From Part I of the Marina brawl:
A second blow hit me with even greater force. And then a third. My head rang like a gong. I was in trouble, losing consciousness and losing the fight, and I knew I had to act. No help had come. I was on my own, badly hurt, and I was being pushed and pulled while being punched and kicked and now beaten on the head.
I knew that in order to survive, I had to kill the man behind me.
* * *
I pushed away from the man who I had been latched onto while trying to survive a lopsided fight. As I turned to my left, I drew my gun from its holster, intent on killing the sonofabitch behind me.
The blows to my head continued, moving along the left side as I turned to confront the man beating me on the head with my flashlight. I brought my gun up to take aim, but I couldn’t see anything or anybody. There was a blur of colorful clothing, flashing lights, and bodies in motion, figures moving away from me.
A final blow cracked across my forehead. I wanted to pull the trigger, but there were hundreds of people packed into the bar and I couldn’t identify my target. My last thought was, Don’t shoot.
I awoke with a man stooping over me. “Stay still,” he said. “You’re hurt bad.”
It was the Bartender
I recognized him from previous contacts and remembered seeing him behind the bar when we had walked in a short time earlier. Remembering that my last conscious thought had been the decision to not shoot, I reached for my holster and panicked when I found it was empty.
“Where’s my gun?!” I demanded.
“It’s underneath you.”
The bartender had been smart enough to secure my weapon when he saw I was on the ground, unconscious, a gun in my hand. He slid it beneath me and stayed at my side. He was smarter than to be caught standing with a gun over a downed cop.
“Help me up,” I insisted.
“You should be still. You’re hurt. Help is on the way.”
“Where’d they go?”
He glanced behind him toward the doorway. “They’re gone.”
“Give me a hand. I’ve got to go after them.”
A Good Samaritan
The bartender helped me sit up and I retrieved my gun from beneath me. He stayed with me as I fought through the dizziness and blurred vision and slowly climbed the stairs.
Hundreds of people were filing out. Some milled about while others headed for their cars and departed. Nobody thought to collect the names of patrons before they left. A sergeant had arrived and he questioned me as I emerged from the bar. I didn’t have answers. “We need to find them,” I demanded. He seemed unsure of what to do.
A citizen came to me and described two vehicles in which the suspects had fled the scene. As she did, I heard the sergeant’s radio crackling with activity, excitement in the broadcasts. Units from Lennox, Firestone, Lynwood, and even West Hollywood were notifying dispatch that they were responding to the “deputy down” assistance request.
I had been on their end of the radio many times and knew they would be pumped up, rolling hard to get to me. But it was over; there was nothing they could do help me there at the scene. I went to the sergeant’s car that sat parked nearby and broadcasted on the radio that no further assistance was needed at the Red Onion. Then I instructed all responding units to search for the two vehicles, relaying the information that a witness had provided.
When I finished, the sergeant said, “We need to get you to the hospital.”
“I’m alright,” I argued.
Two paramedics appeared at my side. But I was focused on finding more witnesses before everyone was gone, and I was uncooperative with them. They gave up but the sergeant persisted, telling me I needed to be treated. I ignored him.
Another sergeant appeared, one whom I had never seen before. He was black, and I didn’t recall any black sergeants being assigned to the Marina station at that time. This man had a commanding presence and the confidence of a seasoned street cop. He was no Marina cop. I later learned that he had responded from Lennox Station. His eyes bore through me. He said, “Get in the car, deputy; we’ve got it from here.” I didn’t argue. He wasn’t asking, and he wasn’t the type to take no for an answer.
I said, “Okay, Sarge.”
He put me in the other sergeant’s car and I was driven to the local hospital, a place we would jokingly call the Marina Dog and Cat Hospital. It wasn’t the best of the best, but it had an emergency room and it was nearby.
The staff there seated me in the waiting room. I couldn’t believe it. A receptionist began asking about insurance as my blood dripped onto the floor. It angered me, and I told the Marina sergeant who had taken me there that it was bullshit that we were sitting in the waiting room. Injured cops were always ushered straight into a room and away from the public. The sergeant worked to calm me, telling me not to make a scene. His absence of emotion and lack of initiative and command disappointed me, to say the least. I had a feeling that if the Lennox sergeant had brought me in, he would have been raising hell by this point or taking me elsewhere.
The Battered Bouncer
The receptionist’s dilemma had been where to put me, as the bouncer had arrived ahead of me and was occupying the last available room. Finally, they placed me in the room with him after making sure we were both okay with that.
The bouncer looked up sheepishly as I walked into his room. “Damn, you look worse than me,” he said.
I told him I had taken his beating for him. He grinned through swollen lips and told me that he was a boxer, and he had never been hit as hard as he was hit that night. Tell me about it, I thought.
The bouncer filled me in on the back story: He had tossed the four suspects out of the nightclub the weekend before. It became obvious they came back looking for trouble when the main suspect began throwing shot glasses against the wall, begging the bouncer to take action. The bouncer tried, but he was immediately overwhelmed by a barrage of hardened fists.
What Had Happened to my Partner?
The deputy who had asked me to accompany him into the nightclub showed up at the E.R., though he showed no signs of trauma. I looked at him with contempt when he walked into our room, smiling.
“Where in the hell were you?” I asked.
He said he had tried to get to me but had been held back by the crowd. “Someone grabbed me,” he claimed.
Appalled, I said, “If you saw what was happening to me, you should have shot your way through the crowd to help me.”
He claimed to have strained his back during the melee and subsequently took time off work to heal.
The After Care
I was examined and sent home even though I made it clear to the staff that I had been knocked unconscious. My roommate, Bobby Harris, came and picked me up from the station and drove me home. I was dizzy and nauseated and unable to drive.
When we got home, I stayed up for a while talking to my roommates. I remember wanting a drink and being pissed when the alcohol burned like hell in my mouth from the cuts and open wounds.
I eventually went to bed but the room spun and I felt sick to my stomach. When I went to the bathroom, I lost consciousness again and fell to the floor. My roommate called the station and told them what had happened, and told them he was taking me to a real hospital. He wasn’t very nice about it either, and he strongly suggested they send a sergeant to meet us there to handle the paperwork. To say Bobby was pissed off would be an understatement.
Over the next few days and weeks, a series of tests would show that I had suffered a severe concussion and equilibrium damage. All of the teeth on the left side of my mouth had been loosened, and my lips and gums were cut and badly swollen.
Amazingly, I had no skull fractures. My dad liked to say I got my hard head from my mother’s side of the family. When I was a kid, he would say, “Land on your head, boy, so you don’t hurt anything.”
For a couple of months, I was unable to drive due to severe dizziness. My roommate, Bobby, and good friend, Scott Anderson, took turns driving me to and from the various medical appointments that followed.
About a month after the beating, Sanchez finally called to check on me. Any other captain would have called the next day if they didn’t drive out to personally see their badly injured deputy. I took the call, and to say it was awkward would be an understatement. After a brief conversation, I hung up without a proper goodbye or thanks for calling.
Suspects were Arrested
I had four months to go before I could return to Firestone. My goal was to be well enough to do so by then, and not a moment earlier. I swore I would not return to Marina del Rey so long as Sanchez was the skipper.
The men who beat me were arrested after a woman went to the station and told deputies that she had overheard her boyfriend’s buddy bragging about what had happened. She provided the names of those involved, and arrests were made. Three were arrested; there was a fourth suspect who was never identified. When the three were brought into the station to be booked, their attorneys raced to the front counter to see that they were released on bail. Before the ink had dried on their booking slips, bail was posted for each and they were sent home.
None ever spent a single day in jail. They eventually pleaded to lesser charges, against my protests to the district attorney’s office. The Marina detectives should never have taken a case like that one to the local branch; rather, they should have gone downtown and filed it with the Crimes Against Peace Officers Section (CAPOS) of the district attorney’s office. The results would have been far different.
The day of the court hearing, a dozen of my colleagues and friends showed up to support me. One of my best friends, Sonny, paced back and forth in front of the three defendants and their attorneys who sat on a bench in the hallway. When one of them sheepishly glanced up, Frank let loose on him with some choice words and asked if the three would care for a rematch. They declined, and their attorneys were speechless. I was proud to have the group of friends that I had then and still do to this day.
The deputy who had wanted to go into the bar that night on a sightseeing excursion, and who had disappeared when the shit hit the fan, had tried to be friendly with me on the few occasions I saw him in the years that followed. I don’t hate the man, but I have a difficult time being cordial with him. I will always question what happened to him that night in the bar. Whatever it was, he knows the truth, and he has to live with it.
As for Sanchez, I never saw the man again and it would be best that I never do; I don’t believe I could be anywhere near cordial with him. He is the reason I was caught flat-footed and badly hurt in that incident. It was his words and threats that caused me to be reluctant to act in the manner in which I had been trained, for fear of his retaliation. To me, that is unforgivable.
Happy New Year.