GOLDFISH and DYNAMITE
I put my raid jacket on. It had POLICE in large letters on the back with police over the right breast and a detectives badge over the left. It was designed so that we fulfilled the legal requirement of “displaying the badge of authority” and to make people KNOW we were cops when we served warrants. Rob and I didn’t need jackets for everyone in this neighborhood to know we were cops. We drove the Ford Crown Vic, the quintessential police car. We were both white and had close cropped hair. If we had arrived a little later in the day we would have been greeted with street corner kids shouting, “Five-Oh!”
Jim walked upstairs with us. He stood just below the second floor landing so his eyes were about even with the second floor. He pointed to the middle apartment and said. “That’s it”. A guy was coming out of the bathroom wrapped in a towel and glared at Jim as he walked by. Rob said to Jim, “Man, he was eyeball fuckin’ YOU!” Jim either didn’t hear him or was ignoring him. Although it made him look like a coward, the sheer act of pointing out a suspect’s apartment in front of other people was really an act of courage. Helping the police was not a popular pastime any more. It had a tendency to have serious repercussions in a neighborhood.
Rob and I went up and stood on either side of the apartment door, Rob knocked on the door. He didn’t pound on it like I did on the front door. That type of knock telegraphed “police”. This was a regular knuckles on the wood type knock. Rob waited a few seconds and after getting no answer, knocked again. The Super, Jim said “I didn’t bring my keys. I’m gonnna go home and get ’em. I’ll come right back and open the door.”
We waited at the door. We could hear movement inside the apartment. There was a large gap under the door. There must have been windows on the east side of the apartment because the morning sun was throwing huge shadows across the floor that we could see in the hallway. “Who is it?” the voice yelled out from the apartment. Rob and I looked at each other and raised our guns. The door opened and Ali’s face looked through the small opening he had created. Rob shouted, “POH-LICE!” as we pushed open the door. As I entered the apartment I heard Rob yell, “don’t fucking move. Get your hand…” As I spun around I heard three shots ring out. In the confined space of that apartment they sounded like dynamite in a phone booth.
Years of shooting qualification rounds with hearing protection on the range didn’t prepare me for this. I couldn’t hear ANYTHING. For a few seconds it seemed like things were moving in slow motion. Ali had three holes in his chest and lay face down on the floor motionless. I handcuffed him behind his back. This time I was the one who said it, “Fuck!” Rob was at the window on the radio. “44 D - David to radio”. The dispatcher didn’t answer. ”44 D - David to radio PRIORITY!!” “44D proceed.” Rob told them, “I have shots fired. We have been involved in a shooting and we’ll need EMS and …” he didn’t finish. He unclicked the radio. He yelled “Fuckface!” and kicked Ali.
I rolled Ali over. He was still breathing. But it was bad. His mouth hung open, and he gasped for air like a goldfish that fell out of the bowl. I pulled up his blood soaked tee shirt. There were three tightly grouped holes. If this were the range, the instructor would be complimenting Rob. With each gasp pinkish, bloody foam bubbled from the holes. Next to the door in the apartment was a bed. Rob flipped one of the pillows over to reveal a small handgun. In the seventies they called them Saturday night specials. The gun was a .22 caliber derringer. It had electrical tape wrapped around he handle. Rob said, “He kept reaching for this.” “I never even saw it” I said, almost ashamed.
In the room there were all types of drug packaging supplies. There were small and large baggies, a scale, blunt wrappers and marijuana stems and seeds in the trash. Rob took one of the gallon zip lock bags and placed it over Ali's bubbling wounds, covering that with a pillow case that I took off the bed and wadded up. There were some things you never forgot how to do. His time as a Marine Corps medic came back immediately. Sucking chest wounds were a common battlefield injury. “Shit! Now I have his fucking blood on me! And this is a brand new tie. A GIFT!" Rob was disgusted and now he had blood all over him. This was not the start to a good day.
I could hear sirens coming. After years of working the street you could definitely tell the difference. I heard police cars and a fire truck.
Some of the other people who lived in the apartment were standing outside of the room. One or two were inching there way inside. The first uniform cop to show up had to take his stick out to get people to clear the hallway.