Monday, August 10, 2009

Red Flags and Holy Shit...

Sometimes while you're driving around in a conspicuously marked black and white patrol car, things will happen that make the hair on the back of your neck stand on end.

I often refer to it as JDLR. Just doesn't look right.

One evening when I was still on nights, I was cruising the main in our town, just doing what I do. It was after midnight on a Wednesday (so I guess that'd make it a Thursday then, huh?), and there aren't many cars out at that time. Any cars that are out will attract our attention, if for nothing other than to see if they are driving poorly, and therefore a potential DUI stop.

As I drive, I tend to look down side streets for anything out of the ordinary. Cars stopped in the street, peds walking in the street, fights, et cetera.

As I looked to my left down a particular street, I saw a dark colored van sitting in the middle of the street. As I passed, the lights turned off.

Okay, I'm intrigued.

I circled the block and turned my lights off before I came around to where I'd seen the van. There are plenty of street lights, so this is a perfectly safe act on my part.

As I rounded the last corner, the van was still sitting there. I could see a shadowy outline standing outside the open passenger side door. As the head of the person turned toward me, the shape quickly entered the van and the van started driving away at about 15 miles per hour. The driver turned his lights on half a block later, almost as an after thought. I turned mine back on as well so I could get the plate, which I promptly put out on the radio.

As the van made the right turn onto the Boulevard, he failed to stop for the stop sign. For that matter, he failed to so much as slow down, still traveling at about 15 MPH. Before I hit the lights I put out the stop. "3L10 11-95. On The Boulevard at San Juan, blue Chevy van, the plate I just ran. I'll take a cover."

I hit the lights... and he hit the gas.

The driver of the van accelerated quickly to exactly the 35 mile per hour speed limit. Not the normal response when the pretty red and blue lights come on behind you. I turned on my siren and put out the failure to yield.

I didn't call it a pursuit, because the van wasn't actively evading. It just wasn't stopping.

The driver made a right on another major street, passed under the freeway, then made a couple more turns, eventually turning down a more lightly traveled residential street. Now I'm thinking he's looking for a place to foot bail, so I'm putting out the location. At the same time I'm looking for places he can run.

It's a dark street, with only a few street lights.

The van slowed down again, to about 15 miles per hour, then began to pull over. I noticed the van was pulling over directly in front of a maroon mini-van that was parked at the curb. The mini-van had tinted out windows, and I couldn't see inside it.

Then I noticed the mini-van was the only other car parked on that street.

Red flags went up, the hair on the back of my neck stood up at full attention, and I think I even muttered "Oh shit" out loud.

By this time, I was stopped directly out the driver's door of the mini-van.

JDLR.

I backed up about a car length and a half, so I was behind the parked mini-van. I fired up my spotlights and put one on the big van and one on the mini-van.

I drew down on the driver door of the van, since the occupants had not foot bailed like I thought they would. I yelled to the occupants to keep their hands where I could see them and we'd get this whole thing sorted out momentarily.

My attention was mostly focused on the occupants of the van, but I still couldn't help wondering about that damned mini-van.

A short time later, two more cars showed up and my co-workers started walking toward the van. I told them to stop before they passed the mini-van. I asked one to cover the mini-van because it just didn't look right, while I and the other officer got the suspects to come out of the big van one at a time and walk back to us.

After both were in custody, I still didn't want to leave the mini-van alone, so I left one officer to cover it while the other two of us went up and cleared the big van. Once I was certain the big van was no longer a threat, I could focus on the mini van.

I shined my light in the mini-van and didn't see anyone in it. I checked the door and it was unlocked. It turned out it was registered to the passenger in the big van. The guy I had seen hastily jumping into the van just before it drove off.

After searching the van and finding nothing more than a box cutter in it, I was stumped. They never did give me any particular reason they had stopped right there in front of that van.

When I stopped next to that mini-van, I was sure someone was about to pop out with a gun. Why else would someone lead me on a three quarter mile drive, at the speed limit, obviously not trying to lose me, then stop in front of the only other vehicle parked on a dark residential street.

In this case it turned out to be nothing.

But it just didn't look right...

22 comments:

Johnny Law said...

Damn good instincts anyway. Remember, just because you are paranoid doesn't mean people aren't really out to get you.

David Woycechowsky said...
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David Woycechowsky said...
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Damsel Underdressed said...

The mere fact that the van led you there gave you every right to be suspicious of the minivan. I think your "cop sense" was right on. There still could have been something you missed...

And keep an eye on that Woycechowsky guy and his "pot." ;)

David Woycechowsky said...
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Black Ice said...

That sounds just too weird. I don't get it either, and I would have been suspicious as hell, too.

Some people get all paranoid and start doing insane stuff. Wonder what their drug test results would show? ;)

Firelady said...

David, get over yourself.

Vehicle with 2 occupants acts extremely suspicious, gets a couple "minor" tickets in the process, and stops in what could be a highly dangerous situation. I would expect any officer worth his salt to have reasonable articulable suspicion for searching the 2nd van. Come on, they refused to stop, then parked next to a van with blacked out windows.

But since you're so well versed in everything cops face, go on and run that same call, let the passenger into his van without searching it for your own safety. Don't be suprised when he produces a gun or something behind your back.


Ofc Smith- Sorry about that, I had to. Thanks for the heads-up, hopefully 1 officer will see this and have a better day for reading it.

David Woycechowsky said...
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Ronjii said...

This wierd-ass 'find something wrong with whatever a cop does' from Woycechowsky is going too far... all you folks out there - ever heard of the phrase "Sent to Coventry'? It means shunning someone. Nobody answer him, and PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE, Smitty, find a way to kick his ass out...

Sandra G. said...

Oh go away DW - your condescending manner does nothing to create the 'learning' atmosphere you so clearly want.

There's a difference between abusing authority and making sure you go home at the end of your shift. Police officers act under common law authority to investigate suspicious behaviour, and that is exactly what Officer Smith did. Would he have gotten any criminal charges approved out of the stop? I'm not sure, but it sounds like once everything was sorted out the two men were released.

You're right, Officer Smith - something wasn't right about the actions of the two guys you stopped, but your spidey senses kept you and your cover officers safe.

Good job.

Sandra G. said...

To Ronjii - here, here!

David Woycechowsky said...
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Roanoke Cop said...

A little on the tail end of things here. I started deleting DW's idiotic missives on my blog a long time ago.

Dude, the whole time I was reading that I was screaming at you in my head, "It's an ambush!" Lucky it wasn't but what a set up! Good instincts not getting drawn into it.

TheBronze said...

I'm w/ RC. I thought that wasn't going to end well, but VERY glad it did.

Front Porch Society said...

Yeha, that would have puckered my butthole a bit there, too, if that had happened to me. Don't blame you one bit for being cautious!

Front Porch Society said...

BTW, is David actually threatening you with his comments?!? Because they sure sound like threats to me. Bug off douche-bag!

David Woycechowsky said...
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Front Porch Society said...

Did you not read Officer Smith's post to you?!? GO AWAY!!!!!!!!

David B. Woycechowsky said...
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Officer "Smith" said...

Deleting his comments is going to become a full time job.

Sammi said...

So what I wanna know is this. What the hell-ass-balls was going on? Seriously, I mean what were they doing?!

It's like the center of the tootsie-pop. The world may never know. XP

Corrinne said...

Hmmm... The only idea I can come up with is that they had drugs on them and the little ride they took gave them time to uhm, hide said drugs in unpleasant places. lol Why they went to the passengers van... that I don't know. Very strange and you had every reason to be suspicious.