Pete's Stories

  • Pete's APD Ride-Along   +

    I arrived at the Police headquarters, and my patrol officer was waiting for me at the front desk. I would spend the next ten hours riding along with Officer Mike. Mike, a seven-year veteran of APD, patrols the downtown and northeast side of Anchorage. He served four years in the Marines and was a police officer in Texas for seven years before moving to Alaska.

    We sat down in the room where all the patrol officers were waiting for their instructions from the captain before they headed out to start their shift. There were two us who were riding along on this shift. We were introduced to the whole group, who was told to keep an eye out for a couple of suspects. It only took a couple of minutes and then we headed out to the patrol car. On the way out, I was given a bullet proof vest to put on under my jacket. This was the first time I ever wore a vest. It felt heavy at first, but I got used to it after a while.

    Officer Mike and I left the station and drove towards downtown. We didn’t get far before a call came on the radio for us to go to the bus station downtown and see about a person who was possibly trespassing. The private security at the bus station had the person cuffed when we got there. Mike recognized the individual immediately. After asking some questions of the suspect, it became apparent that he was told to leave the bus station and had walked outside and stood on the sidewalk in front of the station. The security people told him he had to totally leave the area. He didn’t leave so they cuffed him and called APD. As it turns out, the sidewalk in front of the bus station is public property. Someone cannot be arrested for trespass if they are on a public sidewalk. After a few minutes, the suspect was uncuffed and told to leave. There was some question as to what was and was not allowed on the sidewalk. Mike got a call from his supervisor about letting the person walk without arresting him. Mike quoted an e-mail that had come out months previous about that exact same situation. That e-mail from upper management said it was OK for people to be on public sidewalks in the downtown bus station. So we went back to the patrol car and waited for the next call.

    It wasn’t long a call from dispatch told us to go to the Carrs store on 13th and Gamble and move some people who were trespassing on the property near to the Carrs grocery store. There were three individuals standing in front of a business next to Carrs. There was a sign right above their head on the wall that said no trespassing. Mike pointed to the sign and said you’re trespassing and asked them to leave the area. They didn’t move much until we got out of the patrol car and went over to speak directly to them. They started to walk away, and Mike and I went back to the police cruiser. He told me we would drive around the block and come back and see if they had moved. If they hadn't moved we would have to arrest them. They had moved away, so we went back to patrolling.

    Almost immediately after we got back in the car a call said to go to Gamble Street near Cal Worthington Ford. A person had been seen laying down on the median strip halfway across Gamble. When we got there, the individual was standing and speaking with another officer. He said he was fine and just had sat down on the median to rest while he waited for traffic to go by. He seemed to be a little shaky on his feet, so Mike offered to give him a ride. The guy said he was living in a camp near 4th and Juneau. Before we let him in the patrol car, Mike searched him. He had a half gallon of whiskey unopened in a bag. He also had a knife in his pocket. Mike took the knife off him and put it in the trunk of the patrol car for safe keeping. He helped the guy get in the back of the patrol car. As we drove towards 4th and Juneau, the man dozed off in the back of the patrol car. Mike said that he thought it would be safer if he took the guy to the sleep off center. When we arrived at the sleep off center, the guy said he didn’t want to go there. Mike told him he was too drunk to let him go to his camp. Mike was worried he might pass out and freeze to death. Since the suspect did not want to stay at the sleep off center, Mike told him that we would let him walk off on his own if he took a breathalyzer test and was not drunk. He blew just under .20 on the test and so they told him he would have to stay at the sleep off center. He started to shout at everyone and called the police “pigs” a bunch of times. Then he said something about being a Vietnam vet and said he’d kick all their asses. After a few minutes of shouting and swearing and threatening the officers, Mike decided they had no choice but to arrest the guy. About three other officers showed up and helped to take the bag with the bottle away from the guy and cuff him. Then the suspect said he would kick the hell out of them if they tried to move him. So that forced the officers to tie his legs up so he couldn’t kick them. The officers went and got a gurney and wheeled him over to the jail and booked him in for drunk and disorderly. After the incident, Mike and I talked about it as we drove off. The bottom line was that the guy did not want to give up the full bottle of whiskey. If he went to the sleep off center, they would not let him keep the bottle when they checked him in. A bottle of whiskey that size is not cheap, especially for someone who is living on the street and has no job. Mike said he would probably get released the next day after he sobered up.

    After the arrest, Mike had to pull over and park for a while so he could file his arrest report. The paper work is very important on any arrest, so as many details as possible needed to be put into the arrest report. Mike had put a small recording device out when we arrived in the sleep off center. He had recorded all of the name calling and threatening so he had a record of the whole incident. After about half an hour we were back on the road patrolling.

    We got another call about trespassing near Carrs on 13th again. It was a different group of people this time. Mike knew one of them and called him by name. He got IDs from two other people to check them out for wants and warrants. They were not wanted, so he let them go and told them they had to move. They walked towards an alley as we drove away. We got another call, this time about a possible shoplifter in the 5th Avenue Mall. We got there, and there was another officer talking to a man who owns a jewelry store in the Mall. He had gotten his two items back that had been allegedly stolen. Mike asked him to identify the thief but the owner said he hadn’t been working that night. He called the store and told the employee who had witnessed the event to come down and give us her information. She told us the story but when asked to describe the suspected thief she didn’t get many details right. She couldn’t say what color his hair was and was sketchy about a couple other things in her description. She would not be a good witness and so Mike said he didn’t have enough evidence to arrest the guy. It would have been a misdemeanor since the amount stolen was around $20. The merchant had gotten his items back so letting the guy go seemed like the best thing to do in that situation.

    We then took a break to eat dinner at the police substation in Mountain View next to the Credit Union.

    After dinner things got busy. There was a call from dispatch about a 14-year-old girl who had gotten in a disagreement with her mother and had taken off out the door on foot. We and a couple other units drove the area searching for the juvenile. No one located the girl while patrolling the area for about 15 minutes. Eventually, the girl was found. She had gone over to a neighbor’s house. Mike and I had gone and spoken with the girl’s mother. They had only recently moved here to Anchorage and didn’t know many people. However, the mother mentioned that she had called the girl’s probation officer to report her leaving home. After we left the mother at her house, and we went back to our patrol car, I asked Mike what a 14-year-old girl could have done to get a probation officer. Since they were from another state, it was hard to speculate what she had done to get in that much trouble at that young an age.

    We patrolled for about half an hour and were just about to pull over a Bronco that had expired tags when a call came in that a man was trying to hang himself on the overpass by Cordova and 13th. We put on our lights and sirens and took off full speed to try and get there before the man had time to hurt himself. When we got to Cordova, the man was gone. We turned our siren and lights off and drove the area looking for the man. He was spotted by another patrol car a block away from us, and we drove over there while the officers talked to the man. The man was despondent because of deteriorating health problems. The rope was found in his pocket. He was taken to the Providence Hospital mental health unit for evaluation. That is the normal procedure for a situation where a person might have ideas about taking their own life.

    Before we could get back on the street patrolling, a call came in that there was a man with a warrant for his arrest in a house in Fairview. We drove straight over there and when we arrived two other units were already there. Mike told me to stay in the car. Just as he was about to close the door and walk over to the other officers he asked if I had a cell phone on me. I said that I did. He then told me that, “if things go south you can call for more help.” I stayed in the patrol car while he went and conferred with the other officers. After a couple more officers had arrived, they decided to go inside. I was listening to dispatch while they were in the house.

    There was some confusion because none of the people inside answered to the name the officers were looking for. They checked people’s IDs and did not find the person. One officer said he saw someone climbing out a back window of the house when he arrived. Now there was thought that the person was out loose in the neighborhood. About this time, an unmarked police car pulled in. Dispatch was saying that they needed a picture of their suspect so they could be sure he wasn’t there at the house. There was one person there at the house that had no identification on him. When officers asked him his birth date and name, they did not match the information he provided. They were fairly certain they had the right guy. After a picture of the person with the warrant had been located, they were able to arrest the man at the house without incident.

    Patrol Officer Mike then told me when he got back to the car that he had to go back to the police station to finish his paperwork for the events that had happened during that shift. My night out on patrol with Mike was over. When we got back to the police station, I took off the bullet proof vest and gave it back to Mike. I thanked him for allowing me to ride along with him. While this is not the type of job I would have enjoyed doing, I’m certainly glad we have good men and women like Mike who are willing to put their lives on the line for protection of the citizens of Anchorage.


  • The Humphrey Bed   +

    I grew up on the family farm in Eastern Iowa. My Grandfather had retired from farming full time and moved into a small town of around 700 people a few miles away when my father returned from World War II. A few years after living there, Grandpa was elected to the office of Mayor. This was a volunteer position with no pay and no benefits.

    In the summer of 1956 he helped organize a barbeque for a couple candidates that were running for office to represent that area. This event was timed to coincide with a whistle stop campaign train trip that featured Senator Hubert Humphrey. In those days most of the campaign travel was done by train because the cost of flying was prohibitive. The way it worked was the train would arrive in town and drop off the train car with the dignitaries in it. The dignitaries would stand on the end of the train car and give speeches to the crowd that had gathered. As was customary, after the speeches were over, a barbeque was held that allowed the voters to mingle with the candidates and others who worked on the campaigns.

    After Senator Humphrey had given his speech he was talking to my grandfather and a couple other people about how the train tour was going. Senator Humphrey told my them that he was absolutely exhausted. He complained that with the train rocking back and forth and all the clicking and clacking of the rails he hadn’t slept since the train had left the Twin Cities three days earlier. My grandfather immediately offered to let Senator Humphrey use his guest room to get some much needed rest.

    My Grandfather explained that the town was small and it was only a few blocks to walk to get to the house. Hubert took him up on his offer to use the guest room for a nap.

    About four hours later, my grandfather woke Senator Humphrey so he could catch his train. My grandmother, who was an excellent baker, had made doughnuts and had some coffee ready for Hubert to take with him. Senator Humphrey made his train and was feeling much better after finally getting some sleep.

    I was 5 years old when that happened. Every time after that when my siblings and I got to go and stay in town with my Grandparents, my mother would always tell me that tonight you get to sleep in the Humphrey bed. I had no idea who Senator Humphrey was at that age, but after hearing about this Humphrey person a few times I asked my grandfather one day, “who is this Humphrey guy I am always hearing about?” He said, “He is a very great man who should be President some day.”

    Fast forward 12 years to 1968 and Vice President Humphrey was the Democratic nominee for President. I was a senior in High School and served as the Humphrey for President campaign chairman at my school. I went all over town giving out bumper stickers and Humphrey for President buttons. I told anyone who would listen that Senator Humphrey was a very great man.

    Unfortunately, Hubert Humphrey lost that election by a couple hundred thousand votes. I have always wondered how different things would have been if he had beaten Richard Nixon in that election. I believe, the Viet-Nam war would have ended much sooner and thousands of Americans and Vietnamese lives would have been saved. Also, there would have been no Watergate scandal because Nixon would have never run for President again if he had lost in 1968 to Hubert Humphrey.

    That bed was kept in the family for 50 years after Senator Humphrey slept on it.


  • The Farm Accident That Changed My Life   +

    In March of 1969, I was eighteen years old and had only nine weeks left in my Senior year of High School . The spring planting season was only a couple weeks away and my father and I were working to dismount a corn picker from one of our tractors. We were going to need that tractor to work the fields to prepare them for the spring planting. Taking this piece of equipment off the tractor was a major job that usually took half a day or more. Since the machine was only dismounted one time a year, it was not a routine operation.

    We had been working on it for a couple hours, and were making good progress, when Dad told me to try to remove one of the pins that held it to the tractor. I crawled underneath it and pulled on the pin, but it wouldn’t budge. Dad grabbed a bar and tried to relieve the pressure from it so I could remove it, but still no luck. I then sat on the ground and held the bar on the pin and dad tried to drive it out by hitting the bar with a mall. The pin finally came out. But when it did the corn picker came crushing down on me. It hit me on the back and pushed me hard face first into the ground. The weight of the machine was over 1000 pounds and it was almost completely laying on me. I was unable to move but luckily was still conscious. It was hard to breath because my face was pushed to the ground. My father and I were the only ones at home so there was no one available to call to come help us. The nearest neighbor lived a half mile away. My father tried to lift it off me but it was just too heavy. He was talking to me asking me if I was hurt but I couldn’t respond because of all the pressure. Finally, he grabbed the bar that I had been holding for him when he drove the pin out and somehow was able to lift the corn picker enough that I was able to roll out of the way. I immediately blacked out.

    When I woke up, I could see several sets of feet standing near the back of the tractor. They were talking about how to try to get me out from under the thing without causing further injury to my back. I said something to them about being thirsty and they were instantly all very excited. About that time, a vehicle pulled into the driveway. I could see enough of it to know it was a hearse! I lived so far out in the middle of the country that there was no ambulance service, hospital, or even a Doctor’s office in my hometown. Needless to say, it was not very comforting to see that vehicle drive in.

    It was decided that they would jack up the corn picker and try to slip a blanket under me and slide me out from under it. That was a good idea. I was dragged out and lifted into the waiting hearse and it took off for the nearest hospital about 20 miles away.

    As we were driving to the hospital, I was asked if I had pain and where it hurt. Surprisingly, the only thing that hurt was my nose. I had been slammed so hard into the ground that I had a bloody nose. The fact I had no pain was a bad sign. When we arrived at the hospital my doctor was waiting to examine me and I was X-rayed. The prognosis was not very good. I had no feeling below the waist. The Dr. said that I needed a specialist and I was loaded into a real ambulance and sent to a Hospital in Cedar Rapids about 25 miles away.

    The Specialist that I needed was not working that day and they had a hard time tracking him down. Eventually, he came in looked at the X-rays, examined me and immediately ordered more X-rays. After all the tests and the examinations he came into the room and told me that he had good news and bad news. My parents were in the room standing there watching and listening to the Dr. with me. He told me the bad news first. “Your football playing days are over! You have a compressed fracture of the third lumbar vertebrae and there is a chance that you will never walk again”!

    That hit me very hard. I had received a letter from a college just the day before inviting to come try out for their football team. A day later I was laying in a hospital not able to move from the waist down. After what he had just told me, I wondered how could there be any good news. The good news, he told me, was that you will never be able to pass a physical examination and therefore not be eligible for military service.

    In 1969, the Viet Nam war was at it’s worst, 500 Americans a month were being killed. But since I was planning to go to college, I really wasn’t too worried about being drafted. So, to me, there wasn’t any good news.

    I had never been injured and had never been to a hospital before. So the adjustment was a very difficult one for me. The Dr. said that they wanted me to lay perfectly still, flat on my back on the bed with no pillows. They put a piece of wood under the mattress for extra support to keep my spine straight. This was a very uncomfortable position. To keep me from moving, they started giving me shots of pain medicine with long needles(hypos)right in the thigh. I could not even feel it when the gave them to me that day. But it did put me to sleep.

    One of the hardest things to get adjusted to was the food. I had grown up on a farm and was used to working hard physical work. To do that kind of work took a lot of energy so I was used to eating a lot of food. The Dr. put me on a diet of broth and Jell-O. I could have tea, if I wanted, but the stuff tasted so horrible I never drank it. This routine went on for several days. I got a hypo every few hours and it made me sleep. When I woke up they gave me more Jell-O and broth.

    The third afternoon there, I woke up to see this minister standing over me praying with my parents. They were all looking very solemn. I watched this for a minute and finally told that preacher to get out of there, I wasn’t going to die! They were all very surprised. But he left shortly after that. I then told my parents I was very hungry and that the hospital was trying to starve me to death. The next time a nurse came in I told her that I was starving and needed some real food. The Jell-O and broth were not enough. She said the Dr. would have to approve any change in diet.

    That night I had a two good friends from High School come to visit me. Up until then, only my family had been allowed in the room. I told my friends that I was hungry and one of them went down to the cafeteria and brought me back a sandwich. The next night another friend of mine showed up to visit. He had heard from the other guys that I was hungry all the time so he brought me a peanut butter sandwich. Finally, after I had been in the hospital for 5 or 6 days, The Dr came in and said he thought I was looking better and that I could start to have a slightly improved diet.

    They put me on baby food. Strained carrots and things that were blended. I told him that he was starving me to death and that if he would give me real food I would get better much faster. He didn’t budge.

    So the routine continued. Every night I had visitors and they sneaked in food for me. After about a week in the Hospital the nurse came in to give me the shot in the thigh and ,unlike before, it hurt. She immediately went to find the Dr. He did an examination and announced that the feeling was now coming back to my legs. They put something at the foot of the bed and had me try to push on it. I was told to do this whenever I had enough energy to do it.

    I quickly made improvements and I was put on a regular Hospital diet. But I was still hungry all the time. The word had gone out back in my home town that I could have as many visitors as I wanted. People started to show up in droves. One night I had over 20 visitors in my room at one time. On top of that, they all had heard that I was always hungry and everyone brought me something to eat. Pretty soon I had received so much food that the nurses said there was no more room in the refrigerator in their break room.

    I improved enough that they put me in a body cast so I could start physical therapy. Soon I was crutching up and down the hall ways getting stronger everyday and stopping by the refrigerator every time I got the chance.

    I finally got to go home after five weeks in the hospital. The Dr. told me that I would not be strong enough to go to school for another week or two. But after only four days at home I was ready to go back to school.

    It just so happened, that my first day back, there was an assembly planned to elect the student body officers for the next school year. I had been elected Vice-President the previous year and usually was assigned the task of being Master of Ceremonies at assembly’s. The student body President, Denny, was one of my best friends. He absolutely dreaded speaking in front of groups so he had delegated the job to me.

    My dad took me to school that day and I arrived just a minute or two before the assembly was to start. As I crutched down the hall the Principal saw me and came over to tell me that I didn’t need a written excuse from my parents for missing school. About that time, my friend Denny saw me and came over to tell me how glad he was to see me. He asked if I was up to being MC for the student assembly. I told him I was feeling good enough and he left to introduce me.

    He went in and told the assembled students that he had a surprise for them. He introduced me and as I started to slowly crutch my way across the Gym everyone in the building stood up and cheered. Not just for a few seconds, but for the entire time it took me to get to the podium and then another minute after that!! I’ll never forget that feeling as long as I live. It was the best medicine anyone could ever ask for.

    As was customary, I told a joke or two and got the whole student body laughing. Usually, the teachers and principal didn’t encourage me to be funny, but they were laughing as hard as anyone that day.

    Going to class was difficult because the building where I had most of my classes was three stories. But to help accommodate me they moved my classes to the first floor so I had fewer steps to climb. I had one friend carrying my books and another carrying a lawn chair. I could not really sit down because of the cast but could lay down on the extended lawn chair and prop my head up enough to see the black board. I made up the back assignments as fast as I could but there was a rumor that they weren’t going to let me graduate with my class.

    I got strong enough that I went on the Senior class trip to Wisconsin Dells. I even went to the Senior prom. I thanked all my friends profusely that night for bringing me all that food while I was in the hospital. I then told several hospital jokes that had them in stitches.

    I made up the 6 weeks of school that I missed and graduated with my class. I went to college that fall and did not play football. I graduated from college four years later with a BA degree in Political Science and a minor in Business Administration. I used the business classes to start a couple successful businesses. I am now using my Political Science education in my campaign for the Alaska State Legislature.

    As it turned out, the good news the Dr. told me that first day in the hospital was actually that I would never play football again.


  • My Surprising Peace Corps Project   +

    After I graduated from The University of Northern Iowa in spring of 1973, I volunteered for the Peace Corps. I was trained to help small farmers in the Dominican Republic improve their livestock operations. My job description had me teaching at an agricultural school about 10 kilometers out side of the city of La Vega. The school was run by the Catholic Church and had students approximately 15 to 18 years of age.

    When I arrived at the school, I had a meeting with the manager of the livestock operations. This was one of the best facilities in the entire country. As he gave me the tour he saved the best for last. His was most proud of his hog operation. As soon as I looked at the hogs, I knew there was a problem. I told the manager that I thought his heard had a debilitating disease called rhinitis. He did not believe me. How could there be anything wrong with these beautiful animals. I told him I would consult with another expert and get back to him soon.

    The next day I hitched a ride over to another town about 20 kilometers away. Keith, the Peace Corps Volunteer there, had many years of practical experience with hogs. I told him my diagnosis and he agreed that I was probably right. We jumped on his motorcycle and drove back there to tell the Manager the bad news.

    Keith had a Merck’s Manual that had an illustration of the symptoms of rhinitis. We showed him the illustrations and explained that he had to sell the whole heard and start over. This more or less ended the plan for me to teach there. I did some hands on demonstrations once or twice a week but it was not a full time project. So I started to go to 4-H club meetings and showed films on modern agricultural methods. I also helped young Dominicans with their 4-H projects.

    There was another Peace Corps Volunteer who lived in La Vega from Vail, Colorado. Bob and I had rented a house together, to save on expenses, that was right across the street from a very well maintained soccer field. Most of the time there was no one on the field so we tossed a Frisbee around and sometimes played catch with a football. The Dominicans in the neighborhood had never seen American football played before and were very curious to learn about the game. We tried to explain about blocking and tackling and the basics of the game but all they seemed interested in doing was throwing, catching or kicking the ball.

    One day a new person from the neighborhood stopped by to play. He spoke some English and suggested that we try to teach them how to play rugby. The thought was that rugby was closer to soccer and that it would be easier to teach them how to play than American football. My friend Bob, from Vail, had played rugby in an intramural league while attending the University of Colorado and knew the rules. So we decided to try rugby. He was right. They picked up the game very quickly and within a few days we had over a dozen guys showing up to play rugby almost every evening.

    We were having fun doing this for a week or so and the word was spreading about our game and more people showed up to play everyday. As Bob and I were walking home one time, a Dominican pulled up in a nice 1965 Chevy Impala. He asked if we were the ones putting the rugby team together. Bob and I looked at each other, not knowing if we were in trouble for using the field, and just sort of kept walking. The guy got out of the car and handed me his business card. He was a sales representative with Marlboro cigarettes. He said he was interested in sponsoring our team. We told him we didn’t really have a team because people just showed up to play when they had time. He said he would get uniforms for us and enter us in the Dominican Rugby League. We didn’t even know there was a rugby league! He explained that there were 5 other teams in the Dominican Republic and the season started in a little over a month. We told him to come back the next night and talk to the other guys to see what they thought. The following night he came and talked to the group. The answer was unanimous. We now had a rugby team.

    It didn’t take long for the word to spread that we had a sponsor and that we were going to be in the National Rugby League. A couple days later we had over 25 guys show up for practice. Many of the new players were very good athletes who had lots of experience playing other sports. It didn’t take long for us to realize that we were going to be a very good team once we taught everyone the rules.

    Our strength was our team speed. Bob had run the 100 yard dash, while in school, in around 10 seconds flat. There were three men on the team that were faster than Bob! Our strategy was getting the ball to the outside with quick accurate laterals to our speedy players who would out run the opposition to the goal line.

    The first game day arrived and everyone of us was nervous. We had never been tested against another team, especially an experienced team. While warming up it was impossible not to notice one very large player on the other team. He was approximately 6 feet 2 and 200 pounds. I was one of the biggest men on our team at 6 feet and 180 pounds. I could see the worry on the faces of my teammates. I decided to talk to Bob to come up with some strategy. I told him that if we let that guy intimidate us we would be in big trouble. We decided that the first chance one of us got we would have to set a good example for the team and put a good solid tackle on him. It had to be done to give the rest of the team confidence.

    The game started and both teams went back and forth a little with no big plays or hits taking place. After about 15 minutes the other team started to get the ball moving. Their large player got the ball and started running toward our goal line. Several of our teammates made half hearted attempts to tackle him but failed to stop him. Then I saw Bob lining him up for a tackle. I ran over to help Bob figuring that two us could bring him down more easily. At the last second the big guy changed directions and came straight for me. I had no time to think, my instincts kicked in and I put a solid shoulder tackle on him. He dropped the ball and went down to the ground. One of our players grabbed the ball and tossed it out to one of our fast runners. Before our opponents had a chance to react ,the ball was tossed out again to another speedy half back and they never caught him. He scored.

    That was the beginning of an improbable undefeated season. We finished the year with a 6-0 record. We beat all the other teams on the regular season schedule and the team with the second best record in a playoff game.

    The lesson I learned from this hard to believe season was that you never know what you can accomplish in life. You can’t assume that anything is certain or impossible. If you never give up and keep doing your best, you just might surprise everyone including yourself.



... Keep Pete Fighting for Alaska's future!