By Hal Collier, Retired LAPD
We are happy that 35-year veteran Hal Collier is sharing his ‘stories behind the badge’ with us.
The following story is true. The Character is real but for the life of me I can’t remember his name. My memory loss might be due to suppressed feelings about this strange person. Sometimes I sleep better when I try to put these characters out of my mind. I’m not sure what sparks these recollections but then I dropped out of my psychology class in college. That explains a lot, huh!
As you already know, I spent more than half of my career working morning watch, that’s the dark time when most sane people are sleeping. I loved catching burglars both business and residential. It didn’t matter to me as long as I could put a bad guy in jail. Most burglars working at night were breaking into closed businesses, but occasionally they will break into a house.
One night I get a call of a burglar there now at a residence in the Hollywood Hills on the west side of the division. These are extra nice homes usually owned by executives and celebrities. The person reporting (PR) states the burglar is tunneling in through the second floor roof. In all my years, I have never seen or heard of a burglar chopping a hole in the roof of a house to enter. I suspect the PR has missed his scheduled medication or is smoking some strange tobacco.
We arrive and the PR meets us out front. He seems normal as he tells us he was awaken by a noise on his roof. He says that someone is tearing off the wood shingles and attempting to enter. I look the PR in the eye and I’m thinking maybe he’s having a flashback to the 60’s. The PR tells us that the painters have left a ladder up against the house in the back yard. I give my partner a wink and tell the PR, “We’ll check it out.” I’m going to give this citizen my half-assed effort to placate him. After all he pays my salary.
I start to climb the ladder which reaches to the second floor roof. Just as I get to the edge of the roof I see something duck down on the other side of the roof. Oh shit. I grab my gun and alert my partner who is below me on the ladder. The adrenalin is now pumping and I’m swearing at myself for being a little complacent and not believing that this might be a dangerous situation. I’m looking for some kind of cover in case there’s a shooting. I’m also thinking I don’t want to get into a fight on a sloping second story roof. The fall will ruin your day and any chance of having kids.
My partner joins me on the roof. We deploy and approach the crest of the roof. Yep, there he is, with a burglar’s mask and all. It’s a raccoon, and pregnant as well. The raccoon jumps from the roof to a tree and flees. I know better than to mess with a pregnant woman so I let her get away. The raccoon was tearing a hole in the wood shake roof to get into the attic to have her babies. We climb down the ladder and give the PR the good news and bad news. No burglar, but you have a hole in your roof and the raccoon will probably come back. Nothing is simple or easy in Hollywood.
Hollywood Characters: Jack
Jack was one of those strange individuals that some officers stayed away from and others just had to stop and talk to him. Guess which group I belonged to? I might have been in the other group but remember—I didn’t finish that psychology class. Jack was usually hanging out in the area of Hollywood Boulevard and Western. If you saw Jack walking around and he had a suit case or other type of bag you just had to stop and see what was in it. Jack was a collector!!!
Once Dale Washburn stopped Jack with his suit case. Dale asked Jack, “What’s in the suit case?”
Jack replied, “My dog!”
Dale asked, “Can I see him?”
Jack said, “Sure.” He opened the suit case and sure enough it was a dog. Did I mention that the dog was dead? It was probably a road kill that Jack found and put in the suit case.
Another time Jack was carrying a bag similar to a carry-on bag for air travel. Officer: “Jack, what’s in the bag?”
Jack, “My shit!” Now that could mean anything, including his property, but with Jack you never knew. Guess what? It really was his shit!!!
Jack created the most attention when he was observed pushing a shopping cart down Western Avenue during morning rush hour traffic. Propped up in the cart was a dead goat. The phone calls came pouring in. I defy anyone to tell me where you get a goat in Hollywood. Well, maybe I don’t want to know how the goat died or why it was in Hollywood. The goat looked like it was being taken for a walk. It was a weird sight and thank goodness that PETA wasn’t around.
Imagine all these people arriving at their office, and starting the conversation, “You’ll never guess what I saw in Hollywood this morning on my way to work.” I’ll bet the boss recommended a pee test for that employee.
I once responded to a window smash burglary at Hollywood and Western. Witnesses said dozens of suspects helped themselves to property. I was taking a report when I spied Jack walking up Western with one leg straight, just like Chester in Gunsmoke.
“Jack, what’s in your pant leg?”
Jack: “Oh, hi officer, my new sword!” That’s right Jack took a four foot sword from the business.
Jack, like most of the Characters in Hollywood, just disappeared, but they left a lasting impression on old timers like me. Dale Washburn later told me the Jack’s name was Jack Harper.
Hope Dale didn’t lose any sleep trying to remember Jack’s name.