SOME DAYS ARE BETTER THAN OTHERS
by Ann Baker
Wiping the sweat from my eye I smeared my mascara on the back of my hand, but it did alleviate the stinging. My lungs felt like they would burst as I tried to breathe quietly; to keep from being heard and minimize the inhalation of the stench from the sewage that ran freely under the nearby trailer. He wasn’t far ahead, and I was certain he was armed, he always was.
What had started out to be just another routine car crash had quickly changed to a whole different thing. The old purple Cadillac had run the red light and broadsided a small Toyota. I can only assume he saw my car in his rearview mirror and had tried to run.
It was a far too familiar story. The gang wars had been raging for weeks. With two very young men already in their graves we had hope we had seen the end of it. Apparently we were wrong.
Icould feel my heart beating beneath my Kevlar vest and the rushing of blood in my ears made it near impossible to hear anything but the sirens of the fire truck nearing the scene. It was a shame they wouldn’t be needed for anything other than to confirm what we already knew. Two upstanding citizens were dead on the scene.
The light from the helicopter approaching was apparent, and I knew it would only be minutes before it would be too late to hear anything. Being so far out it would take the canine a long time to get there. With my gun drawn, held close to my body, I inched to the corner of the shabby trailer, especially wary of the corner where the skirting was torn away. It was pitch black with the only light coming from the stars and a sliver of the waning moon. He could be under there just waiting for me to walk by.
Hesitating, I listened again. It was against my training to follow in the dark a suspect I knew was armed, but I wanted him bad. Pedro had outrun me once before, and I wasn’t willing to let him do it again. The hairs on the back of my neck suddenly came to attention and I knew he wasn’t far away. I stood frozen, waiting.
Without warning, he jumped me from behind and knocked me to the ground. With his crushing weight on top of my slight body, he shoved me to the ground with ease. I rapidly realized it would have been better to have had my gun holstered. As it was my arm was trapped under my body as Pedro screwed the barrel of his gun in my ear.
“You’re mine now, bitch,” he hissed through his teeth.
My mind raced while at the same time everything seemed to be in slow motion. My left hand was free and in a moment of clear thinking I hit the emergency button my radio. The volume had been set at the lowest possible in an unsuccessful effort to conceal my position.
“Put down the gun Pedro,” I said loudly, knowing I would be heard by the whole district as I was in emergency status. “Pedro Rodriguez, do you want to die by this run down trailer in a strawberry field?”
There, I’d given my position and the suspect’s name.
“You’re the one that’s gonna die you white bitch,” he spat.
“As soon as you pull that trigger, you have signed your own death warrant. Don’t think you’re going to die easy either. It’s bad enough to kill a cop, but a woman cop… God, you’d better pray they don’t get to you before you eat your own bullet.”
It was only a ploy to throw him off, to give me a few precious seconds for the chopper pilot to find me. He had his spot light off and was using the heat seeking FLIR. I knew he was nearby and I prayed he heard my transmission.
Pedro must have been thinking about what I said because I felt him hesitate, back off ever so slightly. As he did the chopper came up over the top of the ramshackle little trailer, and the wind from the blades threatened to blow off the siding.
The moment I had been waiting for had arrived, and I rolled to the right with all the strength I had. Pedro slid sideways easily in his drunken state and as soon as my gun was clear of my body I started pulling the trigger as fast and hard as I could.
Either I hit him, or he thought I did, but the full weight of his rather large and sweaty body dropped on top of me and at the same time the chopper’s spot came on, blinding me. My first thought was whether the helicopter pilot was filming or not. I really wanted to load another magazine in my gun and keep firing. Instead, with great effort, I rolled Pedro’s fat carcass off of me.
Checking his neck for a pulse, I was disappointed to find he still had one. I grabbed for my radio as I checked his body for holes. Sure enough, I found two of them.
“Send me an ambulance to the southeast corner of 305 Highway and 26 Highway,” I yelled over the helicopter noise.
The radio operator came back asking something, but I couldn’t make it out. Placing the radio next to my ear I asked him to repeat.
“What’s the nature of injury?” he asked.
“Shots fired, suspect hit. He still has a pulse. Tell them the helicopter is right over me to follow the light.”
The last thing I wanted to do is save this miserable excuse for a human being’s life, but it was my job. I put my ear to his face to check for breathing, and I didn’t feel even a whisper on my cheek. I was disgusted with the idea of putting my mouth on his, so I hesitated and ripped open his shirt to see if I had shot him in the chest, maybe hitting a lung.
Sure enough I could hear the gurgling as the bubbling blood boiled from the hole between his ribs just below the heart. I didn’t have the stomach to put my hand over the wound, although for some others I might have. Looking around on the ground, with all of the trash scattered there was nothing suitable. I thought about my laminated Miranda Card in my shirt pocket, and took it out. How appropriate. I slapped it on his chest and held it in place with two fingers.
“You have the right to remain silent…” I laughed aloud. “Good I see you’re exercising your rights.”
It was then that Robert arrived on scene. I was more than glad to see him. By the look on his face, I must have looked frightful.
“Are you okay?” he yelled.
“Yeah, he pounced me, but I’m fine.”
“Well you look like shit,” he laughed.
“Thanks, I love you too. I hate to sweat and a lot of writing has to be done before I can get the smell of that sewer out of my nose.”
When I finally got home, many hours later, I ripped off my blood and mud encrusted clothes and scrubbed my flesh until it was almost raw. Dressed in nothing but a robe and slippers I plopped down on the couch with a cold one and turned on the television. Another stupid mistake, the news vultures were already circling.
“Another police involved shooting,” the anchor said. “A traffic accident left two people dead and another in critical condition after a police officer shot him. The names of the deceased have yet to be released.
Officer Carmel Rivera, an eight year veteran chased a young man into a wooded area and shot him in the darkness. There were no witnesses and police officials are releasing few details at this time.
“Pedro Rodriguez is listed in critical condition and no charges have been filed at this time.”
Pedro’s mother was splattered all over the tube crying and extolling the virtues of her poor victim of a son. I noticed no one mentioned his extensive criminal history or the Mack 9 he tried to shove down my ear canal. There was no mention of the two dead opposing gang members that had been killed in the last week with a Mack 9, just a weeping mother saying her boy had a good heart.
“Officer Rivera has been previously investigated on two different occasions for excessive use of force, although she was not disciplined in either incident.”
Disgusted, I punched the power button on the remote and silenced the enemy. Two investigations of excessive force indeed. They might have dug a little deeper and found out they were both dismissed as frivolous and maliciously false. Freedom of the press is a wonderful thing…
I’d been off for a week when my appointment with the shrink rolled around. This alone was a deterrent for getting involved in a shooting. Saying that I had not been looking forward to this day would be a vast understatement. It had taken several changes of clothes, before to decid on casual black slacks and a plain beige blouse. Normally I would have worn heels, but I thought better of it and stuck with a pair of flats.
Fidgeting in the waiting room I picked up a magazine and wondered if there were hidden cameras watching my every move. It was hard to sit still, but I gave it my best shot and feigned interest in the bland golf magazine in my lap. Suspecting that I was being made to wait by design I began to get annoyed.”
“Ms. Rivera,” the receptionist finally called.
“Yes ma’am,” I answered in the sweetest voice I could muster.
“The doctor will see you now.”
As I entered the room he was reading over some papers on his desk. My psychological profile no doubt. He didn’t look up or acknowledge my presence in any way, so I sat down in one of the empty chairs pondering if there was some significance to which one I had chosen.
After a few minutes of stale silence, like a self proclaimed deity, he spoke, “Ms. Rivera, I’m Doctor Schaeffer.”
“Yes, sir, we have met,” I responded.
Seemingly shocked he looked at me for the first time, “We have?”
“Yes, sir, when you did my employment evaluation.”
“Oh, of course,” he said dismissing my explanation with a flip of one of his papers. “I understand you were involved in an incident a few days ago. Why don’t you tell me what happened.”
Holding my tongue, I thought carefully before answering. He wasn’t here for my benefit, he was the office psychiatrist and nothing I said to him was confidential. I felt like asking for an attorney.
“I was the first on scene of a fatal crash, and got into a foot pursuit with a driver that fled the scene. During the pursuit the suspect jumped me from behind and placed a machine gun in my ear. I managed to push him off and fired my weapon in self defense.”
“And what of the suspect,” he said the word suspect as if it felt dirty in his mouth.
“The last I heard, he's alive, but may not walk again.”
“How do you feel about that,” he said scrutinizing my every blink.
“How do I feel about him living, or that he may be paralyzed?” I asked wary of every word.
“Tell me about both, in that order.”
Of course I wanted to say I was sorry the son-of-a-bitch was still breathing, and my only consolation is that his fat ass would be in a wheel chair forever. It was on the tip of my tongue and I bit it to keep from saying the truth.
“I’d say he was very lucky to have lived through being shot point blank with a .45." Plus, I need to spend more time at the range. "The fact he may never walk again may keep more innocent people from being killed.”
After a few more grueling inquiries Doctor Schaeffer made his decree that I was fit to return to work and mercifully released me. Relieved, I wasted no time in getting the hell out of Dodge.
While I would like to tell you that Pedro got what he deserved, I am afraid he did not. Within a few months he had regained use of his legs and was able to face trial. Although he could walk, he came to court in his wheelchair to gain sympathy.
The judge refused to allow his criminal record into the proceedings and his attorney had successfully argued to keep the blood alcohol results suppressed. The jury, while expressing sympathy for the woman and her grandson that had died felt poor Pedro in his wheelchair had suffered enough. His non-existent license would be permanently revoked and he would serve a few years of probation, after all, it was a car accident.
He got a few more months of probation for trying to kill me. It was my word against his, and he was in a wheelchair.
They weren’t able to tie him to the two shootings because there were only fragments of the bullets found. I would have actually given him a medal for doing it though. He saved the taxpayers a great deal of money and did the world a service.
Pedro’s family insisted that he was innocent and threatened the office with a civil suit based on a violation of Pedro’s civil rights. It worked, to avoid trial they were paid $150,000.
Is there justice in our world today? If Pedro had killed that little boy and his grandmother his gun, he certainly would still be in prison. But because he used two ton car to murder instead of a one pound gun, his actions were excused.
With special thanks to lawyers who will use any means to gain pardon for the guilty, Pedro and many like him still roam freely among us. The next time you are taking a Sunday drive, look in the car next to you, it may be him, and his name could just as easily be Bill or Joe.
Because of slow justice the land is polluted.