March 18 • 12:56 PM

Through the eyes of the law

Times columnist rides along with sheriff deputies

September 02, 2009
Editor's note: The following is another installment in a series of first-hand accounts by columnist Doug Hunter as he rides along with deputies from the St. Clair County Sheriff's Department. The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this publication.

Years of experience and training trigger an alert in officer 240's mind. Something isn't right about the late model car that had just driven by. Traffic is light on I-69. The vehicle isn't speeding but something sinister gnaws at him.

Accelerating from a stop, patrol car 240 soon approaches close enough to reveal the license plate. 'Expired' he says. Immediately he punches the numbers into the computer. Within seconds a reply comes forth: the car is owned by a convicted felon. The crimes were all drug related as they came up on the screen. But that felon is a female, this is a male. Up until that point the driver is as still as a statue behind the wheel. When 240 turns on the lights a flurry of activity takes place inside the auto.

Slowly the subject turns onto the shoulder of the interstate and violently searches the seat beside him for something and tries to buy time as he finally comes to a stop.

Burning with apprehension, we watch as the driver's right hand goes to his mouth.

'Damnit,' says the deputy as he bolts from the patrol car. The driver goes back into his statue-like position, only moving to retrieve his wallet and information from the glove compartment. Handing the objects to the deputy, he returns to his stone-like trance.

Entering the cruiser, deputy 240 plugs the information in. The subject is wanted for drug related charges and violent crimes in neighboring Lapeer County, and for failing to appear in court for such.

The day is cool, but the man keeps wiping his face. I ask the deputy about that and he calmly replies, "He swallowed whatever illegal drug he had so I can't charge him with possession. Happens all the time."

Calling Dispatch, Deputy 240 requests backup and a wrecker to haul away the vehicle. Leaving the patrol car, he asks the man to exit his vehicle. As the man does, the deputy quickly handcuffs him and brings him to the rear of the patrol car.

Wanting a closer look I approach the man. He's over six feet tall, a nice looking guy—like somebody you might know until you look into his eyes. They are vacant, almost detached from reality. The lips are cold and clear. The drugs have stolen his humanity—this is now a creature of instinct, lusting for drugs and totally not caring what he has to do to acquire them. To people like him violence is acceptable and they feel justified in it to satisfy their craving.

Staring at him I think at one time he was probably a promising athlete, popular with the girls and peers in his life, the son of proud parents and family. But now he's no more than a rabid dog—possibly never to be cured.

I think of cancer but cancer only attacks the victim. This is a contagious cancer that attacks all that come in contact. This is society's cancer, all consuming. Class or status offer no immunity. From birth to death everyone is susceptible to this vile plague.

Deputy 256 arrives and immediately he and 240 put on surgical gloves to do a body search. The pockets yield only change, nothing of importance. Placing the man in the patrol car, they begin a search of the vehicle. This yields drug paraphernalia, but no drugs.

The wrecker arrives and loads the automobile. The deputies tell him to impound the vehicle. They go back to the man, who is by now sweating horrendously.

"Where were you going?" the deputies ask him.

"To a job," he replies, barely audible.

"Where at?" they ask.

"Up the road," he replies, sweat dripping from his body.

"Where up the road?" is the next question.

"I don't know, it's so hot," comes the reply.

The day is cool, like most of this summer, but the drugs were causing his body to overheat, the deputies tell me. 256 notes that the subject can go into shock and cardiac arrest at any time, deputy 240 concurs.

Calling the lieutenant, they tell him of the dire situation. Already aware, the shift commander replies to take the subject to Imlay City where a Lapeer County deputy will meet up and take the man into their custody.

Immediately car 240 leaves, turning around by going across the median. The subject is now sprawled across the back seat, begging for air. The deputy lowers the window and the man puts as much of his face as he can into the gap.

The perspiration running down his face is moving faster than the wind of the speeding patrol car can remove it. The eyes are wide open but the pupils are hidden somewhere in the blood red eyes. The mouth is open, gulping the cool air but the sweat persists.

Applying the lights and siren, 240 hits the exit onto M-53 and drives to the waiting Lapeer deputy. Together they pull the large youth from the cruiser.

"Take off my shirt," he begs. "It's so hot I'm burning up."

Removing the handcuffs, the deputies quickly peel off his long sleeve shirt.

"My god," says the Lapeer deputy. "I have never seen tracks so large."

Stepping closer I shockingly observe what he's talking about. Inside the elbows on each arm is a swollen area about two inches in diameter. Trailing down to the wrists and up into the shoulders is a swollen artery raised and protruding with each pump of his racing heart. Glistening with sweat, the man looks like something from a horror movie—like the living dead. Now I understand the surgical gloves. This man is septic and toxic.

Hurriedly they carry and load him into the Lapeer County patrol car and with lights flashing, they leave.

The sun is low in the sky as we head back to St. Clair County on I-69. I keep thinking about what the drug addict said—where he said he was going— "to a job." That job was to rob and vandalize, injure or kill anyone who got in his way.

Remembering that the computer said 'violent crimes,' I ponder. Was this a killer just waiting for a victim? He's probably not like a serial killer who thrills in death, but would kill to satisfy his lust for drugs—much like the once loyal family dog would act after contracting rabies.

Who was spared that night we will never know, but this creature was on a mission and if not for the keen eye of a deputy, no doubt he would have succeeded.

There's an old saying about an ounce of prevention: It's worth a pound of cure. This is just one of the strategies Sheriff Tim Donnellon is putting in place. He is structuring his command of officers to be on top of all situations and crises that arise when they happen. A sound strategy. A strategy that should be commended for its diligence and persistence in stopping this, one of the most evil plagues to ever threaten our society.

Share your thoughts and/or stories with Doug at

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