Remember I said that off duty arrests were frowned upon, well arrests made when you’re an ex-cop are even worse. If you make one of those you’ve got to really count on professional courtesy and good will, if you have any.
It was just before I left for Los Angeles and had left the department on good footing. I wasn’t stopped or hassled and most everyone treated me like I was still on duty.
The death threat I had received, my first, was still unresolved so I was carrying a concealed weapon even though I had no permit. I didn’t flaunt it, show it off, or otherwise make it a big thing. But I was still on edge.
Cop patrol habits, once learned, are hard to break, it means you’re always looking around while driving or walking, and always waiting for something to happen. So it was this night.
I was driving home, but I was watching, looking, and listening. I was on S.King Street, just short of the King, Beretania, and University intersection. An area normally of high traffic, vehicle and pedestrian, but tonight it was deserted.
It was a scream that caught my attention first. I slowed, checked traffic around me and then started looking in ever widening visual sweeps. It was extending my area of focus when I spotted the two people struggling on the sidewalk at a bus stop. I don’t remember why I knew it was a bus stop, but I clearly remember I knew that.
It was moments like this that I realize I am one of those lucky people that at times of stress, things slow down and I can see everything as it doesn’t seemed rushed.
I could see he was pulling her purse and she was pulling back but loosing. I spun the steering wheel, aimed at the curb, switched on the high beams and completely illuminated the bus stop and the area around the two people.
I slammed on the brakes, and as I hit the shifter into park the guy broke free, the girl fell to her knees, and he started to run. In the movies this is when the cop would yell “freeze” and the guy would.
In the real world the word “freeze” means run like hell and hope the cop can’t catch you. This guy was no exception and took off like a freakin’ gazelle. He took off east on King Street, turned down a dark lane then turned again and headed east once again.
I left my car parked nose first into the bus stop, yelled at her to stay there, and took off in pursuit. Again, I need to remind you this was long before cell phones and I didn’t have a police radio any more. I grabbed the keys, pulled my revolver, and began the chase.
This was right in the area I had patrolled so I was well aware of the little lanes and driveways. I knew all the little dark spots he was using to try and duck me but I kept behind him and didn’t give him any time to set up. He kept looking over his shoulder and there I was, not close, but right behind him.
We ran across University Avenue and that’s when he made his mistake. He quickly turned into the Varsity Square parking lot thinking he could cut through the back, get to King and then get lost in the many apartment buildings. What he didn’t know was the parking lot exit had been blocked off for construction earlier that week. It was now a dead-end.
When he made that turn I knew this was almost over so I slowed and tried to get some breath back because he’d only have two choices when he hit the end of the lot.
He could give up or try to fight his way out. I didn’t count on him giving up.
I didn’t have a badge so I didn’t yell “police, you’re under arrest”, it wouldn’t have done any good anyway. When he reached the end he turned around, smiled, and held both arms away from his body in a way that could be either surrender or invitation to fight.
I was breathing pretty well, but I knew I didn’t want to wrestle with this crum. So I did what he didn’t expect, I sped up. As I ran at him I turned the pistol around in my hand so the butt was on top of my fist and I was gripping the cylinder and barrel. As I approached him at full speed I moved a little to his right so I would go past him.
As I passed I hit him with the gun butt square in the middle of the forehead, right where I aimed. Using my running movement as momentum and a full arm swing the contact took him off his feet as if I had pulled the rug out from under him. He crumpled to the ground and I could see his eyes roll up just a little.
It took four or five more steps for me to stop and turn around and get him back in my sight. He was still down, but he was already begining to recover, shaking his head he rolled over and got onto his hands and knees.
I moved as quickly as I could and got behind him hooking his right arm with my left in what is known as a “chicken wing” hold gripping his collar so he couldn’t spin out.
I made sure he could see the revolver in my hand , now held the correct way, and began a running conversation telling him if he tried to fight or run I’d shoot him in the back. I kept this non-stop conversation going as I walked him toward King Street and the lights.
As we crossed the intersection I could see the bus stop was now brightly lighted by flashing red, white, and blue lights from the cop cars and the ambulance. I could see someone being attended to by the EMT’s and I guessed it was the female victim. My car was being gone through by a uniformed officer and there was a sergeant talking on a portable radio, probably to dispatch.
All this hustle sort of came to a halt when I walked up with a gun in one hand and a prisoner in the other. The silence only lasted a couple of breaths until the sergeant said loudly; “Pritchett…I should have known it was you.”
Then the usual police procedures took over and everything started up again. I turned my prisoner over to the uniform that cuffed him, searched him, and then locked him in the back of the patrol car.
The victim started to tell anyone and everyone that that was the guy that tried to take her purse and I was a hero for going after him and why where they interrogating me; she was just a little excited and it took a few minutes to quiet her down.
I wrote up a witness statement and told my story to the detectives three or four times. After an hour or so, I was told to go home, no mention of the gun, and I’d be contacted in a couple of days.
Two days later they didn’t call, instead two detectives showed up at my apartment, but even I was surprised at the outcome.
The young man knew he was caught and at first he tried to say I had grabbed the wrong guy. Then his story was I had started chasing him for no reason at all and he didn’t know anything about no robbery.
However, when faced with the victims on the spot identification, my statement as a veteran police officer, he finally dropped the BS and tried to make a deal for some lesser charge. This was being treated as a “Robbery By Force” and it was a serious felony.
While trying to make a deal, that’s when he dropped the bombshell. That’s why the detectives were visiting instead of just calling.
Seems my mugger had been scheduled to start the Honolulu Police Recruit Training the following Monday. The optimum word now was, was.
I agreed to not make any noise or talk to any news people and they would forget about my having had a gun. A good deal for me, and kept the bad light off HPD.
Never did get a reason for him grabbing her purse.
At least that was one bad guy that never got a badge.