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  Courtesy of
Barry Rizk
Harris County, Texas Sheriff's Department


All Cooped Up

It was one of those rare days in Houston, Texas when it was actually cold. Late November, a couple of weeks before Thanksgiving. A cold front had passed through earlier, bringing lots of cold, steel rain and temperatures hovering around 400.

I was working in the fugitive division of the Harris County Sheriff’s Department, bringing in wanted thugs from all ends of the city. I was temporarily teamed up with another Detective whose sense of humor was legendary. I had just been issued my first brand-new car- a 1986 Chevy Caprice. It had only a few hundred miles on it, and as we left the station with a package of warrants in hand, I commented to my partner, “I just love that new car smell.”

We headed north to one of the “lovelier” parts of town. We snagged a couple of felons, and booked them in quickly, so we could get back at it. We missed one guy wanted on two counts of murder. All we had to go on was a tip that he was staying with an elderly black couple on the north side. We checked with them, and they confirmed that our quarry was indeed living there. They told us he was out, and would probably be back in a few hours. The old man gave us the help we needed- he told us that the suspect drove “A big green car,” and said, “When the car’s here, he’s home.” We thanked him and headed off to continue our day.

Despite the inclement weather, we were having a particularly good night of “fishing for fugitives.” We had only been out for a few hours, and had already brought in five crooks, all felons.

A quick bite to eat, a few more phone calls to try to “lay another one down” and we grabbed number six. Two more, and we would tie the division’s record of eight felons in one shift.

We tried a few more places with no luck. The shift was rapidly coming to a close, and we decided to check for our murder suspect one more time before we headed in. As we turned the corner towards the house, we blacked out, and saw the green car we had heard so much about.

We decided to split up; my partner went to the front, and I covered the back. It was about 10 PM, and the rain was still coming down. There was a heavy odor in the air that I pushed to the back of my mind, as I did a quick check of the back for points our suspect could run out. I set up on the corner after seeing only a large window. Within seconds, all Hell breaks loose inside the house. I hear running, doors slamming, screaming, and fearing my partner was in deep trouble, I ran to the front of the house. I invited myself in through the front door, just in time to see my red-headed partner blasting around a corner into a back bedroom. Cockroaches ran in all directions. I caught up with my partner at the back of the house. He was staring at the French doors swinging in the breeze. The French doors I had mistakenly thought was a large window.

My partner was all for leaving, but I convinced him we should at least check the back yard. As we stepped outside, I was keenly aware of the smell I had earlier disregarded. About a foot of slimy mud and chicken droppings covered the entire back yard. The mud was so thick, it was nearly sucking the boots off my feet. A quick check with our flashlights showed a twelve foot high fence covered with overgrown weeds. There was no way our suspect could get over that fence in the short time he was out of sight, unless he had grown wings. There were two small shed-like buildings in the yard, which turned out to be a duck pen and a chicken coop, about four feet off the ground on stilts. We checked the duck pen, but it was empty.

That left only the chicken coop for our suspect to hide. My partner climbed the stairs and checked inside, while I covered him. Funny thing I learned- when you wake up a hundred chickens late at night with a 30,000 candlepower flashlight, they- well, let’s just say it was “raining” under the coop, too. My partner shook his head to tell me that our guy was not upstairs. That left one spot to check. I spread out as wide as I could, gun in one hand, flashlight out in the other. I thought to myself, “ I don’t care if this guy shoots me in the head, I am NOT falling down in this chicken stuff.” My heart pounded as I squatted down. There was our guy, lying face down in the chicken droppings and slime. He was covered from head to toe, wearing only his BVD’s. Seems he didn’t have time to dress for the occasion.

We got him handcuffed, and started leading him out to my car. He smelled so bad, we could barely stand it. He was still dressed in his underwear, as we followed the unwritten rule of the division- “You ride like you hide.”

I was happy we caught chicken boy, but somewhat upset at the prospect of putting him into my brand new car. I found a garden hose, and rinsed him the best I could, over his objections. I borrowed some large trash bags from the old couple, and made some clothes for our new friend. We put him in the car, and cranked the heater on full as we rolled down the windows to breathe, because of the smell.

We had our heads hanging out of the window as we drove off to the jail. When we turned the corner to get on the freeway, my partner and I started laughing out loud. We had both seen a sign that summed up the entire night- Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Barry Rizk
Harris County, Texas, Sheriff's Department