Cops today carry a lot of equipment and gear, but nothing is more important that the body armor now used. Often refered incorrectly as a Bullet Proof Vest, they don’t just stop bullets; they do save lives in other ways.
The first occurred while I was working on Hotel Street. There was a building fire with lots of people gawking and looking around.
One guy, for an unknown reason, caught my interest. I may have subconsciously spotted the way he carried his shoulders and that gave away the fact he was wearing a shoulder holster. If I remember, it was a Bianchi vertical “Dirty Harry” type holster.
I followed him around for a few minutes and he realized I was following him and tried to duck around a corner.
As I turned the corner his right hand was under his left arm, under the jacket. He was drawing the gun to ambush me.
In those days I was fast, very fast. In the moment it took me to understand what he was doing, he was stopped with his hand on the gun butt. I took a stand and made as smooth and fast a draw as I ever did.
But in the moment, his hand is frozen on the gun butt, his jacket is open and I can see the gun and holster, I am in a solid Weaver stance and the muzzle of my gun is centered on his chest, my finger is on my revolver’s trigger. This young man is 8 pounds away from dying. There is no way he can complete his draw before I fire. If he moves, I’ll shoot.
He turns a little and in the light I see the protruding ring cap I know is on a Crossman pellet revolver. I know it’s not a real gun. I take my finger off the trigger as he continues his draw, pulls the pellet gun from the holster throwing it into the alley beside him.
When the pellet gun cleared the holster, I could have fired and no one would have blamed me. It looked like a real gun. But because of the vest, I took an extra heartbeat, saw it wasn’t real, and didn’t have to shoot.
Turned out, he was trying to get rid of it before I stopped him. He almost got stopped permanently.
A second incident was only a few weeks later. On south King, just Ewa of the entry to Straub, was a skating rink, roller skating rink. Roller/Disco skating was making a big come back.
Across the street were a little drive-in restaurant and an empty lot.
These had been some kind of altercation inside that had spilled into the street and parking lot. Units were dispatched to the scene until things could calm down.
Much the same sequence. One guy, with a coat walking around talking to no one, caught my attention. Watching him I caught the big telltale print in the small of his back. Really a poor place to carry a weapon unless you know what you’re doing. But it looks really cool in the movies.
I had just called for back-up when I realize he’s trying to avoid me and keeps looking at me as he walks toward a vehicle. Again, I see his hand go under the jacket and time stops.
My gun clears the holster, I have a good 2 handed Weaver, barrel centered on his chest, finger on the trigger, a deep breath, and again I see the CO2 end cap on the gun butt, same type of pellet gun.
I do remember screaming “No” to this one. He stopped in mid draw, and just let it fall to the ground.
But as it did, he yanked open the driver’s side vehicle door, jumped in, in what appeared to be an attempt to run away.
It never occurred to me he might have a “real gun” in the car. I knew he’d dropped a pellet gun and was trying to get away.
I speed dropped my revolver back into the holster while running up to the car. He was putting the key in the ignition when I got an arm around his neck and dragged him out the driver’s side window.
My back-up pulled in the lot in time to see me drag this guy out of his car, through the driver’s window, by his neck. I then choked him out (and I mean out) threw him on the ground, and cuffed him.
When he came to he started crying and saying it wasn’t real and he wasn’t going to shoot anyone.
I keep screaming at him because I was angry, because he almost made me kill him. I was a raving madman, I was so angry. He almost made me kill him, because he wanted to be a “tough guy”.
The funny end to both of these stories, neither guy was charged with anything. Back then, the 70’s, there were no laws against carrying a pellet gun like it were a real gun.
But both these men survived the night because I had on a bullet-proof vest and could take an extra heart beat to identify their “weapon”.
The third case was a reported robbery in Waikiki. An off duty soldier was stopped by 3 black men in the middle of Ft. Derussy. One of the 3 brandished a small handgun and took the soldier’s wallet, keys and ran off laughing.
Problem was the “gun man” was wearing a L.A. Raiders football jersey (Black and Gray) and with a big white number on the back, 19 I seem to recall. That’s dressing for armed robbery success.
I hear the A.P.B. broadcast as I was driving down Ala Wai Blvd. It was about 8:30pm on a Friday night. I look over on the makai sidewalk and what do I see, 3 black guys walking together, and one of them is wearing a L.A. Raiders jersey with number 19 on the back. What are the odds there’s 2 groups like this. I guessed slim.
I was next to them and they were walking fast, there was no time to use the radio, they’d get out of sight and someone else would get robbed, maybe hurt.
I made a sharp left turn, slammed the car into park while it was still rolling and bailed out. As I was standing up #19 was lifting the bottom of the jersey with his left hand, and reaching for the small handle of a revolver with his right hand.
But this time I didn’t see any CO2 cap. I locked on them, the flashlight in my left hand lighting all 3.
As his “gun” cleared his waist band I started to squeeze my trigger. As his became visible I could see the large opening in front of the cylinder. It was a “starter” pistol, a blank firing gun used to start races. I also knew with a little work you could drill them to take a .22 cartridge. But I knew the vest would stop a .22 if he had converted it.
Again, I knew I didn’t have to fire. The other 2 guys had already thrown up their hands and as the “weapon” came clear he could see I already had him in my sights.
He literally screamed like a girl, high pitched and fearful, and tried to toss the gun into traffic. It just wasn’t his night; it bounced off the side of a taxi and lay in the gutter where I could see it.
As with the others, because of my faith in the Second Chance Vest, I could take the time to ID the weapon and knew I didn’t have to shoot.
Unlike the other 2, this guy was charged with Felony Robbery. He used the make-believe gun to take items of value by “Force or Fear”.
He must have made a plea deal because I never went to court on him.
I hope he knows how close he came to dying.
What all these have in common is the fact choices had to be made in split seconds, I had faith in the equipment and could take an extra heartbeat to make that choice.