A little quick introduction for those people just tuning in. I worked for the Chattanooga Police Department for just shy of thirty years. During that time I worked Patrol Division, was a detective in the Burglary and Robbery Division and was the supervisor of the Regulatory Division which licenses and oversees businesses which sell and serve alcohol. I was also on the departments Special Weapons and Tactics Team primarily assigned as a sniper. Occasionally people will ask me to tell a story from those years. So I thought this month I would relate a few experiences from my time with the Chattanooga Police Department.
A friend of mine who currently works for a department in this area posted something on Facebook about criminals not being able to fight well. I had to differ with him a little. I encountered a few who could really fight. Several years back I responded to a SWAT call-out just off Bonnie Oaks Drive. A male was out in his yard brandishing either a rifle or a shotgun. He had run back into his house upon Patrol officers getting on the scene. As SWAT was responding the subject came back out and confronted a patrol officer. Apparently he had left his long gun inside his house. I got onto the scene and threw the front and back doors of my unmarked Ford Crown Victoria open. I retrieved my SWAT uniform and shielded by the cars open doors I quickly changed clothes. As I started up the subject’s long driveway I saw him unarmed talking to a very large patrol officer. The officer seemed to have the situation under control. There was a huddle of officers at the bottom of the driveway interviewing the subject’s wife. I heard her say, “He knows karate.” Back in the day cops used to hear this all the time so we usually didn’t put a lot of stock in these claims. However, sometimes you should listen. As I neared the subject and Officer 1 saw the suspect slide his right foot back. If you have ever seen the movie “Billy Jack” you know what is coming. This guy kicked flat-footed into the face of this 6’ 5” or so officer. The officer stumbled back as I ran towards them. The Billy Jack impersonator then turned and ran for a nearby tree line. Problem was there was a barbed wire fence in his way. He hit it at speed and got snagged as he tried to get through it. A fleeting question went through my head as to why he didn’t just jump it. As I neared the fence I prepared to straddle it while pushing the top wire down. I had grown up on a farm and knew how to get over a barbed wire fence. Right as I got close to the fence the officer who had been kicked decided to help me over the fence. All he did was push me into it and I got several deep lacerations. “Billy Jack” was below me as he had decided to go under the fence. I dived over and landed on his back. “Billy” tried to push himself up with me on his back. This guy was determined and strong. Luckily we had been trained in the vascular neck restraint in the Police Academy and I applied it to the subject. He eventually became a little more compliant and the assaulted officer got over the fence and we cuffed the offender. I had to go to the hospital and get a few stitches and a tetanus shot. The officer who was kicked in the head? Luckily he had a hard head. He received no injuries in the incident.
Before I left for the hospital we secured the suspect’s home. It was pretty eerie. All the windows had been opened. We suspect to allow tear gas to flow through if SWAT had deployed it. At windows on all four sides of the house there was a chair by the window with a watch lying on the sill. There were also 30-06 caliber rifles with extra ammunition at the windows. There were parts to make machine guns and some possible bomb making materials. Another interesting item was a ‘karate” magazine with our arrestees’ picture in air over a motorcycle with both legs extended as if throwing a kick. There were also pictures of him and several large trophies for karate matches. Apparently he did indeed “know karate.”
Another time a perpetrator put up a good fight with me was at Riverbend. I had the misfortune to be assigned to work Riverbend one year. I had been a detective for years and out of uniform for about 11 years. I did not look forward to this assignment. Luckily I was primarily assigned to the booking / arrest trailer so I was in the air conditioning. Why I left there I do not know. On the opening day of Riverbend I went out into the oppressive heat (made worse by the wearing of a bulletproof vest mind you). I was standing near the main gate when it opened. I observed a lone male evade the pin checkers (for the Riverbend Festival you have to purchase a “pin” to enter). I observed this male go behind tables set up for vendors and work his way down a row of tents there. I followed the male and could not see a pin. I confronted this party and asked if he had a pin. I explained to this apparent trespasser that he needed a pin for entry and that if he went back up to the main gate he could purchase one. His reply was “f*** you” and he turned to walk away. At that point I told him he was under arrest for trespassing and the fracas was on. The party shoved me and I tried to hold onto him. We struggled for a few seconds and the culprit turned to try to escape. At that point I jumped on his back and applied a lateral neck restraint while taking him to the ground. I was on top of this guy while he was basically doing pushups with my entire body weight plus my sidearm, extra ammo, and handcuffs on him! I thought “”Uh oh. This guy is really strong.” Finally another officer saw the commotion and came to my aid. We got him handcuffed and called for a transport car.
As we transported him to the jail I said, “You’re not from around here, are you?” At that time people typically did not talk to the police like that. Not in this area anyway. When we got the trespasser to the jail the clerk there was not impressed with his fighting the police nor with his response to me. She applied the maximum bond amount for the offense.
When I got back to the booking trailer the Chief over the event that year chided me about the arrest. He told me I had set a new record. I had made an arrest within minutes of the gate opening. The quickest arrest after the Riverbend Festival gates opened. I shook my head and asked myself why I didn’t just stay in the trailer?
I hope you enjoyed these stories. I’m out of space this time.
– Mark Haskins
Happy New Year