These don’t really happen all that often, and when they do they tend to end pretty quickly.  Not last Friday night.  We had one of those rare pursuits that lasted for almost half an hour.  Amazingly, it ended up without a crash, a blown engine, or any injuries.  That’s always a good way to end a high speed pursuit!

It started in the country outside of Earlimart.  A deputy out of the Pixley Sub-Station tried to make a stop on a vehicle, but they decided to make a run for it.  The chase was on!

Rule #1 in running from the law?  Unless you are a race car driver, in a race car, or on a pocket rocket, you’re going to lose.  You might, for a time, outrun the Crown Victorias and the Dodge Chargers, but you simply CANNOT outrun the Motorola!

The driver of the stolen Honda tried to lose the deputy in the area outside of Earlimart at the beginning of the chase.  When he realized this strategy wasn’t working, he tried to just out-speed the patrol car.  Sometimes that works, but only if the pursuing deputy happens to be in an old car that is on it’s last legs.  That wasn’t the case Friday.  The patrol unit had no problem keeping up with the Honda.   They hit speeds of up to 120 mph, with the bad guys running stop signs, blowing through rural communities,  and a few times almost losing control.  They even tried to be sneaky, and hit some dirt patches on the shoulder of the road, trying to raise enough dust to slow their pursuers.  Didn’t work.

They headed east on country roads, looking for an out.  Realizing the road did not continue indefinitely to the east, they picked a major north/south road, and headed north.

Oops, after about 10 miles, that road ended too!  Now they’re east bound again, a few miles out of Strathmore, and by this time we have a bunch of deputies, both patrol and the special gang units (who had been out on gang suppression detail in the southwest part of the county that night)  in hot pursuit.  Well, a couple of units were actually “in pursuit”, the rest were “following” from a distance, ready to respond to cut off any escape routes if they turned.  CHP was in the mix by this time, too.  We try to hand vehicle pursuits off to them when we can, because they’re the experts at it.   It would have been great to be in a helicopter watching this from the air!

Uh… dang, that road ended, too!  LEG BAIL!  They’re out and running in the orchards.

Rule #2 in running from the law?  They’ve got helicopters.  With heat seeking…  well, no, not missiles, but FLIR, and even if you jump out, odds are that they can still see you.  Don’t you ever watch COPS?

Rule #3 in running from the law?  Don’t leg bail.  You’ll just go to jail tired and sweaty.

Ok, we know pretty much where they are, and there’s about a dozen cops there, between Sheriff units, CHP, and Lindsay and Porterville Police units who came to assist.  The perimeter was locked down in minutes, so we were pretty sure we had them contained in a small area.

Rule #4 in running from the law?  If you manage to evade the deputies, and ditch the car and make a run for it, don’t forget our “secret weapon”.  The dog.  He loves nothing more than getting out of that back seat and “playing fetch”.  He loves to run after you, and he thinks he’s saving the world by catching the bad guy, so nothing is going to stop him once he’s let loose.

Hiding in a ditch just won’t work.  Between the dogs and the heat sensor on the helicopter, it’s just a matter of time.  And what do you know??  We found them hiding in a ditch.  “Two at gunpoint!!”  and moments later, suspect #3 is “in custody”.   Now, instead of a joy ride in a stolen car, the three dummies (one a female, somewhat unusual for car thieves)  get a ride in the back of the CHP unit to jail.  Click Click.  “you have the right…” etc etc etc.

And all the while, we in dispatch are trying to coordinate the chase, keep allied agencies advised, map out where they are and where they are going.  We make sure the pursuing units know where the roads end, and try to sort out all the overlapping radio transmissions.  Always fun when field units forget radio procedures in the heat of the chase.

This hectic situation requires all of us in dispatch to work as a team, keeping our eyes and ears on everything going down.  It’s our job to keep the units informed of anything that could affect the situation, and to have ready whatever they might need.  All of this happens while the routine stuff of a 9-1-1 center is going on.  At the same time the pursuit was on, we were dealing with a fire near the Reservation, spousal abuse calls, fights with weapons, and medical aid calls.  The other stuff doesn’t stop just because there’s a high speed chase going on.

Our “call of the night”?  My choice would be the lady at the bar having a panic attack about being bitten by a snake.  She was, shall we say…  somewhat less than sober…  and had walked outside.  She stepped on the snake, and in completely understandable self-defense, the snake bit her!  She panicked, the other people at the bar panicked, and the first person to grab his cell phone to call 9-1-1 wasn’t helping.  He was “less sober” than she was, didn’t know where he was other than “at the bar”, and was making less sense each moment he was on the phone.  His English speaking skills were rather lacking, and his Spanish wasn’t much better.  We were having real difficulty, even with our Spanish speakers handling the call, figuring out what was going on.   He at some point either hung up, or gave up, or the cell phone just dropped the call, because we lost him and still didn’t know what was going on.  Fortunately, someone else managed to call and let us know what was going on, and where.  Once we got the ambulance, fire department, and deputy out there, it turned out she stepped on a little garden snake.  I’m sure she was relieved, once the information made it to the inner recesses of her fog, that she wasn’t going to die.   Personally, I feel sorry for the snake.  He’s just out doing his snaky thing, when some lumbering human steps on him!  I’d have bit her too!  Is it that difficult to watch where you’re walking, human??  Unfortunately, we don’t have a status report on the snake.  Poor guy.

Our favorite citizens usually pick these times to call in, and get really irate that we’re not willing to drop everything else to take care of their “emergency” RIGHT NOW.  Some folks don’t think a bit about anybody but themselves, and will file a complaint that they didn’t get the proper response from the Sheriff’s Department at the drop of a hat. (and they have a large supply of hats to drop, so they’re always ready!)

One good thing about nights like Friday…  it’s makes that 10 hour shift fly by!  I’m just glad Fridays aren’t my Mondays…  seniority has it’s privileges  😉