- A: Single-hand limb grab and instantly support hand strikes face-throat. Buzz-saw continues…
- B: Double-hand limb grab, when knife limb seems sufficiently secured, one hand instantly releases and strikes face, throat. Buzz saw continues.
- Extra! Get your knife limb grabbed? Your support hand instantly busts in on defender’s face, throat.
My last two years in the late 90s I wound up back in patrol (I was a real “Adam 12” dinosaur patrolman from the 70s) resurrected back into uniform after some 17-plus years as a detective.
All thanks to some upper-management, “flip-the-applecart” plan. (Lets make the foot-doctors into heart-surgeons and heart-surgeons into foot-doctors.) So, after catching a hitman and filing 12 organized crime cases, I found myself on midnight shift patrol one day, or should I say…night. I had some fun, yes, did some stuff, yes, but it really was a waste of time, grade and experience for me and the flipped others, AND the citizens who rely on expertise.
I had enough military (Army) and quasi-military (policing) in me, to “buckle-up,” “shut up” and go where they sent me. I never once took a promotional exam, (military police or Texas police) wanting to remain in line operations in patrol and investigations. Maybe I should have though? To thwart numerous, deskbound, admin, idiot ideas?
Some of my friends took these tests and remind me they created some ideas for effective change, But me? I was selfish. I wanted to catch criminals, and I spent a blissful 17 years as, what many use to call, a “lone wolf” detective. I was-not, am-not a socially driven public servant by today’s standards, turning and improving agencies into pubic-happy-machines or solving big problems. I just wanted to work cases. Selfish – I confess I used victims as vessels to wrap my hands around the throats of criminals. I mean, I wasn’t rude or dismissive of victims, but I new my mission. Thus, I am-was a dinosaur.
There are numerous stories about why I eventually retired in the Wolfpack Publishing book with their exciting title Kill or Be Killed. Nowadays, I tell all my police and military friends to NOT be like me. Take tests. move up. Build financial security. Build your family. Yours and their future. Don’t remain powerless, bottom-rung, cannon fodder like I was.
Hock’s email is HockHochheim@forcenecessary.com
In very generic terms, and with you as the “tosser-thrower-tripper,” in the old-school business of “taking people down,” it would be worthy of mentioning, worthy of thinking about, these two kinds of takedown categories.
- 1-Going down with him.
- 2-Staying up or somewhat up as he goes down.
There’s one group of methods were you crash down on the ground with the opponent. The other group is when you chunk the guy down and you remain “up,” as in standing, or at least knee-high.
With the first group, there are way more takedown options, including way easier and even sloppy options for when both of you just crash-tackle-fall to the ground together. Actually, almost any idiot can do that, as witnessed in the world of yesterday and today.
With the second “stay-up” there are less options (and more skill) with remaining “up.”
I had to handcuff people most of my adult life when I fought them. In my professional life, on the sidewalks and streets, rocky roads and the tile floors of life, I always tried to be up, or somewhat up, trying for the knee-high or standing results rather than the full-out, ground-wrestling-around results. Once fully down-down, a whole host lof extra, messy things can happen with size, strength, adrenaline, weapons, etc…
I say “try” because sometimes the “toss-er” often falls anyway along with the “toss-ee” from the crazy “asses and elbows” mess that is a “fight.” And if things got rowdy with the “toss-ee,” if and when I got them down, I would try to sit on them, squeezing in on their beltline-pockets (weapons) area, in what was once called “Top-Side Saddle” or “Reverse Top-Side Saddle,” if he was face-down, as in “reverse.” The new, cool kids call it the “mount.”
So at times, I got way down there too, lower than “saddling.” And I had to flat out tackle people due to positional and situational circumstances. In this “ground zero” world there was a short, effective, old school bag of police tricks I was taught, (that including hitting) and I get to show this bag in some seminars when the topic comes up. They do work! And in some cases I had to to choke them out a few times. Nowadays chokes are pretty much taboo in almost all police ops, but okay for civilians if reasonably justified.
It might be worth it, to make a list of the easier, “2-man, crash downs” takedowns and the lessor, harder, “stay-up” takedowns. List and experiment with them. Or, at very least know about the two “ways” and that they exist.
“Harvey … give me the shotgun, or ELSE!” (and other Harvey tales.)
That was the time when cops usually got killed, I reminded myself, looking at an angry Harvey Wilson with a 12-gauge pump aimed at me. But I thought since I knew him, I could talk him down … I thought….
The first time I met Harvey Wilson, he was drunk riding a horse. Not too unusual since, after all, it was Texas. It was a bitter cold winter night, about 2 a.m. back in the 1970s; and Garry Burns and I were on patrol when we spotted Harvey slumped over the saddle. Harvey had a barn on the back of his one-acre lot with a house in the city limits, and apparently this horse didn’t know the way home to the barn. Or it was on a walk, and Harvey was just there bouncing along for the ride. We coasted up beside the horse and rider.
“Harvey!” Garry shouted.
I pulled up far enough ahead that we both could get out.
The old horse walked up to us. We grabbed the reins and stopped the gelding.
“WHAT?” Harvey snapped awake when the horse stopped. “What!” and then started kicking at us.
Harvey was a hard-working stout, black man in his late 50s at the time, living alone in a neighborhood of welfare cases, drug addicts, screw-ups, and fuck-offs. Harvey was a little rowdy and tended to “pull the cork”; but despite the whiskey, he was always at work the next day. That night he fussed and kicked at us enough that Garry decided Harvey needed to spend four hours in our urine-and puke-stained, stinking drunk tank. In other words, he was arrested for “drunk in public.”
We hauled him off the horse and cuffed him in a frisky little wrestling match, all under the big eyes of his calm horse. I put Harvey in the front seat; back then in the pre-cage days, that was where we transported prisoners so we could watch them as we drove. Garry got in the driver’s seat, and I climbed up into the saddle. I rode the horse to the city animal pound while the dispatcher paged out the on-call animal pound worker to meet me there.
Not six months later and alone this time, I repeated the whole drunk-on-a-horse affair again with a smashed and frisky Harvey. If you looked at Harvey’s file, you’d find multiple drunk-in-public arrests. Still, he never seemed to hold a grudge and always held down a job. On weekends you’d drive by his small wooden house; and he would be painting, or cementing, or fixing something. Salt of the Earth. Every once in a while when I was on Saturday or Sunday day shift, I would pull over and get out to talk with him for a few minutes.
“Whatcha’ doing, Harvey?”
“Ohh … oh, fixin’ to clean out my septic tank lines,” he would say softly and breathlessly and rest on a shovel and tell me the symptoms and cure for his latest housing ailment. When he was sober, he was just a fine person.
Then I happened to notice a fairly new red Camaro started appearing; it was parked on the street outside Harvey’s house. One day I saw a very attractive black girl, say in her late 20s or early 30s, pulling up in it and walking into Harvey’s house with her arms full of shopping bags. She entered without knocking. The car remained there night after night. I asked Marvin Hayes, a retired postal worker and a neighbor down the street, about this mystery car and curvy girl.
“Harvey’s got him a girlfriend. YaHeah! And I means to say girl! Young! She’s a sweet young thing, too. From Dallas. I don’t know how they met. And I don’t know how he keeps her. But he bought her dat dere car, you know?”
“NO!” I declared. “The Camaro?”
“Yes, he did. Bought her dat car and, and jewelry, and, and I don’t know what all. YaHeah! I hopes he knows what he is a doin’. Cause you know, this kind of business don’t end well.”
You can say that again. I ran the license plate of the car in the hopes of getting her name and seeing if she had a criminal history. The plate was still registered to a car dealership in Dallas. Back then it used to take a while, maybe even a few weeks, to catch registrations up on NCIC.
In our squad meetings, the sergeant read us the daily blotter each day, the list and quick summary of the events since we left the day before. Over a period of three weeks, there were several domestic disturbance calls at Harvey Wilson’s house. There was already trouble in paradise. I never caught a single one of those domestic calls at Harvey’s house until one Saturday afternoon.
Neighbors reported another fight. When I pulled up, that girl was almost through packing her Camaro. She looked up and smirked at me and continued yelling over her shoulder at Harvey, who was up the small hill of his front yard and by his front porch. When I climbed the small incline, I got my first full, look at Harvey. He was holding a pump shotgun at port arms. His eyes were red and wet, and the veins and muscles in his neck bulged. I knew if I drew my pistol, that action could be a catalyst for him to react and shoot me or her, or both of us. I could just tell. And that is how many, if not most, cops are killed in domestics. Thinking about these things. Feeling them. It’s a gamble.
“I’ll kill her!” he yelled.
“Harvey. Put down the gun. You can’t kill anybody,” I said.
“BITCH! I’ll kill you, BITCH!” he yelled. He was barely paying attention to me and watching her pick up her suitcases from the lawn.
“I bought that car!” he said.
“It is in my name, mutha-fucka!” she yelled.
He pointed his gun at her. My thumb undid the snap of my holster, and I grabbed a handful of my pistol handle. I did not draw the gun yet.
“Harvey. Harvey. Harvey,” I repeated calmly. “You can’t kill her. You can’t kill her over a car. You know that. Give it up man. You can’t be doing that. Put the barrel down. Let her go. You shoot her, and your life is over. She ain’t worth it!”
I inched closer and closer, and he got madder and madder. He was losing it. He waved the gun over to me, inches from fully lifting the stock to his cheek and shooting.
He glared and gritted his teeth, and I could see his fingers moving in waves on the gun. The barrel wandered from me to the girl, then to no one, and back again. During a wander, I got close enough to lunge out and grab the weapon with both my hands and pulled the barrel up and the stock down. With a motion not unlike rowing a double oar of a canoe, I ripped and rolled the gun from his grip.
The girl slammed the car door and burned rubber down the street. Harvey’s little temporary paradise … was gone.
I ran the pump up and down, which spit out the shells across the manicured lawn. When it was empty, I laid it against a porch railing. Harvey sat on the stairs of the porch. I sat down next to him. Marvin had witnessed the whole thing from next door and walked over. He was probably the one who called us.
“Man! Fuck!” Harvey said. “Did I get fucked?”
“She was no good,” Marvin said. And I agreed.
We sat there on the steps for about 10 minutes talking. My backup squad car drove up and stopped. I waved him off, signaling it was all over and everything was okay.
I got up after a bit and said, “Harvey, I am gonna take this shotgun in with me for 24 hours.” I saw Marvin nod his head at me. “You can come down to the station and get it tomorrow.” I picked up the ejected rounds on the manicured grass.
“You got him, Marvin?” I asked.
“I got him. I got him,” Marvin said.
We used to have a policy where we would extract guns from a hot situation where there might be more violence or suicide and lock them up at the police department. Just a local practice. The owner would have to go see the police chief and talk to him and retrieve the gun. And, Ol’ Harvey did just that. He picked up his gun the next day after Chief Hugh Lynch had a word of advice or two for him. Harvey remained quiet and behaved himself with the ladies from then on.
One morning some 10 years later, when I was a detective; and we got a call of a body found near some undeveloped land in the southeast part of town. A cable man and a railroad agent were surveying land to bury some lines near a run of tracks when they stumbled upon a body not that far from the road. It was not uncommon to instinctively dispatch an ambulance to a body like this, and the dispatcher did.
When I got there though, I was surprised to find EMTs feverishly at work at the scene. The railroad man walked up to me and said, “He wasn’t dead! We thought he was dead, but he wasn’t.”
I walked past the agent and to the action. The techs were working on Harvey Wilson! Harvey was dressed up in a suit and looked like he was pulverized to a pulp. He was whisked to the hospital and lay there in intensive care for days in a coma.
I went to Harvey’s house, and Marvin and I tried to reconstruct his last healthy day. One thing for sure, Harvey’s pickup was missing; and I put out a “BOLO” on the truck. We searched his house and found his insurance papers; and through a local agent, we confirmed the license plate number. I was frozen stuck in a bad, violent case with no leads, conjuring a range of hypotheses, and hoping the truck would show up somewhere, or Harvey would just wake up.
The hospital called days later. A nurse said Harvey was up and trying to eat. You know where I went, straightaway.
“What happened, Harvey?” I asked him.
“John Wayne Williams. He asked me for a ride. Then he pulled a gun on me. That skunk fuck. He made me stop the truck out there on Morse Street. He beat me up with his gun and robbed me. Left me for dead meat in the woods. I thought I was gonna die.”
John Wayne Williams. Local gangster. We’d gotten word of his recent parole, and you could bet how long before he would be in violent trouble again. It was that inevitable. And he was indeed a skunk fuck. I got a probable-cause, arrest warrant for Williams, and Danny McCormick and I hunted around day and night, and found him in about two days. He was a muscular, 6 feet 6 inches of smartass ex-con; and when we spotted him in a housing project, parking lot, we both drew down on him with our .45s in case he still had that pistola and to avoid going hand-to-hand with that big bastard. We ordered him on his knees with his hands up and cuffed him quick. He did have a pistol on him. Instant legal trouble for a parolee.
At the station Danny and I interrogated him. He played dumb. We never found that truck. In those days, vehicles were easily stripped and sold for parts in chop shops either out in the county or in Dallas or Ft Worth. But with Harvey’s testimony, I sent him up for the “big bitch (life,)” as this was his third felony. Third time was a bad charm In Texas.
Harvey was never quite the same after that near-death beating. Within a year thereafter, he died of natural causes. Heart attack. One of his kids drove in from Oklahoma and sold the house. New folks lived there quickly. Then Marvin, the old postman died too. After awhile, when you work in a city, so many houses, street corners and buildings, whatever, where ever, you have a memory attached to them when you see them. Places. People. Usually bad memories. I try not to visit my old city anymore, for that reason. Way, way too many bad memories.
Hock’s email is HockHochheim@ForceNecessary.com
For more of these police tales, get these books. Paperback or e-book. Click here.
I wonder…has the de-escalation fad sort of died down?
It seems like it was all the rage a while back. Everyone was preaching it in seminars like they were doctors of psychology (you just need to be a doorman, right? Who needs a psychology degree if you were a…doorman?). That subject, and the secret tip-offs subject of “Pre-Fight Indicators,” – as some now call it now, were all the fads.
If you hear all about it once, maybe twice in seminars, how many more times do you need to hear it? But in these seminars, there are always new people mixed in with you. And new people need to hear this stuff at least once. Or, once in awhile. There are new people attending all the time that need to hear this stuff. So, you’re stuck, bubba! And, what’s wrong with a little review anyway? So, you hear the one about “calming down?” As the comedians would say, “have you heard the one about…”
Maybe not? I do realize with the rabid, total invasion of BBJ and MMA, perhaps a whole lot of training these days is just about sport fighting, sport wrestling and exercise/fitness and not much about talking and survival. Some Kravs cover this topic. But, there’s not much on de-escalation in the sporty world, is there? Why should there be? Yet, despite the gap, the fad seems fading? Me, not being in any of those officially, I’ve covered that stuff for decades as part and parcel of my courses. Stop 1 of my Stop 6 course covers this, though one must continue to communicate throughout the Stop 6, throughout the whole fight if needed.
Decades? Is this advice decades old? In policing this stuff is, as they say, “old hat.” The first list of fight pre-cursors …er …I mean…”indicators…I saw was in the military police academy in 1973. (How’s that for new?) And the list hasn’t really changed much. My collection/list is in a chapter in my Fightin’ Words book for all “rookies” to see and vets to review. And in police work, we have been, and are, all… about… de-escalation. I attended my first police, “Verbal Judo” class in the 1981. It has always been vitally important in police work to have a “way with words.” I like to say that if I were involved in hiring new police officers, I would seriously examine how “charming” they can be. How witty. How improvisational. How…calm. Charm and calm can go along way in the world, in policing, in arguments. Then sometimes…not. The gambling outcomes, should not cripple you.
So, I myself yawn when I hear people clamor about this-or-that, Joe Blow’s seminar on de-escalation and…”oh, oh my GOD! “And…did you should hear the fight precursor tips!!!! Joe Blow is like Moses!” Folks, those tablets came down from the mountaintop decades and decades ago.
And many of the people who teach this material are really good people, smart and mean well. There’s a good chance they have never been in a fight themselves. Or a victim of a crime? (It is hard to de-escalate a guy with a knife or a gun, who just wants your watch. Think about it. De-escalate by…giving him your watch.) These de-escalating instructors are usually masters of the art of regurgitation. Repeating the words of “elder” others over and over. Hey, that’s the education system. So what of this advice about telling people to “calm down?”
After all, we need these pieces of advice and the masters of communication, because the internet says, “Verbal De–escalation is what we use during a potentially dangerous, or threatening, situation in an attempt to prevent a person from causing harm to us, themselves or others. Without specialized training, we should never consider the use of physical force.” I might add here that there are “third party” de-escalators and times when you are one of the “one versus one.”
So then, have you heard the one about…calming down? Speaking of regurgitation from the masters… I heard yet again about an attendee of such training. He said, that they said – the instructors that is – that one thing you should NEVER say to de-escalate a situation, NEVER, EVER, NEVER, is to say “calm down.” This ALWAYS makes matters far, far worse, they proclaim. This advice always gets the surprise gasp and laugh from the crowd.
“Ooohs.” and “Ahhhs.”
But, this is often an inexperienced, regurgitater, trying to sound all…”insider-ish,” veteran and cool. I just don’t believe this is always true. Here’s why.
First off, I have been dispatched to a whole lot of domestic disturbances, arguments and fight calls. And also, when damage was done, I had to investigate them. A whole lot in 26 years. I want to tell you that “situations” are different. They are different. And at some points in various situations, using the term, “hey, let’s all calm down here,” and variations thereof, does not ALWAYS create World War Three. It depends so much upon (did I already say situation?) the old “Ws and H.” Most of you know by now, I always analyze the world through the Who, What, Where, When, How and WHY recipe.
“And at some points in various situations, using the term, ‘hey, let’s all calm down here,’ and variations thereof, does not ALWAYS create World War Three.”
Who? Who are you dealing with? A guy who wants to fight every Saturday night and it’s getting near midnight? Who are the onlookers – are we in a show of some sort, where people cannot back down? Who are you anyway? Someone with any speech finesse? A bit of a negotiator?
What? What is this confrontation about anyway? What are your personality skills to handle it? What are your physical skills to handle things if they go south?
Where? Where is this happening? Private? Public? Again, are his or her “friends” around watching and the loudmouth must put on a show of some sort?
When? Has this confrontation gone way beyond asking for the classic “calm down?”
How? How can you calm this down? Separation? Your tone? YOUR calmness? How else can you say “calm down?”
Why? Why should any party in this mess calm down? Why do you care? If it’s about you? You’re involved? Why are you still there?
Keep asking the “Ws and H” questions about this subject and you’ll think of even more.
One of the worst ways and types of “calm downers,” is when a verbally, skill-less person, obnoxiously shouts, “CALM DOWN!” Almost like a bully or disliked boss would. If that kind of jerk says just about anything it might never work anyway. And therein lies the real problem. Are the two words “calm down” the real culprit to peace? Is it the messenger too? The message or the messenger? There is a lot more going on here than just two “taboo” words.
I think much of our interactions in life are scripted. The script of life. Just about everything does have a script. A script at a fast food window. A script when you enter your office or job. A script at dinner. Your skill at improv, at going “off-script” is important. So, at worst, what are some of the typical, scripted responses to your “Let’s all calm down” proclamation.
- “Don’t tell ME to calm down.”
- “YOU calm down, I….”
- “Calm down?! Why should I calm down?!”
“Line! ?” The actors whisper on stage when they forget their next line. What’s your next line in this script? Better write one or two ahead of time.
But in summary, I just hate to see people and the police completely stripped of this “calm down” term and idea completely. It is not so taboo. This phrase has and will work. I’ve done it. I’ve used it. I know, I know, I know, a couple of you out there will have some “calm-down-failure” stories. Sure. Probably because of the “who, what where, when, how and why,” and not just the phrase itself. And sometimes because some numb-nuts out there just wants to fight you or them and was drumming up an excuse to do so. He might just want your watch? In that case, anything you say will be over-ridden.
But the term has and will work in some situations, I just hate to see it completely erased from your options.
Okay, now calm down, I’m just telling you the truth about calming down.
Hock’s email is HockHochheim@ForceNecessary.com
“It’s a Brother Thing?”
There was and is always a lot of talk about the various feuds between Remy and Ernesto through the years. How friendly were they? Could they work together? We have covered some of these stories on the Facebook Presas Tribute page, But, I can write about what I think was one of their last interactions. A final phone call?
In the 1990’s Remy married Canada’s Yvette Wong. She was a terrific girl and a Tai Chi instructor who had a Tai Chi video distributed by Walmart. Many of us met her in the 1990s and we all were very impressed with her. I know I was. Soon he had kids with her! (I can still picture Remy pushing a baby carriage.)
Then…then…disturbing…he suddenly picked up with a Dallas area woman that was, frankly…a mere shadow of a woman compared to Yvette. WHAT? We all asked ourselves. HER!? Really? And he wound up living at her house very near to where I lived. Near the DFW airport. We all felt sad for Yvette and the kids up in Vancouver. I had Remy’s new phone number with this Dallas girl, and while it was nice to have him nearby, but jeez you know? Yvette!
Ernesto came through the USA. It was about…1998? And once again stayed with me for a while for our seminar as well as passing through to some of the others. On this trip he mentioned Remy a few times and how much he missed him and wished he could talk with him. Ernesto was really a “true-blue” family/loyalty kind of guy. Well, hell…I had Remy’s local phone number and he wasn’t that far way. I told Ernesto-
“I have his number. He lives now in the next city from here.” (they might even…meet?)
He wanted to talk to him. Hmmm, this is tricky for me to be in the middle of this. But, I got the number out and dialed it. I got Remy on the phone. Ernesto stood looking out the balcony. Nervous. Waiting.
“Remy…hello…yes…hey, I have Ernesto here in my apartment. He says, he says he really wants to talk to you.”
“Ern…esto?” Remy said.
“Ahhh, is something wrong?”
“No. He just wants to talk with you.”
Whew! I handed Ernesto the phone and he sat at my kitchen table and they talked. I tried to make myself busy around the apartment. From what I could hear from Ernesto’s part, it was going very, VERY well. I was feeling good about this. This call lasted about 20 to 25 minutes, during which Ernesto told Remy that he was his brother and he loved him. The phone call started winding down. It was going so, so well!
“Can you…can you helpa me, become more pamous?”
Crap. I knew instantly that was not good. This was not what Remy wanted to hear. And from Ernesto’s face, I knew that asking that question was a mistake. Remy immediately got mad. It almost seemed like that request was the real secret reason for wanting to talk with him. Which it wasn’t. I guess the conversation was going so well, Ernesto just asked. The decades old, sort of rivalry they had reared up again. The whole, younger brother vs older brother thing, doing the same business thing.
Ernesto hung up after that request and shook his head. I don’t know what Remy said but it was not good.
“It was good to talk to him.” Ernesto said. “But, he becomes mad at me at the end.”
Yeah. You have to think that Remy spent his whole life slowly developing contacts and having seminars and working, working, working to establish this…list. The hard way. The “original” way. A path-blazing way. Very few people were doing seminars back then. He and just a few others kind of “invented” the path. And to…to give it away or give a portion away, is very difficult.
Many of us use to think how cool it would have been to have at least one big, Presas Brothers weekend seminar. If I were involved, I could have organized it in Kansas City, center of the country for all to get to. But it would and could never happen. I do believe if Ernesto had not asked that final question, while things would have been so friendly and so fine, and a good memory of what I think was maybe their last conversation (?) Remy still would NOT actively help him or do something with him like a seminar.
In the end I don’t think that Ernesto needed the help anyway. He was doing fine. What would a Remy and Ernesto seminar be like? Look like? Would Ernesto people like to delve so deeply into Tapi-Tapi? Would Remy people like to get back into longer-range, head-banging? Would something happen, or be said and the two would stop talking? It’s just a….a macho brother-thing of two macho brothers trying to do the macho “seminar” thing.
The Equal Opportunity Stabber. Saber or Reverse Grip?
I am an “equal opportunity stabber.” Sound weird? Hear me out. I’ve heard the knife whisper. Have you? About the secret “best grip tip.” You know the one, “If you see a guy hold a knife like this (reverse grip) watch out! He really knows what he is doing.”
Now for the novice reading this, real quick, the saber grip is the most popular nickname for holding the knife like a sword with the blade sticking out the top of the hand. The reverse of that, the reverse grip has the knife blade sticking out the bottom of the hand. Both are quite natural grabs. New or experienced, young, old, whatever, the knife is a great equalizer and both can deliver bloody devastation.
Ahhh, but “the reverse grip is best,” so whisper the tipsters who know nothing, learned from yet another tipster who knew nothing. I have heard that “insider reverse grip tip” numerous times through the years. One example-
“I was at a seminar once where an “expert” told us that if we see a man using a knife in that grip to “Run! That man is a professional!” – Carl Flume (So you don’t run if the robber has a saber grip?)
I have nothing against the reverse grip. I teach it too. But, how many times have you heard or been told, or taught the reverse grip is the only grip to use? Because there were and are some popular courses out there preaching this idea. Mindless followers will whisper and argue that:
- “Well, the reverse grip is the Filipino way.”
- “The reverse grip is the Pekiti Tirsia way.”
- “Ex-super-copper Pete Smith says the reverse grip is the best.”
- The Marine whisperer claim.
People! People….people. FMA does BOTH grips. Pekiti Tirsia also teaches tons of saber grip material. And Pete Smith? He is just, flat-out, wrong-headed about this. He is not as smart as you think. He’s not as smart as he thinks. The whisperer? Let’s explore that now.
Knife Confusion. I am often both depressed and fascinated by the paths, choices and ideas of various knife courses. Some obsess about dueling. Some appear to me like death cults, others have what seems to be oddball, incomplete conclusions. Most never cover legal issues and just cut and stab away. No knife ground fighting. No knife versus unarmed or mixed weapons. Some way over-emphasize Filipino Sumbrada patterns. Some have only three or four stabs with zero concerns about the before during and after, the old “just sticking the “pointy end” in. How about those little rounded-handle knives that can turn easily in your hand? I could go on. Another, probably big dichotomy is this grip thing and the various obsessions with the one, bestus’, mandatory, knife grip.
In the 1980s, I was at a Dan Inosanto seminar and Dan said. “there is no one perfect knife grip, just the best one for the moment.” Wow! That little phrase stuck with me forever as a baseline. With my Force Necessary: Knife course, I insist that a practitioner learn and experience BOTH the saber and reverse grips standing through ground, right and left handed. Then after much COMPLETE study, they choose what their favorite grip is, based on the “who, what, where, when and how and why” of situations and their lives. I never tell them to automatically favor any one grip. Make it an EDUCATED choice (and not follow a whisper tip).
How Favoritism Gets Started? Here’s one example. The first time I received any training with a knife was in a Parker Kenpo class in about 1972 when that day they received a package of Kenpo knives and dull trainers from Gil Hibben. The knife was designed to be held in a reverse grip and used in a kickboxing format. There, me as a yellow belt rookie, we were allowed to fool around with the newly arrived tools. This initiation, this design I think caused decades of Kenpo-ists to hold their knives in a reverse grip as though Moses, not Gil Hibbens, had handed them knives from the mountaintop.
Did Ed Parker demand the knife and all subsequent training be in a reverse grip? I don’t know. It is widely reported that in 1968 Gil designed the Kenpo Knife (sometimes called the Ed Parker Fighting Knife) for his black belt thesis on knife fighting using Kenpo tactics. These tactics are conducive to karate-kickboxing. Maybe some historian reading this will know and tell us. But the reverse grip stuck.
In the late 1990s I was teaching in a multi-instructor camp and a old Parker Kenpo black belt was there with his imported group. I was covering saber grip material and he would horde his people over into a corner after each demo and show them the “proper, reverse grip way” to fix what I was doing saber style. Which by the way his was more complicated and somewhat awkward than the simple saber applications I was covering.
Finally he just had to approach me and said, “you know, the reverse grip is the superior grip.” I said, “No it isn’t.” He glared at me. I added, “You can do just as much or even more with a saber grip, often simpler, with more reach.”
Well, he stormed off – his 7th dan “master” self, all upset that someone younger in blue jeans and a polo shirt told him flat-out, no. (Oh, did I mention that he also makes and sells reverse-grip-only knives?) My next session by the way, I covered some reverse grip material, as I am…as I said…an equal opportunity stabber.
People pick grips for odd reasons too. I read from a guy writing about his grip choice. He said he once saw someone with a training knife, saber grip, stab a mitt and the guy’s hand slipped up on the blade. This made him pick the reverse grip. Really? That? Because if you don’t have a good guard, saber or reverse your hand can slip onto the blade. As a detective who has investigated knife crime for decades, I can tell you such slippage happens with BOTH saber AND reverse grips without a guard. I have solved attempted murders and murders when the attacker’s hand slipped up on the blade and he himself bled on the weapon, the victim and, or surroundings. We “ran” the blood, and in today’s world, the DNA of today works greater wonders.
Let’s talk Marine whispering. Once I was told this reverse-grip-only tip by a civilian who had never been in the Marines, but heard this tip from the ubiquitous “Marine friend.” The irony was at the time, 1990s, I was in a Triangle, VA. hotel restaurant next to the Marine base Quantico, where I was teaching Marines in their Hand to Hand combatives, “Train the trainers” school, teaching “knife,” among other topics. Some of it was saber grip knife, some reverse grip. They didn’t care what grip we did. They were fully open to both. (Quick note: old school military holds that “hand-to-hand” training does not fully mean unarmed, it refers to close-up fighting, with or without weapons.)
And saber grips survived. Take it from the Sandboxx article by Marine Travis Pike in 2021, “…your blade is always pointing at the bad guy…”
While in the Middle East or “Southwest Asia” as they like to call it, while in several PXs (military stores), I saw walls of all kinds of fixed blade or folder knives for sale. It seems everyone smartly has all kinds of issued or purchased knives, carried all over their bodies and who knows how they hold them. Fortunately about 99.9% of the time they are used for chores. A rare, rare few get any knife training. Some a small bit.
Some military units around the world like to watch-spy and imitate each other, and sometimes this jump innocently does replicate faults. In the mid-to-late 2010s and 2020s, some worldly units started copying other units by spending copious amounts of money buying vests, sheaths for knife carry in or near the center of the chest, along with a knife that has a ring atop it to run one’s pointy finger through and draw. The double-edged knife and sheath come in different sizes. This set-up forces troops into a reverse grip, whether they like it or not. The center staging does allow for right or left handed access. (If the knife hung upside down with a solid sheath and minus the ring, one could draw right or left handed to a saber grip. Just saying. But too late now! $$$$)
The Inside Edge Only Miasma. And on this subject, I will go you one more crazy level with a reverse grip oddity that’s worse. There is a small, knife sub-culture out there that wants you to fight reverse grip, with a single edge knife, and with the one sharp side, “inside,” as in facing back into your body. Not edge out to the outside world where the enemy is attacking you. The edge is aimed back at you, Dull side, flat edge out facing the enemy. This is its own unique thinking disorder. The world you are fighting is OUT there, not in your armpit. This is essentially a one-trick pony.
The reverse grip, edge-OUT offers a slashing possibility, an ADVANTAGE that might diminish or end the opponent alone. And a double-edged, or 1/4 or 1/2 or 3/4s or full sharp edge on the outer side is ALWAYS going to be a doctrine advantage. Maximize your survival with the most versatile knife. Reverse grip, edge-in? This is like only putting 2 rounds in a six gun.
Reverse grip tip in accidents. When the Samurai commit suicide – seppuku – they do it with a reverse grip. There’s a reason for this. It’s easier. The tip is already aimed inward at you. (Incidentally, the helper that will kill him if he fails? Holds a saber grip.) This “easy-tip-inward” is one more point no one seems to consider when raving about reverse grips. The tip is often aimed back at you. About once every 4 weeks on the nightly reruns of the “Cops” TV show you can see a reverse grip knifer get tackled by cops. When they turn the suspect over? He or she was – “self-stabbed” in the grapple. One of our main lesson plans with the reverse grip is self-awareness of these maneuvering and grappling realities.
I cover dropping to the ground and we see people stab their thighs, and when tackled or shoved against the wall, we see the same “Cops” incident of the accidental self-stabbing. Tell people to practice falling-rolling while holding a reverse grip knife and watch the accidents. If people are running and holding a reverse grip knife, and they trip and fall? Watch out! There are more reverse grip “selfie” accidents than saber grip ones. Just be aware of this.
“Years ago I was grappling with my training partner and had a wooden training knife in the reverse grip. Long story short, we went to the ground and I fell on the training knife and caught the tip in the ribs. That definitely made my eyes water. Since then I’m very iffy whether I’d ever use that grip with a live blade in a real situation. I still train both grips but I much prefer the saber grip due to the added reach, maneuverability, and the sharp end isn’t pointing back at me most of the time.” – Neil Ferguson, USA
A Summary. I think by now we might have dispelled the caustic “Reverse Grip Marine Whisperer.” Still, there are many pros and cons for each grip. I HAVE MUCH TO SAY FOR THE REVERSE GRIP. I teach it also and I believe better and more comprehensive and thoughtful than most others…or I wouldn’t bother. I just don’t like the blind acceptance, the secret whisper about which grip is the best and which is to be mandated and or ignored. And It bothers me that people thoughtlessly accept courses about these main things. Question everything. Get educated with both. Then pick a knife and a grip you need in situations. I even hate to tell you my favorites because I don’t want to influence yours.
The knife is a very forgiving weapon, in that you can do a whole lot of screwed-up, stupid shit with a knife and it will work. This is not an excuse to stay stupid. You have to think beyond that to create a comprehensive program and promote real knowledge.
I can’t shake the fact that people essentially eat with a saber grip and most may well reflexively grab and use any knife in this manner. Look, I really don’t care what grip you use as long as it is an EDUCATED, informed choice, and not some mindless, mandate from some thinking disorder and, or brainwashed person, or from that ignorant knife whisperer who knows somebody, who knew somebody else, who…
Having written my extensive and popular knife book, which took years, studying crime, war and forensic medicine, working cases and the streets, I am an equal opportunity stabber. And I will only leave you with what Dan Inosanto said decades ago, – “there is no one perfect knife grip, just the best one for the moment.”
Hock’s email is Hock@Survival Centrix.com
It was afternoon in August in the early ’80s. 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 or so.
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 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 also knelt.
“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 ’70s 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-30 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 a. m., 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 kitchen window of the older, wood framed house, the big kitchen knife (from the victim’s kitchen drawer) and the bed left 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? Russell 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 blond 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 here, his 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 ’60s, 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.
Russell 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 Crebbs’ 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 Crebbs’ 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 Crebbs’ 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.
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 at the Crisco Sheriff’s Office, Bone and I made a plan. We would take turns surveilling the Crebbs’ 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, it 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 recent 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 his hope 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 Crebbs’ 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 he was ensconced in our jail, I visited him frequently and I 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 who 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’n 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 trial 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.
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 crazed 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”, isn’t this a job for SWAT?”
But back in those thrilling days of yesteryear, only places like 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 later Bush 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?”
“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’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 he 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. If 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? He waived. 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 did, 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 Crebbs’ 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.
Me and Howard Kelly yesterday and today (1980s and 2018).
– 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.
Hock’s email is HockHochheim@ForceNecessary.com
This is excerpted from Hock’s non-fiction memoirs under the exciting Wolfpack Publishing title Kill or Be Killed. Paperback or ebook Get them here
We all hear about how ground wrestlers shouldn’t wrestle in the proverbial “street fight,” and one reason name-dropped is the catch phrase “multiple opponents.” In the win-some/lose-some in real life, our lives, my life, I have a pivotal story about this, and some lessons learned. I wound up in the hospital.
Back in 1980 I and other officers were dispatched to a “big fight.” Two fraternities fighting in the basement of a large frat house. The college police were there and needing help. Who they gonna call? The city police. When we got there it was a mess. About 30 guys fighting in and out of the building. And so, we made our way into the melee and tried to…”stop it.” It looked like the brawls I was use to as an Army MP when units would get drunk and fight, or just fight without getting drunk.
So, this was not my first rodeo, so to speak. I got inside the large basement – which was actually the first floor – and tried separating people when suddenly for some reason, the rush of humanity pushed and pulled about 10 or fifteen of us down on the cement floor. It was as they say, asses and elbows, and everything else, including feet as I found out later. Kicks.
Suddenly, I was knocked out. Other officers told me that they saw it happen. Another college guy got up into a crab walk position, crab walked a few feet over to me, from the crab, from behind my head, and thrust kicked me in the head. I never saw it coming, so to speak.
Numerous people were arrested and my sergeant decided it was time to leave. He said,
“Somebody go over there and wake Hock up.”
They said they slapped me awake. I was out, out cold in a nauseous dream. They told me I was out for about 15 minutes. Maybe 20. If you are in the “knock-out and brain business?” You know this is really bad. They helped me up and I stood, trying to unscramble my brains. I was floating on another planet as I got to my squad car, and I actually drove with the caravan back to the station. It was near the end of the evening shift. And I floated to my car, and sick and confused, and drove home.
At home, I started vomiting and I couldn’t think straight. My wife drove me to the hospital with my head hanging out the window like a dog. They gave me drugs and kept me over night for observation. You know…concussion. It was a bad night of bad, whack-job thoughts. Two days later? Back to work.
It’s funny but I can still remember part of what I was dreaming on the basement floor. I was at some carnival. If I try to hard to recall it? I can feel the beginnings of getting nauseous again. It’s a brain damage, rabbit hole. We counted up the times I have been knocked out and it comes to 14. Two car wrecks, two kick boxing, two boxing, I fell on some rickety, odd-shaped stairs trying to arrest a guy one night. Twice in baseball (odd stories) well 14 “I am out, bubba” incidents. Now brainey-ologists tell you that little mini-second black outs start adding up too. Oh crap! I have been tested to have brain damage with symptoms too complicated to explain here as a side issue.
Part of me wonders, how anyone today can box, kick box, Thai, MMA long term and never be knocked out? Not once? I meet these “virgin” people. I guess it’s old school training that bazookas your brain? (I know the competitors get knocked out once in a while and they are really trying to limit that. I say “good.”)
I learned that I can control the symptoms somewhat with good sleep (and solid REM dreaming) and a simple diet, and some daily, almost aspirin-like medication. I have an odd problem with dreams and it’s too long to explain here.
But back to the main issue. I was knocked out on the ground by a kick in a multiple opponent scrap. And as I said starting out, we all hear about how ground wrestlers shouldn’t wrestle in the proverbial “street fight,” but I want to add that you absolutely must learn and hone wrestling/ground fighting. A mixed-weapon style with a consistent filter for survival.
A real expert ground fighter, Catch, BJJ, etc. can and will still eat up your standing (or ground) incoming arms and legs into arm bars and leg bars. But, they have to be fast, AND…they see to see the damn things coming.
“Hi Hock, I really enjoy your website. It is definitely the best on the internet covering all areas of self defense. In response to you being knocked out by a kick to the head, something similar happened to me, when i was with the PD prior to my retirement. In the early hours of my shift on a weekend, several officers and i were dispatched to a large biker party, in a back yard. Upon arrival, approximately 60 subjects were present. There were 8 officers including myself present. A fight began and one officer was on the ground attempting to handcuff a suspect. I dropped to my knees to assist and the next thing I realized I was in the back of a patrol car in route to the hospital. I had blood running out of my mouth and it felt like I had gravel in it. Upon arrival, I was checked for injuries, and the gravel turned out to be shattered teeth. I had been kicked under the jaw by some punk with steel toed boots. Three of my bottom back molars on each side were shattered from slamming my jaw together. The guy went to jail and got 30 days. To this very day i have TMJ but things could have been worse. Take care and stay safe.” – Doug Boal, RET.
Hock’s email is HockHochheim@ForceNecessary.com
True Texas detective and police stories. Get the paperbacks or the downloads. Click here.