By Hal Collier, Retired LAPD
I was working the Operations West Bureau Violent Crime Task force (OWB-VCTF). Now we were in plain clothes and I hadn’t shaved in three or four days, much to my wife’s disapproval. I was also wearing a wig. I hated long hair and my own dog didn’t recognize me when I came home late at night. We were assigned to a West LA neighborhood where a rash of street robberies were occurring. The suspect would follow home an easy-looking victim, then rob them when they got out of their car. Most were female or elderly.
Our unit consisted of ten officers, most looking more criminal than I did. We were spread out over a fifteen-block area of mostly duplex units, favored by single working people. My partner, Rick Wermuth, and I were sitting on a dark side street. I secreted myself on a front porch of 4-plex building on a street corner. I had a view of both streets and liked my spot. The building had big bushes next to the walkway obscuring the front doors.
I’d been sitting on the porch for about thirty minutes. Stake outs are never like they show on TV and my butt was getting sore. Just then a car pulls up on the corner. I can see it’s a young lone female. If our suspects are looking for a victim, she’s the perfect choice. I tense with anticipation. Only a cop would get excited about a crime about to happen in front of them. She gets out of her car and is not paying attention to her surroundings.
My partner, Rick is sitting on a tree stump across the street. He’s in the dark, even I can’t see him.
The girl is fumbling through her purse for her house keys. I’m now praying, please don’t let this building be hers! Shit, she turns up the walkway right toward me.
This can’t get any worse, but it does!
I stand up and she jumps. She screams, “No,” at least three times. I’m sure she was thinking this is going to be her worst day ever.
I blurt out, “Wait I’m a good guy!”
She is still in panic mode.
I grab my wallet which is holding my badge. She is now sobbing uncontrollably, frozen in her footsteps. I hand her my wallet, which I would never do under other circumstances. She takes my wallet and stares at the badge. I tell her look again there are pictures of my wife and kids. “I’m a good guy.”
She has calmed down a little until she sees my partner, Rick, come running across the street. Rick wanted to make sure she didn’t claw my eyes out.
I said, “He’s a good guy, too.”
She’s still sobbing and I can see she’s trembling. I would normally lecture her about checking her surroundings before getting out of her car but I can see she wouldn’t hear anything I said. I helped her get into her apartment. I heard her double lock her door. Rick and I decide this is still a good spot so I sit back down on the porch.
Rick returned to his tree stump.
Inside the apartment, I could hear the female on the telephone and describing her harrowing experience. She’s still sobbing. I feel a little sad for her but then she was lucky—I was a good guy!
I hope she checked her surroundings after that when she came home.
Now days, everyone has their eyes glued to their cell phone.