VALENTINES DINNER AND DANCE FLYER COMING SOON!
MARK YOU CALENDAR! BREAK OUT YOUR BEST DUDS!
ERNIE PROMISES LOTS OF PICTURES FOR A SPECIAL ISSUE!
Down a Chief I
Working the “A” cars was a lot of fun for a young cop. We worked from 7 at night until 3 in the morning, hours also preferred by our prey. Generally we had days off during the week as Friday and Saturday were bonus nights! We worked in uniform and alone. We filled on hot calls and provided backup when needed but our primary job was to look for in progress felony crimes.
Our counterparts were the “H” cars who had even more latitude and worked in pairs. Our cars were unmarked police use sedans with swing down red lights and painted in all colors. My B-7A car was a 1967 Plymouth with a 440 engine and sported a white top with a yellow body. I loved that car. It was fast, could catch second gear rubber, and cornered like a sports car. I never lost a chase in it.
One Saturday night in the middle of September, 1970, Officer Bill Mattos and I headed out to the warm early fall streets of San Jose. That night B7A was two man because Bill had transferred from the Sheriffs Office to the SJPD and I was “showing him the ropes”; the way we did things. Bill was fully qualified as a police officer and we operated as equals other than seniority. The fact Bill had worked the Santa Clara County jail was a definite plus as he knew a lot of the bad guys and was con-wise. He did need to become street-wise.
I recall the night being busy, Saturday and warm is always busy and why we liked working weekends. Our quitting time was 0300 but that was viewed as somewhat arbitrary as no good cop is going to head for the barn when there is still action on the streets. This particular Friday was no exception and though we didn’t get an on view felony arrest, we did fill on a lot of incidents. Time passes fast when you’re having fun. It was nearly 0400 when we decided to drift toward the barn from a car stop on St John street at about 10 th . It was then I got suckered.
Clearing the “shakedown” car stop, a suspicious vehicle in a residential neighborhood at 0330, I saw a gray Pontiac convertible which had slowly driven by our car stop at least three times. Later it was to become apparent the “suspicious vehicle” was bait and the Buick was the trap, but I, and I blame myself as the supposedly street-wise cop, was tired or focused on training and didn’t pick up on it until too late.
I pulled in behind the Buick and looked for something wrong with it to establish the probable cause for a car stop. The court says cops can’t stop a car for no reason and we were looking for one. There were four people in the car, two in front and two in back. In spite of what defense lawyers and the ACLU (Asshole Communist Lawyers Union) try to tell you, it is very difficult to tell the ethnicity, religious sect, dietary needs or sexual preferences of someone in a dark car moving on a dark street. Almost immediately the car turned without signaling, just enough of a violation to talk to the driver.
I swung down the red light and Bill called in the location of the stop and license number of the Pontiac. Problem was, the Pontiac didn’t stop. He didn’t run, he just didn’t stop, driving slowly for two or three blocks and turning onto North Sixth where it was very dark. Stopping facing East where there were no street lights the occupants were staring straight ahead ignoring us completely, a very Hispanic gangster thing to do. One of the first rules of officer safety was being violated; he made us stop where he wanted us, not where we wanted him. Our tactical advantage was lost. We were on high alert. Bill went to the right rear of the car where he could see the occupants and hear the conversation. I approached the driver, not getting too close to him or the rear seat passengers would be at my back. Even in tense situations my approach has always been low key.
“Good morning guys, how’s to going?’’ Nothing. Both hands on the wheel and staring straight ahead.
“Ooookay, driver’s license.” Wasn’t a question and you don’t ask for a registration and give him a chance to reach for the glove box. I didn’t know the driver but looking inside the car with my flashlight recognized the left rear back seat passenger as Anselmo Candalaria, Sal to his few friends and many detractors. Sal. What to say?
Sal had rats in his attic. He could seem perfectly normal and lucid for minutes at a time. Sal would like to have been a con artist but too frequently went from suave to lunatic without any noticeable transition. He had been committed several times for mental health lapses. He also fancied himself an important Chicano activist and a “leader” in the Brown Berets, a gang of sociopath Hispanic cop haters beloved by the news media. A big man, Sal took up most of the rear seat of the small Tempest convertible. Knowing Sal I played the flashlight on the area surrounding him looking for ant tools he may find useful.
“Hey Sal, out late tonight.” I said. Don’t ask a question until you have to, he won’t answer with the truth anyway, if at all. Nothing from the back seat. I see an antenna sticking out from under Sal’s substantial leg.
“Okay Sal, be real slow and pull that radio out.” Loud enough for my partner to hear.
“I don’t got no radio man.” His lips moved. He lied.
“Come on Sal. I got eyes. Let’s see the radio.” Now I’m curious.
“I don’t got to man, the chief gave it to me.” Sal, now even more sullen, had my undivided attention. The proffered driver’s license ignored. The antenna did in fact look like one of our sergeant’s handpacks.
Officers in those days did not have handpacks but were tethered to the radio. A tube radio that took 46 seconds to warm up enough to transmit after the key was turned on. When you were in trouble 46 seconds was a long time. There were about eight handpacks in the sergeant’s office that were signed
out on an as needed basis, usually to sergeants only. An officer could talk his way into a handpack if he had a special assignment, but it had to be a good argument.
“Sal, you know I am going to look at the radio. You know it won’t be good for you if you make us have to work for it. You will go to jail. Your friends will go to jail. Even your car will go to car jail.” I said very reasonably. “Just keep this really simple and hand it over.”
“ Ray Blackmore gave me this radio and said I could have it for the weekend. I don’t got to give it to you.” Sal said, starting to warm to his role.
“Why would the Chief of Police give you a radio Sal?” I immediately thought it was stolen. What other explanation could there be? Bill and I soon found ourselves in a sort of Twilight Zone, a bizarre place in contemporary politics where power, weakness and correctness conspired to ambush officers in the dark of night.
Bill and I had been selected to be the guests of honor at that ambush.
“Ray gave me two radios so we could monitor the Chicano Pride parade tomorrow man. We are going to help the police man.” Sal is starting to sweat.
Ray? This lowlife calls the chief Ray?
“Bill. He says the chief gave him the radio.” I gave the update.
“Sal gimmie the goddam radio. If you have it legally I will give it back!” I lied, no way was he going to get it back. Three in the morning and he was prowling the streets with a San Jose police radio? Nope.
My escalation caused Sal to hand out the radio and sure enough it was clearly marked as one of ours.
“You said there was two radios. Where’s the other one?” I asked. “At home man.” Sal said, getting agitated. Newspapers love to headline “Police Baffled”. This is probably the only time in my career I was baffled. Called communications and asked them to call the sergeant’s office and find out who was supposed to have the handpack. I’m still thinking it was stolen and Sal’s story was unbelievable.
“B7A, San Jose one”
“7A, go ahead”
“7A, that handpack and one other was signed out to the chief’s office yesterday. Further questions for the sergeants office?”
“7A, negative thanks.“
Sgt. Mike Van Dyke arrived on the scene. The backup was welcome but this was a complication. Now don’t take this wrong, Mike was and is a good guy and a great cop, but Mike had been promoted to sergeant on Friday and this was his first night in that august position. To be exact he had been a
probationary sergeant for about three hours. When you are probationary your promotion can be terminated for any or no reason.
“Mike, this is probably going to get shitty and very political. The chief is involved somehow and I don’t know where this is headed. You don’t have to be here. . .”
Mike, to his everlasting credit, never even considered doing less than his job. He was in for the long haul. Now another car arrived and we had four officers and four badguys even if we didn’t know what the badguys were doing. Bill and I were filling the arrivals in on the handpack and the circumstances when something I can’t explain occurred.
From the south came a man walking a dog. Three o’clock in the morning on a street devoid of street lights came a man walking a dog. As he passed the Pontiac bathed in our spotlights he urgently hissed “Sssst! Listen to me!”
‘Behind me are several men with rifles pointing them this way” He never slowed down as he delivered his chilling announcement, walking past and turning west on St. John, disappearing from sight. A non-descript white guy.
I reached into the front seat for the mike and called: “San Jose ,7A , report of men with guns on North Sixth south of St. John, code three fills….”
Poor Bill. He was behind a telephone pole next to the car, a primo position. I knew I could shoot well but didn’t know if Bill could shoot or not. I still feel bad about the tactical necessity of preempting him.
“Go find your own pole or get behind the car.” I growled, pointing my magnum in the direction of the threat. From behind his former pole. Bill still, over an occasional libation, reminds me of how callus that was. I remind him in turn that someone with gunnery skills had to hold off the forces of evil.
One thing became immediately clear: The other handpack was not at Sal’s house, it was down the street with the armed men. As soon as the call for help went out and their ambush burned, the unmistakable sound of flight echoed around the neighborhood. Crashing bushes, the unique thump of running toes hitting a fence and dogs raising hell told of our wannabe attackers fleeing.
Unknown how many attackers, probably three, maybe four. It was their neighborhood and they went to ground, we didn’t catch a one of them and in that ‘hood there are no witnesses. Except the dog walker.
We had Sal and his three friends in custody but we knew that wasn’t going to go anywhere. They were just four friends out for a midnight drive with a radio given to them by the chief of police. They had not resisted arrest, were sober and unarmed. No armed men were found. There was no case.
“ Jeez, I thought I was just paranoid. Turns out the assholes really are trying to kill us.”
Now all of us are tight jaws. We’re street cops who through no fault of our own are irretrievably mired in deep political crap. We ruled the night but were now in a battle that could not compare with a street fight. The chief almost got us killed, and that made it personal but the chief and the city manager held a lot clout.
Down a Chief II
Batons and guns don’t work well against politicians, at least not yet in this country. Instead of going Third World our only option was political. The San Jose Police Officer’s Association, or POA, was as close to political as cops get. The President was Phillip O. Norton, a story in himself.
Phil was educated as a lawyer. He is one of the two or three most intelligent men I have ever known, also one of the finest leaders. Book smart as well as street smart, he is a fine friend and mentor to goodguys, a waking nightmare for badguys. By four o’clock on Sunday morning Bill and I sat down with
Phil in his living room over coffee and told him the story. The chief had become a badguy.
The first thing Phil did was send a trusted cohort down to the sergeant’s office and retrieve the original signout sheet for the two radios, one of which I had given him the other in the wind. A copy of the sheet was put back on the board. The next thing Phil did was call the chief at home. The conversation was one sided, Phil talked, the chief listened. It probably didn’t accomplish anything but give the chief a heads up, but it made us street snuffies feel better. We somehow felt like we were in the wrong and were
going to get screwed but things were looking up. The City Manager, A.P. “Dutch” Hammond had a cozy relationship with Chief Blackmore and most of the city council. In those days a lot of money was made when property was purchased, rezoned and sold at great profit.
The City Manager was the boss, but the word was that the manager and the chief had so much wood on each other that it was a standoff. Dutch was not going to be of any help to us.
Phil called an emergency Board of Directors meeting for 1000 that Sunday morning in the parking lot to the rear of City Hall. Sgt. Doug Wright was there as editor of the Vanguard and a Director. He recalled:
“The chief was in his office, on a Sunday! We watched Bill Grice, the head of the Human Relation Commission, enter the back door of City Hall. Pretty soon he came out and looked really pissed off. We went in and met with Blackmore who tried to blow it off with his usual PR lines.”
“ He said ‘It was a big mistake. Things will be okay, don’t worry it won’t happen again, it was all for HRC.’ “He was visibly shaken.” Doug said.
“We met at my house after confronting the chief.” Doug went on. “Phil called Blackmore who accused Phil of taking the original signout sheet!
Yeah, he took it. How would Blackmore know it was a copy unless he had sent someone to get the original piece of evidence and make it disappear?”
“ The Human Relations guy and Sal Candelaria teamed up to browbeat Blackmore into giving them two radios for a parade” Doug summed up. “Ray Blackmore was getting old, he was tired, he just did the easy thing to do and hoped it worked out okay.” It didn’t.
Monday morning Chief Ray Blackmore announced he was taking a vacation. Two weeks later he announced his retirement after 42 years of law enforcement, 24 as chief. It was the end of a go along to get along era.
The guy walking the dog at 0300 in a dark and dangerous neighborhood just when a shooting was about to go down? My only verified sighting of a Guardian Angel. Or maybe, Death has a catch and release program?
THE LATEST IN T-SHIRTS!
Guess who showed up at Murphys Hotel to chat about solving all the
world’s problems over a cup of coffee?
GREAT SNOW ART
SAYING GOODBYE TO NEMO
In 2008, a six-year-old Dutch Shepard named Nemo joined the Greenville Police Department as a K9 and was assigned to Officer Derek Loftis. During his years of service, Nemo was a vital part of the Greenville Police Department and was credited with hundreds of arrests. His largest arrest led to millions of dollars in cash being seized, and over a million dollars in drugs being removed from the streets. In early 2013, Nemo developed cancer. While the medical treatment he received was successful, Nemo was retired from the Greenville Police Department on September 24, 2013, and went to live with Officer Loftis as a family pet. Sadly, over the past several weeks, Nemo’s health has gone downhill, and it appears that the cancer has not only returned, but is also far more aggressive. After putting it off as long as possible, Officer Loftis made the difficult decision to have Nemo euthanized so that he does not suffer any more than he already has. In honor of Nemo’s service to the Greenville Police Department, the community and his partner, the K9 Division met at LEC and rode to the clinic together. Nemo then had his last walk past all of the current K9 handlers and dogs, who lined up outside the clinic to say their final goodbyes. At 13, Nemo has lived a long life, and will be greatly missed by Officer Loftis and the entire Greenville Police Department family.