Monday, February 16, 1970. I was 21 when I joined the Wayne County Sheriff’s Department, Detroit, Michigan. Becoming a cop and living in Detroit was like the Vietnam War never ended, it just grew more personal. Now I had to fight fellow Americans and at times arrest neighbors, former friends, and experience violent encounters just outside my front door.


Tuesday, July 14, 1970. At the county jail with politicians. Our jail was overcrowded with 1,100 inmates, three men to each two-man cell. Some prisoners were from my neighborhood. One was, Danny Lee Atnip, a kid I grew up who was raised by a brutal father. When Danny returned from Vietnam he strangled his wife, pleaded with me in jail that he was innocent, and when he was found guilty of murder, he hanged himself in Jackson Prison. He was my age, 21.


Tuesday, May 11, 1971. Assigned to our Metropolitan Narcotics Bureau as an undercover officer. Hallucinogenic drugs like LSD, psilocybin, and peyote were very popular, as were hashish, marijuana, PCP, cocaine, and heroin. Crime was skyrocketing and campus uprisings and riots were erupting across America over the Vietnam War, the draft, and drugs. The Woodstock generation had reached maturity––and violent crime and property crime had soared nearly fivefold in the past ten years. 


Thursday, July 1, 1971. Louisville, Kentucky. At advanced training with the US Drug Enforcement Administration. I’m kneeling, followed on left by deputies Jimmy Fowlkes, Michael Geldmacher, Detroit Sgt. Vahan Kapagian, and Deputy Al Wallace. Of 12 men assigned to our bureau, two were shot in line of duty. Another, a friend, Gerald Scotti, later became an agent with the DEA in Los Angeles. In 1984 Scotti was assigned to the John DeLorean case. DeLorean, a multimillionaire and founder, DeLorean Motor Company, was charged with trafficking 100 kilos of cocaine into the United States. For whatever reason, Scotti testified in favor of DeLorean and helped win an acquittal for entrapment. Scotti resigned from the DEA, completed law school, and became very successful criminal defense attorney. On Wednesday afternoon, March 28, 2003, in a Redondo Beach law office, Scotti got into an argument with his business associate who owed him money. Frustrated and angered, Scotti pulled out a .38-caliber revolver and fired three bullets into his associate's chest, killing him. Scotti then turned the weapon on himself, firing a fatal shot into his head.



Tuesday, August 1, 1972. In Detroit after completing a narcotics raid. Kevlar vests were just coming into service and our military flack vests were too heavy and cumbersome, so we relied on surprise, speed, and luck for survival. Luck was the most important and that could range from the expected: being shot at as we rammed through a door––to the unexpected: dodging bullets popping through a ceiling as an officer directly above me shot attacking dogs.


Saturday, August 19, 1972. Niagara Falls, Canada. There’s a story behind this picture. At home in Detroit one night, a felon driving a stolen taxi slammed a car over the curb. I gave pursuit and arrested the driver who damaged my car as I blocked him on Michigan Avenue. My lieutenant, angry the next morning that I used a county car for non-narcotic work, sent me for estimates to every repair shop in Western Wayne County. “I didn’t do anything wrong,” I griped to fellow officers, “but when I get that fuckin’ car back I’m gonna!” And that’s what I did, I drove it to the Falls with my girlfriend.


Friday, September 15, 1972. Fellow officer, Dennis Neimic, was on a narcotics investigation in Detroit using my Mustang when he was broadsided by a motorist who ran a red light. Neimic lived, but was hospitalized for weeks.


Wednesday, September 20, 1972. Working undercover in Edward Hines Park. Hundreds of drug users and malcontents gathered nightly in this 18-mile long park, often throwing rocks and bottles at scout cars. They hated this country and we hated them. As our military strained to hold the line overseas, a thin blue line of police officers held this country together at home. Since we didn’t have mace or tasers, we had many brutal encounters. Fortunately, on my crew we had Lorenzo Hart, a giant of a man, a Marine Corps boxer, and one of the bravest and most loyal men I know. One night, working undercover in a Detroit bar, two thugs recognized Lorenzo was a cop and ambushed him outside with a .30-caliber M1 Carbine. He lived, but he lost one lung.


Monday, October 2, 1972. At Dearborn PD with seized marijuana. I’m standing by the door, followed by Detroit Sgt. Bill Sherwood, and Dearborn Cpl. Leo Lumpsey.


Wednesday, November 22, 1972. Michael Geldmacher and me horsing around in our Narcotics Bureau with winter gear we were issued in spite of our undercover assignments.


Wednesday, December 6, 1972. Officer William Pack posing in our Narcotics Bureau after accidentally firing his 9mm Browning pistol through an office window, narrowly missing me. We were eating fried chicken together and I stuck a bone in the bullet hole. Three weeks later, Wednesday, December 27, I responded to the radio call, “Officers Down!” Two Detroit undercover officers were shot by black militants. One officer, Robert Bradford, was killed, and in the thin dusting of fresh snow, I saw his last footprints and those of his killers––who just days before had shot four Detroit undercover officers. The “mad-dog killers” escaped, but two, Mark Bethune and John Percy Boyd, were killed within months by Atlanta, Georgia, police officers. The other, Hayward Brown, was apprehended, tried in Detroit, and found innocent by reason “he fired in self defense.” Brown enjoyed local notoriety till 1984 when fellow thugs shot and killed him on the streets of Detroit. He was Detroit's 640th murder in 1984.


Saturday, February 10, 1973. Clearing the woods of rabbits with a German 8mm MG42 General-purpose machine gun, “Hitler’s Buzz Saw” that fired 20 rounds per second.


Same date, with my fearless buddy “Trooper” and a .45-caliber Thompson Model 1928A1 submachine gun with 50-round drum.


Thursday, July 19, 1973. Assigned to our Patrol and Investigation Division. I loved cruising the county. One Sunday morning as I drove a major highway I got into a chase with a woman and stopped her by shooting out her right tires with my .357 magnum. Her car was full of clothes and she was enraged at her husband so she took it out at me, biting and clawing until I dragged her out of the car as churchgoers stopped and gawked. Wives can be great companions and lots of fun, but from a cop's perspective, an angry wife can be something else all together. She can stop your heart. At a traffic accident one rainy night, placing flares in the road, another enraged housewife sped off without her glasses directly into the accident scene. I saw a pair of headlights bracketing me, one on the right and one on the left, barreling right at me. All I could do was leap straight up in the air. Her bumper caught me in both calves and I could hear her shrill screams as I reverse-somersaulted over her hood, windshield, roof, and trunk. I bounced off the pavement, saw a flash of light; then everything went black. 


Saturday, September 21, 1974. With Trooper and my Finnish 20mm L39 antitank cannon.

Same date, another view.

Same date. Three tight holes punched through heavy armor.


Saturday, October 26, 1974. Enjoying the sun with a 9mm S&W Model 76 submachine gun.


Friday, September 12, 1975. Because of the vital need when working the street to beef up, I shot from 168 pounds when discharged from the Army to 228 pounds. Accomplished by long-distance runs, heavy weight lifting, and eating mounds of donuts and banana splits every day.


Wednesday, January 19, 1977. Assigned to our Detective Bureau. Since I was the youngest and least senior detective, I handled mostly drownings, suicides, overdoses, and accidental deaths—cases pretty much closed other than the paperwork. Still longing to work narcotics, I pursued those cases. One was a drug addict in Detroit wanted for home invasion and carrying a concealed weapon. It was a hot summer morning and I knew he was in an apartment above a party store so I burst through the backdoor by myself and found him banging a sleaze. Placed under arrest, he pleaded, “C’mon, man, let me put my pants on!” I did and he bolted for the front window and jumped. I fired two shots from my snubnose .38-caliber and missed. But he didn’t miss the thick anchoring cable for the store sign below. Flipped into a tailspin, he smacked into the sidewalk and shattered several bones––and I acquired the handle "Detective Agony."


Wednesday, July 20, 1977. That’s me looking over a 105mm M60A1 Patton main battle tank (newspaper erroneously says Sherman). The truck driver hauling this from the Warren Tank Plant on a hot summer evening decided to stop at Rogells Lounge off I-94. Young men outside the tavern had other ideas and stole the tank.


Thursday, March 22, 1979. Award ceremony with Sheriff William Lucas and Deputy William Chapaton. Throughout my career I was suspended four times, yet I was also one of the most decorated officers in our 1,200-man department. This included a Departmental Citation of Valor for repeated attempts to rescue two youths trapped in an overturned automobile in a frigid, fast-flowing river at night. Two Departmental Citations, one for tracking two home invasion suspects three miles on foot, the other for leadership in subduing a barricaded gunman who had shot two police officers. And, working narcotics, the Sheriff’s Personal Citation for selfless dedication to the goals of the department.


Another date, with a .45-caliber Reising Model 50 submachine gun.


Monday, July 16, 1979. With President Carter at Detroit Metro Airport. Afterward, I was reassigned to our Narcotics Bureau as a detective sergeant and crew chief, my most sought after position.


Friday, November 9, 1984. Sheriff Robert Ficano presenting me the Distinguished Service Award on my retirement.


Sunday, August 16, 1987. Northwest Flight 255 outside Detroit Metro Airport. Retired but having a police radio I responded to the evening crash. Six crewmembers along with 149 passengers and two motorists were killed. One 4-year-old miraculously survived, but she lost her parents and 6-year-old brother. Officers from every department responded and I searched for survivors with my brother, Richard, a corporal with Dearborn PD, but found nothing other than flames and carnage, much grotesquely stuck on I-beams underneath the I-94 bridge. That was the last time I did police work. I ended my law enforcement career at the site of the second most disastrous airplane crash in US history, just as I had begun my combat soldiering career in the biggest battle of the Vietnam War--the Tet Offensive. Both times were at night, accompanied by men in uniform, surrounded by indescribable human carnage.