Do you remember a time when drug addiction was called…”a habit?” Yeah. A habit. This day and age of softening all words to make them sound all politically correct it’s odd to find the horror of drug addiction called simply a habit, as it was back then. Because, you know what a habit is, right?
“I take a walk at 5pm every day.”
“I have scones with my afternoon tea.”
Not like, “I will destroy my brain, body and my family with heroin. And, if you excuse me, it’s 5 and I will go shoot up. Oh, It's just…you know…a habit of mine.”
Comedian and social commentator George Carlin noted that many old terms, such as the old descriptive word, “Shellshock," we watered it down through the years to tidy slick terms like post-traumatic, this or that. Yet with drug habits, somehow in chronological reverse, we started out with the comfortable word “habit.” Is there a word strong enough to describe the ravages of serious drug use? Hey, there’s another lame, pop term, – “drug use.” If you drank Drano, would you call it “Drano Use, or something else?
I started working narcotics in the Army in the 1970s (assigned, not by choice) and the word habit was common. As a detective in Texas we all were supposed to constantly develop “dope” cases (dope as in ALL drugs) and it was easy to fall upon and into drug crimes as so many criminals were users. They had…habits. Check forgers. Burglars. Robbers. They were often “feeding their habits” (another pop phrase of the time). Rapists and attempted murderers, killers, are often high when pulling their crimes.
Today, many drug makers, dealers and drug users are dying in the USA and Mexico. People are shocked with, say, the Chicago shootings. Shell shocked by the drug wars in Mexico. And people are shocked with the massive use and overdoses of “speed” (methamphetamine) users. Didn’t they just smuggle in shipments from China the other day that had killer amounts of bad powder within?
Oh, we are all so sad! Huh?
Ohhh…people dying. Whether it be Chicago or, Iowa, or the Tex-Mex border, the police, politicians and news media, cluck like mother hens about it all. Cluck. Cluck. Cluck. The formats for these news conferences have grown through the years haven't they? From one guy commenting at a microphone, to a dozen, grim-faced people standing behind the speaker before a bevy of media mikes. The assistant director. This or that supervisor. The head building janitor. This fools the public into thinking there is a TEAM of caring mother hens clucking for you. A team so worried about every community hang-nail or problem, and worried about things like the drug-war, killings. The ODs. The never-ending consumption of…drugs. Cluck, cluck. Cluck. But is it all so sad? Who is dying that we are so sad and clucking about it?
One dark-thirty night in the 1980s, I got a phone call from the duty patrol lieutenant that there a guy in a hospital shot multiple times in the head. I stumbled out of bed thinking there was a murder. When I got that hospital I went straight to the morgue. All was quiet. No new dead guys? I went to the ER and asked,
“Where’s the dead guy?”
“The guy shot in the head several times?”
“Oh, exam Room 3.”
I walked in Room 3 to see a giant black guy, in like a medical/dental chair. Very much alive. A doctor was on a stool standing behind him removing small caliber rounds from his head from in and under his scalp. The guy seemed wide awake. He was a snappy dresser. In summary, none of the bullets penetrated his skull but scooted around under his scalp. 3? 4? Even 5 shots? I can’t remember. Hit men liked to use .22s back then because they expected the round to enter the skull but not have the mojo needed to exit the skull, therefore the bullet plays pin ball with said brains. But not this time! No entry.
I watched the removal the slugs and the doc, with large tweezers plucking them and dropped them into a metal bowl with some colored fluid in it. I pulled up a chair and asked what happened. He told me he was from east Dallas and visiting the ______________ club, just playing pool when a total stranger walked up to him and for no reason at all tried to blow his brains out. Okay. That’s a lie. He insisted he did not want to press charges. And did not want any investigation. When it became apparent that I knew he was a drug dealer, he finally insisted, “Don’t worry about it. I’ll take care of this.”
We had a case-closing option – “Cleared by Exception” and one of the rules was, that if a complainant did not want to press charges, the case could be closed by exception. I looked him over and thought,
“Well. He might kill a drug dealer. Maybe if we’re lucky, they might kill each other. Hmmm. That sounds like win-win to me.”
Such are the late-night, decisions one makes in the field. In fact, I had arrested several suspects in dope dealer shooting cases in the years past, and if the survivor didn’t take a plea, they beat the rap in a courtroom trial, claiming they shot back in self defense. It worked.
When the bullets were removed, he insisted on leaving. I watched him pay a large amount of cash for the treatment, and walked him outside to a waiting car that drove him away. It was a nice car. I memorized the plate. At this point, like 5am, the night club was closed.
So the next night I nosed around the club, talked to some folks and yeah, he was a dope dealer, shot by another dope dealer from another city. I made some cursory phone calls to the number he gave to “check on him” and duly noted the attempts. No return calls. I let the case gather a little dust on my desk and in about a week, I closed the investigation by exception. Me, my chain of command, the D.A.s office, we all knew the score and maybe, just maybe, if we were lucky? We’d have two more dead drug dealers (and hopefully outside our city limits too! Whew!)
Outside our city limits? I always get a kick when Gibbs on the TV show "NCIS" battles the local city police over the case, when a Marine is killed off base.
“No, this is an NCIS case,” Gibbs demands.
“NO, This is a Baltimore city case!” The city cop demands.
HA! Folks, it don’t happen like this. Instead they try to foist the corpse off on each other.
“You take it! Your guy!”
“No, you take it! Your city!"
Is it really so sad that dope dealers and gang members are killing each other? No. Never has been, unless you are a play-pretend, mother hen politician or play-pretend, police admin who must appear indignant and emotional while standing at the microphone before a staff of solemn team-members. And…all these white people dying of speed overdoses. Is that so sad? No. What is sad is when there are crying babies in the back seat of the car with OD-ed parents in the front seat. The collateral damage.
What is sad is the financial and emotional damages done BY these people. The poor woman in Chicago walking to church and shot from random gunfire a block away. The poor kid shot down the street. I know this. I feel this. My only unsolved homicide is gang/drug related drive-by shooting. A guy sprayed a TEC-9 at gang standing in front of a tall wooden fence. 9mms penetrated the fence, hit and killed an innocent, college girl in the back yard. Her name was Ortensia. The best I could determine was that the drive-byers were from the notorious, Ft Worth, Stop 6 area and the escaped victims (none were shot) were from…east Dallas. She was the only one shot and killed. The death is…haunting. I kept a photo of her on my phone. Oh, I don’t mean like a photo on a gallery in thin, mobile phone. This was the late 1980s. I am talking about an actual, color photo taped onto my desk phone. Every time I used that damn phone, I saw Ortensia’s face. It was a high school, grad photo. The face of a pretty, young, smiling black girl, about to go to college. I…saw…it…every…day. It’s haunting.
Ortensia’s mother in Waco demanded results. I couldn’t produce a suspect. Her mother hounded the police chief. The case was eventually handed over to a North Texas Gang Task Force. They couldn’t produce. Years later the case was given to the Texas Rangers. They couldn’t produce. After my retirement, the case was considered cold. The mother bothered the new police chief and it was re-assigned again, with no results. If the mother knew me, she would have known I would never give up on such a killing. Never. I had captured other Ft Worth gang guys that shot up our town. If there was some lead, any lead? I’d follow it. If I got a lead tomorrow on Ortensia’s murder, I would go work that case, retired or not. Ortensia was…collateral damage.
And how about those dead babies? I've worked several dead baby cases and I worked a case one night where a baby froze to death sleeping in a trashed-out car while mom was shooting up in ghetto house.
I know collateral damage. I…feel…collateral damage. Collateral damage is probably the real reason why we are still in the game. All the collateral victims, from property crime to murder, and the grieving families. It's what this "feeding the habit" does. Fighting the so-called "war on drugs" is really all about the collateral damage. At least when the Mafia killed off each other, they were careful not to hurt anyone else.
If ALL the drugs were made "libertarian legal," there still would be collateral damage to deal with. The past clearly proves that alcohol related crime, drunk driving and stupid drunk people fighting, assaults, rape, even murder, causes a lot of social sanitation work already for police. Traffic wrecks, traffic deaths, etc.
I am retired now. Old. I don’t play-pretend. One reason I retired is I've never been a clucking hen. If you ask me specifically, do I care about drug dealers killing each other? When tattooed, gang members die? Do I care about speed freaks and speed whores overdosing and dying?
More Police stories
Dead Right There, release date December, 2017