Ramblings by Hal

Ramblings, Hollywood Homicide and Sergeant Frank


By Hal Collier, LAPD Retired We are happy that 35-year veteran Hal Collier is sharing his ‘stories behind the badge’ with us.

The story you are about to read is true, the names have been changed to protect the embarrassed. The following story is a little grim so if you’re queasy skip down to the practical joke section.  Of course if you watch any of the Law & Order, CSI or Bones on TV during dinner, your already numb to blood and guts.


My partner’s name was Bob. I was working A.M. watch with Bob. Our field sergeant, Frank, was a department mistake. He was nice enough but he could screw up anything you were trying to accomplish. An example: I was at a homicide scene. We had the crime scene tape surrounding the area we were protecting. Sergeant Frank kept walking through the crime scene disturbing the evidence. I reminded Sergeant Frank that he was walking through our scene and he would smile, oblivious to the fact that he was destroying evidence. When the homicide detectives arrived at the scene he asked what I had. I briefed him on the death of a low-life Hollywood citizen and my idiot sergeant kicking shell casings around the crime scene. The detective told me, if he walks through the crime scene one more time the detective will book the Sergeant’s work boots as evidence. Fortunately for Frank, he wised up. Anyone who wants the sergeant’s name this will be a freebee. His fame is renowned to anyone who worked Hollywood at that time.


My partner, Bob, was no rookie, and he was an outstanding street cop. In fact Bob is now a Deputy Chief with the L.A.P.D. I’m sure it was working with me that allowed him to promote so high. We get a radio call of shots fired deep in the Hollywood Hills. Most “shots fired” radio calls are false. Some are fireworks, cars backfiring or no evidence of shots fired. These types of calls in the Hollywood Hills are also hard to locate the source. Because of the deep canyons and echo effects, loud party calls can be over a mile away. 


We drive into Laurel Canyon with our map book open. Even an experienced Hollywood cop needs the map book in the hills. We find the PR (person reporting). He tells us he was awakened by a loud gun shot. He goes on to tell us that he is a hunter and avid shooter, so he knows the difference. He stepped out on his front porch and he could smell fresh burnt gun powder. We assumed that our PR knew what he was talking about. He said he thought the sound came from across the street. He advised us that a divorced mother and her teen age son lived in the house. Bob and I approached the house. I’m going to have to describe the house—the front had a carport and a solid wall. No windows; to the right, there was a small walkway with an eight foot tall wooden gate. The other side of the gate was a pool area which had sliding glass doors that led into the house.


Bob and I approached, using the solid wall for cover. We both felt that the PR knew what he was talking about so we used caution. There wasn’t any outside light so we were using our flashlights. We inched along the wall toward the gate, all the time listening for sounds of danger. I was the senior officer and taking the lead. I looked down and observed an oval object, six inches in length, lying on the ground. I shined my flashlight on it and said to Bob, “What the hell is that”?  Bob gave me that, ‘well, you’re the senior officer’ look.  We both stood there for a minute, our minds racing, what was that? It looked like a piece of meat.


We looked around and spotted blood on the eves above our head. We inched closer and could see where something had been dragged back through the gate. There were blood scrapes. Ok, we have a crime scene. 


We were going to need additional officers and a supervisor.  For my non-police friends, your first concerns are, is someone injured and in need of medical help, or is there a suspect inside, possibly barricaded? We radio for additional officers and a supervisor. Yep, you guessed it, we have Sergeant Frank responding. Our only hope is that he gets lost trying to find us. Bob and I look at each other and think how can we keep him from screwing up our crime scene?  We formulate a plan on how to get inside the house without a detective booking our boots.


Our additional officers arrive and we make up a search team. Sergeant Frank is three streets away and lost. We direct him to our location. I brief Sergeant Frank and ask him to go to the PR’s house and call the Watch Commander. Sergeant Frank trots away. Bob and I conduct a search of the house. We had to go around to the other side of the house. We find a female dead just inside the gate. The top of her head was missing, yep, that was her brain outside. The suspect was gone. I go back out front and tell Sergeant Frank that we have a homicide. I tell him to notify the Watch Commander and Detectives. Sergeant Frank agrees and trots off. Bob says to me, you’re treating that sergeant like your puppet. I was just trying to let him keep his shoes.


The suspect was a boyfriend, got into an argument with the victim. She tried to call the police, he shot Ma Bell (telephone) and she ran outside and through the gate. He caught her by the arm and the gun went off. He flew to Florida but forgot his passport and couldn’t leave the country. He plead guilty to manslaughter.


Practical Joke


I was a sergeant at Hollywood and we had a female captain who was a real diamond. Everyone like her and I never heard a negative word about her. The station needed a paint job inside and the city performs the work. The trim around the door frames and windows was painted a maroon color. The rumor was that the captain picked out the color. Most of the cops figured this was the captain’s female touch to the station. She was getting a lot of ribbing about the color, and well you know I can’t pass up a chance to play a practical joke.  Every day, sergeants are required to turn in a log, informing the captain on the day’s happenings or concerns. Well, I got a sheet of maroon paper and printed out my sergeant’s log on it. I started out with a note to the captain that the paper color would go with the new station decor. I got my log back with a message from the captain.  “Very funny, Officer Collier”. 

Message received.

Ramblings by Hal

Ramblings: Foot Pursuit, part 2, Rules

By Hal Collier

The story you are about to read is true.  In my last Ramblings I talked about my worst foot pursuit.  If you remember, it involved slipping on ice plant, being clothes-lined, stepping in a rose bush and getting my hand smashed by the door of a police car.  I laugh when I watch cop shows on TV.  They are always running in good light, the cops take a short cut that leads to a tackle of the bad guy.  They never ruin a new uniform, which in the old days we paid for out of our own pocket.  The officers almost never lose a foot pursuit or get hurt and other police cars show up within seconds to assist.  All false.  The reality is that your often alone, running in the dark, through terrain that only a fool would attempt.

In my early years I was not a fast runner but I could run longer than a cheetah.  I would usually outlast the hypes and high school gym dropouts that I was chasing.  I used to brag that I never lost a foot pursuit.  That lasted about 6 years.  Then one night the inevitable happened.

My partner and I received a radio call of a car stripper in a car port.  We made the usual stealth approach, car lights out, radio turned down, car doors cracked.  As we approached the carport the suspect saw us.  He bolted southbound through the apartment buildings.  I’m confident that I’ll have him in custody in a short time.  I’m also sure that my partner, a heavy smoker, is right behind me.

We bound over a short wall behind the apartment building and run between two other apartments.  We zig zag between some parked cars as we cross the next street and run up the driveway of another apartment building.  He’s got a pretty good lead but I’ve never lost a foot pursuit.  I look over my shoulder–my partner is not behind me.  We run up a driveway and over another short fence.  I hear my partner; he’s in our car on the street we crossed ten seconds ago.  We cross another street and head up a driveway of a house.  In the back yard, the suspect jumps over a six foot wood fence.  As I approach the fence, I slip on something. I’ll bet it’s from a dog.  I get up and start to put my hands on the top of the fence.  I stop.  The fence is spiked with nails, all pointing up.  I’m not jumping over a fence with nails to catch a dirt bag that some judge will give probation as a sentence.  I’m either getting older or smarter.

My partner is one block north of me, as well as the helicopter and other policemen.  They’re looking for me.  This was before we had radios on our belts.  I look at the top of the fence, it’s got blood and some clothing stuck to the nails.  Ha, ha, he’ll pay for running from me.  For the next few weeks I looked at every dirt bag hands to see if he had puncture wounds.

I also had some foot pursuits that were pretty funny after they were over.  We’re responding to a radio call of a crazy man in the middle of Sunset Boulevard, west of La Brea.  We see him in the middle of the street.  We stop our police car in the middle of Sunset and order the nut to put his hands up.  I notice right away he’s a Democrat, because he gives us a one finger wave and runs northbound.  We broadcast that we’re in foot pursuit and chase him.  In the old days the only radio we had was attached to the car.

The suspect runs into a house–ok, not into the house like through a door but into the side of the house.  He bounces off the house, turns around and runs southbound down Formosa Avenue.  My partner is about ten feet behind me, another smoker.  The suspect goes about a hundred feet down the middle of Formosa and runs around a parked car and heads northbound.

He’s now heading right at my partner.  My partner swings his plastic flashlight at the suspect missing his head and hitting him on the shoulder.  My partner forgot his nightstick in the car.  The flashlight comes apart, I step on one of his batteries and land on my ass.  I’m pissed.  The suspect runs westbound through an alley behind a strip club which just happens to be letting out.

Ok, we’ve changed directions twice since my original broadcast.  I can hear the police cars and helicopter looking for us but they’re a block north of us.  I’m about thirty feet behind the bad guy and I see some patrons of the strip club.   I yell at them as I run past, “Call the police and tell them which direction we’re going.”  I hear one of them say, “Aren’t they the police?”  What do you expect from a guy coming out of a strip club in Hollywood?  The suspect runs southbound on Alta Vista on the sidewalk when I see something I’ve never seen before.  A guy in a Porsche pulls across the sidewalk blocking our suspect’s path.

The suspect makes a U-turn and runs right at me.  Ok, I have my nightstick.  I carried a 5 cell sportsman flashlight, good for light but not for hitting someone.  Kept me out of trouble that other officers got into that carried Kel-lites.   A Kel-lite was a metal flashlight which was sometimes used as a club.

As he nears me I raise my stick high and when he put his hands up to fight, I lower my stick and whack him across his legs just below the knees.  He goes down immediately.  We get him handcuffed and I look up to see the guy in the Porsche drive away. He’s giving us a thumbs up.

I look at my partner and ask “Who was that masked man?”  We walked our suspect back up to Sunset where a Sergeant says, “Where the hell have you been?”  He says you were supposed to be north of Sunset.  I look the Sergeant in the eye and tell him, “I guess our nut lost his script.”

That’s right he was crazy as a loon. You guess, if I’m talking about the Sergeant or the suspect.


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