Today is the last day of our cruise, and Part 1 of the next chapter in Detective Hussey's case files.
Death is something cops deal with on a regular basis. Death is a natural thing, when it occurs naturally, but can be quite another thing if it happens by accident or as a result of a malicious or criminal act. It can be humorous, or even enjoyable, if it happens as revenge as a result of what cops would call street justice.
One summer night, shortly after I had been released from my Field Training Officer and was patrolling on my own, I got a "Burglary in Progress" call in the 1700 block of South King Avenue. I was on Florida Avenue near Belmar. I pulled into the parking lot of the liquor store on the corner and checked my "Street Locator" book. South King Avenue runs north and south off from West Beacon Road. I wasn't too far away.
A decision had to be made whether to run with my lights and siren or to approach the scene silently. Since there was no traffic at that hour, I decided on the silent run. When I got to the area, as I turned onto King, I would kill my lights, turn off the engine, and coast to a stop near to the address, using my emergency brake so I would not show any brake lights.
When I finally stopped the car, I was unsure which house was the target. I got out of my car, carefully closing the car door and pushing it to the first click of the latch. I approached the first house, remaining in the shadows, and walking carefully as to be completely silent.
As a road cop you learn quickly how important the element of surprise is. You do things that normal people might find silly. You don't keep change in your pockets. You tie your keys together or use one key, which gets tucked in your gun belt or placed in a shirt pocket. Your flashlight is held in your non-gun hand, in my case my left hand, in the event I should need to draw my weapon. In this case I already had my revolver out.
As I got close, I could read the numbers on the mailboxes. I could feel the adrenaline pumping into my veins. My heart began to beat faster and my breathing quickened. It was the best high in the world. I was wishing now I hadn't had that third cup of coffee. I really had to piss.
It was about that time that I heard a "POP" off to my right. I had heard it before. It sounded like a .22. I could see a porch light on in the direction of the noise, but nothing else. Now I would have to decide if I wanted to proceed to a place where I was pretty sure I had heard a gunshot, or go back to my cruiser and radio for a backup. I was a rookie; I decided to keep walking. I crouched down, and made my way as quietly as I could to the house with the porch light on.
I was sticking close to the bushes as I rounded the corner of the house. I could hear the phone ringing inside the house. It was customary in those days, for the dispatcher to call the victims several minutes after the officer's arrival to check on the cops. There were no hand radios, and you were either in service or out.
As I "quick-peeked" around the corner, I saw a door, with two feet stuck out from under it, and the fingers of two human hands wrapped around the edges of the door about halfway up. I didn't know what the hell was up. Why was this guy lying on his back, with a door on him? I didn't see any blood. My concentration was broken by a small bald, head peeking out of a "doorless" doorway.
"Show me your hands," I shouted at the elderly homeowner.
"It's for you," the old gentleman said as he handed me an avocado green telephone on a long curly cord.
"Hussey," I said into the receiver.
"You okay?" the dispatcher asked?
"Yeah fine, I'll get back to you," I said handing the phone back to the little man.
"Okay, bye," he said, hanging the phone back on the pine paneled wall.
"I'm Ezra Grumwalt," he said, shifting a small black object from his right to his left hand and extending the right. I took his hand, and asked what he was holding in the other. "Well its my damn gun, of course," he said as if I was crazy.
"Let's see it," I said cautiously.
He handed over the .22 revolver, barrel first. "Thanks," I said, relieved his shaky hand hadn't accidentally ventilated me. "Did you shoot?"
"Well hell, yes. That guy was breakin' into my house."
"Yeah, the guy under the door, you shot him."
"Oh shit" I thought.
Part 2 next week. Be sure to come back.