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embarcadero fog

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.

The bench in question. Chickens keeping the yard safe from intruders.
The bench in question. Chickens protecting the yard from intruders.

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.

Our dedicated sentry, watching the neighborhood from the bay window.

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.


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.

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  1. I’d tell you about the time I pulled a gun on a cop except I don’t think that the statute of limitations has expired.

    • Train and learn – that’s the advice you get today. Back in the 70’s, not so much.

      I managed a movie theater in Dayton and frequently made my deposits, often $10,000 or more, which was a lot of coin back then, in the very early morning hours. I called the Dayton PD and asked if there was any way they could have a car in the neighborhood when I headed for the bank and was told flatly NO, we don’t do that sort of thing. Then the sergeant advised me to buy and carry a gun!

      One Saturday night I was making a deposit of about $12,000. The bank had a ramp up to the drive-through window and night deposit slot. I stopped, got out with the cash bag in my left hand and my S&W model 29 in my right, and opened the drawer when I realize that another car has pulled up the ramp with its lights out. I dropped the cash to the ground and drew down on the windshield of the car only to realize it was Dayton PD!

      The cop raised both hands off the steering wheel, gave a smile, then put it in reverse and backed away down the ramp. Never heard anything about it, but it took a while before my heartbeat returned to normal.

  2. Do military police count? I once pointed a gun at a fellow MP’s head, junior to me, who was refusing to type up the nightly report.

    He typed it.

    (this was 42 years ago, also in Kalifornia, just north of the Golden Gate Bridge…funny things happen out there…)

    • That isn’t funny, you should have court-martialed and dishonorably discharged for such unprofessional and unsafe behavior.

      • Probably. Doubtful on the dishonorable, though. I’m guessing I might have just got chewed out by the first shirt. Things were different then.

        And I got an Article 15 at another site much later for assaulting a fellow MP and senior NCO.

        I also swung my M-60 on the pilot and crew chief of a helicopter who thought it was funny and that I was a raw noob to take tight turns so that the chopper tipped over on its side so all my crap might fall out. They never did that again.

        Not everyone in the military is a by-the-book stickler on everything and hero.

        • You know how you can tell someone was in the military, but not a Marine? Just wait they’ll tell a story of them being irresponsible, and stupid. I didn’t follow the ‘book’ either, however I didn’t poi nt my weapon at anyone I wasn’t intending to shoot.

          • Good for you.

            My heart is warmed by patriotic gratitude.

            Incidentally, I served with Marines in two of those wars and I knew a few who did worse chit than little ol’ me.

        • Well I would have been that by-the-book stickler, too bad I’ll never be a Marine because of a heart condition.

          • There have been hundreds of thousands of Marines serving over the past few decades; amazingly, not every one of them was a pure-as-driven-snow by-the-book warrior. That goes for the other branches, too, of course. Anyone who implies or insinuates differently is operating from a different bandwidth or dimension. Or has some axe to grind.

        • Know how to tell someone was a Marine? They pretend that nobody in their part of the Navy was a screw up.

          That’s right, NAVY

          • Yup. I’m afraid so. Yet I saw plenty of Marines in the brigs and stockades during my time working for Uncle.

            That said, I have nothing but the utmost respect for the particular Marines with whom I served in SEA. Semper fi.

  3. That’s a cool story. Luckily the cops knew of you well, or things might have turned out differently, especially nowadays.

  4. >>“I am SO sorry!”
    >>apologizing to a trespasser because he works for the government

    Absolutely pathetic.

    • An extinct species calling someone “pathetic”.

      Kinda dings the needle on the analog irony meter, Blaine… 😉

      • Somebody never chews tobacco. Also you obviously don’t know what an analogy is. 🙂

        • “Also you obviously don’t know what an analogy is.”

          Analog, Blaine, not analogy.

          Analog meters have these things in them that limits the needle’s deflection. Hit the needle stop hard enough, it physically bends (as in this case, ‘dings’) the needle.

          An extinct species that lacked the intelligence to survive referring to another as ‘pathetic’.


          Pay attention, son. 😉

        • What’s also pathetic (besides OP sucking up to the cops) is your lame attempts to make a joke by taking a pop culture reference literally.

          By the way, scientists agree that the extinction of the dinosaurs (i.e. the K–Pg extinction event) was caused by a asteroid impact, not because they were superseded by evolution. So on top of being lame, your gibes don’t even have any scientific basis. 🙂

        • It seemed like the right thing to do at the time. I pointed a shotgun at a police officer. Whether I did it knowingly or not felt like an asterisk at best at that moment…


          *an undercover one, so it wasn’t really his fault”)

          …in addition to what Geoff PR says below RE brandishing, which did occur to me at that moment as well. Am I completely within my legal right in the City of San Francisco to do what I did? This suspicious person, keep in mind, was not on my property. I don’t really know the answer to that. Right or wrong, if the cops felt it was wrong that’s all that’s needed for me to take a ride to the hoosegow and blow any savings I may have had on an attorney, win or lose. So, yeah, a GD apology seemed pretty F’ing apropos and it was a small “price” to pay. Besides, I was legitimately sorry. Cop or not. If he was there for a legit purpose (“I’m a friend of Joe’s, I’m here to water the garden.”) I would have been very sorry to have A) pointed a gun at him and B) decided that he was a sketchy, homeless, bank-robbing criminal based on his fashion choices.

          Pride caused the fall of the dinosaurs. Everyone knows that. If we don’t learn from history, we’ll be condemned to repeat it. So, unlike a sex-t-rex, I apologized and avoided the extinction that happens when you don’t. As previously demonstrated by the fate of the dinosaurs.

        • Asteroid, huh? Well, that’s what they agree on today, maybe. It will be something else tomorrow…

        • You’re just all defensive and frustrated because of those itty bitty arms. It’s okay.

        • “What’s also pathetic (besides OP sucking up to the cops) is your lame attempts to make a joke by taking a pop culture reference literally.”

          What’s more pathetic is your lame attempt to back-pedal after you stepped on your own lizard dick… 😉

          “By the way, scientists agree that the extinction of the dinosaurs (i.e. the K–Pg extinction event) was caused by a asteroid impact, not because they were superseded by evolution.”

          Plenty of large reptiles survived the Chicxulub asteroid impact and the Cretaceous–Paleogene boundary, Blaine… They figured out how to survive the asteroid impact…

          ” So on top of being lame, your gibes don’t even have any scientific basis.”

          The currently living large reptile species is scientific *proof*, not ‘scientific basis.’

          It really chaps your @ss to be wrong, doesn’t it? 😉

          For an extinct dino, you have awfully thin skin, son…


        • Point of order Sex Rex (adjusts glasses):
          As a scientist by trade, I can say that all scientists don’t agree on much. There are two camps on the demise of your terrible lizards: the asteroid (which is a scientific cop-out) and the preceding million-year mass extinction during the rise of mammals. It’s easier to throw up your hands, point to a crater and say “THAT” rather than documenting the fossil record through the late Cretaceous. Agreed on the Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary, but the diversity in the fossil record began to diminish in the middle-late Cretaceous.
          I’m a mammal-man myself.

    • A cop investigating a fresh break in the fence at night in an unsafe neighborhood? That’s them doing their job, exactly as they should.

      • OMG. I just realized I didn’t mention it in the story! It was fully bright outside. Probably 6:00 PM or so, considering I was just lighting up the BBQ (and I wasn’t grilling, I was BBQing 😉 ) and at that point it was maybe 45 minutes after the bank was robbed. I don’t recall what time of year it was other than I do recall it was full-on daylight and was still hours from dusk. FWIW.

        …and yeah, I’d have to agree. This is the sort of thing we want the police to be doing. Tracking down actual criminals, protecting the community, etc. I would have preferred if he was doing it in uniform though haha. He wasn’t working “undercover” at the moment. He was, however, with a uniformed officer so that covers that. I suppose they didn’t expect somebody to pop up over the fence like I did. The uniformed officer was on the far side of the neighbors house because that’s the only way into the backyard without going through the house or looking over the top of the fence…

  5. Nice to see me and Sian’s nagging got the story on that… 🙂

    Try that nowadays and see what happens…

    You know, if that had been a non-LE, brandishing a shottie in the city limits could have resulted in a conviction for you…

    I’ve only been to San Fran once back in August of ’98, and it looked just like your pic, foggy.

    And it was the coldest I’ve ever been in August in my life. But it was a very enjoyable trip, first vacation in 9 years.

    • Well I don’t know about “nowadays,” as this would have been 2010 I think. Maybe 2009 at the earliest and 2011 at the latest. Not a lot has changed there since, although BVHP has certainly been working towards some gentrification thanks to the tech boom in SF sending housing prices soaring.

      I could totally see it being considered “brandishing,” but also not. Just depending on the quality of my lawyer probably hahaha. But really, I’m not positive that the low ready would necessarily count. He was only 20 to 25 feet away so “aiming” a bit short of his feet wasn’t all that terribly different from just holding it angled down across my chest just like the tactical cops who where there minutes earlier…

      [edit: unless this was illegal and it’s within the statute of limitations, in which case this is a fictional story based on a dream I had and any similarities to real places or real persons, living or dead, are entirely coincidental.]

      • Jeremy S
        Do you have any updates on your ultimate Mosin? That was quite the impressive build, just curious if it is still trapped in the safe?

        • It actually hasn’t lived in the safe but, rather, leaned against the desk in my office. I enjoy seeing it. It has made it to the range a half dozen times since the build, which isn’t as much as I would have expected but it’s honestly more than most of my personal firearms, which have lived lonely lives since I started getting so much incoming stuff to review. It comes out any time friends or new shooters are joining me…

      • I was going to answer in the comments, but thought it might be fun to explain the entire story in detail and put it up as a separate post instead 🙂

    • If I’ve been not only told of a nearby bank robbery but involved with the police on the subject of the robbers headed my way, and the police then depart the area, you better damn well believe I am going to be armed, and I don’t mean with my EDC. 12-guage, AR, .308 semi, something way out there. And there better not be any charges, from anyone. That idea is just silly. We had an armed robbery of a jewelry store (clerk was shot) about a mile from here, two of the perps escaped into the woods headed in our direction. Advised of this when we intercepted a police car on its third patrol down our dead-end street in 15 minutes. Helicopters, airplanes, several different police departments, went on for several hours, during which my AR was loaded and with me constantly. When my granddaughter was due home from school, I went to the bus stop rifle in hand. Consider it brandishing or not, I don’t even care. The perps did in fact interact with two of my neighbors, like 100 yards from my house, right beside the bus stop. There are times the silly gun laws just do not matter.

  6. I saw someone looking in my neighbors house while they were gone once and did pretty much the same thing.

  7. I’ll bet that caused him to change the way he dressed when he searched places…

    • Actually, I think it was the fully-uniformed officer who had to change certain parts of his wardrobe that day 😉 (not that I blame him)

    • You know that cop was just drug off the street to help in the search, without warning, or he would have been more sartorially correct.

  8. Hmm… A lot of people think that cedar is impervious to water, however, cedar has a natural defense against insects but no such defense against bacteria. If cedar is allowed to dry out whenever it gets wet it will last a very, very long time out in the elements, but if it’s allowed to stay wet it will rot out as fast as any other wood. Hence the rot at the bottom of the fence.

    • All of us that live around the SF bay live in a damp environment. SF itself more than the rest of us. Already replaced my fence in the ten years I’ve lived in this house. And if you still have land lines in your house the salt, damp air corroded the connections in your wall jacks and can cause problems.

      • Keeping the 870 free of light surface rust was always a challenge. Never had an issue with the various other guns I had there, but the 870 always wanted to have just a smattering of rust here and there…

      • San Francisco, damp? LOL

        You guys have a third of the rainfall* and a bit more than a third as many days with rain as up here on the Oregon coast — you’re dry and sunny!

        Though that probably makes your issues with wind-blown sea salt worse.

        *for near the coast range, it’s less than a quarter

  9. I pulled a gun on Janet Reno once. She was just on the TV though, so I suppose that doesn’t do much for my super rebel/outlaw cred.

  10. It’s nice when a story ends with nothing bad happening because everyone acted reasonably under the circumstances.

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