By Hal Collier, LAPD Retired We are happy that 35-year veteran Hal Collier is sharing his ‘stories behind the badge’ with us.
The story you are about to read is true, the names have been changed to protect the embarrassed. The following story is a little grim so if you’re queasy skip down to the practical joke section. Of course if you watch any of the Law & Order, CSI or Bones on TV during dinner, your already numb to blood and guts.
My partner’s name was Bob. I was working A.M. watch with Bob. Our field sergeant, Frank, was a department mistake. He was nice enough but he could screw up anything you were trying to accomplish. An example: I was at a homicide scene. We had the crime scene tape surrounding the area we were protecting. Sergeant Frank kept walking through the crime scene disturbing the evidence. I reminded Sergeant Frank that he was walking through our scene and he would smile, oblivious to the fact that he was destroying evidence. When the homicide detectives arrived at the scene he asked what I had. I briefed him on the death of a low-life Hollywood citizen and my idiot sergeant kicking shell casings around the crime scene. The detective told me, if he walks through the crime scene one more time the detective will book the Sergeant’s work boots as evidence. Fortunately for Frank, he wised up. Anyone who wants the sergeant’s name this will be a freebee. His fame is renowned to anyone who worked Hollywood at that time.
My partner, Bob, was no rookie, and he was an outstanding street cop. In fact Bob is now a Deputy Chief with the L.A.P.D. I’m sure it was working with me that allowed him to promote so high. We get a radio call of shots fired deep in the Hollywood Hills. Most “shots fired” radio calls are false. Some are fireworks, cars backfiring or no evidence of shots fired. These types of calls in the Hollywood Hills are also hard to locate the source. Because of the deep canyons and echo effects, loud party calls can be over a mile away.
We drive into Laurel Canyon with our map book open. Even an experienced Hollywood cop needs the map book in the hills. We find the PR (person reporting). He tells us he was awakened by a loud gun shot. He goes on to tell us that he is a hunter and avid shooter, so he knows the difference. He stepped out on his front porch and he could smell fresh burnt gun powder. We assumed that our PR knew what he was talking about. He said he thought the sound came from across the street. He advised us that a divorced mother and her teen age son lived in the house. Bob and I approached the house. I’m going to have to describe the house—the front had a carport and a solid wall. No windows; to the right, there was a small walkway with an eight foot tall wooden gate. The other side of the gate was a pool area which had sliding glass doors that led into the house.
Bob and I approached, using the solid wall for cover. We both felt that the PR knew what he was talking about so we used caution. There wasn’t any outside light so we were using our flashlights. We inched along the wall toward the gate, all the time listening for sounds of danger. I was the senior officer and taking the lead. I looked down and observed an oval object, six inches in length, lying on the ground. I shined my flashlight on it and said to Bob, “What the hell is that”? Bob gave me that, ‘well, you’re the senior officer’ look. We both stood there for a minute, our minds racing, what was that? It looked like a piece of meat.
We looked around and spotted blood on the eves above our head. We inched closer and could see where something had been dragged back through the gate. There were blood scrapes. Ok, we have a crime scene.
We were going to need additional officers and a supervisor. For my non-police friends, your first concerns are, is someone injured and in need of medical help, or is there a suspect inside, possibly barricaded? We radio for additional officers and a supervisor. Yep, you guessed it, we have Sergeant Frank responding. Our only hope is that he gets lost trying to find us. Bob and I look at each other and think how can we keep him from screwing up our crime scene? We formulate a plan on how to get inside the house without a detective booking our boots.
Our additional officers arrive and we make up a search team. Sergeant Frank is three streets away and lost. We direct him to our location. I brief Sergeant Frank and ask him to go to the PR’s house and call the Watch Commander. Sergeant Frank trots away. Bob and I conduct a search of the house. We had to go around to the other side of the house. We find a female dead just inside the gate. The top of her head was missing, yep, that was her brain outside. The suspect was gone. I go back out front and tell Sergeant Frank that we have a homicide. I tell him to notify the Watch Commander and Detectives. Sergeant Frank agrees and trots off. Bob says to me, you’re treating that sergeant like your puppet. I was just trying to let him keep his shoes.
The suspect was a boyfriend, got into an argument with the victim. She tried to call the police, he shot Ma Bell (telephone) and she ran outside and through the gate. He caught her by the arm and the gun went off. He flew to Florida but forgot his passport and couldn’t leave the country. He plead guilty to manslaughter.
I was a sergeant at Hollywood and we had a female captain who was a real diamond. Everyone like her and I never heard a negative word about her. The station needed a paint job inside and the city performs the work. The trim around the door frames and windows was painted a maroon color. The rumor was that the captain picked out the color. Most of the cops figured this was the captain’s female touch to the station. She was getting a lot of ribbing about the color, and well you know I can’t pass up a chance to play a practical joke. Every day, sergeants are required to turn in a log, informing the captain on the day’s happenings or concerns. Well, I got a sheet of maroon paper and printed out my sergeant’s log on it. I started out with a note to the captain that the paper color would go with the new station decor. I got my log back with a message from the captain. “Very funny, Officer Collier”.