John Derbyshire has said that the best stories come from police officers, then military veterans and then teachers. That might be true, but I’m not sure. If books and movies are anything to go by, it seems that actual war stories are much more popular than anything else. Sure, there are a lot of detective movies that usually feature far more bloodshed in an hour and a half than a real police officer is likely to see in a career, but actual war gets noticed. However, I will say that having a badge gives you entry to a sort of fraternity in which stories are swapped about some of the bigger capers in their departments.
I once met the son of legendary Border Patrol Senior Patrolman “Black Sam” McCone. McCone had been in the Patrol back in the 30s and 40s. (Despite the nickname, no, he was not black, just a dark-skinned white guy). His son recalled patrolling South Padre Island looking for German U-boats in a rinky little boat while armed with a Thompson submachine gun with his father and another agent.
He told me that at one point, his father had officially shot dead six men, which, at the time, was more than the rest of the Border Patrol combined. He had some interesting stories.
In any case, I read the following story a long time ago, and one of my friends who had been in the Houston PD confirmed that it was one of the legendary stories that circulated around the Dallas PD.
Back sometime in the dark ages of the late 70s or early 80s, it seems a couple of armed robbers started targeting supermarkets. Recall that even though there were credit cards, and some places would accept checks with your driver’s license number on them, cash was still king. Many supermarkets would be closed for Christmas day and sometimes the day after, too. So, people would be stocking up on food with large value items for Christmas dinner. Hence, the cash registers would be full. The robbers would come in usually shortly before closing time and hit the place. Because of the large number of customers and staff, they would take control of the situation through terror. Fire off a round or two to get peoples’ attention, and smack around managers or anyone who seemed to offer resistance.
The public was in an uproar and it started happening again one Christmas season with the robbers hitting different supermarkets. The Dallas PD’s solution was to set up “shotgun squads’” which consisted of two or three cops sitting in an unmarked vehicle in front of different supermarkets waiting for something to happen. It was extremely boring, and most of the time, nothing happened. The robbers did strike again, but it was always at a different supermarket and Dallas PD was having no luck.
Finally, the robbers struck again. They came into one of the supermarkets and took control, punching a pregnant woman, roughing up the manager, and otherwise terrifying the public, then grabbing the cash from the registers.
When the duo exited the supermarket, a gun battle ensued in the parking lot with both robbers winding up dead.
Now, even back then, any time there was a shooting, Internal Affairs (IA) had to do an investigation to make sure no laws or policy were violated.
IA shows up and begins interviewing witnesses. A lot of people didn’t see anything, since they were still in the store lying on the ground when the shooting started. IA finally finds a guy who had been in the parking lot starting to walk in. The IA investigator said, “Did you see what happened?”
The witness responded, “No, I saw the guys coming out of the supermarket and I saw the cops getting out of the car armed with shotguns. I knew what was about to happen, so, I dove under a car. But I heard everything.”
IA- “Oh good, so you heard them say ‘Freeze, police! You are under arrest!‘”
Witness, “No. It was more like ‘Merry Christmas, Muthaf@#$%ers!!! Then, BOOOM, BOOOM, BOOOM!!!!”