Every day of my life started with the morning TV news. Except this one morning in the summer of 1985. I woke up that morning to sound of BOOM, BOOM, BOOM, BOOM. It came from one of the neighbor’s apartments. It sounded like someone was moving furniture. I went back to sleep. I woke up again to sirens. An ambulance pulled up to my building and I went to investigate. The noise I was awakened to earlier was my upstairs neighbor falling down a flight of stairs and breaking her leg. She asked me to help her track down her husband who had all the insurance information. The problem was that he was working a Swap Meet somewhere in Oxnard, an hour north of L.A. The EMT told me that they were taking her to Cedars-Sinai. I told her that would meet her at Cedars then I got into my car. I noticed cops all over the neighborhood but didn't think much of it. I'm driving west and I pass this one cop driving east he gives me a good look. I didn't give it much thought because I was in a hurry. Then lights started flashing and the sirens are going off. I pull over so the cop can pass me and he didn’t.
Over the loud speaker I hear, "Get out of the car and put your hands on your head". I do what he says and then ask, "Is there a problem officer?" "Oh yeah", "You did a lot of things", the cop said. It's 110 degrees outside and this cop wanted me to put my hands on the black hood of his squad car that was so hot. Egg frying hot. I cheated and just had my hands hover about half an inch over the hood. The cop started going through my pockets, then throwing its contents on the ground. He then noticed that my hands were not on the hood of the car. So standing behind me he grabbed my wrists and forced them on the hood of his car, of course when you touch something that hot you have an involuntary reaction and jerk back. I jerked back. "E-YOW!" And I knocked the cop over on his ass. He jumped back up and drew his gun and shouted, "I said put your hands on the hood!" Okay, flip them over when they’re done.
He takes my keys and starts’ searching the trunk of my car when Good-Cop drives up. He comes over shakes his head, tells me that I can get off the car and asks me not to report his fellow officer. No problem there. I was just so traumatized and embarrassed by the incident that I was glad that it was over.
After helping my neighbor in the hospital, I came home and turned on the news. The top story was that the "Night Stalker" had struck the night before in my neighborhood. On the screen was the latest Police Artist rendering of the suspect. The drawing was of a guy with brown hair, brown eyes and a tan. The picture looked more like me than it did Richard Ramirez, who would be captured months later.
I learned 3 things from that incident:
1. That young cop was probably more afraid of me than I was of him.
2. I’m half Puerto Rican, but since I pass for white I can't play the race card.
3. Never leave the house without watching the morning news.
To quote The West Wing’s Leo McGarry (John Spencer), "That’s the price you pay when you look like the bad guys".
For all of you "Wing Nuts" this quote comes from Episode 45 Title: ISAAC AND ISHMAEL Original Air date October 3rd 2001