Mr. Bill and Miz Mona

Friday, June 17, 2011

Moose Pass Journal/June 17th, 2011 Dillingham Cases

Bill Says: While still on terminal leave from the Air Force and getting now paid by the Dillingham PD, I was making more money per week than I had ever had before and it felt pretty good. I had advised my new chief of what had happened to me in the past, which I considered a blotch on my record and he appreciated my honesty, and we moved on from their. Chief Gray had his own spotty past, but was waiting for me to own up to see what I was made of. He knew. Because of my work in the military, I was soon assigned to the task of primary juvenile officer to handle those investigations as he seemed appropriate and this would involve some seriously bad kids. But at the same time I was expected to handle my own shifts and in Dillingham, this meant you handled all the misdemeanor and felony arrests committed on your shift, all crime scene and follow-up investigations to follow- unless you requested assistance. I was also on stand-by for all call-outs and back-up assistance for on-duty officers. I was soon assigned a take-home vehicle, which I shared with another officer. But all of the officers lived in the same three bedroom apartment so this wasn't a problem. We split the rent and utilities and basically cooked for ourselves. Mostly we all had dinner down at the cafe, since none of us could cook all that well. Television was limited to VHS tapes and a single Armed Forces channel, where everything was 4-weeks behind the Lower 48.

I rode around with the chief for a week and made my first misdemeanor arrest the first day and a felony drug arrest that night. I had nothing else to do, so to get more training in I rode around for 16-hours a day; going from the chief to the senior patrolman- Don Dyer. Don was a former Marine and Nam veteran. He had earned a Bronze Star and Purple Heart in Nam, but had grown disheartened with police work and was studying to be a locksmith. I shared a room with him and unfortunately, he was one of those who ground his teeth while sleeping- what a sound! Plus he had all this locksmith training gear laying around everywhere. Can't tell you how many times I stepped on stuff and sent out a cry. But I really liked Don, whose wife and daughters lived in Wasilla. He didn't want to haul his daughters out of school, where all their friends were.

We made a traffic stop that first night and I arrested a DWI suspect, who was in possession of two grams of cocaine. This made me feel pretty good. I had made a lot of drug busts in the military, but this was my first felony arrest as a police officer. The dude wasn't a real nice guy either and had a long record for drugs. But this also came with a large amount of paperwork. Especially for the DWI arrest. Back then we didn't involve all that electronic detection gear for booze and our probable cause was simply driving problems- like driving into the oncoming flow of traffic or ending up in a ditch. Then we gave them a field sobriety test, which is the same I had used in the military and always demonstrated to each jury. This was the only two things presented to a jury and we never lost a case. Once the electronics were brought in, which confused a lot of jury members, we began to lose cases. If a suspect desired it, we did allow a blood test, but this only certified what we already knew and few opted for it.

Don and I got into several bar fights that week, as Dillingham was a seriously rowdy town. We had two large bars and they stayed open until 5 a.m. But I had to get some sleep to be ready for the Chief, so I went home at midnight. I got along well with my dispatchers, who were mostly married women and some with children. They all wanted to know about Mona and when she might be coming to visit and eventually get out of the service to join me permanently. One of my favorite dispatchers was a young Eskimo gal named Maurine. She was later to be selected for Assistant Magistrate to the Seward Court, but sadly drowned before taking office.

The second week I was assigned to Don and working the swing shift, 4 p.m. to 1 a.m.. We were supposed to get an hour off for dinner hour, but that rarely happened. Most of the time we had our hamburgers and milkshakes on the go, answering calls back to back. The cafe made killer milkshakes, but everything in Dillingham was expensive. Supplies, from food to vehicles, either had to come in on the barge during summer months or flown in during the winter.

Dillingham had a serious alcohol and drug problem, which only increased the amount of domestic problems and we responded to a lot of home fights and sometimes family brawls. We also had several suicides and accidental deaths. Most of the accidents involved men getting drunk and falling asleep in their homemade saunas. My experiences in Nam prepared me for a lot of this as we carried the bodies out.

We had a report of burglary late one evening and I was driving the patrol vehicle- an older model Chevrolet Blazer, with Don in the passenger seat. The snow machine shop was being broken into and the suspect took off as we drove up. He was driving a pick-up and we went into pursuit, hitting speeds of 60-70 mph on those hard-packed ice covered roads. I pursued him for nearly 5 miles, until he dropped down a hillside and went into a mini-subdivision of 6 or 7 homes. He slammed on the brakes outside a newer two story home and ran inside. Don, he told me to take the front, while he went around back. Now I wasn't in uniform but was wearing a parka with my new badge pinned on front and a rabbit felt hat with silver hat badge. I felt like an old Mountie. There were lights on in the house and I went to the front door and knocked. I remembered what the suspect looked like, since he came under my headlights as he ran out of the store and jumped into his truck. So who came to open the door- yup, the suspect. He told me I couldn't come in and he'd seen enough TV to know the laws for unlawful entry, but he apparently hadn't seen the ones that covered hot pursuit. So I reached across, grabbed him by the scruff of his neck and yanked him outside. Not sure if he was armed or not, which I was to soon learn just about everyone carried a filet knife, I had him on the ground and did a weapons pat down. By this time Don was back around and had the young man under his gun while I finished handcuffing him. Sure enough he had a filet knife in his rubber boot. So, I arrested the kid for Burglary in the 2nd degree and Carrying a Concealed Weapon, (which that charge was later dropped by the District Attorney). I came to know this young man quite well, arresting him several more times for burglary, drugs and assault. He finally went off to jail for 6 months. By the end of my week of riding with Don I had made a half-dozen misdemeanor arrests and 5 felony arrests. I was surprised by the amount of arrests and Don reminded me, "Bill, the fishing season hadn't even begun.

A couple months later I backed Don up on a domestic call and when I arrived I looked inside the home through a window and found him under a suspect's pistol. The man, who was extremely upset, had the barrel of his pistol under Don's chin. I was debating on whether or not to chance a shot through the window glass, but saw Don's eyes and he was telling me not to do anything with a slight movement of his chin and I waited, but wasn't happy to do so. I requested another officer through the dispatcher. But within minutes, Don had talked the gun away from the man, having known him for sometime and I was glad I hadn't chanced the shot. Good thing too, I still wasn't all that great a shot with the big revolver.

I was used to the Air Force's .38 revolver, having shot expert and a member of the pistol and rifle team until my vision changed, and learning how to fire the .44 mag was difficult for me. We loaded our own ammo, which I had to learn and the chief had set up our own range out the road. I shot as often as I could to better myself and at first, I was the worst shooter on the department. I increased my skill until I scored the highest one day. Which only upset the chief, who made me shoot the course until he out-shot me again. Chief Gray had an ego problem I soon learned. We called him the cocky rooster behind his back. He stood about 5'7", weighed all of 140 lbs, loved his firearms and was a 3rd degree black belt in Karate. Unfortunately, I was to also learn he often used that Karate when it wasn't needed. But I owed a lot to him for hiring me, taking a chance and I tried my best to support him. But we did have our difficulties, especially after he nicknamed me "Godzukki" as in Son of Godzilla. Worse yet, he often used it in public.

Dillingham had another growing problem and this concerned gas sniffers. We'd even find them draped over the back of a car, passed out from sniffing fumes. This caused them to be violent. We also had a growing PCP problem, which could turn a normal guy into a Hulk-like figure. I only made two arrests for PCP suspects and both times my life was on the line with these incredibly strong dudes. The first time involved this guy standing on a tall pile of wooden pallets, about 15 feet in the air. He was up their growling at everyone and making threatening or obscene gestures. The Chief had called us all out, knowing what he was dealing with. By the time we were all on scene, this clown jumped off the pallets, landing firmly on his feet, growling and snarling, and then charging straight at Chief Gray. We all jumped him and soon had him down flat on his back. I had his right arm under my chest and he was actually picking up my nearly 300 lbs right off the ground- I couldn't believe it. Chief Gray hollered for a rope and we ended up coiling him from ankles to neck. Then we carried him to the waiting ambulance and took him tot he hospital. There the doctor insisted we remove the rope before he treated him. We told the doctor, "Sure, we'll take the rope off and then we leave!"

The doctor left the room and returned with a shot of thorzine, which rendered the man unconscious and only then did we remove the rope- cautiously. That's the kind of calls we had in Dillingham. 

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