The “Mister Freeze” Finish – and Are You Training to Shoot Unarmed People?

See something interesting about this photo from a gun magazine? Anyone? Can you spot it?

Two guys. Apparently a fight has started. But some readers and viewers haven’t spotted it yet? The bad guy is…unarmed. No knife. No gun. Your eyes may glaze over the fact because we see the likes of it so often. Unarmed, yet our hero has decided in this unarmed scuffle, to pull his pistol. Will he threaten or shoot the unarmed man? We don’t know? Because so many published demonstrations end with the gun pull, like this as the last frame. But, in several ways, pulling a gun is a new beginning, not an end. Pulling a handgun is a “last resort” option. You shoot an unarmed person and now all the ugly “after” of the “before, during and after” begins. Is the gun pull on an unarmed man the end? Or the beginning? Why “freeze” there.

Many gun and martial magazine photos, web films fail to tell us what happens next. Did this able-bodied man decide to…to draw and shoot this unarmed man? This is a particular problem in modern police training films also – as we commonly see barefoot police on mats, wearing gun belts and drawing rubber pistols on unarmed people in arrests scuffle exercise. The scenario ends with the pistol pull. Ends? Who? What caused this? Where? When? Why for? How come? What happened next? I don’t know. You don’t know. We often just get the gun-pull photo or short film flashed ending in our head, working its way into a subliminal “okay” ending.  I have had to arrest a lot of people, struggling with many, they were unarmed and I never dreamed of pulling my pistol unless something really drastic happened, like him pulling a weapon.

Questions unanswered. Where is the real finish to the fight? I have worked many shootings and murders through the decades as a police investigator. I’ve attended dozens of schools on this subject. I’ve also been “taken to legal-reality school” by vet prosecutors, vet criminal defense attorneys and courtroom testimony. We investigate, indict and move to prosecution, (no matter what country the process is in) and I learned the cracks, the elements, the loopholes and yes, the distortions that can exist in each case. The simple becomes complex. The small-big. The big-small. Shooting someone is a financially and emotionally expensive rollercoaster ride. Trust me when I say that the gun pull is a last resort move for you, for who you are.

Oddly and interesting, many gun magazines and youtube films, the better ones, spend a lot of time discussing self defense, legal issues, yet there is this unfinished detachment found when exercising, drilling. 

The “Mister Freeze” Finish – If you have been “around,” I think you’ve seen this draw- and-freeze, in training, books, magazines and videos. Think about it for a moment, the photo spreads and films of standing or grounded folks ending with a pulled rubber gun pointing at an attacker. The attacker is often unarmed. And if the attacker is armed with say – a knife and about to plunge down? The knifer still just freezes at gunpoint like a statue when the rubber gun is pointed at him. Even if a charging knifer was shot, (see below photo) he could still fall down on you in a gurgling, wounded mess. The knife still very much an after-shot  danger, something the shooter needs to experience in training. Freezing is not good realistic, legit finish. 

Part of the confusion begins with using rubber guns. You know the typical “force-on-force” training, right? The term? The idea? This innocent, thoughtless “Mister Freeze Finish” is not just a police problem anymore either. Citizens do this constantly now too. As a result, this mysterious sort of “freeze” ending appears in magazines and videos even more. This was and is unfortunately often practiced without verbal commands – yes – unless the instructor insists. Man freezes. Set done. Photo series over. Film clip over. But, what happened next to Mister Freeze? Was he shot and wounded? Or shot dead? Fled? Surrendered? Arrested? Controlled until authorities arrive? If so? How? If an instructor only wants to teach the raw movements of a stress draw, isolated from beginnings and endings, this should be explained.

Beginnings Through Endings. Where does this stress draw fit in the bigger situational picture of a shooting? Here are the big events of draw decision, far more from just shoot-don’t shoot.

  • Event 1: There-Not-There. Why are you there? Or then, why are you still there?
  • Event 2: Draw-Don’t Draw. Getting the gun “out.”
  • Event 3: Aim/Don’t Aim. The gun can be drawn out but not pointed. Threaten off? Scare away? How do you do this? Another whole essay.
  • Event 4: Shoot-Don’t Shoot. Now you are aiming. Threaten off? Scare away? How do you do this? Must shoot? Another whole essay.
  • Event 5: Stay-Don’t Stay. For many in certain circumstances this might be an option, or sometimes the only option. The “orderly retreat.”

Every one of these 5 events requires a full lecture and a physical exercise or two, three, to actually experience, with safe, simulated ammo. You might conjure up some live-fire-on-target versions to support them.

This Shoot-Don’t Shoot Conundrum. In the who subject of “who are you?” My friend and very smart, NRA Texas gun Instructor Karl Rehn, owner of KR Training reminds, “One of the flaws in the presentation of this all this unarmed combatives material (and people’s perception of it) is that all the demos in magazines and films involve young, fit, male people fighting other young, fit, male people. To those that are martial arts enthusiasts, it’s easy to believe in the outcome of winning in an unarmed fight. That’s not true for all gun carriers, many of whom are older, weaker or simply do not have any training or confidence in their skills.”

Fighting like this is not golf or tennis, maybe a bit like football, rugby or Australian “Footie.” Certainly more like MMA (which is superior to BJJ in material and intent). It strikes. It’s rough. It’s tumble. People can and do get hurt in training. The vast majority of gun owners worldwide can’t, don’t and won’t work on this…this sort of “Gun-MMA” for a variety of reasons most won’t-can’t do any exercising at all. 

In this same vein, one of my long time students years ago was very successful heart surgeon. He was about 55 years-old and in moderate-to-good shape. He always worked out in our hand, stick, knife, gun materials. He does well enough with it all, but routinely proclaims aloud that, “if some young punk tries to rob me, unarmed or not, I can’t fight with him. I’m an old man. I am shooting him dead.” What can you say to that? It is all very, very situational. He’s already heard all my speeches, warnings, advice and worked through the shoot/don’t shoot exercises. I just say, “Well…okay, Doc, I hope that works out for ya.”

 Old friend and attorney David Kenik wrote in Shooting Times “Bubba is heading right for you, smacking his fists together and yelling that he is going to beat you to death. You are scared for your life and rightfully so, but the advancer is unarmed. Can you you use your firearm to defend yourself? The answer is 100%, unequivocally, positively…MAYBE!” 

 

Remember the Treyvon Martin-Zimmerman case in Florida to name just one? Shooter shoots an unarmed man that’s on top of him, punching down on him. Zimmerman, losing, pulls and shoots. Seems logical, but LOTS of legal and social, situational problems. Zimmerman was set free in the end. Of course there are some situations where a person can legally justify shooting an unarmed attacker. Situational as it’s a who, what, when, where, how and why study.

Mister Freeze Summary. I do not want to create the doctrine, artwork (photos and films), and the muscle memory of people indiscriminately drawing on, or indiscriminately drawing and shooting, unarmed people. Nor should you. I am just here warning you to watch out for the “Mister Freeze” imagery from some popular magazine articles, books, photos spreads and videos “out there,” that show folks mindless pulling training guns when they shouldn’t and about to shoot attackers when they shouldn’t, or not explaining the various important things that happen before or next. Art imitates life. Life imitates art. You might know better, but still do it impulsively anyway from brain imagery, oh those nasty Mirror Neurons in your brain! If you draw, if you draw and shoot an unarmed person, you’d better have great and understandable reasons. 

Solo Pictures and Series of Photos. It will always be difficult trying to convey a big lesson, and the context of such, in one single photo, or even a photo series. It’s a real challenge for authors, magazines, books, even short films. Because of this, we must be careful of the unintended consequences from these words and images being scattered around. Are you inadvertently training to shoot unarmed people? 

  • Read up on the precise laws of “fear of life,” “lethal force,” “self-defense,” “imminent, bodily injury, “stand your ground,” “retreat,” etc, with examples, click right here.
  • Read the great Massad Ayoob’s coverage of some of these cases: Click right here 

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Hock’s email is Hock@SurvivalCentrix.com

Watch free, full training films at Hock Combatives Youtube Channel. Click here

man with stick

Kathump! A Painful Look at Tomahawk and Axe Training.

Tomahawk, hatchet, axe, Pick a noun. Tomahawk sounds cooler.  The last few years, my Facebook and Youtube pages have been peppered with various superstar guys doing/teaching theee….Tomahawk! Or Axe! I absorb the clips with some amazement, confusion, trepidation and distaste. Am I seeing an audition for Flash Dance or real-life, “Axe Combatives?”

The fad goes viral. Seeing the videos, geared to make ignorant jaws-drop. Mistakes? Before I start with this somewhat satirical, tongues-inside-cheeks review, I will state my “bona fidis” that qualifies my twisted opinion. In police work I have had an hand axe thrown at me. I was also attacked by a man rushing at me with a full, big axe. I have worked an axe murder, and several criminal investigations involving axe attacks. For many years I attended an annual “Death and Violent Assault “week long training school, where medical examiners from big cities flew in to discuss, show and explain their major cases for the year. Slide shows and narrative. Synopsis. These included reviews and slides on the occasional axe/hatchet murders and autopsy reviews. I am also history buff and have made several deep-dive studies into edged weapons in modern combat. 

I have co-instructed a few seminars with the late-great, Dwight McClemore doing “historic tomahawk.” Dwight has spent a lifetime studying this very subject. And after hanging out for years with full-blooded Apache, Snake Blocker – an obsessive American Indian researcher and Apache, these guys might be 100 times greater than most of these other folks parading the globe with this-or-that axe/tomahawk course. I therefore, offer my sardonic observations…So, what about “axe-ical” training in war, crime and the martial arts? Well, sir and ma’am, it’s all about the “KATHUMP!”

In short, for starters, with the fads, I am asked about my own tomahawk, axe program. I have none and here’s why. if I were to dare initiate my very own, axe fighting course, I would officially call it, yes  – Kathump! “Kathump” because when you actually hit a human being with an axe/tomahawk it goes…kathump. In fact, it might go so far deep, a kathump, it might take a foot on that body part to work, wiggle and pump the axe out. I am bedazzled by the flowing figure fours and multiple-step, follow-ups that the axe masters demonstrate when showing their moves in combat scenarios. Most of all that should really stop at the first good, kathump.

Axe

For example, there’s a video clip of an art-axe-man teaching a seminar, showing a sweeping, replica blow to head (simulated of course by going over the head because we can’t really hit the head) then he majestically sweeps down with the weapon and hits the Achilles tendon or at very least, hooks the ankle and pulls in a successful foot sweep, and said stuntman/uke cooperates and is pulled down. The mouth-watering, viewing masses, watching with their various rubber and plastic facsimiles in their hands cannot wait to simulate this two step, axe attack! I said to myself upon viewing this,

“Hold on a minute…wouldn’t that vicious swing into the head…just go…kathump? Thereby ending the flow, thereby stopping at step 1, thereby no cool step 2, ankle chop-chop or ankle, sweep-pull?”

Two steps? What of the three or more step sets they do? I have seen 3, 4 and 5 step, fake-axe moves taught, which clearly couldn’t be finished because of the step 1 or step 2 kathump. I watch and I just kept spotting motion-stopping kathumps. Doesn’t ANYONE realize the folly of what they are doing? Do they care? Should they care? Do they not know they have to remove-wrestle with the many embedded axe strikes? More on these problem steps later. Right now, who can claim rights to the tomahawk-hatchet-axe heritage?

The Universal Axe.  there a culture, or a country on the planet that in their early history, didn’t need and develop an axe of some sort for work or war? Axes were and are everywhere. Thus, it becomes easy for any martial arts maestro to whip a cool, axe-axe, choppy-choppy, course because…because who in hell will actually research-challenge their info, especially those folks enveloped in fads and  “system-love” and “system-leader” love.  You just follow the leader with the exotic premise that, “the martial grass is always greener elsewhere,” one can conjure/invent/claim any axe course from anywhere.

Different countries. For example, here is a brief, McLemore-ian history of the tomahawk. USA. “The term tomahawk was derived from the Algonquian words “tamahak” or “tamahakan.” The Native American Indians regularly used tomahawks made from stone heads which were attached to wooden handles secured by strips of rawhide. They used tomahawks for general uses such as hunting, chopping, cutting, or also as a weapon.”

It would be odd, at least an eyebrow-raiser for me if a guy in Norway suddenly started teaching “American Indian Tomahawk.” Who from? Viking Tomahawk? Well okay. I also have my suspicions about lifelong FMA teachers who suddenly conjure a hatchet course from thin air, from say, ohhh… “Mindanao (?)” swinging…American tomahawk trainers from Cold Steel? All because it’s a fun fad they want to cash in on. 

But exotics aside, having a simple, flat hammer head on one side stout rubber coated ergonomic, handle like a worker’s tool, seems very useful, unlike these classic 1776-like hawks. After all, as with knives, soldiers use axes in the field for all kinds of lifestyle chores. Modern axes tech evolved for problem-solving. (How about those hand axes with the hollow handles? Inside – fishing line, hook, compass, Hersey bars, toothpicks, condoms, whatever!) 


Tomahawk-ian  Figure Eights? All these flows and motions? Look, I know it’s important to spend time holding a tool, a weapon, swinging it around. Hitting things, etc. Bonding with the weapon. I see films of people by themselves, just doing that work with axes. A lot of things like figure 8s in the air, etc. I get the idea. I also see that the axe or tomahawk is used in hooking-trapping-moving the limbs of an opponent. I get that too. But to me, they seem to do and expect way too much of a performance. When the expert stands before an “opponent” and does 9 steps of buzz saw, figure 8 magic, that would really have ended at step 2 because of the…ka…thump. Jeremy Mayes calls it, “the tomahawk ballet.”

Axe versus axe? We live in a very mixed weapons world, would you always be fighting axe-to-axe? Ever? Nope, I don’t think so. That duel expectation is a little crazy and off the crime and war kilter. But if just a hobby? Who cares, as long as they know it’s a fun hobby. Have fun and exercise with your hobbies. Just don’t forget the kaaaa-thunk reality!

As a European friend and life-long martial artist told me recently – he questioned a martial arts axe teacher at a axe seminar, with these same kathump doubts. “You couldn’t continue after that first chop!”  The internationally known instructor actually replied to all present – “but where’s the fun in that?” I once asked a guy about his axe god/hero and how the demos and training would be cut by 2/3rds if they recognized the kathumps as real. He actually said, “Then there wouldn’t be enough material for a seminar.”

And you know, people like to throw axes-tomahawks for fun, sport and hobby. Okay. Fine. Fun hobby. And who knows someday you may have to toss one like our Mr. Tomahawk here, America’s favorite frontier hero! 

The soldier’s story. “The Tomahawk was a popular weapon in Viet Nam. Some Spec Op teams still use it today,” is a common, loose comment we hear today. I say loose because of the choice of the words “popular weapon.” It’s a misnomer as opposed to better terms like “popular tool” or “popular carry.” Of course it could be a weapon, and has been used as such within the vast variety of events in the modern combat, firearms age. I think military history proves the hatchet-axe has been carried-used all over the world by ALL of the world’s soldiers for centuries, but I remind, way more enemy soldiers were killed by bullets and explosions in modern combat. And more fires, construction and deconstruction jobs were done with axes. A very brief, short-list of war weapons, use-continuum for combat (not chores)  –

  • explosives,
  • firearms,
  • in comparison, rare use – knives,
  • in comparison, then rarer use – axes. But when it’s down to “axe time?” It’s axe time.

“Some argue that hatchets aren’t practical, while others defend their usage — and, of course, the image associated with it. ‘While I appreciate the history of the hatchet, I wouldn’t carry one for any practical purpose,” said Alex Green, a former U.S. Army Ranger who deployed four times with 3rd Ranger Battalion. “For jungle or dense vegetation, machetes are much more practical. For urban warfare, hoolie tools (fireman wrench bars) and bolt cutters are much more useful. In today’s world, I honestly don’t know why I would carry a hatchet.’ ” -Coffee of Die”

Sergeant Wayne Capacillo said. “I used it more than I thought — mainly breaking into gates, doors, and locks.” – Coffee or Die

The axe-tomahawk-hatchet is handy in the field for a multitude of chores. Surely many, many special ops folks carry one today when heading out to the field for whatever comes up, within the weapon’s continuum and the other mission requirements.

Okay. Hang on! Let’s Make Some Ax Courses! What I would do if I invented an axe course? If truly pressed into the fad? The course would be much shorter. So short, the course might only be 60 minutes? No chance for a whole day or a two-day seminar. The scenarios would absolutely include the deadly, flow-stopping, kathump realities. Basically, I would process the axe through the classic Force Necessary formats, with nuance changes specific to the axe, and add mixed weapon fights.  And, I wouldn’t call it “Texican Axe Fighting,” just because I am from Texas. Here are some great names for axe courses I’ve invented to catch the attention of fad martial artists…

  • “Secrets of Monte Carlo Axe Fighting.”
  • “The Bali Tomahawk.”
  • “Sudanese Axe Combatives.”
  • “Tai Chi Axe.”
  • “Axe Maga.”
  • “Krav Axe.”
  • “BJJ Axe Combatives “(taught by nephews)
  • “Shit I Made Up, Tommy-Hawk Course!” Well, if it kills people (the whole point right?) I guess it’s okay.
  • Navy SEAL…Something! (ANY SEAL deal will sell like mad.)
  • Or, mine – “Kathump!”
  • Or… I reserve the right to “Toma-HOCK!” You know, just in case someone really-REALLY wants me to convert the SFC foundation to a tommy-hawks.

In Summary. Back on Target. The unrealistic training distortions invented by fad martial artists bugs me, not that people should ignore axes. I support the axe! For fun? For history? For exercise? For hobby? For…self defense? The next time you see one of these axe or tomahawk martial masters do their flash-dance-ballet thing in scenarios? Stop and take a hard look, an examination of exactly who, what, when, where, how and why that edged weapon goes…kathump and ruins the flash dance.

(And that is my somewhat, tongue-in-cheek review of axe fighting courses. Axe-on, axe-off, amigo.)

Interesting article on some history of Filipino axes, click here

__________________

Hock’s email is Hock@Survivalcentrix.com

Check out Hock’s free training films on his TV channel, click here

 

Frigid to Red Hot Fighting – Cold Shooting? Cold Fighting?

Frigid to Red Hot Fighting – Fighting Cold from Red Hot
No, fighting cold is not about being mugged in Alaska or just a concern for the 10th Mountain Division. “Shooting cold” is a term thrown around here and there by smart people in the gun training business, but also relates the ambush in hand, stick and knife world too. It should be a major concern for all, because generically, it’s really about the ambush, the surprise attack. And you must respond – cold. Usually you hear the term with snipers or hunters. Folks who have to suddenly shoot a long gun from a distance. And from a clean barrel. Once in a while you will hear of a “one-shot” competition-

“Participants will be allotted a single shot, cold-bore (unfired rifle) @ 1000 yards. (30 Caliber & under) Time & hit determines the winner.”

fighting cold

They have those things because, they are challenging. The sin weighs heavy with that icy-cold rifle, but what of the shooter? There’s also an important concept of “cold bore shooters.” I guess you could remove the word “bore.” Cold shooters. I think in terms of training and then real life crime and war ambushes, there might be a nickname, “Frigid Bore Shooting,” or “frigid shooting.” Here’s what I mean.

Chilly? Cold? Frigid?
After all, who wants to fight cold or shoot cold in competitions for scores, trophies, money and bragging rights? Who doesn’t want to take a few warm up shots? I know I often like to do a few dry-fires before live-fires. I use to participate in some police shooting competitions and they were often complicated paths, chores and obstacles involved. You had to be briefed on your routes and goals, and this would include a “walk-thru,” or a dry-run,” or even a live-fire run before the official run. Same with police training courses and qualifications. It could be safety issue.

How cold is it, though? Completely frigid? Cold? Or chilly? They call it “cold shooting,” or reverse the phrase, “shooting cold,” and it kind of’ is, in a way. Sadly, oddly, some of the best shooters I know, don’t do as spectacular in their first set, as they wish, and this is one reason why they keep score of this process over time. And often they do about as good as I can when we all start, and I do not shoot as much as they do, nor do I labor and belabor and ponder the art, science, love and dedication to trigger pressure and bulls eye, pistol, target shooting as they do.

They admit, fighting and shooting cold is challenging for most. And, it frustrates some. Then they very quickly get much, much better after a “warm-up.

The subject of cold shooting comes up on the web once in a while. Some regular, range shooters I know and hear about will always keep score of their first set, their “cold shooting” when they first step up to the firing line and shoot a set. A virgin experience of the day? Was it completely virgin? They want to keep track of how well they do after they:

  • set the time and date, pack their gear at home,
  • drive to the range,
  •  get out of the cars,
  • get some gear from the “back” of the car,
  • maybe sip some coffee, talk about guns,
  • chat with the “range masters,” and course instructors,
  • carry their gear to the spot/stand/table/shelf,
  • If at a class? Listen to the instructors intro, lecture and in some cases.
  • shuffle up to the target and paste up a new,
  • wander back to the shooting line and shoot…”cold.”

So a cold shooter on gun day is not “frozen-solid-ambush” when they shoot at a range. Neither are folks starting a gym workout or a hand, stick , knife class. The mind and body are cooking just a little to go train. A hunter has worked on the trip, sometimes insanely so, before departure, going over equipment and plans in his or her head. 

I became interested by this idea of shooting and fighting cold. What does it mean in the bigger picture? How does it relate to self-defense, in crime and in war? You know, all the “who, what, where, when how and why” questions I like to kick around.
Subliminal preparation? Years ago it was common knowledge in the fitness field that if you packed for the gym and drove to the gym about the same times, your body/brain knew the routine as we are such creatures of habit. You drive, park, walk the lot, climb the stairs. All the while your body/brain is saying, “Okay, okay, we’re coming. We’re getting ready.” Once in the gym, is this moment a true zero? Or, maybe 10? 10 to 60? Last month I parked on my gym parking lot and saw another guy, a bit older than me, park too. He got out of his car, got a gym bag and stopped. He took his ball cap off, looked to the sky and said a prayer. I spied his lips moving. Then he donned his cap and made for the gym doors. He really pre-prepped for a work-out! What did he say in prayer, I wonder?

“Dear Lord, let me crush everything?”
“Dear Lord, don’t let me die of a heart attack this morning?”
What would your prep prayer be? Have one? Need one?

Routines. Preparation. Getting ready. Not always short term. We have all gone to a shooting class, or a martial tournament that we anticipated and our inner engine was revved up more than just the morning before. Even the night before. Even longer than that. I once took a shooting course, to prepare for the tougher shooting course the following weekend.

How powerful can mental preparation be? Surely you have heard of, or read the studies about how positive this mental approach can be. It is important. I recall even back in 1972, in Ed Parker Kenpo Karate, teachers and students gossiping about another martial arts system and how the system sequestered students in dark rooms, assigned them to imagine the moves over and over in their heads as a basis of performance. 1972! None of us could fathom this being successful. Yet, quite a number of studies say this works! It somehow works for some. So, does the simple act of going to the range to shoot on gun day, mentally prepare you for the target/bulls eye process? I think so. A bit. It is one step back from dry-firing if you think about it.

Just getting dressed for work, be it a guard, or police, lawyer, truck driver, or an accountant starts churning up, the work mind, whether you realize it or not.

Frigid? How about being asleep?
It’s especially cold-cold when you consider the old attempts at testing the responses of police when THEY WERE ASLEEP! Yes. They would bed down a series of state troopers in a sleep clinic environment and tell them that they would be harshly awakened at some point and they would have to wake up, grab a nearby gun and shoot a target near the foot of their bed. The results were not so good. Often bad in fact. Another similar sleep-study let tested police wake up on their own and they had to remember this assigned chore of immediately shooting. They were groggy-slow to remember the assigned chore, but most did grab and shoot…and also not too well, but they did remember. Where does this information fit in the “chilly, cold and frigid” charts of our considerations? Frankly, I don’t exactly know, but it’s interesting.

It starts in the mind.
When you actual started doing physical stuff on your jogging route, or at the gym, or at the “dojo,” or the shooting range, you are not really, fully working out “cold.” The same is true with getting your uniform on for work, or slinging your vest on in the military. You are not cold-cold (unless of course, much time passes between the prep and action and you “chill out,” which is a whole other set of study we talk about in other essays). And the same mental prep is true of the drive to shooting range, the lugging of gear, the chat with the range master. The inner gears are working. This type of first round scoring, cold shooting is not as frigid as you think. Not like a zero-to-sixty ambush frigid. (Think for a moment about all the mental and physical prep before SWAT arrives on a scene.)

Life is either…
My old catch phrase is – “life is either an interview or an ambush” that people hear each week that I teach. I hope they never tire of it. The greatest armies in the world have been defeated by ambush. The simple element of surprise. The greatest fighters too. I get a kick out the internet comments when location cameras around the world catch a criminal jumping a victim in the most “ambushy” types of locales.

It does come back to the element of surprise and the ambush, doesn’t it. There is always a wise-guy, arm-chair-est that comments “that person was not alert!” and the sage advice, “you must always stay alert.” As if he, she, or we all, walk around with enough cortisol scarring our veins and heart, to be scanning EVERYWHERE, ALL the time. We always hear the expression “you don’t pick the time and place of your attack, the enemy does,” so as everyday walk-around folks, or someone on common police and military patrol, you will probably, suddenly be fighting chilly or cold. It is certainly a good idea to worry about and consider “cold-fighting” and “cold shooting,” in your training, even though we simply cannot really replicate that “zero-to-sixty” frigid to red hot, encounter. I don’t think we need a chart the size of a doorway like the new OODA Loop demo diagrams have become, to explain this simple “Boo/Surprise” idea. The element of surprise and reaction to it, can be as simple as a foot fake in football, rugby or soccer.

There are many startle responses to the sudden boo/jump, (one modern textbook counted 30 responses) not just one or two, hands-up, as you might have been sold to believe by martial and gun marketeers. Let’s hope you don’t fall right down or feint, which are two of the startle responses! You instead, have to deal with the attack.

Immediate Action Drills
The element of surprise has defeated the greatest militaries of the world. I first learned about all this Ambush/Counter- Ambush in the U.S. Army in 1973, and it was a big deal. They trained us in what was called back then, “Immediate Action Drills,” things done so many times that you may well jump right into that response groove when ambushed. Hopefully. It is reinforced by many, many repetitions. Here are some of my old Army manual notes (minus the small and large unit suggestions they offer) on the ambush drill idea that relates to citizens and police.

“Immediate action drills” are drills designed to provide swift and positive reaction. They are simple courses of action, dome immediately. It is not feasible to attempt to design an immediate action drill to cover every possible situation. It is better to know few immediate action drills for a limited number of situations that usually occur (in a combat area.)

1- Can be designed, developed, and used by anyone, (any unit)
2- Are designed and developed as needed for the anticipated combat situation.
3- When contact/ambush, is at very close range and maneuver may restricted.”

This does work often, and then…sometimes not, because you might be too frigid, or too cold to respond well. Just some notes. As I have stated many times before, when students approach you with concerns about “how-fast” and “will-they” react properly to an sudden attack, you can honestly shove them back on the floor and tell them to do more reps, and explain why. “Fortune favors the prepared.” Build confidence, yes, but darn it, cold is still cold, and frigid is still worse.

But, back to the shooting guns cold subject. One of my friends said after reading this when first published in 2011-

“Hock is right about this. I suck shooting cold, but that is how I am going to shoot, cold, stepping out of the Waffle House and suddenly in trouble, on any given night.”

So, it’s hard to replicate shooting cold or fighting cold in training, because you are never completely cold-cold when you plan, dress and travel and lug-in and gear-up for training. Maybe they should call a real ambush response “Shooting Frigid?” or “Fighting Frigid” instead of just being cold? Frigid bore shooting?
Am I getting warm, yet?

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Personality of the Knife

Knives have personalities. The generic look. The generic history. Military look. Kitchen look. Slashing look. Stabbers. Think of some more! Even the personality of the person carrying or holding the knife changes the…personality of the knife. The personal attachment look. What is the personality of your knife? I think there are several factors in knife personalities. 

Knife circle 1

I think there are several factors in knife personalities.

Culture of the knife Personality – One is the culture of the knife. Certain edged weapons have a history, a geographic flavor. Just think of the Japanese Tanto. The Kris. The Bowie knife. The Italian stiletto. The medieval dagger. The double-edged, commando knife. One in the martial business, or the knife aficionados, or makers recognize the aura/genre of many knives. This cultural attraction alone might be a main reason someone buys to collect, or buys to carry a knife. Somehow, some way, the look captures one’s fancy, imagination, expectation or whatever connection to books, movies, TV or past affiliation. Sort of a mysticism we mentally project upon a simple inanimate knife. After all, what makes us select the cars, pants, churches or sports teams we do? We are tribal, particular and peculiar from our hats down to our shoes. Hats and shoes as in style that is, not in size. We can’t change the size of our head or our feet. We can change the size and shape of a knife, but will the size be appropriate for our…”heads” and ”feet?”

Knife circle 3 med

Slashing, hacking and stabbing personalities – The shape and size of the knife tells an experienced handler what it can do best. Some are better hackers. Some long, thin ones are better stabbers. Some are wide and are better shaped for slicing. Like a carpet layer needs a certain angle for exactly what is needed, so do all knife users. A novice to so-called, knife “fighting,” a new-be to say, construction work, will not know what kind of knife does what best. Experience and education is called for.

Personal, knife personality examples – I knew a Green Beret, Vietnam vet who passed on standard Army/government issue knives and preferred his old own Bowie Knife, replete with a carved stag handle. It was a family heirloom you might say, and therefore more important to him than any generic, legend of Jim Bowie. He said it gave him a certain power, a certain mojo from which he garnered mental and physical strength. This is a personal touchstone, reminiscent of many cultures, such as some of the native Americans might carry a medicine bag of mojo. Same-same. 

Another friend of mind sought an old-fashioned, traditional looking (and hard to open) pocket, folding knife with stag handles, with multiple blades, because his dad had a similar one and it was lost through time. Both, more “personal, private” personality, touchstone selections. Still, with game points awarded for symbolic and personal mojo, on the battlefield or for back porch whittling, the knife size, shape and handle must fall within a scope and range of usable practicality and common sense. Switch this over to a parallel concept – you wouldn’t a pack a flintlock pistol around for self defense, just because you love the early American history era. Extrapolate this idea over to other weapons and survival.

Knife circle 2 med

What personality knife do you really need? – Not just want for whatever abstract reason, but need? I think we have to return to the classic, Who, What, Where, When, How and Why questions I use all the time to best determine this.

  • Who are you to need a knife?
  • Who are you to carry a knife?
  • What do you really need or want a knife exactly for?
  • What do you exactly expect to do with this knife?
  • What training do you have to make this a wise choice? What are the local laws for such a knife? What state and, or country do you live in?
  • What happens next? You use the knife and what will the police and prosecutors think of the name and look of your knife?
  • Where will you carry this knife? Job? Protection? Handiness?
  • Where on your body will you clip, or sheath or cart your knife?
  • When will you need this knife? Work time? Off-time? Daytime? Nighttime? All the time?
  • How will you acquire this knife?
  • How will you use it? Do you know how?
  • Why will you select a specific knife?

Another, longer “what” question. The chicken or the egg? What came first for you? Or, what will come first, if you are just now thinking about knives? That mysterious adulation of …“the knife,” and then a knife training course? Or did you need a knife first for a task first, then seek a training course? This consideration might help clear a path for your knife selection and proper training. The collector, the historian, the practical user, the adulator? Who are you?

But that last line of questioning…the “why.” Why will you select a specific knife? I suggest that you do not make a selection based on looks, genres, eras and or culture alone. I think you should select a knife on its ultimate practicality. Of course if you are a collector looking for this or that showpiece – “I own one! It’s a beauty!” –  have fun! (I am not much of a collector of things so I cannot relate to this, but of course, I do understand a hobby.) Or, if you are fanatic about say, old European sword and dagger fighting. Whatever. Get those weapons and mess around with them. Have fun and exercise. Shoot flintlock firearms (just don’t carry them as a self defense weapon).

Knife circle 4

Knives have personalities – The generic look. The generic history. The personal attachment. If you plan to actually carry and use a knife? Whether on the job as a telephone lineman, a surgeon, a soldier or a cop, or just a citizen with a hankering for a knife, think of them as tools and well…think of them as shoes. You’ll be wearing them too, and like your hat and shoes, you can change the style, but you can’t change the size of your head and feet. Get the appropriate tool/knife. See clearly, be fleet of foot for the trails and paths of life, Kemosabe. Don’t stumble around with the wrong size, else you’ll trip, fall and fail. And like “running with scissors,” running with the wrong knife can be a minor or costly mistake.

__________________________________

Hock’s email is Hock@SurvivalCentrix.com

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Escalation! “I PULL, THEN HE PULLS!”

Trauma and drama. Years ago in a seminar in Kentucky, USA, an attendee, someone with zero martial or martial arts experience, just a regular guy attending a gun and knife seminar, asked…

“Someone confronts me over something. Maybe there will be a fight. It’s – you know- getting tense. If I pull my knife to…to scare him away or defend myself? And he is carrying a gun? Or a bigger knife? Will this cause him to pull his out? Have I caused him to escalate the fight?”

“Aahhh, yeah, that could happen,” I said.
“That’s pretty messy,” he said.
“Yeah,” I said.

And everyone stared at me for follow-up, words of wisdom and some “magic bullet” solution. I have none, except to remind, “Violence will almost always suck.”

People want “magic bullet” answers to a lot of complicated, situational, self-defense questions. There’s always big talk in the self-defense industry about “avoidance.” If too late to avoid, then next up in the event list is what they call “de-escalation.” Avoiding and de-escalating a common knucklehead before a fight physically starts is a small cottage industry of money-making. Some instructors confidently dole out magic bullets and solutions to confrontations.

  • “Say these things!”
  • “Do this!”
  • “Do that!”
  • “Stand like this!”
  • “Don’t ever….

Now, I think it is certainly good to be exposed to all these ideas and methods. Sure. Why not? Do so. But as an obsessed skeptic, I see the false positives of the advice. I have investigated a whole lot of crimes through the decades; and while there are identifiable patterns and surprises, chaos can sure still reign supreme. But let me summarize by calling it all “situational.”

In the end, solutions are situational. Like calling plays in a football game, it depends on the situation. How you stand and what you say or do should be situational. Custom-built. 

Other than an ambush, there’s an argument-confrontation. Then maybe a fight Given you have already performed all your pop/psych, lingo-bingo, avoidance and de-escalation steps, is it legally time to pull the weapon? You are armed under your coat or in your pocket with a knife or even a gun, and this verbal voodoo just ain’t working! “I’m singing the wrong song!” “Calling the wrong play!”

The mean man won’t leave! Or worse, the men (plural) won’t leave. Do you pull that weapon out? There are some situational concerns with doing this; and these concerns certainly do involve the overall escalating ladder of weaponry, violence, and legal problems. Even a facial expression and certainly striking a fighting stance can escalate the problem.

Here are a few facts and related ideas on the subject to kick around:

  • Fact: Some people do leave. You have the lingo-bingo and dodged the fight, or you have vamoosed yourself! (It’s the old, “why did you go there and why are you still there”?) On the flip side- will he leave? Will your pulled weapon make him leave? For many a year, 65% to 70% of the time when a knife or a pistol (sticks, by the way, are not in these study figures) is pulled in the USA, the criminal leaves you alone (old DOJ stats, old as it became harder and harder since the 1990s to find these numbers, as I don’t think the liberals like the message.) I have often heard the easy average of 67% used. But investigating crimes, I must warn folks that this is not as clean and simple an escape as it sounds. You pull, he walks away? Not so simple. There are many emotional, ugly events that happen in this weapon presentation-confrontation, even if the bad guy eventually leaves. In my experience and study, if the criminal is alone he might be quicker to leave, but if he is in or around a group, “his” group, he puts on more of a show before leaving to save face. We discuss these details in certain topical seminars and other specific essays. But a command presence while holding a weapon is worth looking into a mirror and practicing. I am sure Clint Eastwood did. And like actors practice their lines, it’s good to practice some lingo-bingo. Oh, and by the way Gorgo, you can’t shoot everybody. 

Fact: Some people don’t leave. The good news with the 65%-35% split that if he will leaves 65% of the time, then you may only have to fight about 30-ish% of the time! So 30% of the time, 3 out of 10 the opponent does not leave and the fight is on, whether he is unarmed or armed, alone or with a pack. The bad news is when you are now in that “unlucky 30%,” or you might say you are now a 100%-er. You are 100% there and stuck in it. A hand, stick, knife, or gun fight! Your 6 out of 10 wins has turned to a 1 to 1 because, it’s you. You!

Fact: Yes, Some people are armed. You read it here! 40% to…gulp…90%? If you pull first, will he pull a bigger one next? General USA stats quoted for many years past say that 40% of the time the people we fight are armed. A few years back the FBI upped that anti. One retired state trooper deep dove into the stats and declared that NINETY percent of the people we scrap with are armed. Wow. 90%! That shocked me and I can’t imagine that. And another gem to add in is that 40% of the time we fight two or more people. Hmmm. So 40% (or 90%?) or more armed times 40% multiple opponents. Not a healthy equation. Lots of people. Lots of weapons. Lots of numerical possibilities. Lots of situations. The “smart money” in the USA or anywhere else is always bet that the opponent is armed.

Facts: Times and reasons to pull weapons. Back to the Who, What, Where, When, How and Why foundation questions I harp on. Time to pull relates to when? And reasons to pull relates to why? Logical and physical. Time and reason might seem the same, but defining times and reasons in your mind and for your training is smart. Be a legal-beagle. You may as well check into the de-escalator cottage industry and evaluate the material. Even I have suggestions on the subject as I know there are “scripts” to life, and criminal-victim exchanges often follow a script. Dialogues. Good to ad-lib. There is a script book to violence and you don’t want to be in that movie. Their movie.

Hock’s email is Hock@SurvivalCentrix.com

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Words Fail…The Mysteries of De-Escalation.

In this age of widespread interest in de-escalation and verbal skills to defuse any and all encounters, this is a tale about how convoluted and difficult a quick, on-the-spot verbal solution might be. It’s a short story from a case I worked on.

A driver pulled his truck up into a handicapped parking space to drop his wife off at a post office. He did not put his truck into “park.” She got out and walked away. He reached down, did something for a second, and was about to back out of the spot, when a man walked by the front of his truck, scowling and yelling at him, waving a hand in the air.

The driver rolled down the window and said, “What?”

The man yelled in outrage about the driver parking in a handicapped spot. The driver, aghast at the outrage said, “I am not parked. I am leaving. I just dropped someone off!”   

The man started cursing and closing in. “I had to park over there,” and he pointed down the lot. “You can’t park here!”
“I’m not parked here!” he said again. But then he now was, as the driver put his truck into the parking gear and got out, telling me later he thought that the man would come over and kick in and dent his truck, or reach into the open window after him.
     

The driver got between the man and his truck and said, “WHAT is your problem?” (oh, what a classic line! The classic answer is – “you’re my problem” and so on and so on. The very common low-brow script of a fight). And so it goes. You know the dialogue of this bad movie from this point on. You already know it. I often tell you that these pre-fights words are like movie scripts and usually quite predictable. 

The complainer swings at the driver. The driver fights back. There are witnesses. The police are called and the man gets arrested for assault. Later this complainer files an assault case back on the driver and it becomes a “he-said, he-said” deal.

handicap

My sad part of the story is that one morning in a detective squad meeting, I got both cases dropped on my desk. My CID  Lieutenant says, “this ain’t going away.” Meaning these two guys are calling us and complaining about each other and how each were in the right. And of course, one of the two had even called the chief. Another day in Detective Heaven.

I started with this angry man, the complainer. I asked him to come in and give us a written statement, which he jumped at the chance to vent. He showed up for the appointment, loaded for vocal bear, and in a small, interview office I let him unload. The guy was panting when the oratory was over. I did not say a word.

“Okay,” says I. “let’s get that whole story down on paper.” I had to read him his rights and now the story was officially counted. And line by line, we got it all down as I typed his words as he said them. He calmed down and his remarks took a turn to another topic. The real cause and motivation of his complaining. Handicapped people and handicapped parking…

“What’s the ratio of handicapped people compared to non-handicapped people?” he asked.
“I don’t know.” Now he was getting mad at me.
“Well you should know. People like you in your business should know.”
“Hmmm”
“I know this much,” he continued. “I know that there are too many handicapped parking places. There has to be too many of them compared to regular people. If you go down to Kmart you’ll see all those good, front parking places are reserved for the handicapped. What a dozen? Dozen and a half? Are there that many handicapped people parking there, compared to others? A regular person has to hike to the store.”
     

I did not answer. Then I said,” you want me to mention your parking spot concerns in the statement?”
“Hell yeah! Maybe someone will read it for a change?

 This theme rolled on. I realized that the guy wasn’t mad at the driver because the driver had pulled into the handicapped slot for a second. He wasn’t protecting the rights of the handicapped. This guy was mad at handicapped people! And how many parking places they got. He was ripping mad because of proliferation of handicapped parking! It would really be difficult, it is really difficult to de-escalate such an encounter without…ESP.

It’s always wise to explore de-escalation. Sure. But, there are a lot of people “out there” teaching de-escalation. In my opinion, most of them (and I know many of them) are very logical, very nice people but have never really stood before face-to-face rage. Real rage and its bizarre twists. Seen its ugly face. Or stood before someone who fights every Friday night, who just wants to fight for fight’s sake, and its Friday night, 11:30 p.m.!

Words can fail us. Words fail me… 

For more…

Argue Better by Signaling Your  Receptiveness: https://psyche.co/ideas/argue-better-by-signalling-your-receptiveness-with-these-words

________________________________________________________

Hock’s email is HockHochheim@ForceNecessary.com

For more stories like this, read Fightin’ Words, click here

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The Big Filipino Martial Arts Turning Point

   When was this? This big, “Filipino martial arts turning point” for me? Keep in mind, this is just me and my personal view on things. Don’t hate me cuz I’m viewtiful!

tissue ears 2

I started doing FMA in 1986, in among other arts like JKD, and had been doing the classic karate and jujitsu (not the Brazilian wrestling version of today). By about 1993 I had covered a lot of FMA material, been to the Philippines twice. Got black belts from both Ernesto Presas and Remy Presas.

The big turning point came with double sticks, of all odd, obscure things. In 1993, a friend called me and said, “Hey Hock, this weekend, Guro ______ is coming into Dallas! He is going to do two full days of the ______ double stick drills. Are you coming?”

Two full days of…double sticks? I guess this phone call had an epiphany moment for me when several ideas flashed through my head. I found myself confessing…

“Two days? Double sticks? Well, I think I’ll pass. I mean, how many double stick drills are there anyway?”

“You’re gonna miss it! A chance to learn THEE _______ double stick drills!”

When we hung up, I examined my epiphany moment. Well, from the Inosanto world, the Remy Presas world, and Ernesto Presas world, I’d already collected about 50 double stick drills according to my anal retentive lists I keep. FIFTY ! I suddenly asked myself,

  • “Why am I doing this?”
  • “How many more double stick drills could there be, anyway?”
  • “How different could they be after a certain basic point?”
  • “What makes them different and worth knowing?”
  • “How are they the same?”

How ARE they the same? I realized that it was more important to organize the drills, not from the hero-worship-“who” or the hero worship-“what” fan club systems, but instead how are the drills all the same? (It is counter productive and stifling to worship system-heads and systems.)

How are they so similar. And how and why am I wasting my time collecting endless double stick drills from a nearly endless group of known and unknown system-heads who all think theirs are ever-so-special. Many of which are so much the same and with only one slight different tweak here or there. Rather, smarter, I should instead try to understand the essence of all of them. The essential core. Then, teach the universal core.

I was already contemplating the differences between the Remy and Ernesto double stick programs. Remy seemed to have 5 or 6 basic patterns with variations. Ernesto had the classic “must know” list.  

     Then…then I asked myself why I didn’t view ALL aspects of the varied FMAs the same way? Why not find the universal core of FMA itself? Find the very of essence…

  • mano-mano
  • single stick
  • knife
  • double weapons

…in this clean, kind of scientific manner? Study these cores first. Deal with the needed and dismiss the probably unneeded and-or redundant and-or prissy variables. 

EPSON MFP image
Ray Medina and me doing the double deal, 1986. It all starts from the stick fight first!

     

There will always be happy museum and happy history collectors, who collect ANYTHING from ANYBODY. And then those who like to sort-of, name-drop stuff like – “at this point, Roohan moved his kneecap this way, while Roohan kept his meniscus right here…” I can talk some of that artsy smack too, just from training years osmosis. I can delight the esoteric fanatics with these tidbits of meniscus positioning. I can also tell you that Ed Kranepool played first base for the Mets in the 1960s. Hey! I do know stuff! But how useful is it?)

 Annnnd with that idea? I started constructing the generic PAC course. Pacific Archipelago Concepts, an irreverent, skeptical look at the related core of those related arts. This includes all the big systems in the Pacific Ocean. A lot of this work had been done, like with Kajukenbo (karate, jujitsu, kenpo, boxing)

This clean, generic, non-worship approach did not make me popular with some existing FMA entities, (some are cult-like) in fact I was suddenly shunned by some. And in the seminar business, it is still not my most popular or even my favorite course to teach, as I usually cover generic “combatives” for lack of a better term. But hey, FMA is fun to do, good exercise, a hobby with numerous abstract mental and physical benefits. And when asked to, I will happily cover it. I feel like if I can spread the core-foundation. Then anyone can more quickly blend into any FMA system they wish to pursue. 

(By the way, I carried this “core” perspective over to combatives. In a way, this “double stick epiphany” in 1993 was an important idea in more ways than one. It gave me a mission. A purpose. A vision if you will. My pursuit, my study, my interest, my goal, is the universal generic.)

Back to 1993! I later asked that friend back in 1993,
“How was the _______ double stick seminar?”
“It was great!”
he said, “We did 30 drills. Most of them we already do, others just a little different here and there.”

Already do? Imagine that! 

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Hock’s email is hockhochheim@forcenecessary,com

 

Get the full info on the PAC-FMA course right here, click here

The Car as a Coffin

     Back in the 1970s, the 80s and even the 90s, this phrase “the car as a coffin” was a warning, a cop-training-phrase, a “word to the wise” about being stuck in the car and being killed while stuck by an outside shooter. The advice was to… 

     “Get out of the car! Because the car is a coffin.”

night car

     When things got hot and you predicted bullets could/would fly, or while bullets were indeed flying, you have to try and get out of the car. Get out of the car because the car is an enclosed coffin. So, we got out if we could, because you know, sometimes you can’t! We got out the driver’s side, or we planned on traversing across the front seat to escape, low and crawling, to get out the passenger side if need be. OR, I have had friends successfully dive under the dashboard while under fire.

But alas, that was the good ol’ days of big cars. Who can dive for cover under a dashboard in today’s cars or worse, today’s patrol cars? They have some small patrol cars today, and some big police SUVs too. But, have you seen the front seat of a police car lately? It resembles a miniature version of the bridge of the Star Trek Enterprise. Computer systems, like a Robby the Robot, if you will, sits in the middle of the front seat. You CANNOT traverse the front seat anymore! And in civilian cars, the popularity of the console traps you in the driver’s seat more than ever.  

front
     I followed this golden rule, but even when you believe in it, you can still get caught there in an instant. Like I did this one disturbing Saturday, summer night in 1980.

“Sixty-one,” the dispatcher said.
“Go ahead,” my reserve police partner Joe Reilly said.
“Domestic. Brothers fighting in back yard. The Starnes brothers. Mother called it in. 15 Jasper Street.”
“Ten-four.”
“Ask if the two brothers are wanted,” I told Reilly.
“Dispatcher, check wants and warrants on the brothers.”
“In progress. They’re clear.”
“Ten four.”

Damn. The Starnes brothers. Bout half-crazy, trouble makers. Almost twins, born so close and virtually look-alikes. In just about the same kinds of twin trouble. Drugs. Fighting. Burglaries. It wasn’t too late yet in the evening. About 8 p.m. Too early for the real trouble these neighborhoods brewed. We drove through the busy streets on the warm night. We didn’t need to look 615 Jasper up on the map. We’d been there before.

When we pulled up, Reilly and I got out and heard the loud argument in the backyard, behind the long, old white house. We walked up the driveway beside the house, passed through the metal, chain-link gate and into the yard.

The mom was there in a house dress, arms folded. A neighbor we knew by sight, a very big dude was calmly standing by and when he needed to, pushing the brothers apart. The bothers were neck vein, popping mad over something.

“Hey!” I said loudly. “What’s going on?”
The mother spoke up and relayed the problem which frankly, I don’t recall to report here. We all talked it over for a moment, and I appreciated the presence of the neighbor. But, upon our very arrival, the brothers wanted to disappear. Afraid of being arrested again? Something else? I don’t know. It seemed like our very appearance ended the fight.

Brother Buddy Starnes was shirtless and wearing very tight, light-colored jeans. This is important later.
Just about the time I was officially wrapping up the conversation, Buddy left prematurely. Looking back now, it was obvious he had something to hide or be worried about. He turned and walked away well before I finished, and I, casually, walked after him down the driveway. Reilly lagged back just a few seconds more to finish up with the mom.

I felt Buddy’s exit was a little too soon, but I really didn’t know what to do about it. He led the way down the driveway to the street, and I looked him over from behind. There weren’t any clothing prints of weapons that I could see in those tight pants.

“Buddy, next time, don’t leave until we’re through,” I said.
I wasn’t trying to be bossy, or a prick, but I wanted to say something to…to see what he would say or do.

He looked over his shoulder at me and gave me a real dirty look. Which, you know, “sticks and stones,” and a look never hurt me. But he strutted off onto the street heading in the way of a crowd of folks up the next avenue.
I walked around the front of the patrol car, opened the door and sat in behind the wheel. The very instant my butt hit the seat? I caught motion in the corner of my left eye.

Buddy was strutting back to me, his right hand borrowing into his tight right pocket.
Shit. I instinctively, instantly pulled my revolver. The window was already down, and I laid the 4 inch barrel of my magnum on the top of the door. Barrel right at him. It’s big and he saw it.

“WHAT you pulling?” I growled.
He yanked his empty hand out of his pocket and stood there. Expressionless. Looking at the hole in the barrel of my gun.
Now, I tell you I stared hard at the pocket. It was flat, flat, flat and his jeans were very tight. I made a snap decision that he could not have anything at all in that pocket, or any pocket for that matter.
“Get the fuck outta here,” I told him in a very quiet, sinister way.
Expressionless, he waited in a stare down with me and the gun, then turned and walked away in his original direction. I did not holster my Python. I just watched him walk off.
Reilly slipped into the passenger side, sat and was shocked at my position. Gun out, barrel on the door.

“Wha…?”
“I don’t know,” I told him. “He turned back on me, and it looked like he was pulling something from his pocket.”
“Okay!”
“But I can’t imagine he had anything in that pocket. Those pants are skin tight.”
I put my gun away, started the car and drove off. Not even a half a minute later…

     “Sixty-one, are you still on Jasper street?” the dispatcher asked.
“Just a block away,” Reilly answered.
“Man shot on porch. 12 Jasper. Ambulance in route.”

What? I whipped the car around and blasted over to 10 Jasper. We slid up in front, ran up the to the porch where an older woman was tending to man lying on the porch. He was down and shot in the chest. I propped him up just a bit. We told her to get us a towel, and Reilly made for the trunk for our first aid kit. We plugged the hole. Applied pressure.

The old man could talk. He said he was sitting on his porch when “that boy” without a shirt in tan pants walked by, out in the street, looked at him and then shot him.
“Was that Buddy Starnes?” I asked while the ambulance sirens closed in on us.

“It coulda been, but I don’t sees real well. Real far. At night.”
The bullet hole didn’t look very big on his chest, but a chest wound is a chest wound. The EMTs got there and took over. Reilly and I jumped back in our car and I checked in with the dispatcher. I put Buddy Starnes out on the air as the shooting suspect.

We and other units scoured the streets for Buddy. Reilly and I made every nightclub in the district. Asked everyone on the street. For hours. Nothing. And boy-howdy, I knew I screwed up. I made a snap decision to let that little piece of shit walk off. He did have a thin gun after all, must have, probably a small, semi-auto in that pocket. That bullet was meant for me. But since he couldn’t shoot me, he, frustrated, walked off a few houses away and shot that old man.  I should have stepped out, and patted him down. But, I let a visual-search-only, trick my judgement.

I met with the detective on call that night, and I told him what had happened. He also hunted Starnes with us in his own car. I can’t remember which detective it was. He asked Reilly and I to write supplements to the shooting crime report when we got back to HQ.
CID worked up a case on Starnes. The old man lived. It was a .32 caliber bullet that didn’t do much damage at all. Within a day or two, the detectives found Buddy, but they never found the gun. He confessed to shooting the old man because he said he’d always had trouble with him as he was growing up. A cranky old neighbor motive?

But deep down, I knew what happened. I first ticked Buddy off. He wanted to shoot me in the car but I got the drop on him. And since I let him walk off, he shot that old man instead.
Months and a few years later, I would stop and talk to this old man a time or two, when I saw him on the porch in that same chair.

Even years later as a detective. He frequently reminded me that he and Buddy had problems since Buddy was a kid, and that is why he was shot, but I still feel like I was a precursor to his shooting. I know I was. What…what do you say to this guy, to make any kind of amends? The old man died in the 90s. I still think about it sometimes. A missed chance. A missed chance!

“The car as a coffin.” My good, trusty friend and working Texas cop, Jeff “Rawhide” Laun, told me that even now, 40 years later, they still use that phrase in police work and training. Even though they are now more captured today on the driver’s side of their cars with the techno systems in the middle of the front seat. No crawling across the front seat to escape! No dropping out the passenger door! No diving under the dash! You are stuck. The coffin shrinks.
But, this was as close as I got to being stuck in a car and shot. My friends have been shot at while inside cars and those are other stories. But, no matter how well I understood, and how much I believed and worried about that classic training line – “the car is a coffin” – in a single instant, I still got stuck in there.

I am alive today because several times over the years I got my gun out first and fast. I am not some kind of a quick draw artist, not at all. I am…just quick-to-draw. My gun just “appeared” when I needed it. Practice, I guess? If you have to shoot through the glass of your car? Shoot. Don’t worry about the finer points of trajectory and how the bullets will go slightly up or down due to the angle of the car glass. You don’t have time to run the math. Just shoot. Make a hole and shoot through that hole!

Email Hock at HockHochheim@ForceNecessary.com

This story appears in Hock’s book Kill or be Killed 

 

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Fear and Loathing of the Killer, Henry Lee Lucas

Henry Lee Lucas
Henry Lee Lucas. Killer

     It was a head.
     I mean a skull. 
     Just a skull. Laying there on the ground. 
     And I realized why I was there.

     I was there because of the radio message:
     “Eighty-nine, Meet Texas Ranger Phil Ryan at the southwest intersection of Highway 55 and Juniper Road.”
     That message came over the air and not from the regular police dispatcher, but rather from my CID Captain. That was unusual for him to be on the radio sending anyone, anywhere. 
     “Ten-four,” I said, wondering what was going on. Ranger Ryan worked the next county over and not ours. 
     I drove across the city to the west side and under Interstate 55. West of the highway, south of Juniper was nothing but scrub brush fields. North of Juniper was hotels and stores and a truck stop. Why was I going to the south west corner?
     Clearing the overpass, I looked over the fields and saw several men walking around in the distance. I could see that two of them were county deputies from neighboring Brooks County, along with a small, thin man. It was easy to spot Phil Ryan, who dressed like the classic Ranger, white shirt, white hat and big, tooled, brown gun belt.
     I turned onto the field and parked my unmarked sedan on some low grass, got out of the car and made my way to these wanderers.
     It was then I saw it. The human skull. Laying in the open. Not 40 feet from the road and right across the street from a busy truck stop, cars buzzing by every which way. The loud hum of interstate traffic loomed.
     “And that,” I said aloud, “is why I am here.” 
     I walked across the field and up to Ranger Ryan.
     “Hi, Hock,” he said quite normally.
     “Hi, Phil,” I said.
     “We’re out here looking for a body,” he said.

Henry 4

     I saw the strange, thin man with a bad eye, unhandcuffed, standing around and he smiled at me.
     “Hock this here is Henry. Henry Lee Lucas,” Phil said. “He killed a girl and cut her up out here. He’s killed some other folks too.”
     “Well, I about stepped on a skull back up there by my car,” I pointed my thumb over my shoulder back toward Juniper.”
     Phil looked at the deputies and Henry. 
     “I didn’t put no head up thare,” Henry said with a quizzical face. 
     Phil started out for my car and we all followed. We knew that animals would spread body parts all over and these fields had bobcats and coyotes to name a few critters.
     I keyed up my handset and asked the dispatcher for our crime scene man, if Russell hadn’t already been notified.
     Phil walked over by me to explain.
     “Henry killed a woman in Brooks County. He confessed, and when I got him to talking, he wouldn’t stop,” Phil said. “He said he killed his girlfriend Becky here in this field. He killed her, had sex with her body, then cut her up and buried her in different spots.” 
     The longer story, the one I found out later was that an 80 year-old, Kate Poor of Ringsilver, Tx was a small landowner and she’d vanished. She let some travelers stay on her property frequently in exchange for some labor around the farm. She suddenly disappeared and her friends contacted the police about it. As the case grew more suspicious, the Ringsilver PD, a small department, asked for help from their local friend and Ranger Phil Ryan. I’ve written about Phil before in this book and Don’t Even Think ABout It. Phil was a terrific Ranger and a dedicated investigator. Phil began questioning everyone and Henry’s actions and words didn’t add up. Then, Phil found and collected a “deadly weapon” on Henry, and Phil put Henry in jail. 
     The next day Henry called out to a Brook County jailer, “I’ve done some bad things! I need to talk to that Ranger.”
     That he had.

     We walked up on the skull and we all solemnly looked it over. Henry kept sizing up the field and the distances.
     “I kilt her over thar,” he said. “How’d her head get here?”
     “Probably animals, Henry,” Phil said calmly. I knew that he’d stay calm and friendly with him for as long as possible to keep him talking. I would and the in the coming days, would more.
     CID Sgt Howard Kelly pulled up and so did our crime scene guy Russell Lewis. We filled them in. Russell started on the skull and its area and we all walked back to the center of the field.
     “I buried parts of her here,” Henry said. “You’ll find her leg bones over there and her arms bones over there.”
     Sounds like a lot of digging. I looked at Howard Kelly.
    “Hock,” he said, “bring Henry in. Get a statement from him, if you can.” 
     In meant book and arrest him. He knew I would. 
     “I’ll get some of the boys out and start digging.”
     I have done some digging for bodies before, and I thought this arrangement might get me out of that ugly, shovel chore. I will go ahead and ruin the suspense for you right now. It didn’t. 
     “Hey, Henry,” I said, “we need to take a little trip downtown. And, I have to handcuff you.”
     He was expressionless. I cuffed his hands around back and walked him all the way back to my car. I let him sit up front on the passenger seat. This was a detective car with no screen or cage. 
     “Where you from, Henry?”
And it went like that. Light conversation. Very light. I took him into our jail and drew up a quick arrest report. Printed him and got the classic mugshot below, a photo used in dozens and dozens of news reports and about 30 or so books. 

     Henry1

      “Come on with me,” I walked him down to my office in the CID section of the building.
     I sat at my desk and put my feet up. He sat in a chair, now cuffed around front and we relaxed.
     “What in the world is going on?” I asked.
     “Well, like I told Ranger Phil, I killed that ol’ lady in Ringsilver, and…”
     “Before we talk about this,” I interrupted, “let me go ahead and read you your rights, otherwise you know we can’t talk. And I want to talk to you for sure.”
     “Okay.”
     And that we did, but first I got us some coffee. Then covered the classic Miranda warnings. He told me that he and his girlfriend, Becky Rowlett, this girl in the field, hitchhiked away from Brooks County and were dropped off at the Interstate by the field. They bought some food from the stores at that intersection, with stolen money from Kate Poor, walked to the center of the field, started a fire and camped.    
     They had some kind of an argument. She slapped him and he pulled his knife from a sheath on his belt and stabbed her right in the chest. He watched her die. Then he had sex with her body. (As you get to know Henry, you learn this happens a lot). With that same knife, he cut up her body, head off, arms off, legs off. He put some parts in pillowcases that he traveled with. He decided to gather up his belongings and cross the street to stay in a motel.
     He hitchhiked around and walked around for about two weeks and returned to that campsite. He told me he wanted to bury her.
     “Why,” I asked.
     “Because I loved her.”
     “Okay,” I said.
     Henry said that when he walked out onto the field that dark night and saw her decomposing body parts, he buried most of them he could find. He told me that his and 14 year-old Becky’s relationship was like a father/daughter “thing.” He had pictures of her in his wallet and he carried those photos from jail to jail, state to state, thereafter.  How did this Texas killer go state to state later? A Texas Ranger Task Force, that’s how. Stand by on that.
     We were about three cups of coffee into this by now.
     “I need to get this down in writing, Henry. We need a statement about all this from you. Can we do that?”
     “Yeah. I already fessed up to Phil. So, yeah.”
     And I got a statement on the murder, which was my job. Other crimes in other jurisdictions would be secondary to me tightening up this one. We finished off that typed statement. I typed line by line as he told me line by line.
     We relaxed.
     “I’ve got a problem,” he said. 
     As if I needed to confirm my suspicions.
     “Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve been killing things. Dogs, Sheep. Cattle…and having sex with them. Something just snaps in my head, a sex thing. He told me about a man named Bernie who “taught” him how. 
     “When I kilt my mother…”
     “You killed your mother?’”
     “Yeah.”
     Keep in mind this was the early 1980s. There wasn’t much literature and psychology collected and disseminated on serial killers. The FBI VICAP (Violent Criminal Apprehension Program) was fairly new and largely unheard of at the time, and frankly were not very helpful when we needed them through the years. In short they match up violent crimes around the US and develop profiles of suspects. So, what has become this textbook case of someone killing small animals and the sex was news. Serial killer movies like the “Silence of the Lambs” were not popular. (But Hitchcock’s “Psycho” was! Huh? Norman Bates killed his mother and dressed up in her clothes. Weird was weird.)
     Lucas killed his mother when he was 24 years old. He told me (and other psychiatrists) that he had sex with his dead mother, but years later he denied that. He killed her in the kitchen with a knife and then fled the state in a stolen car. He ditched the car and was arrested while hitchhiking in Ohio.  He said that was his first murder.
     So, I am sitting in this office with a lunatic who killed his mother about 20 years ago. What was he doing roaming the streets? Obviously, somehow released, like…parole or something?
     “How did you get out of jail,” I asked him.
     “I was in mental prison. The doctors said I was alright one day. I wasn’t. But they said I was. One morning they just let me out the front door.”
     He started to tell me about all kinds of murders, all over the country that I just found hard to believe. It started to look like he wanted to shock me, like a braggart. I still have these details in my notes. And I knew we would be talking about all that again and all too soon. 
     I walked him back into the jail and locked him up.
     Then I jumped back in my car and drove to the site by the highway. A lot was underway there. Four detectives and Howard Kelly were combing the area and digging up body parts. Newspaper and TV crews were showing up.
     “You get a confession?” Howard Kelly asked me.
     “I did. He’s a real nut-job. He killed his mother, that woman in Brook county and this girl. And he started telling me he’s killed a bunch of women all over while hitchhiking.”
     Howard’s eyes widened and head tilted. He had a certain way of looking at you over his glasses. 
     “We are going to have to spend a lot of time with him,” I said.
     We had about four unsolved murders in recent years that we would have to run by him. Then, there’s the county, the state and what now? All 50 states? Boy howdy, how far could this go? 
     “Well, Phil will hep’ us on all that,” Kelly said. 
     I got my “crime scene shovel” out of my trunk. (This wasn’t my first dead-body-rodeo.) and got with the guys and started digging.
     The Justice of the Peace was finally called. I say “finally” because I remember he was really mad at us. He’d heard the news at about 11 a.m. He needed to be called out to the death scene. And he knew that we knew. We had a body parts he needed to officially presiding over. No one called him all day until it was his dinner time. He got out to the field at about 6 p.m. and he really pitched a high-holey, embarrassing fit.
     “You know I could have you all arrested!” he yelled at us. “By law you are supposed to notify a magistrate as soon as reasonably possible! I could have all of you arrested right now.”
     Whew! The judge looked like he was about to have a heart attack, but he finally calmed down. Dinner is really important to some folks! But apparently not so much to us as we worked well into the night. We called a funeral home to transport the remains of the body to the forensic morgue in Dallas.
     Nowadays, police agencies have special forensic, like “archaeological” teams that sift through the turf like they look for Tyrannosaurus Rex bones. Not back then. We just had five shovels, a Polaroid camera and some trash bags. (More or less. We also had a tape measure and a 35mm camera. I am just being dramatic.)
     I drew up diagrams of the parts in relation to fixed objects in the filed, triangulating the dig sites. Ranger Phil Ryan and the Brooks deputies went home. Lucas was in our jail, and we felt we could leave the field until the next day. End of day one.

Henry2

.
     I drove home a filthy mess and stripped naked in the back yard. Bad news. The itching started. It was getting worse and worse. I was covered in chigger bites that were growing and expanding into a leper’s landscape on my skin from my sock line up to my chest. I ran into the bathroom and got into the bathtub while my wife tried to look up in a medical encyclopedia what to do. It started to drive me insane. Finally, I took pain-killers we had left over from my various injuries. That took an edge off. That and a little whiskey.
     I know some folks reading this won’t know what a chigger is. I hope you never do. A chigger is a bug I’ve only run across in Texas. Virtually invisible, they get on you and scamper up as far as it can. Then they bite and burrow into your flesh. Parties, and legend has it, procreates in there until for some reason the clan dies off. (Experts say they die quick and don’t reproduce, but once bit, it sure feels like chigger generations stay and have an orgy.)
     I arrived at work the next morning and all of us that had toiled in the field, even the poor angry, judge I heard, were suffering from these chigger bites. And we had to go out there again! Not without a visit to the pharmacy for nuclear, bug protection, though. But Detective Jack Breasley had another plan.
     “You see this raw potato?” Jack said, holding one up.
     “Yeah.”
     “If you keep a raw potato in your pocket, chiggers won’t bite you.”
     “That so,” I said.
     “I got some potatoes out in the car for us.”
     “I think I will stick with the nuclear, bug spray, thank ya kindly.”
     “OKAY then!” Jack said, as though I were a fool.

     We returned to the field and worked all morning. By lunchtime, we were through. I hadn’t accumulated any more bites, that I could tell anyway over the red rubble of my lower chest and legs. But Jack? Jack’s chigger bites had chigger bites. I can’t really say I remember for sure? But I think he went to the emergency room at the hospital that night. I think the chiggers even ate the potato.
    In the afternoon, we sat back down with Henry at the police department. We ran some unsolved murders past him, showed him photographs. This is routine in a situation like this. A kidnapped and killed young teen, found in a Dallas gravel pit. Strangled woman found out in the woods by some railroad tracks. At first, he said no to them, then fudged on his “no,” and said maybe. I watched him look at photos of the victims and had a feeling that they were strangers to him.
     Howard and I talked in the hallway. We didn’t believe him, but we were obligated to test him through and through.
     “Me and Breasley will run him around these crime scenes. You catch up here,” Howard said. 
    There was plenty for me to catch-upward-with. Reports. Warrants. Body parts  in the morgue. Confirm Henry was at that hotel. Etc.
     Howard and I spoke about two full days later and in summary, he discounted all the other Lucas verbal confessions. 
     We filed the only case we had in our jurisdiction, the murder of Becky in the field. Henry was then quickly out of our hair, and Ranger Phil Ryan’s hair too. 
     Henry was convicted and sentenced to many decades in prison. Phil Ryan had his case over in Ringsilver. But Henry would not shut up about killing a lot of people. I mean a LOT of people. So mnay, Henry was next embedded with a special Texas Ranger Task Force to look into his stories. 
     The Dallas Observer newspaper reported, “A special task force, manned by the Williamson County Sheriff Jim Boutwell and members of the Texas Rangers, was formed to help other agencies sort out the stream of horrors that Lucas couldn’t confess to fast enough. Soon, he was being jetted all over the country to lead investigators to crime scenes and recount the terrifying manner in which his victims had met their fates. Henry said, “I done it every way imaginable,” he liked to say. “Shootings, stabbings, strangulations, drownings. Killing somebody, to me, was just like walking outdoors.’ For good measure, he occasionally added details of post-Mortem sex or experiments in cannibalism. ”
     None of us locals, including Phil Ryan thought Henry had killed all the people he’d suddenly claimed at the time. We read in the newspapers the toll was running up to 300 people. What? 
     Phil told me early on, that he’d accompanied one of these crime scene visits with other detectives from another Texas city and murder. The body was found under an overpass. With two detectives, with Phil and Henry in the back seat, Phil recalled for me what happened on that trip.
     “Henry had been shown, and had studied all the crime scene photos before we left the station. He collected the crime story and evidence in the course of the first interview. As we drove up the highway, they kept asking him. ‘Look familiar? Look familiar?’ 
Finally, Henry said, ‘Stop here.’ We all got out and looked around. Henry pointed to this or that. Back at the station he gave them a bare-bones confession to the killing. I said to Henry later, 
     ‘why did you take that killing, Henry. You didn’t do that?’
     Henry smiled at me. 
     I asked, ‘how did you know which overpass to stop at?’
      Henry said, ‘well, the driver kept slowing down and slowing down and I just guessed.’ Henry didn’t kill all those people, Hock. He’s working the cops.’ ”

     Working the cops. Then one morning, about two years after I snapped that popular mugshot of Lucas in our jail, I bought a weekday copy of the Dallas Times Herald and a headline declared  that the Henry Lee Lucas murder spree was all false. A local reporter Hugh Aynesworth, had constructed a map and a time line of Henry’s confessions and found it physically impossible for him to travel all across the United States and commit most of them. Hugh inserted into the time-line, proven facts of Henry’s whereabouts. For example:   
     Henry collected a paycheck on one date, than claimed he killed a girl six states away later that same day. Anyesworth concluded, “Lucas would have had to drive 11,000 miles in the space of a month to have murdered all of the victims on his confession list.”
     Now, I ask you, why didn’t this Texas Ranger Task Force run a simple chart like this on their headquarters wall? We all asked this. Phil Ryan too, and he couldn’t believe the mess. Why did it take a local newsman to do this? 
     In the middle of this is an odd tale of the Waco, Tx. prosecutor Vic Frizzell, which is another complicated story, too long to shoot off-course here with, but that you might care to look up on the web. 
     The New York Times concluded, “After his arrest in 1983, Lucas claimed to have killed as many as 600 people around the country, and detectives from 40 states talked to him about an estimated 3,000 homicides. Mr. Lucas later recanted, and many of the murder cases attributed to him were never reopened. He attributed the false confessions to a steady diet of task force tranquilizers, steaks, hamburgers and milkshakes fed to him by investigators, along with crime scene clues that he said he had parroted back to detectives.” Henry also got to travel, play cards and watch television and enjoyed numerous other benefits at the “Lucas Headquarters.” 
     Lucas’ lawyer Don Higginbotham, said that, “Henry lies to everybody. That`s how he maintains control over his situation. Anybody in authority. He`s playing with the system.”

     Get this mess. While I was hanging out with Henry before he wet hog-wild with tall tales of killing, he told me about his traveling, murdering buddy Ottis Toole, and how they killed people. He also told me that Ottis had kidnapped and killed young Adam Walsh, the son of John Walsh. John had gone on to become the famous host of “America’s Most Wanted” TV show. Was this yet another lie? Not up to me to decide, so when the dust settled a bit, I called the detective division of the Hollywood, Florida Police Department and reported all these details to them. Never heard back from them.
     Years later, Toole became infamous thanks to Henry’s popularity. But, apparently my early 80s phone call to Hollywood, Florida CID fell upon deaf ears! And unchecked? Then months later I learned the Texas Ranger, Lucas Task Force called them also with the same news. Read what Time Magazine wrote about this:
     “While the FBI  would credit “America’s Most Wanted” for helping nab at least 17 of the agency’s “10 Most Wanted” fugitives, John Walsh had to wait 27 years for the Hollywood Police Department to both admit that drifter and serial killer Ottis E. Toole abducted and murdered his son and apologize for investigative mistakes that transpired during the early years of this investigation,” as police chief Chad Wagner said in a news conference. 
     Toole first confessed to the Walsh killing in October of 1983, but, as the department’s police chief told TIME in the mid-’90s, Toole and his accomplice Henry Lee Lucas were notorious for ‘confessing to crimes they didn’t commit.’ Toole would end up dying in prison in 1996 while serving five life sentences for other crimes.”
     But, there was also supporting evidence against Toole. Walsh would later write a book about this. In the late 1990s, Walsh was on a book tour and I was hired to assist FOX security with protecting John on his trip through Texas. I had a chance to get to know John and we discussed this overall situation. Ironic, isn’t it?

I provided and arranged security for John Walsh in his 1997 book tour
I provided and arranged security for John Walsh in his 1997 book tour
John Walsh's book, Tears of Rage
John Walsh’s book, Tears of Rage

     And now for even more madness and weirdness, in the mid 1990s, then Sheriff, Weldon Lucas (no relation) called me at home. Weldon was a former Texas Ranger and was indirectly involved in Henry’s local case with us. He told me there was some new ado about a woman claiming to be Becky Rowlett in the media. Becky alive and well? Whose skull was that I’d almost tripped over that fateful day? He warned me that there might be a quick, new court date/hearing over the issue. 
     But, this was quickly dismissed as a fraud. Some bizarre married woman named Phyllis had befriended the imprisoned Henry. You know, first pen pals. Jail visits. Then, “prison love.” She thought she could somehow throw a monkey wrench into the works of Henry’s death sentence by suggesting Becky was still alive. She was quickly arrested for this fraud. Like the entire Henry Lee Lucas penumbra, this too was very, very strange. Years later, even Geraldo Rivera did a TV show on Henry and Phyllis. 
     Of course, Henry’s story morphed into books, documentaries and, even a movie. All of these are available on the internet for further investigation, with the proper names and locations. I was 
interviewed once in awhile by them, but Lucas disgusted me so, I didn’t add much more to their stories. I have only decided to tell my small involvement in this book, for the purpose of history. 

     But, I feel as reporter Carlton Stowers felt when he wrote in the Dallas Observer: “The furor over the latest Lucas scam attempt had already died when, one evening, I answered the phone to hear a long-distance operator say that I had a collect call from Lucas (in prison). “Will you accept charges?” she asked.
     ‘No,’ I replied for the first time. Then, realizing that he was likely listening for my response, I added emphasis. ‘Not only no,’ I said, ‘but hell no.’ Finally, I had too belatedly realize, the time had come to put the life and lies of Henry Lee Lucas behind me.”

     I guess I should sum up by saying that Lucas died in prison from a heart attack. All the stories about Henry’s killing spree, lies, and manipulations still fascinate people, but all agree that he did kill “some” people, and the murders they mention as real include our Becky case and Phil Ryan’s case.
 
     Of course, I and all others are also convinced he killed Becky in our city. I still remember that afternoon, all of us standing in the field west of the interstate, and Henry pointing to the ground and telling me, after I almost tripped over a human skull, “If you dig here, you’ll find a pillowcase with arm bones in it.” 
     We did. 

Hock’s email is HockHochheim@ForceNecessary.com

 

This story appears in Kill or Be Killed

 

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Jailbreak! And the Pyscho Martin Crebbs

 

Crebbs drawing  2  

Jailbreak! And the Psycho Martin Crebbs

     It was afternoon in August in the early 1980s.
     Egg-frying, Texas hot. That is to say that if you plopped a raw egg down on the street, it would sizzle in less than a minute.
     CID Sgt. Howard Kelly and I were cruising back into our city from a long day of looking around the countryside on the north side of our county. Looking over open, condemned land. Howard had caught a tip that a ring of car and truck thieves were stealing vehicles, stripping them down and discarding the remnants out on the vast fields and farmland very soon to be covered over by a major lake project. If we didn’t find the stripped vehicles soon, they’d all be under about a hundred feet of water. Howard had an idea about this location and we hoped we might catch the ring at work.  Who in the world would be working out in this laser heat, though? Still, we had to try.
     We were in my assigned Chevy, but Howard was driving because he knew where he wanted to go. I had my hands up on dashboard to collect the air conditioning shooting it up the short sleeves of my damp dress shirt. No matter the heat, we usually had to wear a tie and a sport coat or a classic suit. Had to cover the gun back then. Kelly almost never wore a tie, or a jacket for that matter, and “they” (admin) were kind of afraid to tell him otherwise. He was the NCIS, Jethro Gibbs of the detective division, if you get my drift with this modern analogy.
     We hit town, turned down Chester Ave and into the busy downtown area, talking about who knows what all, when a screaming man yelled over the police radio, “Jailbreak! Jailbreak! A whole floor is loose!” It was the county dispatcher. He was desperate.
     “All available units report to the SO, ASAP.”
     This news quickly went out over the city radio airwaves too. This did not sound like the usual “suspect bounding out of the first-floor, book-in room” and off to the city park north of the Sheriff’s Office.
     Howard and I looked at each other. We were about 100 feet from the County Sheriff’s Office! He pulled onto the lot. We bailed, pulled our guns and ran into and into the building. We could see some city police cars zipping in, and some officers running across the field from the neighboring city PD.
     We got inside and three county investigators were standing by the doors, guns up and at the ready, as the one main elevator descended from the cell floors above. What was this? Were escapees coming down? Howard Kelly and I pointed our guns at the doors too.
     The elevator descended. Descended. The doors opened. On the elevator floor laid a jailer. Johnny Yale. He was howling and quaking. There was blood all over his torn shirt.
     “He stabbed me!” he yelled. “They stabbed me. The whole third floor is loose!”
     SO investigator Jim Wilson hit the kill switch on the elevator wall and knelt beside Yale. Lt Jim Neel knelt also.
     “Who stabbed you?” Lt Neel asked over and over. “Who?”
     “Crebbs! Crebbs did this. It’s a jailbreak up there. He turned everybody loose.” Yale yelped, almost crying.
     “Everybody” on the third floor of the county jail was about 75 inmates.
      “Block off the stairwells!” Jim Wilson ordered. Some deputies near there with shotguns and pistols, took positions.
     Crebbs. I looked up at the ceiling, my .357 Magnum revolver in my hand. Crebbs. I’d put that raping, stabbing, psycho Martin Crebbs in this jail. I caught him. I put ‘em in here. And now? 
     Now I’m gonna go upstairs…and I’m gonna kill him.

<<<>>> 

     Who is this Crebbs? How did I catch him? Why did I think he needed killing?
     He was Martin J. Crebbs. Years ago, back in the 1970s as a patrolman in Texas, I’d heard of a rape case from station-house gossip and crime updates. A woman had been awakened in her bed by an intruder. The intruder controlled her with one of her own kitchen knives he’d collected from her counter on the way to her bedroom. She was raped at knife point in her bed. Then she was abducted to another house and tied up and raped again. Held for hours, she escaped. Our detective squad caught this teenager, also a known burglar. He was convicted and sent to the Texas Pen. Somehow, don’t ask me how, perhaps his age? Perhaps the trying times of overcrowded penitentiaries? He was released on parole.  The man’s name was Martin J. Crebbs.
     Then, there was another home intrusion rape in the neighborhood, and a series of aggravated robberies and burglaries throughout our city and in North Texas, and by this time, I was a detective.

May 19                  Paroled
June 12                 Aggravated robbery
June 12                 House burglary
June 20                 Aggravated robbery
June 20                 House burglary
June 20                 House burglary
June 20                 Attempted rape
June 23                 Attempted rape/home invasion
June 24                 House burglary
June 26                 Aggravated robbery
June 26                 Aggravated robbery
June 30                 House burglary
June 30                 House burglary
July 1                    House burglary
July 4                    House burglary
July 5                    House burglary
July 5                    Aggravated rape
July 8                    Aggravated robbery
July 12                  House burglary
July 12                  House burglary
July 14                  Aggravated rape
Other crimes too…

     Also, I might mention that not all of these crimes listed were within our city limits. Some occurred outside the city, in the county and in the counties north of us. In the 1980s we were not in “lightening” touch with each other as we are today. It would take days, even weeks, maybe even a month or two before regional crime patterns over multiple jurisdictions could be recognized and organized. 

     Where did I come in? July 14. The a.m. hours of. There was a pool of detectives in our squad, all taking general assignments and some of these crimes were routinely spread out among us.  

    I happened to be the “detective on call” so I was summoned to an old house on the northeast side of the city in zero-dark-thirty hours of the 14th of July. A home invasion, rape case. Crime scene specialist, Russell Lewis was also dispatched. In route to the house, I was informed that the victim was rushed to the hospital and with the crime scene in Russell’s expert hands, I turned off my path to speak with the victim and oversee the rape kit process. At the hospital, I learned what I could from this poor exhausted, bruised woman, I’ll just call her “Judy” here, before she was rolled into an examination room. I left Judy with a patrolman to gather info for the basic, crime report. Judy had a good friend who quickly met her at the hospital, as well as the ever-handy “Friends of the Family” a group of female counselors we used to help rape victims. Judy, the friend and the counselor promised they would all be at the police station by about 11 a.m. for a detailed statement.

     By 6 am, I was at the house. Russell and I had to swap stories to really know how to scour the residence, yard and area again. The open (an left unlocked the night before), a kitchen window of the older, wood framed house, and the big kitchen knife (from the victim’s kitchen drawer) and the bed in total disarray, and the strips of cloth used to tie her spread hands and feet to the bed frame…well…they all told much of the overall story. The three-hour ordeal.
     We stepped through the yard and with the help of the rising, welcome, dawn light and with our giant flash lights, we saw four, dry, Marlboro cigarette butts by the doghouse (there was no dog) in the yard. We collected them. I found another cigarette butt by a big tree in the yard. Another place to hide and watch from? Russel photographed and printed. We carefully folded up the sheets and pillows hoping for fluid stains and head and pubic hair and so forth. Was anything stolen or missing? I wouldn’t know until the victim could return to her house and take stock. You never know how fast you might need this info and the first few days are a thirsty rush for intelligence.
     By mid-afternoon, I knew a few things. The suspect was young, white male, 20s maybe, long blonde hair. He surprised Judy when she was in bed. He had one of her big kitchen knives. He treated her “like a candy store,” as she described it. He brandished the knife until she was tied up and even after at times while she was tied. The tip was at her neck. 
     He told her as he left, “Don’t bother calling the police. They’ll never find me.”
    Forty something years later as I type his last words to her, those words still burn my stomach and piss me off, not unlike when I heard them the first time. 
     Well, guess again, dipshit.

     Judy, nor anyone she knew, smoked cigarettes, least of all Marlboro cigarettes. The presence of such butts in the yard was mysterious to her. Perhaps we could run some successful saliva tests on them? She said she’d looked over her house and thought she’d lost one piece of jewelry. It was a customized piece. I learned she was an art student and I asked her to draw the suspect and draw that customized piece of jewelry. She did, and man! Did that come in handy later.

    I started a neighborhood canvass around dinnertime on the 14th, looking for any and all information about people, cars and suspicious things. 
     That began an amassment of suspects. One of Judy’s next door neighbors was a parolee, who had killed is wife in the 1960s, and was a known “window-peeper.” Another “weird” guy lived a block away, the neighbors told me. Plus, we had an occasional “butcher-knife” rapist working that side of the city for years, but he was a little older and always brought his own butcher knife. Neighbors reported their usual, suspicious “hippies.” One of these “weird hippies” was wanted for assault. I wasted a day running him down and arrested him inside a college night club. I quickly cleared him of this crime. 
     Russel Lewis checked in with me to report the fingerprints were smudges and not comparable. He sent other evidence off for testing.
    Meanwhile, I’d also caught “talk” of this Martin Crebb’s parole, once again from general “cop gossip.” I cannot tell you how important just gossip and talk was and is with fellow, area investigators, especially back in those non-tech, days. When on day shift, after the morning crime briefings, a bunch of us would go eat breakfast at a series of restaurants. We, the county and the state investigators would congregate, talk smack, hunting, sports and oh yes…crime! Some of us on evening shift would still drive in and eat breakfast for this. Ignorant police supervisors and bean counters who’d never served as investigators, would oft times complain about this “laziness.” But, they were just plain ignorant and frankly, pains-in-the ass. 
     At one breakfast, someone from the state, warned us to watch out for , “Hey, a crazy somabitch, Martin Crebbs was paroled and he is a little psycho, crime machine. A robber and a rapist. He’s got relatives in this county and up north in Crisco.”
     So, I looked into Crebbs and contacted his state parole officer in Crisco County. After this phone conversation, I could see it deserved a drive north to look at his file, which the officer said was thick, and always a pain to fax back then. Faxes were a bit foggy to read especially if you received copies of copies. Better and quicker to make the 90 minute drive.

   Once in the state building in Crisco county, I sat down with the Crebb’s file. The parole officer said that in just the few short weeks Crebbs had been on parole, he was already a growing problem. He lived with his parents in a rural area in Crisco county. His picture matched the suspect description and Judy’s drawing. Some of his prior rape conviction details did match those of Judy’s crime, but still, many rapists share common denominators. Had robberies increased since his release? Yeah. Burglaries? Well, yeah. But they come and go. Maybe up here in Crisco too? I took one Polaroid photo of Crebbs from the file, and collected some copies of ID data.
    My next stop was the Crisco County Sheriff’s Office where I met CID Captain David Bone. Bone and I had worked together a bit in the past. Bone was about 6’5”, a power-lifter, former Texas Tech lineman, ex-rough-necker/oil field worker and smart as a whip on fire. What little we had and knew about computers back then, was already Bone’s new interest and his specialty. If I ever build a Dirty Dozen, police force, Bone will take up two slots. He had a very simple business card that had two things on it – the word “BONE” in the center in capital letters, and his phone number in the lower right. Not Captain, not Sheriff’s Office, just “Bone.” If you got one of those stuck in your front door, that Bone had been there looking for you? And you’re a shady character? You’d better just pack up and head on out to Mexico.
      “Martin Crebbs!” Bone said to me. “I am right this instant, looking at him for an armed robbery of a convenience store.” South part of the county. I need to talk to the clerk. Let’s go.”
     Go we did. I climbed into his sedan and took the front seat, passenger side. I felt like a small child there. Bone was such a giant that he’d removed the front seat and welded a new foundation for it, moving it back a few more inches than factory spec, so that he could fit his giant self behind the wheel and work all the pedals. So, though my own 6’3” self felt like a kid in there. I drove his car once on another case we worked and could barely reach the steering wheel, and I needed a Dallas phone book to sit on. But, I digress. Back to the case….
     The robbed county store was not that far from the Crebb’s family house. The owner himself was robbed, and he thought the getaway car he spied parked up the road from the store was familiar looking “Seen it around,” he said.

me and bone
Bad quality, old photo, but that’s me and Bone in the early 1980s. Though we worked for different agencies, he was one of my best partners to work with.

 

     The masked man with a gun reminded him over-all of someone in the area, but he couldn’t say for sure whom. The man said that the .45 pistol aimed at him was old and even “rusty-looking.” 
     Right then I recalled that we too in my city, had two armed robberies where a suspect held an old, .45 pistol. I realized the suspect at home did match the overall shape and size of this Crisco crime.

     Back the Crisco Sheriff’s Office, Bone and I made a plan. We would take turns surveilling the Crebb’s family house and if that dried up in a day or two, we’d march up to the house and question everyone. As Howard Kelly would say, “When you hit a brick wall, go shake the tree. That might not make sense, a “wall” and then a “tree.” But it meant that when all leads fail, go shake up, and mess with the suspects. Sometimes they react in a beneficial way. What have you got to lose? You never know what will fall out of the wall…er, I mean…the tree.

    The next day I asked Judy to make a return visit to the P.D. I showed her a photo line-up with Crebbs and with similar males with blond hair. Since the rape occurred in darkness, she just couldn’t be sure enough to pick Crebbs out. She gave me a maybe on Crebbs. I can’t work with a maybe.
    I did a “shift” on the Crisco county house. Bone did a shift and he had a deputy do one too. We never saw Crebbs, and only observed the comings and goings of a large rural, family. Nothing 
interesting happened. Not even a sighting of Crebbs.
     We decided to do that “march” and “tree-shaking” after three days. We drove up the dirt road to the two-story house and knocked on the door.  What we found was a mad mom, a mad dad and a mad uncle. Not mad at us. Mad at Martin! We all sat down in their large living room. 
     “I know that little shit is robbin’ places! I know it!” the dad exclaimed. “The day after he got out of jail, his little sister took him to Boydston, to a pawn shop, and he bought a gun.”
    “What kind of gun?” I asked.
     “It’s an old Army pistol,” he said. “I’ve seen him with it.”
     “By old you mean…”
     “Like World War II? An automatic.”
     It was very common to call semi-automatic pistols, “automatics” in those days.
   “He is a hangin’ out with that Steve Spitz from Sherman. He’s trouble,” the mom said.
     Bone nodded and said, “Heard of him.”
     “I’ll bet you have. He’s a snake in the grass,” the dad said.
     “They drive around in Spitz’s car,” the mom said. “Some kind of Camaro, dark red. It ain’t his, belongs to some poor girlfriend of his.”
     We collected various bits of other information, like the little sister’s name and birthdays. Cars. Etc. 
     Then Bone and I drove back to the Crisco Sheriff’s Office and we went straight to their records room. We looked up Spitz. Bone uncovered  in the county files that both Spitz and Crebbs were roommates in their jail years ago under burglary charges. With the Spitz birthday on file, we ran his criminal history and drivers license info. We had mugshots. Spits had dark hair, Crebbs had blond hair. 
     Back home I collected all our resent armed robbery reports. I was not assigned to any of those robberies. One robbery was at the usual gas station combination convenience store. 
     According to a customer pumping gas who saw the robbers approach the store, one robber was masked, the other man was still donning his mask while running across the lot. This almost masked man had black hair. And the customer saw the man’s face before the mask slipped on. The robbery team got inside, pulled an “old” semi-auto gun and robbed the place.
     Who was the witness pumping gas, the customer who saw the face?  I scoured the report. The detective assigned to the robbery case had not found out, even after three weeks? I will only tell you that the detective assigned to the robbery was a slug, and I wasn’t surprised. 
     I drove to the store and working with the manager, looked over the credit card receipts from the crime date and time, hoping the guy didn’t pay for his gas with cash, but used a credit card. 
     He did use a card! He used a company card. With some long-distance phone calls, we found him, an Oklahoma truck driver. I created a photo line-up of similar white males, and I met this witness at a restaurant on the Texas/Oklahoma border. He actually picked Steve Spitz out very quickly. 
     The next day, I got an arrest warrant for Spitz and we spread the word all over North Texas.

    Meanwhile, I contacted Texas Ranger Phil Ryan who worked the region including Boydston. I gave him the info on Crebbs and Crebbs’ little sister and asked him to find the pawn shop where the gun was purchased. Ryan was a great Ranger and I write about him often in my recollections. He would work a tractor theft as hard as a triple murder and within two days we learned all the details of the gun purchase. It was an old, .45 caliber, semi-auto pistol. 

     Days later, my desk phone rang. It was Bone.
    “We got Spitz,” Bone said. “A state trooper found him driving on Highway 8. Alone in his car. Nothing in the car. I’ll wait for you to get up here, and we’ll talk to him.”
     “I am on my way,” I said. 

     Spitz was a real punk, but he knew he was caught and he did talk in the hopes for leniency.
    “Cripps is crazy, man! He thinks he is Joe the Dope Dealer with drugs and Bonnie and Clyde, Clyde the robber. And he thinks he is Jack the Ripper.”
     In just three weeks these idiots committed a crime wave of felonies with more plans on the Crebbs drawing board for supermarket robberies, raping lone convenience store clerks and Crebbs favorite – home invasions, but of families at night. They had even plotted a bank job. Police officers stumbling into these scenes would be taken hostage or shot.
    “You know, it was all Crebbs. I…I wouldn’t do all that,” Spitz said. 
    Spitz was an emotional mess. Crying. Bulging veins. Pleading. We knew we would have to prove and re-prove everything he said, anyway we could.
     I won’t bore you here with the skyscraper of paperwork this produced. And all this back in the day when we typed reports on typewriters, maybe electric, sometimes not, with carbon paper, and used expensive, copy machines when we could. But filing warrants and cases on 30-plus felony crimes was a paper puzzle. We did it none the less, filing cases in three counties.  Welcome to my world. Today, all this would be done by a task force. Back then, it was just me and Bone. (In case I forget to tell you later? Spitz took a 10-year plea bargain.)

    We were informed by the angry relatives that Crebbs was still coming and going from the family house once in a while in another friend’s borrowed, two-door, light yellow Chevy. Bone drew up a search warrant for Crebb’s room in his house, just in case, which we searched and turned up nothing.
    Now, all we had left to do was find Crebbs and that gun. The word was out he was a wanted man. We were back to staking out the family house in plain cars. I was driving my personal Ford Thunderbird. 
     And then one afternoon after a few days, we saw him go by in the two-door Chevy. We pulled a simple traffic stop and an “under-the-gun arrest.” He tried nothing. He knew he was surrounded. Cuffed and stuffed, I took a quick look over his car. There in an open compartment in the console was a chain and a piece of jewelry. It looked familiar. It actually looked like the drawing Judy sketched of her stolen necklace. I walked back to my car and returned with my Polaroid camera. I snapped a photo of the console and the jewelry. I pulled the jewelry out. It matched Judy’s drawing perfectly. Her missing piece! The souvenir of a rapist. I stuck the picture and jewelry into my pocket.

     Next, began one of the most unusual relationships I guess I have ever had with a criminal, and I have had many, from Narcs, to Cowboy Mafia-men to dopers and killers. Back at the Cisco jail, Bone and I sat down with Crebbs in an interview room. We read him his Miranda rights. He waived them. I think he was dying to talk and see what we had on him. At first, Crebbs denied everything and was only concerned with the evidence we had, trying to play all the angles he could. He yelled and swelled up, and pitched a fit of innocence. He called us crazy.
    I pulled the chain and pendant from my pocket and held it up, the pendant swung like a hypnosis watch.
    “You took this from a woman,” I said calmly.
    His head shook slightly, just back and forth, not side-to-side, not yes, or no, and he almost smiled. Then I proceeded to tell him a list of what we had on him, step-by-step, to include a complete confession from Steve Spitz. Then I told him about the evidence the lab was working on. He listened intently.
     “You’re good,” he said.
     “No,” I said. “You’re just that bad.”
     But actually, he was impressed with me and Bone. His whole demeanor changed and he sat there and told us everything, almost as only an actor could, playing the part of psycho, talking about someone else, not him. He spoke in a passive, monotone voice. He did slightly giggle over some of the rape details. He bragged about the houses he “shafted.” He criticized his accomplice’s inadequate performances.
     “Did Spitz lie about anything?” I asked.
     “No, I don’t think so,” He said.
     It was pretty clear we were dealing with a psychopath, who viewed the rest of us as mannequins to his passing fancy. Bone and I took long, separate written (actually typed) confessions from Crebbs. He was quite proud of himself and his…achievements.

     Over the next few days, Bone and Crisco County kept Crebbs as they worked on paperwork and court appearances for the crimes in their county. Meanwhile with Judy’s jewelry and the confessions, I obtained a few more arrest warrants on Crebbs and pushed the local paperwork monkey further up the tree.  By this time, Texas Ranger Weldon Lucas caught wind of all this and wanted to help out. In about a week, Weldon and I drove up to Crisco, served the warrants and transferred Crebbs to our jail in cuffs and a hobble.
     Once in our jail, I had several visits with him, and frequently took him out to cruise the city and further document the locations of his rape, robberies and burglaries. I never once talked down to him, and always treated him “normally.” And we talked about a lot of things other than crime. This is an important strategy for every detective to try. You either have this knack, or not. Now, this method of “questioning/interrogation” has been quite formalized by the FBI and now even for fighting terrorism.
     Crebbs sat in the passenger seat of my car, cuffed around front to drink coffee and eat from drive thru, fast-food places. This was a treat for an inmate. I knew he would kill me in an instant, but I had a detective in the back seat right behind him that I could really trust and would…seriously intervene. It was probably another detective in our squad, Danny McCormick back then, but I just can’t remember. I knew this was tricky and dangerous, but it was the confession game I was playing. A risk I knew I was taking. And I knew Danny would just shoot the son of a bitch, if Crebbs tried to kill me. 

     In the process of his first local court appearances, he was appointed an attorney, who immediately shut all this interaction down. This attorney, first-name Gary, was a sharp guy, and we were friendly adversaries, as I was with almost all local defense attorneys. Gary could not conceive the unusual mountain of evidence and confessions I’d obtained from Crebbs. Within a few weeks, I would have a sperm match with the rape kit and a saliva match on the cigarette butts from the yard. Solid, solid case. This surely looked like a major, plea bargain to all of us. When Crebbs was eventually transferred from our city jail to the county jail, he told our city jailer to tell me goodbye.

     This had all the earmarks of a plea bargain indeed, but we had a new, go-getter, assistant district attorney I’ll call here “Hal Sleeve.” Hal craved the Crebbs prosecution. He asked me over for a meeting at the DA’s Office, and I expected a puzzle-piece, plan to bunch the crimes together into one big, plea bargain with a hefty jail term.
     “I am going to start with the rape,” Hal said.
     “Start?” I repeated.
     “This guy is an animal, and we are going to try him one felony at a time.”
     Okay. He’s the boss and that is what we did. Sleeve really was one helleva an attorney too and he did quite a job.

     So, within a few months, with Crebbs in our county jail with a “no-bond” the entire time, a trial eventually began. When I walked into the courtroom, Crebbs waved at me, and I nodded at him. Do you see what I mean by strange? When I was called to the stand to testify and Gary could not shake off any of the evidence we presented, especially the confessions I took from Crebbs, that I had to read aloud before the jury. I was dismissed. I had to walk past the defense table and Crebbs nodded at me again. Strange. I just fried him alive, and still he acknowledged me.

     Crebbs got about 30 years in the Texas Pen for aggravated rape. But, the next trail date was set a month off, and Crebbs remained in his cell on the third floor of the county jail. And during that wait? Crebbs called a friend on a pay phone for a pick-up, escape vehicle for a planned date and time, took small pipes off of an exercise bike, sharpened one end of each, wrapped the other ends of the pipes with a small, hand towel, tied the towel with some string, and tried to kill a jailer named Yale with seven stabs. Yale fell screaming. Crebbs took the keys off of Yale’s belt. With the Jailer’s keys in hand, he turned the whole 3rd floor of the jail loose, and they gained access to the office off the elevator. There were various staff weapons up in that office.

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     And now you know why on that hot, August afternoon, with jailer Yale screaming bloody murder on the floor of the elevator, and the SO in chaos, I stared at the ceiling, gun in hand, and wanted to kill Crebbs.
     With the elevator sealed, with just a few moments ticked off, we made our move. There was one stairway to the 3rd floor. Me, Howard Kelly, a city patrol officer named Jim Tom Bush (who was a decorated Vietnam War sniper and now brandishing a shotgun) and Jim Wilson gathered at that doorway. Wilson opened the steel door and we heard the raucous yells and crazied chants from above. With all our guns pointed upward, just me, Kelly, Bush and Wilson ran up the stairs. For some reason? No one else followed us up. I can imagine why.
     Oh, you might think, “Now wait a minute now, isn’t this a job for SWAT?”
     But back in those thrilling days of yesteryear, Tokyo and Los Angeles had SWAT teams. Back then, we were the SWAT team. In my department the detective division was the SWAT team. Same with the County Sheriff’s Office. So me, Kelly and Wilson had been on quite a number of raids and actions. Patrolman Bush? Bush was just a routine bad-ass. (Many years Bush later became a leader on our SWAT team.)
     We got to the big, vault-like office door on the 3rd floor, which lead to the cells. There was a window in the door and we saw the inmates walking around, yelling, throwing stuff. Unlike modern jails with open pods, this jail was mostly a series of hallways and cells on either side, and some open, sitting and eating areas. Wilson unlocked the big door, shoved it open, and we marched in.
     “Back in your cells or die!” we shouted, pointing our guns at everyone we could see.  This was Texas in the 80s and they knew that we were not bluffing. Mostly, they did return. Some were shoved.
     “You cannot get out of this building. Get back in your cells!” we said.
     I also was on the visual hunt for Crebbs. I couldn’t find him. I couldn’t see him. I ran down an empty hall to one of the day areas. I heard a voice. Angry, pleading. His voice. I turned the corner to see Crebbs on one of the pay phones. He was yelling at someone about his car ride escape. He held the shank in his hand. Jail keys hooked on his pants.
     “HEY!” I yelled.
     He turned. He dropped the phone. And pissed-off, stared at me. We were completely alone in this end of the wing. The ruckus in the halls seemed far away.
     It was another one of those moments in my life. I could have shot him. Dead right there. No one would have doubted or questioned the action under these circumstances. Somehow I had this odd feeling that shooting him was just not enough. It was a gut feeling. I holstered my gun and walked toward him, pointing my finger, “Drop it! Drop it. Drop it.”
     He didn’t. He didn’t. He didn’t.
     He raised it as I got close, and we had a fight. I can’t specifically remember each step of this, but I beat him down pretty bad. He’d had a lit cigarette in his mouth and I hit him there first, which was hard enough to make him drop the shank in his hand. After that? Confusing mess. When it was done, I picked him up off the floor and handcuffed him. A deputy ran down the hall and shouted. 
     “You okay?” he asked.
     “Yeah, can you get that?” I motioned to the shank.
     I marched Crebbs back down the hall as Kelly, Bush and Wilson and another deputy or two locked up the last of the loose inmates.  I took Crebbs through the office, down the stairs and was sort of surprised how no one else had really joined us? No one else in the stairwell, until I got to the bottom, where some officers stood an anxious guard. Maybe they thought we would just take the floor office back, shut the office jail door, and only secure the office? I don’t know. I walked Crebbs past the Sheriff, past some of the 
detectives, officers and civilians congregating on the first floor hall. The local news was already there, their office building a few blocks away. All solemn eyes were upon us. Maybe I had a bruise or two on my face. Crebbs did. He was bleeding. I took him into their CID offices, followed by some of the investigators, and sat him in a chair. Nobody cared about the blood.
     “Yale?” I asked of the jailer when CID Captain Ron “Tracker” Douglas walked in.
     “He’ll live.”
     “He’s all yours. Let me get my handcuffs,” I said.
     And some of the SO detectives stood Crebbs up, and we exchanged cuffs.
     “I caught him on the pay phone. I’ll write you up a statement right away and get it back to you,” I told Tracker.
     

     I needed out of there. Needed air. I walked outside. My car was still outside and Howard Kelly could simply walk across the parking lot to the City PD. This was a county crime, and a county arrest. I didn’t need to do that usual ton of city paperwork. The county did. I just needed to type a statement. This whole thing took about 15 minutes? 20 minutes? From the second we heard the radio call of “Jailbreak!”
     I saw my car on the crowded parking lot. I could squeeze it out between all the emergency and news vehicles. 
     I was going to make my own little escape from the mayhem! I could of killed him. Coulda. Woulda. Shoulda. But I didn’t. I just didn’t. It just didn’t… play out that way. And, I did what I did, and I felt real funny about it. Kind of mentally sick in a body-chemical way I can’t explain. A hard to describe feeling. I just wanted to get to my office and type up a short, concise, statement. 
     I backed out of the parking spot, and then I saw in my mirror, Tracker Douglas outside running toward me and waving.
     “Oh shit, what now?” I said to myself. I rolled down the car window.
    “Hock. Crebbs said he wants to talk to you.”
     “Talk to me?”
     “Yeah. We need a statement, and he said he would talk only to you.”
     They really didn’t need a statement. Yale was alive to testify about his attack. But to be thorough, a statement is always…nice to have. I pulled back in the parking spot and got out. Tracker and I made our way back to the CID offices.
     We found an interview room with a desk, and they sat Crebbs in a chair, cuffing his wrist to the arm of a chair. A deputy with a shotgun sat outside the door.
     I walked in, closed the door and sat on the desk. I said in an astonished tone, like two old friends talking, “What in the fuck happened up there?”
     And he began and wouldn’t shut up. He told me everything and I mean everything. I got off the desk and sat in the other chair. He told me with the rape conviction and more trials coming, he realized his life was over and had to escape.
     “Well, the only chance you have for any kind of leniency is to explain all this in a statement. If you don’t get your voice heard, you’ll just be like a cool-blooded killer. An attempted murderer,” I said. “You know they won’t let you speak up in court. The prosecution will really tear you apart if you take the stand.”
     “Yeah, I know,” he said. “Yeah, I’ll make a statement.”
     Now, technically, Crebbs was still under the auspices of Gary the attorney. In some locales, this might shed a darkness over any statement Crebbs might give. But, on the other hand, he could waive his rights at any time, and offer a statement. So I went with that angle. Worse came to worse? They would just outlaw/dismiss the statement.
     And so I began the statement process with Crebbs yet again. I got a standard confession form with the Miranda warnings on the top, and I began collecting a confession from Crebbs. We went line by line. When it was done, I told him, “good luck,” and handed Tracker the confession. It had various details like who the getaway driver was supposed to be.  And so, to my memory that was like the 23rd or so confession I had collected from Martin Crebbs. The last one, I had hoped. But oh, no. No.

     The next morning, prosecutor Hal Sleeve called me. He wanted to know the details of the escape from my perspective. I told him. In those days, video tapes were a growing interest in the legal system and Sleeve had massaged the DA’s office budget into buying some expensive, camera equipment. He was a real advocate for maximizing the use of video in court from crime scenes to confessions.
     “So, he confessed,” Sleeve said.
     “Yeah,” I said.
     “Would he confess again? I mean on tape? Could you get him to confess again?”
     “I don’t know. Maybe. I don’t know. What would Gary say?”
     “Gary’s on vacation for two weeks. Crebbs waived his rights. What can he say? Would he confess again,” Sleeve asked, “up on the scene. Would he walk you around the 3rd floor and explain what he did? Could you get him to do that?”
     “Can you get an SO detective to do that?” I asked.
     “You know he won’t do it for anyone but you. Go try, Hock.”
     I didn’t work for the DA’s Office, but I kind of do, you know? We all do in this business, and the police chief and sheriff are really just anal retentive, hotel managers. And, as the old Al Pacino movie line goes, “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.”
     Sleeve set it all up. 1 p.m., the next day. Two days after the escape attempt. I went to the SO. Sleeve was waiting there for me.  Their crime scene people and operators of the video equipment were at the ready. Tracker Douglas was also at the ready to facilitate. Crebbs was brought down to the same interview room and there we were again. Just me and him. He was surprised to see me. This was the kind of guy that, if you fight him? And you beat him? He respected you even more. And, after some conversation, like a damn salesman on cue, I reluctantly began my requested pitch.
     “Listen, Martin, it would be a great service to this agency and all the other agencies to hear you describe how you did all this yesterday. You know it’s a new world with these video tapes. And a video like this would be helpful, also make it look like you were trying to help us, and fully cooperate. Show full cooperation. It might show the jury that you have some…you know, hope? Compassion? Whatever.”
     I guess he had nothing better to do! Why not. His face was expressionless.
     “Yeah, sure,” he said.
     And we did. Uncuffed, he stood beside me, on the third floor, with all the hooting and hollering of a hot, un-airconditioned day in the county jail. I read his Miranda rights yet again on film. Maybe the 24th, 25th time? I don’t know anymore. He waived them again. I asked him to start explaining what happened. He walked us to the exercise area, showed us the particulars on the exercise bike where he got the two pipes for his shanks…showed us everything, right up to the point where he and we had our little, physical confrontation in that day room by the phones. I was wondering how he would handle that, describe that part of the tour? Just at this point, I asked him a question and broke his chain of thought.
     Video done. I left again.
     I got back to our station and sat down in Howard Kelly’s office, stretching out. 
     “Is it over?” Howard asked.
     “I think that part is over. Now comes the rest of the trials.”

     I didn’t see Crebbs for about 3 months until the next case came to trial.  The jailbreak case was put atop the list in his crime wave. He was charged with Attempted Capital Murder with a Deadly Weapon. In the hall Gary the attorney looked at me, half-smiled and shook his head.
     “I don’t know how you do it,” he said.
     Meaning my conscience? I think I knew what he was talking about. Should I have waited for Gary to return two weeks before I questioned Crebbs? That whole protocol thing?
     “He said he wanted to talk to me, Gary. They pulled me off the street to see him. Then he kept waiving his right to counsel.”
     “And yet? I am still his counsel,” Gary said.
     “And yet you are.” What else could I say?
     In court, there were arguments for and against both the written and taped confessions. The judge ruled in the state’s favor and both confessions were admissible.  I did a lot of testifying that week. The jailer testified. Sleeve’s great, closing argument was another patriotic, crowd pleaser. In the judge’s chamber, awaiting the jury verdict, Hal Sleeve was ecstatic. At one point he even put his head on my shoulder and said, “Thank you.” 
     Somewhere in the annuals of the county court evidence records, in a locker somewhere is that very strange video tape of Crebb’s confession, taking us on a violent tour of a jail stabbing and mass escape.
     Crebbs was convicted, received nearly a life sentence and following that, the prosecutors from various counties joined together for a big plea bargain. There were aggravated robberies, rapes, burglaries, drug charges…what a bundle. He wound up with over a hundred years to do.
     Somewhere in all this, and I don’t remember how, nor is it in my notes, I somehow recovered that rusty old “Army” gun. Crebbs must have told me where it was. But I got my hands on it and I do recall, and do have notes, that I traveled around and showed it to the robbery victims in our city to further close up our robbery case files. One woman I showed it to jerked back at its sight, like it sent an electric shock her way.

     And that is the Crebbs story and his jailbreak scheme. I sometimes think about the victims of his crimes. And that line, “Don’t bother calling the police. They’ll never find me,” Martin J. Crebbs told Judy the rape victim as he left.

     Well, guess again, dipshit.

Updates:
     Just a few months after his confinement in the Texas Pen, Crebbs was almost beaten to death by fellow inmates. I received no further information about this.

     Just a few months after this beating, Crebbs was stabbed four times by another inmate. He survived. I received no further 
information about this.

     After a few years, Crebbs was killed in prison by another inmate. Once again, I received no further information about this, nor did I care. This is a typical end for a psychopath.

me and h kelly_mediumMe and Howard Kelly, then and now…

Hock’s email is HockHochheim@ForceNecessary.com

This story is excerpted from the true crime book Kill or Be Killed

 

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