Very few people are killed by strangers while at home with their families or even enjoying an evening out with friends. But when you stay out all night—or into the wee hours—you increase the odds of becoming a victim of violence. The older I get, the more I have come to appreciate that.
A few years ago, my wife and I attended a birthday party for a friend at a cowboy bar. At about 11:30 p.m., it became louder and rowdier, and I knew it was time to leave. I told the missus it was time to go, stating my mantra that nothing good happens after midnight. Not long after we left, a brawl broke out and a friend was stabbed.
I’ve reflected back on my own life, and I am thankful that God watches over drunkards and fools. Because in my young, single days, I definitely overindulged and lived life on the edge. It was as if being a street cop in South Los Angeles wasn’t dangerous enough.
The Taco Stand Fiasco
One night, two friends and I went to grab a bite to eat after the bars had closed. A little stand not far from where we drank had some of the best burritos in Los Angeles, but it was also in the heart of LAPD’s Rampart Division, an area plagued by gang violence. It wasn’t the type of area many white people would want to visit after midnight. But we weren’t just any “white people.”
As we made our way to the patio, a trio of gangsters confronted us about being in their hood and then talked some shit about white boys. Seconds later, my good friend Johnny B. went down in a tangle of violence with one of the baggy-pants-wearing assholes, the two of them grappling and throwing fists. My other buddy and I stepped between the brawl and the other two gangsters, knowing Johnny could handle himself as long as we didn’t allow the others to jump in, which is the preferred manner of fighting for gang members.
Soon enough it was all over and the gangsters shuffled away not too much worse for wear, other than maybe being a bit embarrassed about one of them having had his ass handed to him by a skinny white boy.
The Burrito Mission
Undeterred, we ordered our food as planned. As we stood at the sidewalk waiting for double-wrapped carne asada burritos, and sniggering about the little tussle Johnny had had, one of us noticed the three gangsters were coming back.
The one who had lost the fight to Johnny was now armed with a fireman’s ax. Though he had already bitten off more than he could chew once that night, he was about to take a bite of a giant shit sandwich. But he was too dumb to know it.
The other two carried sticks, but they seemed less committed to their cause.
Sunset Boulevard separated them and us, a large four-lane street with a center median and room for parking along both curbs. People were still out and about—after all, this was L.A.—and motorists passed in both directions between us and the miscreants.
A Quick Strategy Session
“Jesus, the asshole went and got a fireman’s ax.”
“I’m going to shoot his dumb ass as soon as he gets halfway across the street.”
“I think we’ll all probably shoot him, Johnny.”
“Okay but wait until they get at least halfway across the street,” Johnny emphasized. We needed to make damn sure that if we shot any of them, that we were justified in doing so. After all, we had been out drinking that night, and one of us had already been in a fight with one of them. Someone (the brass) would say we shouldn’t have gone there in the first place, much less hung around after the fight, waiting for them to come back with guns—or a fireman’s ax.
But, the burritos…
“Here they come,” I said, my right hand gripping the two-inch revolver tucked in my waistband. It wouldn’t be easy hitting a target that was twenty yards out with it, but I was willing to try. I didn’t plan on letting a man with an ax close too much distance on us.
Johnny said, “Ready on the left, ready on the right…” words that we were accustomed to hearing on the shooting range just before we were given the command to fire our weapons.
Here We Go!
The three of them were now in the middle of the road. A car whizzed past, a reminder that there was always the backdrop to consider in a shooting scenario.
I pulled my gun but held it close to my body, likely concealed from their view.
“Here we go,” Johnny said as they started across the westbound lanes of traffic, now closing the distance.
Our lives were now in imminent danger, and we would be justified in shooting them. Not that we wanted to—hell, we just wanted our “after midnight” burritos. But this is what they chose for themselves, and I’m glad it was us in this situation, and not someone unable to defend himself.
“Here we go,” I agreed.
And suddenly our other buddy shrieked a stream of magical police shit, “Freeze! Police!” and some other nonsense. I looked over to see he had his badge held out in front of him in one hand, his gun in the other. Basically ruining the surprise Johnny and I had in store for them.
The gangsters stopped, frozen in the middle of the road, likely in the sudden realization that they had failed once again, that this gangster thing wasn’t for them. Knowing for certain that they didn’t want to be shot by these white boys in their hood.
We started for them, the tables now turned, the big dog little dog relationship clearly established.
These punks had elevated a rather benign schoolyard-style fight to a felony assault, something that would have justified our using deadly force against them. Now they needed to go to jail, and we saw to it that they did.
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