About Me

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I've been a house painter, dishwasher, broiler cook, private detective, military intelligence analyst, and I spent nearly 40 years as a reporter covering crime, 26 of them for the San Francisco Chronicle. These days I write science fiction, fantasy, horror and crime fiction, and I blog about books, films and crimes that don't receive sufficient attention from the mainstream media. I would like to be Elmore Leonard, Raymond Chandler, Ross MacDonald, Dashiell Hammett or George V. Higgins, but all of them are dead so I'll just stick with what I am already doing. . .

Friday, October 22, 2010

Radar and the Rabbit

By Bill Wallace

Some days you get the short end of the stick, on others, you get a chance to whack somebody with it. While on hooker patrol in the Mission, Kerry Sullivan had one of those days where you get a two-fer . . .

Normally, San Francisco Patrolman Kerry Sullivan would’ve been riding shotgun with his partner Jerry Damonico on the day he caught a runaway rabbit with his bare hands.

But the mayor had promised the people who lived near Cesar Chavez Street he would do something about speeders, which meant his partner was working solo radar duty in the “Two-car” on Chavez. Meanwhile, Sullivan was on foot patrol, hassling hookers at the corner of Capp and 25th streets.

When they were together the pair was busy all shift with robberies, burglaries, larcenies, dope busts, domestic violence calls and hot car beefs–meat and potatoes for cops in San Francisco’s Mission District.

Today, however, Jerry had a radar gun in his hand, tagging motorists who drove by at more than 35 miles an hour–as if anybody but a flaming moron would pass a parked black-and-white going faster than the posted speed.

Meanwhile, Sullivan was bothering prostitutes.

Kerry could imagine the Mission District D.J.s sarcastically spinning:

Write a whore a tag and
Put her in the bag;
No sense in jailin’ ‘em,
The lawyer’ll be bailin’ ‘em.
Quick as a snap and
They’re back down on Capp.

In disgust, he spat in the street, right in front of a 19-year-old crack whore who took it personally and gave him a vicious glare.

Suddenly the earpiece of Sullivan’s PIC radio hissed to life.

“Company D units, be aware, 211 in progress,” the dispatcher said. “Two-car reports strong-arm subject westbound on Cesar Chavez from Shotwell at this time.”

Sullivan snapped to attention. A “211” is the penal code section for a robbery and he was only a block or so away. The day suddenly seemed much brighter.

“Suspect tentatively identified as Jimmy Culpepper, black male adult, white hoodie sweatshirt with 49ers logo, now turning north onto Capp Street,” the dispatcher continued.

Sullivan grinned. The perp was heading his way!

Jimmy Culpepper, known on the street as “Rabbit,” was the fastest purse snatcher in San Francisco, maybe the entire U.S. He had been hanging in the breezeway between two apartment buildings, smoking a $5 rock, when he spotted the old lady walking out of one building, a handbag dangling from her shoulder.

Culpepper followed her about 100 feet, dragging his butt to keep pace as she used a cane to pick her way along the sidewalk to Chavez. When she turned toward Mission, Culpepper took off like his namesake. He spun the old lady like an old time DJ changing vinyl, peeling the purse from her shoulder at full tilt and leaving her sprawled behind him.

Unfortunately for Culpepper, Jerry Damonico was sitting in the two-car on Chavez, watching him. Damonico, as bored running radar on passing motorists as Sullivan was hassling whores, pointed the gun at the fleeing purse snatcher out of curiosity, hit “reset,” and ran the clock.

A heartbeat later, Damonico, still staring at the gauge in disbelief, called the robbery in. Such are the moments that fill the Guinness Book of World Records.

Within seconds of Damonico’s call, Sullivan spotted Culpepper headed toward him where Capp hooks back off Chavez. The Rabbit was in full sprint, arms tight and legs up, motoring down the street-sweep lane and moving inches to the right or left to narrowly miss hookers spilling off the sidewalk.

Sullivan, a former tackle at Bishop O’Dowd High School in the East Bay, was used to running down meat on the hoof. He gave chase, following Culpepper up a driveway and over a six-foot chain link fence.

Culpepper cleared thirty feet to the next property line in three steps and went over the redwood fence there almost without a pause.

Sullivan, adrenaline flowing, almost grabbed Culpepper’s ankle when he hit the next fence, an aluminum rail job overgrown with Algerian ivy.

The fourth fence, another chain-link special, was what put “Rabbit” in the stew. Winded, the purse-snatcher couldn’t quite make it over. He gasped and his back arched as a massive cramp seized his right leg. The pain made him yelp with agony and topple backward into the yard, where he sprawled on his back, gasping for air.

Maybe smoking a pack of Marlboro Lights a day isn’t a good idea for somebody who has to run for a living, he thought as he listened to his heart pound.

Sullivan, also winded, reached him in three steps. Weary from a chase more like running an obstacle course than a foot race, Sullivan pulled out his handcuffs, kicked Culpepper over onto his stomach and knelt on the small of his back as he cuffed him up.

“Rabbit, you’re under arrest,” Sullivan gasped. “You run again and, swear to God, I’ll shoot you!”


It wasn’t until Sullivan was called in by the station chief two days later that he realized what he had accomplished.

“What’s the problem, skipper?” he asked as he fidgeted before Captain Jack Rodriguez, the officer-in-charge at Mission Station. “Does Culpepper claim I used unnecessary force?”

Rodriguez shook his head. “Did you see the initial incident report on your collar?” he asked.

Sullivan shook his head.

“Well,” the captain said, “Your pal Damonico, was the one who originally called this one in. He used his radar gun to time Culpepper and clocked him at a radar-verified 29 miles per hour as he turned down Capp.

“In other words, Culpepper was running six miles an hour faster than the current world record in the 100 meters,” the captain added, looking up at Sullivan with a smile.

“So I’m not in trouble then?” Sullivan asked, unsure why the captain was telling him this.

“Hell, no!” the captain said. “We’re putting you in for a medal – for running down the fastest robbery suspect in department history!”

“And we’re not just charging Jimmy Culpepper with strong-arm robbery,” Rodriguez added, waiting for the news to sink in. “He was running four miles an hour faster than the limit posted on Capp. We’re also writing him a ticket for speeding!”


This flash short story is another excerpt from my crime-novel-in-progress, "Bottom Street."

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