by Ski Ingram
I was working day patrol one day when I had a few short crime reports to write. Instead of going into the police station to write them I decided to sit at one of my favorite four way stop signs. This stop sign was near Washington elementary school. I noticed that very few people would come to even a slow stop with many completely ignoring the sign altogether by not even slowing down. I had written many stop sign violations at that location in the past few months.
I parked my marked police car south bound on Cedar under a tree about 30 feet from the intersection of 15th Street and began to write my reports. I wasn’t there more than 3 minutes when I saw a car driving west bound on 15th street run right through the stop sign, not even slowing down a little bit. I put my report away and took off after the violator.
I got behind the car and turned on my blue and red lights. The car slowed to about 20 miles an hour but did not stop. I could see that a male was driving the car with another male teenager in the front passenger seat. In the back seat was a female who appeared to be at least 50 years old. She was seated as far to the right as possible. There was a female about 3 years old standing on the back seat and walking back and forth on while looking at me.
When I turned on my police siren all the passengers turned to look at me. I could see the drivers’ eyes in his rear-view mirror looking at me, however he was making no attempt to pull over and stop. After travelling two blocks the driver turned north bound on Chestnut Ave. He was still travelling at 20 miles an hour. I called for backup and was informed that the only unit available was at least 5 minutes away, which can be a lifetime in situations like this.
The driver continued north bound on Chestnut Ave, at 20 miles an hour until he crossed 17th Street where he suddenly stopped in the middle of the street. I stopped my police car about 30 feet behind his and got out and stood behind my driver’s door. I was hoping to wait for my backup officer to arrive before I approached the driver.
After about 30 seconds the driver got out of his car and began to walk back towards me. I told him to get back in his car, but he continued to walk towards me. I told him to stop where he was, but he refused. I pulled my pistol, a Smith & Wesson 4006, out of its holster and pointed at the driver. He acted as if nothing was out of place, ignoring my gun pointed at him and continued to walk back towards me.
I was telling him to stop and put up his hands. He put up his hands but refused to stop. As he walked towards me, he would drop his right hand as if he was trying to grab something from his back. I told him if he dropped his hand one more time, I kill him. He kept his hands up, however, did not stop walking towards me. When he got to the front of my police car, I told him to put his hands on the hood.
He put his hands on the hood at the front of my car. I told him to move to the driver’s side of the hood so I could search him and still keep an eye on the other people in the car, I wasn’t too worried about the female but I was worried if the other male passenger did anything stupid I would have to shoot through the female in the back seat and the little girl in order to get him.
When the driver slid over to the driver’s side of the car, I saw that he had a gun tucked in the waistband in the small part of his back. I told him if he didn’t do as I told him I’d kill him. I then had him stretch out across my hood with his hands as far from the gun as possible. While still pointing my gun at him I walked out from behind the driver’s door to behind the driver. I put my pistol away as I put my left hand behind his shoulder blades holding him down on the hood. I took his pistol, a Colt .45 automatic, from his waist band. I then handcuffed him and put him in the back of my police car.
Before I could get the rest of the people out of the suspect’s car Officer Mike Hamm arrived to assist me. After contacting the other occupants, I found that neither the male, who was 16 years old, nor the female had a driver’s license. No one could tell me who the car belonged to, so I impounded it.
I booked the driver for failing to stop at a stop sign, refusing to stop for a police vehicle and being in position of a loaded gun. It was while I was in the station writing my report when I was informed that the car the suspect was driving had been stolen that morning. I then added being in position of a stolen vehicle to his charges.
I contacted the owner of the car in order to take the stolen car report. She told me that she was on her way to work when she stopped near a mailbox in order to mail a letter. She got out of her, leaving the motor running, and walked a short distance to the mailbox. As she was walking back to her car she saw a male Mexican, who matched the description of the person I observed driving the car, jump inside and drive away.
Afraid of being late, she called a friend to take her to work, where she called the police to report her car stolen. She worked in another city, not Long Beach where her car was taken. The police officer refused to take the report as the crime did not occur in his city. She told me that she tried to call the Long Beach Police, however, was put on hold and could not take that much time while at work. She decided to call and report the theft when she got home, which she did.
I have no doubt that the driver would have shot and killed me if I had dropped my guard a little bit. I am thankful for my training and experience and the Lord who was looking after me that day. It would have been very easy to say to myself that there was no danger as there was a female in the rear seat who could have been the driver’s mother or grandmother. Also, who in their right mind would be in the process of committing a crime with a small girl in the vehicle? As it turned out the river would and did.
I contacted the suspect who was in the 6th floor jail. I advised him of his rights and told him that I had added the charge of being in the position of a stolen car. I expected him to tell me that he didn’t know the car was stolen, but he did not. He told me, being very candid, that he was walking north bound on Long Beach Blvd near Pacific Coast Hwy when he saw a woman stop her car at the curb, get out to walk to the mailbox. Since she had left the car running, we simply got in and drove away.
I asked him if the other people in the car knew that he had stolen it. He said that must have been because they knew he didn’t own a car. I asked him if either of them questioned him about where he got the car. He told me that they did not. He was just driving around town for the fun of it. I asked him who was in the car with him, but he refused to tell me. I asked him why he didn’t stop at the stop sign. He told me that he didn’t even see it. I asked him who the gun belonged to, but he refused to talk about it also.
This is only one of the close calls I had while working in the mean streets of Long Beach California in the 80’s and 90’s.
As remembered by Ski Ingram December 2022