By Hal Collier
The following stories are true and can be verified by three living cops whose names never appeared in the LA times. These stories are a little bizarre and seldom made headlines in the Los Angeles area.
The first incident involved a radio call in Laurel Canyon. You only needed a month in Hollywood to know that Laurel Canyon was home to politicians, celebrities, and nuts. Sometimes it was hard to distinguish the difference. Some of their careers were on their way up and many on their way down. It was known for parties and a little bit of illegal drug use. Ok a lot of drug use. You just never know what you’ll find up in the canyon.
Most cops hated getting calls in the canyon. It took a street guide and a half hour to find some street with a hand painted sign attached to a power pole. It took you an hour to find your way back down out of the canyon. The passenger had to read the street guide backwards to find your way out, not an easy task for a cop with a GED. Police cars don’t have GPS systems and if they did it would be full of coffee spots and all night eating spots.
Late or early one night, depending on your point of view, a rash of radio calls came out on one of those winding mountain roads in Laurel Canyon. The radio calls described some nut running around naked.
Ok, it’s about 2 AM. You were about to do some really important police work, coffee at 7-11. Damn, you have to drive up into the canyon to look for some nut, high on drugs. You can’t find him so you drive back down toward the 7-11. You just get to the bottom of the canyon and you get another call, same naked man, only now he’s west a block. At least you know the way. Back into the canyon, again you can’t find him, maybe you should have brought the coffee with you. Did you ever wonder why police cars don’t have cup holders? But I digress. We never did find the naked man, hopefully he went home.
Flash forward three months. A young couple in their first home decides to build a fire on a cold winter night. The house begins to fill with smoke. They extinguish the fire and see that their chimney is clogged with a dead naked man. That’s right–the drug intoxicated man climbed into the chimney and died. That explained the strange smell the couple couldn’t get rid of.
True story. The fire department had to dismantle the fireplace to remove the body. “Hello Allstate, does my home owners insurance cover a naked dead man in my chimney?” I can hear the laughter and “Am I on Candid Camera?”
One bright morning a Laurel Canyon resident takes his dog to the Mulholland Dog Park. His dog loves to run free with the other dogs and sometimes they chase each other into the hillside brush. This fine morning, the man’s dog exits the brush with something in his mouth. It’s a human jaw bone. Now dead bodies are dumped all over the LA area, especially in the hills. I once was told by a Park Ranger that he thought more bodies were in Griffith Park than Forrest Lawn. Doubtful but close to the truth. I wouldn’t be surprised if Jimmy Hoffa isn’t in Griffith Park.
So Hollywood Homicide is called and they search the area but can’t find a body. Now everyone knows that a body in the hills can be scattered by the animals that call Hollywood their home. The dog owner became obsessed and every once in a while he would call the police and claim to have found the body. Once he found a pile of bones and was sure that it was the missing body. It was a dead deer. To my knowledge the body was never found and the case remains open.
This story has nothing to do with dead bodies but it would have made a great “Cops” episode. I’m a new sergeant working Southeast Division (Watts) on Morning Watch. It’s been another slow night and I’m looking forward to getting off work and jumping into morning rush hour traffic through downtown L.A. A Domestic Violence radio call comes out just as the sun is rising over the Watts Towers. The suspect is now on the roof of his house and refuses to come down. Maybe he thought he was in New Orleans?
I arrive and can’t believe my eyes. This nut is indeed on the roof of his house, but what they failed to tell us was that he was armed with a twenty foot pole. He refused to come down and if the officers got too close he would pole vault to the house next door. I watched him vault across three houses and then back. This went on for over an hour. I rated his technique as only a five!
Ok, you’re the supervisor at the scene. What tactic would you use? If you use a taser or tear gas him and he falls off the roof, he’ll probably break his neck and die. You don’t want to send officers up on the roof and fight this nut, the officers might fall off the roof. You could call for a crisis negotiator but this guy is high and not very rational. After Police Academy-taught negotiations fail, you lower your expectations. Most of his responses are limited to about two words which are about my mother.
Well, patience paid off again. We kept watching him and at times laughed at him. This upset him so he tried one more vault, only this time his hands slipped and he fell off the roof. He bounced once and was taken into custody. If this had been in Hollywood it would have been covered by 5 news stations with commentators critiquing our tactics. In Watts, a stalled big rig on the Harbor freeway was the breaking news. I was just enough overtime that my drive home was traffic free. I went home and went to bed but I couldn’t sleep because I kept laughing at the Watts pole vaulter.
Cops see some bizarre things not only in Hollywood but in every city. You just have to wait for the radio call.