I interviewed a former president of the Kansas Sheriff’s Association when I was in college. He told me that of all the different criminals, the best to catch, from a political standpoint, was a burglar.
He said a person who does burglaries on a regular basis could easily do a hundred or more burglaries, in a years time. If he arrests a burglar he makes over a hundred victims happy. And since Kansas Sheriff’s are elected to four year terms, that was something to keep in mind.
Many years later……
It was noon on a Tuesday and I was eating lunch in the local Pizza Hut. I was working for the sheriff’s department and was enjoying the noon buffet with my boss, the Sheriff.
The Pizza Hut was a popular local eating spot at noon, for many folks. We were sitting there talking and saying “Hi” or waving at everyother person. In a small community you end up knowing most of the folks who come for lunch.
Of course, it was always a great place for people to slide up and tell you about something bad or suspicious they had seen or some type of problem. We would politely take their information and listen to their concerns. This was a requirement of being part of a small community, as well as, an elected official.
About the time we got done eating, the dispatcher called on the radio and reported that there was a burglar alarm going off at a house west of town in the country.
Most people don’t realize it, but daytime is the busiest time for residential burglaries. Most people work during the daytime, so thieves cruise the country areas and look for homes that don’t have vehicles in the driveway. They then go to the door and knock. If no one comes to the door, then they break it open. If someone comes to the door, they make up some story, like looking for directions, and leave.
I responded to the dispatcher by radio and told her that the Sheriff and I would handle the call. We threw down our money for the food and quickly left.
It turned out that the house was about 10 miles straight west of town on the highway, so we actually had a chance of getting there quickly and possibly catching the criminal. It was sunny and dry that day. The highway was not very busy and we both drove very fast with the lights and siren blaring. When we got within a few miles, I turned off the siren so that they wouldn’t hear us approaching.
As I got closer to the scene, I could feel the anticipation and adrenaline beginning to kick in. Many things go through your mind. You become hyper-focused on what you are doing.
We pulled into the gravel drive. It was a two story house with several outbuildings and a barn. There was a truck parked close by, so I thought there might be someone there. I called in the license plate to dispatch and it came back to a person from a different town and county. I was beginning to believe we may have caught an actual burglar in the act.
I walked around the house and couldn’t see or hear anyone. The only signs of activity were a horse in a corral area beside a shed and a goat wandering around near the outbuildings. A couple cats jumped down from a bale of hay sitting near the house.
The Sheriff called me on his portable radio and said the front door was open.
It was really looking like someone had pulled in and broke open the door. I was expecting to find a burglar inside the house.
I could feel the adrenaline edging to a higher level as we entered the front door. Both of us had our guns drawn as we entered the door. Simultaneously, we announced our presence and ordered anyone in the house to show themselves.
We then systematically cleared each room of the house. I could feel the stress building, because the more rooms we cleared, the more likely the burglar was in the remaining rooms. At least that was what I was anticipating.
As we turned a corner, one would aim his gun one direction, while the other would cover him. Every little sound would make me flinch and I would dart my eyes to where the sound came from.
We went into one room and I immediately saw something quickly move near a window. I swung my gun in the direction of the movement and yelled for the person to “Show me your hands!” Just as the words left my mouth, I realized that it was a curtain blowing in the wind.
In each room there were closets and I would yell for the person to come out. The Sheriff would stand there with his gun pointed at the closet door as I quickly opened the door. Immediately you would face clothes hanging in the closet and have to decide if they were actually just clothes or possibly had someone in them. Several times I yelled at something which turned out to be a coat in a dark closet.
The worst time was going up the stairs because someone could just pop out and shoot both of us. We had no where to take cover.
It was becoming more tense as we quietly made our way up the stairs and into the hallway. We were stepping ever so carefully and trying to not make any noise. Suddenly, the dispatcher on our radios crackles “10-17 Checking”. It startled me so badly that my arms began shaking. I quickly responded that we were “10-4”. The dispatcher was required to check on us after a certain amount of time. She was doing her job well.
It startled me, however, and I responded that we were ok. I then turned the volume down a little on my radio. It was sort of like having your cell phone ring in the middle of a silent prayer at church. It surprises you and you just want it to instantly be quiet. You instinctively grab at it and hold your hand over the speaker to try and make it quiet.
As we worked our way through the house, we saw things were knocked over and on the floor. This was a tell-tale sign of someone searching for something valuable. They didn’t care if they trashed the peoples house in the process. They even had the nerve to get into the food and spread it on the floor.
I really wanted to catch this criminal. We needed to put a stop to this crime. After all, he had violated the personal security this family had in their home. After this they would always wonder if another criminal had gotten into their house and trashed it while they were gone. No matter what the outcome was today, this poor family was going to suffer trauma because of this wretched criminal.
We slowly continued down the hallway. The Sheriff was in the lead position and I was behind him. We were just about to the end of the hallway and nearing the remaining bedroom where the burglar had to be hiding.
Since we had him cornered, we had to be especially careful. He might come out shooting because he felt trapped. If he had prior criminal history or an outstanding warrant, he may feel that he had nothing to lose.
The other part is that he could be smoking meth and not thinking clearly and paranoid.
The closer we got, the more dangerous it became. My mouth became dry as I felt the tense anticipation of what terrible event was about to happen……………….Would he give up or would someone end up dead?……………Suddenly…………..in the quiet of the hall I heard someone bump the wall behind me!!…..OH NO!!!
Oh..My..God! He’d slipped in behind us and was about to shoot us in the exposed hallway! Instantly I went from anxious to complete terror as I spun around with my 10mm Glock pointed to shoot the bad guy before he shot me!…..As I spun, I yelled, “he’s behind us!!”
As I pivoted and began to pull back on the trigger, I came face to face with the burglar…………..he just stared at me with a blank stare……….I stood there staring back at him……….he made no expression and seemed to be chewing something in his mouth. He then turned his head and butted the wall with his head again…….I slowly dropped my gun and holstered it.
The burglar was a goat…..
I’d almost shot their pet goat…..
The goat had snuck up and got the drop on us……
That crazy goat had walked up behind me in that hallway without us hearing him. He just wondered what all the noise was about. If goats can smile, I believe he was. He just stared at me and sort of cocked his head to one side in a look of curiosity. After several minutes of reflecting on what had just transpired, I led the “suspect” goat down the stairs and out of the house. He didn’t resist.
He had to be a member of that lesser known breed known as the “Ninja Goats” because he had major sneaky skills. He’d managed to walk up behind us, unseen and unheard, on the second floor of a house. I was glad I didn’t shoot him and was even more happy he didn’t shoot us.
It became apparent, later, that the damage we saw was where he had gotten into things and knocked things over. Basically, “goat damage”. The front door had not been forced open, but just left open or not completely shut. The owners reported later that nothing was missing and that the two goats were happily back in their pen.
I drove 120 miles an hour to catch a burglar, but was ambushed by a goat.
As someone recently reminded me; The good Lord watches over children and fools. And maybe, sometimes………..Goats, too.