Street Stories When Pigs Fly

When Pigs Fly

By Ron Corbin, retired LAPD, LVMP

LAPD Bell 206 Jetranger

Can You Say…Guilty Conscience?

I was flying Air-3 one day, which basically had responsibility for everything south of the Hollywood Hills and the Mulholland-Sepulveda Pass. Of course, even with responsibility for assistance to 12 patrol divisions, most of our calls involved those over Southwest, Newton, and 77th St Divisions. These three divisions were generally considered “South LA”, and were some of the busiest for active police work in all of the 17 divisions that were in LAPD’s’ jurisdiction at that time.

Southwest was originally known as University Division since the USC campus resided in the northeast corner of the area. It consisted of a potpourri of cultures, Asian, White, Black, and Hispanic. And each had their gang influence. 77th St Division was infamous for the 1966 Watts Riots and demographics that made it a “hotbed” for police work. Newton Division was known as “Shootin’ Newton”, and was famous for the Black Panther Shootout in 1969, and the SLA Shootout in 1974.

While slowly patrolling the skies over downtown LA, my observer and I monitored a radio call of a “211 Just Occurred” at a liquor store in Newton’s area, with the dispatcher giving a brief follow-up description of armed robbery suspect and his last direction seen running from the store. The suspect was a light-skin Black male, approximately 6’5, and had red hair. Oh, and to disguise his identity, he wore a red bandana over his face (sounds kind of silly to be that race, that tall with red hair, and attempt to hide your face, don’t you think? Just ADC- Another Dumb Criminal)

 My observer responded via the radio that we were en route for aerial assistance. I banked the aircraft and headed southbound at VNE (pilot talk for maximum allowed airspeed for that particular aircraft) toward the scene, calling LAX ATC (Air Traffic Control) for clearance to enter their TCA (Terminal Control Area). This was necessary due to the fact that our call was going to be under the flight path of the large commercial jets approaching both west runways for landing. Our little helicopter would be no match for a jumbo jet, and a midair would make a bad day for everyone. Even causing a passenger-filled commercial airliner to have to make a “go-around” because of our air space intrusion would certainly generate (at the least) an angry phone call to Chief Ed Davis. However, following MOUs with FAA, LAX controllers worked well with us ASD (Air Support Division) pilots in our priority needs.

Arriving over the general area of the crime area and since ground units were already on the scene, we began a wide orbit several blocks from the incident, searching backyards and anyone running. It’s amazing how well you can see physical descriptions, clothing colors, and certain distinctive patterns of people from 500 feet above the ground, our standard altitude for orbit.

It didn’t take long for my observer, who was using gyro-stabilized binoculars, found the suspect. He was trying to “blend in” with the people on the street. But it was easy for us since we could not see another 6’5″ Black male with red hair and a red bandanna neckerchief tied around his neck…at least for miles around in our bird’s eye view.

While the observer was directing ground units to close-in and make an arrest, I thought that I could “buy some time” and maybe not cause the suspect run, which meant a foot pursuit for our officers. I activated the PA system and yelled, “You’re Under Arrest! Get On The Ground”!

Wow! Was I surprised when not only our suspect complied, but 6-7 other people also immediately dropped to the ground with their arms prone-out to their sides. (Hmmm, maybe I should have been a little more specific to my person-of-interest.)

Possibly I just located several crime suspects and cracked a bunch of unsolved cases, or these individuals had been through the process before. In either case, when the first officers drove up, they looked confused to see several individuals lying on their stomach ready to be searched and cuffed. My observer was laughing hysterically as he directed the ground officers to the right suspect.

As the Code-4 was broadcast, we left ground officers to explain and pacify those other citizens who had apparently had guilty consciences about something else.

“We turned and flew off into the sunset on our blue and white steed. I just wish that I could have left a silver bullet for those to ponder… Who were those guys in the air?”

The Call Box

The Call Box: Learning to Detect

polic-call-box-pedestal-lapd-gamewell-DCAL2786_dt1By Ed Meckle, Retired LAPD                                                    June 3, 2018

The year was 1959, the Dodgers playing at the coliseum are about to start a world series. I was newly assigned to Metro Division and on a one-month training loan to Newton Detectives, (nicknamed Shootin’ Newton). My partner, mentor is Sergeant Bill Pinkston (Pinkie). His specialty was Business Burglary. He was an old timer and very good at what he did. 

He never lectured. I just watched, listened and learned. 

In area, Newton is one of the smallest divisions, just South and East of downtown L.A. What it lacks in size it makes up for in crime. The area contained the usual residential and small businesses however the entire East side was warehouses, loading docks and light manufacturing. 

One morning “Pinkie” handed me an evidence report regarding a recovered firearm taken in one of “his” burglaries in 1948. He told me if I wanted to be a detective, I should detect. “Find the owner,” he said, then left to go to court.  

I assumed by now the owner/victim would be gone and I was correct. He had been a broker for a meat packing company and neither he nor the company were any longer there. The new tenants had no information but one of the neighboring business men remembered him. Said he left/retired and moved East. He did recall that he had a son who sold real estate. 

The California State Real Estate Board had only one person with that last name and he was my guy. He remembered his father’s burglary and gave me his number in “Sun City” or whatever. The conversation went something like this:


Charter_Arms_BulldogVictim: Hello         

Me: This is Detective Ed Meckle, LAPD. I would like to speak to Mr. “Victim.” 

Victim: Speaking, how can I help you?       

Me: We recovered your gun

Victim: (silence)         

Me: Hello?       

Victim: What gun?         

Me: The one you reported stolen in 1948. 

Victim: You found it?     

Me: Yes Sir, we have been working the case full time for the last 11 years and finally found it. 

Victim: Tell me you are kidding.   

Me: O.K. I’m kidding.

Victim: I thought things like this only happened in the movies. 

I released the gun to the son.


Pinkie had an interesting habit of jotting down names/DOBs (dates of birth)/and drivers licenses numbers of selected people we talked to during the day. When we went back to the office at end of shift, he would go off to do other paper work while I called R&I to “run” everyone on the list. I called records and identifications division to check them for felony wants or warrants. Usually the list numbered 20-25 people. 

This one evening I told him as follows: 

“Remember the skinny old guy with the eye patch from the flophouse on Central? Well, he is wanted for escaping from a prison train in Texas in 1929. How about that! Want to go pick him up?” 

Pinkie thought for a few seconds. “Let’s get him in the morning.”

At the boarding house the next morning, the landlord said. “I bought this place in 1945 right after the war. He was living here then. When you guys left yesterday you were barely out of sight and he was packed and gone. Damnedest thing—he lived in that one room for who knows how long.”

And like a wisp of smoke from an old fashioned locomotive, he was gone.




The Call Box

The Call Box: Shootin’ Newton and 77th Street

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


Back in the day, LAPD was divided into 12 geographical divisions.

The two with the highest crime rate were Newton Street, aka: Shootin’ Newton and 77th Street. As a Metro officer, I spent a lot of time in both and as a new patrol sergeant, I was assigned to 77th.

Remember the hand-drawn single panel puzzles in the back of some magazines? How many items/errors can you find etc.? There would be an upside down three-legged dog in the tree sort of thing. For some reason those always made me think of 77th. So much going on sometimes you didn’t know where to look. Sometimes it was right in front of you.

For a street cop it was like being a kid in a candy store. It was a place where the bizarre and unusual were the norm.

gun-on-groundThis is in the heart of Watts, an area of extreme violence. There was still some daylight left on arrival and we find a male on the sidewalk, deceased of gunshot wounds. His gun surprisingly was still in his hand. About 8 to 10 feet away was a considerable pool of blood indicating the deceased probably wounded his killer. The blood trail, heavy therefore very visible lead north on the sidewalk.

Leaving one team with the body to await detectives, two officers and I follow the spoor north on foot. One half block later, it turned left/west into an alley.

Still heavy bleeding.

Several hundred feet more—another blood trail from a north to south alley crossed ours. The blood looks fresh and now we are having a “what the hell is going on moment?” One of the officers with me stated that as we were leaving roll call, someone mentioned a shooting “up there,” pointing north. The officers were still at that scene and the “new” blood was probably theirs. At the next street our trail ended when our shooter entered a car.

Back at the scene, the missing shooter now has a name. A follow up took us to his residence, where his wife said, “Whenever he gets shot he always goes to County General Hospital.”

”Whenever he gets shot???” Honestly that’s what she said. He was found later passed out from loss of blood after a minor traffic accident. Whenever he gets shot. Don’t yah just love it?



Highland Park LAPD now museum
Highland Park Police Station in Los Angeles now a museum operated by Los Angeles Police Historical Society (LAPHS) in conjunction with the Museum of the Arroyo (MOTA). This is very typical of a “front desk” at police stations of the era. Photo by Kansas Sebastian


I cannot verify the following but heard the story several times attributed to the same officer, knowing him I can believe it.


At the 77th, late night and the officer (an old timer) is working the front desk. Into the lobby came a man and woman followed by an older male holding them at gunpoint.

Rather than confront him by drawing his own weapon the officer speaks very quietly. The older man lays the gun on the floor.

Both “captives” are wearing only sheets. The woman nude except for panties, the male, only shaving lotion.

It seems the man with the gun came home at an inopportune moment and discovered his wife and her “friend” in “flagrante delicto.” Rather than shoot them, he had them wrap up in the offending sheets (evidence, don’t you know) and brought them in for the law to deal with.  The officer then had the unenviable task of giving him the bad news.

Just another normal day at 77.


The end, thank you

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