Monday was a quiet day in Washington. The crime reports in Tuesday's paper indicated that nothing very unusual or exciting happened.
One story devoted three paragraphs to a report that a local detective had captured a man who had escaped from prison after being given a life sentence for murder in Pennsylvania. Philadelphia police told Washington police where to find the suspect, and our people thereupon took him into custody. Very routine.
Routine for you and me, perhaps, but not so routine for the cops who risk their lives to protect us. Read on.
Monday was a holiday. Only one man was on duty in the fugitive squad office, Detective Richard A. Hamilton.
In checking the reports on the interstate police teletype network, Hamilton noticed that Philadelphia police were looking for Calvin Leon Williams.
The report from Philly said Williams had kinfolk in Washington. It also included FBI information that Williams had been seen at another address here.
Hamilton reviewed the file on Williams, with special attention to the aliases used by the fugitive. In choosing their aliases, criminals often use either their true first or last names, and they tend to stick to one or two favorite aliases to minimize the risk of being caught off guard when asked to identify themselves.
Hamilton is a canny veteran - a policeman for 15 years, a member of the fugitive squad for six. He had acquired great skill in outguessing people who don't want to be found.
Hamilton figured Williams would be too smart to go near his relatives, so he checked the other address first. He began by casually driving past it.
A car was parked out front. In the car there were two men dressed in work clothes. Either could have been the man Philly police had described.
Hamilton drove around the corner, circled back, and parked unobtrusively a block away, where he could see without being seen.
After a while, the car pulled away from the curb. Hamilton called his dispatcher, gave his location and said, "I'm going to make a traffic stop on a subject who may be a fugitive in a murder. Give me a uniform backup, please." The dispatcher alerted scout cars manned by uniformed officers.
A few minutes later, Hamilton radioed, "I'm taking the stop at 13th and Belmont." Alas, the dispatcher thought he said "15th and Belmont."
Hamilton approached the driver of the stopped car and asked, "May I see your driver's license and registration, please?" The documents were handed over and seemed to be authentic. Hamilton asked the passenger, "And who are you, sir?"
"Calvin West," was the reply. Alarm bells clanged in Hamilton's brain.Clavin Williams, Calvin West. This may be the guy. He may have a gun. Keep a poker face.
"Thank you sir," said Hamilton. "Driver, you wait where you are while I check out your licenses."
Hamilton went back to his unmarked cruiser and asked his dispatcher, "Where's that backup car? I'm pretty sure one of the subjects in this car is the escaped convict."
"On the way, "said the dispatcher. But neither he nor Hamilton realized that help was on the way to the wrong place.
Hamilton stalled as long as he could. Then he had to act.
He began to stoll casually back toward the car he had stopped. Then in a sudden move he pulled his gun and dashed around to the passenger side. "You're under arrest," he barked. "Put your hands on the dashboard and keep them there."
With a police revolver pointed at his face, "Calvin West" quietly put his hands on the dashboard.
The driver of the car was far from calm. "You want me?" he asked nervously. Hamilton said he did not. "Then can I please get out of the car before that gun goes off?" he pleaded. Hamilton made a deal with him.
"Yes," he said, "go back to my car, push the little red button on the transmitter and tell the dispatcher I need help fast at 13th and Belmont."
The other man said, "Yes, sir," and hastened to comploy. Help arrived almost immediately, and uniformed officers took the prionser downtown.
At headquarters, Hamilton later told Washington Post staff writer Alfred E. Lewis, "He said to me, 'Man, it's a good thing you took me unawares in the car because if you'd have come after me when I was inside that house you'd never have taken me alive.'"
A routine day for the police, and a big yawn for the news media as well. Did you find it boring, too? I didn't.