On Tuesday morning, March 3, 1975, when Deputy Ken Crowley and I reported for roll call at the Wayne County Sheriff’s Department Patrol and Investigation Division, it was overcast and eighteen degrees. We would be working the scout car in Romulus, a nothing-special suburb west of Detroit.
Twenty-three miles east of us, by the corner of Dexter and West Chicago, in Detroit’s near north side, several black Wayne County sheriff deputies were facing something much more ominous than freezing weather. They were experiencing a cop’s worst nightmare.
It was a hot summer afternoon in 1971, and I was a 22-year-old undercover narcotics officer in the Wayne County Sheriff’s Department, with a year and a half on the job. I was also a former US Army Ranger with a year in Vietnam. We were in Detroit’s east side, getting ready to make a raid.
Deputy Inspector Jellyfish owned a major police equipment and uniform distribution center in Metropolitan Detroit and because of that he was given the rank of deputy inspector in our department without attending a police academy or having any scout car experience. With no shortage of cash, Jellyfish rode his own Harley Davidson complete with lights and siren and would strut around our station wearing brown motorcycle britches, gold helmet, and a 6 inch barreled Colt Python strapped to his waist, perhaps thinking that long barrel and six powerful .357 rounds in the cylinder portrayed something he didn't have in his britches.
Within sixty hours after saying good-bye to my teammates and friends in Vietnam, I was discharged from the Army and back home in southwest Detroit. It was Wednesday evening, October 2, 1968. It was a drastic change, but I felt great just being able to embrace my mom and dad, brother, and two sisters again after not hearing their voices for nearly a year. At the time, it took a month for a letter to get home from Vietnam, and another month for a reply to get back. But now, suddenly, I could sit in the kitchen and eat my mother’s glorious Arabic food, hold our dog Chico and our cat Fluffy, and be part of my family again.
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.