“Search Warrant by Fire                                                                                                                                                                       


A lot of Firestone Station personnel have been in various branches of the armed services and are familiar with the term “Reconnaissance by Fire,” which generally means that a unit will fire all of its weapons in the direction that they think the enemy is in, for a length of time, to see if there is any reaction from the enemy to help locate their position. When I was supervising the Fpk Gang Unit, one of the investigators in the unit conducted what I like to refer to as a “Search Warrant by Fire!”

On a number of occasions, we used informants to set up street gang members, prison gang members, as well as other crooks, to buy guns and stolen property. We even used the leader of the “Carver Park Crips’ (known as “Undertaker”) to sell stolen goods to local crooked business owners to help Fpk D.B. detectives make Receiving Stolen Property  cases.

On one occasion, we used an informant to set up a buy of a sawed-off shotgun from a Willowbrook-area gang member. The shotgun had been taken in a burglary. We arranged the buy to go down at Wilmington & El Segundo around noon. We all got in Investigator’s D.E.’s new VW camper and went to the location.

 We saw the Informant and the suspect walking towards our position, and just when I said to wait for the signal, one of our crew members opened the sliding side door prematurely and the suspect saw him and started to remove the shotgun from the shopping bag he was holding. Most of us yelled “Gun,” and prepared to shoot the suspect, as we were trying to exit the van.

One of the other investigators, J.E., (a well-intentioned, but notoriously bad shot) was one of the first out of the van and fired a shot at the suspect as he was raising up the shotgun towards us; E. missed him but the round going off greatly frightened the suspect and he threw the shotgun away and fell down on the ground.  

We spent a few minutes lining up the trajectory of E.’s bullet and my heart went into my throat when I realized that the round went into an apartment house, diagonally across El Segundo Blvd. from our position. We found the apt. with a bullet hole in the wall and I nervously knocked on the door, picturing someone laying on the floor.

An adult female opened the door a few inches and we identified ourselves and asked her if the bullet came inside the apt. She said it did come inside, but it didn’t do any serious damage and that everything was all right and started to close the door. We looked at each other, surprised at her actions and I held the door from closing and told her that she didn’t understand, that we had a responsibility to examine the bullet’s damage to her unit and we also had to account for, and recover the bullet, to ensure that no one was injured or killed.  She again said everything was O.K. and tried to close the door. This time, we pushed the door open and told her that we had to come in to complete our investigation.

We found a bullet hole in the linen closet and when we opened the doors, we saw that the bullet had ended up in a roll of toilet paper. When we pulled the roll out, we also observed that the stack of toilet paper rolls were stamped “MLK Hospital.” Along with toilet paper, the closet was crammed full of towels, scrubs, and cleaning supplies, as well as other medical-related items, which all had “MLK Hospital” stamped on the items.

The other closets in the apt. were all stuffed with similar items that had “MLK Hospital” stamped on them, as well as many various-sized cardboard boxes stacked in her bedroom with hospital property inside them. The tenant eventually admitted that her Baby Daddy was a custodian at MLK Hospital and that he had stolen the thousands of dollars’ worth of property that we found in the apt., and that he had been doing it for a long time. She said he had been selling some of the stolen goods to cleaning companies, and individuals, as well.

When we referred the case to the Fpk burglary detectives, they examined the CCTV system at MLK and found video of the suspect placing stolen goods in his car in the hospital parking lot on numerous occasions. In addition, the detectives obtained video of at least 5 other MLK employees placing stolen goods in their cars in the hospital parking lot, on numerous occasions. As I recall, the investigation made the LA Times and other local media. With all of the MLK employees that were involved in stealing from the hospital, the recovery of stolen property amounted to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

So, I credit Investigator J.E. with conducting a “Search Warrant by Fire” in this case which, thankfully, turned out so good.

-          John Stacy