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The Rex Barton Story Chapter 14

The Rex Barton Story Chapter 14

Chapter 14

The College Riots

Back in the squad room, Red and I were briefed about a possible problem again on the college campus and adjacent student housing area of Isla Vista. It seems that a lot more people were filling the community area up and rumor had it that some of the Black Panthers and Weathermen from Berkley, near San Francisco, were visiting. My long-time partner Red and I were ordered to head back out to Isle Vista on a drunk driving suspect heading north on 101 freeway in the direction of IV.

Rumor control had picked up intel that we might be in, for possible riots, at any time over the weekend, so be careful. Rioting had already burned part of Berkley down and threatened many other esteemed college institutions.

Red was one of my oldest friends and reliable senior partners. We knew pretty much what the other was thinking most of the time. Red and I were about the last two deputies left on the force that carried rather large six-inch, Smith & Wesson 357 Magnum revolvers.

Both of our weapons had been reworked and refined with hammers with four-pound trigger pulls more or less. Everyone else had changed over to Glock 9 MM. To top it off we carried these weapons in custom made, low slung western type quick draw holsters.

Make no mistake; it was not for show. The truth was Red and I were matched side by side as the only quick draw experts along with high marks from the FBI training schools. We were a deadly pair of cops that would have been hard to beat. Physically Red was six-five and two hundred and eighty pounds. His name was Red because of his red hair.

I was six-seven and two hundred and fifty pounds. The only real difference between us was I knew karate and Red didn't. I was faster, but he was stronger. I was better looking, and he wasn't. What he lacked in the martial arts speed, he made up for in sheer brute strength, and like a bulldog, he would never let go.

You would have to drag him behind you in a battle, and that would have been hard. He was one big tough man. When we arrived at any scene, people stopped whatever they thought they were doing or about to do and just starred.

The scene was being set, and we were prepared as possible for whatever may come our way. So, I thought. Dodge city here we come! OK, Red be ready; doomsday patrol has arrived.

An unknown caller had called dispatch regarding a possible drunk driver on 101 Hwy, just south of the college campus. There was no name given which was not all that suspicious, as many people were afraid of personal reprisals or having their names in the local newspapers.

We were nearly there and spotted the perp in a late fifties Cadillac driving north on 101, weaving more than usual at this time of day. I was driving and told Red as I approached the car from the rear to get the license plate number and give the description to dispatch for information on the owner and driver of the vehicle.

After a few seconds, we heard that the car was a possible stolen vehicle. By this time the driver, still weaving back and forth across two lanes of traffic entered into the college campus housing area, known as Isla Vista. The driver finally pulled over, parked the Caddy one street over from the main road and in a row of apartments. Across the street was an empty lot except for dense brush and weeds. This street was very near where we had earlier arrested the seaweed mermaid in the park.

I had my emergency lights flashing and told Red to keep one hand on his gun and the other hand on the radio. Also, call dispatch and have them start a back-up unit or two rolling our way just in case. Something was telling me in my gut to get help. This stop felt like a setup. I looked all around and then started my approach toward the now, stopped Cadillac.

It was hot and bright out, but that wasn't the reason I was sweating. As customary, I moved very slowly up to the trunk of the left side of the Cadillac, which was still running. I put my right hand on my gun as I approached the tail end of the car. I checked to see if the trunk lid was opened and just being held down by someone hiding inside.

With my left hand crossed my belt and rested on the trunk lid. I gripped my pistol tightly, still in its holster and ready to draw with my right hand. The trunk was locked. Not much movement inside but I did see four heads bobbing about. I yelled for the driver to turn the engine off and step out of the car. The driver's side window was open, and I know he heard me.

I motioned to Red how many perps were in the car by holding up four fingers on my left hand, still holding tight to my 357 Magnum. Two in front including the driver and two in the back seat. My senses told me something was still wrong as the uneasy feeling continued to grow. Looking up briefly toward heaven, I asked God for help.

A trunk of a car is the one place law enforcement officers always seemed to forget to check while approaching a vehicle. We learned early, that is the perfect place to hide if you were going to participate in a deadly strike against any police unit. It was all part of our training, right out of our playbook, which I knew well.

I started my walk forward toward the trunk of the vehicle. I was half sliding against the car and half walking up to the rear window. As I looked through the rear window, and two perps in the back seat, the driver of the Cadillac put the car in gear and pedal to the metal. As the vehicle lurched forward squealing its tires, nearly knocked me down.

At that very same moment, out of my left eye, my-prefrail vision picked up movement. Now standing straight up behind a giant sage brush plant was a young college-age kid I had presumed, dirty, scruffy-looking with greasy blond hair holding a long barrel hunting rifle in his hands. It was pointing right at my stomach not more than 20 feet away. I heard the click of the hammer as I was drawing my weapon.

I should have been dead at that distance had the gun gone off, but I knew by the sound the gun had misfired. Mostly, I guess because there was no loud bang and I didn't feel any pain. Rather than try again for another shot at me, the kid looked up in panicked and fear. He wasn't sure what to do next. He was out of time and now looking down the barrel of my 357 Mag.

Instantly he dropped the rifle on the ground and put his hands in the air. His next stupid move was to turn and run still holding his hands up high. Brilliant, I thought. Is this some new type of college class there teaching here, or was he just dumb? I used the latter in my written report.

After recovering the kids dropped hunting rifle, we learned it was one of the weapons stolen, from a local gun store, two weeks earlier. All in all, burglary suspects broke into the gun shop and had stolen ten rifles and ten pistols plus ammunition. In our case, the kid never cleaned the grease load out of the gun inside or outside. That was one of the attributes which led to the misfire — that and God.

I should have been dead or at least looking up to the sky from on the ground, but I wasn't. Thank, you Lord, were the first words out of my mouth. It was too late to go in pursuit of the Cadillac and too much effort to run down the kid. It would have meant leaving Red alone and me running headlong into another ambush. The kid was leaving an easy trail to follow in and around the apartment buildings and alleys. I was sure more kids, and gang members were waiting in ambushes for me to take the bait.

My breath was labored and probably faster than what I would have liked, but I managed to walk back to the patrol car where Red, was standing with his identical pistol as mine in his right hand and still holding onto the radio with the other.

"Hawk, what the hell just happened, man? Are you alright"?

"Yea, no problem. Keep a lookout Red, we are not free and out of here yet". "There could and probably are more guns looking down on us right now. We were set up pure and simple. Call it in and advise the desk to send units ASAP. I believe the riot is going down right now."

"Dispatch, this is unit 4, advise desk, that this was a setup. Let the desk know and the Captain. We need back up now!"

Dispatch: 10-4 unit 4. (Ok unit 4)

Killing police officers was a new wrinkle in the College Campus riots of 1968 and 1970s Era. Burning down buildings and tearing up the property was the vogue thing to do. Still a little shaky, I holstered my weapon and sat down in the car to evaluate our situation. Red, get in now and keep your hand on the radio.

I think I know where that little shit was running too. Red jumped back into the patrol car, and our doors closed with little effort as I gunned the accelerator and held it to the floor. Our tires were spinning, and I did a 180 from the curb and headed back toward the campus pool hall which was on the main drag across from the Isla Vista Park.

Still, no back up as I slowed down to look into every doorway and peer into every window as we drove by on our way to the campus pool hall.

"Ok Red, here is the deal. Pulling this guy off the street is going to be nearly impossible".

"I agree, Red said. So, what's the plan cowboy"?

"If we see this punk, I will let you know. Do not open your door and keep the radio in your hand. I will drive up to the little shit while you grab the punk anyway you can and pull him through your window. Leave his ass hanging in the breeze and then we will get the hell out of here. Ok?"

"You got it, man. Let's do this thing, Red yelled".

He was never one to turn down a fight or miss an arrest. Red always had my back, and I was never worried when we rode together.

As we turned the corner on the north side of the pool hall, we were all of a sudden hit with large rocks, from nearly every direction.

"There is the perp Red, standing next to those four-afro haired black guys with black Panther tee shirts on. See him over there on your right at two o'clock"?

People, mostly kids, began yelling all around us. I saw many of the kids pick up rocks and start throwing them at the patrol unit. Fortunately for us, they were a little slow on the uptake. They did not expect my next move, and it shook them up pretty bad. I yelled at Red to follow me. I jumped out of the patrol car and ran up to where the Panthers were standing. I think the deal was we were supposed to drive down the alley of kids lining both sides of our car and receive down poor's, of rocks.

Red was right behind me as I had directed. He loved the action and the new baton practice venue. We were cracking heads which was Reds forte which he learned from our high school football team days. Now on the offensive and swinging my baton, hammering heads right and left. Screams were heard behind us as kids ran in every direction. In probably less than one minute, Red and I had nailed five or six kids on the head with our batons and ended up in front of the four Black Panthers.

We ordered the four Panthers to the ground along with the white kid who tried to shoot me. Red and I handcuffed all of them in record time just like in a rodeo. Next was four white dirty, bearded, long hair looking guys who starting to pick-up a few rocks to throw at us as they were yelling pigs must die, pigs must die. Police, in general, had a name for these types of guys. Before any more rocks hit us, they lived up to their dirty slang namesakes. Scrots!

Red and I turned toward the four white scrots and knocked them to the ground as well. After cuffing them, we pulled all nine guys to their feet in front of us. These last four scrotums were still yelling and trying to in-site the rest of the kids/people that were now totaling more than three to four hundred.

The previous four white guys were wearing 'Screw the Pigs' tee shirts. I am polite here because the tee shirts used the 'F' word instead. Red and I stood all the handcuffed perps up and kept them in front of us in a semi-circle. What now cowboy, Red asked? Back to the car and shovel them into the trunk? Still, no sirens heard, and I began to wonder why. What the hell was Sargent numb nuts doing back on the desk? Polishing it or planning his next family picnic?

As we strolled back toward the patrol car, within six feet of reaching the door, more rocks were being thrown at us and our patrol car. Then the unthinkable happened. From the other side of the unit, someone threw several Molotov cocktails inside our patrol unit. One such container hit the top of the patrol unit and landed in the street in front of us spilling gas and flames all around as it broke.

The others went through the open car window. Never saw who through them but the flames were getting real hot fast. It didn't matter now. The patrol unit was history. My biggest worry at the moment was if the fire got too hot the bullets in the shotgun, locked to the dash would start to go off. Some-one was going to get killed if we didn't get help fast.

We backed away from the flames around our feet and put the handcuffed prisoners around us in a circle. Now the perps were each facing the angry mob of kids. The kids that had run, when Red and I ran into them swinging or batons, were now being regrouped by more riotous organizers.

They were pissed off and scared, ready to blunt force our heads anyway they could or worse. I felt a lot of shoving going on, and then I felt someone trying to pull my gun out of the holster from behind me. Without thinking, I used my elbow and turned; some kid's head spun around, so he looked directly behind himself. My elbow caught him just in time before he could steal my gun.

It didn't look like he could turn his head back around, but I didn't much care. You don't mess with my gun without receiving a sever consolation prize.

The angry, out of control crowd of kids, would have ended our lives, had they been a little more organized and started shooting or tried a little harder to overrun us. This story would not have been penned to paper had much more time gone-by.

I kept swinging my hands in the directions of anyone nearby, hitting them fiercely with each blow of my fist. Red was having just about as much fun with his baton. Many kids, male and female who joined in went down to the ground hard but we had no time to take names or numbers.

Or make apologies. Or handcuff any more people. We were in a real fight and a must-win situation. I believe that taking the offensive early on and maintaining that posture saved our lives. That and God was holding back the sea of humanity from killing us. Red, well he was being Red and beating the crap out of a lot of kids.

Then we finally heard the pretty sound of police car sirens. There must have been a freeway full of patrol units. Then we saw them pulling up and helping to disperse the balance of our attackers. Police, Sheriff, and State Patrol all speeding in and skidding to stops. I looked over at our patrol car, and the flames were jumping into the air a good twenty feet or higher. Fortunately, the fire department came with the patrol units and put the fire out before any ammunition went off.

Before this night was over the adjoining building, to the Campus Que and the Bank of America all, went up in flames. A young student would be killed that same night by a Ventura Sheriff's Deputy while hanging onto the bank's flag pole and waving what they said looked like a gun.

For the record, Red and I had arrested twenty-one people, all on felony charges that afternoon. But, the mess wasn't over. At the station, more of the un-righteous behavior of Numb Nuts would be played out. Red, was excitedly retelling the events of our day to other deputies, getting briefed on what to do once on the bus to Isla Vista. A full-blown riot was in high gear. Trying to get me a cup of coffee was a joke. Only burned remains of coffee remained at the bottom of the decanter. I was told that I had no time for coffee anyway and to get my report written and get back into the field, by Sgt. Numb-Nuts.

A judge had been brought in to handle the bail and hear cases as other departments, and we brought arrestees into the jail. Not more than one hour after handing over the original nine felony arrests, to booking officers, did I looked up from my report desk and they were walking down the stairs.

Four Black Panthers, four scruffy white guys and the kid who tried to shoot me, were giving us the middle finger and laughing as they walked out of the Sheriff Office. That and another ten people, both men and women arrested during our initial call. One by one, the sitting judge was releasing everyone on their good behavior. It was unbelievable.

What good behavior? What promises of not returning to the scene to do it all over again? What a total joke? The department I guess was not prepared for what was happening and didn't want to try and select another venue. Releasing the prisoners on their own recognizes was the easier, softer way.

The answer from numbnuts was to write your report and don't worry about it. I looked behind me where numbnuts, was sitting and glared at him. Then I asked him if he wanted to write my report so I could go back into the field, arrest more fools, bring them back so we can keep the judge busy. I wouldn't want to have him get bored up there.

No comment was returned, even though I was bordering on misconduct with my attitude. I didn't want to give Numb Nuts the opportunity he was looking for to call me in, to the Sheriff. He was already preparing his report indicating that Red and I provoked the incident.

Much later, when all the smoke cleared Numbnuts, was again reprimanded for his statement and its inaccuracy. I also knew that he was gunning for me hard and would not relent until I left the department. But not today. Hell, no! I was having too much fun. "What if"?

Much later, I am talking almost six months later; I learned what the providence of the riots were all about. Not only why but many other interesting details on all the releases that the judge was making.

Who and what was really behind the riots is still fuzzy, but then, the why was made very clear. I think it was Time Magazine that first broke the story. It just so happened that in the late sixties, many colleges were waning hard and losing their athletic programs from lack of tuitions and cost factors.

The only way the colleges could stay open was to raise homeowner taxes in the following year, which none could afford the waiting that long. Another way to keep the college doors open was if the college suffered building losses due to fires and riots. Then free Federal money was available. Sound suspicious?

Our college lost three buildings over the course of two weeks of rioting. One student library building, one student hall building, and classrooms. These buildings not included in the off-campus fires.

The college received within the same year of the riots, emergency funds to stay open and to rebuild. Don't get me wrong; UCSB is one of the best colleges around. It was unfortunate that they ran into money problems which I am sure is yet another story to be told. But UCSB was not the only college with money problems and rioting crowds burning down buildings. Nor was it the only college where deaths occurred directly due to the rioting.

Seven of the Panthers and four long-haired white guys fled to Oklahoma State University and started another riot, within weeks of our uprising. Only the outcome, escalated higher yet in losses.

The National Guard was called out, and in the mealy, seven students were gunned down. Then the two white guys that were part of our original twenty-one arrest on the first night of rioting went on to New York and burned down a federal Building. More lives lost along with the devastating effects of the explosion.

I often wondered why the judge was never arrested for aiding and abetting the kids to continue rioting and killing. You would think that some jail time would have been appropriate for the rioting participants. If ever a resounding 'What If' should have been asked, it was then.

What started as a beautiful day and a routine DUI turned us all around. Oh yeah, the four scruffy white guys with Screw the Pigs tee shirts..they were all FBI trackers. Had I known I would have hit them harder. They were there inciting the revelers into frenzies, and many ended up in hospitals, including the life and career of one of our deputies.

Later that same evening, Capt. Joe was leading approximately 100 deputies across a parking lot walking in full riot gear and shields up. All of a sudden Bill, stepping forward to my left wasn't. He had taken a large boulder to his chest which left him gasping for air. In front of us was a Hugh slingshot contraption, not more than 75 feet away from our position.

The boulder went through his shield and flack vest breaking his sternum and many ribs. Like I said his career was over if he even lived. I was shaken and told the Capt. to have someone fire a flare into the general area of the slingshot. The rest is old news. The college buildings that burned over the course of the next three or four days burned. Those that got hurt too bad. Those that got away, to bad as well.

I finished yet another report and headed home. I was tired beyond tired and ready to relax and unwind. Annie, on the other hand, waiting for me at home was all excited about what she had been doing all afternoon. She related to me that she had spent the afternoon out at the college, watching kids turning over dumpsters.

She informed me that she saw them lighting fires and watching other kids looting and setting more car fires and running around like it was some kind of celebration party. Not sure I had heard that right but I was too tired to work at the problem just now. Like I said, some just got away with it?

Maybe tomorrow after some sleep, I would react a little too what I heard. Then the phone rang and the call for all deputies to retune to the station. The riots were escalating, and more kids were arriving by the busloads now from out of town. The department needed everyone they could get.

I took a lukewarm shower to wake up and got redressed in my riot gear again and headed back downtown, driving with one eye closed. I was tired, and they're just wasn't enough coffee made to keep me going. Sheer will power was all I had left in me. Some parts of the freeway were blocked by kids demonstrating their brand of freedom.

Nothing to do with education, or the price of knowledge or even peace. Just rioting for the sake of rioting. Everyone was being played, and my anger was reaching a boiling point. I swore an oath initially to protect my community even so far as these idiots? So many people on either side were getting hurt, even our deputies now.

Maybe my anger was waking me up. Reflecting back a few minutes, I think I heard my wife telling me how she got involved in the riots, just by watching the fire parties and looting. What the hell is going on? I didn't understand except for one thing, I was too tired and nearly killed today and my mood was adjectively getting worse by the minute.

And then one day a couple of days later it was over. As quickly as it had happened, the riots ended. That was when I saw pinned to one of Annie's jackets a prominent PEACE symbol. What in the hell, I thought?

The College riots behind us, Annie and I tried to concentrate on bringing up our family. We still had life problems and kid fallout, from the decisions we had made early on. But God came first now, and that was the most important thing. With the riots, over, Toni stayed home a lot more now too. Yes, we even got through those uncertain communication times as well.

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