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Richard Valdemar

Richard Valdemar

Sgt. Richard Valdemar retired from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department after spending most of his 33 years on the job combating gangs.
Gangs

Angels and Angel Dust

Child endangerment is a sad byproduct of drug-infested gang neighborhoods.

October 12, 2010  |  by Richard Valdemar - Also by this author

Soon the suspect was strapped to a gurney and on his way to Martin Luther King hospital. There goes a perfectly good misdemeanor arrest I thought, as the paramedics and sheriff's units drove away with my statistic. Why did we let him go? I asked Chuck.

"Think about it," he said. "Why take a misdemeanor when we have probable cause to look for the source of his intoxication, a felony?" He then pointed to the residence adjacent to the street where the Hulk had made his superhuman stand. He directed my attention to the front door which was standing open. This had to be where the Hulk had come from, and where we might find his PCP.

The sun was still up, but it was dark inside the house. We entered with flashlights and guns drawn and yelled, "Deputy sheriffs. Anybody home?"

It was a filthy place, smelling of must and mold. The living-room floor was littered with baby's toys, cups and dirty dishes. Trash and dirty diapers overflowed from the large plastic trash can in the kitchen and black mold had spread from the trash over the top of the refrigerator.  

Although no one answered the continuous announcements of our presence, I could feel that someone was near. Meticulously, we cleared room by room to the rear of the house but found no one. We were so sure someone was there that we re-checked closets and under the beds but found only more trash and garbage. I was upset and angry as I walked back toward the front door. I cocked my leg back to kick the small baby doll lying on the living room floor. Something stopped me.

With the flashlight, I illuminated the doll's face. Unsure of what I saw I went to my knees and stared at the six-month-old baby's face. She was real. Frozen on her tiny face was the look of horror — her unblinking eyes frozen wide open. Her little body was stiff and rigid as I checked her for a pulse and breathing. Her tiny heart was racing at an impossible rate and clutched in her tiny fist was a partially smoked Sherm cigarette.

Without moving or making a noise, she was pleading for help, and I felt powerless to help her. I yelled to Deputy Cortez to get the paramedics back here! But thinking that they might arrive too late I swooped up the tiny rigid baby and ran for the radio car. We made a frantic Code 3 race all the way to Martin Luther King. 

As I ran into the familiar MLK emergency room, I was relieved to see the ER staff running out to take the tiny PCP overdose victim from me. I watched as they strapped the baby down on the huge gurney and checked for vital signs. The baby's body remained rigid and her face was still unresponsive.

"Give her the antidote, doc," I pleaded.

"There is no antidote, deputy," he answered.

Over the next hour, we learned that the tiny angel had ingested some of the PCP and was in the most severe stages of extreme overdose. God only knows what hallucinations and nightmares she was experiencing. She was in a coma and could stop breathing or lapse into seizures that might kill her at any time. She would remain in this coma with her life hanging in the balance for many days and there were no known antidotes or remedies. The ER staff felt as helpless as I did.

Chuck and I returned to the Fruit Town residence, and I wrote the best child endangering and abandonment report I ever wrote. I photographed the squalor and filth and the mold growing on the refrigerator. I photographed the empty inside of the fridge as well. I vowed that the mother of this angel who had abandoned her to the Hulk would never again have custody of this child. After a long struggle, baby angel was released from the hospital.

California is a reunification state. That means the courts tend to return children to their biological parents whenever possible. For more than a year, I attended custody hearings in which the mother attempted to regain custody of my little angel. I made sure she did not succeed. Sometimes the court would not notify me of the upcoming custody hearings, but I had befriended the court clerk who called me to make sure I would be there. Angel's mama finally abandoned these reunification attempts when she was arrested on unrelated charges and sent on a long sentence to state prison.

Angel went to a foster home and was eventually adopted by a good family. Most of the children of these gang neighborhoods are not that lucky.

Remember Angel next time somebody says drug use is a victimless crime.

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Tags: Child Endangerment, L.A. County Sheriff


Comments (2)

Displaying 1 - 2 of 2

SAM551974D @ 10/15/2010 6:50 PM

Very well done and this one kept me up for a while last night as these weight heavy on the mind! Mr. Sandman took his time coming to the rescue. Once again, the story, wisdom and personal reflections were powerful and much appreciated my friend! Those words and action are what it's all about to me, as those actions that come from within always convey the profound spirit of service to others and making a difference we so desperately need in this world today!!

boywonder7417 @ 10/29/2010 7:53 PM

What a great article!

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