Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Lt. Larry Smith - a final tribute

I read where an old friend of mine passed away this morning after a long battle with cancer. I never worked with him directly, at least not under his command while I was in the Department. He’s the nicest guy I ever hit with a folding metal chair, accidentally and without malice. I suppose I should explain that last line.

Back in the old days, before the DWI folks had taken over the bottom floor of the old police academy building behind 61 Riesner at the main police station, DWI suspects were taken to the second floor roll call room to be processed. There was a cubby hole of a room where they had a breathalyzer and a couple of long work tables where we would fill out all the necessary forms. There were supervisor’s offices around the perimeter of the room, Accident, Traffic Enforcement and Point Control.

My partner, R. C. Kersten, and I had arrested a rather large fellow, think of the Green Mile and John Koffee, “like the drink only spelled with a K”. We’d arrested him after he’d driven several miles the wrong way down the outbound lanes of the Katy freeway when he exited downtown and stopped him after he traveled another fifteen blocks or so. His wrists were so large that I don’t think even leg irons would have worked, much less a pair of plain handcuffs so we were more than grateful that he was “peaceable” when he finally figured out we wanted him to stop. This was before all the police cars had Plexiglas or even a mesh cage to separate the front seat from the back. My partner and I had little if any seniority and were driving an older unit, one without a divider, so the prisoner was placed in the passenger seat up front with only a seat belt to hold him in place.

I was pretty good at talking softly and kept things light and easy all the way to the station while Bob drove the suspect’s vehicle to the impound lot; yes, a lot of things changed over the years. We had the suspect sitting in one of the metal folding chairs under those ugly fluorescent lights that illuminated the large roll call room. He was looking all around and started to become upset when it dawned on him that he’d been arrested and was going to jail. When he got up; rather, he exploded in rage it took a room full of young police officers to tackle him to the floor. Chairs and tables were being knocked around and folks from their private offices came out to see the small scale riot.

Lt. Smith was in one of those offices and came to jump into the fray just as I was letting fly with a chair aimed at the suspect who had managed to get back to his feet, several officers clinging as he dragged them across mid field. The chair glanced off Lt. Smith’s shoulder as I attempted to stop it once I realized what was about to happen. I don’t think it got him too badly, at least he didn’t complain; facts be known, I think he even smiled for having been able to join in a good fight. Once everything was under control we escorted the suspect down to the jail and finished the paper work later. Funny how something from so long ago would be the first thing I thought of when I heard of his passing. Farewell and peace be with you for having fought the good fight.

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