“Harvey … give me the shotgun, or ELSE!” (and other Harvey tales.)
That was the time when cops usually got killed, I reminded myself, looking at an angry Harvey Wilson with a 12-gauge pump aimed at me. But I thought since I knew him, I could talk him down … I thought….
The first time I met Harvey Wilson, he was drunk riding a horse. Not too unusual since, after all, it was Texas. It was a bitter cold winter night, about 2 a.m. back in the 1970s; and Garry Burns and I were on patrol when we spotted Harvey slumped over the saddle. Harvey had a barn on the back of his one-acre lot with a house in the city limits, and apparently this horse didn’t know the way home to the barn. Or it was on a walk, and Harvey was just there bouncing along for the ride. We coasted up beside the horse and rider.
“Harvey!” Garry shouted.
I pulled up far enough ahead that we both could get out.
The old horse walked up to us. We grabbed the reins and stopped the gelding.
“WHAT?” Harvey snapped awake when the horse stopped. “What!” and then started kicking at us.
Harvey was a hard-working stout, black man in his late 50s at the time, living alone in a neighborhood of welfare cases, drug addicts, screw-ups, and fuck-offs. Harvey was a little rowdy and tended to “pull the cork”; but despite the whiskey, he was always at work the next day. That night he fussed and kicked at us enough that Garry decided Harvey needed to spend four hours in our urine-and puke-stained, stinking drunk tank. In other words, he was arrested for “drunk in public.”
We hauled him off the horse and cuffed him in a frisky little wrestling match, all under the big eyes of his calm horse. I put Harvey in the front seat; back then in the pre-cage days, that was where we transported prisoners so we could watch them as we drove. Garry got in the driver’s seat, and I climbed up into the saddle. I rode the horse to the city animal pound while the dispatcher paged out the on-call animal pound worker to meet me there.
Not six months later and alone this time, I repeated the whole drunk-on-a-horse affair again with a smashed and frisky Harvey. If you looked at Harvey’s file, you’d find multiple drunk-in-public arrests. Still, he never seemed to hold a grudge and always held down a job. On weekends you’d drive by his small wooden house; and he would be painting, or cementing, or fixing something. Salt of the Earth. Every once in a while when I was on Saturday or Sunday day shift, I would pull over and get out to talk with him for a few minutes.
“Whatcha’ doing, Harvey?”
“Ohh … oh, fixin’ to clean out my septic tank lines,” he would say softly and breathlessly and rest on a shovel and tell me the symptoms and cure for his latest housing ailment. When he was sober, he was just a fine person.
Then I happened to notice a fairly new red Camaro started appearing; it was parked on the street outside Harvey’s house. One day I saw a very attractive black girl, say in her late 20s or early 30s, pulling up in it and walking into Harvey’s house with her arms full of shopping bags. She entered without knocking. The car remained there night after night. I asked Marvin Hayes, a retired postal worker and a neighbor down the street, about this mystery car and curvy girl.
“Harvey’s got him a girlfriend. YaHeah! And I means to say girl! Young! She’s a sweet young thing, too. From Dallas. I don’t know how they met. And I don’t know how he keeps her. But he bought her dat dere car, you know?”
“NO!” I declared. “The Camaro?”
“Yes, he did. Bought her dat car and, and jewelry, and, and I don’t know what all. YaHeah! I hopes he knows what he is a doin’. Cause you know, this kind of business don’t end well.”
You can say that again. I ran the license plate of the car in the hopes of getting her name and seeing if she had a criminal history. The plate was still registered to a car dealership in Dallas. Back then it used to take a while, maybe even a few weeks, to catch registrations up on NCIC.
In our squad meetings, the sergeant read us the daily blotter each day, the list and quick summary of the events since we left the day before. Over a period of three weeks, there were several domestic disturbance calls at Harvey Wilson’s house. There was already trouble in paradise. I never caught a single one of those domestic calls at Harvey’s house until one Saturday afternoon.
Neighbors reported another fight. When I pulled up, that girl was almost through packing her Camaro. She looked up and smirked at me and continued yelling over her shoulder at Harvey, who was up the small hill of his front yard and by his front porch. When I climbed the small incline, I got my first full, look at Harvey. He was holding a pump shotgun at port arms. His eyes were red and wet, and the veins and muscles in his neck bulged. I knew if I drew my pistol, that action could be a catalyst for him to react and shoot me or her, or both of us. I could just tell. And that is how many, if not most, cops are killed in domestics. Thinking about these things. Feeling them. It’s a gamble.
“I’ll kill her!” he yelled.
“Harvey. Put down the gun. You can’t kill anybody,” I said.
“BITCH! I’ll kill you, BITCH!” he yelled. He was barely paying attention to me and watching her pick up her suitcases from the lawn.
“I bought that car!” he said.
“It is in my name, mutha-fucka!” she yelled.
He pointed his gun at her. My thumb undid the snap of my holster, and I grabbed a handful of my pistol handle. I did not draw the gun yet.
“Harvey. Harvey. Harvey,” I repeated calmly. “You can’t kill her. You can’t kill her over a car. You know that. Give it up man. You can’t be doing that. Put the barrel down. Let her go. You shoot her, and your life is over. She ain’t worth it!”
I inched closer and closer, and he got madder and madder. He was losing it. He waved the gun over to me, inches from fully lifting the stock to his cheek and shooting.
He glared and gritted his teeth, and I could see his fingers moving in waves on the gun. The barrel wandered from me to the girl, then to no one, and back again. During a wander, I got close enough to lunge out and grab the weapon with both my hands and pulled the barrel up and the stock down. With a motion not unlike rowing a double oar of a canoe, I ripped and rolled the gun from his grip.
The girl slammed the car door and burned rubber down the street. Harvey’s little temporary paradise … was gone.
I ran the pump up and down, which spit out the shells across the manicured lawn. When it was empty, I laid it against a porch railing. Harvey sat on the stairs of the porch. I sat down next to him. Marvin had witnessed the whole thing from next door and walked over. He was probably the one who called us.
“Man! Fuck!” Harvey said. “Did I get fucked?”
“She was no good,” Marvin said. And I agreed.
We sat there on the steps for about 10 minutes talking. My backup squad car drove up and stopped. I waved him off, signaling it was all over and everything was okay.
I got up after a bit and said, “Harvey, I am gonna take this shotgun in with me for 24 hours.” I saw Marvin nod his head at me. “You can come down to the station and get it tomorrow.” I picked up the ejected rounds on the manicured grass.
“You got him, Marvin?” I asked.
“I got him. I got him,” Marvin said.
We used to have a policy where we would extract guns from a hot situation where there might be more violence or suicide and lock them up at the police department. Just a local practice. The owner would have to go see the police chief and talk to him and retrieve the gun. And, Ol’ Harvey did just that. He picked up his gun the next day after Chief Hugh Lynch had a word of advice or two for him. Harvey remained quiet and behaved himself with the ladies from then on.
One morning some 10 years later, when I was a detective; and we got a call of a body found near some undeveloped land in the southeast part of town. A cable man and a railroad agent were surveying land to bury some lines near a run of tracks when they stumbled upon a body not that far from the road. It was not uncommon to instinctively dispatch an ambulance to a body like this, and the dispatcher did.
When I got there though, I was surprised to find EMTs feverishly at work at the scene. The railroad man walked up to me and said, “He wasn’t dead! We thought he was dead, but he wasn’t.”
I walked past the agent and to the action. The techs were working on Harvey Wilson! Harvey was dressed up in a suit and looked like he was pulverized to a pulp. He was whisked to the hospital and lay there in intensive care for days in a coma.
I went to Harvey’s house, and Marvin and I tried to reconstruct his last healthy day. One thing for sure, Harvey’s pickup was missing; and I put out a “BOLO” on the truck. We searched his house and found his insurance papers; and through a local agent, we confirmed the license plate number. I was frozen stuck in a bad, violent case with no leads, conjuring a range of hypotheses, and hoping the truck would show up somewhere, or Harvey would just wake up.
The hospital called days later. A nurse said Harvey was up and trying to eat. You know where I went, straightaway.
“What happened, Harvey?” I asked him.
“John Wayne Williams. He asked me for a ride. Then he pulled a gun on me. That skunk fuck. He made me stop the truck out there on Morse Street. He beat me up with his gun and robbed me. Left me for dead meat in the woods. I thought I was gonna die.”
John Wayne Williams. Local gangster. We’d gotten word of his recent parole, and you could bet how long before he would be in violent trouble again. It was that inevitable. And he was indeed a skunk fuck. I got a probable-cause, arrest warrant for Williams, and Danny McCormick and I hunted around day and night, and found him in about two days. He was a muscular, 6 feet 6 inches of smartass ex-con; and when we spotted him in a housing project, parking lot, we both drew down on him with our .45s in case he still had that pistola and to avoid going hand-to-hand with that big bastard. We ordered him on his knees with his hands up and cuffed him quick. He did have a pistol on him. Instant legal trouble for a parolee.
At the station Danny and I interrogated him. He played dumb. We never found that truck. In those days, vehicles were easily stripped and sold for parts in chop shops either out in the county or in Dallas or Ft Worth. But with Harvey’s testimony, I sent him up for the “big bitch (life,)” as this was his third felony. Third time was a bad charm In Texas.
Harvey was never quite the same after that near-death beating. Within a year thereafter, he died of natural causes. Heart attack. One of his kids drove in from Oklahoma and sold the house. New folks lived there quickly. Then Marvin, the old postman died too. After awhile, when you work in a city, so many houses, street corners and buildings, whatever, where ever, you have a memory attached to them when you see them. Places. People. Usually bad memories. I try not to visit my old city anymore, for that reason. Way, way too many bad memories.
Hock’s email is HockHochheim@ForceNecessary.com
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