We were working day tours and a July heat wave was stifling New York City. Sgt. Reibe was supervising on patrol and Lt. O’Leary was on the desk. My partner and I operated a sector patrol car, One-Ten Ida.
The 110th precinct is large, with 13 sector cars plus the sergeant on patrol. Day tours in the one-ten weren’t especially busy. You’d get a couple of calls from merchants in the morning when they opened up about vandalism or even a past burglary, but heavy lifting usually came on the four-to-12 shift.
The first two hours were spent patrolling without any jobs. As we drove along our beat waiting for something to happen, a dispatcher called us. “One-Ten Ida. Report of calls for help at 9719 57th Avenue, Apartment 14 C.”
Frank flipped on the light and was turning in the direction of the call as I keyed the mike and responded, “One-Ten Ida. Ten four.” With siren blasting and lights on we raced to the location. We’d been only seven blocks away when we got the call, and we were almost pulling up in front of the building when the dispatcher called us again. “One-Ten Ida. Be advised, we have two reports that the calls for help are continuing.” I keyed the mike, “One-Ten Ida. Ten four. We are at the location now.”
We jumped out of the car and ran into the vestibule. Both of us carried our sticks and flashlights. From experience we knew even on day tours a flashlight was useful in checking dark areas in apartments or basements. A tenant who was just getting out of an elevator held the door for us. “Thank you,” we mumbled, and I pressed the button with 14 on it. We were in luck. The elevator didn’t make any stops on the way to the fourteenth floor and in seconds we were there. The doors opened slowly and we stepped into the hallway.
A woman with a child in her arms was standing next to an elderly man down the hall. Both waved to us and we ran down the hallway toward them. “Did you call?” I asked. They both said yes. They lived on the floor and when they passed Apartment 14 C they heard calls for help. A man of about 30 lived there, they said, but the voice sounded like a woman’s.
We told the people to go back in their apartments while we gained entry into the apartment. Frank and I took up positions on either side of the door up against the wall. Using my nightstick, I reached out and banged on the door. “Police! Open Up!” I called out. “Help,” the voice from within the apartment called out again. It did sound like a woman. “Police! Open up now!” Frank bellowed. “Help,” the voice called out again.
Frank and I looked at each other. I stepped back against the other wall and charged, throwing my shoulder and body against the locking area. The door seemed to give some, but it didn’t open. “Help,” the calls continued, adding urgency to our mission.
The old man down the hall appeared with a heavy sledgehammer. He was retired from construction work, we later found out. He handed the sledgehammer to Frank, who walloped the door with it. The door flew open and I entered the apartment with my gun drawn and Frank right behind me. It was a two-bedroom apartment and we went through it quickly. In the second bedroom we found the victim, a parrot screaming, “Help!”
With very red faces, we called the dispatcher from a phone in the apartment to cancel any further assistance in case other units were responding. We also asked for the sergeant to meet us at that location. When word got out about what happened, our fellow officers would often ask us at the end of a tour if we had rescued any parrots.
Jim McDevitt is retired from the New York Police Department and now writes a column for Texas Highway Patrol magazine.