighbors said the watch was a retirement gift from D.W.P. in 1949 right? Longshot but nothing to lose.

At the D.W.P. Personnel counter, her file had been retrieved from the archives and does not, repeat does not, contain the receipt for the purchase of the watch.

Last chance. “Was there a luncheon or some sort of formal presentation?”

“Yes, a luncheon.”

“Was there a photographer?”

“Yes, there was.”

“Thank you, Jesus.” There in the file were at least two photos of her holding her watch up for the camera.

L.A.P.D. Photo lab blew up the negatives as much as possible without losing context. Looked good.

Well folks, that was our case and the District Attorney (DA) filed murder one. We were also assigned a “special DA” Marsh Goldstein, whom I knew and respected. Special DA meant he would shepherd the case personally to conclusion.

We were assigned a liberal female judge who hated cops and would toss a case at the drop of a comma. Normally you would put on a “bare bones case” at the preliminary hearing. just enough to hold the defendant.

We gave them everything and hold him we did. Several months later Marsh called and asked if I had any problem with a murder one plea from the public defender’s office if the DA took the death penalty off the table. I thought it was a fine idea.

The public defender’s office very seldom pleads to murder one.

Somewhere I remember reading or hearing an old homicide cop who said something memorable…

                                                   “We speak for the dead.”

Street Stories The Call Box

The Call Box: I Saw A Woman Cry…

By Ed Meckle, Retired LAPD

Recently a short story on TV prompted this:

I saw a woman cry this morning. She was a young mother of two, sitting for a TV interview.

She was a nurse who has been working 12-hour shifts at a NY hospital. She hadn’t seen her family for weeks and had been staying over in the city for fear of infecting them.

She was crying because she was bone tired.

She was crying because she had seen so many around her die. She cried because her youth and inexperience with death of this magnitude had not prepared her.

She cried for the very young and the very old. She cried for those who had no one to cry for them and died alone.

She cried because she was confused, because she did not know which way to turn or what to do next.

I wish I had a happy ending for this tale, but I don’t. All I could do was cry with her because I, too, had no answers

Some people cry not because they are weak but because they have been strong for too long.

If you have never sweat, bled, or cried for someone you do not know, then you do not have even the faintest idea of what we are all about.

Some people spend a lifetime wondering if they “made a difference.”

First responders and LEO’s do not have that problem.

No, my friend you really didn’t have a “job,” it was a calling. Not 9 to 5 but 24/7.

You lived it, you breathed it, you loved it and would die for it.

It was your passion, your mistress even on the worst of days. Your time on the job were the “best/worst” days of your life. 

You were “alive.” You lived for the nights you can’t remember and for the friends you can’t forget.

It is not that we can while others can’t. It is because we did when others did not.

It was not the sweltering days, endless cold nights, nor working while others slept or celebrated. It was not the lies, the mindless hatred, indifferent public nor the verbal abuse.

It is not the misrepresentation by the press, nor betrayal of the politician. It is not the senseless violence seeing the unseeable, doing the undoable.

It is not running to the sound of the gun nor dancing with some dirtbag.

It is not walking into darkness seeking the unknown. Not for love of my partner, the high-speed chase the foot pursuit nor facing down an unruly crowd.

But it is how much we loved it and that dear God, that is what makes us who we were.

THE POLICE: Winston Churchill said it best. “Never in the field of human conflict, has so much been owed by so many to so few.”

Street Stories The Call Box

The Call Box

By Ed Meckle, Retired LAPD

With all the crazy, funny, bizarre things that cops experience, some are right there in the station house.

BB Ballistics

I was working a radio car and along with my partner. We were in the juvenile office at the station. In custody, we had one defiant 12-year-old boy, one red Ryder model BB gun and one tube of BB’s. He was given to us by an angry motorist with a BB hole in his windshield who’d chased him down. The juvenile ditched the gun (which we found) but he still had the BB tube in his pocket. He denied everything but couldn’t explain the BB’s.

The juvenile officer, Leroy Goforth, also got a denial. Goforth directed me to bring him an office trash can. Goforth emptied it. Then he instructed me to place it across the room open end toward him. He fired one BB into the basket. I retrieved the basket while he rummaged in his desk drawer producing a large pair of tweezers and a Sherlock Holmes-sized magnifying glass. 

He asks the boy, “Do you know what ballistics is?”


“It is the scientific method the police use to tell if a particular gun fired a certain bullet. Understand?”

The kid shrugged.

“Well, we are going to do a scientific ballistics test on your gun.”

At this point, Leroy retrieves the BB from the basket. Holding the BB with the large tweezers, he examined it with the large glass for a good 10-15 seconds. 

He gave the kid a long look. Then back to the BB. Kid, BB, kid, BB, kid, BB. Finally, shaking his head sadly, he pronounced, “Without a doubt, there is no question that this gun not only belongs to you but also fired the shot that struck the car. I also know it was an accident, you are sorry and will never do it again. Right kid?”

The kid nodded, “Yes.”

The Wisdom of Age

Many years later, I was the uniformed watch commander and noticed one of my “old timers” with a quarter-sized hole in the front of his uniformed trousers. Knowing he was two weeks from retirement and not about to buy new trousers, I told him, “Charlie, do something about that. We can’t have you walking about with your chalk-white leg showing.”

“Ok, Elltee.” An hour later, as he entered the office the problem seemed solved.

I asked, “That looks much better, what did you do?”

He grins, drops his trousers and I see where he has taken a dark blue marking pen and colored his leg.


The Education of a Young Patrol Officer

Back in the day when we carried .38 revolvers, I held a firearms inspection. On command you drew your weapon, emptied the 6 rounds into your left hand which was held out for viewing. The pistol was held at “inspection arms” in the right hand.

One of my probationers held a bright shining revolver smelling of gun oil and an empty left hand. He also had a terrified look on his face. I quietly told him to see me after roll call.

“What was that all about,” I asked. 

In a tremulous voice, he replied, “I cleaned my gun the other day and forgot to reload.”

I calmed him down and told he was not in trouble. I asked if there was anything I could say that would make him feel any worse than he was feeling already?

He shook his head. “No.”

I told him he would have to come up with some gimmick to make him think of his gun. Was it loaded? That sort of thing.

Years later the probationer, now a detective, entered an elevator I was on. 

He stood next to me but did not acknowledge my presence. As he got off, he laughed, patted his gun hip and stated, “When the Elltee says stay loaded, I stay loaded.”

Street Stories The Call Box

The Call Box: Cops and Robbers

By Ed Meckle, Retired LAPD      

Cops and Robbers? How many kids have played the game? Or cowboys and Indians? Or the heroic shot or homer to win the big game? Most will never achieve those dreams yet the cops part is most likely.

Maybe we never really intended to wind up here but for whatever reason (and there are many) we did. We have heard of the brotherhood or the calling or even the protection of the innocent but whatever the actual set of circumstances was “here we are.” And for better or worse we do the job.

The slackers, the lazy and the misfits are easy to spot and avoid.

From my 63rd anniversary of graduating from the academy I can look back a looong way. I have been sharing my tales with you now for a number of years and hope you still find them interesting. What follows is a collection of random thoughts. Brief moments that still bring a smile.

Working Metro, a late-night stakeout for some long-forgotten reason. We were in San Pedro perched on the mid-level platform of an inoperative oil derrick. The wind coming in off the ocean had convinced me I was going to freeze to death by daylight. 

Not a problem, says my partner as he stuffs his jacket with sleeping pigeons.

My friend Sully had come upon a sleeping drunk behind the wheel of a car in the ivy on the freeway shoulder. Sully was headed for the station for EOW (End of Watch) and didn’t want to get involved in booking a potential drunk driver. He pocketed the keys while he looked the car over. He broke off a toothpick in the ignition, then dropped the keys on the floorboard.

Back at the station when he tried to get into his car, he discovered he has the drunk’s keys.

The drunk was still asleep when he went back to make the change.

Still Sully.

We have all heard of the radio mic cord becoming a “lie detector” but Sully came up with the copy machine polygraph. A stack of pre-printed sheets labeled “TRUE” or “LIE” were fed into and discharged by the machine as necessary while our not too bright subject stood with his left hand on the machine and his right hand in the “I swear position.”

Working vice, we had a hooker who came up with the great idea of having her potential tricks swear under penalty of perjury that they were NOT police. She figured if she was busted, she could claim the officer perjured himself. 

Didn’t work in court.

Last Sully:

While we all worked the Robbery Squad at Wilshire Detectives, he swears his Chinese victim, owner of a laundry told a stick-up man who simulated a gun, “No gunny, no money.”

Tha Tha That’s all folks…

Street Stories The Call Box

The Call Box: Burn Barrels

By Ed Meckle, Retired LAPD

During the first half of the 20th Century (through 1957 and who knows how long before) everyone–businesses included, burned their trash in backyard incinerators. Everyone had a burner. The residential ones were what you would imagine a “pueblo” bread oven or a pottery kiln to look like.

Residential burners were usual 4 to 5 feet square and about 5 feet tall. They had a front-door loader and a 5 to 6-foot-tall chimney. Business/commercial ones were monsters the size of a family sedan on end with a 10-12 foot chimney. Even today some still survive.

The many Indian tribes that inhabited the LA basin in centuries past referred to the area as “The Valley of the Smokes” due to the inversion layer holding the smoke close to the ground.

Why have I filled your head with this bit of trivia?

Because after burning was outlawed the incinerators became favorite hiding/disposable spots for stolen items, guns, knives and a good stash spot for narcotics. Even the occasional body.

Modern incinerator-note stack on upper right

I was a detective sergeant working Robbery out of Wilshire Division. We had been inundated with a series of brutal street robberies over a period of several months. Our victims, usually elderly women, were beaten and robbed of their purses. We finally were able to identify our suspect and put together a bulletin for the patrol units. Within a few days a radio car bagged him. Half a dozen of our victims made him in a show-up and after some lengthy conversation he gave it up and admitted to 20-plus robberies.

What about the purses? There was an abandoned and shuttered apartment building on his block. In the rear there was a commercial burner and by stacking boxes up he was able to reach the top and drop the purses down the chimney.

I felt a great deal of satisfaction as I pulled purse after purse after purse out of the burner door, clearing a case with every one. I even thought to keep them in order to match crimes reports by date. 

As I recall there were 24 purses, 3 or 4 not even reported. Our robber was cooperative to the point of showing us where he had sailed several onto rooftops.

I think any officer will admit that when you do something even as simple as this, that you not only make someone’s life a little better but it gives you a sense of satisfaction—a sense of why you do what you do. 

Some of our victims even cried when reunited with items thought gone forever. We always thought of them as “our ladies.”


Don’t forget to check out Thonie’s three thriller/mysteries: By Force or Fear, Intent to Hold and With Malice Aforethought. All three are currently available through She’s putting the last touches on Felony Murder Rule, the fourth in the Nick and Meredith Mystery Series.

By Force or Fear, Intent to Hold, and With Malice Aforethought
Street Stories The Call Box

The Call Box: Intangible

By Ed Meckle, Retired LAPD

INTANGIBLE definition: Unable to be touched or grasped; not having a physical presence

An architect can point to a building or structure he (we are using the editorial “he” here, no disrespect to females). A contractor or plumber can lay claim to any number of projects. Even a factory worker can point to an X count of widgets at day’s end.

There are service persons by the score-waiters, clerks, doctors, lawyers, nurses and the list goes on. But what of the description, “First Responders?”

The law enforcement officer (LEO), aside from arrests and tickets, usually has only his personal satisfaction in providing the daily chores that make up his life. LEO’s must and should take motivation from the service they provide. From finding a lost child, recovering a stolen vehicle or property, and/or settling a dispute ad infinitum. The satisfaction of looking back at shift’s end and knowing that he made a difference in someone’s life (hopefully a good one).

He must take pride in whatever it was he did or didn’t do to resolve the situation; to take from that whatever he needs to bring him back day after day, to provide the fuel that feeds his enthusiasm and drives him no matter how jaded or disillusioned he has become. To prove, if to no one but yourself, that you are a person of character. Then, and only then have you accomplished something.

CHARACTER definition: The mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual. I prefer, ‘doing the right thing even when no one is watching.’

Part II


Have you ever experienced a LEO being introduced to a stranger and watched how guarded he is until told that the other person is or was a LEO? You would’ve seen a complete personality change right before your eyes. There is almost a “formal rule” or ritual that both parties go through, probably done unconsciously. If you doubt me, read law enforcement blogs or Facebook police pages.  Aside from the usual kidding you will notice a sincere sense of mutual respect and love, yes love. You’ll see an almost elaborate politeness, a sense of warrior meeting warrior.

Civil war painting-unknown battle
Civil war painting-unknown battle

In July 2016, I wrote, “I’ve been to see the Elephant.” This term was common to the Civil War wherein the young soldiers tried to put into words the horror they had witnessed. An unspoken, “we have been there, passed the test and I recognize you for who and what you are.”

Granted not all LEO’s go through this ritual but enough for me to notice. Other than the military no one besides LEO’s are that closely bonded.

I have heard too many eulogies, read to many End of Watch (EOW) notices and heard to many tales of friendship and daring-do to wonder why we don’t reach out—right now—to our old friends and partners and tell them of our feelings. Tell them you appreciate all the times together and tell them as only one man can tell another, “I love you, man.”

It was Shakespeare who told us we were a “BAND OF BROTHERS,” are we not? 

Better they hear it now than before it’s too late. Tell them now.

Street Stories The Call Box

The Call Box: A Caper Story

By Ed Meckle, Retired LAPD

What follows, is a true story as I lived it and remember it.

Nobody ever called me at 3 AM with good news. No one told me I won the lotto, or to take the next few days off and get some rest. No sultry voice ever asked me if I would like to— OK forget that one.

The voice that morning belonged to the Wilshire Division watch commander (WC)where I was assigned as a Detective Sergeant Robbery Squad. A stickup had gone bad, the victim was injured, four were in custody and one was dead as a result of a gunfight with an officer. The WC concluded with, “Oh, and we can’t reach your partner, so you are solo on this one. DHQ is here and got things started.”

NOTE: DHQ or DHD (Detective Headquarters Division) are the people who roll out usually in the middle of the night and hold the fort until the responsible investigators arrive.

I was briefed as follows and later filled in the blanks.

A 30-something ex-con (XC) had “reliable” information regarding an elderly man with a big safe full of money. The information was from a hooker who made house calls and saw the safe and “it just had to be full of money.”

XC recruited some of the local intelligentsia ( ages 16 to 20) with a get rich promise. One was to steal a truck to transport the safe and another to steal a getaway car. The victim was to be out of town so stealing the safe should be a piece of cake. Right? 

Now we have all seen the “caper” movie where a well-organized, intelligent and skilled set of thieves pulls off some improbable job. That however does not describe this bunch.

They had agreed to meet at 1 AM. However, nobody was on time as nobody, repeat, nobody had a watch. One of the group was a no show. The truck turned out to be a large unwieldy flatbed which meant the safe would not only be visible but as conspicuous as a frog in a punch bowl.

The hooker had not provided the address and gave only a description of the house which the XC had not bothered to scout. It is now very early AM, the stolen vehicles are driving the streets looking for the right location while dogs bark, house lights go on and people call the police. All of this while our robber band still looks for the right house.

Finally, locating it, the truck backed into the driveway while the getaway driver found a place to wait—which was not only several blocks away but unknown to any of his cohorts. 

Breaking into the house awakened the owner. Yeah, he was home—and he attempted to resist. One of the group, without sharing the information, had brought a revolver. He used it to pistol whip the victim demanding the combination to the safe which turned out to be an old bank veteran weighing in excess of 600 pounds. It was unlocked and contained 30 or so long-play record albums, which are placed on the truck. One more pistol whipping for good measure and they were off. 

As the police arrived everyone scattered. Speeding around the first corner, the truck turns the albums into frisbees flying off into the dark. The getaway driver left alone while the pistol whipper makes the fatal mistake of firing at the police and pays the ultimate price. 

DHQ had the body transported to the Wilshire station garage where I had the victim ID him. I spent the rest of the day with reports and tying up loose ends. Our juvenile unit agreed to handle the getaway driver who was very thoughtfully driving the stolen car when they got him.

I know this sounds like some wild ass made up tale, but every word is true as near as I can recall.

Street Stories The Call Box

The Call Box: A Common Law Divorce

By Ed Meckle, Retired LAPD      

For: Maura, Mary, Anne, Megan and Bill Fitzgerald

If I had to guess I would imagine the average age of the officer out there in the black and white right now would be mid 20’s. This is totally unscientific and based only on observation.

However, it was not always so. My first year in patrol was 1957. The PD was populated with returning WWII vets and both of my partners (teachers) were ex-military and probably in their 40’s as seemingly most of the department. Officers looked like what you would imagine a copper should look like. Something from a 40’s black and white crime movie. Large, tough and no nonsense. This was the era of the hat squad and in my opinion,  it was these older uniforms and detectives that made the LAPD what it is today and earned the reputation as the “Best of the Best.”

Chief William H. Parker spoke at my graduation and his words still ring true. Paraphrased, he said, “You now inherit the good name and are part of a very well-respected organization. You stand on the shoulders of giants.” Without actually saying so, we were told not to “f**k it up.”

My partners were Ward Fitzgerald and Hal Brasher. Both vets and looking back I consider myself a very lucky man to draw two of the best. They were very much alike and (if this makes sense) very different. Both were soft spoken, and I never heard either raise his voice or lose his temper. They never lectured or preached but let me learn by example. They naturally shared experiences and tips and I felt like a little leaguer hanging out with the N.Y. Yankees.

Hal had a great sense of humor and shared stories. Ward was always cheerful and in good spirits, quieter than Hal but when he spoke you listened because he had something to say. Both had a way with people. Hal, smiling and kind of easy going while Ward had a very calming manner about him which lowered most semi-hostile situations. 

Our patrol area was the northwest corner of the old University Division (3A15). A residential/business mix, old, poor and more than our share of crime. Despite this I felt most of the residents were hardworking, law abiding, God-fearing citizens. 

One fairly common call was, “see the man/woman, family dispute.” We were expected to act as marriage counselors. This is the story of one such call.

Working with Ward we responded and found the couple to be elderly, polite and respectful to the law. 

Usual practice was to separate them, speak quietly and hope to defuse the situation before it could turn violent. They listened politely and then said that they just didn’t think they could continue living together. 

Ward gave the usual pitch about seeking professional help or in the extreme, divorce, etc.

Their answer was a classic. They couldn’t divorce because they never married. They were “common law.”

{ASIDE} Common law briefly means living together and holding yourself out as a married couple resulted after a while in a “common law” relationship. It was a routine situation for the time and place, but too complicated to discuss here. 

By this time in my training process I had learned to let nothing I saw or heard surprise me. 

Wards statement did. He told them that police officers were permitted by law to perform “common law divorces.” 

I was sent to the car to retrieve the Vehicle Code. It was the dimensions of the Readers Digest but about 2-3 inches thick. 

In bold print on the cover were the words VEHICLE CODE of the STATE OF CALIFORNIA. Holding his thumb over the word “Vehicle” he let them see the rest of the title.

If they wished to go through with this, he told them they would place their left hands on the book holding the right hand up. At this point Ward rattled off some very impressive mumbo-jumbo. Did they wish to proceed? Oh, by the way, one of you has to leave the house and never return. They conferred and decided they would try to work it out. 

Later in the car I commented on his expert flim-flammery. His answer: “We kept the peace and did no harm, right?”

That was pure Ward, my teacher and friend.

RIP Sir.

Street Stories The Call Box

The Call Box: L.A. County General Hospital

By Ed Meckle, Retired LAPD

Opened in 1923, it was 20 stories of imposing granite and dominated the skyline in East L.A., 800 beds, the largest hospital west of Chicago. Its art deco interior gave the massive entry way a cathedral-like atmosphere. One of the largest public and teaching hospitals in the U.S. it also trained military doctors in trauma (gunshot wound) care. 

L.A. was able to supply plenty of those. One million ambulatory cases and 150,000 E.R. patients annually. Appearing in numerous TV shows and movies, it has, since 1975, been the “establishing shot of T.V.’s General Hospital. 

LA County General Hospital

A portion of the 13th floor was constructed as a jail ward, 50 beds for ill or injured prisoners. Run by the county it was officially “L.A. County General Hospital,” known in the medical community as, “The Great Stone Mother.” By the cops, it was, “County Generous.”

I was there that day with my partner Richard L Sullivan (Sully). We were detective sergeants assigned to Wilshire, Robbery Detail and there to interview/interrogate a bandit shot during a holdup. The questioning should’ve been brief—no more than 10-15 minutes. 

A word about Sully who has been my subject of stories several times in the past. Among his many attributes, besides being a very good detective, he was a world class practical joker. He would be my friend for 50-plus more years.

Most of the beds were filled but the nurses were nowhere in sight. As I finished my interview, I turned just in time to catch him as he pulled the sheet up over the face of the prisoner sleeping in the next bed. The prisoner’s head was back, mouth open, and snoring softly. 

Hospital ward

As we left, I retrieved my weapon, thanked the deputy who was reading a magazine and went straight to the elevator. Without any consultation I knew my role. Sully also picked up his gun and engaged the deputy in small talk until the elevator arrived. As I held the elevator door he said casually to the deputy, “Did you know you got a dead guy in there?”

The deputy scrambled as the door closed behind us. 

On the ride down, still the picture of innocence, he said, “The sad part is I never get to see the end of things like that.”

Another time, still Wilshire Detectives Robbery—

Sully had a middle-aged female victim of a robbery who, after having a gun stuck in her face was understandably reluctant and frightened about the pending line-up. Not in the least bit stymied, he convinces the somewhat cooperative and not terribly bright holdup man to identify the victim—a reverse line-up.

It played like this:             

The victim was on the far side of the room with several other women.

Robber was led in.

Sully: Do you see anyone in this room you recognize?”         

Robber: “Yes, that lady there.”

Sully: “How do you know her?”

Robber: “I robbed her.”

Sully: “Do you have anything to say to her?”

Robber: “Yeah lady, I’m sorry I robbed you and scared you with the gun.”

Imagine how powerful her testimony would sound in court when she related the above.

And that was just a very, very little bit of Sully.

Street Stories The Call Box

The Call Box: NYE at the Manhole Cover

By Ed Meckle, Retired LAPD

New Year’s Eve: I was one of eight uniformed Metro officers who along with a sergeant was assigned to Hollywood and Vine. I have never been good at estimating crowd size. I just know we are packed solid on all four corners.

The crowd was in various stages of drunkenness but generally well behaved.  It consisted mostly of people who by now were probably tired of standing, wondering why they are here, asking themselves when they are going to start having fun but most of all, where’s then nearest rest room? Needed soon.

In the center of the intersection was a man hole cover. Custom and tradition said, to stand upon said manhole cover exactly at midnight would mean what?

It was sort of a “king of the hill” thing.

Vehicular traffic had been moving at a snail’s pace but was now shut down and diverted off the boulevard.

On his bull horn, the sergeant tells the crowd that it is 11:55 and they can have the intersection for 10 minutes.

The crowd who had been standing numbly on the sidewalk is now in the street thinking the same thoughts as before. But for a few this may very well be the most exciting or daring thing they have ever done in their lives.

Some can probably see their obituary: “The deceased Mr. Beanie Watros, in addition to his 40 year service as assistant manager at the Widget Factory, was somewhat of a local legend having on one occasion actually stood in the center of Hollywood and Vine at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve until rudely pushed to the curb by a large police officer with a stick.”

The sergeant begins the countdown……one minute………30 seconds……..10-9-8…….

Hollywood and Vine in the daytime.

Now the attempt to “take” the manhole begins.

There are always 8 or 10 ready to do battle.

Now, we have two types of fighters—those who fight like 12-year-old girls (sorry ladies) and those who learned from watching silent movies where everyone “swung   roundhouse punches arms fully extended.” If they connected, everyone went down.

Miss and they went down.

At 12:05 the sergeant’s whistle tells us to take the street back. We commandeer the “standing” drunks to move the “down” drunks to the sidewalk.

“But officer, I don’t even know this guy.”

“Neither do I friend. Now put him over there.”

The crowd is now back where they started wondering, “what just happened?”

“Did I have fun or what?” 

They mill about for a bit until someone comes up with the best suggestion of the night. “Come on. Let’s get out of here.” 

Not to long after we are released so we can drive to Pasadena and work the Rose Parade for the princely sum of $25.00.

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