By Mikey, Retired LAPD
It was 1978 and I was assigned to Northeast Division Vice. From time to time, we had loanees from patrol, so they can better understand how we do the job. It was also an effective way to size up future vice cops. Ron was on loan and assigned to me. After a few nights of learning how to work bars and identify things like serving an obviously intoxicated person(s), gambling, prostitution, Ron was good to go solo. We were working a bar on Glendale Boulevard and it was about 9:30pm when Ron entered the bar. If he observed a violation of any kind, he was to exit the bar and give me a sign that we had work to do. I’d meet up with him so he could brief me on what was occurring. Then, we would decide what we had to do to work the problem. I was across the street parked in a vacant gas station, so there was no else around. Across the street was a Bank of America located just north of the bar.
At about 9:45 I noticed two gangster-looking males sitting on a bus bench in front of the bank. A short time later, I observed a vehicle in a driveway south of the bank. The car was traveling west from the rear of the bank to the front. The vehicle stopped next to the building and I observed two men, in business suits exit the vehicle. One had what appeared to be a small object in his right hand. Both were approaching the night drop deposit door when the individuals got up from the bus bench and approached the two men.
I heard a male voice scream “no,” and then a gunshot. The suited man carrying the object fell to the ground. One of the gangsters from the bus bench reached down and took the object from the fallen man. Then both gangsters then ran north from the incident. The other man began yelling for help. As I approached the scene, I put out, “officer needs help, shots fired, one victim down!” I identified myself to the uninjured man and discovered the victim had been shot once in the stomach. I had observed a robbery. The men were the manager (the injured victim) and assistant manager of a shoe store that was located two blocks north of the bank and were making a night drop of the funds earned by the store that day.
As the cavalry arrived, I passed the information onto the uniform coppers. They set up a crime scene. The watch commander asked me to brief him and after telling him the story, he asked me why I hadn’t intervened. There I am, looking every bit “non-cop,” driving a rent-a-wreck piece of crap and he wants to know why I didn’t go “cop” and intervene? My sergeant heard the question. He also saw that I went spring loaded to the pissed off position and was about tell the watch commander where to stick it. My boss pulled the man aside.
Damn, forgot all about Ron. So, I went into the bar to get him and the look on his face said, “what, did I do something wrong?” When we exited, Ron saw the air unit, all the flashing lights, the coppers and he turned to me an asked, “is this all for me!?”
No one in the bar, including Ron had heard a thing. After explaining things to him, we headed to the station. The two men had been set up by one of their female employees—the girlfriend of one of the gang members. The manager survived his wounds and the gangsters as well as the employee were all held to answer for the crime. Ron decided that he did not want to be a vice copper. After all, it’s not for everyone.
Oh, and the watch commander commended me for “not over-reacting.”
Simple, you don’t play the game until you know who the players are.