Thursday, November 7, 2013

Deputy says goodbye to half-century of law enforcement

Deputy Norman Monroe
Norman Monroe said thanks but no thanks when the Lincoln Police Department called him in the late 1950s and offered a job.
He doesn’t remember why he declined. The farm boy from Farragut, Iowa, had worked a few odd jobs — including a short stint as a prison guard — since moving to Lincoln after four years in the Navy, and when the police department called he was unemployed and had a baby to feed.
He does remember picking the phone up a little later, calling the department back and asking whether he could change his mind.
Last week, Monroe, 79, retired from a career in law enforcement that spanned more than half of a century. This time, he retired from the Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office.
One of his first assignments with the police department was to guard 2843 S. 24th St. — the home of C. Lauer Ward and his wife, Clara — after Charles Starkweather and Caril Ann Fugate killed the couple, their maid Lillian Fencl and the family dog.
“They (law enforcement) were looking for ‘em. I was guarding the house because they thought they might come back,” Monroe said. “That house looked like somebody had butchered in it.”
He almost quit that day, but stayed on because he needed the job.
Starkweather killed 11 people during a two-month killing spree in Nebraska and Wyoming with the help of Fugate, his 14-year-old girlfriend. He died in the electric chair at the Nebraska State Penitentiary on June 25, 1959. Fugate was released after 17 years in prison.
Monroe said he later got to know Starkweather’s mother, Helen. She was a nice person, he said, and worked as a waitress at a cafĂ© on 12th Street, where Monroe usually stopped on his break.
Back in the 1950s, he said, new officers got most of their training on the job.
“When I first went out on the street with the police department, I didn’t have the foggiest idea what I was supposed to do.”
He spotted Officer Pete Peterson the next street over and asked for help. Peterson, who would later go on to become Lincoln’s first black City Council member and director of the state Department of Motor Vehicles, explained what was expected of him, taught him to be a beat cop.
A couple of years later, Lancaster County Sheriff Merle Karnopp had an opening. Monroe applied and got the job.
The county job was a much better fit for Monroe. He grew up on a farm and liked the quiet, stoic rural lifestyle.
Monroe worked his way up to sergeant and headed the sheriff’s civil division for 17 years in the 1960s and '70s. His coworkers became his family. They supported each other off duty in the same way they did on duty. It seemed about everyone in the office had gone through a divorce and been remarried.
Monroe was working in the civil division when he started seeing Cynthia, his current wife. She worked in the state Capitol recording livestock brands, and he walked by her desk every day.
Cynthia spent weeks breaking through the sober, quiet persona he presented to the world, she said. It took her almost a month to get a “hello” out of him.
A couple of years later, he asked her out for coffee. She said yes, “but that’s all you’re getting,” she recalls with a laugh.
They got serious and Cynthia told Monroe she already had a diamond from her last marriage. She didn’t need another. What she needed was a toaster.
So when Monroe popped the question at the East Hills Country Club in front of their friends from the sheriff’s office, he gave her a ring with a little toaster on it instead of a diamond.
“Boy did I get jawed for that,” he said, remembering the hard time his staff gave him after the dinner.
They married in 1978. As the wife of a deputy, Cynthia went through her own trials, the toughest in March 1987.
Monroe was bow hunting with a friend when she got a call: A deputy had been shot and killed. No other information was being released.
Cynthia paced the floors for hours not knowing whether her husband was dead. He still grimaces when remembering the emotional hurricane he returned home to that day.
They found out later that Deputy Craig Dodge was killed responding to a domestic abuse situation in Hickman. Authorities believe Dodge heard the cries of Terry Reynolds’ wife and went into the apartment without waiting for backup.
“Any one of us (deputies) probably would have done the same thing,” Monroe said.
Reynolds was later sentenced to life in prison for first-degree murder.
After the shooting, Monroe said, some of the younger wives pushed to be allowed to ride along with their husbands as they patrolled the county. It didn’t happen.
He retired for the first time in 1996. But when city and county officials opened up the Hall of Justice in 1999, he signed up as a security guard. He enjoyed the work, liked the people, and the extra cash came in handy after the dot-com bubble burst and wiped out his savings.
He saw people try to bring all sorts of banned things into the courthouse — marijuana pipes, knives, a cane with a sword hidden inside and a pet guinea pig.
In February, Monroe said he planned to work “until I get too old for the job.”
With his wife's encouragement, he finally decided it was time. He served under seven sheriffs, including John Packett, who was sworn in on Feb. 1, 1994, and resigned the next day.
Looking back, Monroe says he's glad he decided to pick the phone up 55 years ago and ask whether he could still have the job.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

TSA identifies officer killed at Los Angeles airport as Gerardo I. Hernandez, 39

Gerardo I. Hernandez
A man carrying a note that said he wanted to "kill TSA" pulled a semi-automatic rifle from a bag and shot his way past a security checkpoint at Los Angeles International Airport on Friday, killing one Transportation Security Administration officer and wounding two others, authorities said.

The gunman was wounded in a shootout with airport police and taken into custody, authorities said. His condition was not disclosed.

The attack at the nation's third-busiest airport sent terrified travelers running for cover and disrupted more than 700 flights across the U.S., many of which were held on the ground at LAX or not allowed to take off for Los Angeles from other airports.

The TSA late Friday identified the slain officer as Gerardo I. Hernandez, 39. He is the first TSA officer killed in the line of duty in the 12-year history of the agency, which was founded in the aftermath of 9/11.

The FBI and Los Angeles Airport Police identified the gunman as Paul Ciancia, 23, of Pennsville, N.J. He had apparently been living in Los Angeles.

A law enforcement official, speaking on condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to discuss the investigation publicly, said Ciancia was wearing fatigues and carrying a bag containing a one-page handwritten note that said he wanted to kill TSA employees and "pigs."

Paul Ciancia
The official said the rant refers to how Ciancia believed his constitutional rights were being violated by TSA searches and that he's a "pissed-off patriot" upset at former Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.

The note and the gunman's rifle each had an orange TSA inspection sticker on it.

Ciancia had at least five full 30-round magazines on him, said the official, who was briefed at LAX on the investigation.

The official said Ciancia was shot in the mouth and leg by two airport police officers.

Another official briefed on the incident at LAX who could not speak publicly said the gunman had been shot four times but was "stable" when he was transported to the hospital.

Early Friday afternoon, Ciancia's father in New Jersey had called authorities for help in finding his son after the young man sent one of his siblings a text message about committing suicide, Pennsville Police Chief Allen Cummings said.

The chief said he called Los Angeles police, which sent a patrol car to Ciancia's apartment. There, two roommates said that they had seen him Thursday and that he was fine, according to Cummings.

Cummings said that the Ciancias - owners of an auto body shop - are a "good family" and that his department had had no dealings with the son.

The attack began around 9:20 a.m. when the gunman pulled an assault-style rifle from a bag and began firing inside Terminal 3, Airport Police Chief Patrick Gannon said. The terminal serves such airlines as Virgin America, AirTran, Spirit Airlines, Horizon Air and JetBlue.

The gunman then went to the security screening area, where he fired more shots and went into the secure area of the terminal, Gannon said. Officers exchanged fire with him and seized him, Gannon said.

As gunfire rang out, panicked travelers dropped to the ground. Those who had made it past security ran out of the terminal and onto the tarmac or took cover inside restaurants and lounges.

"We just hit the deck. Everybody in the line hit the floor and shots just continued," said Xavier Savant, who was waiting in the security line where the shooting took place. He described it as a "Bam! Bam! Bam!" burst of gunfire.

Savant said people bolted through the metal detectors and ran into the terminal.

"My whole thing was to get away from him," said Savant, an advertising creative director who was heading to New York with his family for a weekend trip.

Just a few weeks ago, airport police and the Los Angeles Police Department had jointly trained for a similar shooting scenario, according to Gannon, who said officers told him the drill was critical in preparing them for the real thing.

While Terminal 3 remained closed, much of the rest of the airport continued operating, though with some disruptions. Some LAX-bound flights that were already in the air were diverted to other airports.

The ripple effect across the country delayed 76,000 travelers, LAX officials said. Hundreds of stranded passengers streamed into nearby hotels, rolling bags behind them down roads absent of car traffic.

The officer who was killed was one of the behavioral detection officers that are stationed throughout the airport, looking for suspicious behavior, said J. David Cox Sr., national president of the American Federation of Government Employees.

Initially, Cox said at least three other TSA officers were wounded. Later in the day, the TSA said two other officers were wounded. Their conditions were not disclosed.

The Los Angeles Fire Department revised its total number of victims taken to hospitals from six to five, saying one had been double counted. Those numbers included Hernandez, Ciancia and one person who broke an ankle.

Ben Rosen was sitting at a Starbucks in the terminal eating oatmeal when he heard gunfire erupt and saw people running in all directions or crouching. He grabbed his phone and tried to lie as flat on the ground as he could.

Police showed up with guns drawn, shouting, "This is not a drill! Hands up!"

People put their hands up and then were led out of the terminal to the adjacent international terminal, Rosen said.

As they were led out they saw broken glass from a window that looked as if it had been shot out. Rosen left his bag behind.

It was not the first shooting at LAX. On July 4, 2002, a limousine driver opened fire at the airport's El Al ticket counter, killing an airline employee and a person who was dropping off a friend at the terminal. Police killed the man.