Detective Robert Ankony

How, after spending eight years on the Wayne County Sheriff’s force and three years in the Narcotics Bureau, did I end up in the Detective Bureau, shuffling papers and answering phones? Answer: because I decided it would be a good idea to illegally convert two semiauto M1 carbines to fully automatic. The Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms didn’t agree with my assessment. Neither did my department—never mind that these were weapons I used in my work as an undercover cop. So I worked patrol till I was promoted to detective, but what I really wanted was to get back to the Narcotics Bureau, where everything was fast, exciting, and fun.

When I reported for work on Tuesday morning, September 19, 1978, little did I know that my situation was about to change. Detective Sergeant Cummings, a seasoned cop I respected, pointed to me and said, “Ankony, go to Wayne County General ER and take a report on a dead guy.” I went to the hospital, but the guy had died of natural causes, and all I could do was write a report, make a few phone calls, and await the autopsy results.

I returned to the DB, and there was a message from a snitch, saying an old friend had surfaced and I might be able to settle a score. Raymond Francis Schaar Jr., white male, 28, was back in my life.

Ray was a pencil-thin drug addict and a fugitive. Two years before, on a traffic stop, he had been arrested for outstanding warrants for home invasion and carrying a concealed weapon. He spent time in one of our eight-by-eight-foot cells, and I was the detective assigned. With Ray’s history in crime, it wasn’t hard to convince me that he knew people illegally selling weapons and that he even knew a guy who had a machine gun. These were dangerous times, and I thought I could get some dangerous people off the street.

Guns were my passion, and when I was in the Narcotics Bureau I had worked undercover for the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. Because of that, both the feds and my department gave me a huge break on converting the carbines. The feds even let me keep my federal firearms license after I was transferred, and helped me acquire a Special Occupational Tax stamp so I could legally buy machine guns. I owed the feds and my department a big favor, and Ray was going to help me pay the debt.

I signed Ray out of lockup and drove him around so he could give me addresses and names. After a couple days with him, I decided his information was solid, and I was ready to move. I was well armed and had a good visual on one of the homes. It was time to send Ray in to make a buy. And that was the last I saw or heard of Ray.

That is, until 10:35 a.m. that fine Tuesday morning, September 19, 1978, when I returned the snitch’s call. He told me Ray’s raggedy black ’68 Mercury two-door was parked behind a party store on Warren Road in Detroit, and Ray was crashed in an upstairs apartment.

I know I had been stupid the first time I lost Ray, but one thug more or less in Detroit was not a real game changer. The problem was, Ray was my fugitive, and he had made me the fool. So I grabbed my car keys and sped off from the suburban city of Westland to Detroit by myself.

I found the address and pulled into the alley behind the party store, and sure enough, there was Ray’s Mercury, looking even worse than when we had it impounded. It was still morning, and Ray’s birthday was yesterday. With any luck, he was still passed out upstairs.

After radioing that I was executing a warrant at the address, I crept up the backstairs with a radio in one hand, a Smith & Wesson Model 60 .38 Special snub-nose revolver in the other, and a flashlight in my pocket.

Ray’s apartment door faced the rear porch and was made of wood, with no additional locks or back supports. One kick sailed it open, and I charged in. And in the first bedroom to my right, there was Ray, banging his wife on a dirty mattress on the floor.

“Get up, you motherfucker!” I shouted, pointing my revolver at him.

Ray jumped up and gestured at a pair of pants on the floor. “C’mon, man,” he said, “can I put those on?” A baby girl on the floor started crying, and Ray’s wife, spaced out on drugs, mumbled something.

“All right,” I said. Keeping my eyes on everyone, I picked up Ray’s pants. There was nothing in them, so I flung them at him and handed his wife some clothes.

It was a hot summer day, and the apartment smelled horrible. Apparently, their toilet had quit working some time ago, so everyone just used the floor in another room. At least, they had the front window opened above the party store. Without that, the stench would surely have been unbearable.

Ray slipped on his jeans, and as he was doing the top button he bolted. Dashing barefoot through the hall for the front window, he launched. He was a fleeing felon, and in 1978, fleeing felons could be shot. Ray was desperate, and there wasn’t time to do much more than keep an eye on his wife, raise my revolver, and yell “Halt!”—and, when he didn’t halt, start pulling the trigger.

Two Winchester .38 +P jacketed hollow-point 158-grain bullets sailed at Ray at 915 feet per second, but he was lucky and they both missed. Ray was also lucky when he made his flying leap out the window without managing to snag his feet or arms on the sill or the frame. He had fled the police many times before, and now he was free-falling in space just like a pro stunt man. But Ray had overlooked one little calculation: he forgot about the thick anchoring cable for the party store sign strung just below. And Ray suddenly went from stable free fall to tailspin, and smacked into the sidewalk.

Ray was alive but screaming like a banshee. I wouldn’t have to hurry down and apprehend him.

Looking down from the window at his writhing, contorting body, I felt that the score was settled, so I radioed the department to say I had a prisoner needing transport to a hospital. Then I went out front and cuffed Ray. Two Detroit Police officers arrived, and while Ray rolled back and forth shrieking on the sidewalk, the three of us debated which department should have him. He was wanted by the Detroit PD for the weapons charge and by the Wayne County Sheriff for the burglary. Since I had made the arrest, we decided my department should have first dibs, so Big John Laney from the Sheriff’s Department rolled in with a scout car, recuffed Ray, and put him in the backseat for transport to Wayne County General Hospital, for his broken shoulder bones and leg. The Detroit Police would handle his wife and baby.

Award Ceremony. Sheriff William Lucas, Deputy Bill Chapaton, and Detective Ankony

A week later, Sheriff William Lucas sent orders throughout the department prohibiting officers from using deadly force against a fleeing suspect unless the officer had probable cause to believe that the suspect posed a significant threat of death or serious bodily harm to others. Fellow officers dubbed this “the Ankony Rule,” and I acquired the handle “Detective Agony.”

In 1985, in Tennessee v. Garner,  the U.S. Supreme Court made a ruling based on similar circumstances, in words that Sheriff William Lucas, a law school graduate and former New York City undercover cop and former FBI agent, had already expressed.

Ray languished for years in Jackson State Prison. But because of him and other investigations, I was eventually reassigned to the Narcotics Bureau, this time as a detective sergeant and crew chief.