[su_heading]Story by retired St. Lucie County Detective Scott Young[/su_heading]
[su_dropcap style=”light” size=”5″]W[/su_dropcap]orking as a deputy sheriff in south Florida during the late 1990s, my agency had just been issued stop-sticks. These sticks were about 3 feet long and had large spikes protruding all the way around. They were meant to be used as a stop-gap measure when a suspect was fleeing in a vehicle.
If an officer could get into position, the sticks were to be thrown in front of the tires as the car passed by. The weight of the car would bear down on the spikes, deflating the tires and ideally ending the chase safely. If I said everyone was eager to deploy them, that would be an understatement.
While working a series of burglaries in the most southern portion of our county, I heard dispatch state over the radio that the special investigations unit (SIU) was in pursuit of suspects who had fled during a drug raid. Although I was some distance away, there was a possibility the suspects would flee in my direction, so I kept my ears open. A short time later, dispatch advised that SIU was still in pursuit and heading my way. I responded to let them know my location and that I had stop-sticks. As the information unfolded over the radio and I listened intently, my excitement increased when the suspects chose an escape route with only one possible avenue: right past my location. I repositioned my marked patrol car to a more hidden location and stood near the roadside and waited.
I watched other traffic pass my location and soon heard the loud siren of the pursuing patrol car and the roar of the suspect’s engine as they neared. I saw a dark van careening around the corner with the marked patrol car right on its tail. I waited for the vehicle to get close, then threw the stop-sticks just before they passed. The sticks hit their mark, and not only the front tires, but the back as well. Excited, I ran to my patrol car, got in and advised dispatch that I hit the suspect’s vehicle. I activated my lights and siren and headed south. As the road wound to the right I saw the pursuing patrol car parked behind the suspect’s van, which was tilted rigidly to the right and on the side of the road. That is when I observed several individuals dressed in black with the letters DEA on their backs. “OMG!!” I had stop-sticked the DEA van.
Dispatch had communicated the description of the suspect’s vehicle on the SIU channel, but not my main channel. I stopped my patrol car about 100 feet way and turned off my lights and siren. To say they were upset would, again, be an understatement. They all were yelling something and with arms flailing wildly while motioning for me to come closer. I shook my head left and right to say no way! At that moment my sergeant’s voice came through over the radio and asked, “Well, did you get ’em?” Oh, I got them. My only reply was, “Sarge, I think you need to get down here right away.”
Several years later, as a task force officer assigned to the DEA, the driver of the van that day was assigned as my training officer. He trusted me with his life, but not the stop-sticks. ASJ