I was enjoying The Countertop Chronicles Advent Calendar presentation( linked via title bar); click on the Christmas image and it shows some weapon to drool over. I clicked on the antique Santa standing next to the tree ( December 22nd )and there was a classic Colt Python 357 pistol. That’s a fine hand gun, my preference was/is the Smith & Wesson; but that has nothing to do with the story I will share.
In 1973-4 I was a 2nd year patrol officer working evening shift Central on a Sunday. My partner and I had finished dinner and headed out to our patrol area once again. It had just started raining when we heard gun shots, fairly close by. We saw folks bailing out the back window of a small “dive”, interesting name, considering that’s what was going on as we approached. A gun fight had erupted inside and any exit available was the main course.
We called in the disturbance and let the dispatcher know that gun shots had been fired as we exited our patrol car. A tall black man was walking out the front door of the joint holding, of all things, a Colt Python 357 with ramped sights just like the one in the Advent Calendar. We “convinced” the man to place the weapon on the ground, turn around and made it possible to cuff him without incident.
More folks began screaming and yelling as they continued to vacate the building so we took cover at the edge of the door way, one suspect already in custody. I peeked around the corner and into the club where only one person remained. He was holding a small Saturday night special which he placed on the floor as soon as he saw me. We arrested him too. The whole club might have fit in the area I call my den and yet it had a dance floor about the size of a small table top, a place for the live band complete with a set of drums that had been shot up, a bar and several tables with chairs. Nobody saw “nutin” as they were all in the bathroom or on the way to it when the shooting started.
Once everyone who needed to be in cuffs was, partner and I noticed a long succession of police cars headed our way with emergency lights flashing and sirens blasting through the rain. It looked like Christmas with all those lights lined from one end of the street to the other. We were so inexperienced that it never dawned on either of us that the club was directly across the street from the active Black Panther Headquarters. When we put out the call, “shots fired” it was like announcing the start of WWIII and half the uniformed officers decided we needed some help, pronto.
While in the process of tagging the evidence into the system it was determined that the Colt Python had been reported stolen and so I ended up making a supplement report to the original. I scratched my initials on the pistol up under where the wooden handgrips would cover it and at the same time make it possible to positively identify it later on when and if the case got to the courts. A few hours later we finished up the booking, filing charges and completed all the reports; a good day’s work finished we went home.
Fast forward a year or so to October when I got back from a neat vacation to the mountains of Colorado. I went back to work and immediately got a “report to Homicide”. You have to understand the mindset of a low seniority police officer; in the back of my mind the words automatically formed, “Okay, what did I screw up this time?”, as I made my way to Homicide.
When I walked in the door I let them know who I was and was directed to see a particular detective; couldn’t tell you his name now, who wanted to ask me some rather pointed questions about a Colt Python pistol with my initials scratched into the handle. I told him that I had only seen one, the one mentioned above, in my short time with the Department and that it should still be in the property room where I had tagged it. He showed it to me and explained that it had been left at the scene of a double murder and arson job; asking me once more how it was possible that the pistol I supposedly had tagged into the property room could have been on the street, much less used in such a horrific crime. The detective also informed me that he could find no record of the pistol in the property room, no record of an offense report and nothing to indicate that it had been recovered in relation to the original theft report.
I called Lucy at the house and asked her to go through my personal file of offense reports to assist in finding the important data which for some reason was no longer in the Department's system. I had listened to the instructions my senior officers had given me, “Always keep a copy for yourself if you book somebody, tag evidence or if it could get ugly later on.”. I was so glad I had listened because I had the only copy of the offense report, the cleared call slip for the discharged firearms call that had gone out that day and lastly, I had my copy of the submission of evidence “one Colt Python 357, blue steel with wooden grips, serial number *****”
My records kept me out of hot water, placed some other folks in it. I never asked what kind of internal investigation went on, really don’t want to know how that pistol got removed from the property room, how the reports magically vanished off the shelf of a secure facility. I still have my “library” of interesting reports even though I’ve been retired for quite some time, never know when the call might come in, “report to Homicide”.
So, a special tip of the hat goes out to the Countertop Chronicles for reminding me of this old “war story”. May the Lord protect those who serve, whether it is at home or on some other field of battle.