I Can Explain
Two Guys, A Girl and a Pizza Place
To: RogerNotNorman at AOL.com
Fm: MontysMainManMarty at GMail.com
Re: Two Guys, A Girl and a Pizza Place (a truck, a chase, a dead station wagon)
As you can see checking your work e-mail account Lieutenant, I have completed my after action report for LAPD. It is 100% truthful and will absolutely stand up in court. But if the DA’s Office is looking to cut a deal, well, that’s probably for the best. I don’t think anyone involved in the events in the report wants to tell a jury of people who couldn’t get out of jury duty what happened tonight.
This e-mail complies with your request to know what really happened. I’d like to say in advance that you have to break a few eggs to make a cake, and it is better to say I’m sorry than may I. Anyone can make a mistake, but it takes Bernhart and I to really screw things up and of course, no animals were hurt during tonight’s proceedings.
Well, no animals. That 1988 Dodge Diplomat station wagon with the sweet woodgrain trim was a total loss. Hetty knows a vehicle specialist who finds and repairs classic cars for movies and television shows. If the Diplomat’s owner wants a repair specialist, I have his number.
OK, where to start.
NCIS’s Office of Special Projects is taking a bit of a summer hiatus. After the tragic death of Agent Hanna’s wife, he is taking a three month sabbatical to be with his teenage son and pre-teen daughter. Agent Callen, who was also very close to Michelle Hanna, volunteered for a task force with the ATF. Anna Kolcheck, who was freelancing with NCIS’s OSP during Agent Blye’s recovery, is now working as a fulltime ATF Agent.
Speaking of Kensi, with her injuries last fall, she missed several continuing professional education classes. Operations Manager Lange was able to coordinate a three week period where Agent Blye was at FLETC for series of make-up classes. Two other OSP staffers who I worked with in the field during Kensi’s recovery were off at a STEM mentoring seminar and then the New York Renaissance Faire’s 40th Anniversary celebration. Yeah, probably need an e-mail of its own to explain those two.
That left me cleaning up some paper work, doing online training and waiting for it to be 5PM most days. As you know, I’m not good at waiting for it to be 5PM every day. When I heard from Matt Bernhart about an opportunity to help on a case, not only was I happy to go, I think Operations Manager Lange was more than pleased to have me out of her hair.
Per his current case assignment, Matt was working as a middle man between a team of truck hijackers and what the hijackers believe is as buyers. The LAPD joint taskforce with the FBI has been paying small sums for the hijackers’ ill-gotten gains but the hijacked items – an 18-wheeler full of new recycling trash pails headed for an office complex in Century City, a box truck with shirts congratulating the NHL Champion Nashville Predators headed for a disaster relief charity and a furniture truck with 6,000 beach chairs – had you ordering Matt to continue with the hijackers. Well, the joint task force and the DA’s Office made you order Matt to continue. Which means, in theory, tonight’s events are their fault. Not your fault, per se, (not your fault at all, sir) but the fault of outside agencies hell-bent on continuing the investigation. That will be my story if IA gets involved – LAPD had enough to get these morons off the street but people not on the street chose to continue the investigation. They chose unwisely.
Matt told me the hijackers really had no big plans or really any skills when hijacking vehicles. They’d find a truck stop or a public weigh station where a driver was sloppy with his or her vehicle’s security – open an unlocked door and off they’d go. When one of the suspects, Alex Flemming, was being brought in, he told the uniformed officer that he didn’t even consider the beach chair heist a real robbery since the driver left the truck cab’s door unlocked and the keys in the ignition. Flemming thought that shouldn’t count as a hijacking. I’m sure the DA’s office will have a different opinion.
Back to tonight. Matt got a call from Flemming and his partner Eric Terry (and what’s my rule about guys with two first names – never trust them) saying they had something to unload and thought it would be a big payday. As always, they wanted to meet at a pizza place on Crocker Street near Agatha after 11PM. The area was always deserted at night and there were a number of vacant lots and truck parking lots to abandon the stolen vehicle once they were done.
Matt thought Flemming sounded “a little more rattled” than usual. Flemming was, according to Matt, easily upset but this time seemed genuinely terrified. When he called me, we decided to pay off the usual guy working the pizzeria and I’d work the counter while Matt waited for Flemming and Terry.
In an early defense, we sold $574.55 worth of pizza, soda, garlic knots and contraband cigarettes (the legal, tobacco kind). After it was over, I called the guy working at the pizzeria and told him losing the under the counter smokes would be a good idea.
Anyway, Matt is waiting and I’m actually making a pizza when the door opens and Kensi Blye walks in. Seems she arranged a weekend break from FLETC and found me through my cellphone. As a highly skilled undercover operative, she figured out that Matt sitting alone, drinking a 20-ounce Sprite and me making pizza in an unpopulated part of town in a less than upscale pizza place was probably part of a sting operation. She asked for a slice (I warmed one of the slices left by the guy who did this for a living) and a Pepsi. Kensi then started talking about her loser boyfriend who wasn’t home when she got there after coming back from a business trip early and having to leave Sunday morning and, well, it will be a one-way conversation we will likely cherish for years and years.
Matt Bernhart – especially entertained.
Just before 11PM, as Kensi moved to her second slice, Flemming ran into the pizzeria and told Matt the truck was in the back, come quick. Matt followed his mark while Kensi and I made it to the back of the pizza place and took a position where we could see the back of the truck, Matt, Flemming and Terry.
This is where things sort of all went to hell.
Again, Matt did nothing wrong. This just got away from him, from me, from Kensi and from the Flemming-Terry combo.
This, of course, being a 1,600 pound cow.
When he saw the truck – a large 18-wheeler, I heard Matt say “What do you have for me boys?” Flemming and Terry said nothing – not even a “don’t open that door” because I’d remember that. Instead, Matt opened the trailer door and out jumped Flossie the cow. A pig also ran out – more on Porky in a bit. Matt wisely slammed the door closed or tonight could have been even more out of control.
Flemming yelled, “We’ll call you tomorrow about the money” and just took off with his buddy Terry.
Also taking off – Flossie the cow. Porky started running to where Kensi and I were. We were able to direct the little fella into the trash area behind the pizza place. Taking the two dumpsters used by the pizzeria, we were able to box (triangle really) Porky into a corner. Once the pig was secured – there’s a sentence that in a decade plus of police work I’ve never even thought of writing before – Kensi and I set off to find Matt and his runaway cow (another first, sentence-wise).
Matt was running down Agatha Street yelling “come back, I mean no harm” as if the cow would actually understand that. The cow did not and kept moving. At some point I noticed Kensi was no longer running with me but then there were bigger concerns. Matt caught the cow by the tail and honestly thought that would put an end to the chase. Because a man weighing 175-pounds could easily stop a cow nearly 10-times his weight by just grabbing the animal’s tail.
The tail holding lasted about a foot and then Flossie was free again. Matt followed yelling “stop, come back,” again believing the cow would understand.
Matt ran for another block. I was right behind him when Agent Blye arrived with her SUV. The chase continued for another block with Kensi and her vehicle guiding the cow into a parking lot for a local warehouse. The lot was open to the street and had just one vehicle parked alongside the warehouse. That was the late 1988 Dodge Diplomat station wagon with the sweet woodgrain trim.
Flossie ran hither and yon (I am the product of a one of the better West Coast colleges) in the lot while Kensi barricaded the entrance with her SUV. We called both LAPD and animal control. During this time, Flossie decided the Dodge Diplomat was the true source of her imprisoned state – don’t ask me why, she’s a cow – and tried to jump on it, rammed into it and did something so foul to the front bumper that even the finest car detailer in Los Angeles, no America, could fix.
RIP, 1988 Dodge Diplomat station wagon with the sweet woodgrain trim. It was a glorious nearly 30-year run marred only by its tragic end.
Animal control showed up at the parking lot first. As they took over the scene, Matt and I got into the SUV and Kensi drove us back to the pizzeria. We arrived where the stolen truck was parked just before LAPD and the second unit from Animal Control got there. That’s when it got really odd. Not that anything before this was all that normal.
Animal Control had no problem grabbing Porky from the pizzeria trash area but they needed to unload the other animals – four other cows, two other pigs, a goat and nine chickens that were all in a home-made coop. That took some time. And smelled awful.
I mean there just aren’t words.
Since we were of no use to the Animal Control pros, Kensi worked with LAPD to get the truck’s owner identified. Matt told two uniformed officers where to find Flemming and Terry. I closed the pizzeria.
The license plate belonged to a 2014 GMC Sierra owned by an aviation maintenance instructor at San Joaquin Valley College in Bakersfield. He reported it stolen from his truck Friday morning. Kensi got into the truck’s cab to check out the truck’s VIN and found something nobody was expecting, a man tied up in the sleeping area. Kensi called for help and when Kensi called for help, the six young male uniformed officers could not have come to her aid with more speed and efficiency.
As best we could tell, and the VIN confirmed some of the man’s story, our “kidnapping victim” – one David Allen Ross (a guy with three first names – more trouble!) – was actually a thief himself. He steals cattle from ranches all along the West Coast and sells what he can, when he can to slaughter houses or other ranches.
The truck itself was stolen from a Montana Walmart back in March. He had a ramp to get the stolen animals in and out of the truck but he thinks somehow Flemming and Terry lost it trying to unload the livestock. He wasn’t sure where they tried to do that or why, “I was tied up at the time,” was his answer to most of the crimes he was not directly related to tonight. His rights were read to him as soon as he was allowed to relieve himself outside of the truck and before he started talking.
Once Ross was taken to a local hospital for a check-up before being booked, Matt was told Flemming and Terry were in custody. Kensi, who spent close to nine-hours getting to LA after a half-day of testing for her Law Enforcement Advanced Driving Course (she passed), went home. She was going to spend quality time with the dog. She was not talking about me. I think.
Matt smiled when he told me he’d question Terry. I was left with Flemming. Flemming, as the video of the interrogation will show, wept like a child when I questioned him. He also threw up, which just added to the night’s cornucopia of bad smells and aromas. Terry gave up the fence he was working with before teaming up with Matt’s undercover persona. It was Terry’s brother-in-law who didn’t think he or Flemming were “good at being criminals.” The man had a point.
With the help of NCIS’s Cyber Unit, we were able to collect all the security camera footage during the great cow chase of July 2017 as well as the cell phone camera video shot by an Uber driver who was grabbing a smoke outside of his vehicle near Agatha Street. The status of Detective Bernhart as an undercover officer for LAPD, Agent Blye and myself as undercover operators for NCIS remains secure.
So in conclusion, Bernhart and I with the help of Kensi were able to stop a pair of truck hijackers, a pig and a cow. We also, with the help of several LAPD uniformed officers found a kidnapping victim who was also a thief who stole the pig, cow and a number of other animals as well as a tractor-trailer truck.
I made some money selling pizza.
As Bernhart-Deeks LAPD operations go, this wasn’t our most expensive or destructive. It was our least fruitful – three bad guys and a truck full of barnyard animals may seem underwhelming but Flemming and Terry were driving around with those animals in Los Angeles. Chasing down a cow in a quiet business district on a Friday night is a lot better than running Flossie down on the 405 during rush hour. And since nobody got hurt (except for that 1988 Dodge Diplomat with the sweet woodgrain trim), I think we can all agree Matt and I have done far more damage on other Fridays during our careers than we did tonight.
I had to send Hetty a copy of the after action report so I’m probably going to be back at my desk doing more online training and paper work until Agent Blye finishes her FLETC courses. Probably for the best.
So in conclusion, it was a win for LAPD.
One late note, Bernhart is trying to buy the cow using his mother’s money. He figures he’s got enough personal cash for the pig. He’d like to find a petting zoo or someplace nice for Flossie and Porky to live out their days as urban pig and cow survivors. Animal Control is trying to locate the owners of the livestock to return the animals. Once they find them, we’ll make Ross available for theft charges in their area.
That’s my story (and the truth) and I’m sticking to it.
Martin A. Deeks, LAPD Detective, Badge #11238