Deputy Inspector Jellyfish owned a major police equipment and uniform distribution center in Metropolitan Detroit. Because of this, he was given the rank of deputy inspector in our department, even though he had never attended a police academy and didn’t have a bit of scout car experience. What Jellyfish did have was plenty of disposable income. He rode his own Harley Davidson, complete with lights and siren. He dressed the part, too, wearing his brown motorcycle breeches, gold helmet, and Colt Python .357 with a six-inch barrel. The way he strutted around our station, I couldn’t help wondering if maybe the firearm’s model name and barrel length were compensating for something a bit less substantial he was packing in those riding breeches.
It was only a matter of time before we collided. It happened on the muggy eighty-degree evening of Tuesday, August 12, 1980, when two police officers in Inkster (a high-crime suburb west of Detroit) responded to a man-with-a-gun complaint. When the officers stepped onto the front porch a young man charged out the door and blasted them both with a shotgun.
Officers from nearby departments sped to the scene and somehow managed to remove the critically wounded officers even though the shooter was still in the house. No command officer was at the scene, so the call went out for one.
I was a sergeant at our Patrol and Investigation Division, and the only command officer on duty. I heard the frantic pleas on the radio, but the rules dictated that I couldn’t leave the station if no other command officer was on duty. So I had our dispatchers call Deputy Inspector Jellyfish, who was supposed to be at home on standby.
Since he didn’t answer and I had an experienced detective at our station, I grabbed a tear-gas rifle off the rack, along with several cartridges. I also grabbed my .30-caliber M2 carbine, loaded with a thirty-round magazine of tracer bullets and with two more fifteen-round magazines in a pouch on the stock.
When I arrived the street was blocked by scout cars, so I ran with several officers along the opposite sidewalk, taking cover with two of them behind a tree across from the shooter’s small home. It was still hot and sunny. The house was securely surrounded, and the neighbors had been evacuated. I could see the pools of blood on the porch.
Inserting a cartridge into the tear-gas rifle, I took aim at the living room window—an easy shot—and pulled the trigger. But the cartridge must have been old, because the firing pin only pierced the primer and shot a jet of tear gas in my face.
“Son of a bitch!” I yowled as I loaded another cartridge and took aim. But the same thing happened again, with more tear gas shooting into my face.
“Okay,” I growled, unslinging the M2 carbine, “it’s his bad luck the tear gas is shit.” With tears streaming down my face, I radioed the men at the rear of the house to clear the area.
Mapping out every step and obstacle in my mind and visualizingthe tight stitch of rounds I was going to fire just above the first floor of the house, I yelled, “Come out, you little cocksucker, or I’m going to come in right now and end your worthless fuckin’ excuse for a life!”
With no SWAT or hostage rescue team at the scene, there really was no other option. Police were expected to make it work at the scene or suffer the consequences of failing. So we had to get this guy out of the house before nightfall, when the situation would become much more dangerous for everyone.
I had just switched the selector on my rifle to full automatic and taken the safety off when the front screen door suddenly swung open. An arm popped out and dropped a shotgun. At that instant, a swarm of officers rushed inside. Apparently, the shooter resisted, because he got the ass beating of his life.
Once the paperwork was done and the scumbag was in our lockup, Deputy Inspector Jellyfish showed up at the station. And he was steaming—not about the officers being shot, the tear gas not working, or the fact that no other command officer from any department, including himself, had responded to the call. No, Jellyfish was angry because the prisoner took a beating and also because, had the tear gas worked properly, it could have started a house fire. So Jellyfish directed his rage at me and wrote me up for suspension. His papers went promptly to the Sheriff’s Headquarters in downtown Detroit. But instead of suspending me, Sheriff William Lucas tossed the papers in the trash and awarded me, along with the two officers closest to the scene, Danny Strickland and William Coleman, a Departmental Citation—our department’s second-highest award.
And in case Deputy Inspector Jellyfish hadn’t gotten the message, some officers opened his car and left a road-killed dog on the driver’s seat.