December 7, 1975
It’s about 8:45 on Sunday morning in Long Beach California. I’m driving down Cherry Street, on my way to a Sunday morning
What happened next, happened so fast that at first, I couldn’t believe it was real. One minute I’m the only car on Cherry Street and the next I’m surrounded by angry policemen pointing guns at me. The first thing I saw was a cop car behind me with his lights on. He’s screaming at me, over a loudspeaker to stop my car. As I start to pull over, two more of them came from the opposing lanes and skidded to a stop in front of me, blocking my way. Before I know it, there are at least 4 or 5 of them.
It very quickly became obvious that this wasn’t going to be a routine traffic stop. My first clue, was that the police were all hiding behind their cars, pointing pistols and shotguns at me! One of them is screaming at me to exit my vehicle and to walk backwards towards him. I do so for several steps, and he then tells me to get on my knees, and then to lay face down in the street. Just about the time I lay down, several of them jumped on me. I was already laying pretty darn flat, and the several knee drops that were inflicted on me didn’t help me get any closer to the ground. I don’t remember ever getting manhandled any worse than these guys did to me.
I eventually end up handcuffed and ordered to get up. Have you ever seen the TV show "cops," or the end of a police chase on TV? If so, you’ve probably seen how a cop or two “helps” the suspect get up by lifting up on his wrists and arms that are already behind his back. Well, let me tell you from experience, it hurts like a bitch when they do that. When they lift up on your wrists, your body wants to face plant into the ground. I don’t know if it’s judo, or just physics. Either way, the cops are in total control at this point.
Now I’m roughly shoved up against one of their cars and searched. It didn’t take very long you see, because after all, I was wearing a baseball uniform, and it only had one pocket.
After the search is over, I’m propelled into the back of a police car. I’m not too happy about it, because nobody told me to duck my head, or put their hand on the back of my head to guide me into the car. They just pushed me and allowed my head to slam into the door frame. Once I’m in the car, one of the cops bends over and says, “oh yeah, watch your head” and then slams the door. It only took a few seconds for the blood to start running down my forehead, and into my eyes. And of course I can’t do anything about it, because my hands are cuffed behind me.
Of course, I’m totally pissed at this point. I’ve had my face pushed into the street, I’m bleeding from the head, and the handcuffs are killing my wrists. Now I'm watching them tear my car apart. Not that there was much to tear apart. It was a old VW, and all that was in it was my baseball glove, my cleats, and a bowling ball and shoes. My car wouldn’t lock, so one of the cops told me I’d have to take the stuff with me to jail, because my car was going to be towed. I told them to take the glove, but I'd rather have the bowling ball stolen, than to check it in at the jail. I mean seriously, how embassasing would that be?
All this time nobody is telling me what's going on. I asked about 10 times and the answers ranged from, “you know what’s happening,” to “don’t play dumb, asshole,” or to just “shut the fuck up!” Finally, somebody comes up to the car door and tells me I’m being arrested for armed robbery, and reads me my rights.
Armed robbery? What the hell? I’m on my way to a friggin soft ball game. I’m wearing a uniform. I’m not drunk, I’m not high, I don’t have an open container, and don't I have any drugs. Nothing!!! All I could think of was to tell them that they had the wrong guy, because I haven’t robbed anybody. The same guy asked me for permission to send somebody to search my house. I asked him if they would get a search warrant anyway, if I said no. He said they would. So I said no. My girl friend was asleep there, and there just might be some things in there I’d rather they not discover, if you know what I mean…
Eventually, I’m driven to the downtown police station on Ocean Boulevard. On the way, we were driving by the baseball field where I was going to play. I asked the cop who was driving, if he could drive slowly by the field and honk his horn, so maybe my friends would see me and try to find out what had happened. Much to my surprise, he did it. Now maybe somebody would come and get me, when this all got straightened out, or they could post bail, or whatever it took.
The rest of the short drive was pretty uneventful. When we got there the squad car went down a ramp, and parked by a door at the back of the building. He walked me through a door, and up to a small counter that was set in an opening in a large chain link cage. The policeman behind the fence looked at the one checking me in and said, “Is this the nigger?” My cop didn’t say anything, but I did. I told him I didn’t do anything. He just started laughing and said “that’s what everybody who walks through that door says, nigger!”
“Well, it’s true in my case and why are you calling me that?” I asked. I’ve been called a lot of things in my life, but never that. I’m totally white. So he wasn’t really insulting me at all. I didn’t get it!
“Don’t give me any lip, you fucking hippy, you’re in enough trouble as it is!” Okay, I get this one. It hit right on the mark. I hadn’t had a hair cut in a few years, so okay, I get it. But I still didn’t feel insulted. (part two tomorrow...)