July 15 • 11:16 PM

Another night on patrol...

Times columnist rides along with sheriff's deputies

August 19, 2009
Editor's note: This is the beginning of a series of first-hand accounts of night patrol ride-alongs with St. Clair County Sheriff deputies written by Doug Hunter, whose great-grandfather Noble Hunter founded the Capac Journal in 1887. Hunter, a lifelong Capac area resident, was asked to participate in an oversight committee to help direct the county's Drug Task Force as outlined below.

St. Clair County Sheriff Tim Donnellon has formed a Drug Task Force Advisory Committee to oversee and guide the Drug Task Force. He asked me to become a member and to help him keep his vow to rid our county of drugs. A reality, having witnessed the actions and effects firsthand locally and in my job in Detroit. I readily accepted.

Sheriff Donnellon informed me that in order to better understand the problem, I should take part in all aspects of this bitter fight. Normally I write historical-based stories about pioneers and their struggles. But if I learned anything from those pioneers it was to look at a problem square in the face and resolve and end it forever. Fear was never an option, only incentive to them. We must maintain that perseverance.

In order to control the illegal drug trade we must form an impenetrable triangle of trust between the police, the politicians and the public. A triangle is only as strong as its weakest side. A collapse of any side forces a total failure of all sides.

The strife of righteousness our deputies must endure can only be done with the support of the public. The fight ahead commands our immediate involvement. Courage and conviction are imperative.

'Just another night?'

The words "there is no typical night in St. Clair County keep running through my mind as we exceed 100 miles per hour in the dead of the night with lights and sirens blaring.

A man in his mid- to late-70s is living a night of terror. Two men and a woman had come to his door looking for another man named Rob. He replies to them, "No one named Rob lives here and no one on this road ever had a name remotely close to Rob."

The shabbily dressed trio drove by his home in the decrepit pickup truck seven times. Staying up with the lights on, fear swept into his thoughts. The thugs had targeted his home and family. He reluctantly had to admit the safety and sanctuary of many years was to be assaulted. The call to 911 was made.

Dispatch immediately relays the call to Cars 240 and 256 for backup. The call comes over the radio and before it was even transmitted the deputy at the wheel is braking to turn around and head into the once tranquil township on the western side of St. Clair County.

Fear for the older people first enters my mind, then rage! How could anyone think of assaulting grandparents? I think of my own grandparents and parents. Then I know why we are traveling in excess of 100 miles an hour.

The rural setting of my youth and entire life is being attacked. The safety of the fields and woods are now the perfect target for the subterfuge of an ailing economy, the miscreants driven by drug habits brought upon by a society that has become too lenient towards crime.

Turning onto the dark road after silencing the siren and dousing the flashing lights, headlights come into view. Slowing down as the vehicle passes, it's obvious it is the pickup reported minutes earlier. Quickly car 240 calls car 256 for his location. He responds in a millisecond "right behind." The deputy informs 256 that the pickup is headed toward him and to not lose sight until we reach the residence of the caller.

My heart races and at the same time I pray we aren't too late. It has been 15 minutes and a lot can happen in that time. Reaching the home, the deputy races to the door—he's not at all concerned about his own safety. The determination on his face tells me that the devil at the gates of Hell couldn't stop him from security and protecting these older citizens.

Lagging behind, my heart stops as a grandfatherly man steps out and says, "They just went by again."

The hand radio crackles "240, Suspects have abandoned vehicle and are on foot and I'm in pursuit. Request support."

"Are you alright, sir?" queries the deputy.

"Yes," the man replies.

"I'll be back," the deputy says as he rushes back to the patrol car.

Racing to assist 256 I look out into the darkness—no moon, no stars, just eerie blackness. Personally I hope 256 will be waiting for us but I know he won't be. I had met him months earlier and was impressed by his total commitment to the badge and the principals it stands for.

Sliding to a stop behind car 256 the deputy tells me to stay put by the patrol cars. Next, he's gone into the darkness and silence of the night.

Exiting from the car and squinting in the darkness I see we're in front of an obviously abandoned home with surrounding buildings, woods and tall grass. Everywhere I look I see ambush points. The only sounds are from man's best friend barking, a warning that something is amiss in the usually tranquil country.

Straining my eyes I catch a glimmer of a flashlight in the trees behind the barn. Intently I listen for sound, any sound. The silence is almost deafening. Even the dry grass is silent from the dew that had already settled in.

Deputy 256 approaches, occasionally turning on his flashlight. Reluctantly beside him in handcuffs is a man. Even in the shadows of the night I can tell he is out of touch with reality.

Securing him in the back seat of car 256 the deputy says, "240 is still out there, I'm going back out."

With his light out, he covertly slips into the darkness.

Thirty to 40 minutes later, 240 and 256 appear out of the night, alone but confident they will catch the two others.

The night does have eyes. Within two hours a call comes into 911 about two people walking on a road two miles away. Immediately they're caught and detained.

The rest of this story will be played out in a courtroom, as it should be.

The perseverance and determination of 240 and 256 make the countryside safe once again, but I know and fear that this is just a typical night. The only thing not so typical is that no one was hurt this time.

Castle Creek
Napco Pipe
07 - 15 - 19
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