Street Stories The Call Box

The Call Box: Lady Hamilton

This installment of Ed Meckle’s recollection of this particular case is longer than most, but worth the read, I promise you. Knowing there are policemen and women like him out there who strive for victim’s justice is consoling. –Thonie

By Ed Meckle, Retired LAPD

Before I begin let me apologize for the lapses in my story. Time has taken the victim’s and suspect’s name together with the street name. I remembered my partner and (irony) name of the bar. Timewise the best I can do is a hot weekend in 1966/67. 

I thought about this for a long time before sharing. In the past I have begun many of my stories with, “most officers do this” or “a lot of them do that.” But here I tread carefully and can only speak for myself and hope others feel as I do. 

No matter how much time you have on the job, how much experience, or how cynical you think you are I hope that somewhere maybe deep down you did something “special” that stands out in your mind; that you occasionally remember that special thing or things. Maybe you don’t talk of it but there are incidents you can really be proud of, when everything came together, the stars aligned, and luck was in your corner. And you thought “damn, that’s why I became a cop. That’s what it’s all about.” I really hope you have it, because I have one I want to share with you.

I take pride in the fact I never held a staff job. No graphs, no crayons, no colored pencils, no calculators, just street time out where the wild things are.

I am one of approximately forty-five detectives assigned to Wilshire Division and one of six working robbery. About every tenth week I catch weekend duty with three others. If it is a quiet shift you can catch up on your paperwork, watch a game on TV, play cards or just snooze. This was not to be one of those.

It was a hot holiday Sunday and just after noon when a phone call comes in from a radio car at the scene of a homicide. As the senior sergeant I am de facto watch commander. There are no homicide detectives among the four of us. 

I take the call along with Sergeant Jim Horkan. I knew him from Metro, never as a partner but he was a good street cop, former Cleveland P.D. and like myself a former marine (this will become a factor).

The scene is a well-kept, unremarkable, three-story brownstone in the 900 block just north of Olympic. As far as we can determine the entire populous of the building were elderly retired singles and couples. 

Our victim was third floor rear and discovered when a neighbor saw her open door. At this point in my career, I had handled two homicides, both related to street robberies, one successfully and one not.

I remember as a uniform at a homicide scene I watched the detective carefully place a kitchen chair in the crime scene and sit without moving for about ten minutes. Nobody had to tell me was burning every detail into his memory. 

Our victim was female, 80+ and had lived alone. She is in a supine position slightly to the right as you enter. Feet toward the door. Her simple house dress with button front has been ripped open. Her bra pulled above her breasts, panty hose pulled down and inside out still clinging to her right foot. 

Her hands were at her sides palms down, head turned to the left, legs 12-14 inches apart. There appears to be blood and skin under her fingernails. A dime-sized crescent shaped wound was between her eyes. She had been strangled and later tests would show raped. (D.N.A. then stood for “does not apply”) 

The rooms were what I suppose you would call an “efficiency” apartment—one large room doubles as living/bedroom. Bath to left, small kitchen to the right. 

The apartment appears to have been quickly searched, drawers open, items scattered. Notable is an empty watch box, home to a “Lady Hamilton.” Back in the day, watches especially ladies, came in large ornate boxes resembling clam shells. They were so fancy you did not throw it out even though it had no secondary use. 

The watch was gone. 

The residents tell us she was very proud of the watch, receiving it along with a plaque (hanging on the wall) when she retired from the Department of Water and Power in 1949. 

Along with a couple of uniforms we did a canvas and determined a stranger had been in the building not long before she was found. Described as early to mid-20s, husky and appeared intoxicated, he had walked into one apartment and approached a lone woman. Leaving when her husband appeared, he had also knocked on several doors and tried to talk his way inside without being obvious. Here was a promising person of interest. 

I got to thinking about the intoxication angle and told Jim I was going to play a hunch. I walked the 100 or so yards to the corner where stood a bar, the Jade Room. As luck would have it, I had on occasion, enjoyed a cool refreshing beverage or two. 

The only person present was the female owner/bartender with whom I was acquainted. Like waitresses/manicurists/beauticians everywhere bartenders are good witnesses, observant and good listeners.

“Yes, he was here. Drank Oly beer from the ice tub.” The ice water put any chance of prints from the bottle to rest.

Your impression, I asked?

“A sailor from Oklahoma.” 

I shared this with Jim and as former service members we knew where he would be heading on a Sunday afternoon. While I wrapped the scene up Jim took a radio car and went straight to the bus depot downtown. 

Standing in line to board a San Diego-bound bus was a tall husky 20-something sailor. He wore a ring with a crescent shape, had scratches on his face and a Lady Hamilton watch in his pocket. Hello.

At the station he admitted everything except for being in the victim’s apartment. He had no answer for the watch in his pocket. 

I was in before daylight the next day to talk to the Hamilton people at their Pennsylvania H.Q. when they opened.

  • The watch in his pocket had been sent to a local jewelry store in 1949 (good)
  • The store was no longer in business (bad)
  • By noon we had the owner’s phone number in Sun City, Arizona (good)
  • The son answered the phone; dad died some time ago and all sales records, serial numbers, etc. are long gone (bad)

Before hanging up the son actually said, “I thought things like this only happened in the movies.” 

The victim’s fingernail scrapings turned out to be consistent with human skin, beard stubble and blood but were not conclusive. There was trace blood in the ring, not enough to type. The lab however made a nice overlay match with the ring and the head wound. 

We borrowed five watches from Sears next door and did a “show up” with her friends and neighbors.  “It looks like it but I can’t be sure.” “Maybe it could be but…” Not a lot of help. 

We had to go to the D.A. soon for filing and still could not nail the watch down.

Think dammit, think. Ok the neighbors said the watch was a retirement gift from D.W.P. in 1949 right? Longshot but nothing to lose.

At the D.W.P. Personnel counter, her file had been retrieved from the archives and does not, repeat does not, contain the receipt for the purchase of the watch.

Last chance. “Was there a luncheon or some sort of formal presentation?”

“Yes, a luncheon.”

“Was there a photographer?”

“Yes, there was.”

“Thank you, Jesus.” There in the file were at least two photos of her holding her watch up for the camera.

L.A.P.D. Photo lab blew up the negatives as much as possible without losing context. Looked good.

Well folks, that was our case and the District Attorney (DA) filed murder one. We were also assigned a “special DA” Marsh Goldstein, whom I knew and respected. Special DA meant he would shepherd the case personally to conclusion.

We were assigned a liberal female judge who hated cops and would toss a case at the drop of a comma. Normally you would put on a “bare bones case” at the preliminary hearing. just enough to hold the defendant.

We gave them everything and hold him we did. Several months later Marsh called and asked if I had any problem with a murder one plea from the public defender’s office if the DA took the death penalty off the table. I thought it was a fine idea.

The public defender’s office very seldom pleads to murder one.

Somewhere I remember reading or hearing an old homicide cop who said something memorable…

                                                   “We speak for the dead.”

The Call Box

The Call Box: Two Short But True Stories

polic-call-box-pedestal-lapd-gamewell-DCAL2786_dt1By Ed Meckle, Retired LAPD

In May of 2016 when Thonie agreed to give my tales a chance I realized that with a fading memory it would be best to create a list of story ideas as they would occur to me. My handwriting has deteriorated so over the years that when I went to examine the list I got one of three results.

1) I think that will make a good story

2) What the hell was I thinking ?

3) What the devil is “finat whreps snangle”?

Moving my list to the computer helped along with using complete words.

diceHere then are two completely unconnected events in the life and times of Ed Meckle.

Working vice was a real blast. Plain clothes after time in uniform was a little strange but good partners along with a fun assignment made coming to work a pleasure. As the newest guy on the detail I got all the “interesting” jobs, like going through bedroom windows in the middle of the night.

Assigned primarily to gambling enforcement meant arresting “illegal gamblers.” Finding the games was easy. We had a list of regular locations and tips were plentiful. Games usually held in private homes, were so noisy they could be heard a block away. One of us (me) would gain quiet entry to the house and open the door for my partners.

On this occasion I was in plain clothes, going through a back-bedroom window about six feet off the ground. The hour was late and the light in the room was very dim. They boosted me up and as I went through I lost my balance. I fell about 2-3 feet landing on a bed on top of a sleeping male.

Now stop for a moment and think what your reaction would be under these circumstances. I know mine but that’s not what I got.

Sitting bolt upright, he said, “DAMN OFFICER, YOU SCARED ME HALF TO DEATH.”


bus stop silhouettesI have tried to be as circumspect as possible with what follows out of respect for any female readers.


I was working Metro with my regular partner Frank Isbell and we were in uniform in a black and white, assigned to some daytime detail or another in Hollywood.

We were east bound on Hollywood Boulevard crossing Cahuenga. Frank was driving. On the southeast corner was a bus bench occupied by three people with another half dozen standing behind them.

The center person on the bench was a twenties something male with a bouncing newspaper on his lap, head back and eyes closed.

I said, “Bus bench.”

Frank replied, “Got it.”

Three right turns brought us north on Cahuenga to Hollywood. We parked, approaching on foot. Paper was still bouncing, and he still was unaware of our presence.

One of us removed the newspaper. Here goes—he was having carnal knowledge of a cantaloupe. {honest, that’s the best I could do, people}

At the station, we had to admit we don’t have a victim, so he goes to jail for traffic warrants.

I can just hear Hal saying, “OK, so what did he do wrong? This is after all Hollywood!”

The Call Box

The Call Box: Random Thoughts

By Ed Meckle, Retired LAPD

polic-call-box-pedestal-lapd-gamewell-DCAL2786_dt1Any copper’s career is made up of many, many hundreds of moments frozen in time, some memorable for one reason or another and some gone as they occur.

I have tried to take note of as many as I can remember as they come back to me. Here, then, are two.

I was a police officer assigned to Metro on a training loan to Juvenile, working alone I am seated with the Vice Principal (VP) in her office at a local high-school about to interview a grand theft suspect. 

Th student is sullen and given to one-word answers or shrugs and I am getting nothing. 

He finally asks, “Why are you accusing me? You don’t have no evidence of nothing.”

Bluffing, I ask, “How about your finger prints?”

“I never been arrested, and nobody ever took my fingerprints so how could you think they was mine?”

Where this thought came from I will never know but I said, “You were born in a hospital, weren’t you?”

He shrugged.


He nodded—yes.

Ok. “Ever see your birth certificate?”

No answer.

Inkedbirth cert_LI“Well, if you had you would have seen that little baby footprint they put on there.”

No comment.

“That footprint is the same as your fingerprint.”

The VP gave me a “What in the hell are you talking about look?”

My frown and shake of my head silenced her.

Sometime later he stated he might have been there and might have touched something.

The VP just rolled her eyes and gave me the tiniest of smiles.


revolver-982973_960_720Many, many years later after I retired I received a phone call from a man who had done some handyman work for me years before. Remembering I had been a police officer he wondered if he could ask my advice regarding a problem.

He lived on the second floor of an apartment building in a small nearby town and while seated at his kitchen table cleaning his legally owned handgun noticed what he took to be rust spots on the barrel.

Knowing he could see them better in the sunlight rather than under artificial light, he stepped onto his balcony, held the gun up and examined it.

At that precise moment a woman across, the way saw him and did what some women are prone to do—screamed at the top of her lungs then ducked back inside her apartment. 

Hearing the screams but not seeing the woman, unnerved him to the point of ducking back inside his own apartment wondering what had just happened. Should he go back and check? Does the woman need help? Should he call the police? What to do?

The decision was made for him when he heard sirens, the sounds of running feet, shouts and then the whomp, whomp of a helicopter.

After a few minutes of silence, he opened his door to find a police officer, gun drawn, crouched close by. 

“Get back inside,” the officer commanded.

“What’s wrong,” he asked.

“Stay inside. There’s a man brandishing a gun on the loose in the building.”

I gave him the advice he needed to get his gun back.


The Call Box

The Call Box: Gas Pains

polic-call-box-pedestal-lapd-gamewell-DCAL2786_dt1By Ed Meckle, Retired LAPD

Tear Gas: [definition] A solid liquid or gaseous substance that on dispersion in the atmosphere irritates mucous membranes resulting in blinding of the eyes with tears, used chiefly in dispelling mobs.

Okay, so everyone knows what tear gas is right? Well, yes and no. You know what it is but unless you have been subjected to its use, you can never really appreciate the effect it has upon the body. How it removes any desire to continue your present activities.

Three years USMC plus two reserves, LAPD academy, plus five Metro years has given me more than a nodding acquaintance. I heard the lectures, gave the lectures, been gassed, gassed others, watched film and demonstrated its use.

However, I had never seen it used under actual field conditions, until this night.

I was assigned to Metro and was on my way home at end of watch. It was probably somewhere between 0100 and 0200 hours. I lived close to downtown and always tried to use surface streets at that hour. Any morning watch copper can verify that the streets are usually strangely quiet and empty—almost otherworldly—a science fiction movie and you are the last person on earth.

I awakened from my reverie when an overtaking black and white blew by me code three. Seconds later, it was followed by a second, then a minute later, a third.

I stopped, rolling down all the windows to listen. The air was filled with sirens. Something big was going down and I wanted to be there.

Westlake_Shopping_Center_3I caught the last car and followed him to the action. As I got close, I heard sporadic gunfire. The scene was an old-fashioned shopping center. Two blocks of older two-story business buildings, glass storefronts, with second floor living quarters, and flat tar-paper roofs. The street was filled with 12-15 black and whites with officers crouched behind them. The sharp smell of tear gas hung in the air.

I parked about a block away and walked in. No challenge. I am in civvies, so I hang my badge, but didn’t draw even a glance.

The center of attention is a second floor, corner apartment at the far end of the block. A police search light was set up mid-block and focused on the windows fronting the street. The rest of the block was an unreal collection of light and shadow. An expended tear gas canister lay on the sidewalk below the window.

At this point I assumed a barricaded suspect as I was at the wrong end of the block and too far away to get involved. I picked a good spot and settled in to watch.

Behind the light, a sergeant with a bull horn talked to the suspect. Then the suspect suddenly appeared and fired two quick shots at the light. By the time the officers reacted, he was gone but “what the hell.” They volleyed 2-3 rounds each.

Have you ever seen an action movie where a machine gun fires dozens of rounds and strikes a house in slow motion? Amazed, I watched as glass shattered and window sills splintered. I could almost hear the old building moaning.

This scene plays out a few more times with the same results.

I was out of the line of fire when the suspect shot so I wasn’t worried about my safety. Not so the officers. Several are around the corner shooting at the side window and there have been several ricochets.

Tear gas launcherI watched the window screen fall half off, the gutter downspout shot away and a piece of tar paper flutter to the ground. About the time I wonder what could happen next, I hear the deep throated thomp of the teargas gun. The sound was unmistakable as the stubby barrel launched a “flight right” grenade. It looked like a small rocket. As it cleared the barrel, fins snapped into place to stabilize flight. The round was well aimed and went through the window.

We wait. Gas drifts from the window. No suspect.

Two officers with gas masks enter and then returned quickly, holding up four fingers. “Code four,” all over.

in those days, things were done in a more casual manner. This was before SWAT. No one had ever heard of “fire discipline” and officer involved shooting teams were in the future.

As a result, half the cars were gone within five minutes.

I figured I would find out the results when I went to work that night.

I did: twenty-five to thirty officers fired several hundred rounds at the suspect with zero hits.

Then, a sergeant fired one round from a teargas gun. It struck and killed the suspect. Killed by something that looked like a Buck Rogers toy rocket ship.

Go figure.

The Call Box

The Call Box: Park Funnies

By Ed Meckle, Retired LAPD

polic-call-box-pedestal-lapd-gamewell-DCAL2786_dt1It is early morning, February 4, 2018, Super Bowl Sunday.  I have just finished reading of Mikey’s park adventures with a nature lover. I was reminded of several park funnies.

Mikey, you get the credit or blame for this column.

Three as an officer and two years a sergeant at Metro supplied me with a few stories.

At that time, it was custom to recap a concluded assignment at roll call. The people in on the pinch got to tell the story, sort of bragging rights.

I did not work this detail but got the story there.

The “Baby Doll Flasher” was terrorizing the horse trails in Griffith Park.

191px-Pink_filmy_baby_dollWearing only a baby doll nighty and a baseball cap (very fashionable) he targeted only female riders. Singles or in groups, it made no difference to him. He leapt from the bushes, shouted some obscenity, flashed the riders and disappeared back into the brush where they could not follow. Several spooked horses, thrown riders and complaints brought Metro onto the scene.

Four or five camo’ed officers with binoculars found vantage points to watch the trail while another unit watched the parking lots.

Well concealed lying under a bush, one of the camo’ed/binoc’ed officers was unexpectedly joined by another camo’ed person with binocs. He greeted the officer with, “Hi, do you come here often?” Very original.

The officer told him he preferred to “work alone.”

“Baby Doll” quit working and the stakeout was pulled. He resumed several months later but the time off must have affected his timing. A reared horse knocked him down and he was arrested.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA



High in Elysian Park were some isolated areas where once a year we had tear gas drill. Wind at our back for obvious reasons—the gas would drift into the bushes and flush numerous “nature lovers.”


LAPD Daily Occurrence Log


Back in the day, the P.D. published a “Daily Occurrence” log known as the D.O. sheet, listing all serious crimes within the last 24 hours. Interesting reading which allowed you to know what the rest of the P.D. was up to.


Lesser known was the “Sex D.O. sheet,” also interesting.

This is from that sheet.

There was at the time an active pervert known as “The Naked Gun.” This was 25 years before Leslie Nielsen and the movie of the same name.

Unencumbered by a nighty, he was totally naked except for a baseball cap (what’s with the hats?) and armed with a large, loud handgun. He was a late-night window peep and when he saw an undressed woman or couple making love he watched until he was overcome with passion. He would then scream something and fire the gun into the air several times scaring the hell out of everyone in the area.

He was arrested by a radio car when he had trouble explaining his unusual costume and sidearm.

The Call Box

The Call Box: Daydreaming in Copland

By Ed Meckle, Retired  LAPD

What follows is a collection of random thoughts, of people, places and things. No rhyme or reason, just remembering…

River Dwellers

I am a policeman working Metro with my regular partner, Frank Isbell. This night, we are working the streets, plain clothes patrol. We have seen a bulletin for a suspect wanted for multiple murder up north in what was then called a “hobo jungle.” He had killed a group of his fellow vagabonds and was believed headed to L.A., where he had, in the past, frequented the encampments under the bridges crossing the L.A. River.

We enlisted another Metro team, Paul Franey and Dave McGill, and we “worked” as many bridges as we could. We started in Glendale (north of L.A.). Working our way down river on opposite sides of the river after agreeing to stay abreast of each other for cover.




For those of you not familiar with the area, a major flood in 1938 brought the Army Corp of Engineers who cemented in the entire basin and turned the riverbed into a large bathtub-like structure with gently sloping sides and a flat drag-strip type center line.


The river—if you could call it that—was confined to a 6-foot-wide channel that for most of the year was only a few inches deep. Entry to the river was through one of several obscure tunnels.


Driving from bridge to bridge was on a smooth cement “roadway.” We would park under the bridge and climb up the slope to the underside. Once at the top and now truly under the bridge was a “shelf,” 10-12 feet wide allowing for ample living room. There was also enough head room for a 6-foot person to stand upright without stooping.

What surprised me was their separate world as it existed. I knew that people lived under some of the bridges but had no idea how many. There were only a few locations where we found only few cardboard boxes and blanket scraps. Almost every bridge, and (we checked probably 15-18) contained everything from small communes to complete villages. The items that found their way to the camps were impressive: rugs, bedsteads, mattresses, tables, chairs, couches, overstuffed arm chairs, camp stoves, lamps and lanterns, BBQ’s, dresser drawers, ice chests and at two locations, generators.

We showed the mug shot and talked to a lot of people and although I would love to tell you we captured him, no such luck. As I remember, he was caught up in Kern County.

What impressed me the most about the whole episode was the ingenuity of the people and their ability to survive. We estimated the population at several hundred living right under our noses without us having a clue.

Something else to consider: this was about 1960. Now fifty-seven years later the problem has multiplied and is in our faces.

A Little Street Music

Around the same time period Frank and I are on the streets, still working plain clothes patrol. As we drive up, we see the aforementioned Franey and McGill standing on a street corner talking to a group of four young men. Actually nobody is talking, the group of four is—singing!!

I am now at a stage in my life where nothing surprises me but I have to know what’s going on.

We ask Franey and McGill, “What’s up?”

Says they, “We spotted them cruising a side street, said they were a singing group looking for the address to their gig. We said, ‘prove it.’ So, now they are auditioning. Pretty darn good, aren’t they?”

Don’t anybody ever try to tell me that the job can’t be fun and as Hal Collier says, “They pay us, too.”







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