The Call Box

The Call Box: Four Tales of Five Bandits Who Chose the Wrong Profession

By Ed Meckle, Retired LAPD

March 1

with thanks to Melisa Dervaes for editing!

polic-call-box-pedestal-lapd-gamewell-DCAL2786_dt1Working a radio car, we answered a 211 (armed robbery) that had just occurred.

The 20-something female clerk was composed and gave an exceptionally good description of the suspect. I took notes to put out a broadcast.

She concluded with, “What if I knew him?” 

“Ah, that’s good, how?”

“He was in my graduating class from high school four years ago,” she said. 

“Did he recognize you?” 

“Nope,” she said, “I was a blonde then.” 

“How about a name?” 

She said, “I can’t remember but he is bigger and stupider now than he was then.”  “Do you still have your school yearbook?” 

She did, then stated, “Let’s take a ride,” so we did. 

We gave her that ride and then a short time later, we took him for one, too.  Sometimes it’s just that simple.


 Many years later, I was a Detective Sergeant assigned to the Robbery Detail at Wilshire Division. The following crime report came in for the Business Team.


old timer gas stationTwo male suspects entered the gas station in separate vehicles and asked to use the vise in the closed garage area. They proceeded to hacksaw off the barrel of a .12-gauge shotgun in the garage, then used the gun to hold up the attendant. 

At the conclusion of the robbery, one of the vehicles would not start. The suspects were last seen eastbound on Venice Boulevard in a black 1955 Chevrolet, being pushed by a dark blue 1961 Buick. Recovered at the scene and booked as evidence was the discarded shotgun barrel which had the prints from both suspects.


Yet another simple case.


 This report is good for a laugh and “made the rounds” for its suspect description.

The suspect was described as a black male in his mid-20’s, 6’5” to 6’6” tall with a slender build. He wore a blue bandana for a mask and sported a Jordan High School letterman’s jacket with the basketball logo “Tyrone 1961” embroidered over the left breast. 


Another simple case. 


This last story belongs to my partner and myself.


As the suspect was a “novice bandit,” he is referred to in this narrative as “NB.”

Iver_Johnson_Safety_Hammer_in_original_boxNB had obtained an antique .32 caliber revolver, either a Harrington and Richardson or an Iver Johnson. This revolver was a “break open” model and in order to load it, the barrel and the cylinder needed to be tilted forward. A small nut and bolt assembly served as the “hinge pin.”  This particular revolver, however, was missing this nut and bolt assembly and in its place was a bent nail. When NB had selected his victim, he produced this weapon, and somewhere between “stick ‘em up” and “oh s**t,” the nail fell out. Now, logic tells us that the fallen nail was followed by the barrel, followed by the cylinder, followed by all 5 rounds, leaving our hapless NB holding a gun butt with only a trigger and a hammer attached to what used to be a revolver. The victim then produced his own weapon and shot NB in the foot from about 8 feet away, a point-blank shot. After units went on scene, all they had to do was follow the blood drops to NB’s hiding spot that was located several blocks away in a bush. 


To quote the Russian/American comedian Yakov Smirnoff, “is this a great country or what?”



The Call Box

The Call Box: A Burglar’s Burglar

By Ed Meckle, Retired LAPD

lapd callboxFootpad, housebreaker, cracksman, 2nd story man—the list of slang names is endless.

Let me begin with a confession: I am not, repeat, not an expert on burglars. I probably know as much as the average street cop. There are those of you out there who have busted more burglars than I have written traffic tickets. So, this is not a lecture but a tale, The Tale of the Master Burglar, or the burglar’s burglar.

California penal code section 459 defines burglary (basically) as the entry into a building, room, etc. with the intent to commit theft or any felony. Remember this.

People are robbed—buildings are burglarized, thank you.

One of the perks of working Metro was the chance to attend any number of classes.

When Basic Investigators class was offered, I jumped. A week-long series of classes on “how to”, “where to find it” and “secret and sneaky sources”—great! One day the lecturer was Detective Dan Bowser (who was later to become my boss at Wilshire detectives and a longtime friend). It was the first time I heard the name Gordon E. Atterberry.

G.E.A. had been arrested only a year prior to the class I was attending so with the facts fresh in mind, Bowser talked for the full hour about this man. As I was to discover over the years Bowser was a great story teller but this one needed no embellishments.

We were on the edge of our seats the entire time. I wish I could remember more but these are some of the facts.

Atterberry was just 23 years old, slight and slender and had attended Wisconsin University where he majored in electronics, and made burglar alarms.

burglar alarmNothing more than “playthings.”

He was the ultimate cat burglar. He loved hi-end residences, mansions, fancy condos and town houses and almost preferred “working” while the occupants slept. In one instance, he not only disabled the alarm he stole it.

Later he recounted the home owner’s reaction to find the alarm gone. For the same reason, he would not only pilfer the pockets of the victims clothing while they snoozed nearby by, but on several occasions, took the car keys and then the car.

He had a wide variety of methods of entry from unlocked doors, windows to doggie doors. Later, he described the feelings while in the bedroom as a rush. He took money, jewelry, and anything of value he could turn over.

Then one late night he found a gun and badge on the dresser and admitted to a combination thrill/fear as the officer slept. He replaced everything carefully and left without taking anything.

burglar-committing-crime-vector-artHe worked mostly alone but sometimes with a small select crew. He ranged from San Diego to Bakersfield but preferred the San Fernando Valley plus Bel-Aire, Brentwood along with Beverly Hills.

He told of being chased any number of times by the police.  So he always tried to climb a tree.

He told detectives, “Cops look under things, they look behind things and between things but they don’t look up.”

When he was finally taken down it was due to a domestic dispute. What else?

Various detectives spent weeks driving him all over southern and central California while he pointed out his accomplishments. He had a fabulous memory and pointed out many victims who never knew they had been hit. Detectives found three apartments crammed with the loot that he had not sold off.

Detectives conservatively estimate he was “good for” a minimum of 150 plus burglaries.

He was to burglary what Babe Ruth was to baseball.






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