March 4th, 1998 Albany, Oregon
“The lack of money is the root of all evil.” ~ Mark Twain
The armored truck was at Bank of America, right across Waverly Blvd. I sat in the front passenger seat of a stolen ‘94 Ford Taurus SHO, parked in the Albertson’s parking lot. Esaii was in the back seat. Caleb was in the driver’s seat. We had just robbed the house of a Gypsy Joker... an Outlaw biker gang. We didn’t find what we expected there, but we still wanted to get paid.
The armored truck would be at Albertson’s in two minutes. It was the next stop. I had information that there would be $1.5 million in that truck. Made for a nice three-way split. I needed the money, too. My daughter was 11-months-old, and I was always short of cash it seemed. All we had to do, was knock over this truck, and that problem would be solved.
It was not to be.
One of the guys Caleb tied up, had slipped his bonds and made it out to the street. A passing motorist with a cell phone, dialed 911.
As the armored truck pulled away from B. of A., we saw a lot of cop cars blocking off the intersection of Waverly and Pacific Blvd. The streets that could block us off.
“Cops,” Esaii stated the obvious.
“Stab the gas!” I urged.
Five police cruisers were spread out behind us, and their occupants were drawing down with their rifles and pistols.
“Get out of the car, with your hands in the air!” one of them shouted.
Too late. We were off to the races, leaving two streaks of rubber on the pavement. The cops scrambled to get back in their cars and chase us down.
The parking lot was big. Caleb took us down a lane, between rows of parked cars. I prayed that we wouldn’t hit anyone. The car took a fast-left turn and sped into the neighboring lane... going back the same way we had just come from. The lot was crawling with cops.
Caleb stopped the car. There were cops to the front of us, maybe 30 yards away. Cops to our rear, another 30 yards. Cops to our left, a little farther away. To our right, was a concrete curb and a four-foot embankment. Then it was Waverly.
“There’s nowhere to go, man,” Caleb said with disturbing resignation.
“Shit!” Esaii shouted from the back seat.
I wasn’t ready to give up. I gripped the. 44 mag in my hand, and my eyes sought a way out.
“Jump the curb and go for the street,” I said.
Caleb didn’t hesitate. He turned the steering wheel and floored the gas pedal.
The car responded like a racehorse out of the gate. We went right over the curb and down the embankment, crossing over the northbound lanes and into the southbound lanes. We lost our muffler, but we were moving.
The twenty, or so, police cars in the Albertson’s lot didn’t follow us over the embankment. They had to scramble for one of the two exits out of that lot.
There were plenty of other cops posted up along Waverly. They started their pursuit, sirens screaming and lights flashing. We ran a red light, blowing through that first intersection with reckless abandon, narrowly avoiding two other vehicles. The first cop to follow us through the red light collided with a passenger car, slowing our pursuers a bit.
Soon, we were doing 90 mph down the center lane, hand on the horn, as we cut between the cars traveling in both southbound lanes. The passenger side rearview mirror was torn off as we scraped past a car at close proximity.
We entered a stretch where traffic cleared, and a police cruiser pulled out, ahead of us, from Queen Ave., to act as a roadblock. The car started to slow, as Caleb released the pressure on the gas pedal. I looked at him like he was insane. “Floor it, bro! He’s going to move.” I was almost positive he’d move, at least.
Caleb floored it again. We all braced for impact. Our car was aimed like a missile, for Officer Friendly’s driver’s side door. I glanced at the speedometer— 100 mph.
I saw clearly, the wide-eyed fear on the officer’s face when he realized he was about to be pancaked in a game of chicken. That police cruiser went in reverse as fast as he could make it.
We blew by his front bumper by a hair’s breadth. The pucker factor was off the charts. I laughed in exhilaration at still being alive. It was high fives and back slaps among the three of us. Caleb had managed to get more distance between us and the cops.
I noticed something that really bothered me, though. An airplane seemed to be circling above us. With my head upturned in the windshield, tracking the plane, I informed my partners. “Yo man, I think this plane is tracking us.”
Caleb and Esaii both spotted it.
“Shit,” Caleb said. Things were getting better by the minute.
“What the fuck do we do about that?!” He sounded on the verge of panic. Esaii said, “Hey. There aren’t any cops behind us.” We could still hear the sirens, but he was right. I couldn’t see any police lights beyond the civilian cars behind us.
“Slow down, man,” I said. “Take a right on 34 . It’s coming up in a couple blocks.” My eyes darted to the speedometer—120 mph. “Slow down!” I yelled this time. Caleb wasn’t trying to hear it. He shook his head as we blew right past 34 , to my aggravation.
“No,” he said, eyes firmly fixed on the road ahead, as he zigzagged through traffic. He continued, “We’ve got to keep going.”
Esaii and I both reiterated that he should slow down, but the car started to fishtail, and we crossed over into the oncoming lanes of traffic, sliding out of control at 120 mph. Three or four vehicles swerved to avoid us.
Caleb was turning onto Brookside Drive, and the car was brought under control for a second. Then we lost it, and the car jumped the curb into the front lawn of the house at the intersection. The guy who lived there was outside, watering his lawn. He jumped away, like he was diving for the Hail Mary in the end zone. I put one foot on the dashboard to brace for the impact and grabbed the handle above my window. The Taurus smashed into the Toyota Camry parked in the driveway, which smashed into the Toyota truck next to it, knocking it clear off the driveway. The impact straightened us out and we crashed through the closed garage door, finally coming to a stop against the rear wall of the garage, bringing a large cavalcade of tools raining down onto the car.
The airbag deployed around my leg. I never hit it; I was braced so well. I saw Esaii race out a door into the back yard. I was impressed with his speed. I grabbed the pistol grip Mossberg and tucked the. 44 in my waistband. Then I followed Esaii out the door. He was already gone when I stepped outside... so I had no idea which way he went.
I jumped the wooden fence, losing my pistol in the process. I didn’t have time to pick it up. After running a few blocks, I looked around. I found a bush to hide under and get my bearings. That airplane was nowhere to be seen, from where I was.
Caleb caught up to me and joined me under this bush. “Where’s Esaii?” he asked. He was breathing pretty hard.
“I don’t know. We went different directions, probably.”
“What do you want to do?” he asked.
Then, I made a really bad decision. “Let’s go that way.” I pointed northeast. It was a change in direction, toward Interstate 5 (I-5).
He was ready, and we ran that way. It didn’t take long to realize we were completely within the police search perimeter. Surrounded. I spotted that plane again, but things just got worse, because now there was a helicopter. There were two dozen officers within sight of our position. We were under a huge tree with lots of new budding leaves, near a cul-de-sac, probably 100 yards from I-5.
We decided to low crawl through the two-foot-high grass, to reach I-5. Halfway there, the jig was up.
“Freeze, assholes!” shouted one of the cops. He added, “I see you! Don’t try shit!”
Caleb and I froze.
Well... perhaps it was a trick? They could be trying to sucker us into revealing ourselves. I watched them try that only 15 minutes earlier. I crawled forward once again. Caleb followed suit.
“Hey! I’m gonna start shooting if you don’t stop and show some fucking hands. You’re crawling in the grass, near the drainage ditch. You’re caught!”
Damn. I tossed away the Mossberg. With only five shots, it would be suicide to use it.
Caleb and I slowly rose up to our knees and raised our hands above our heads. I saw a dozen cops advancing our way, but three dozen more converging into three or four pockets around us.
A young cop was in the lead of the advancing group. He screamed, “Get on the ground!”
Okay. We got on the ground, laying belly down. Immediately, the same cop frantically ordered, at the top of his lungs, “Get your fucking hands in the air!” The grass was concealing us, and he wasn’t comfortable with that. So, we got back up, on our knees, hands in the air. The cop shouted, his voice cracking in the effort, “Get back on the fucking ground! NOW!”
I really didn’t like the way this was going. We got on the ground, once again. Caleb kept his voice low, “This motherfucker’s gonna kill us, man.”
“Get your goddamn hands in the air, I said!” the cop screamed, with the edge of panic in his voice. He was clearly amped up with adrenaline and a large dose of fear. “I’ll blow your fucking head off your shoulders! Get your hands UP!!”
I was ready to agree with Caleb. This cop was nuts and obviously not the sharpest officer on the force. In frustration, I yelled back, “We can’t be face down on the ground and have our hands in the air. Do you want us on the ground, or want our hands up, dude?” That really set him off on a tirade. “Shut your fucking mouth! Stay on the ground, I’ll fucking shoot you! Stay right where you are. I’ll blow you away.”
I thought he was going to kill me right there and earn himself a medal for valor. I replied, “We’re not making any moves, man. Just put the cuffs on me.”
Another round of obscenity laced threats to kill me, then another cop spoke up. “Just put the cuffs on ‘em. You’re covered.” We might get out of this alive, after all.
The Screamer now stood above me, screaming more threats against my life if I made one sudden move.
“I’m not going to give you any problems. Just don’t get tough with me, and we’ll be fine.” I heard his pistol go into its holster and the clinking of the cuffs as he got them out. He closed them around my right wrist, kneeling on my spine. Placing my hand behind my back, he shocked me by jacking my arm up. My wrist touched the back of my neck. My shoulder was engulfed in tearing pain.
I grunted through gritted teeth and Screamer now whispered into my ear, “I told you not to make a move, mother fucker.” He was calm and confident now.
I had made no move. His accusation was bullshit. It was coming though. I was pissed off. This pussy thought he was going to high five and laugh about the perp he jacked around, later? My pride just wouldn’t allow it. Somehow, I fought his grip on my wrist and found myself in a push-up position. He tried to slam my face into the ground and failed. I stood up and he put me in a choke hold from behind. He failed at that too.
I broke his hold and flipped him over my shoulder. His wrist was still in my grasp and I football punted his armpit while he laid on his back. Now Screamer screamed in pain. A split-second later, I was in another choke hold from behind. I tossed this guy the same way I tossed Screamer. Immediately, I was in another, identical choke hold. I broke his grip, just like the two before him, and was about to toss him right onto Screamer but... I realized that I was making this worse on myself. If I kept it up, they’d beat me into pulp with their batons, or shoot me.
Instead of tossing the cop, I let him go and dropped to the ground. Do you think they were grateful that I was now being cooperative? They dogpiled me, grabbed my arms and legs, trying to cuff me, while they hit me everywhere they saw an opening. So, I decided to resist their efforts to cuff me, like an idiot. I was jabbed and hit with batons. One cop put his finger in my eye.
Oh, hell no! I jerked my head away and up. I caught the offending finger between my teeth. I bit down hard enough to draw blood, but I wasn’t trying to bite it off. The finger’s owner tried tugging it out of my mouth.
“Ahh! My finger!” he yelled in panic. “He’s biting my finger!” The punches and jabs grew in intensity. I was so pumped full of rage and adrenaline that I hardly noticed. I let the finger go, though, and it quickly retreated.
“Keep your finger out of my fucking eye, dickhead!”
They beat on me for a good solid minute. They still haven’t managed to cuff me. Suddenly, they were all being ordered to stop. They were all being pulled away, one by one. A plainclothes detective scolded them. “Get the hell off him. The media’s over there,” he pointed in the direction of a photographer.
The fighting had stopped, and I peacefully allowed the detective to handcuff me.
“You won’t cause me any problems, will you?” asked the detective.
Shaking my head, I answered, “I never even wanted the problem I just had.” He was satisfied with my answer and he led me to a police car. Caleb was taken to a separate car. Twenty minutes later, I was at the Albany PD station house. I was sat in an interview room and I waited for someone to come in. I had never been arrested before, and what I knew about it, mostly came from Hollywood. I expected a good cop/ bad cop routine trying to get me to snitch on my friends.
Fifteen minutes or so after I was placed in there, in walked Detective Hodgins. The same cop who was concerned about the media. He sat across a small table from me and read me my rights.
“Do you want to talk to me?” he asked.
Not really. Just looking for a way out of this. “Sure,” I said.
“Okay,” he replied. He had a pen and notepad, ready to record all of my
incriminating statements. He asked, “Do you know why you’re here?”
“All right. Please tell me, in your own words, why you think you’re sitting in the police station today.” The pen hovered in anticipation.
“Because,” I began, with a tone full of regret, “we were driving recklessly and crashed into a house. Then we ran from there.” Detective Hodgins didn’t like that answer. He threw his pen at me, cussed me out, and asked if I wanted to talk or not.
“No. I don’t.”
“What do you want to do, then?” he demanded to know.
I shrugged my shoulders and replied, “I guess I’ll talk to my cheap lawyer.” If there’s one thing I was sure of, my attorney was going to be state appointed.
Hollywood taught me that public defenders did very little for you. Hodgins walked me to jail. The Linn County Sheriff’s Department was on the other side of the parking lot and we strolled over. He still had a few things to say.
“You know, it’s good that you don’t want to talk. You’re a solid guy. They’ll really like that, in prison.” He was trying to make me emotional enough to start blabbing.
I didn’t say anything.
He continued, “In this game, whoever talks first, gets the lighter sentence.” I had to say something now.
“You’ve got the wrong guys, but even if I ever did something, I would never rat on my brothers.”
“Oh yeah?” he questioned in amusement. “They don’t feel the same way, because they’ve already told us everything... and that it was all your idea.”
It was my idea, mostly. He was lying about them talking though. I knew it in my soul. I kept my faith in them.
Laughing at him, I replied, “Save it, man. They didn’t do anything like that. You’re wasting your time with me.”
He nodded. “You know what, man? You’re going to get at least ten years. I hope your loyalty is worth it. Mark my words. Ten years plus. When it happens, and they send you off to wherever they send you, write me a letter.”
Hodgins put up his hands in a halting gesture, speaking again, before I had the chance to reply. “You don’t have to say much in the letter. Just address the envelope to Detective Hodgins, Albany PD, and it’ll get to me. All you need to write is, ‘You were right,’ and don’t even sign it. I’ll know who it’s from.”
Yep. He was an asshole. But guess what? He was right, damn it.