And We’re Off and Running, part 2 of 3

And We’re Off and Running

part 2 of 3

By Gerry Goldshine

My Motorola radio crackled loudly, only just audible over the siren and engine noise, “Tom-36, be advised, I have no units 10-8 (in service) to assist and no one in the area of the north end of town. We’ll notify CHP and SCSO. Also, we’ve had reports of patches of heavy fog in that area.”

Swell, Murphy – of “Murphy’s Law” infamy – was now definitely riding shotgun with me. Moreover, Petaluma Boulevard North, as it led out of town, was a divided roadway, with two lanes in each direction. It was not especially well lit and was lined with large oak trees that regularly claimed errant drunk drivers. I let dispatch know that the tan Toyota’s speed reached about seventy-five miles per hour and was weaving from one lane to the other. That was until we came upon the first patch of what is fondly known as “Tule Fog” – or by its more proper nomenclature, “Radiation Fog”. This bundle of condensation was about a hundred feet or so across and my lead-footed prey braked hard once more, quickly dumping off his speed like a fighter jet from Top Gun pulling up in a dog fight, only to increase velocity once out of the fog. Continuing on towards the north end of town, we encountered at least two more of the fog banks and each time, my fleeing driver would dutifully reduce his speed, albeit locking his brakes again on several occasions.

Petaluma Blvd. North at Old Redwood Highway
Petaluma Blvd. North at Old Redwood Highway

For those unfamiliar with Petaluma, at the far north end of town, Petaluma Boulevard turns to the east where it crosses over US Highway 101 and eventually becomes Old Redwood Highway. Just before the Boulevard crosses Hwy 101, it is intersected by another northbound street, Stony Point Road. In this area, Stony Point was an even more poorly lit, as well as a poorly paved, “country” road surrounded by large fields and very few residences. Why this is important, is that upon reaching this intersection, the suspect ran the red light and turned left onto Stony Point Road to continue heading north. We encountered several more patches of thick dense fog spilling out of the fields, crossing the roadway before closing on a long driveway that led up to an old farmhouse on the west side of the road. As we approached, the suspect turned on his left signal and began slowing as if they were going to turn into the driveway.

Still without any backup, I’ll admit to imagining all sorts of nightmare scenarios, each of which had me being lured into some type of ambush but almost the same time, I began formulating response strategies just in case. Reflecting back on my training, I knew about the best thing I could do was to gain more distance from them. Tactically, more distance means more time to react to any danger. Fortunately, all my threat assessments were for naught because they passed by that driveway and several others, continuing to signal for a left turn. Then, perhaps a mile or two ahead, I saw a set of flashing red and blue emergency lights speeding towards us. The suspect apparently saw the same thing and abruptly stopped his car right in the middle of the single northbound lane. About a half mile from us, the oncoming police unit stopped and proceeded to close off the southbound lane to any traffic. It was with palpable sense of relief that I finally heard, still off in the distance but converging on my position, the welcome sounds of multiple sirens meaning the cavalry was nearly there.

Unlike what is frequently depicted on the news, officers in my department did not rush up to the driver at the conclusion of a pursuit, screw a gun in his ear and/or yank him through a window. If doing so didn’t get you killed, it would probably get you fired and rightly so. Consequently, I had positioned my car a good five to seven car lengths from the tan Toyota, angled in such a way so that the engine would act as cover should they open fire on me. I got down low, behind the driver’s side front window frame, with my pistol pointed at the driver.

A felony car stop looks like this during the daytime.
A felony car stop looks like this during the daytime.

Using my patrol car’s public address system, I ordered the suspect driver to first turn off his car, then both occupants to put their hands on top of their heads and finally not to move. Naturally, neither of them complied and both made what is not so fondly referred to as “furtive movements”. Even after I repeated the commands two more times, they acted as if having a police officer point a loaded gun at them was all a perfectly natural happenstance.

As the sounds of the responding backup units grew closer, I tried repeating the commands in Spanish but to no avail. So, I turned my attention to directing the arriving units into what I felt were the best tactical positions. When at last I was joined by Sgt. Dave, down behind the door of my car, he patted me on the shoulder and said, “Nice job.”

I shook my head, looked at him and replied, “Go get him, Ger? Seriously? Go get him?”

Read the final installment of Gerry’s pursuit tomorrow, May 9th, 2013

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