In the comments of the post about my experience with the ShotSpotter system in San Francisco’s Bayview-Hunter’s Point district I mentioned that while it was the most dangerous neighborhood in the city and for a few years we were accustomed to hearing near-nightly gunfire within a few blocks of the house, I had only held somebody at gunpoint once. And it turned out he was a police officer. Which worked out nicely. At the prompting of commenters Geoff PR and Sian, here’s what happened. . .
Our house was at the top of a hill, which made for a great view. We looked down (in literal terms only) on much of the rest of the neighborhood. Standing on a bench in our backyard, we could actually see relatively well in both directions down the line of fenced-in backyards on our side of the block.
Primarily for these reasons, it was fairly common for the police force to converge in front of our house when something crazy was going down in the neighborhood. Additionally, on a handful of occasions the suspect du jour — usually suspected of a gang shooting — was thought to be jumping over fences going backyard-to-backyard behind the homes on our side of the block in order to make good his escape without being visible from the street.
I usually found out about this when a knock on the front door revealed a couple of officers in full-on tactical gear — armor, helmet, AR-15 slung across the chest, pistol in a thigh rig, etc. “Hey Jeremy, can we go in your backyard again?” Sure thing. I’d lead them down the side walkway and through the gate into the backyard, where they’d typically stand up on that bench to see what they could see.
One day this scenario played out yet again. This time a nearby bank had been robbed at gunpoint and they were chasing down the suspects who were not only seen heading in our direction, but had apparently been seen doing the whole jumping from backyard to backyard thing. There must have been 20 cruisers parked haphazardly on the street in front of the house, and cops were canvassing the area. Naturally, we watched the commotion out the bay window, my Remington 870 riding shotgun.
Here and there a few cruisers would tear off towards other areas, apparently chasing other leads. Eventually — maybe 15 minutes elapsed time — the police presence left entirely. We never saw anyone apprehended. At any rate, it was time to go about our normal business and, on this day, that involved me BBQing dinner. With my 12 gauge companion, I went out to the backyard, got the hardwood lump charcoal from the workshop, and fired up the BBQ with a giant blowtorch as usual.
The second or third trip out there, I heard weird rummaging sorts of noises coming from my neighbor’s backyard. Now, in case it matters, we liked these neighbors. They were good people and we had been to their birthday parties, dinners, etc. I walked over to the fence, looked through a gap to see what I was working with, then stepped up on top of a chair to see over and down into their yard.
Sure enough, there’s a dude back there right next to their old wooden shed, which has never had a door on it. It would make a decent hiding place, actually. He’s looking around on the ground like he dropped something. He certainly wasn’t one of my neighbors or anyone I had seen before, and he looked relatively sketchy with grimy, torn jeans, an extremely well-worn Raiders jersey, a dirty ball cap of some sort, and a couple days worth of stubble. He wasn’t aware of my presence.
I had the 870 at the low ready — shell chambered, safety off, finger on receiver, stock up near my shoulder, muzzle pointed a few feet short of his feet.
“WHY ARE YOU IN MY NEIGHBOR’S YARD?”
He looked up at me, showing no surprise or other reaction at the sight of the shotgun. He made his hands visible and, as he stood up from a crouched position, said, “I’m a police officer.”
“You don’t look like a police officer,” I replied.
As he reached for what looked like a ball chain lanyard around his neck, he started to say, “I’m going to show you my ba…” but he was cut off by a fully-uniformed officer who came out from behind the side of the neighbor’s house.
“He’s a cop,” says the uniformed officer, as he was following the undercover cop’s eyes up to where I was standing, at which point his own eyes nearly exited his head when he saw me. Mr. Raiders jersey immediately says, “IT’S FINE,” and the uniformed officer calmed down. At least externally. I had already lowered the shotgun so it was pointing off to the side of my own feet, oriented across my body basically from shoulder to opposite hip.
“I am SO sorry!” said yours truly to the homeless Raiders fan who turned out to be a cop.
Cool as a cucumber, he smiled and said, “Nah, you’re good. Don’t worry about it. Can I show you something?”
He then proceeded to point out a broken piece of fencing at the rear of my neighbor’s yard. He asked me if I had noticed it before. I said no, but that it didn’t necessarily mean much. However, yeah, considering the fence is a zillion years old and is untreated and unstained cedar that’s deep gray with age except for that shiny new cracked off piece at the top of one of the panels, I couldn’t really argue with his assumption that somebody had jumped over it fairly recently.
And that, my friends, is the time I pulled a gun on a cop.