By Chris Hernandez

So there I was, minding my own business, taking a bathroom break at the station. This was late on New Year’s Eve in a small town. I was just a rookie with less than a year on the street. But even so, I knew crap was going to hit the fan at any moment. My shift had started several hours earlier. The first thing I had done was head to the worst part of town and check the crowd. What I saw was a guarantee something bad would happen before long . . .

Every small Texas town has at least one really crappy area. Ours was “100 Smith Street”. On this block stood two tiny falling-apart old houses, about 1200 square feet each, which had been converted into “nightclubs”. The clubs were directly across the street from each other, the only two structures on a trash-strewn, crack-infested, deserted block. And on weekend nights on this very small street, about 400 people would be in and around these two clubs.

On “normal” nights on 100 Smith we had fights, stabbings and the occasional shooting. All night every night at least a couple dozen crackheads would just stand out there, doing who knew what. I would hide sometimes and watch them through binoculars. They would wander around holding lighters to the ground, searching for rocks of crack that users and dealers had dropped when police drove past. One night an angry crack addict, burned in a drug deal, flagged an officer down on 100 Smith, pointed into the crowd and yelled, “That guy’s got crack!” Six people took off running.

When I passed through 100 Smith earlier on New Year’s Eve, the tiny block was packed with about 600 people. Gangsters, thieves, prostitutes, crackheads, dealers, pretty much every local troublemaker was there. When I drove through the crowd I almost got trapped by people intentionally blocking the street in front of me. I expected beer bottles to start flying, as had happened to other officers on other nights. But I made it through.

When I came out of the bathroom at the station, I went to see if the dispatcher needed a break. Another couple of officers who were about to work off-duty security jobs were hanging out in there. One was a K9 handler. Right after I walked in, the 911 line rang.

A frantic voice yelled over the phone. The dispatcher jotted quick notes, then turned to me and said, “Shots fired, 100 Smith Street.”

Oh, hell, I thought. I looked at the other two officers, smiled and said “I don’t wanna go.” Then I ran out the door to my car and sped away. Smith Street was only about a mile from the station.

As I neared the intersection with Smith, I saw a bad sign. Cars were pouring off Smith, making turns and hauling ass. A flood of people were escaping whatever had just happened.

I turned onto Smith, followed the little dogleg in the road and was stopped by a gigantic, swirling mass of angry, frantic partiers. Cars and people were pushing past me or running in the opposite direction, pairs and trios were fighting in different parts of the crowd. I jumped out of my car and shined my flashlight into the crowd. About fifty yards away a clump of screaming people were clustered around something in the street. Several people jumped up and shrieked, “We need an ambulance!”

Like a moron, I started walking alone through the crowd toward the clump in the road. As chaos raged around me, I keyed my shoulder microphone and yelled for an ambulance. Cars crept past, with a few drivers yelling “It was Edward! It was Edward!” I yelled back, “Edward who?”, but nobody would answer me.

As I reached whatever it was on the pavement, two more police cars pushed their way through the crowd and stopped beside me. The sudden appearance of backup was fortuitous, because as the crowd parted it revealed one of the most surreal, unforgettable sights I’ve ever seen. Many years and two combat tours have passed since that night, but I’ve never again seen anything quite like what I saw on 100 Smith.

A dead young man was laid out facedown on the street. Without question, he was dead. His was shirtless on a cold night. A huge pool of blood, maybe four feet across, stained the pavement around him. The blood was thick and dark, and almost looked like chunks of liver. The man’s face was turned toward me, eyes half open, lips parted.

I saw all of this in little flashes, quick glimpses amid flailing limbs. I also noticed that the man was completely covered in blood from the waist up; every inch of skin between his belt and top of his head was solid, dark red. Because three or four other young men were kneeling in the pool beside the dead man, shrieking and smearing blood all over him.

It was, I guess, some weird expression of grief from his friends. Whatever it was, it freaked me the hell out.

The other two officers, a patrolman and a sergeant, jumped out of their cars. I think all of us froze in shocked disbelief. I know I did. Even then, in my first year as a cop, I had seen several dead people. But I had never seen people in near-catatonic trance, screeching unintelligibly and running blood-soaked fingers over a corpse’s face.

We had a job to do, though. We had to clear the scene, to get the corpse’s screaming friends off him before they destroyed any evidence. We jumped in and started pulling people away.

The only place to grab them without getting blood all over us was by the backs of their collars. But every time we pulled one off, someone else would jump in and start shaking the body by the shoulders, or rocking its head back and forth while screaming “Get up, get up!” I yanked one of them off and he spun around to face me. I jumped back as the man began shaking his hands violently up and down, flinging blood drops through the air. His eyes were wide as he ranted incoherently at me.

We pushed people away from the body. Then I stopped focusing on my immediate surroundings, and realized we were surrounded by angry, threatening men and women. A street thug had just killed another street thug, but, not surprisingly, they had decided it was somehow our fault.

The crowd closed in around us. People were demanding, “Why aren’t you giving him mouth to mouth? What, you don’t care? You hope he’s dead?” We formed a loose, three-officer perimeter around the body, pulled batons and pepper spray to keep everyone out. But there were too few of us. Ones and twos slipped past to try to revive the body by shaking and screaming at it.

In the middle of the insanity, a dazed, bloody young man staggered toward me. His shirt was torn, face swollen. He slurred, “Hey man, we need an ambulance.”

I answered, “Yeah, one’s on the way.” The man swayed on his feet, and I noticed a ripped, bloody dent on his skull. I looked at it and wondered, Is that a bullet hole in his head?

The man collapsed at my feet. Others closed in around him. I don’t know who took him, but he wound up at the emergency room later. A bullet had bounced off his skull.

The K9 officer who had been at dispatch bumped me on the radio to ask if we needed help. K9s are great for crowd control. I tried not to sound scared when I shouted into the microphone, “309 to 552, if possible come to this location and bring a dog!” I later found out that when I yelled for backup, every officer in the county who heard me burned rubber toward our scene.

Around this time our fourth officer showed up. That was all we had, four officers on duty. He parked about 20 yards away, got out and started walking toward us with pepper spray in hand. Someone grabbed him by the collar, pulled him face to face and growled, “It should have been one of y’all.”

The surprised officer pepper-sprayed the man in the eyes. The man spat an agonized curse, let go and staggered into the crowd.

An ambulance forced its way through the throngs of angry people in the street. Paramedics pushed their way to the body. One of them took about a minute to confirm what we already knew. The man was, without question, dead. The crowd wailed in anger when they saw that the paramedics weren’t going to treat him. Angry friends and relatives, or maybe people just joining in for fun, closed in. We were in danger of being overrun.

The sergeant yelled, “Load him! Get him out of here!” We had to break a cardinal rule, to ruin the crime scene so we wouldn’t have to shoot our way out of a riot.

The paramedics lifted him onto a stretcher. As they did, I saw one of the gunshot wounds on his side. It was small, with flesh and fat pushing outward. We found out later he been hit with two 9mm Black Talons.

As soon as the body was gone, more officers showed up and the crowd trickled away. I was wired, overloaded on adrenaline and bouncing all over the scene. I was only 23 then, and that had been the most intense experience of my life.

In this county, whenever we had a murder, fatal accident or major nonfatal crime, the District Attorney would be called at home. Either he or an Assistant D.A. would personally come to the scene. The D.A. showed up within minutes. When he found out I had been the first officer on the scene, he asked me a series of questions.

“So did you identify any witnesses?”

I was still tense, heart pounding, dancing on electrified nerves. I looked at him like he was crazy and said, “Hell no I didn’t!”

He frowned and asked, “Did you recover any evidence?”

“Of course not.”

He rolled his eyes. “Did you identify a suspect?”

“Yeah, if hearing people yell ‘It was Edward’ counts as identifying a suspect.”

The D.A. threw his hands up in exasperation, walked away, and drove to the emergency room to see the victims. He arrived just before an enraged mob showed up and tried to force their way to the body. Officers already at the hospital had to yell for help, force people out and lock the hospital doors. I think the D.A. understood my position a little better after that.

Eventually, we pieced together what had happened. And, as usual with crimes at low-end clubs, nothing about the incident was simple. The shooting in the street had only been half the incident.

Inside one of the clubs, a customer was holding a lighter to the low ceiling. An employee told him to stop. He complied, then did it again. When the employee told him again to stop, he did. Then he shot the employee in the back. Club patrons heard the shot, panicked and rushed outside. Meanwhile, two drug dealers had gotten into a fistfight in the street. One of them, “Edward”, shot two dope-dealing rivals.

The man with the head wound survived. So did the club employee. We didn’t find out about the shooting inside the club until well after everything was over. The two shootings were simultaneous and unrelated. But in an odd twist, the dead man outside was the brother of the shooter inside.

In the end, Edward was convicted and sentenced to 17 years in prison. I don’t think the employee who was shot followed through with prosecution. The drug dealer who was shot in the head proudly showed his scar every time we dealt with him afterward.

And about a month later, business was back to normal on 100 Smith Street.

Chris Hernandez posts at chrishernandezauthor.com where you can read more of his wonderfully written cop and war stories. Chris is an active law enforcement officer in Texas who splits his time between military and police work. He’s the author of Proof of Our Resolve and the upcoming Line in the Valley which will be released on January 18th.

81 Responses to Just Another Night On Smith Street

  1. Crazy story… though the Black Talon reference made me think back to 90s rap songs. Didn’t Winchester stop making them because the name made them “too scary”?

  2. No sympathy from me on either side. War on drugs = War on the American people. Stop engineering felons out of victimless crimes.

    • not sure where you got a “war on drugs” reference out of that piece other than the street was where all the junkies, dealers and nar-do-wells gathered to sell, buy, use dope.

      • How do you not understand that much of what drives criminal activity in this country is that some drugs are illegal? Not the drugs themselves (save for bath salts and PCP) but merely the status of the drugs.

        Because one can no longer get your cocaine out of the Sears catalog, there is an entire importation and distribution infrastructure of people who take huge risks and expect to be compensated greatly for said risks. The huge margins and dealing in cash make hostile takeovers really hostile. From the street dealer stealing someone’s corner, to the gang defending it’s blocks, all the way up to the importer none of these corporate disputes is going to be settled by Attorneys. It’s gonna be a drive-by, or up close and personal.

        Guess what the war on drugs (and consumers of drugs) has done to drug consumption and addiction rates in this country? Nothing. Addiction rates are basically the same as when a gram of pharmaceutical pure coke or morphine was available at your local druggist. OTC.

        Know why the percentage of folks who get addicted to alcohol don’t end up giving handy-j’s in an alley to get a 750 of Thunderbird? Because booze is legal, there’s no social or professional stigma, and most importantly it’s cheap. Like the vast majority of the percentage of folks who get addicted to controlled substances, alkys generally figure out to pull their stuff together and sober up. They generally don’t even lose their job, their spouse, or their house. Why? Because booze, even with it’s raft of taxes, is market priced. Not black market priced. Nobody goes through $20K on a 3 month booze bender. Or quits making their mortgage to cover the drug.

        There’s too many really fat positions in LE that depend on the funding from this perpetually stupid ‘war’ so it’s gonna take something really spectacular to end it. But end it we must so we can spend on something that actually helps people – treatment programs for the percentage of folks who are always going to get addicted to something – legal or not.

        So the best way to prevent scenes like the one above? Quit making things illegal.

        • Lets see how your theory works out with Marijuana in Co and Wa. Legalization and taxation has long been the war cry of the liberal druggies. Now we have a chance to see how this will work out in the real world.

          Personally, I see nothing good coming out of it.

        • Dave, It’s been essentially legal in CA for, well, forever. Get your weed card, get your weed. But short of some really high-volume folks who deal in tons, there’s no violence over who’s sellin’ a nickel of Mexican ditch weed.

          Just over 100 years ago, it all was legal. But just like firearms, the brilliant legislators of the day figured that this would help ‘contain the negro problem’. They never thought anyone would really use these laws against upstandin’ white folk. Stats from the old days are all still readily available. Remember how successful prohibiting booze was?

        • We already have had a chance to see how it works in the real world. See Portugal (hint: it’s gotten better).

          We used to have organized crime wars over alcohol. We don’t anymore, because alcohol is not legally prohibited. We do over other drugs, because they are legally prohibited.

          None of us are saying that the consumption and/or abuse of mind-altering drugs is necessarily a good thing. Many of us would agree that it is a bad thing.

          What we’re saying is that the “cure” — prohibition — is worse than the disease. Drug abuse is a medical issue, not a criminal issue. The prohibition is what drives the crime.

          The consumption of a particular plant or chemical, by itself, does not harm anyone else. If someone consumes a plant or chemical, and then goes an assaults someone, then arrest them. For ASSAULT. That’s the crime that actually has a victim, not the plant/chemical consumption.

        • Evidently you all that want to leagalize Cocaine and other “hard drugs” have not been around folks who have destroyed their lives with and by it. The difference with Alcohol and the hard drugs is the drugs like cocaine, herione, methamphetomine take over your daily existance and eventually all the user cares about is their next high and chasing that first great high. It would not matter if it was leagal or not the junkies would still be junkies and do crime for their next hit, like some alcoholics do fortheir next drink.

        • Alcohol takes over your daily existence as well. Ever been around a really dead-end drunk? They’re at a point where they don’t eat any calories, because they can’t keep food down. They just drink.

          16V has a point, it is the same point I’ve been making since the mid-90’s, the last time there was a big push for gun control as a way of “solving violence.” If you look at the crime stats from the 20’s through early 30’s, you see the escalation of armed force, gangsters vs cops, until they’re having shoot-outs with BAR’s in small towns, Thompsons in urban areas. The only reason why they weren’t using M16’s and SAW’s is because they hadn’t been invented yet.

          The truth of the matter is this: There are some people who are born with a predisposition to go ’round the bend on booze, drugs, etc – or by sniffing glue, eating C4 (something I’d never imagined until a buddy who had been EOD told me about it) and so on. There’s no point in passing laws trying to keep these people alive.

          The natural world has this process called “evolution.” Too many people seem to think that it doesn’t apply to humans, or that we can stop it from working on humans. News flash: It works on humans too. It is how we got here and the cro-magnon man died out.

          It is long since past time that we cease trying to keep the weak, feeble and mentally maladjusted from killing themselves by whatever means they choose, and instead just let them do it. The faster we allow these people to kill themselves out of the gene pool, the faster we are rid of their offspring, who will also likely be maladjusted and defective.

        • EATING C4? Please, tell us more.

          Fortunately, I suppose, not many people can get their hands on C4. I can think of better uses for it, that’s for certain…

        • Eating C4: As in, you pinch off a piece of C4 and you put it into your mouth and swallow it.

          My EOD buddy tells me that dead-enders in the military will eat C4 to get a buzz. Apparently, the health effects are really bad, but the psychedelic high leaves the person ingesting C4 “totally tripping balls.” (cf South Park and male cat urine).

        • It never ceases to amaze, the confusion over drugs, the “war on drugs,” and especially “gateway drugs.” The reason a substance becomes a ‘gateway’ is because people buy it from people who would rather sell something more compact, addictive, and expensive. It really does matter which drugs you make illegal.

          I don’t know how it is in the rest of America, but in high-end suburban Philadelphia, cannabis is very frequently smoked by, offered to, enjoyed by educated professionals, be they brokers, physicians, attorneys, hospital administrators, or professors. They don’t do other drugs. They buy from expensive preppy-looking cutouts who reduce the risk. It’s like California Lite. Kids, on the other hand, teenagers, buy in a risky market from punks who would just as well sell them crack or meth.

          That’s the reality. It is clearly a class war: If you’re lower in economic class, they’re waging war on you. No cops were hovering over George W. Bush or Al Gore to bust them: That would not, obviously, win them promotion points. The matter is too clear to bear elaborating.

          I enjoy Hernandez’s writing. He is well-informed and has a fairly balanced take on life. I’m very pro good cop, and fairly disgusted by bad cop. I’m not surprised a few mentioned the drug war. The essay grounded itself on a portrait of an evil lair of drug dealers. This sort of picture simply doesn’t happen to the long-term cannabis smoker of means or education. You’d have to look to Wall Street or the City of London to find cocaine, powdered rather than crack, in the prosperous world, save for an occasional Toronto Mayor.

          Police tend to look at their often gritty work as ‘law enforcement.’ Non-police tend to view police work as “making busts to gain promotion” plus some “help when violence invades the neighborhood.” I’m not surprised. Policemen do not get to choose the enforcement focus the chiefs lay down.

          I don’t like pot, particular, nor am I against it, if the smokers do not also get drunk on alcohol. I’ve never been punched by a smoker who wasn’t also drunk. I’m afraid of drunk drivers (still common) but not of the drivers who are habituated to driving while still high on weed, provided they aren’t also on alcohol, Valium, or sleeping pills. They aren’t a big problem, in fact.

          It isn’t “either-or.” Cops and laws aren’t all good or all bad. Neither are attorneys or kindergarten teachers. There are always things which need fixing in our governance. Rolling weed together with crack or meth isn’t a feature of weed, but rather of illegality. It is a feature of our drug laws and their consequences. As long as weed is only sold in the department store of a drug dealer, buyers are lured into the bad-drug section. Hernandez draws a remarkable portrait (on his site) of one police chief’s daughter turned crack whore. Any of you could describe how she got to that point, courtesy of a multi-product dealer. Sad. And no kudos to the chief who didn’t ship his daughter off to Cirque Lodge or similar. Dude, why not?

          I’d rather people who were high didn’t come to the gun range in that state, of course. Safety first.

        • Dude, I’m not going to experiment for you. I’m relating what I’ve been told by a guy who was USA EOD – as well as USA MP’s: some dipsticks eat C4. I’ve had this confirmed several times by Army vets who were in a position to deal with these C4-noshing fools in the last three years since first hearing of it. The first time I heard it, I thought he was pulling my leg, good and hard. I’ve confirmed it with over a half-dozen vets who were MP’s or medics since.

          I’d guess that the reason why it causes psycho effects is that it is killing brain cells – the same way that stupid people of my age cohort, in the 1970’s, used to squeeze out a tube of model airplane glue onto a napkin, stuff it into a paper lunch sack and start huffing were getting “high:” They’re killing brain cells. The reason why they’re having a trippy experience is that large numbers of brain cells are waving bye-bye to the other brain cells. People strangle themselves or other people while having sex or masturbating for the same trip: oxygen depravation of the brain equals brain cells dying equals tripping balls.

        • We have to defund these criminal empires, and legalizing and taxing is the only way. Stop the violence and treat the victims. Our current system does neither. Its alot simpler to stop a single home invading crackhead than a driveby from a gang with the cash and connections to bring in tons of crack and fully auto weapons from outside the US.

        • Two things:

          1) Supply and demand don’t stop acting on a product because a law is passed. The market is still there; conditions will have changed. Prices will go up because more middlemen taking more significant risks will be required in the supply chain, but product will still find a way to buyers. Capitalism works and it doesn’t stop working because you’d prefer it not to.

          2) Illegal markets always generate violence: inevitably. Imagine a legal market, say cupcake baking. First of all, a baker can take non-cash forms of payment, such as checks, credit and debit cards, wire transfers, etc. She can also drop excess cash in the bank every night and only keep what’s needed to operate the till. That means there won’t be giant sums of cash around to make her a target. Next, let’s say she’s wronged somehow. Maybe she finds out one of her flour suppliers has been cheating her. If they don’t do the right thing and make it right, she has all sorts of remedies. If there are violations of law, she can report them to regulators or cops. If there are breaches of contract, she can sue them. Or maybe she finds out an employee is stealing from her. She can fire him and maybe have him arrested.

          If this is an illegal market, none of that is true. In illegal markets, you have to deal in cash, at least at the street level, so you have large amounts of it, which makes the street level functionaries targets for robbery. Illegal markets also have no access to the dispute resolution systems of legitimate society. Issues settled on paper between lawyers in the legitimate business world end up being settled with violence in the criminal world. The baker can call the Better Business Bureau on a bad flour supplier; a guy making heroin can’t do that for his poppy supplier. The baker can call the cops on his thieving delivery driver. The heroin distributor can’t do that for his street dealer.

          The market around alcohol showed this exact behavior. When it was legal, producers, distributors, and sellers were non-violent, law-abiding businessmen, who conducted business in the way that all other businessmen did. Then the market became illegal and suddenly producers, distributors, and sellers of alcohol were killing each other and anyone who got in the crossfire. It’s not that the previously peaceful people became violent, it’s that the peaceful, law-abiding people obeyed the law, and the criminals took over the market. Then the market became legal again, and the non-violent, law-abiding businessmen came back, and because that’s the better way of doing business, they prospered and now producers, distributors, and sellers of alcohol don’t kill each other or anyone else.

          If all drugs were fully legalized tomorrow, then the drug lords would quickly be replaced by ConAgra, Merck, Phillip Morris, and their brethren. You can bet that no one in their C-suites would be gunning anyone down on Smith or any other street.

        • bgreene3a, I’m all for the re-legalization of everything because I have seen the effects of addiction to every one of the substances you mentioned. With cocaine, heroin, MDMA (ecstasy) even meth (yes really), the vast majority of the users are recreational. While as Rick James so eloquently notes “Cocaine is a helluva drug…”, only a small percentage of any drug’s users become addicts. Regardless of a drug’s “legality” the numbers remain static.

          What pushes those addicts down the rabbit hole faster than anything is the relative cost vis-a-vis alcohol. BTW, Were alcohol invented today it would likely be classified somewhere between Schedule II and Schedule III. And it would be expensive. As I noted, it’s the money spent and the life consequences only because they are illegal, that is why the drugs ruin lives. Far more than the drugs themselves. Heroin addicts overdose because there’s no consistent purity. Most addicts do pull themselves out if they have the funding to keep doing it till they learn it is really time to stop. But if you had to blow $50K to get there, it’s a hard hole to get out of.

          At the end of the day as Dyspeptic Gunsmith said, it’s a genetic thing. Just like violence, no matter how many guns you ban you aren’t going to stop violence. Just banning things that the vast majority of humans do, will guaranteed lead to an extremely lucrative black market in said product. That black market will always be violent, and the prohibition will always inadvertently ruin the lives of the rest of the consumers who otherwise would have been just fine with their recreational use of chemicals. And not do anything to actually address the issues of the small percentage of addicts, which is the purported aim of these insane laws.

          The gov could start distributing free heroin tomorrow and after a slight cooling-off period, the percentages of users and hardcore addicts would be about the same as today. Prohibition just makes honest people criminals, and being a criminal more profitable.

        • Why is it that when people talk about legalizing pot they always seem to want to tax it? Why is it that when people see a person smoking a plant that makes them happy and the first thing that comes to their mind is that they could exploit the happiness this person derives from this plant in order to redistribute money from citizens to government? Even people who think of themselves as conservatives and libertarians seem excited about making pot smokers pay a fee to big government in exchange for the privilege of consuming a plant.

    • Did I just have a stroke? Your comment seems to be directed at a post that has no similarity to the one I just read.

  3. Good work Ofc Hernandez. the armchair QB’s don’t quite get the utter chaos, that the police wade into and try to make sense out of. This story lays it out in a manner that put me in your shoes. I’ve been to many a bar/club fight in my years of police work and the overload of information you have to sift through is amazing,

    • Government employees damn sure armchair QB us, the citizens who pay their bloated salaries. So we have every damn right to look over their shoulders and judge every action they take. Don’t like it? Get an honest job where you don’t live off the tax payers.

      • OK I’ll bite…. This officer responding to a multiple shooting and litterally going in to a scene out numbered 100+ to 1, in a an area know to be frequented by known bad people who do bad things, isn’t earning an honest living?

        So what exactly is dishonest about that?

        • Just to play Devil’s advocate here…what good did it do the taxpayers to have this guy go into a crowd and discover a dead body that he couldn’t help? It’s not as if he saved anyone or did anyone any good. I’d say that by the time he arrived it was too late to prevent chaos from ensuing, and the body had already expired…all he did was call an ambulance and yell at people, so why is it we’re supposed to be grateful for his service?

        • BC, he didn’t know that the person was past help til he went into the crowd. The fact that we have people willing to go into those crowds is what seperates us from places like Somalia.

          Wrap your head around the fact that we’re a 1st world nation. The day we lose the ones willing to step into those crowds is the exact day we step down from 1st.

      • Big talker. Usually the big talkers on the internet are the tiny, tiny men when someone decides to mug you or shoot you for no reason.

        I wish we could have a registry of people who are not entitled to call 911. You can get a partial refund on state\local taxes and a big sign in your yard proclaiming that you alone are responsible for your well-being.

        • I alone AM responsible for my well being. I would only call 911 for medical assistance. Other than that, i take care of it myself, or call my neighbors for help. With todays Police going from “Peace Officers” to militarized “Law Enforcement Officers,” I dont want them anywhere near me or my property.

      • And for the rest of you this is a very good illustration of “Stupid people in stupid places doing stupid things.”

      • I pretty sure police salaries aren’t “bloated” and neither are those of the military, firefighters, and EMS, since you seem to claim that all government employees are crooked and leeching of the taxpayer’s dime. These men and women risk their lives for a fraction of what they deserve to be paid. You probably don’t have to see dead bodies at your job, console grieving family and children at your job, go to a war zone for a year at your job, or get shot at at your place of employment.

        Get real.

    • “Good work Ofc Hernandez. the armchair QB’s don’t quite get the utter chaos, that the police wade into and try to make sense out of.” Why the hell do we send cops into a mess like that? Let the bastards wallow and die in their cultural cess pool.

  4. One of those things you can’t understand unless you’re there, as the DA shows. The sort of criticism that gets laid on cops at large reminds me of the Paul Harvey bit:

    “If a policeman is neat, he’s conceited. If he’s careless, he’s a bum. If he’s pleasant, he’s a flirt. If he’s not, he’s a grouch. He must make instant decisions that would require months for a lawyer. But if he hurries, he’s careless -if he’s deliberate, he’s lazy… the police officer must know every gun, draw on the run and hit where it doesn’t hurt. He must be able to whip two men twice his size and half his age without soiling his uniform and without being “brutal”. If you hit him, he’s a coward – if he hits you, he’s a bully…the policeman must, from a single human hair, be able to describe the crime, the weapon, the criminal, and tell you where the criminal is hiding. But if he catches the criminal, he’s lucky; if he doesn’t, he’s a dunce.”

  5. Places like this remind me of certain places in Europe (and possibly here, I haven’t researched it) where you will come across a sign, “Nude Sunbathers Ahead – Enter at your Discretion”, or words to that effect in the myriad languages of the continent.

    When an area such as Smith street is identified the proper official response should be to post signs “High Dangerous and/or Illegal Activity Area – Enter at Your Own Risk” similar to signs posted at beaches or pools where no lifeguard is on duty.

    I often wonder what social benefit we are providing by spending so much time and money on these places and people who KNOW the risks they are taking, not to mention sending valuable police officers and resources into harms way. Add to that they obvious fact that they do not WANT the police there.

    I suspect there is no easy answer to this, but the question does seem pertinent.

    • Its not so much that we waste police resources in these areas like, Smith Street, because we want to clean up these areas. More so these areas and people don’t spill over into the NOT-Smith Street area 2 blocks over…

      • Exactly.

        I sometimes wonder if we couldn’t hew more closely to the Constitution and obtain superior results by simply walling these places off, preventing the people therein from spilling out into the areas of America we like to call “civilization.” We could save a bunch of money and time by simple letting the third worlders destroy each other within their walled-in communities.

        • The truth of the matter is, we don’t NEED to “wall them off”; they’re already economically walled-off. Ghetto violence tends to occur in the ghetto. It doesn’t spill out into other areas very much.

          You’ve fundamentally misunderstood the issue. Violence pretty stays in the ghetto. Your Bel-Air is still pretty safe.

        • No, we’re not “economically walled off.”

          We’re lavishing public tax monies on these places, pouring welfare, SNAP/Food Stamps, government cheese, police protection, education spending, etc into these ratholes. Collectively, American has spent over $6 trillion (with a T – we fired Carl Sagan decades ago) on this crap since LBJ’s “war on poverty” BS started looting the US Treasury.

          I’ve worked in such a rathole in my life: It is called East Palo Alto, and during the time I worked there, it had the highest per-capita murder rate in the US (42 per 100K population). It is a small, burned-out ghetto of about 27K people at the west end of the Dumbarton Bridge in the south SF Bay, east of Palo Alto and Menlo Park. When I’d be working at night, I’d hear people light off anywhere from two to 15 rounds of 9mm ammo, then an answering volley, some screaming tires, more shots.

          When I started there, I tried to be the “good citizen” that cops always tell you to be. The whole “see something, say something” BS. I’d call 911. I’d tell them what I’d heard, my location, how far away, in which direction. I’d tell them what I thought the gun was, from the sound of it. This really got the police’s attention. They spent an inordinate amount of time grilling me as to “how I knew?” what caliber gun I was hearing. After a little bit of this business of reporting a crime and getting interrogated by the po-po in return for my efforts, I quit reporting anything, including people who were obviously injured or in the process of criminal acts on sidewalks and front yards as I drove home to the west side of 101.

          Sometimes we’d come into the office in the morning and find bullets had fallen into the parking lots or had dented cars parked there at night. I had my pickup broken into several times. Got tired of calling the cops – all they did was waste my time taking reports, but HR/security at the company demanded that I make the complaint. After awhile, I quit bothering to tell anyone about auto break-ins. I just started leaving lovely surprises and gifts for those who wanted to scope out the inside of my pickup. The natives learned an important lesson: Mess with a EE and he can light you up with a lot more than a taser.

          I got to see this type of neighborhood up close and personal. I even volunteered to teach in their schools. I got to see the black underclass in America up close and in my face. There’s a reason why I have the opinions I do.

        • CARL SAGAN?

          Aside from all that, you’re not the only paleface who’s lived or worked in the ghetto.

        • Ahh, EPA. A lovely little place that would be as gentrified as it’s surroundings were it not for the fact that drugs are illegal, and one needs to house the supply infrastructure somewhere close to the market. Despite the Oracle airport being there…

        • I’m all for pulling welfare and food stamps, and I’ll go one better and say we should nix social security and medicaid as well, since all the aforementioned programs are really just a way to buy votes in key demographic groups. Hell, according to Heritage we spend twice as much on funding retirements for and medical programs for seniors as we do on paying for poor people’s welfare checks, so maybe we should cut off the old folks first and just call it good.

        • Cuts to the entitlement programs are coming. It’s mathematically inevitable, just as haircuts to public employee pensions are being seen even now. Consider the cuts to the public employee pensions now ruled as permissible by the recent court decision in the Detroit bankruptcy.

          People who don’t like to take the effort to learn mathematics will usually like the inevitable results of their ignorance much less. We are now in the early stages of what will be an extended period of inevitable results brought about by mathematical mental masturbation.

        • So much for the constitution we gun owners use as a rally cry. Walled off sections of America left to die. Maybe we should put FEMA in charge of the operation?

  6. would think the CC would complain about high crime warnings signs “that doesnt happen in our town”

    I did 7 years in a one offcer on duty town. Had its dicey moments, but i preferred working with the criminals instead of some kid with affluenza. the bad guys knew they would see you again and, if sober, a big if) usually responded well to being handled professionally (not necessarily what you were in the mood to do with em)

  7. Chris writes some great stuff, lots of good articles over at “Breach, Bang, Clear” (mil blog) Enjoying reading this. Decent illustration of what many officers deal with. They can keep it.

  8. That was great, man. I literally hung on every word! Very nicely written, indeed. You created complex imagery, and I could envision the entire, changing scene vividly.

    You got talent, and a bunch of it! Thanks for sharing it with us.

  9. Very well written and a compelling story Chris, nicely done!

    For me you managed to capture the dread of a bad situation that could turn much worse and the nexus where determination to perform meets both the feeling that you should be anywhere but there and the fear of what you’re going to have to do next and what the results of that might be.

    Mixing in a bit of the ‘Apocalypse Now-esque’ surreality that comes naturally to such high tension events and the creeping horror of witnessing people behave in bizarre and threatening ways.

    In this case you have quite a subject to write about and that certainly helps, but your observations and style of relating them are what really make the piece. Most people having experienced the same thing couldn’t have written anything 1/10th as interesting about it. However good a police officer you may be I suspect you’re a better writer if you can produce more like this. I know I’ll be checking out your blog, but have you considered writing a book instead of giving this away? It often pays a bit better than most police officers salaries.

  10. There’s a part of me, a vicious Old Testament part, that would have that area barricaded, surrounded with machine guns, and blasted to smithereens.

    I mean it’s wrong, I get that, but there are a whole lot of people whose immediate deaths would measurably improve life on Earth.

  11. Reading stories like this, you have to wonder why those two clubs didn’t “accidentally” burn down early one winter morning, when they were empty. Little bit of urban renewal.

  12. Hey guys, this is Chris Hernandez, the author of the Smith street story. Just wanted to drop in and thank TTAG for sharing my work, and to thank everyone who read and commented.

    To clarify a few thing:

    1) This did happen in the mid-90s.

    2) The incident described here was not directly related to officers enforcing drug laws, but I do understand the belief that drug laws help create areas like 100 Smith street.

    3) Contrary to what you might expect, I actually do support the legalization of drugs (and prostitution). Not because I think drugs are good or even “okay”, but because as far as I can tell the drug war is only exacerbating the problem. I can tell you from experience that while street cops tend to still believe in strong enforcement of laws against cocaine, meth and similar hard drugs, many cops think marijuana should be legal.

    4) I agree that police are becoming too militarized, and I’m currently writing an opinion piece about that. This incident, however, had nothing to do with militarization, and the average street cop is still running calls while carrying a regular old pistol and wearing a regular old semi-dress uniform.

    5) I absolutely agree that areas like Smith street and the people I described use far too many of our limited public resources, while contributing nothing in return.

    Thanks again for your interest, and please feel free to comment on my blog as well.

    Chris

    • Nice work, sir. A lot of folks think that police work is one big extended boondoggle. There aren’t always “pucker factor” days and nights, but they are definitely out there.

  13. Anybody who thinks that ending the War On Drugs by legalization will consequently result in the disappearance of drunken, doped up violent shitheads in crowds around dive bars is dreaming. I AGREE with legalization, BTW…I AGREE that the WOD does far more harm than good…possibly does no good at all. But there will always be unruly lowlifers around.

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