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I was patrolling the Forest Service areas and campgrounds. Relegated to an ancient vehicle, that had lord only knew how many miles on it. It was the designated Reserve, and prisoner transport vehicle. Most of the equipment on it worked, but just barely. The spotlights had long ago developed a short that no one seemed to be able to, or cared to fix. The radio worked, depending on where you were in the county. The old beast was capable of speed if you were courageous or foolish (often times one and the same thing) enough. My stated mission was “be seen, in as many camp grounds as possible”. The purpose was to let people know that we were out there, and actively enforcing the law. It’s known as proactive policing, or crime prevention.
I was driving slowly around the Tarryall Reservoir when the radio crackled to life. Alert tones echoed in the car, and a short message followed. “Jefferson Como Fire, respond to a report of bon fire at 123456 Fictitious Rd. in the Buffalo subdivision.” Nothing really for me to mess with, I had better stick with what I was assigned to do. The County had been on fire bans for some time now, and it had been well publicized. The Fire Department had authority to issue tickets for violations of the fire ban. Usually all they had to do was inform the people of the ban, and extinguish the fire. The Fire Department very seldom had any troubles.
I listened to the radio as all the volunteers responded to the radio call, picking out call signs I knew. After a short while, I heard two fire truck call out on scene. With in a few minutes, the radio crackled back to life.
“Fairplay, 751, we need a Deputy out here, this subject is being uncooperative, and has ordered us off his property.”
“751, 10-4, break 104, 10-20.” (104 was my supervisor for the evening, and dispatch wanted to know what his location was)
“Fairplay, 104 I’m in Placer Valley.” dam he’s a long way away.
“104, 10-4; uhh 132, 10-20.” Oh shit that’s me.
“Fairplay, 132, I’m at Tarryall Reservoir.”
“132, 10-4 your the closest, please respond to 123456 Fictitious Rd. to assist the Fire Department.”
“Fairplay 132, 10-4 I’ll be 10-76”. Alright, a little something to liven things up. I bet as soon as I get there this person will mellow out and let the Fire Department do what they do best. I’ll probably have to write a ticket or something, at minimum file a report, no big deal.
As the crow flies, it was probably only about 5 miles or less from where I was. But being out in the country, and mountains though, meant the roads I had to travel to get there, make it closeer to 10 miles, all dirt, twisting turning, up and down. I wasn’t going to be making any kind of time, that’s for sure. It’s no wonder that old car was in such bad shape, the first part of the most direct route, should have been labeled four wheel drive only. I was in a mid 80’s model Chevy Impala, and dragging bottom more times than I care to count.
While I was in-route, the Fire Department started calling me direct, asking for an ETA. At one point, they even said, “You might want to pick it up a little, this guys not too pleasant”. Holy shit, what the heck do they have going on? I kicked up the speed, as much as I dared, couldn’t do much good if I didn’t get there. The Fire Department started asking for an ETA a little more frequently. Evidently 104 noticed the worry in their voice.
“Fairplay 104, I’ll be 10-76 also.” I was surprisingly relieved to here that.
As I pulled up to the scene, I noticed the two fire trucks and a whole bunch of the Volunteer's private vehicles on the side of the road. As a matter of fact, they pretty much had all the locations across from this driveway occupied. I could see a person standing in the driveway. I parked a pretty good distance from the driveway because of it, and tried to turn a spot light on this guy so I could see him clearly, (aw shit it doesn’t work, that’s right). I walked up toward the fire chief, saying hello to all the guys and gals I knew, which was pretty much all of them.
“Hey Eric, this guys been drinking, and was pretty aggressive with us.” the Fire Chief said. “ he made us all leave his property, and a short time ago, he came walking down his driveway. He’s just been standing there watching us the ever since. You know, I think he has something behind his leg, he keeps his hand back there, but I don’t know what it is.”
“Ok, let me go talk with him and see what his problem is.” I started walking across the dirt road, it just happened to be on a little bit of an angle, because I had to park so far away. Now did I mention there was a full moon? Yea, one of those that’s real big and bright. It shone it’s strangely luminescent glow on the area, along with casting the weird shadows that accompany such a moon. As I walked across toward this guy, he turned a little more to face me. I noticed that he was in an almost fighting stance, similar to what I call my interview stance. Left side forward slightly, right side (gun hand) back slightly. The hair on the back of my neck started to prickle just a little (what an understatement).
Suddenly, he stepped back with his right foot, and brought his right hand up from it’s concealed position. As his hand raised, I caught the glint of the moons light off the barrel of a shotgun. (Holy Shit) Next thing I knew I was looking over the barrel on my gun, lining up the sites. I have no memory what so-ever of the act of drawing my gun, but there it was. “Sheriff’s Department PUT THE GUN DOWN”. The only sound I register right then is the scuff and grate of feet running to get behind the security of the fire truck and my patrol car. (Oh great, at least they are under cover, I’m stuck out here in the middle of the road, but their safe.)
“Who the hell are you”? he said in that all to familiar thick and slurred speech of a person who has been drinking heavily. The barrel of that shotgun, looked like a freaking howitzer as it leveled at me.
“Sheriff’s Department, PUT THE GUN DOWN, DO IT NOW”.
“I don’t know you, who the hell are you, and what right do you have coming out here harassing me”.
“Sheriff’s Department, PUT THE GUN DOWN”. (Oh shit, I’m going to end up shooting this guy). Right about then, the flood of information that traveled through my mind is impossible for some one who has never been there to understand. All that classroom training, constitutional law, statutory law. everything came flying at my consciousness. (Did I do something wrong, do I have justification. Crap I’m going to get sued, and probably lose everything I have. I’m too young for this crap.) A virtual check list of case law and statutory law flashed in front of my eyes, in a millisecond. (Shit, it’s better to be judged by 12 than carried by 6.)
In thick heavily slurred speech, he said “You put yours down, and I’ll put mine down”.
(What the hell) “Sheriff’s Department, put the gun down, do it now.” I needed to figure this guy out. Something was off here, and I better get this right, his life, my life, and maybe a few others depends on it.
Note: Specific names, such as streets and addresses, along with any names other than mine used in these stories have been changed to protect identities of the innocent or accused. This story is based on actual events in my life.