10-33 Silent Alarm
By Gerry Goldshine
Conducting a building search under the best of circumstances is a trying, tedious job. The places inside a house where the average human being can find to hide boggles the mind. Unlike what you see on television, a thorough search is far more involved that pointing your gun inside a room and shouting “Clear!” when you don’t see anything. Every closet and every cupboard have to be checked. You have to make sure the attic, under beds and even the drum of the clothes dryer are clear because I’ve found people in all those places. Piles of dirty clothes? Toss them because I found a warrant suspect hiding at the bottom of one. Despite all the complications that come with searching a residence, when clearing a large business establishment properly, the problems multiply exponentially and it can become downright tedious, taking up precious time and manpower.
This particular night, I was assigned to back-up another officer on a silent burglary alarm call at the Local Generic Tire Warehouse. When we got there, the first thing we noticed was an open side door. Great! Now for sure, we are committed to a search. As there were no other units available to help, it was just Officer Mike, me and hundreds, if not thousands, of tires. We strategized about how we were going to conduct the search and as the open door was on the opposite side of the building from the office, we decided to keep things as simple as possible. We would each take one side of the building and work our way back to the office. If anything was moved or disturbed we would then start checking each neat stack of tires. If there was concrete evidence of a break-in, we would back out and wait for more help.
Guns drawn, we asked dispatch to clear all radio traffic and made a quiet tactical entry into the darkened building. We were immediately confronted with row upon row of industrial warehouse shelving units, each piled high with tires of every imaginable size. Naturally, the light switches were located by the office so flashlights were our only source of illumination. Yes, it was creepy. Tires rearing up from the darkness, seemingly all the way to the ceiling, everywhere you looked.
We began working our way laboriously in the direction of the office and were about two thirds of the way to it when we suddenly started hearing some strange clanking noises coming from that vicinity. Now we had to settle on whether to back out, secure the building as best we could and wait for additional units to help or continue the search. Officer Mike being the senior and more experienced officer decided we’d reassess the situation when we reached the last row of shelves and could see the office.
Ten or so minutes later, we were at the last row of shelves and I could see the source of all the noise we were hearing; it was coming from one of those large, ceiling mounted industrial heaters.
Just as we both were starting to feel foolish, from behind a six-foot tall stack of tires by the office door, I caught sight of something moving! I let Officer Mike know via my portable radio but he couldn’t see anything from his position.
At high alert once again, we stealthily advanced, each covering the other, using other stacks of tires to conceal our presence. I could feel a rivulet of sweat trickle down my chest, behind the confines of my body armor, from heat being thrown out by the device overhead coupled with the adrenaline surging through me. The closer we got, the tighter I gripped my revolver. Closer still now, we realized that there was no way to confront whatever was behind that pile of tires without exposing ourselves. So I got down on my belly, dirtying up my spotless uniform and inched my way around the final stack of tires and finally saw our suspect.
There, swaying in the exhaust of the overhead heater, was The Michelin Man; a five-foot high cardboard cutout.
To this very day, I am oh so glad that I resisted the impulse to yell, “Freeze, asshole! Petaluma Police!”
Gerry was born in Providence, Rhode Island but raised in Southern California.
Upon graduating from California State University, Los Angeles, Gerry enlisted in
the Army and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant. After leaving active duty
in 1979, he worked for Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office. From 1980 until his retirement
in 1996, he was a patrol officer, traffic officer, and a trainer at Petaluma Police Department.
Gerry is married, has a daughter and lives in Sonoma County, California.
Gerry is a regular contributor to Just the Facts, Ma’am. Check in weekly or so to see his newest posts.