By Mikey, Retired LAPD
Ventura pursuit, the CHP and the spike strips
It was early Summer ’93 and I was working Rampart Day Watch as the Watch Commander with the usual inside staff, a couple of desk officers, an assistant Watch Commander and eight units out on patrol. It was a Sunday, quiet and everything was going well until about 12:30 pm when a patrol unit broadcasted that they were in pursuit of a stolen vehicle northbound on Alvarado approaching the 101 freeway. The pursuit then proceeded onto the Northbound 101 and because traffic was light the stolen vehicle accelerated away from the officers.
I knew that we would lose communications with the unit if they got too far north so I asked for an air unit to respond. Communications said there were no air units available. I then called the CHP and asked if they had a unit with a spike strip that could intercept the pursuit and their watch commander told me that there was a pursuit coming south on the 101 freeway and when they were through with the southern pursuit, they’d assist us.
I told my assistant watch commander to handle the division, grabbed one of my desk officers, the watch commander’s cruiser and off we went. From the time I left the station until we got into Ventura all sorts of things went through my head. With no radio contact to keep me briefed, it really sucked! From about a mile out I saw my first view of the worst I could imagine, a column of thick black smoke! When we finally reached the scene there it was, the suspect vehicle, upside down, burning. My officers were standing at the rear of their unit watching the fire department extinguish the fire.
I asked the officers if they were all right and they said, “Yes.”
Then, I wanted to know how the driver got killed and asked, “What happened?”
The officers explained the pursuit and how they had a tough time staying up with the vehicle, how finally the CHP spiked the bad guys tires, how it went out of control, went off the road into the grass field and how it rolled a couple of times.
Crap. I was getting ill just thinking of the s—t storm this was gonna cause and making notifications. I asked, “How many people were in the car?”
One of the officers pointed to the back seat of his unit and said, “Just him.”
JUST HIM, the guy handcuffed in the back seat of the cruiser, the guy who didn’t get seriously killed, the guy who crawled away from the burning car, THAT GUY?
I was so fixated on the burning car that I didn’t see the suspect seated in the police car just inches away from us.
The ride back to Rampart was wonderful.
The Lieutenant and the new watch commander’s car
When you hear a LAPD officer refer to a “shop” he is talking about a police car. Each car is issued a “shop number,” meaning repairs in the auto shop were generated using this number. If the Air Unit was working a call with you and he wanted to direct vehicles on the ground he referred to the last three numbers of the shop. For example, “Shop 592, cover the intersection,” etc. So, in 1992, in Rampart, the PM Watch Lieutenant was out and about in a brand-new Watch Commander’s car when Northeast units go in pursuit.
The lieutenant was not fond of pursuits and if the thing sounds even a bit askew, he would terminate it.
But this was Northeast, not Rampart, in the pursuit. The pursuit wound its way through the hills of Northeast heading toward Rampart, so the lieutenant headed in that direction. The road narrowed and the lieutenant saw the air unit. He realized that the observer in the air unit was screaming, “Shop 592, the pursuit is coming at you; Shop 592, the suspect vehicle is approaching you, “Shop………………” Well, guess who driving shop 592? Yup, the lieutenant. He terminated the pursuit with a classic TC (traffic collision)!
Guess he hadn’t noticed the shop number of his “new” cruiser. For the next few days he wasn’t moving around the watch commander’s office as fast as he used to.