You can’t help if you don’t arrive
From big cities to small towns, there is perhaps nothing we associate more with modern police work than the high-speed chase. In this two-parter, Detectives Dan and Dave remember their first times behind the wheel when they had to suddenly go Code 3 “in pursuit.” You’ll hear how they learned to keep cool under pressure while also keeping the public safe as they pursued the suspect.
The detective: Detective DaveRead Transcript
Dave: [00:00:03] And I say, “I’m in pursuit.” And all of a sudden, he just slams on his brakes and anchors it and stops. I remember stepping out, I’m shutting the door. You can hear the door shut and I said, “We’re stopped,” but I’ve got him at gunpoint. I don’t know what this guy’s up to. He’s got his hands up. He’s looking over his shoulder. I’ve got my spotlight right in his face. He starts yelling, “Shoot me! Just shoot me! I want you to kill me!”
Yeardley: [00:00:29] Hi, I’m Yeardley. This is Detective Dan.
Dan: [00:00:32] Hey, there.
Yeardley: [00:00:33] And his identical twin brother, Detective Dave.
Dave: [00:00:35] Hello.
Yeardley: [00:00:36] And this is Small Town Dicks.
Dave: [00:00:40] You will hear detectives from small towns around the world discuss their most memorable cases.
Dan: [00:00:44] We cover the intimate details of what went wrong and what went right.
Yeardley: [00:00:48] As these dedicated men and women search for justice and crack the case.
Dan: [00:00:53] Names and certain details have been changed to protect the privacy of the victims and their families.
Dave: [00:00:58] So, please join us in maintaining their anonymity out of respect for what they’ve been through.
Unison: [00:01:03] Thank you.
Yeardley: [00:01:10] Hey, Small Town Fam. So, this is part 2 of our doubleheader that we’re calling In Pursuit. I have the dream team here with me today. I have Detective Dave.
Dave: [00:01:22] Hello.
Yeardley: [00:01:23] Hello. You sound surprised.
Dave: [00:01:26] Since getting this new cup of coffee, I have a renewed and refreshed set of eyes on this podcast today. [Yeardley laughing] And the opportunity to, A, reach you, Yeardley, Daniel, and our listeners. I’m looking forward to it.
Yeardley: [00:01:43] He’s a walking Hallmark card.
Dan: [00:01:44] Patronizing and condescending is he.
Yeardley: [00:01:46] I find him funny and charming.
Dan: [00:01:48] Churlish and disrespectful.
Yeardley: [00:01:50] [laughs] I have Detective Dan as well.
Dan: [00:01:54] Also, I wanted to note that this coffee, I feel like has done a lot for my vocal cords. And I would ask the pro, Yeardley.
Yeardley: [00:02:04] Yes?
Dan: [00:02:05] Is that a thing?
Yeardley: [00:02:06] Ah, yes.
Dan: [00:02:07] Hot coffee for the vocal cords?
Yeardley: [00:02:09] Hot liquid.
Dan: [00:02:10] Hot liquid?
Yeardley: [00:02:11] Yeah. All right. Dave is going to tell us a story about a car chase. And I, for one, I’m excited.
Dave: [00:02:19] Right. Car chases. Everyone remembers their first that they ever “started.” They were the initiating officer on the pursuit.
Yeardley: [00:02:28] Oh. Now, just to be clear, it doesn’t mean that you started the car chase, it means that you were the first one to start chasing the suspect.
Dan: [00:02:36] No, you remember the first time you initiated the actual chase.
Dave: [00:02:42] Like you turned your lights on and that guy took off right in front of you and everybody else is trying to catch up.
Dan: [00:02:47] And the delay and your brain processing, “He’s not stopping. What do I do next?”
Dave: [00:02:54] And it’s like a dog chasing a ball. Go, get it.
Yeardley: [00:02:58] Right. The suspect is the ball.
Dan: [00:03:00] Fetch.
Dave: [00:03:01] Yeah. I remember, it’s probably a year into my career. You get a lot of guff, especially from having a twin brother who was working the shift with all the guys that I really wanted to work with, because they were like “turning and burning” and chasing stuff, making a lot of good arrests. Like we say in the business, a monkey could do a warrant arrest, but to develop probable cause, to make a probable cause arrest, it takes some talent. You have to have an investigative mind. So, I kind of crafted my patrol techniques after trying to do probable cause cases, not just pick out warrants. I was really good at recognizing faces, and names and remembering dates of birth. Full name, first, last, and middle I could remember and where I’d last seen you, I had this encyclopedic [chuckles] mind when it came to that. It is gone now.
Yeardley: [00:03:59] Really?
Dan: [00:04:00] It’s been replaced.
Dave: [00:04:01] It’s been replaced by a bunch of sex abuse cases and murder cases. But I used to be really good at somebody come up to me and say, “Who’s this guy?” And I’d say, “Oh, that’s–”
Yeardley: [00:04:10] Jimmy John James.
Dave: [00:04:11] Yeah, this is his whole name, and I think he was born in 1952.
Yeardley: [00:04:15] Incredible. Were you always like that, in school too?
Dave: [00:04:17] No. Something about police work, but in real life, I could meet you– So, if I met you at work, I remembered your first middle and last name, and probably your date of birth, and maybe your last four of your social security number. If I met you at a dinner party, eight minutes later, I’m like, “What was that guy’s first name? [Yeardley laughing] I don’t remember.”
Yeardley: [00:04:36] That’s fascinating.
Dave: [00:04:37] “Hey, can you tell me, what was that guy’s name?” And so maybe that’s a New Year’s resolution that I get better at that.
Yeardley: [00:04:44] I make that resolution every year. I’ll just say briefly that I’m really good at memorizing lines for a film or play or something, but I have the same issue at a dinner party. For me. I think there’s a measure of social anxiety where I’m not entirely present. Somehow, I don’t log the information.
Dave: [00:05:03] You know me. In my previous years, I would go out with work friends, and we would go out and hang out, I am very introverted.
Yeardley: [00:05:12] Same. And more so as I get older.
Dave: [00:05:14] Right. My patrol philosophy was, I want to sit on drug houses and look for suspicious activity, not just run people for driver’s license violations and no insurance. I learned that from all the guys that Dan was working with. There were guys in the department that were making big cases, putting together really good cases. I was like, “I want to be like those guys.”
Yeardley: [00:05:37] And is it because you were just a couple years behind Dan, you have to rise through the ranks, you don’t just get put on really awesome assignments?
Dave: [00:05:45] Right. When you’re new, you’re getting the last pick of the last shift available. So, you don’t get to pick who you get to work with. You don’t get to pick which sergeant you’re going to be working with, you don’t get to pick which dispatcher is going to be on when you’re working. There are aspects to seniority that are beneficial, because you get to pick all those things. In this case, I was really putting a lot of pressure on myself. Everyone’s like, “When you’re going to get in a pursuit, Dave?” I’m like, “It’s not for a lack of effort.” And I talked to an older officer, very experienced officer, his name is Rick. We’re just sitting offline talking, and he said, “It’s quality, not quantity of stops,” because I was stopping a lot of cars. And he’s like, “If you’re stopping somebody driving a $75,000 vehicle, that is brand new, has temp tags on it, do you think that that person has a lot of legal issues in their life? You think it’s a stolen car? You need to start looking at houses where on the tip line, there’s lots of criminal activity. If you’re looking for criminals, go to where the criminals are hanging out.”
[00:06:51] I started looking at the houses that were always on the tip line, short-stay traffic where neighbors would call in and say, “I think my neighbor’s dealing drugs. Here is a list of 14 license plates that came to that house today, and none of them were there for more than 10 minutes.” That is abnormal activity in a quiet neighborhood. So, I started sitting on houses like that, and I would follow cars. Once I had probable cause for stopping, I’d light them up, see who’s in the car and what they’re doing at that house. It’s also letting the neighbors know when you go driving by this house on the tip line that the police got their call on the tip line. And we care, we want to help that neighborhood eliminate this house in this problem, because if there’s vehicle traffic coming to that house, there’s also going to be foot traffic and bicycle traffic. And what do they do on their way out of that or into that neighborhood? They’re checking cars, they’re checking the mailboxes, they are stealing, they are vandalizing, they’re littering.
[00:07:54] Basically, you have these two- and three-block circles around these problem houses that those people are always on guard because three times last month, they walked out to their car and their window is broken. They’re tired of it. So, it’s useful to sit on those houses.
In this case, I’m sitting on a neighborhood that has a lot of activity that we’ve been describing. I start following this car out of a neighborhood and there’s driver and two passengers. There’s two males, I think, because they have flat-brimmed hats on. And then I think that the front right is a female. Not sure I just see kind of longer hair. Follow this car, early on, failed to use a blinker. I’m like, “I’ll take that.” Usually, my thing was, I want to get two or three. So, if the first one, somebody says, “Nope, I’ve called that into question.” I go, “Well, I’ve two other reasons to stop this car.” Pretty soon we’re on the freeway going westbound and they’re over the speed limit eight or nine miles an hour. I drive that fast. I try not to pull people over for things that I do.
Yeardley: [00:09:00] [laughs] Fair.
Dave: [00:09:02] Speed limit, if you’re going 15 over, I’m like, “Okay, I’m paying attention.” But nine, it’s a legit reason to pull this guy over. But eventually, he makes an unsignaled lane change on the freeway, right in front of me. And I’m like, “Alright, I gotcha.” There’s three. So, I pull him behind him, and there’s some radio traffic going on. So, I’m waiting to get my radio traffic out because I don’t hit my lights until I’ve gotten all my radio traffic out to let dispatch know I am pulling this car over and this is where we are and this is the license plate.
Yeardley: [00:09:31] What does that mean you have your radio traffic out?
Dan: [00:09:35] Generally what that means is, you give the license plate of the vehicle that you’re pulling over and the location where you’re stopping them.
Yeardley: [00:09:42] Okay. I was just confused by ‘out’ being the verb, but what you’re saying is, you got it out. You got the information out.
Dan: [00:09:50] Yeah, you just put it out, put it out on the air.
Yeardley: [00:09:53] Okay.
Dave: [00:09:54] I get all that done before I ever hit my lights, that way if something goes sideways, I don’t have anything else to do, but drive. And that’s how we train our people to do traffic stops, get your radio traffic out, plan your stop. The last thing you do is hit your lights to let citizen know you’re pulling them over right here.
Dan: [00:10:11] And we pick specific places to turn on our lights.
Yeardley: [00:10:15] That will be safe for a place to pull over.
Dan: [00:10:18] For not only the occupants of the vehicle we’re stopping, but for us because we’re going to be out of our car. So, when you first start, that is a factor that a lot of young officers are not cognizant of where they’re actually activating their lights. The longer you do it, the more you become aware of, “Okay, I’m going to wait another block and a half.” And so, some people criticize, “Well, why didn’t they stop them right when they saw the violation?” Well, I’m waiting for a spot that I feel is safe, is well lit, is out of traffic. There are a lot of factors, but we’re aware of it.
Dave: [00:10:53] I remembered, as I’m following this car westbound on the freeway, that we had two officers, one of them was Justin, who was a patrol officer at the time, and they are in this area that’s near our fuel pumps, but east of our fuel pumps on the way out of town, and that I’m westbound. And so, I remember hearing that there’s two officers on this traffic stop. One of those officers is in my district, the other one arrived to cover the other officer in my district. So, our numbers are down, because I have two guys that are dealing with something.
Yeardley: [00:11:25] With a different traffic stop.
Dave: [00:11:26] With a different traffic stop. I even get this as a sergeant, people say, “Well, your cop waited like three miles before they pulled me over.” Dan’s right. To me, that means nothing. Does it negate the fact that you committed a traffic violation? I know that there are factors into why that officer might have waited. If I’m five miles out of town, and I’m coming back into town and there’s a traffic violation that happened in front of me, I’m probably not going to pull you over five miles out of town. I’m going to wait until we get closer to town because my cover’s closer. I’m going to look for a well-lit area. So, three to five miles, big deal. You still committed a traffic violation.
Yeardley: [00:12:04] [chuckles] It didn’t go away.
Dave: [00:12:06] There’s not like an expiration date. In this situation, we’re driving west, and I know that I’m coming up on an exit that if I pass that exit, it allows those two officers on the other traffic stop, if I need help, that they’ll come in behind me on the freeway. If I do the traffic stop before that exit, they’ve got to go a long way to get to me. They’re going to have to get on the freeway, go the opposite direction, go up to another intersection, turn around and come back another mile to catch me. So, I’m not going to line them up until we’re at least committed to this exit. Well, they take the exit that is now going towards where these officers are, and I’m like, “Well perfect.” Depending on which way they go left or right off this exit, if they go north, perfect, we’re going to be even closer. If they go south, I’m heading towards the city and more lighted area. Either way, I’m good. They end up going north towards this other traffic stop. When I get up to the intersection that is just west of the traffic stop where these other two officers are, I decide to hit my lights.
Dave: [00:13:21] This suspect, it’s a Honda Civic, it’s black, there’s one male that I perceive to be in the backseat, back right. There’s a female front right and then there’s somebody with a flat-brimmed hat who looks like a bigger build, like bulky jacket driving, turns west. So, now we’re going away from where this traffic stop is. But we’re a few 100 yards, and we go right past our fuel facility. I’ve still got my lights on. To get to this fuel facility from where I lit this person up at this intersection is a couple 100 yards.
Yeardley: [00:13:53] And just explain to our listeners that the police have their own gas pumps.
Dan: [00:13:59] We have our own gas pumps that are for city vehicles. Not every department has that though. Some fill up at a fleet fueling facility. So, where we fill up is security, you have to have a code to get in through the gate and it’ll lock up behind you.
Dave: [00:14:14] Well, you see like truckers on freeways, they’ll have a card lock facility where they just pull off at a gas station behind a regular gas station. They can go up, do a card lock, enter their mileage, pump their own gas, and they’re out. They don’t need an attendant there. It’s open 24 hours a day.
Yeardley: [00:14:29] I didn’t know that. But also, what’s a card lock?
Dan: [00:14:33] It’s just a name that’s been given to these gas stations where you have a card and a code and–
Yeardley: [00:14:40] It’s like a key card.
Dan: [00:14:42] Yeah.
Yeardley: [00:14:42] Oh, why don’t they just say that? Anyway.
Dave: [00:14:46] In this situation, I lit this person up, activated my emergency lights when we came to a T at this intersection. So, I have my lights on expecting them within 50 feet really to pull over. Well-lit intersection, a couple 100 yards from these other officers, didn’t tap the brakes.
Yeardley: [00:15:05] That person you’re following.
Dave: [00:15:07] Never tapped his brakes. I’m like, “Okay.” But I didn’t recognize it. I’m just thinking, we’re westbound, and, “Hey, there’s where we pump our gas.” And now, we’re accelerating, but we’re not speeding. No brakes have been tapped. And I’m just kind of fat, dumb, and happy. Like, “Oh, maybe he’s finding a different parking lot that I wanted,” because there’s a couple parking lots on the north side of the street. So, he passes those. And I go, “Huh.” And then, all of a sudden, cranks it and does a U-turn. And I’m like, “Where are you going? I’m coming behind you.” And now we’re going back past the pumps, but out towards where the two officers are. And there’s radio traffic going on from that traffic stop. And I’m trying to let them know, “Hey, I’ve got someone running from me, and we are going to be on top of you in no time.”
[00:15:57] So, the way the radios work, you’re an officer, Yeardley, you’re out in the field, you’re on the radio, you’re talking to dispatch.” You can talk, you own the radio waves. I cannot, as an officer, interrupt you, basically you’re in the elevator and I’m waiting at the next floor for the opening to get on the elevator to throw my radio traffic out there. Dispatch, when they reply, is an open elevator, you can just jump on. Anybody can jump on. When dispatch is talking, I can say in the middle of them, “Break,” which means pause, “I’ve got something I need to say right now.” But if it’s another officer, there’s no opening, they have to finish their radio traffic, which is why I’m so hard on people that talk forever on the radio, because when the shit hits the fan, I don’t want you to be in sentence three of a five-sentence dissertation. Let it be quick. It should be a few words.
[00:16:52] So, this officer is talking and he’s not abusing the radio, but I have to wait for dispatch or wait for a pause, for me to say, “Break. Break. Break. Break.” It’s so embarrassing. I’m on the radio and I’m like, “You dipshit,” you sound like an excited kid. Like it’s Halloween, we get to go trick or treat. I’m like, “Break, break, break, pursuit, pursuit.” The dispatcher was working at night, I remember it was Shannon. I just remember Shannon’s voice. She’s now retired, still helps us with dispatch. But you don’t hear excited on the radio ever. So, we go back to the intersection where I lit this guy up. Now, he goes southbound back towards where we came from. And we’re headed towards the freeway. Shannon says, “How many people in the car?” and I go, [exhales], that was her thing, “Get your shit together, Dave. Gather yourself.”
Yeardley: [00:17:46] Shannon’s tone is calm, all business while she asks you this question. It’s a really simple question, knowing that that will pop you out of your excitement and recenter you?
Dave: [00:17:59] Yeah. “Did you pass by the other traffic stop?” “No, they’re still east to me.” So, I know that they’re close. And I’m like, “They’re going to ditch the traffic stop they’re on and they’ll be here in no time.” We’re heading back towards the freeway. And Shannon, rightfully, thankfully, interrupts me and my blood pressure goes down, I drop a few octaves and I just start airing this pursuit. We end up going over to the city on the other side of the interstate, our neighboring agency’s jurisdiction, and it turns into side streets and blowing stop signs. And that agency did a great job with helping us stop traffic. It was in the middle of the night. So, there’s not a lot of traffic, but they’re in intersections with their lights on. So, there’s not cross traffic that we’re having to worry about what this guy is just bombing through stop signs. Suspect ends up making it to an apartment complex, gets out, runs, and a guy who works with me now, but worked at this other agency was a canine officer at our neighboring agency, Robert. He arrives and pretty soon his canine locates suspect and guy goes to jail. He had like a robbery warrant. He was going to go back to prison. That’s why he ran.
[00:19:10] So, that was my first pursuit. And it was just a good reminder from Shannon is the one who kind of was like, “Hey, come on.”
Yeardley: [00:19:18] [chuckles] Breathe.
Dave: [00:19:20] “You can do this.” So, I was grateful for that. But that was my first pursuit that I ever initiated. Then, we talk about other pursuits. I’ve been in some hairy pursuits as a patrol officer. I’ve been in some hairy pursuits as a detective. But once you become a watch commander or supervisor, all those pursuits hit you in a different place, because you’re worried about liability and you’re worried about all the things that you never considered as a patrol officer. You are considering them, but you’re like, “I don’t care. This is somebody else’s responsibility. I’m chasing this guy until somebody tells me not to.” [chuckles] As a supervisor, the pucker factor on any pursuit is through the roof, where I’m like, “Oh my God, please. Please go out of town. Please obey traffic laws. Please be low speed.” You have a wish list of everything you want to happen, and inevitably none of it happens.
Yeardley: [00:20:15] Of course, because it’s a pursuit.
Dave: [00:20:17] Right. And then, my first pursuit that I started as a supervisor, of course, I was like I’m not going to terminate my own pursuit unless it’s really hairy. But it happened right in front of me. I knew this guy was going to run before I ever turned my lights on just based on the way he was driving. And it felt like this guy was trying to get my attention. I was on a traffic stop covering another officer. And this suspect came driving towards us on a main street and slammed on his brakes and a 40 mile an hour zone, like smoke coming up. It’s probably 2:00 in the morning. And I remember looking over, and the officer that I’m with, his name is Connor, is dealing with a felony offense with this traffic stop that he’s dealing with, is a felony driver’s license suspension, but it’s a felony.
Yeardley: [00:21:06] What is that?
Dave: [00:21:07] This guy is such a bad driver and commits so many crimes as a driver that the state has deemed him a felony level offender. If he drives a vehicle, it is a felony for him to drive a car.
Yeardley: [00:21:20] So, he’s not allowed to drive.
Dave: [00:21:21] He’s not allowed to drive and it means you’re going to jail and potentially prison, just for driving a car. That’s how irresponsible you’ve been as a driver. It takes a lot to get there. Usually, it’s like a manslaughter case or numerous DUIs, you get to this felony level, habitual offender status.
Dan: [00:21:39] Or, if you get in a lot of police pursuits. If anytime the police tried to pull you over, you run, then our Department of Motor Vehicles and our courts say, “I’m sorry. You’ve just lost your privilege to drive. You’re done.”
Dave: [00:21:54] Yeah, it’s a privilege. I have never seen in the Constitution you have the right to drive.
Yeardley: [00:22:12] Okay, so it’s 2:00 in the morning, and you and Officer Connor are on this traffic stop where the driver has a felony driver’s license suspension. Meanwhile, another car appears to be purposely coming right at you guys and then at the last minute, slams on its brakes.
Dave: [00:22:29] Yeah. All of a sudden, he pulls into the parking lot that cars are in, suspect’s driving a little Toyota Corolla that looks like it’s got 300,000 miles on it. It’s got rough spots, looks like the suspension on it is out because it’s kind of riding really low. And I’m looking at this guy like, “Are you really trying to draw this much attention?” At some point, it clicks. I’m like, he is trying to get my attention. He’s trying to pull my attention away from what we’re dealing with here. I start thinking–
Yeardley: [00:22:59] Do they know each other?
Dave: [00:23:00] “Do they know each other? And are we about to have a situation?” Suspect pulls into the parking lot. He’s probably 30 yards away. And I’m just looking at him. He’s got his reverse lights on and he’s just sitting there. And I’m looking at Connor, I’m looking at suspect, I’m like, “If he pops out of his car, it’s on. Something’s going on.” He throws in reverse, spins his tires, throws it and drive, roasts his tires, and now he goes back eastbound away from us and starts slamming on his brakes every 100 yards or so. And Connor, he’s what we refer to as a shit magnet. [Yeardley laughs] He gets into a lot of stuff. Great police officer, love to have 50 more of them. He looks at me and he goes, “Go.”
Yeardley: [00:23:43] Go check that other guy out.
Dave: [00:23:45] You kind of have to. It’s such erratic driving, I’m thinking, “This guy must be hammered.” So, I start following this guy. It’s a two-lane road each way with a center turn lane and bike lanes on each side, so it’s a pretty wide street. And he is back and forth between the bike lane, to the center lane. It looks like Pac Man, wocka, wocka, wocka. I get on the radio before I even do this traffic and I say, “Hey, do we have another unit that’s close?” People start chiming in, this is where I’m at, this is where I’m at. Nobody’s really close other than Connor who’s just a few blocks away, but he’s dealing with this other case, but I have to check on this guy.
[00:24:22] I go to do a traffic stop on this guy and right when I hit my lights, he accelerates and runs right through a red light and starts going southbound on a parkway that takes us out of town, back the same way as where Jay, from Dan’s pursuit case, same direction. I’ve been out there many times, and suspect’s accelerating gets up to about 60. I say, “I’m in pursuit.” All of a sudden, he just slams on his brakes and anchors it and stops. I remember stepping out. I don’t want to be stuck in the car. So, actually my next radio traffic is, I’m shutting the door,” you can hear the door shut and I said, “We’re stopped, but I’ve got him at gunpoint.” I don’t know what this guy’s up to. He’s got his hands up, he’s looking over his shoulder. I’ve got my spotlight right in his face. He starts yelling, “Shoot me! Just shoot me! I want you to kill me!”
Yeardley: [00:25:15] Is the suspect out of his car at this point? Is he facing you and yelling, “Just shoot me”?
Dave: [00:25:21] No, he’s still in the driver’s seat.
Yeardley: [00:25:23] Oh, okay.
Dave: [00:25:24] And I let dispatch know, “Hey, this guy is asking me to shoot him.” And all of a sudden you hear Connor go, “I’m en route.” And you can kind of hear him on the radio where he’s beating feet, like [mimics running sound] run into his car. I remember saying, “I’m not going up to that car.” I mean, this guy is asking me to shoot him. And so, I’m asking, “Do we have other units that are close?” because I’m sitting there by myself. This guy’s just looking at me, he’s acting weird. He’s screaming, “Just shoot me! Just kill me!” I’m like, “No.” [Yeardley giggles] I’m like, “What is going on with this guy?”
Dan: [00:26:00] I’m just guessing what’s going through your mind at this point is, “I hope this guy’s not wanting to commit suicide by cop right now,” because that’s certainly what it looks like.
Yeardley: [00:26:10] Sure. And that is the thing that suspects sometimes try to goad you into.
Dave: [00:26:15] Unfortunately. Connor catches up with me, and he’s parked to my left. So, it’s two lanes going out of town. Suspect vehicles right in front of me, Connor’s kind of out to the left. We’ve got this guy at gunpoint. We start making a plan like, I say, “Hey, I’m going to wait for us to get third here,” which is actually Officer Andrew and his canine were coming our direction but they were still probably four or five miles away. And I just say, “I’m going to just let this guy wait. We’ll just slow it down. There’s no reason to rush this. We’ve got him stopped.” And the guy’s yelling, “Just shoot me! Just kill me!” And I’m saying, “Get your hands up. I don’t want to kill you. Just get your hands up.”
Yeardley: [00:26:58] Do you want him to get out of the car?
Dave: [00:27:00] No, I want him to stay right there, because if he gets out of the car, this is where he reaches into his waistband and prompts us to shoot him. And then, all of a sudden, it’s like, “Well, he was unarmed.” “I didn’t know.” I’ll tell you this, when you’ve got someone at gunpoint and you’re telling them put your hands to the sky and they reach for their waistband, for any police officer and I would hope for any layperson, you would think, “Uh-oh, something bad is about to get grabbed out of that waistband.” Everyone recognizes the, “My shirt is up, I’m reaching into my waistband, and I’m pulling out a cell phone.” In my world, I’m expecting it to be a knife or a gun. I’m just not going to press it. We can wait.
[00:27:41] He doesn’t get out of the car. All of a sudden, he just floors it. Connor gets into his car. I was out kind of at the front quarter panel on my vehicle. Connor was in the V of the door of his car, and this guy floors it. Connor actually gets out in front of me and starts following this guy and we’re up to within 500 yards. We’re probably going 70 miles an hour. This guy, I mean, he roasts his tires. I’m like, “We’re in pursuit, headed out of town southbound.” So, this pursuit suspect’s brake checking us.
Yeardley: [00:28:14] What does that mean?
Dave: [00:28:15] Slamming on his brakes to see if we’ll run up behind him and possibly deploy our airbags and now we’re out of it. So, you hit the brake check, prompt the police vehicle to hit you from behind so hard that it deploys your airbags, and now I can’t drive anymore. He’s going anywhere from 70 down to 50 down to 25., back up to 70, starts turning his lights off, driving without his headlights. There’s no traffic whatsoever. But we’re coming up to a highway where I know that there’s not steady traffic, but there’s traffic on this freeway because it gets you over to the east side of our state, east west highway. So, he’s in the oncoming lanes without headlights. But I can see for a mile ahead that there’s no headlights coming towards us. I’m airing all this, and now I’ve got officers who are trying to get out in front of this to where they can deploy spike strips. And so, we’re all coordinating. As a watch commander, I always remember Dan’s pursued with Jay as the bar for me as a watch commander about how many units I allowed to go outside of the city. I always remember that fight with Jay. And that Charlie and Dan, just two of them, on this one very determined person was not enough.
[00:29:31] Our policy is to let two in a pursuit follow, but it’s up to your discretion as a watch commander. I always allowed more. If there’s passengers in the car, I’m inclined to allow at least as many officers as we have people in the car. It’s an officer safety issue. If I know that we’re heading towards a jurisdiction where there’s going to be officers, I’ll probably pull that back a little bit, but I at least want to have my guys together because they work together. I want them in that pursuit. I’d rather us have more resources than fewer needed. So, Dan’s fight with Jay has always been the bar for me, I’m like, “That’s a lesson learned.” Experience is what you needed 10 minutes ago, I don’t want to put my officers in an experience where they’re like, “Help.” Help is a bad word over the radio. So, I’m telling other officers like, “Hey, we’ve got three now in the pursuit. Other officers, you can parallel and try to anticipate getting out front, but I need you to stay as close to the city as possible, just in case something blows up, we get an armed robbery at 7-Eleven.”
Yeardley: [00:30:38] I need you to go do that.
Dave: [00:30:40] Right. We have to have officers respond to that. Somebody with a cardiac arrest call, police officers routinely beat fire to cardiac arrest calls. So, trying to divvy up resources, and suspect ends up taking kind of a circuitous route back towards our city on the freeway. But his driving is really erratic, and it gets to the point where we have so many officers from other agencies that I was number two in this pursuit, I end up getting cut off by two other agencies, and I end up being like number nine in the pursuit to the point where I just started laughing in my car, and I pulled over and I parked because I was like, “This is absurd.”
Yeardley: [00:31:20] Nine is enough. [chuckles]
Dave: [00:31:22] And we tell our guys, “Hey, if you’re not the originating agency in this pursuit, stay out of their way. You can assist, but stay out of their way. This is their thing. Help them. Don’t obstruct them.” In this case, it turned into a shit show. I was pretty fired up, but at the point where I was laughing, I was so frustrated, like, “I’m doing nothing in this pursuit now. We’ll just watch and see where this ends up.”
Yeardley: [00:31:50] Connor, now was he like number seven?
Dave: [00:31:52] Connor was closer to the front and actually had to get on the radio until this other agency, “Hey, can you get out of the way?”
Dan: [00:32:02] So, how this happens typically is, our suspect driving is out in front. And sometimes they run through stop signs, they’re out ahead. And sometimes there’s a gap between the first police car and our suspect car. When you’re coming to assist and you’re not on our frequency, your dispatch has said, “Hey, there’s a pursuit going on with this agency. They are in this direction of travel, and here are the speeds. Here’s the suspect vehicle.” Sometimes in that gap, these assisting agencies will just pop right out.
Yeardley: [00:32:36] Because you’re passing through their jurisdiction now. So, they’re right there.
Dave: [00:32:41] Yeah. And the really risky thing about that is, you talk about the speeds that these pursuits are going out, and this gap, maybe 200 yards, between the suspect vehicle and the lead pursuing vehicle, but they’re going 85-90 miles an hour, that 200 yards is nothing. What happens is a lot of times on graveyard, you have younger officers, and these younger officers will say, “Well, there’s a big gap in there, I’ll just pop right in there.” It’s really dangerous, because that 200 meters is eaten up by that first pursuing vehicle so quickly, that we’ve seen in law enforcement that there are a lot of fatal crashes between two responding units in situations like that, where somebody pops out in front of the lead pursuing vehicle, and there’s a collision and an officer loses their life.
Dan: [00:33:32] Anytime I was in support of these pursuits, you have to pick your spot. I always wanted the lead agency, whoever initiated the actual pursuit, you stay number one, man, this is your thing.
Dave: [00:33:46] It’s our policy.
Dave: [00:34:01] In this situation, I’ve got my A-team working that night. I had a lot of officers on duty that night. I felt good about our numbers and how people are going to respond and react and anticipate where this is going. Everyone starts fanning out, trying to get into a position where they’re not part of these 25-unit train of officers behind suspect and I was really proud of our folks that night. It ended up where Julio gets spike strips out in front of this guy.
Here’s the suspect story. He was called in earlier in the night for being disruptive at someone’s house in our neighboring city. He threw something through window, broke a window, fled. They gave a vehicle description of his vehicle and they knew him by name, and knew that he was a hothead. He then drives to his girlfriend’s house in our city. She calls in and lets our dispatch know this guy, something’s off with him tonight. He’s possibly suicidal.
Yeardley: [00:35:06] Is he on drugs?
Dave: [00:35:08] It turns out he’s drunk. But a volatile relationship with his girlfriend. It just turns out that I didn’t know all these facts. I had heard the call from our neighboring agency come out where it was, “Hey, he broke a window,” or something, as I recall. So, when I’m assisting Connor on this call–
Yeardley: [00:35:26] On the felony driver’s license call?
Dave: [00:35:29] Yeah. Turns out the suspect had just left the neighboring agency and driven over into our town. Connor and I were the first two police officers the suspect saw that night, and he wanted to draw some attention to himself. So, that’s why he drove the way he did, to basically say, “Hey, I’m right here. Come chase me.”
Yeardley: [00:35:49] The suspect didn’t realize that you and Connor didn’t know about his previous offense in the other town.
Dave: [00:35:54] Right. Actually, when I ran his plate to call out the traffic stop, dispatch came back, because they’ll do all kinds of background gathering, you give a plate, they’ll find out the guy’s name, what calls that plate or that person’s been associated with. So, by the time we are headed out of town on this pursuit, I’ve already got info that suspect’s associated with this other disorderly conduct vandalism call in our neighboring city, that he’s associated with this other call with his estranged girlfriend. So, you get a little glimpse into where this guy is that night. Now, it’s not just a traffic stop with an erratic driver. This guy’s caused problems at multiple residences tonight, he’s going to be a problem. We need to stop him.
He ended up getting spike stripped by Julio, well placed, great strategic thinking officer who was like, “Based on where this guy’s going and his girlfriend’s house, I think he might come back to the neighborhood. I’m going to stay here.” And sure enough, suspect went right through the intersection and Julio put out spike strips and we flattened two of the guy’s tires. Suspect ends up going another, I don’t know, maybe a mile and he finally goes, “Okay, it’s over.”
[00:37:09] Stops in the middle of a street. He is totally noncompliant, still begging for us to shoot him, gets out of the car against our wishes. We want to slow it down and say, “Alright, driver, throw the keys out the driver’s side window. Keep your hands up. Do you understand?” Fairly calm and methodical. This suspect jumped out of the driver’s seat, right at the end of this pursuit where he stops before we can get all of our resources lined up. And he’s acting like he’s reaching in his back waistband, and we send the dog on him and he gets bit, takes him down. He’s still begging for us to shoot him. Even when we took him to the hospital, he’s begging for us to kill him.
Yeardley: [00:37:51] Gee whiz!
Dave: [00:37:53] Yeah. He got a pretty nasty dog bite. He got bit right in the knee cap area. And so I can’t imagine that felt good. But once he sobered up, he was much more reasonable. But he said, “Yeah, I’m having a bad night. I’m really pissed off at my girlfriend and these other people. So, I was out raising hell and I was looking to get your guys’ attention.” I was like, “You got it.”[laughter]
Dave: [00:38:16] But in that situation, as a watch commander, I’m right in the train, on the driving and everything that was going on, there were a couple of times where I was like, “Ah, man. I don’t like this. Oncoming traffic, no lights.” You can still see and mitigate that with there’s no traffic coming but it’s certainly a factor. So, those are all things that I think about as a watch commander that I never thought about as a patrol officer. I was like, “Hey, we’re chasing somebody. This is great. I’ve got nothing to worry about.” And the watch commander at all times, like, “Oh, God. Oh, God. Oh, God.” [chuckles]
Dan: [00:38:51] One of the things you have to do when you become an officer and when you’ve been in some of these chases is you have to gain the trust of your watch commander so he or she will allow you to continue to pursue these vehicles, because the watch commander has to be able to trust you. And what they are evaluating is what is the threat to the safety of the public. And you as the pursuing officer, you need be evaluating those things too.
Dave: [00:39:20] I’ve terminated pursuits too, and I think that earned the trust of my watch commander. And that’s the hardest thing to do, is to say, “I’m not going to chase him.” I’ll tell you from a watch commanders’ perspective and officer that goes, “I am terminating, the driving is too dangerous.” I go, “Okay.” Your credibility just went up 100 points, like you’re making that judgment call. “I’m probably six, seven miles away. I don’t see exactly what you’re seeing. I’m not experiencing what you’re experiencing. So, I’m trusting you that you’re making a qualified sound judgment based on what you’re experiencing.” An officer that terminates a pursuit, I’m like, “Thank you.”
Yeardley: [00:39:58] You are as interesting and mitigating the risk on all fronts, as you are in loading into your adrenaline?
Dave: [00:40:05] Yeah. I’ve had officers that you hear the radio traffic, there’s some distinct prolonged pauses, where you’re like, “What is happening right now?” And you’re waiting 20-30 seconds between updates. And you know you’re in the city, and I’m thinking, “Why have I not heard you on the radio? If you’re at the speeds that you reported you’re at, you’ve gone through at least five or six intersections. I need to know the good and the bad about the driving? Is he following traffic laws, is he blowing lights at 55 miles an hour in the city? I need to know, traffic conditions, I need to know road conditions, I need to know the time of night. I need to know what your probable cause is for the stop. I need to know all these things.” And if I’m getting huge delays, you’re not building a belief in me that you are able to handle this situation that maybe the game’s too fast for you. So, I want more information rather than less.
[00:41:01] There’s certainly been situations where I heard the pursuit on the radio, then I read the narrative about what happened in between the radio traffic and you’re like, “Hey, that ever happens again, just terminate by yourself, because I’m going to terminate it if it ever takes that long to get that kind of information from you.” We can all multitask. I expect that you can drive at high speeds, pick up street signs or addresses, and have your hand on the mic to be giving these updates all at the same time. If you’re unable to do that, these are basic things like report writing, that’s part of the job, you’ve got to be able to do that. And that’s a situation where I need you to be able to do that every single time.
[00:41:46] When I read a narrative, and I’m like, “Hey, you didn’t mention going the wrong way around the roundabout and then running the light at 65 miles an hour. I never heard that over the radio.” And they’re like, “Oh, yeah, no, that’s my bad.” That can’t happen.
Dan: [00:42:00] And if it happens again, now we’re going to take a different direction of discipline here.
Dave: [00:42:06] Our officers are really good at making adjustments. They’re really good at feedback. They are responsive, and they understand where you’re coming from. They’re reasonable people and they want to do the right thing. There’s times where I’ve been like, “Argh.” I don’t know what to say on the radio. It happens.
Yeardley: [00:42:24] What do you mean?
Dave: [00:42:25] Ah. There’s time where you’re just like a garbled mess. It could be nothing. I’m trying to give a disposition on a call, and I’m just a shit show on the radio.
Yeardley: [00:42:34] I just don’t believe that about you.
Dan: [00:42:37] Dave can be a shit show.
Yeardley: [00:42:38] [laughs]
Dan: [00:42:40] He’s talking about rambling on the radio, being a little too wordy.
Yeardley: [00:42:44] What? Like you’re giving the weather report?
Dan: [00:42:46] Maybe overexplaining, maybe mansplaining. Dave’s a mansplainer.
Yeardley: [00:42:52] [laughs] Okay, I get it.
Dave: [00:42:55] I understand, especially if it happens in a stressful situation but I want you to be inoculated in those stressful situations to the point that after it happens the first time– I mean, like me, my first pursuit within 100 yards, Shannon had snapped me out of it and I was like, “Got it.” If it takes multiple incidents for you to be able to recognize that you need to snap out of it, you’ve got some more work to do. It’s just a fact. Just a fact.
Yeardley: [00:43:21] Yeah. I feel like now we all know what’s going on inside the cop car when we watch a high-speed chase on TV. Now, you know what they’re actually saying to each other more or less, the sort of things that they’re looking for, watching for, trying to avoid, the risks they’re trying to mitigate. You only get that here.
Dan: [00:43:42] If you want a good example of what pursuit radio traffic sounds like, if you listen to our Kilcullen episodes, we’ve got it in there. And you’ll hear Dave and you’ll hear James in their radio traffic. You’ll hear my voice too but they both did a really good job during that. You can hear the poise
Yeardley: [00:44:01] And the succinctness of the messages that you’re conveying over the radio, as you said, like really brief, just the sort of need-to-know details so that your cover can keep up and respond appropriately.
Dave: [00:44:15] Yeah. And the radio’s like a party line in the old days, you’ve got a lot of people wanting to talk. There’s only a few people with actual information that helps the rest of the party.
Yeardley: [00:44:24] That’s well said. Yeah, brilliant. Thank you both. Dan, Detective Dan.
Dan: [00:44:31] You’re welcome.
Yeardley: [00:44:32] Detective Dave.
Dave: [00:44:33] Thanks.
Yeardley: [00:44:34] We’ll see you next time.
Yeardley: [00:44:44] Small Town Dicks is produced by Gary Scott and Yeardley Smith, and co-produced by Detectives Dan and Dave. This episode was edited by Soren Begin, Gary Scott, and me, Yeardley Smith. Our associate producers are Erin Gaynor, the Real Nick Smitty, and Alec Cowan. Our music is composed by John Forest. Our editors extraordinaire are Logan Heftel and Soren Begin. Our books are cooked and cats wrangled by Ben Cornwell.
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