Street Stories The Call Box

The Call Box: L.A. County General Hospital

By Ed Meckle, Retired LAPD

Opened in 1923, it was 20 stories of imposing granite and dominated the skyline in East L.A., 800 beds, the largest hospital west of Chicago. Its art deco interior gave the massive entry way a cathedral-like atmosphere. One of the largest public and teaching hospitals in the U.S. it also trained military doctors in trauma (gunshot wound) care. 

L.A. was able to supply plenty of those. One million ambulatory cases and 150,000 E.R. patients annually. Appearing in numerous TV shows and movies, it has, since 1975, been the “establishing shot of T.V.’s General Hospital. 

LA County General Hospital

A portion of the 13th floor was constructed as a jail ward, 50 beds for ill or injured prisoners. Run by the county it was officially “L.A. County General Hospital,” known in the medical community as, “The Great Stone Mother.” By the cops, it was, “County Generous.”

I was there that day with my partner Richard L Sullivan (Sully). We were detective sergeants assigned to Wilshire, Robbery Detail and there to interview/interrogate a bandit shot during a holdup. The questioning should’ve been brief—no more than 10-15 minutes. 

A word about Sully who has been my subject of stories several times in the past. Among his many attributes, besides being a very good detective, he was a world class practical joker. He would be my friend for 50-plus more years.

Most of the beds were filled but the nurses were nowhere in sight. As I finished my interview, I turned just in time to catch him as he pulled the sheet up over the face of the prisoner sleeping in the next bed. The prisoner’s head was back, mouth open, and snoring softly. 

Hospital ward

As we left, I retrieved my weapon, thanked the deputy who was reading a magazine and went straight to the elevator. Without any consultation I knew my role. Sully also picked up his gun and engaged the deputy in small talk until the elevator arrived. As I held the elevator door he said casually to the deputy, “Did you know you got a dead guy in there?”

The deputy scrambled as the door closed behind us. 

On the ride down, still the picture of innocence, he said, “The sad part is I never get to see the end of things like that.”

Another time, still Wilshire Detectives Robbery—

Sully had a middle-aged female victim of a robbery who, after having a gun stuck in her face was understandably reluctant and frightened about the pending line-up. Not in the least bit stymied, he convinces the somewhat cooperative and not terribly bright holdup man to identify the victim—a reverse line-up.

It played like this:             

The victim was on the far side of the room with several other women.

Robber was led in.

Sully: Do you see anyone in this room you recognize?”         

Robber: “Yes, that lady there.”

Sully: “How do you know her?”

Robber: “I robbed her.”

Sully: “Do you have anything to say to her?”

Robber: “Yeah lady, I’m sorry I robbed you and scared you with the gun.”

Imagine how powerful her testimony would sound in court when she related the above.

And that was just a very, very little bit of Sully.

The Call Box

The Call Box: Another Deuces Wild

By Ed Meckle, Retired LAPD

Several more years have passed and I am working with my sometimes partner, Billy Tibbs.

We are in East L.A., an area unfamiliar to either of us, working a narcotics round-up with dozens of teams throughout the city with arrest warrants for dealers.

We are at Hazzard Park, a known hang-out for our two suspects. We have backed off quite a distance and we are using binoculars hoping to spot our targets. Off in the distance, I see a vehicle on Mission Road headed our way.

I call Billy’s attention to it. “Notice anything unusual about it, partner?”

“Well, if you ignore the eight to ten foot piece of telephone pole protruding from the right rear wheel well, the fact it’s doing 20 mph and that it’s on fire—why, nothing unusual at all.”

The very last thing we want to do is “get involved” with a deuce and call attention to ourselves, but we really don’t have a choice. We request a radio car and fire department then we stop the deuce right by the park.

Now the fun begins. He will not pull to the curb but leaves the car in the middle of the street. When he gets out, he is one of the drunkest and biggest people I have ever seen up close—that I’m going to arrest—6’5” or 6’6”, close to 300 pounds, with muscles going to fat.

Billy takes him by the elbow to lead him to the curb when he decides he wants to play. He grabs 5’9” Billy by the throat and tries to lift him off the ground. My sap is out and as I was behind him, I smack him a good shot behind the right ear.

He lets go of Billy, turns to look at me, blinks and makes a grab for me. Billy was on his back like a lion on a water buffalo and I had the impression the drunk wasn’t even aware Billy was there.

The three of us danced for a while, when he suddenly decided he was tired and wanted to sleep. It was only when the fire department arrived that he realized his car was fully engulfed.

As it turns out (and to our pleasure) instead of a radio car, we got the accident unit (T-Car) which had been investigation the missing telephone pole and several hit-and-runs. We were more than happy to give him our deuce.

We never did find our narc suspects. Do you suppose something spooked them?