The call came in as “Shots fired. Several people injured.”
The news, however, was nothing new. Hell, it was Saturday night. Well, technically it was Sunday morning—2 a.m. It would be, after all, a rare occurrence if closing time at Fat Freddie’s Hip Hop Lounge passed by without some sort of fracas—cuttings, stabbings, fist-fights, shootings, or any combination thereof.
In fact, I’m the not so proud owner of a nice scar across the palm of my right hand that I received on Fat Freddie’s dance floor while taking a rather large knife from a guy who believed he was tougher than all other humans on the planet. Unfortunately for him, it was the liquor he’d consumed that placed the foolish notion in his head.
Back to the night in question. I and another deputy, Sam Steele (not his real name), were on patrol out in the county and, since closing time at Freddie’s was a part of our weekend agenda, we were already headed in that direction.
As soon as the dispatcher mentioned the name of the club. I switched on my lights and siren and stepped on the gas.
“10-4, en route,” said Sam in the typical monotone voice that’s so often heard coming from police scanners.
“I’m also en route,” I said into my mic. “Send rescue, but have them wait down the road until we send for them. It might not be safe.” A moment later the dispatcher paged EMS and fire.
A trooper who was running radar on the interstate called asking if we needed backup. I said yes and he told me that he was twenty minutes away, at best.
Freddie’s parking lot was filled with screaming and yelling people running in all directions. Looked like hundreds of angry, drunken fire ants after someone kicked over their mound. Cars nearly rammed us as they left with tires yelping against the asphalt pavement. I threaded my patrol car through the crowd and traffic, stopping near the front entrance, a set of double doors that had been freed from their hinges by the escaping crowd of panicked people.
Sam and I arrived at the same time. I from one direction and he from the opposite. The moment we stepped out of our cars we immediately heard a couple of bursts of automatic gunfire. Dirt exploded near our feet. My first thought was of my Kevlar vest lying under my bed at home. It was a hot night and I’d decided not to wear it. Dumb. Dumb. And DUMB.
Sam dove inside his car. My portable radio crackled then I heard Sam calling for backup, an almost a moot request. I saw Sam clutching his in-car mic as he began shouting “Mayday! Mayday!” Later, I learned that the gunfire sent poor Sam back to his days on the battlefield, and it was his unchecked PTSD that caused the unexpected and untimely mini breakdown. Besides, if we wanted help we’d have to wait for the lone state trooper to drive in from his ticket-writing location out on the interstate. Of course, a nearby city could send some of their officers out to help, but they were even further away. But I knew the incident would surely be over before help arrived. What “over” meant for Sam and me, I didn’t know at that point.
I ran toward the building.
With gun in hand I went up the front steps and into the building. A woman whose hairdo resembled an inverted hornets’ nest piled on top of her head, pushed past me while screeching “He gotta gun, he gotta gun! Her size too small tiger print skirt and spiked heels made for difficult running, but she deserved an “A” for effort.
The dance floor was littered with 9mm bullet casings, plastic cups, beer bottles, melting ice, crack pipes, cigarette butts, plastic baggies, and blood. Not my idea of a party.
Other than the bartenders, DJ, and a couple members of the club’s security team who emerged from a door at the side of the stage, the place was empty of people, including, the shooter. However, one of the heavily muscled bouncers identified him as Shelton Johnson, a local drug dealer. Apparently, he’d slipped outside with the stampeding herd of people exiting the building. The injured folks had also been taken away.
The unwritten rule at Freddie’s, and similar clubs, was to remove the wounded so they couldn’t talk to the police. Yet, I knew I’d soon find each of them in the hospital emergency room and they’d be easy to spot. They’re the folks at the ends of the freshly-leaked blood trails that lead from the parking lot, through the ER doors, onto the polished floor tiles, to the moaning and groaning men and women who’re dressed for a night on the dance floor. Of course, bullet wounds are also good indicators.
An hour or so after arriving at Fat Freddie’s, Sam and I located Johnson driving through one of the neighborhoods he claimed as his territory. After a brief pursuit he stopped his car and fired a short burst of bullets in our direction. He dropped the gun, a fully automatic Uzi and, as they do, he ran.
The foot pursuit was a short one, two blocks or so, and I caught him and had him cuffed just before Sam reached us. He and I helped the little darling to his feet and led him back to my car.
For all the chaos and injuries he’d caused, the judge sentenced Mr. Johnson to one year in jail with eight months suspended. Two days after his release he drove by my house and fired a single shot through our bedroom window.
And people wonder why I don’t give out my personal information. Geez …
* This is a true story. The names of the players and business have been changed to protect the innocent … me.