So I’m heading north on one of our state highways, some cool Miles Davis bop playing smooth in the car, just chilling and trying to decide on a plan for my patrol night.
But the guy coming at me?
He’s blowing a hard 109 miles an hour.
“Whoa fuck,” I said, ’cause I’m a brilliant conversationalist.
Surprised the crap out of me. I’ve had speeders before, and even people scooting quicker than 100. But I never really expect to see something like that. So I click the radar off and then back on, just to double check, and I do get a different reading.
This time he’s only banging 108 miles an hour.
Okay…well…now it’s a logistical question. Do I stop him or not? Nearly double the 55 mile an hour limit is a great stop and a chance to use my special metal bracelets.
But because the dude was going so fast, he’d already be home in his jammies dreaming of whatever young starlet gets him there by the time I got turned around.
So I get on the radio, let the cops in the next town down the line know he’s coming. They’ll be ready…they can have him.
Bullshit. This dude belongs to me.
Not only is his speed illegal, not only is it insane, it’s also offensive.
Don’t get me wrong. I love driving fast and I do it too often. But what this guy is doing is completely off the charts stupid. Let’s talk about the fatalities we’ve had on that stretch of road in the last few months. Let’s talk about the deer darting into the roadway because the farmers are harvesting. Let’s talk about the small town that the road splits and how many young kids live there.
Yeah, this dude belongs to me.
I whipped around, managed to catch him, and lit him up.
He didn’t pull over. Not a huge problem, this happens sometimes. People don’t see me immediately or they’re looking for a safe place to stop or whatever.
When I was a young, brash cop, I’d get all heated up when people didn’t stop. I’d assume the car was full of drugs or guns, or the driver was a murderer wanted out of Chicago, or someone fleeing Homeland Security and looking to blow up buildings.
But I’m old now, not quite as excitable. Okay…well…that part’s a lie…it just takes longer for my old heart to get pumped.
Two miles down the road, which pass really fast at 108 miles at hour, he slowed a little, cranking it down to the mid 60s, and pulled slightly off the road.
And then took off again.
The hell was this shit?
Then he pulled over again. This time, both right side tires went onto the shoulder.
And then he took off again.
At this point, the hairs on the back of my neck took notice. His refusal to pull over could mean anything, but I assumed it was something bad. Drugs…guns..warrants.
That may seem melodramatic, but I have no idea why he’s blasting down my highway. The last time someone went that fast, on that highway, it was a man who’d just raped and beaten his girlfriend, stolen her car, fled from the local cops, and who then led me on a 12-mile chase that ended in a crash on the complete other side of the county.
My adrenaline was cranked. I knew this guy and I were going to dance.
He finally stopped but then didn’t turn his dome light on…which most people do at night.
That’s another clue that something’s hinky in Denmark.
I hit him with my spotlight and what’s he doing?
I don’t know, either, but he’s putting a ton of energy into futzing around under the passenger seat.
Nothing good comes from any of what I have in front of me. Speed, refusal to pull over, digging around where I can’t see.
I jumped out of my squad, dashed to the back (so the engine block was between us if he came out shooting), and went through my felony take down patter. Hands up, right hand to open door from the outside, walk backward toward my voice, lay on the ground, arms spread, etc.
Once I got him between both our cars, I jumped hell on him. Right knee in his back, left foot spreading his legs as far as I could, both of my hands wrenching his arms fast and hard around to his back, jamming those cuffs on him.
“Ouch. Dang it.”
Uh…not quite the dialogue I expected from a killer.
I stand him up and get a look at him. Gray haired, lined face, tired and washed out eyes.
“How old are you?” I asked, surprised.
“What the hell were you doing?”
He actually chuckled. “Well, this is where we used to blow it out when I was in high school.”
“Yeah…a few years ago.”
He was driving fast because he’d wanted to. Hadn’t done it in a while and thought this night would be a good time to do it. I put him in my squad and prepared to tow his car and take him to jail.
The thing was? He was totally cool. Deferential, respectful, polite. Never gave me any shit at all. Never dissembled or obstructed. He was completely pleasant. Said he understood why I had to arrest him and didn’t harbor any ill feelings at all.
Then he said, “Can I get my meat?”
“Officer, I’ve got probably $500 worth of meat in the cooler in the backseat.”
He’d been to some sale. Bought lots of meat for his house-bound, elderly mother. Which is where he’d been headed when I stopped him.
Mom? House-bound? Elderly and waiting on her dear boy to bring her some ribs?
Come on…that’s like one of my Barefield novels…just goofy enough to be funny, but odd in a sort of Norman Bates-ian kind of way.
“You’re going to tow my car, right? And since it’s the weekend, it’ll be days until I can get it. That meat’ll all be ruined.”
“True,” I said.
“30?” dispatch said. “Tow’s going to be at least 45 minutes.”
“Nevermind,” I said. To him, I said, “You’re going to drive your car to the jail. Save you a tow fee and your meat. I’ll be right behind you. You take off and I’ll grab my shotgun and blast your tires out, then your windshield, then whatever else I can hit. We’ll have us a good old fashioned Texas lawman-style beat down.”
He eyed the small Texas flag that hangs in my squad. “Uh…okay. I won’t run. I promise.”
What I didn’t tell him was that if he did, chances were damned good I’d never catch him to shoot those tires. He was driving a low-slung BMW. Totally leave my squad in the dust.
(and shooting tires like that…for just a speeder? Holy balls the sheriff would have my ass stuffed and mounted and in a place of honor on his wall)
He didn’t run. He drove straight to the jail, said “Yes, sir,” and “No, sir,” to the jailers, posted bond, and headed out to his car.
“Let me explain,” I said while we walked. “Why I did what I did.”
I am not an old school cop. I most emphatically do not believe problems are automatically solved by thumping skulls. I also believe that cops can do a better job of explaining the whys of what we do to the people we serve. If citizens understand better some of the ins and outs of what we do, they’re more likely to support us.
This guy smiled and laughed. “No problem, I totally understand. I would have done the same thing.”
Then he clapped me on the back and said, “Honestly, I’ve never been treated so well or respectfully…for getting arrested, I mean.”
And really, isn’t that what I’ve been looking for…happy bad guys?