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The Rex Barton Story Chapter 17

The Rex Barton Story Chapter 17

The Rex Barton Story Chapter 17

Traffic Stops

To the driver in the car who sees a set of red lights flashing in their rearview mirror you generally get a restricted throat, tense nerves, grip the steering wheel tighter and say a couple of choice curse words. But the first thing out of your mouth when the officer stands himself in front of your driver's side door is, "Hello Officer, did I do something wrong?"

It is usually at this point; the citing officer must make a split-second decision whether to ask the driver to come out of the car or produce his or her driver's license, insurance card, and registration.

It pretty much depends on a couple of factors. Was this a young kid, with a pack of cigarettes rolled up in his tee-shirt looking like he just swallowed a canary. Is there a smell of booze or empty beer cans on the floor? Is there a smell of pot or baggies of small white or pink pills in the seat next to the driver?

Or is this a man or woman in a business suit with a briefcase next to him? The real decision on writing a ticket comes when you see a nice-looking woman, with her skirt, hiked up past her knees, and the top two or three buttons of her blouse undone? Hmmm! Maybe I will let this one go? Should at least get her name and phone number?

No, If I have to stand out here in the rain, then everybody gets out of the car and stands in the shower with me. Didn't you know that you have a broken tail light?

I remember Annie doing that every-time we stopped for gas and I had to clean the windshield. As I got out of the car, immediately she would get ready. Up went the dress, down went the buttons. It was a fun game to tease the big guy, make him sweat a little.

Ok, Annie, stop. Enough of that indecent exposure stuff. We are in public. It made me nervous, but she would laugh and get a big kick out of it.

Do you realize that I can't see the dirt on the windshield if I am looking down at your legs and other things? Where, did those days go I wonder? Did we just get to be too old and mature for such fun and games?

In reality, though many police officers are killed doing traffic stops, second come domestic disputes, and third are narcotics. Not all the detectives will die, but a great many retire early with all sorts of PTSD problems or addictions.

One night in late fall, the bars were closing, and the last drink call announced at 0200 hrs. There seemed always to be someone who thinks they can beat the cops home before getting stopped. It's a gamble and not a good one. Knowing this about impaired drivers makes these stops very dangerous because anyone with two or more drinks in their system is not thinking or reacting at their best.

The moment the red lights come on behind them, things in the brain start running. I can outrun this stupid cop. No one is taking me to jail. I don't have a license; thus, I must run. I have drugs in the car; I must make a getaway. I am invincible, or I can fly in my new Mustang and outrun the cops.

Mistakes and bad judgment calls are common practice. A more practice common than you think. People generally get hurt or die trying to outmaneuver the police. We have radios, and you don't. I can call ahead and have more police cars waiting or spike strips laid across the road which will stop you real quick.

Such was a case in December 1970, when I was merely backing up a California State Patrol unit at what was supposed to be a tired driver at 0230 hrs. in the early morning. We made it a practice when possible to always back each other up and especially at night.

The patrolmen figured that the driver was just tired. He determined that by the slight weaving back and forth. Not like a drunk driver would do by making long moves across lines and then over correcting suddenly.

To begin with, the driver forgot to turn on his headlights — another common mistake. Dash lights are on, and the drivers think the head and tail lights are automatically on as well. The officer was only going to give a warning to the driver and advise him/her to pull off to the side of the road and rest for awhile — plenty of safe places to do that.

The officer's delay was also normal because he was calling the license number into Dispatch to make sure the car wasn't stolen and on the missing lists. It was then that I looked up from writing a report from early this evening on a missing child. I had called into Dispatch that a man was seen grabbing a boy from his front yard and running away with the child under his arms.

Another neighbor, a few doors down saw the man and child jump into a dark-colored car and speed away. No description of the person, other than maybe a Mexican man, in a dark-colored vehicle, no license number. But my report still went out to all departments as far north as Monterey and as far south as Los Angeles.

The officer then proceeded on his approach to the car. I noticed the officer slowing up a little and changing his posture to more alert status. He put his hand on his gun and a slight crouch to his walk. It alerted me immediately. I wondered what he saw? I dropped my report, turned off the interior light, and carefully watched the officer going forward. He slowed even more and immediately got on the radio.

"Dispatch, Unit 7 standing by with CHP on 101 North approximately one mile from Refugio State Beach".

"Dispatch: 10-4, standing by".

"Dispatch, Unit 7, vehicle looks like a late model, dark-colored 68 through 70 Chevy Monte Carlo".

"Dispatch: 10-4 Unit 7".

There was no such thing as an Amber alert back then. Just good old fashion police work, good luck, and instinct. Once I had notified Dispatch, I opened my car door and kept the radio in my hand. As I did so, I heard a muffled shot and saw a flash of light. The CHP officer was down on the ground, but getting up slowly. The Chevy was spinning its rear tires and trying to get away. I ran up to the officer to see if he was alright.

"Yeah man, I think I am ok. I need to catch my breath. I think I've been shot, but I don't know where? Have I been hit, Hawk?"

"Stay down, and let me look you over.”

I made a rapid assessment and saw a bullet graze mark on his right-side hairline area. You're ok, I think. Maybe, a slight concussion. Bullet just grazed your head. Just stay down. I am going to call this in and then go get the bastard.

I ran back to my car, grabbed the radio mic that I left hanging out over the car door, and jump in. Within a couple of seconds, I was pedal to the metal, driving mostly with my knees while turning lights and siren on, then alerting Dispatch to send back-up.

"Dispatch, Unit 7 in pursuit of Monte Carlo, northbound 101. Shots fired from within the vehicle and CHP down but ok. He is following. Check with his Dispatch to make sure he is alright. If you don't hear, call me back and send the wagon".

"Dispatch: 10-4 Unit 7".

I could see the tail lights about a mile and a half head of me. Either the perp was slowing down, or I was going faster than the 110 mph that my speedometer said. Either way, this guy wasn't going to get away.

"Dispatch: Unit 7, CHP officer Glenn is alright. He should be coming up on you shortly. He said to tell you that he thinks this is the perp that kidnapped your little boy today. Officer Glen saw a boy under a blanket in the back seat looking pretty scared. The driver was a Mexican fellow about the same height and weight you received from neighbor's interview".

"Unit 7, 10-4".

"Dispatch, unit 7, you might alert San Luis Sheriff to help us out a little. I don't know if I can affect the stop before Santa Ynez or not. Plus, with a child in the car, it would be better if I say a little behind".

"Dispatch: 10-4, unit 7."

I was gaining ground on the suspect Chevy, and when I got within 100 yards of the back of the suspect's vehicle, a funny thing happened. The perp must have known he had little chance of escaping now. I was on his tail to stay. So, he did the smart thing and pulled over. He was maybe out of gas or knew he was a goner if he continued to try and run.

I found out later from Dispatch that the CHP back-up from San Luis as well as the San Luis Sheriff were all tied up with a traffic accident near the Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo proper. As usual, we were it. In that Era, that was not unusual to have one car south of the Santa Barbara lights and one car North of Santa Barbara Freeway traffic lights. Still can't believe how the engineers figured out to build cross-town traffic underpasses to the beach areas. But that came many years later.

The alarming fact was not the advancement of bridges and underpasses but that approximately 125,000 people in the County of Santa Barbara had no protection. How does one police unit North and one police unit South protect and serve the public? All it would take is a small disaster like a traffic accident, multiple burglaries or robbery's or any major crime to screw it all up. I laugh at it now, thinking that maybe with an act of congress at mid-night we could call up the National Guard for help doing police work?

I affected the stop of the Chevy and just cruised up behind him, stopping at a safe distance.

"Dispatch, I have the subject vehicle stopped short of Santa Ynez. Waiting for Officer Glen before approaching the said vehicle. License #JDY-011".

"Dispatch: 10-4, unit 7. Please wait for more back-up".

Click, click. (the clicks were in acknowledgment of the dispatcher or in this case can't hear you). Rather than make my approach to the vehicle and risk me getting shot as the CHP Officer did, I planned on going to the passenger side. Officer Glenn arrived and parked behind my unit with his emergency lights still rotating. When he arrived at where I was standing, he asked if he could go in first.

I didn't want to waste a lot of time talking about it but advised no — not a good plan in light of what has already happened. Glenn, I need you to stay on the radio with Dispatch. Give them ongoing information as I inform you. Glenn reluctantly agreed but stayed close. As we reached the passenger window, the perp already had his hands on the steering wheel palms up.

I instructed him to slide over to the passenger side and slowly open the door with his left hand keeping his right-hand palm up to the windshield. He did as was told and just pleaded for Mersey. Please don't kill me, he repeated. Opening the car door, both Officer Glenn and I had our guns pointed at the perp's head. He exited the car and stood with his back to me. Officer Glenn took the honors and handcuffed the perp while I looked into the back seat for the little boy.

The little boy in the back was still covered up with the blanket and crying. The gun that the perp had used to shoot Officer Glenn was still on the front seat and empty. There was one bullet in the chamber spent.

In all, everything turned out good. I notified Dispatch of the arrest, that the child was in good condition, the need for a tow truck and that the CHP would be closing the case out and bringing the perp in for booking.

I took the little boy back home to his anxiously waiting parents for the reunion.

As it had turned out, not only was the gun empty and probably why Officer Glenn is still alive today, but the Chevy did run out of gas. The perp was ill-prepared, to say the least in all aspects of this incident.

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