John Stacy and Mike Spiel made reference to a 998 in Cudahy. I believe they are both referring to a “Suicide by Cop” incident that occurred in early January 1974. I was working 13 PM as the Cudahy Deputy with a different overtime partner every night. I was working with Bob Reid a very funny man. We got a 417S call at a bungalow located on one of the quarter mile deep lots on Elizabeth Street. We got there quickly and contacted a teenager who was working on a dirt bike.
We asked him if he had heard any shots fired. He indicted he hadn’t, but said he had been running his bike without the muffler and it had backfired several times. Still unsure whether any shots were fired, we left the Radio car a couple of hundred feet away and walked up to the front door. I crouched at the left side and Bobby knocked on the door. Remember we had no portable radios at that time, and were still unsure if any shots had been actually fired.
As Bobby knocked, the sole occupant an alleged Viet Nam Veteran Sniper (I say alleged because he didn’t exhibit much marksmanship during the ensuing gunfight) with some mental problems fired a round through the doorframe a few inches above my head. We later found out it was a thirty caliber round. The round had it went straight through the door casing. Bobby being a true Firestone Deputy immediately kicked the front door in. I leaned in with the shotgun looking for the suspect. All I could see was a typical thrashed Cudahy living room. The suspect screamed something. Realizing we had no cover, Bobby and I ran to a nearby parked car, a very solid looking ’54 Chevy.
I covered the front door while Bobby ran back to the car to request assistance. Fortunately for us 11D, George Guinn and Jerry Taylor were pulling up. Just like “John Wayne” arriving with the cavalry these two outstanding Deputies arrived at just the right moment. Bobby ran up to Jerry and yelled that were we being shot at by the occupant. Jerry initially had a doubtful look on his face until the suspect blew a very large hole in the side of his residence. Jerry totally understood the situation at that point and requested immediate assistance.
As luck would have it, several SEB Units were en route to FPK on the Long Beach Freeway to work saturation patrol (I remember Kenny Allen, Jimmy Hollingworth, Mike Bumcrot, Paul Rapisarda being there, but I can’t recall the names of any of the other guys). Within a very few minutes of the first shot we had the house completely surrounded.
Joe Smith and his trainee Jimmy Erwin were also there. Joe sent Jimmy to the open field just east of the residence. Unfortunately the suspect began firing at the assembled Deputies on the west side of the house who immediately returned fire. Many of the Deputies rounds went through the house in the direction of trainee Erwin. Erwin rapidly made himself into a mole until the shooting was over.
The suspect eventually ran out of the house a short time later armed with a firearm and a knife. Several Deputies including Guinn, Hollingsworth, Bumcrot, Detectives Ewell and Odenthal ended his foray with gunfire.
As in any Firestone incident there were some oddly comical moments. During the height of the exchange of gunfire the informant, suspect’s wife, came running towards us screaming and yelling. A quick thinking Deputy tackled her and handcuffed her to a radio car push bar. Since I was the bookman I later had the dubious honor of interviewing her. She would have been Miss Congeniality in a one woman Beauty Contest. She provided little useful information.
As was the practice in those days the Sam Unit was 18S and was committed to Carson. I believe it was Dave Watner. I remember hearing SRC advise the units to”per 18 Sam take no offensive action” between the volleys of gunfire. During a pause in the shooting one of the Deputies yelled “Tell 18 Sam it is too late we are already offended”.
Shortly after the final shots were fired, a large man who could have easily played a staring role in the movie Deliverance, came up to me with a bowl of donuts and a pot of coffee. He said he reloaded ammunition for the Vernon Police Department and loved Deputies. Remarkably he described the incident with total accuracy.
Homicide investigators and the Duty Inspector had to maneuver their way through hundreds of spectators who had lined the streets outside. Since it was Cudahy the ratio of children to adults was about 6 to 1.
In one of the stories I read about this incident, there was an indication that some of the deputies had acted like “John Wayne”. As one of the handling deputies, I can say this was definitely an inaccurate description of the situation. Fortunately assisting deputies did arrive like “John Wayne”, but they certainly didn’t act like “John Wayne”. Some of the finest Deputies working the station and SEB at that time were there; the tactics were consistent with those in use at that time. I encourage any of the many Deputies that were there to add to this account, or correct it as necessary.
The only complaint I heard as I wrote the report for Homicide was that of the Criminalist who had to do the drawing of the many dozens rounds that went through the cracker box house. No law suit or negative media attention for this one.