Mr. Bill and Miz Mona

Monday, July 4, 2011

Moose Pass Journal Dillingham cases 7/4/11

Bill Says: One of the worst moments in my civilian police career came about in Dillingham in the mid summer of 1981. The Bristol Bay fishing fleet went on strike and the town of Dillingham blew up. We were forced to work 12-hour shifts, with two patrolman to a car. I of course got stuck with CJ, Chief Gray really enjoyed putting us together- I guess he hoped I could temper down CJ's foul temper. But like I said he was often a good partner to have in a bar fight.

That first night the anger over the strike surfaced with the burning of several fishing boats. People began shooting at each other, which made us feel like we were smack in the middle of some down home feud, and the bars turned hostile. We were dispatched from call to call and the volunteer fire department and ambulance squad was working around the clock. More than one volunteer simply quit. Cars were also set on fire and two dock buildings. Now understand this was all over a disagreement of 3 cents a pound for salmon. The buyers would only pay so much and the fishermen wanted 3 cents more. When the buyers wouldn't come across, the fishermen went on strike and to honor the strike, the Seattle fleet didn't move into Dillingham with their catches and sold to the large processors out in the ocean. Some of the Seattle boats simply carried their full holds back to Seattle.

It got to the point that I was responding to the bars with a shotgun in my arms, as we disarmed many of the fishermen carrying sidearms and even rifles. During one night of patrol with me driving, we were attacked by an unidentified shooter who took out the passenger window right behind my head, as we drove down the road. A couple inches to the left and I wouldn't be writing this now. We searched for the shooter, but we never found him...or her. The booze and the dope flowed, only adding to the problems. Everyone seemed to be carrying concealed filet knives and there were a lot of stabbings. I took a filet knife to the chest, but my bullet proof vest took almost of the point and I only had a trickle of blood to show I'd been stabbed and oh, the filet knife sticking out of my vest. Had I not been wearing the vest it would've really hurt. The knife came out of nowhere during a bar fight, but I found the suspect and took him in for attempted murder. It was later reduced to 2nd Degree Assault, since the man was drunk, still a felony and he went to jail. I was also attacked with a pool cue, but my nightstick saved my hide and blocked it. Oh what fun. I swore I would never ever-ever work another fishing strike again.

We would have some clown with a 30-30 rifle out on the very last boat, ( they be racked up together-leaning against one another with the tide out), and we'd have to go boat to boat to reach this dude. This happened more than once, several times actually. None of my earlier SWAT training ever covered this type of approach. We basically had to hide, then jump to the next boat and hide again, as shots rang out. But often or not by the time we finally reached the suspect he was past out from booze. Once I was almost in agreement with CJ to simply throw the guy off the boat and into the slime of the boat harbor and let the tide come in. But, we'd handcuff the guy and drag him boat to boat until we were back ashore.

One afternoon we responded to a shots fired call and came upon this intoxicated man, standing on a knoll with a high powered rifle shooting at people, dogs and anything within his view. As of yet, he hadn't hit anyone but had done a sizable amount of property damage. I think it was a 7 mm Ruger Rifle. So, CJ and I had to sneak up on him and disarm him. It took us sometime to get behind him, but we were able to tackle him and get the rifle away. Once the man sobered up he was so heartsick over his actions he even offered CJ and I both snowmobiles if we'd simply forgive him. There were constant calls like that. Motov cocktails, (gas bombs) thrown into structures or boats.  Several boats in dry dock went up in flames and filled the skies with black smoke for hours. People were angry! Their livelihoods were being effected, but it didn't look like any agreement was going to be reached. At one point we had to bring in the Alaska State Trooper CERT (SWAT) Team to assist us and Chief Gray, a former trooper, hated having to call out for help. But we couldn't handle so many shooting calls at the same time. We were going to be busy for weeks on the paperwork and our district Attorney assigned to our city was looking at nearly 100 felony cases and three times that in misdemeanor charges. He ended up dropping more than half the lesser charges, but a lot of people went to jail for some serious time.

We had this one young shooter out in the low income HUD housing area, who had wounded his girl friend and then threw her out of the house. We surrounded the home and eventually stormed it with tear gas filling the structure- only to find him gone. But I knew this guy and suspected he was hiding out in the woods and waiting for us to pull out. So, I stayed behind, hidden under the house, which was a raised structure and waited. The rest of the guys had to respond to other calls and sure enough within fifteen minutes he came out of the woods and approached the house carrying his rifle. I was able to take him down without a problem and the girl friend survived. It just seemed to be like that for several nights and so little sleep.

When the strike finally came to an end, with the buyers agreeing to a two cent increase, a lot of people had been hurt and the property value of lost boats and structures went into the millions. We had insurance people all over the place the following week, but they wouldn't come in until the strike was over.

For us, we were simply worn out and looked forward to going back to the normal chaos of summertime. I got rid of CJ for awhile, his off color jokes and racism. But pretty soon we'd be back on 12-hour shifts and riding along together when the bottom fell out and the entire department ended up resigning- but that is for next time and my final chapter on Dillingham.

On another point of news- John Leroy Casselman is flying out tomorrow for Dillingham. He is to become the newest Dillingham Police Officer. Hold him in prayer. I understand the town has settled down quite a bit over the years, but it is still a fishing community and boy howdy do those people like to party!

1 comment:

  1. Do you have any photos you could add to your posts ... fishing boats, Alaska scenery, etc. Make nice added interest to your stories. Monica, Little Old Widder Woman