Day shift always was the worst for me, I am a night owl, I like night shift work. As if the 6am to 6pm shift was not bad enough, having to be on the road in the squad car by 4:30 to be there on time just seemed like insult to injury. Having to get up before dawn is purgatory. There is not enough coffee in the world to make that easier and I needed my first cup as I drove along Highway 98, heading to my beat.
The one consolation is that nobody was on the roads then. I usually had plenty of time to meditate and have my quiet time and wake up before the stuff hit the fan. This morning, though, there was one other vehicle moving, a brand new dark green Ford pick up. For no known reason, it drew my attention over and over despite my efforts to ignore it and stay on my quiet time. You have to know I was a great cop in many ways, but for sure I was never a legend for my traffic enforcement. If you were not an active hazard I really could care less, to be honest. Me blue lighting and forcing my way into the insane Florida tourist traffic to stop someone sailing through it above the speed limit seemed a worse safety risk than just ignoring it, and if you did things I also did, I cared even less about it. My ticket obsessed sergeant hated me for this attitude and yes it did reflect on my performance reports.
This pick up was driving normally, not speeding, and there was no reason for it, but it obsessed me inexplicably. I had to stop it, had to deal with it, I felt this all through me, and not a bit of that was coming from my brain. I had no reason to stop it, no desire to stop it, no.... dammit, no tag. There was no tag on it, plus this insistent sense that I MUST stop it, something was very wrong, and with a heartfelt, unuttered curse, I reached over and flipped the blue lights then radioed the stop into dispatch.
It was one of the loneliest stretches along the highway right there, beside the Gulf of Mexico. You had to be careful pulling off as the sand was a liar, and seemed solid enough but in bad areas was like confectioners sugar from the poundings of past hurricanes and would drop you deeper than your axels. This guy was not wise to it, but he did pick a small area that managed to hold him up and instead of pulling over on the shoulder he pulled into a sort of small lay by which was blocked a bit from the highway in view thanks to a surviving dune sort of remnant behind us once we stopped. He pulled in nose first, and I drew up behind him stopping with the front of my car about ten feet behind his back bumper, and adjusted my spotlight to shine into his mirrors just enough to make it harder to see where exactly I was coming from if this was gonna go bad. I left my car door open for cover as there was nothing out here otherwise and we go with tactics on this sort of thing at night alone for miles. My nearest possible back up was a mile away and due to get off soon and probably half asleep though my stop would roust him out to drift this way if only for something to do to stay awake.Second to domestics, traffic stops are the most likely time to die if you are a cop.
Nice guy, clean cut black man who was appalled, it seemed, about the tag and went into his back seat where I noticed no less than four Florida tags laying around on the floor. He had just bought the truck he told me and one of those tags there went to it.
Problem. It doesn't work that way. All four were from one of three different counties also. 99% of the time this scenario would prove they were stolen tags. Problem. That cup of coffee I longed for before shift was looking further away all the time.
So, need your license and registration, please, and we will sort this out. Nice truck, both of us want to be on our way and if I just get a good tag here we are done. No need for a ticket or anything.
Tyrone was good with that, seemed happy, and gave me his license and then eyed the glove compartment.
The purchase papers were in there, insurance, too, he said, needed to reach for them so I could see what they had done and which tag went to the truck. He didn't want any trouble.
Between his literal hand and the glove compartment was a backpack on the driver's seat open at the top. Nothing in his manner to concern me, no reason to be concerned and I had already told him I had no plan to ticket him over the tag, once we sorted he had one, in fact. He seemed really calm and pleasant, and I certainly was. Really. I was a nice cop unless you really worked for it and Tyrone was not working for anything but to get back on the road and done with this.
Go for it, I told him, raising the weapon grade flashlight I had in hand to light where his hand was going and reveal what was in the glove compartment as soon as it opened. My attention was there, on his hand, not on the empty beach sand stretching out from where I stood all the way to the Gulf. Nowhere at all for anything or anyone to not be seen for a hundred yards, moon high above lighting the spot like a small stage area. He smiled and reached for the glove box.
"GET BACK!" I heard a male voice say commandingly an instant before the rest.
My breath rushed out from the unexpected blow of a hand striking the shock plate of my bullet proof vest so hard it lifted me off my feet and threw me back all the way to fall behind my open car door and I looked up in disbelieving confusion and shock to see the lights revealing Tyrone's hand coming up with a gun and he turned sharply to shoot it where I had been standing and then panicked in confusion to find me not there. The way he jerked and looked out as if I maybe had stepped aside would have been comic under other circumstances. As it was, I was freaking out and radioed for backup, gun sighted, and drew down on him and he panicked and floored his truck, which buried it halfway to China in that blasted sand.
I shouted at him the usual, "Don't make me shoot you, put the gun down, it isn't worth this Tyrone, drop the gun" as was trained into me automatically even as I was looking everywhere and trying to comprehend what had happened, who had thrown me back with that impossible strength, whose voice had I heard?? Who had somehow just saved my life??
My backup screamed in, spraying sand for a quarter mile and long story short, we got Ty cuffed and secured and it turned out the truck had just been stolen about ten minutes before I saw him from the local Ford dealership. Tyrone, poor fellow, had a list of wants and warrants and even his gun was stolen from another break in he had not been charged in yet but would be now he was caught with stolen goods on him.
It took eight hours to fully book him as his prints kept drawing new hits all over the state as the system churned onward. Eight hours. Pages and pages of writing besides just the arrest I had him on.
I am not a religious sort, but the way I was raised I know the Bible back and forth. Some of it I take to heart as a good thing to know and follow. In there somewhere is the story of a wealthy man who had a little man who owed him money dragged before him. The little man told him how hard times were and he did not have the money and the rich man noted it was a large amount but, fair enough, he had no wish to be harsh so he forgave the debt in full. Forgave it all and let the fellow go. Overjoyed, the little man hurried home in relief to be freed of the huge debt over his head and then noted that one of his neighbors still owed him a small amount and had him arrested and charged for not paying this pittance back to him.
The rich man found out, that the fellow he had forgiven for a large sum was prosecuting someone else for a tiny debt mercilessly. It made him angry and he had the fellow arrested and punished him until he paid his full debt back in full for proving to be so ungrateful and mean despite so much having been forgiven for him.
I did not charge Tyrone with trying to kill me, drawing on me, attempting to shoot me. I was going to die that morning, but Someone intervened and saved me from bleeding out in the sand there. It was not my skill or clever detective wits that spared me. Someone, "Other", had spared me. I felt even thinking to charge him for that would be like that little man not being thankful enough for his forgiveness to forgive anyone else. Report finally done I walked back and gave Ty his paperwork and talked with him quietly, as the other holding cells were full with inmates down for court appearances. I explained all the warrants and other things he was charged with and the theft of the truck and four stolen tags as well, and then told him I was not going to charge him for attempting to kill me out there because he had more than enough trouble to get sorted out and so I simply forgave him for it.
That was the first time I have ever seen a hardened felon sit down and weep, just weep, as if his heart had broken. I left him there and have not seen him since so I guess he pled out.
Me? I have struggled with that morning ever since. I have had good friends die on the job and each time guts me anew to wonder why me? Why was an average person like me saved that way and these other, really good guys, died when it went bad? Survivors guilt is what it is they say, and there is no help for it. It was not Ty who did that, he was not even close to the right position to have done that, I am not sure any human could have had the strength to so exactly hit me mid-chest and lift me up, fling me backwards about 15 feet to drop without falling behind my open door like that. It was a moon drenched area that morning, wide open for hundreds of yards to the open Gulf of Mexico all the way to the horizon. No person walked up unseen to do that and then strolled away as invisibly. Bullet proof vests are stiff, some come with shock plates for even higher protection over the heart. There is a pocket and if you have it issued, a ceramic plate that can absorb very high powered rifle rounds which can be slid down over your heart. That hand hit that and lifted me away from the danger as it said "Get back".
I do not "believe" because I "need to" believe. I do not believe because I am weak or am really religious or delusional or whatever ridiculous reasons some few wish to blame for people who believe there is more out there, perhaps even God. It is not even faith for me. I have the evidence, I know utterly what happened that morning, I know. I know. I will always know and never doubt for a moment that there is Other out there. It touched me, I can still feel that imprint of a hand and hear that voice. What exactly it was, I do not know. Maybe an angel? Maybe God? I saw nothing there so cannot tell you that. The voice was male, the strength in that hand was infinite.
Every single word of this is truth. This is why I believe and will not ever be shaken from it. My life is all about me, like yours is all about you. I know God Is and there is Other out there. Not faith, I know this.
This is why I believe.
I write to serve.