JB King shares a real-life tale from law enforcement where there are real bank robbers, real cops, and real guns, and yes, even real broken bones.
There are no secrets in Pulaski County. Rumor control may get the facts a little garbled but it will not be a secret. Therefore as many of you already know since retiring from office as your Sheriff I have managed to trip over my clumsy feet a couple of times and have broken a number of bones. As a result of these smashing falls one of my friends recently asked me in a very sarcastic tone of voice one day, “Did you ever break a bone while working for the Highway Patrol?”
And the answer to that question is yes as a matter of fact I did and so today we will tell the story of JB’s broken bone. But it’s a story that covers a little more territory than just a broken bone. And unlike previous stories of this nature today I will name names and if you see a name it’s correct. I will also leave out a number of colorful four letter words that were used on this occasion. And so our story begins…………..
Once upon a time in Pulaski County, January 29, 1980, to be precise I was working day shift on a nice clear January day. I was also about three weeks into my first ever assignment as a Field Training Officer (FTO) and with me on this date was the new nugget rookie straight from the Missouri State Highway Academy, a man many of you will know, Trooper Kirby Johnson.
Kirby and I had just walked out of the Deville Texaco Service Station in St. Robert when we saw the other day car, Trooper E. Dewayne Rucker heading westbound on the city route with his light bar turning and burning. No siren sounds, just the light bar activated, so we called him on the radio and asked what was up. And his answer was alarm sounding at the First State Bank of St. Robert. The time was just a minute or two before 8 AM.
Now this point I should mention that fate had dealt Kirby and I a rather unkind hand the day before. While going through the car wash the machinery had broken the scanner antenna off of my vehicle and as a result we could not hear the traffic from the St. Robert Police, Waynesville City Police, and the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Department. On this date that was a rather critical equipment failure.
Now back to the story. As part of the FTO training you are given a large notebook full of tasks and jobs and assignments and it is your responsibility to make sure that the new rookie trooper performs every one of these tasks in a satisfactory fashion. One such scenario was a hold up alarm in progress call. On this date in history I made one of the best command decisions that I ever made, because while in route to the bank I assured Trooper Johnson that this would be a false alarm at 8 AM in the morning caused by an employee who fumbled with their entry code, however, we were going to treat it like it was real and we were going to act like it was real.
And so just a minute or so later we found ourselves at the back door the bank, both of us were down behind a concrete wall covering the back door, and we were the only two officers at the rear of the bank. At this point I should mention that the statute of limitations has expired on certain old offenses and I will confess that when given the FTO assignment I realized that we were only going to have one shotgun for two officers so that raised the question of when the brown stuff was flying through the air toward the whirling fan blades should the veteran officer get the 12gauge or should the rookie officer get the 12gauge? And I will confess I did not like either answer and so somehow a non-issue, unauthorized, chunk of wood and metal, with a thirty round magazine attached, that gave a great deal of comfort during risky situations to the holder, had somehow found its way into my patrol car.
Thus we are at the back door; Trooper Johnson was pointing a shotgun at the back door looking straight in the door and I am off to the right with my unauthorized chunk of metal looking at the side of the back door. And nothing much was happening other than a parking problem in the front part of the bank parking lot. It appeared that every on-duty Waynesville City Police Officer, St. Robert City Police Officer, and all of the on-duty deputies, were all in the front parking lot and we were starting to get off duty guys driving into the parking lot and jumping out of their cars. It began to look like somebody was going to have to direct traffic at the front of the bank but Kirby and I were still by ourselves at the back of the bank.
And then in a blink of an eye things changed. I looked toward the front parking lot and saw Trooper Rucker running away from the bank clutching a shotgun, bent over at the waist, and as he got to his patrol car he sort of swan dived over the car into a covered position behind said patrol car. The cold voice in the back of my mind immediately said, “Missouri troopers don’t run like that unless……….” And my conscious being said, “No, no, no, that can’t be this is a false alarm.” And the cold voice in the back of my head said, “Hey stupid Missouri troopers don’t run like that unless………..”
And so I used my portable radio to call Troop I and I told them something was wrong here start the backup. For the next several minutes nothing happened. I was standing there mortified by the fact that in my first FTO assignment, with my brand-new rookie, at a false alarm, I had just called for backup. I was never going to live this one down. And then the back door opened and Trooper Johnson immediately pointed his shotgun at the door and yelled, “Y’all freeze!”
At that point my attention was drawn to the two ladies walking out of the back door of the bank. Now I should also confess that at the time this was my bank and I knew both of the ladies on a first name basis as tellers who worked at my bank. So I immediately looked toward Trooper Johnson and yelled, “Kirby they work here!”
As my attention returned to the back door the bank my first question was hey wait a second who are these two black guys wearing the coveralls walking out behind the tellers……... Oh FUDGE! This is for real, this is a bank robbery!!!!! Trooper Johnson meanwhile told the men to get down on their faces on the parking lot and they complied. As they laid down the two ladies stepped to one side and I could then see that they were both holding firearms in their left hands, the side of their body that had been away from me but in a direct line with Trooper Johnson’s vision.
With the two gentlemen in the jumpsuits laying on the concrete parking lot Trooper Johnson immediately jumped his concrete wall and approached them. My first thought was I have to protect my rookie...…….so I jumped my concrete wall……… well not exactly, my foot caught near the top of the wall and I came down face first on the concrete parking lot with my right hand extended way out in front of me with a certain rather heavy unauthorized hunk of wood and metal in my hand which immediately karate chopped my right thumb between said unauthorized object and the concrete parking lot. Or in simpler terms JB just broke his right thumb.
Within a matter of seconds Kirby and I had the bad guys handcuffed and the situation was under control. Then we were nearly trampled by a herd of officers that had been at the front of the bank who were now running to the rear of the bank. I used my radio to tell Troop I that we had two in custody, that we did not know where the getaway vehicle was and to halt the backup on I-44 in place. Upon hearing me say that a municipal officer who will not be named went over to the bad guys and said, “Boy, where’s the getaway car?” Even more surprising the bad guy rolled over and said, white Ford van with the engine running it’s on the I-44 ramp right over there. And so we left the bank and swarmed the ramp and sure enough there was a white Ford van with Texas plates with the engine running and nobody in the vehicle. We now had total victory in our grasp.
And much as I hate to embarrass my good friend Trooper Rucker, yes he did. He walked up to the front of the bank and looked in the window to see what was going on inside and there about ten inches away from him was a bank robber looking out the same window to see what was going on outside. Both men immediately ran for cover. Not sure which one was the most frightened.
And so on a day when we could not hear the municipal radio traffic that we so desperately needed to hear because they had broadcast this call as an actual armed robbery in progress, witnessed by people on the second floor the bank and called in by those same people. Every other officer on the scene knew that this was a real bank robbery. Kirby and I however due to the broken scanner antenna were off in La-La land. And thus my decision to treat it as real that day was a really smart decision. Moral of the story, somebody always fails to get the word.
And yes about a half an hour after everything was secure at the bank the pain in my right thumb was such that we drove to the old Pulaski County Hospital and the folks in the ER got to laugh at me while they x-rayed the thumb and applied the protective splints. Then it was back to St. Robert PD were everybody was meeting to get this mess all squared away. And all the officers there got to laugh at me also. And now that I have written this article the number of people who can laugh at me over this story just grew by quite a few numbers.
JB King is the author of “The Tilley Treasure,” a Civil War buried treasure true story, and “Justice: Military Tribunals in Civil War Missouri.” The books can be bought locally at the Pulaski County Tourism Bureau and online at www.amazon.com/J.B.-King/e/B06XKXV6JK. King can be contacted at Sheriff330ret@gmail.com. King is currently working on a book about Pulaski County's notorious murders by Johnny Lee Thornton and is looking for anyone with any information relevant to the story.
Editor's note: Tales from Law Enforcement is not a feature section exclusive to JB King and other members of law enforcement are welcome to submit stories for print under that feature's heading as guest writers. If you are a member of law enforcement interested in submitting a story, please contact Daily Guide editor Natalie Sanders at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 573-336-3711.