For a while I rode with another Deputy who was what you would call a country boy. He had his own way of doing things. One night while we were riding together another Deputy got into a high speed chase with a car. He chased the car for about ten miles until the young man driving ran off the road and slid into a ditch. The man jumped out of his car and ran into the woods.
The wooded area that the suspect ran into was bordered on two sides by paved roads and on the back by a clear open field, on the fourth side was a two-track dirt road.
When my partner and I arrived, several other officers besides the original chasing officer were there. They had the two paved roads covered and they could see if the man ran across the open field. A Detective was on the scene and had taken charge. It had been dark for about an hour. It was a clear night but there was no moon out. We could not see into the woods except as far as our search lights would penetrate.
We checked in with the Detective when we got to the scene. He said he wanted us to cover the dirt two-track road. He told us that he wanted me to go about fifty feet down the path and my partner about fifty feet past me, which would put him close to where the open field started. He told us that he was going to get on the loud speaker in his car and tell the man in the woods that we would start shooting into the woods if he didn't come out in the next five minutes. He stressed to us that this was just a bluff and we were not to fire any shots unless our lives were in danger.
Each patrol car is equipped with one 12-gage riot shotgun, which I took from our car. My partner took his personal weapon from the truck, a 45 caliber Thompson submachine gun.
Once we were in place, we could not see each other, nor could I see the Detective who was on the paved road at the entrance to the dirt path.
The Detective got on the loud speaker and said that we had the area covered and the man should come out and give himself up. There was no response. He went on to say that we would start firing into the woods in five minutes unless the man spoke up. Still nothing. Several minutes went by and the Detective repeated the warning.
No sooner had he finished this second warning about us firing into the woods than five or six rapid shots rang out to my right from the direction of my partner.
The Detective starting shouting, "Don't shoot! Quit shooting!!" I could hear him running toward me. I called out and told him I had not fired, it must have been my partner. When he got to me we both headed toward my partner, as we got closer we could see his flashlight beam, sweeping the edge of the woods.
As we got to him he said, "I missed the little son-of-a-b****!"
The Detective tried to keep his voice under control when he said, "What are you doing? I thought ya knew no one was to shoot at him. Right now all we want him for is failure to stop for a blue light and siren!!"
My partner replied in a tone that suggested that he thought anyone with any brains should have figured out what happened. "I wasn't shooting at him, I was shooting at a big rattlesnake. I hate snakes ya know!!"
The Detective shook his head and said, "Let's get out of here. If he didn't come out after all that, then he's either no longer here or he's not going to come out."
My partner never could understand why everyone was upset about his shooting at that snake with a Thompson submachine gun.
by R.L. Dettwiler