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Columns : In My Sights

The Search

It was a dark and stormy night in Tucson and suddenly a call came out for a burglary in progress.

June 01, 2007  |  by Dave Smith - Also by this author


Not long ago a good friend of mine was killed in an accident. He had gone to the academy with me, been my roommate, and later worked the beat next to mine for two years. We had the bond of on and off-duty friendship and adventures.

In thinking of Sam I remembered the scariest building search I ever did. It was a dark and stormy night in Tucson and suddenly a call came out for a burglary in progress in Sam's beat.

A local doctor's daughter had taken the opportunity of her parents' trip out of town to have a male friend do a sleepover. Suddenly, the back door of the home was heard to open and the sounds of footsteps were heard coming down the hall. Calling 911, the couple fled into the night to meet the responding units.

I took the alley and saw that indeed the back door stood open. Sgt. Tripp ordered Sam and me to make entry at that point while the perimeter of the house was secured by veterans. The Sarge was always great about letting the kids have all the fun.

With a pucker factor in the nineties, Sam and I entered and began our methodical search for the home-invading miscreant. I remember thinking how lucky I was that Sam was my teammate while we worked our way through the large home. Halfway through the house, we got to the front door and the Sergeant entered. We had a long hallway with two bathrooms and three bedrooms left. It formed a kinda horseshoe and Sam was sent to anchor the end and the Sarge turned to me and said, "Smith, clear the rest of the house."

So I went, gun in hand, slicing the pie and quick-peeking my way from room to room, as the anxiety grew and options for the perp to hide were eliminated one by one. By the time I got to the last room, I could hear my own heart pounding. The bedroom opened at the other end into the space covered by Sam and no one had tried to pass. Slicing the pie I saw nothing and I moved quickly to the closet. Why do big houses have so many damn closets! Positioning my gun to cover any threat I quietly turned the handle and swung the door open….There stood a shadowy figure.

To this day, I still wonder what that doctor was doing with a storefront mannequin in a spare bedroom closet. Startled, I took a step back but, miraculously, I did not fire my weapon, and I did not have a heart attack.

Then the neighbor's dog sprang from under the bed behind me! He had no doubt been terrorized by all of these cops in the house, and he raced into the sights of Sam, who further terrorized him by cursing in his unique way.

The incident over, the veterans laughed as they filed by the mannequin and saw the two wide-eyed rookies telling the sergeant we didn't know why we missed the muddy paw prints coming into the kitchen through the back door. Leaving, the Sergeant simply turned to us and said, "It takes as much courage to search an empty house as it does with someone hiding in it when you don't know which it is!" He was a good leader, Sgt. Tripp.

I will miss Sam. Our shared adventures are bright points in my life. Our mistakes and successes were many, each of them leading us to grow and be better cops. Appreciate your "Sams." They are gone much too soon.

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Comments (1)

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rdaniel @ 6/30/2007 5:02 AM

At 42 and soon to be 43 years of age, I am suddenly having to face the reality that I am one of those senior officers who man the perimeters while the "Young Gun's" go in for the dirty work we were doing not so many years ago. The numbers of Sam's and Dale's that are no longer with us will get larger every year. Soon our names will be on that list, Let us never forget what each of those that came before us sacrificed so we would make it to the list when the time came. Let's raise a toast to those that have gone on and to the time we shall be back together again.

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