A Close Call with a Brother Cop
By Larry White (VPD Sgt. retired)
I just heard today that Mark has left us. I would like to share this close call that Mark and I had one summer night years ago:
In Ventura in the residential tract around Kimball and Telegraph, numerous burglaries were occuring perpetrated by two recently released parolees. Sgt Don Arth and his partner, and Mark and I with my K-9 Frei started marching through the lemon orchard north of Kimball/Telegraph to search for the parolees and their camp. Frei found their unoccupied camp in some deep grass in a baranca at the west end of the presidents tract. We decided to wait for the suspects and Mark and I climbed out of the west side into adjacent lemon grove while Don and his partner covered the east side. We waited several hours in the dark, then it was decided that we would call it off and Don and partner would return at 0500 and catch the suspects asleep. As Mark and I left our hiding place and walked towards the edge of the baranca, Don came over the radio and whispered they were coming in. Suspects had walked through their camp and saw our footprints, then decided to look around. They walked toward us and within 6-10 feet we announced our presence and Mark turned on his flashlight. I was holding Frei in one hand and my gun in the other We ordered them to get down, our focus was on the closest suspect who was draped in a blanket. Mark moved towards him and began hitting him with his flashlight to knock him down. I couldn`t see the other suspect a couple feet behind the first until Mark`s flashlight briefly illuminated him between blows to the first crook. I saw a shotgun leveled right at me. I spun to fire but by now the suspect had his back to me running back towards the baranca. I almost pulled the trigger, but I was in a microsecond asking myself can I shoot him in the back, so I let Frei go. Frei blasted right by Mark and the first suspect and disappeared over the edge of the baranca. I turned to assist Mark and we knocked his suspect to the ground and cuffed him. I moved to where I last saw Frei and his fleeing suspect. I hid behind a tree and shined my flashlight into the tall grass of the baranca, hoping that Frei was not going to be shot. My light illuminated both of them. Suspect was on his knees with Frei facing him. I later found out that Frei had caught the suspect by his ankle causing both of them to tumble, suspect dropping his shotgun in the grass. Every time he reached for the shotgun, Frei would bite him and release, until I reached them and cuffed him.
When Mark and I regrouped, Mark had found a .25 pistol laying under the first suspect. I placed a hidden tape recorder in the police unit and without the suspect`s knowledge, placed them inside to let them talk in private. Later at VPD, Mark and I listened to the tape and realized how close we had come to being shot and probably killed. Suspects had just burglarized a Ventura County Sheriff`s Lt.s home and stolen the pistol and a 12 guage shotgun loaded with .00 buck( the same ammo we use in our shotguns). Because suspects were unfamiliar with the weapons, they were unable to take the safety off when we surprised them, but were able to pull the trigger several times.
Rest in peace brother.