The Frequent Flyers on my foot beat in the Mission District of San Francisco all had street names that usually complimented some aspect of their appearance, attitude, looks, or other distinguishing factors.
Tuue Tuue Feta Feta (whose name in Tagalog meant Big Big Man) would be the larger brother of the Incredible Hulk.
Mr Stinky was” allergic” to soap and water, or other civilized behavior, and instead of lowering his pants to relieve himself and then using toilet paper afterwards, he kept the pants belted up and just changed his pants…once a week.
Big John, was, well BIG all over, and had a deserved hard case reputation for killing two different guys in two different decades with a single right-handed punch each in street fights.
Lucy (pronounced Loose-eee) was a very “active” street hooker who would make $500 on a single Friday night at $50 per trick (do the math).
And then there was Ducky.
Ducky’s real name was something like Humberto Gonzalez Cristo-nombre-nombre something-or-other. With a name like Humberto, I’d guess he had a bad time when his Madre’ loudly called him in to supper in the 22nd and Alabama St. barrio. He would have stood about 5’11 or even 6 foot if it wasn’t for a childhood affliction that made him very bow-legged as an adult.
He literally walked in an amble that resembled a drunken Mallard, so everyone including the Mission cops therefore called him Ducky.
Ducky had equally colorful friends and colleagues.
A running mate of his was known as “Squinty” for his lazy left eye, and his amigo “Flaco,” could never find Ben Davis work pants that fit his 5’11” height and 21-inch waist.
Ducky was a con man, a drunk, a hype, and a thief.
When he was sober, he’d wander around, stealing stuff quietly off of store shelves, and dropping the items into his baggy oversized pants. This was kinda clever because his pants pockets had no sewn bottoms, and anything Ducky lifted would drop down around his pants ankles. His pants were tied off at the bottom with broken shoelaces, so nothing got away.
When confronted by an irate store owner, he’d disarmingly pull his pockets inside out to show he had nothing on him, then smile and waddle out of the door. On the rare occasion that this didn’t work, Squinty and Flaco would leave their lookout positions and “bump into” the pursuing store person.
When the three of these hoods traded their loot at any of a dozen corner stores for plastic bottles of very cheap tequila, they would then get hungry and use more or less the same tactics at a Bodega or Vietnamese noodle shop.
One day, a very drunken Ducky made the mistake of trying a snatch and grab food theft while I was at El Faro picking up my sergeants dinner via the back door kitchen entrance.
Ducky’s back up crew saw me swing their partner to the floor after he made a shambling hustle to the door with a bag of steak burritos.
They wisely looked innocent and faded into the sidewalk crowds.
Everyone knew Humberto, including the overworked court intake people at the Hall of Justice. Whenever his name would come up on the docket, they’d look at his extensive criminal history, note that he was a true bottom feeder with multiple petty theft arrests, and even more drunk-in-public collars. His saving grace was that there was never any direct violence attributed to him, that of course being Squinty and Flaco’s department.
Credit for time served (3-4 days in CJ), unsupervised probation, and restitution. (Hah!)
As the old saying goes, all good things must come to an end.
Mark and I had just finished up loading 5 or 8 drunken hobos into the wagon and were strolling along towards a break at Coffee Heaven when our PIC radios began squawking the crime-in-progress tones. Un-happily our call sign was the first on the callout.
“3 David 42- 3 David 42- Armed Robbery in progress. -24th and Mission-The McDonalds store.”
“Three men just took 3 bags of food from customers, and a cash drawer.”
“Descriptions to follow.”
“Responding on foot from 1 block away.”
“Units to cover 3 David 42 who is responding on foot.”
From one block away, we had almost an immediate view of the McDonalds front door but couldn’t see the other 3 exits.
Of course, when we heard the description of the thieves, which fit Ducky’s crew down to the “limp” that one guy had, we had a good idea what we would be dealing with, and where they would run to.
While Mark went inside to get details and check on the victims, I walked quickly towards the mini-park on 27th where our heroes usually hung out. Marlene and Christine were pushing the Six Car sector that day, and when I just said;” Ducky, Flaco, and Squinty- headed for the Capp Street Playground,” I knew they would beat me there.
With a cork now being in this bottle, I slowed down a bit to make sure I didn’t overlook a doorway or side alley.
The Pacific Bell phone company had been removing sidewalk public phone booths from most areas for a while now because cell phones made them unnecessary, and the drug users and hookers had made these cubicles unsanitary to the max.
They hadn’t gotten to all of them yet, so as I hurried by the booth on the northeast corner of Mission and 26th, I did a double take, and stopped to peer at the man hunched inside.
There was Ducky, shoving a fresh hot Big Mac into his face, with secret sauce flowing over his chin and scraggly goatee. A ripped open Happy Meal bag was on the ground, with the previously enclosed toy fire engine kicked into a corner completing the tableau.
“Hey Ducky, what you got there?” I asked
“Who me?” he responded, while looking straight at my drawn service revolver.
(He was alone in a phone booth, but I still expected that return question.)
Naturally, with a sloppy burger held firmly in his two grimy hands, I knew that the usual “Hands up,” or “Keep your hands where I can see them” routine would not work.
Besides, I was on a first name basis with this micro-crook, and with my boot lodged firmly against the booth’s folding door, I knew he wasn’t going anywhere soon.
“David 42 to David Six: Marlene; I’ve got Ducky here at 26th, the other two must be ahead of me. I’m cool here.”
“David Six to 42; Copy that Dave, we have eyes on the rest. Standby one while we prone them out.”
Ducky meanwhile had finished bolting down 1,200 calories and began to tentatively push against the transparent plastic door.
I looked at my prisoner, directly into his watery and red-rimmed eyes, and said tiredly:
The Mission roving car with BD and George inside rolled up behind me and parked catty-corner to the curb. George and BD both had big “gotcha” smiles on their faces while Ducky looked around for a way out of the phone booth.
I put my gun away and moved my boot back about five inches so the door would open a tad. As expected, Humberto reached his right hand out of the opening to grab the door handle. A simple wrist grab, lock, and tug, with a follow up foot sweep trip and Ducky was face down and now un-resisting on the concrete.
Now cuffed, and pat searched for obvious weapons, I helped Ducky stand up.
He jingled when this happened and said: “Search me, I got nuttin.”
While BD held the cuffs that held Ducky, I bent over and cut loose the shoelace tethers on the right side of his pants with my buck knife.
Like a cheap slot machine hitting a jackpot, suddenly the sidewalk was covered with hundreds of shiny quarters, nickels, and dimes. The odd green back poked out of where it had been hiding as well.
Later on, in reading Mark’s end of our report I found out that being a drunken hungry man of action, Ducky had simply walked behind the McDonalds service counter, pushed a clerk backwards, and then ripped the entire cash drawer from its machine. On the way out our threesome had grabbed bags of food from customers, including a bag of food from a 7-year-old girl.
Months later when the dust settled, Ducky got 4 years in a low-security state pen but was released in two with an AA membership mandatory. Flaco and Squinty got 18 months each.
Mark and I bought the little girl a new Happy Meal that day, and at the Station Christmas party, Santa’s Elves Marlene and BD gave her a SFPD Police Dog fluffy toy.
At the next pay day lineup after this incident, Mark was grinning like a Cheshire cat. Always a bad sign. I was told to stand forward to receive the “Best Arrest of the Week” award. Sgt A. subsequently gave me a big McDonalds Happy Meal bag, and inside it was a squeaky Donald Duck Statuette.
I put it on the dashboard of my patrol car when Mark and I graduated to motorized patrol.