Book Excerpt: Officer's Discretion

I wish to share with the reader a police traffic stop that almost ended in tragedy. It is a lesson in human nature and a training reminder for those in law enforcement who have exercised a police option called "officer's discretion" — giving an offender a break.

Cover of 'Mexican Mafia: Gang of Gangs.'Cover of "Mexican Mafia: Gang of Gangs."

Editor's Note: The following account of a law enforcement traffic stop occurred in the 1970s, but it could have happened yesterday. Two Mexican Mafia hit men were on their way to do what they do best, to murder someone. The Mexican Mafia gang had infiltrated a Los Angeles community rehabilitation program called Project Get Going. They were using taxpayer-funded vehicles to conduct their business — to transport drugs, killers and their firearms. I'm sorry to say that because many of these dangerous gang members use false names and counterfeit identification and use the cover of community programs, this kind of thing occurs too often today. Below is an excerpt from the book, "Mexican Mafia: The Gang of Gangs," which was written by Ramon "Mundo" Mendoza.

To underscore the journey of the Get Going Project's 1975 Cutlass Supreme in question, I wish to share with the reader a police traffic stop that almost ended in tragedy. It is a lesson in human nature and a training reminder for those in law enforcement who have exercised a police option called "officer's discretion" — giving an offender a break.

"Alfie" Sosa and "Sailor Boy" Gonzales were headed north on Highway 99 en route to the San Francisco baptism of Mexican Mafia member Steve "Calote" Amador's infant daughter where the future of several individuals would be determined. They were also driving in the direction of Ellen Delia's fateful date with death on a lonely road near Sacramento Airport.

Sailor Boy had just been released from the Bakersfield Kern County jail after having two murder-conspiracy charges dismissed and, despite the fact that he had no driver's license, was behind the wheel of the Cutlass.

Alfie was seated comfortably in the passenger's seat sipping on paper cups of tequila. After each shot, he would crumple the small cups and toss them either on the back seat or on the rear floorboard. Since Sailor Boy was driving, Alfie pointed out that one of them had to remain alcohol-free and that obvious person, Alfie needled him, would be Sailor Boy.

Somewhere between Bakersfield and Fresno, after stopping for gas, they resumed their drive. Almost immediately upon entering the highway, a California Highway Patrol motorcycle officer appeared from his concealment and hit his lights.

Without any visible panic, Alfie opens the glove compartment, removes the .38 revolver that was stored there, and places it on his lap beneath a neatly folded shirt. After quickly coordinating what they would say, Sailor Boy drove to the next exit and came to a stop at the end of the off ramp. If gunplay was necessary, the on ramp to the freeway was directly in front of them and presented a quick access.

The CHP officer stopped behind them, got off his bike, then walked to the driver's side of the car. He asked Sailor Boy for identification and registration. While Alfie produced the Get Going Project's registration, his driver's license and his business card with an address that corresponded with Get Going's Los Angeles address, Sailor Boy explained to the officer that he had no driver's license and that he was en route to a halfway house and had a deadline to meet to be admitted.

This, Sailor Boy added, was the reason for their hurry.

The officer looked over Alfie's papers and the vehicle registration and was sympathetic to Sailor Boy's predicament.

He told Alfie that he would have to assume driving duties, admonished them to slow down, returned the paperwork to Sailor Boy and was about to allow them to leave when he noticed the bottle of tequila and the empty cups on the rear floorboard.

The CHP officer asked who had been drinking. Alfie immediately volunteered that because he wasn't driving, it was only he. The officer then advised them that he would have to issue Sailor Boy a ticket for driving without a license and, because Alfie had alcohol in his system, he would not be allowed to drive the vehicle and instead would allow Sailor Boy to continue their drive after he wrote out the citation. The officer went back to his bike, produced his ticket book, and returned to give Sailor Boy the customary citation instructions while Alfie had exited the car, was gathering the strewn cups and was placing them in a trash bag.

At this point the CHP officer instructed Sailor Boy to retrieve the bottle of tequila and toss it in the car's trunk. Both Alfie and Sailor Boy were aware that in the trunk, next to a duffel bag, was a sawed-off shotgun. Sailor Boy complied, exiting the vehicle, produced the tequila bottle, handed it to the outstretched hand of the officer and both walked to the rear of the car.

Alfie, with both passenger side doors still open from his previous "house cleaning," carefully lifted his shirt together with the concealed .38 from his seat and draped the shirt over his left arm, effectively covering the weapon beneath it as he walked slowly near the car's taillight area on the opposite side of the officer and Sailor Boy.

As Alfie waited for what seemed the inevitable, Sailor Boy unlocked the trunk and lifted it ever so slightly. From Sailor Boy's peripheral vision, he could see Alfie pretending to be lazily stretching but aware that he was ready to open fire on the CHP upon the officer's recognition and reaction to the weapon in the trunk. Alfie, pretending indifference to their activities, waited to spring into action. Instead, the officer tossed the bottle into the small opened area of the trunk and Sailor Boy immediately slammed it shut and "prayed" silently that Alfie would retreat. Remember, although killing cops was a measure of last resort in our world, it was optional and subject to a Mexican Mafia member's discretion.

In a matter of quick seconds, Alfie retreated to his seat, Sailor Boy did likewise, walking briskly to the driver's seat, the officer bid them farewell and the tragic scene was never played out. Alfie calmly placed the gun back into the glove compartment, the officer probably gave thought about his upcoming shift change and the family he would be going home to, and Sailor Boy breathed a sigh of relief as he engaged the "hit car" into gear.

Although the "mistakes" this officer made are evident to all well-trained policemen, the human element always exists and discretion is always exercised by cops. I am thankful for a "happy ending" for this officer. On the other hand, it is a tragedy that this exercise in discretion would lead to these individuals taking many more lives including Ellen Delia's, who would be executed by the same .38 the officer overlooked.

Months later, in a Sacramento courtroom in the murder case of Ellen Delia, the same CHP officer was called to testify about this encounter. On the stand, he admitted having exercised his discretion in allowing Alfie and Sailor Boy to receive a "pass" on this traffic stop. Outside the courtroom, he refused to believe the account I just shared with you, the reader.

I believe this officer was in denial, maybe embarrassed about his perceived sloppy police work and not in a mood to express relief for his close encounter. I wish him only the best. The Man upstairs surely had his back.


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