By Mark Riddering
Ventura PD allowed me the opportunity to work for a time in Narcotics. My partner was a fellow academy graduate 77-4, Bob Velez. My first night the group of narco officers, which were called SID or special investigations detail, were asked to find a wanted murderer from Florida. We located the fugitive at a residence and swooped on him. Pretty cool first day a murderer. We booked the prisoner and got a cup of Joe to celebrate ….ok, maybe a cinnamon roll too.
The second item “to do” the first day was to locate two parolee’s reported to be committing burglaries. They had stolen guns from a Sheriffs Lieutenant’s home. One of the suspect’s girlfriends had called us, worried because the two suspects were planning home invasion robberies and planned to murder the victims so as not to leave any witnesses. A team of eight of us located the two suspects bedrolls that had some stolen property near by it under some eucalyptus trees in a remote location on a hillside. The plan was to form a perimeter around the suspect’s camp teaming everyone in pairs. For this task I was partnered with an officer with a police dog. We waited quietly in hiding for hours but no suspects returned.
It was determined that we would leave, rest a few hours, and return when the two suspects were sleeping. As everyone began leaving I could see two dark silhouettes approaching. A large tree branch and a few yards separated us. A quick plan was devised to confront the two people. Using the element of surprise I moved in front of suspect #1 who was walking single file in front of suspect #2. Suspect #1 was wearing a military field jacket and had a blanket draped over his shoulders. As I shinned my flashlight towards S-1 I saw him reach towards his waistband, and he turned sidewise so as to keep me from seeing what he was grabbing. I approached quickly–gun and flashlight ready yelling orders to get his hands up on his head. As I reached S-1, and noting his refusal to comply with my verbal orders I readied plan B. I began to take S-1 to the ground. However, now I saw S-1 had a gun and was turning it towards me. With my gun pointed at the suspect I clobbered the suspect with my flashlight. The suspect continued to point his gun and I jumped on his back and continued hitting. As we went to the ground I saw clearer S-2. He had a large shotgun pointed towards me as I went to the ground.
The canine officer with me ordered his canine to attack S-2. Fortunately S-1 let go of his weapon, and S-2 discarded his shotgun as he fled from the police dog. Eventually he too was arrested. We secreted a small tape recorder between the two suspects in the police car. At the police station we reviewed their conversations. They were both angry asking each other what happened. They’d agreed to shoot it out with cops and never be taken alive. S-1 said he tried shooting me but I split his head open and knocked him out briefly. S-1 asked S-2 why he didn’t shoot. S-2 said he had the gun pointed at me and pulled the trigger 3 times but couldn’t get the gun’s safety off. S-2 was unfamiliar with his weapon that he’d recently stolen. Again the good Lord protected a foolish sinner as I, and two bad boyz went to prison.
About a year later my church invited me to our churches prison ministry. I went to an evening Bible study in a day room in a men’s facility. I had grown a beard and longer hair–still working in Narco. The two above suspects were in the same room as 75 other convicts and myself. Thankfully by Gods grace they didn’t recognize me as a police officer. When asked by convicts what my employment was I explained I worked for the city cleaning the streets.