It has been a bad year for cops. The numbers are not good for our brothers and sisters behind the badge. But this day 44 years ago was especially tragic for a family and the friends and fellow officers of a young policeman murdered just doing his job. Officer Warren Jones was the first officer killed in the line of duty at the Sarasota Police Department. He caught a young man stealing gasoline and the thief chose to commit murder to escape a minor arrest. Though I was only a recruit in the police academy at the time, the dedication and tireless efforts of the officers and detectives to save Officer Jones’ life and bring his murderer to justice made a lasting impression on me for the rest of my career.
From my crime novel SIDE SLIP, inspired by the story of Warren Jones:
Doug cut a breath in half at the sight a few yards in front of him and reached for the radio mic. Before he could speak, the white guy dropped the handful of bills and ran north toward the fence and the brush beyond. The black guy didn’t move and before he decided to run, Doug had the car slammed into park and was out moving toward him.
“Stop, don’t move!” Doug yelled, surprising himself at how loud it was. His left hand was out pointing at the black guy and he saw that the white guy was over the fence and gone into the woods. Doug kept moving and put his hand on his pistol but did not draw it. He could see no weapons on the black guy, just the brown paper bag in his hand. The pile of money lay on the ground and began to swirl in the light breeze.
Raiford’s heartbeat went from cool to panic in an instant but his prison training began to kick in and he took a deep breath, turning toward the young deputy running at him.
“Drop it, show me your hands!” Doug ordered but to no effect on the black guy who just looked right at him. By now Doug was within a few feet and reached up to the microphone of his portable radio at his shoulder with his left hand to broadcast. He got out, “I-75 and University…” when Raiford threw the paper sack as hard as he could, hitting Doug with a loud smack and causing Doug to release the mic button and bring his left hand up toward his face where the hard as a rock bag hit him.
Raiford wasn’t going back to prison tonight. That much he knew and it spun him into movement. He stepped quickly to the deputy, latching on to the deputy’s wavering left hand and, pulling hard, smashed his forehead squarely into the deputy’s nose. He grabbed at the radio microphone attached to the stunned deputy and ripped it from the deputy’s shoulder flap. He swung it around, wrapping the cord hard and tight around the deputy’s neck and looked straight into his eyes.
Doug was shocked at the bag hitting his nose. It didn’t register pain but snapped his head back and unfocused his vision. Instinctively, his right hand pushed the release on his holster and the pistol began to move up and out. He tried to turn to his right and protect his gun side, but suddenly saw the hands of the black guy reach out for him and then white stars flashed in his face and he couldn’t see. The guy hadn’t run, he was right there coming at him. The first bit of fear began to well in his gut and his understanding of what was happening began to fade.
Raiford did not stop moving. The cord cut into the deputy’s neck but then Raiford saw the gun. He remembered instantly that his .380 was under the armrest on the front seat of his car and this was not good. He swept his leg against the deputy’s knee and felt him buckle under him. Raiford let his weight do the rest and rode to the pavement on top of the deputy.
Doug now saw red blend in with the white flashes and realized through the terror that he was falling.