Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Squeal Like a Pig

Sometimes I can hear the banjo from the movie Deliverance before I even get out of my truck. It is almost like a version of having the hair raise up on the back of your neck. And my heart-rate speeds up a notch.

And it ticks even a little faster when, after running a driver's license, the dispatcher responds with,  "Are you 10-61?", meaning, "Are you standing right there with this dirtbag?" Immediately I know that the person I am dealing with has a warrant for their arrest. I don't check the record of every person that I run into, but sometimes I get that feeling, (um...not profiling), that I ought to check into things a bit.

I was working a "dirty" wildlife area in my territory late last Saturday night. I'm always a little bit creeped out working this area by myself, especially at night, and my nerves become even more high strung when I see someone's campfire, down by the river, and well off the road.

So it was 11:30 pm, when I drove my truck over a dirt barrier and made my way to the river. I parked the truck and walked to the river's edge where I found two guys, both with lines in the water. And a dog. A snarling, unfriendly dog.

I always approach people in a friendly manner- asking if they have had any luck yet. First clue- Sleazy guy #1 wouldn't look at me. Second clue- Sleazy guy #2 didn't call off his mean dog. They had driven their car over the same dirt hill I had and parked it on the edge of the trees, near where they were fishing. I asked for their fishing licenses and as they were digging through their wallets, I casually walked over and looked through the windows of the car. There was the usual clothes, cans, and assorted junk....and, covered in a blanket on the floor behind the front seat was an uncased .22 rifle. I bit my tongue and walked back to the men.

Each man handed me a license. Sleazy guy #2's licenses had a first name of Ann. I was pretty sure that this tattooed, greasy-haired, person standing before me was not named Ann. After pointing this out to the man, he admitted that Ann was his fiance. He handed me a driver's license and asked if I could "call it in". "Sure!" I said, and walked back to my truck.

The first person I called was the dispatcher at state radio, and that is when I found out that Sleazy guy #2 had an arrest warrant. After asking me if I was 10-61, she asked me what my "20" (location) was....Sleazy guy #2 had an aggravated assault on is record. Great. No troopers available, but they would try to get a deputy on the way to back me up.

Next I called our licensing system. No fishing license on record either. Just before getting out of my truck to talk to the men again, my phone rang. It was the sheriff's department wanting to know exactly where I was. First off, I must explain that many of the sheriff's deputies in my territory are rather clueless, so my chances of getting one of the few good ones was pretty slim. You would think a county deputy would be familiar with all the roads in the county. But you would be wrong. And it didn't help matters that I wasn't on a road at all. The deputy (of the clueless clan) said he would "try to find" me.

So, I was left with a I tell Sleazy guy #2 that he has a valid warrant? Do I let Sleazy guy #1 know that I saw the rifle in the car?

It is always a balancing act. How long can I stall before the deputy shows up without aggravating, or making these two guys nervous. I had already spent plenty of time on the phone, and Sleazy guy #1 was pacing. I decided it was best to leave sleeping dogs lie. I didn't say anything.

My fear was that if I dealt with Sleazy guy #2 about his warrant, it would make him nervous (and perhaps desperate). If I dealt with Sleazy guy #1 about the gun, I might find out that either Sleazy guy # 1 OR Sleazy guy #2 had another gun tucked conveniently in his pocket.

This tactic has worked pretty well for me in the past. Rather than get the suspect all hot and bothered without back-up, I wait until help arrives before dropping the bad news. One hunting season I happened upon an individual who had a $50,000 federal warrant from a state on the opposite side of the country. And the state was happy to extradite. It took about 10 minutes for 3 troopers and a deputy to show up on the dirt road, out in the boondocks to help me out. Unfortunately, my deputy back-up on Saturday was a wee bit on the tardy side.

Eventually I felt I had stalled as long as I possibly could, and decided to tackle the "rifle in the back-seat" issue first. I informed Sleazy guy #1 that I had spotted the rifle in the back of their car. I acted like it was no big deal-I just needed to make sure it was unloaded to make it safe. Then I asked if I could search the rest of the vehicle to make sure there were no more guns. Slezy guy #1 decided not to cooperate. No, I couldn't search (meaning either...yes, there are more guns in there Mrs. Warden....or do you like drugs Mrs. Warden? Because that is what you will find....or both).

By this time Sleazy guy #2 wanted to know what was going on with his fishing license. So, I broke the bad news that he had never purchased a license for the current year, and that he would receive a citation for not having a license. Just as I was about to break the especially bad news about the warrant, the deputy came thumping over the dirt mound. Just in time.

Sleazy guy #2 found out he was going to jail, and Sleazy guy #1 found out he was getting a citation for the uncased gun. Luckily, though they were obviously disturbed by this turn of events, neither one decided to act on it. They were cooperative.

The fiddle music went away. This time.


  1. Glad the situation was resolved peacefully and safely for you. Gamies in any state really have to be of a different cut than most other cops - a city cop, and a lot of county cops can usually have backup arrive within a minute or two of calling for assistance. Troopers can have a longer ETA (especially in the big, rural areas) - but Gamies rarely work close to paved roads, and backup might not be available. Got my utmost respect.

    Stay safe.

  2. That would be a crazy situation. Especially if you're not quite sure your "backup" is gonna make it.

  3. Man...that is one hairy situation. Glad everything turned out okay.

  4. There have been a few remote areas of the state where I have encountered "colorful" individuals that make me uneasy. Kinda that "Paddle faster I hear Banjos" feeling. I can't imagine throwing on the added pressure of being the law and confronting them, its bad enough just trying to get by with a couple quick words and a side step.

    "In a case" . . . so it must have been a Sunday?

  5. Nice job and story well told. After identifying myself, I've offered to be back-up until help arrives. In Colorado I've been met with, You aren't packing are you?

  6. You all do NOT make enough money for what you have to deal with...scary, scary stuff.

    Just hiking in WV can make you hallucinate banjo music.

  7. Great job. Made me cringe a little just reading that. I too work LE out in the boonies where the county may or may not know how to get there to help me out. I fully understand and appreciate the work you do.

  8. Another great post and well told. My admiration for you and your work line continues to grow rapidly. You are one fine Warden!

  9. Every good cop I’ve worked with listens to that nagging sensation. It keeps us alive to tell the story. Great job!

  10. I'm not a fan of the Banjo but sometimes it pays to listen to the music! Take care!

  11. I read this post because I am a Yankee exiled to the Deep South and many of my days are filled with 'the banjo music', so the title intrigued me. Good job on being able to "tune it out". I agree with the poster that said you guys in con. law. are underpaid.