Which story is better?
We had information on a fellow who came down from Alabama, an armed robber that didn’t let any witnesses live. He would go in rob a place, then kill everybody inside. I heard they were positive on six murders. There could have been more. This was a bad fellow.
He came down here to hide, recruited two additional people for robberies. Not knowing about these robberies, we served an arrest warrant for him on the murders on his girlfriend’s house. He wasn’t there. This was Wednesday. She told me, “officer, he’s not going to be taken alive. He’s a crazy man.”
On Friday we received information from an informant that three men were going to rob this warehouse because they knew there was cocaine and money. We didn’t piece together that this would be the same people. We surrounded the building, waiting most of the night.
They ended up showing up, broke into the warehouse, all armed. We could see the weapons as they were going in. I was next to a van. Thje first fellow came out. I told him to get down, and he did. The second fellow came out. I told him to get down and he did. Then the one involved in the homicides came out. I told him to get down. He had a .45 in his hand, and just raised it up at me. And I had to take the shot. Hhhhh.
If you look at it as far as law enforcement, ti was good to get somebody like this off the street. But then, to have to deal with the shooting and to kill somebody, it’s rewarding only for a short time. For about five minutes, when you find out that this is the person who’s murdered these people and pulling all these robberies, that’s good. But that’s about as rewarding as it gets. You want to have them surrender.
In one of the more bizarre incidents of my entire career, I’m interviewing a dangerous character named Joker Mendoza. This is at Chino State Prison in their secure housing unit, which holds their toughest inmates.
This guy has committed at least a half dozen murders on behalf of Nuestra Familia. He’s in for murder. He might be willing to flip, to turn state’s evidence. He’s already locked down because he’s in a jam with the rank and file members of the Nuestra Familia, a very violent gang. His brother, gangster Mendoza, had contract to murder me because of my involvement in this federal investigation. My son had already been followed home from school in Fresno area.
Joker, an unusually large Hispanic of about six feet, is a weightlifter. He’s got a denim shirt on, which he’s torn the sleeves off like a tank top, denim pants torn off ragged-edged, flip flops, tattoos all over, a very tough looking character.
Entering with me is an officer from the Department of Corrections internal gang unit.
As we introduce ourselves, Joker turns to me and says, “I’ve heard of you. I’ll talk to you. But I won’t talk with this motherfucker in here.”
The guys turns to me and says, “It’s up to you, Byron.”
“If you don’t mind, I’ll talk to him by myself.”
The guy says okay, excuses himself and walks out, leaving joker and myself in this very isolated room at the end of a hallway with the door locked from the outside. About ten minutes into the conversation there is a power failure. The lights go out and we’re plunged into total darkness. Dead silence follows.
It seems like hours go by, but it’s probably thirty seconds. For some reason I start laughing. And then in the darkness, he starts laughing . At one point I hear his chair shuffle.
He says, “You know, you’re in deep shit.”
In the darkness I say, “well, you don’t know what’s pointed at you right now.” We’re in a standoff. Then we both laugh again.
I say, “I guess we’re both in deep shit.”
He says, “Yeah.” And we start talking.
In about forty five seconds, which seems like hours, I see rays of light, and hear guards running down the hall, anticipating a scene of total carnage, that joker has ripped me physically limb from limb. They crash through the door, light us both up with the flashlights, and we’re laughing. I’m kicked back with my feet on the table, and joker’s over in another corner with his feet up.
These guys are befuddled. The lights come back on. Joker tells them to get the fuck out of there.
I have no idea of why I started laughing. I guess to him that was a sign of bravado. You revert to some basic instincts, like smell and taste. You almost become a predator.