Monday, December 31, 2012

Best New Year's Eve arrest

Every December 31st I remember my best-ever arrest, which happened on New Year's Eve in about 1978. I enjoyed working holidays and special nights, like Halloween and New Year's Eve.

On the night in question it was cold in the Denver area. I don't recall the temperature reading, but I do remember that it was very frosty - maybe 5-10ยบ F. About midnight I was dispatched on a "loud party" call.

Land in Arapahoe County (just south of Denver) isn't flat. Streets aren't necessarily straight. There are many cul-de-sacs. And I couldn't get to the party. I could hear it blocks away but, because of arroyos into which the cul-de-sacs dead-ended, I couldn't get to the party.

Then I spotted a panel van with a special carrier-rack on the back bumper. In the rack, vertically against the back doors of the van, were sheets of plywood. And the van had an out-of-county plate. At that time license plates were issued by county, and the van had a Denver County plate. That, with the plywood, attracted my attention.

The van turned into a cul-de-sac, went to the end and pulled up into a driveway. Instead of turning off the engine and lights, the driver backed out, returned to the main road and turned to drive away from my squad car.

I decided to stop him and he pulled right over. Let's just say I was very careful as I walked up toward the driver's door. The driver had rolled down the window before I got there and, before I could say anything, he said, "I didn't mean to take them. I'll take them back."

"What?" I asked.

And he repeated his statement. There was a fur coat on the passenger seat and I asked whose coat it was. When he said it was his wife's coat, I asked where she was, thinking she was probably dead in the back of the van. He said she had driven home separately. Yeah, sure.... without her coat.

I called for back-up and ordered him out. You should have heard him trying to talk his way back into the van so that he could leave.

Officers from the nearby town showed up, too, and they recognized the van as one they had been looking for for six months. This guy had been stealing sheets of plywood to finish his basement and build a dog house. The local cops had a partial description of the van and a partial license plate, but they hadn't been able to put the two together.

When the driver realized he was going to jail, he got unhappy, but there was plenty of "force" there by then. Nights like that made all the slow nights worthwhile.

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