There is an old saying in the world that police officers have a black sense of humor. And there is some truth to that statement.
There is an old saying in the world that police officers have a black sense of humor. And there is some truth to that statement. When you deal with death, destruction, and misery on a daily basis you sometimes struggle to save your sanity. Then the black humor strikes. And the black humor can strike at really odd times and in really weird places under really weird circumstances. It can strike during times of high stress while facing potential violence. For today’s article we will deal with a black sense of humor that struck me in the middle of the John David Brown murder manhunt in Phelps County somewhere around April 4-5-6, 1987.
Brown was a prison escapee from the Fordland Correctional Center in Missouri who was found by the Rolla City Police Department to be in possession of a stolen vehicle while staying at a Rolla motel. As they attempted to arrest Brown he shot and wounded a Rolla City Police Officer, James “Jay” Horn the night of March 30, 1987. Brown the escaped into the woods and the manhunt began.
And then April 1, 1987, Brown shot and killed church caretaker, Claude Curtis Long, inside a church near Doolittle, Missouri, just outside of Rolla. This murder occurred right in the middle of the manhunt territory. The manhunt had been going for a very long week full of twelve hour shifts, and when you added the travel time and preparation time, the shifts were actually more like fifteen or sixteen hours per day. The officers assigned to the manhunt were getting very tired and we had a lot of ground to cover, measured in square miles, and we needed many more officers.
And so a solution was found, the Missouri governor called out the Missouri National Guard and we got and MP Company out of St. Clair, Missouri, to roll in like the Seventh Cavalry and save the day. On the first day of the MP deployment we had what I will call the marriage ceremony. The Missouri State Highway Patrol Lieutenant and all the troopers and other civilian police officers were in one big group and across the room the MP Lieutenant and all of the MP Officers were in another group. The patrol Lieutenant would call out a troopers name and he would step forth, the MP Lieutenant would call out an MP Officer’s name and he would step forth, and the two officers were then united in a state of holy manhunt.
As I walked to my patrol car accompanied by my new found battle buddy, a young fresh lean mean MP fighting machine clutching his trusty 12gauge pump and with the classic model 1911 caliber .45 semiautomatic pistol on his hip my thought was we are in great shape here to slay the dragon. Or arrest the Dragon; the decision to us fight us or surrender to us was really up to John David Brown. We could accommodate him either way. As we drove toward our assigned patrol grid which was located deep in the heart of the area that John Brown was thought to be hiding in I thought to myself it was really good to have a partner for once and was extra good for us to be loaded for bear or in this case a Dragon. My thought was just show your face John David Brown.
A few minutes later and a couple miles north of Troop I headquarters my new friend, the lean mean MP fighting machine turned toward me and said, “Sir oh Sir, do you know when they’re going to issue us ammunition?” Wait, you don’t have any ammunition? “No Sir, not a round.” So a quick stop alongside the roadway, we step to the rear of my car and from a small supply hidden in the trunk of my vehicle I gave him a number of buckshot rounds for his 12gauge shotgun. I had to apologize for being fresh out of .45 ACP rounds on that date. Dealing with John David Brown was now a maybe proposition.
And then we were back on the road heading for the assigned patrol grid; me and my halfway armed lean semi-mean MP fighting machine. Another mile or so down the road and the young lad turns to me and said, “Sir oh sir, I’m scared, I don’t know what I’m doing, you see I’m a helicopter mechanic by MOS and I just transferred into this MP unit two weeks ago, I haven’t had one minute worth of MP training.” My response was your kidding right? No, he was not. So we pulled to the side of the road again for a quick conference on strategy and tactics. After several minutes of discussion we arrived at a solution the upshot of which was he said he could follow orders and I assured him that if we went on a call he would hear orders. And then we sailed forth once again but this time my thought was please dear Lord do not let us find John David Brown.
And so we are again headed to our assigned patrol grid. When the young untrained lad turned to me once again and said, “Sir oh sir………. (I was starting to hate that phrase)…….. But this time he only needed a potty break and fortunately the big Cedar tree on the left side of the road was available. And so with all business attended to we finally arrived at our patrol grid area and spent the day looking for the elusive Dragon John David Brown. The truth be told before the day was over I recognized that my young lad was a valuable addition to have along, he listened carefully to orders and he carried them out exactly. We actually made a pretty good team that day.
And so the next morning when the marriage ceremony took place again the MP Lieutenant called out another man to accompany me that day and I told the MP Lieutenant I wanted my buddy from yesterday back because I knew what he would do in a pinch. The MP Lieutenant consented to my request and my helicopter mechanic and I went hunting for John David Brown one more uneventful day. This time he had ammo from the start. And we never saw John David Brown.
BUT, that would change for me in the summer of 2005 as I faced many challenges during my first year as the elected Sheriff of Pulaski County. John David Brown and I sat down at the same table and looked each other in the eye as we discussed a murder he committed here in Pulaski County in 1985…………..………but that was a really long story for another day.