Street Stories The Call Box

The Call Box: Life on the Frontier

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

On the TV news recently, I watched as several black and whites along with some officers on foot attempted to herd escaped cattle in the middle of the night. While they played cowboy, I sighed thinking I had never had a call like that. 

I never chased a wayward horse, mule, donkey or even an old milk cow. I never went in pursuit of a sheep, goat, or even a fat old pig. 

 I did however remember two interesting animal calls.

“3-A-15, See the woman; unknown trouble.” Oh boy, let’s pause here for a second. When a person calls the police, the phone is usually answered by a sworn officer (depending on the size of the department) who attempts to determine the nature of the problem and whether to dispatch a car.

If the call comes out as “unknown trouble,” it means a trained officer was unable to determine the problem. Cops hate these calls. It could be anything from a cockroach in the bathtub to “I think there is an atomic bomb in my attic.”

crying-1299426__340The caller was at the curb when we arrived. The middle-aged housewife bounding up and down, crying and so worked-up she had the hiccups. We tried to calm her down and convince her she was safe and to tell us what the problem was. She gestured toward the house and finally said, “Snake.”

“OK, where?” I ask.

“Kitchen under the fridge.”

“How big?” 

She holds her hands approximately 20-24 inches apart.

I asked, “What kind?”

Her answer was an annoyed look and a shrug.

We all know Southern Calif is a desert and all I can envision is RATTLESNAKE. I am also aware that I never met a snake that I liked. I have no desire to cultivate a relationship with one now and do not intend to change my mind. 

 The house was a small WWII duplex—the kind that seem to be everywhere. She tells us the back door is unlocked so my partner and I decided to surround the critter, Frank in the back door to the kitchen. I went through the living room. Batons at the ready we entered the kitchen and there he was coiled in front of the refrigerator.

Copperhead? Cotton Mouth? Mamba? Rattler? or could it be a Fer de Lance?


garter snake
Garter snake

It is 10 inches of ferocious garter snake. The housewife provided a shoe box and after a short struggle, he was subdued. 

She refused to look so there was no discussion regards length. We released him with a stern warning at a nearby vacant lot.

Another chapter in the “Naked City” (sorry about that)


Another time:

“3-A-15 Choking Baby, FD (fire department) enroute, code three.” We were only a few minutes off and were there quickly. Front door was open, and we heard wailing from the rear.

Rott in back yardIn the back yard we see a woman trying to support the weight of a large dog who when attempting to jump to freedom, snagged his choke chain on the fence, and hanged himself. He appeared lifeless and the woman was unable to lift him high enough to get him down.

As we lay him on the lawn the FD arrives. Frank alerted them, and they brought a portable oxygen bottle. 

In a few minutes they had revived him. Everybody congratulated everybody, too emotional to speak.

It is my understanding the F.D. now carries small animal sized masks. 

Oh, and the dog’s name was “Baby.”





The Call Box

The Call Box: Vignettes


By Ed Meckle, Retired LAPD

** A word of warning: this vignette is graphic. If you can’t stand gruesome details, skip the fourth paragraph–although this will alter the impact of the story.**  

Read the second Vignette next Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Vignettes—are they funny, bizarre, ironic, poignant or maybe horrific? Why do some stories stay so vivid in our memories? Here are two that won’t go away…(look for the second one next week)

Ting-a-ling, ting-a ling

I am working a night watch radio car (3A15) with my partner Frank Isbell. It is late, nearing end of watch on a particularly dark night.

We get the call every copper dreads— “unknown trouble.” This means the person taking the call for the PD was unable to determine what the problem was. It could be anything from a cat up a tree to a multiple homicide. It’s the type of call that makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up.

The street is dark as is the house. The front door stands wide open. We talk for a moment on the sidewalk. It is decided I will check the back door before we go in. It is locked and shining my flashlight into the kitchen window shows me nothing. The front door opens into a large living room. As we enter I take the right half the room, Frank the left.  My half shows a doorway to the back of the house and a shotgun on the floor, far right.


Frank sweeps his light left. Then I hear his voice, saying softly, “Whoa.” Against the far left wall is a large overstuffed chair. In the chair is a young woman, legs sprawled, arms flung out, head back with the left upper side of her face missing. Her ear, eye, part of her nose and scalp are sprayed onto the wall behind her, blood spattered to the ceiling. We quickly search the rest of the house, empty, when—she moans.

Yes—it startled me.

I went to the car to request an ambulance and was met by a man standing in the street. “The guy who did the shooting is hiding behind that car over there and he has a rifle or a shotgun.”

While I waited watching the car I sent the citizen in to get my partner. Now. Quick plan: I would go to the rear of the car. He would take the front, careful of potential “crossfire.”

We could see a shadowy figure in a half crouch. And when I hit him with the light he was facing me holding a rifle muzzle down, half bent over trying to close the bolt.  (he had the wrong sized ammo and the rifle would not operate) I told him to drop the gun and he ignored me. To this day, I don’t know why didn’t not fire. Frank then appeared and told him in very colorful street terms what would happen if he didn’t drop the rifle.

He did.

He later told us he shot her because she had broken one of his favorite phonograph records, however he “loved” her so he shot her with the .20 gauge, rather than the heavier .12.

When she testified in court, she said she only remembered him pointing the gun at her. Then she heard bells, “Like you know, ting-a-ling, ting-a-ling.”

Ain’t love grand?



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