The first time I could appreciate the Indian summer night was when I stepped out of my patrol car along the edge of downtown. The humidity reminded me of the midwestern nights I had left behind so many years ago. A call came in as a commercial burglary alarm at a storage facility. According to the alarm company it was tripped ten minutes earlier. I vaguely recalled the location, which is out of my sector, as a four to five story self storage place. I pulled my car to the curb and turned my headlights off, leaving only my parking lights illuminated for other units to see should they need to find us quickly. I stepped up onto the broken curb. I contemplated whether or not to bring my shotgun.
The radio crackled, “For the units on the alarm, the owner is en route. Estimate drive time of ten to fifteen minutes. Will be arriving in a red pick-up truck.”
My partner keyed his shoulder mic as he stepped out of his car, which was parked ahead of me. “Edward Twenty-One, received.”
My partner and I checked the front door. It was locked. There were two transients sitting on the steps. One of them was wearing a tattered overcoat, too warm for the evening. “Why are you guys harassing us?” He muttered, his speech slurred from the two dollar bottle of Sherry he kept in his coat pocket.
“Knock it off.” My partner snapped back, “Have you guys seen anything suspicious?
“What the hell is that supposed to mean? We’re just sittin’ here is all.” I could tell by my partner’s inflection that he didn’t think these two were involved and was probably just contacting them because he wouldn’t be doing his job otherwise.
The alarm was on the other side of the lot. My partner advised radio the building appeared to be secure. I heard the soft metal clanging of a chain link fence scraping against the ground as someone climbed over it. I looked down into the parking lot and saw a shadowy figure running away from us. We quickly moved around the corner and closed on the suspect. We turned the corner and saw the shadowy figure jump a second fence and run to a nearby truck. The man got into the passenger side. My partner, who was the primary officer told me he wanted to stop the car. We approached the car head on in the alley from behind the cover of a couple of dumpsters along the curb. The light from our flashlights lit up the cab of the truck. There were two people inside and the driver just turned the ignition. My gun found its way to my hand. I was holding it at the low ready; down at a forty-five degree angle, finger indexed and safely off the trigger. For an instant I was aware of the automaton my training had instilled in me. The truck lurched forward. The lights quickly turned on and immediately went dark as they realized they were facing the police. We got closer. I started to make out the color of the dark truck. It was red. This might have been the key holder but his actions seemed otherwise, running around and climbing fences in the middle of the night. I radioed in the plate. We contacted the suspect. He turned out to be the key holder. Radio informed me the plate of the red truck I had ran belonged to him as well.
I’m not sure why someone who knew the police were on their way to a possible burglary at their place would show up and run around in the shadows of the back parking lot and hop fences. Most alarms turn out to be false and most key holders take much longer to respond. This is the first time I’ve had a key holder take the investigation upon themselves, which from their point of view might be understandable. Even now I am reminded of a scenario very much like this at the academy over two years ago. I hope when my house gets burglarized, should it ever happen, and I tell the call taker I will be waiting outside in my car, that I will have the foresight to stay there and not suspiciously run around my place looking for bad guys when my own local police arrive.