Wrestleing With an Animal:
Wood River Police Department, Summar 1981
"Welcome to Wood River!"

I started working for the Wood River Police Department as a part time Police Officer during the summer of 1981. I had been recommended for the job by the Chiefs of Police of both Gibbon and Shelton, Nebraska. I was still working at my full time job for the Emergency Communications Center, GIEC at Grand Island, and was still living at Grand Island as well.

This was my first shift where I was working alone in my new job, and I started my patrol shift around 6:00 PM that Friday Evening. Early in the shift, (the sun wasn’t even down yet,) I was contacted via radio from Deputy 9087 – Jim Hitt. He was going to serve an arrest warrant for a subject residing in town, and asked me to assist in case there was any trouble. The warrant was for fail to appear in court on a traffic violation in Adams County. In most cases, the service for such warrants was typically uneventful, but then sometimes things could get ugly, so it was not uncommon to have two officers make the arrest if possible.

This quiet little house in Wood River, Nebraska was the scene of all this comotion.

We approach the front door to the residence, and Jim knocks on the door. …No response. Jim knocks again, a bit louder. A voice loudly replies, “Who is it?!

Jim shouts back, “Sheriff’s Deputies! We need to speak with you!”

There’s a long pause, then a reply, “Come back Tuesday!

Jim calmly, but firmly replies, “I’m afraid we can’t do that. We need to talk to you now.”

There’s another long pause, then the voice inside shouts, “Come back Tuesday! Now get the f**k out of here and leave me alone!

Jim shouts back, “Sir..! Sir..! We can’t leave until this is resolved.”

No response…. Jim beats on the door some more, “Sir..?! Sir?!

About that time we hear the unmistakable sound of what sounds like a shotgun being chambered! We retreat back to and behind our patrol cars. Jim is calling in that we have a possible armed subject barricaded inside the house, and that further assistance is needed. While the radio is chattering away as the dispatchers are marshalling resources, the subject opens his front door, and steps out onto the porch holding the butt of his shotgun on his hip like John Wayne. He shouts at us, “Where are you guys from? Hastings?”

“No.” Jim replies, “We’re from Grand Island!”

“Ok, if you’re not from Hastings, I’ll talk to you.”

Jim points out that the shotgun is making us real nervous, and that we’d be happy to talk to him if he’d put the shotgun down. The guy agrees, leaning the weapon against his house by the front door… We both rise from out positions behind the patrol car, when the subject shouts, “I’ll only talk to one of you!” So I stay back behind the car, while Jim approaches the subject.

The guy looks like he’s obviously drunk. And maybe he would have been in a better mood had he been sober. The two are conversing at the bottom of the two or three stairs leading up to the front poarch. About five minutes into the conversation, I notice that Jim is little by little getting between the subject and his shotgun. Suddenly, the subject figures out what’s going on and lunges toward the gun! Jim grabs him, but the guy pulls away! Jim tackles the guy and they both fall through the door, away from the shotgun.

I run up to assist to find that the fight is now on! This guy is stronger than an ox, and he’s feeling no pain! Soon, all three of us are rolling around on this guy’s filthy living room floor, as he dragging Jim and I toward the dining room. We get a hand cuff on one wrist, but we can’t get to the other wrist. I tried calling out on my radio, but we could not hit the repeater from inside the house. About this time I reach around with my left arm to try to put this animal into a head lock, when he chomps down with his teeth into my right arm! He’s drawing blood, and I can’t get him to let go! Finally, I tell Jim to pinch the guy’s nostrils closed. As soon as he did, I forced my arm deeper into the subject’s mouth, cutting off his air supply. As soon as he gasped for breath, I pulled my arm out! Now I pull my stick from my belt, and wedged it under the subject, like a lever. Now Jim was able to draw the guy’s arm around to put the other cuff on him.

We stand up, leaving the subject on the floor. My uniform shirt is all tore up, and blood, both mine and the subject’s is all over my t-shirt. We’re both covered in dog crap that stuck to us while rolling on the floor. Jim looks around for his hand held radio, and can’t find it. (It was lying outside on the ground.) I grab my radio off the floor, but I still can’t hit the repeater from inside the house. Jim says, “I’ll stay with the prisoner, you go make contact…”

I come outside to find weapons leveled at me by the Nebraska State Patrol SWAT Team, and about half of the Hall County Sheriff’s Office! I pull my uniform shirt so all can see my badge; bring the radio to my face to announce, “Situation 10-4. 10-15 in custody.” Everybody, including the crowd of bystanders all broke out into a cheer!

Two deputies ran up and into the house to drag the subject out, with Jim following. My Chief was there, along with the Sheriff. “What the hell happened?”

We provided our verbal synopses of how and what happened. The Sheriff says, “You should have called out on the radio. Why didn’t you call out?”

I replied that there was no time to call out as initially as we didn’t want the subject to get to his gun. After that, we couldn’t hit the repeater from inside the house. Jim agreed.

The Chief looks at me and says, “Welcome to Wood River! Now go home, put on a clean uniform and then go to the hospital to get checked out.”

I did. At the hospital in Grand Island, they cleaned the wound on my arm and dressed it. It was deep and nasty! “That’s going to leave some scars…” the nurse announced. What’s was more painful than the wound, was the shot they gave me in my ass!

To this day, in the summer when I get tan, several white marks in a semi-circle become visible where this guy chomped down on my arm with his teeth! The first of many scars yet to come…

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