Excerpt from The Long Road Home

The following is an excerpt from the much anticipated book by retired long-time SWAT Officer Sandy Wall, The Long Road Home –

Stick ’em Up!

One Friday afternoon, the Team was training at the range when McCain received word that Johnny Barbosa had a search warrant for heroin.  Johnny didn’t work many cases, but it was usually heroin when he did.  The warrant location was in a neighborhood off Harrisburg Street, an area of town notorious for black tar heroin and cartel gangs.

Most of the guys were hoping to cut out early for the weekend, but that was no longer an option.  Tom Fincher and Ron Martin had taken a vacation day, so McCain was down to only five guys, which was disconcerting.

When the Team arrived at the office, Johnny already had the house diagramed on the grease board in preparation for the briefing.  Like most in that area, it was a small wood-frame structure. There was a garden behind a couple of storage sheds in the backyard that the crook was known to frequent.  Don handed out assignments, and soon they were headed toward Harrisburg Street.

McCain radioed a request for a two-man unit to meet them behind the Fiesta Grocery store near the target location.  He needed them to cover the back of the house, but the dispatcher only had a one-man unit available.  After thinking about it for a few seconds, McCain looked at Joe, “Joe, I don’t want that officer going to the back of the house by himself.  Can you go with him?”

“Sure, Sarg,” replied Joe.  “I was doing this job when these sprouts were….”

McCain interrupted, “Yeah, I know, when they were shitting yellow.”

Joe was a 19-year officer that was biding his time to get to retirement.  He never wore a pistol, rather he opted to carry it in a briefcase he always took with him.  Joe only shot it once a year when the Department made him qualify and that was about the only time he drew his pistol.

Joe was a chain smoker and rarely did anything but brag about the ‘good-ole days’ and how they used to police back then.  Joe had been relegated to driving the raid van and rarely did much more, but this time, he would have to step it up and he couldn’t help but be a little nervous.

The van pulled behind the grocery store, and the Team quickly donned their vests and raid jackets.  When the patrol car arrived, McCain and Joe explained the situation to the officer.  “I’ll follow you around the back of the house, just in case the crook’s there,” advised Joe.

The officer nodded, “Sure!  I got it.”

Within a few minutes, Barbosa arrived with verification the suspect was home, and they were good to go.  “Let’s do this!” McCain announced, and then everyone piled in the van.  Don pushed a cassette tape into the deck and cranked up the volume on the drive out to Harrisburg Street.  Out of the speakers, the opening song to the movie Jaws starts blaring, the infamous piece that always leads up to the inevitable shark attack.  The whole van is nodding along to the sound of French horns as they approach the target residence.

Just short of the house, Joe stops the van, the doors fly open, and they bail.  McCain looks back at Joe on his way out, “Catch up with that officer!”

Joe nodded, nervously put the van in park, and fumbled to open his door.

Andy paused at the front porch, then felt the reassuring tap on his back, indicating someone was with him.  He stepped up toward the front door, and Richards set up for the breach.  After Hammond yelled, “POLICE,” Richards slammed the ram forward with all the strength he could muster.  The door burst open, and Andy sprang forward to roll the dice once more.

Joe caught up with the officer at the back of the house and started scouting around the yard.  Don loudly announced “POLICE,” as heavy feet stomped throughout the small house, sounding like a stampede as the Team quickly cleared it.

Considering it was more excitement than usual for Joe, he needed to catch his breath, so he lit up a smoke and took a deep drag.  The patrol officer continued to keep vigil on the back door with his pistol drawn.  Assuming the worst was over, Joe meandered over to look at the crook’s garden in the back yard, to see what he was growing.  As he rounded the corner of the tool shed, he coincidently found the suspect.  When the raid van pulled up, the dealer was already in the backyard, so he had jumped behind the shed to hide.  His plan worked quite well until Joe’s curiosity had gotten the best of him, and now they were face to face.

In Joe’s haste to get out of the van, he had forgotten to bring his pistol.  Unarmed, he instinctually took his cigarette out of his mouth with his left hand, pointed his right hand’s index finger in a gesture resembling a gun, and yelled, “Freeze asshole!”  The suspect raised his hands in the air as the patrol officer ran over, pointed his pistol at the suspect, and ordered, “Get on the ground.”  Quickly and without incident, the suspect lay face down, and the officer handcuffed him while Joe watched, continuing to smoke his cigarette.

Sgt. McCain heard a commotion from the backyard, so he walked alongside the house in time to see the uniformed officer lifting the suspect from the ground and Joe grinning.  “What the hell happened?”  McCain asked.

“I got’em, Sarg!”  Joe replied, proudly smiling from ear to ear.  “Took him down with just my finger,” Joe said, pointing his make-believe finger gun.

“Where’s your pistol, Joe?”  McCain asked.

“Well, I guess I forgot it in the van, but as it turns out, I didn’t need it.  All I needed was my finger to take this asshole.”

McCain dropped his head in disbelief as he turned to walk back to the front of the house.   He had mixed emotions because he wanted to curse Joe out, but at the same time, he blamed himself for putting Joe in that situation, to begin with.

Hammond walked out of the front door and spotted McCain, “He must have given us the slip, Sarg.  The house is empty.”

“I know,” replied McCain.  “Duncan got him in the backyard, and we’re never gonna hear the end of it.”

“What?  Really?”  Don asked.  Joe walked into view with the officer and the handcuffed prisoner.  Joe looked at Don, raised his index finger to his lips, and blew his fingertip like a smoking gun.   “What the hell is that about?” Don asked Sergeant McCain.

“Joe found the crook hiding in the backyard, but he forgot his gun, so he just pointed his finger at him, and the son-of-a-bitch surrendered,” McCain replied shockingly.

“Holy shit!”

When the house was turned over to Johnny, the guys loaded into the van for the short drive back to central.  Joe bragged the entire way back about how he didn’t need a gun to take down a punk like that.  The guys gave Joe a rash of shit about how absent-minded he was and how he was lucky the suspect wasn’t armed.  McCain didn’t say a word as he stared ahead out the windshield.  He was ashamed of himself for putting Duncan in a position that could have gotten him hurt.