By Hal Collier, Retired LAPD
Did you ever have an incident happen to you that made you think, boy, that was close? I’m sure that I’m not the only one who just barely escaped death. Soldiers from any of the recent conflicts could probably give you lots of incidents when they just missed being a sad memory. Well I’m living proof that you can survive an almost “Ah shit,” right here in America!
The closest I came was early one morning when Neil Diamond saved my life! I was working day watch and I liked to get my workout in before roll call. I would get up at 4 AM, shave, grab my lunch that my wife made me and get on the road. Now I only lived eleven miles from work so my commute was about 20 minutes. Very little traffic that time of the morning, mostly big rig trucks and few other knot-heads like me who start early. Oh, there were a few who were on their way home after a night on the town!
A semi-truck is in the #3 lane next to me. I’m about to cross under the 5 freeway when Neil Diamond comes on my truck radio. He was singing Brother Love’s a Travelling Salvation Show. I loved that song and turned up the volume. I was in a better mood and hoping for a good workout.
I’ve been driving this route to work for about 30 years and know that the #3 lane next to me funnels into my lane around the corner. I figure I’ll move over 1 lane so the semi-truck will have a lane to move into. It saved my life. I no sooner changed lanes when a car driving the wrong way comes around the corner and passes between the semi and me. I didn’t even have time to swear. I look over at the semi driver and his eyes were as big as mine. My heart was pounding and I figured my workout will never top the blood now flowing through my veins.
I never heard if he crashed or was caught but, even now, I always turn up Neil Diamond on the radio.
This was not a lifesaving event but then you never know. I was driving a plain detectives’ car but we were in full uniform. We were chasing the prostitutes on Sunset Boulevard. We had stopped at the intersection of Sunset and La Brea, in the left turn lane, heading for a cup of Winchell’s coffee. The light turned green and we waited for on-coming traffic to clear.
I suddenly heard a car racing up behind me! I look in the rear-view mirror and see this large sedan barreling toward our rear bumper. I only have time to yell to Randy, my partner, “hold on.”
At the last instance, the car swerved to the left just missing our rear bumper. The sedan slammed into another car head-on going the other way. The crash sent car debris flying all around us. I took a big breath and asked Randy, “you ok?”
Randy replies, “I think so.”
We get out of our car and check on the drivers. The sedan driver is DUI (drunk) and the other driver has moderate injuries. Boy, that was close for us! I know of two other Hollywood officers who were rear ended by a drunk driver and had to be pensioned off with severe back injuries. I was too young for a pension!
The third incident happened when I was working a super-undercover assignment. We were plain clothes and worked the entire West Bureau of the LAPD. We had worked in Wilshire Division that night and just finished our shift.
We were standing in the parking lot of the Wilshire police Station and we were debriefing the nights activities. Ok, we were standing behind the open trunk of a car drinking beer. That’s a big no no in the LAPD Manual. We had been debriefing for about one beer, oh, I mean 20 minutes when a shot rang out and whizzed past my head! We all ducked as a reaction but since the bullet has already missed us, a late response.
We don’t have a clue where the bullet came from and didn’t want to answer questions of why we were violating a department rule. We all got into our private vehicles drove home. I wonder who recovered the beer we left behind in the parking lot.
A day later one of our group asked a Wilshire officer about the shooter. He replied, “Yea, don’t hang around in the parking lot. There’s some nut who takes pot shots at cops every so often.”
My question was how could a LAPD police station allow someone to shoot at the police and ignore it?