Town - Big Crime: Arlington
Police Department, Summer 1984
By and large, crime was not a major issue in this sleepy little
town. The sleepy little town was about to suddenly be made to wake
of Arlington, Nebraska was home to just over 1,300 inhabitants.
While it was located on the eastern edge of Washington County along
US Highway 30, the community identified itself more with Dodge County
and Fremont, just seven miles away to the west. By and large, crime
was not a major issue in this sleepy little town. We had the run
of the mill issues; some minor alcohol offenses, vandalisms, and
a few domestic disturbances from time to time. If I had to pick
one type of crime to be a problem, it was the occasional burglary.
I had been Chief of Police at Arlington for less than a year at
Arlington as it appears today.
have to lay out some background for this story. There were two separate,
seemingly unrelated issues being investigated during the summer
of 1984, which both came together into one major issue. This was
a crime which the locals had not been aware of happening in their
community before. The sleepy little town was about to suddenly be
made to wake up!
southwest edge of town near the railroad track, in a small well
kept rental house, was a young single mother with two small children.
The house was on an un-named street between 5th and 6th Streets
known locally as “the road behind the café.”
She was residing for the most part on social services assistance,
and had little or no income. Because of the costs, she didn't have
a telephone in the home. I never learned much about her background,
other than she was a very private and quiet individual who simply
wanted to be left alone. We will refer to her her as the “Young
The location where the “Young Lady”
Young Lady came to my office to report that she was having reoccurring
incidents of a prowler or peeping tom bothering her at her home.
Understating that it had occurred on more than one occasion, and
sometimes occurred during the daylight hours, but more frequently
at night, I asked why she hadn't called 911 while these incidents
were in progress, when she told me she did not have a phone. She
was afraid to confront the individual, and as such had not even
looked out of her windows to see who it was, so she could not provide
a description. Clearly, she was afraid with what was happening around
her home, and wanted it to stop.
Besides myself, there was Cpl. Dale Bessey, and one other part time
patrolman working with me, and I instructed them to provide extra
attention to the area where the Young Lady resided. I also informed
the Sheriff’s Office, Nebraska State Patrol, and the Railroad
Police of the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad of the issue.
As time went on, we would find evidence that a trespass had indeed
occurred, but we had little or no luck catching the individual.
Dale came up with the idea of tin cans, with fishing line and fishing
hooks placed strategically around the windows of the Young Lady’s
home, but again, by the time law enforcement arrived, we’d
find the cans strung out across the back yard toward the railroad
tracks. At least we had an idea as to which way the subject was
coming and going. Always thinking, Dale came up with the idea of
setting up a CB Radio inside the Young Lady’s home. This has
its own issues, as it could only be used so long as someone was
at the other end of the radio to hear the call for help. At one
point, during the early evening, (it was still light out,) the Young
Lady put out a distress call on the CB, and I was able to get on
scene reasonably fast. The prowler was no longer on scene, but two
of the neighborhood children said they saw a man “wearing
army clothes” running into the woods, away from the house.
Upon more detailed questioning, they described the subject wearing
full camouflage clothing, shirt, pants, and a hat.
Finally, it came to the point where the subject was pounding on
her door in the middle of the night. Without being able to communicate
with the outside world, it was recommended that if this occurred,
she barricade herself and her children in an inner most room of
the house until either it was all clear, or we were able to make
an arrest. She was told not to come out unless she was absolutely
sure it was safe. Since this peeping tom issue was becoming more
complicated, and it appeared that the subject was evading the area
toward the railroad, we requested the assistance of the C&NW
Railroad Police for their active assistance in the issue.
So on a hot, humid summer Friday evening, a Special Agent, Bob Elfner
from the C&NW Railroad Police, augmenting Dale and another one
of our part time officers set up a stakeout along the railroad right-of-way.
I would maintain normal patrol activity in and around town, and
support the surveillance operation as needed. It was almost successful,
in that an individual had been observed walking along the railroad
tracks, and everyone got into the chase, but the subject simply
The Auto Shop:
One of several auto shops from town was located in the Downtown
Business District. The young man who was the proprietor of this
establishment may have been a pretty good mechanic, but he was always
on the fringe of getting into trouble with the law. At one end,
he was commonly involved in nuisance issues with junk cars parked
on the street, or in the city’s alley. On the other end of
the spectrum, he was the suspect in calling a false accident report
to 911 one winter evening to get a State Trooper distracted from
making a drunk driving arrest. While he had no family ties or history
to the community, he seemed very well connected to some prominent
and wealthy individuals who would always come to his aid by applying
political pressure whenever this guy was in trouble. Most interestingly,
there was always a lot of people coming and going from his shop
at all hours of the night… We’ll refer to this guy as
the “Shop Guy.”
In April of 1984 we broke up a teen age beer party. Citations were
issued, and the beer keg and all its accoutrements were seized as
evidence. Naturally, none of the underage drinkers could remember
who they got the keg of beer from, so the keg remained locked up
in police custody. A few weeks later, the owner of one of the local
taverns stopped by to ask if the keg could be released as he had
sold the beer and rented the keg to an adult individual in good
faith, but was going to get stuck with the loss of the deposit from
the distributor if the keg and the items were not returned. The
bar owner finally told me that the beer keg was sold to Shop Guy,
but added one of the kids “must have stole it from him”
thus ending up at the beer party. (Yeah, yeah… Sure, sure…)
The owner of the tavern got his keg back, but since we now had an
idea who was buying beer for the kids, I instructed my officers
to make a log of all the vehicles either parked or observed coming
and going from the auto shop in the middle of the night. After a
few weeks, I looked at the logs, expecting to find the cars of a
few of our local kids on the list, which I did, but what I also
found startled me. Included on the logs were several vehicles with
Arkansas license plates. Not always the same Arkansas plate or vehicle,
but more Arkansas plates than what you’d expect to find coming
and going for a small town in Eastern Nebraska. Over the three or
four week period covered in the logs, this was a verfy odd, and
I contacted the Criminal Intelligence Division at Nebraska State
Patrol Headquarters in Lincoln. None of the names associated to
the vehicles caused a hit, but I did learn from the Intelligence
office that an organized crime group from Arkansas was believed
to be in the area, likely in Dodge County, where the subjects wanted
to set up a large marijuana growing operation. Some of the individuals
involved had been observed at a truck stop café in Fremont.
It was believed that they were probably trying to set up somewhere
west of Fremont along the Platte River. None the less, I was asked
to keep watching, and keep logging.
It was late on a Sunday night in August. Night is not exactly the
right way to describe it, as it was closer to 2:30 AM, Monday morning.
All the bars and such were closed and nothing in town was moving
at all. There was little or no traffic on the highway either. I
pulled into a gas station parking lot along the highway in the center
of town to complete some paperwork. From this location I could view
North up Third Street, which was more or less Main Street in this
little town, and East and West along US Highway 30 beyond the city
limits in either direction. Sometime later, I observed the headlights
of a vehicle approaching town from the west. It was a ways off,
but I could tell that it was moving fast. As the vehicle entered
town, I switched on the radar antenna which read a quick succession
of speeds: 85… 73… 67… 60… 52… 44…
This doesn’t simply signify that the vehicle is slowing down;
it means that the driver is literally standing on the brakes!
I’m already moving as the vehicle suddenly turns south off
the highway on to 6th Street. Back in those days, the only outlet
was back onto the highway at 5th Street. With intentions of heading
off the vehicle, I turn south on 5th, only to find an unoccupied
Chevrolet Pickup, blacked out, and parked right in the middle of
the road in front of the Young Lady’s Home. This
is one of those times when, as a cop, the hair stands up on the
back of your neck! What started out as a possible pursuit of a speed
violator with a “fuzz buster” has now turned into something
a bit more sinister…
I called out the traffic stop, and got out to investigate. To my
amazement, this guy doesn’t even know I’m here! He literally
runs into me as he’s coming from behind the house along the
east side. He’s a male and he’s wearing a camouflage
boonie hat, and full camouflage BDU shirt and pants! He’s
totally surprised that he’s just physically ran into a cop
as I grab him, move him back to the street and hold him over the
hood of his pickup truck! Naturally, he is protesting like hell!
While I’m patting him down, I ask what he’s doing here.
He replies that he’s visiting his girl friend. “Really?
Is she expecting you?” He says that he called her on the phone
and that she was expecting him… I asked him what the name
of his girlfriend was. At least he got one answer right. He had
her name correctly…
I get his driver’s license, etc, and interestingly, while
I’ve not seen this guy before, he has a local Rural Route
address for himself and the truck. I run his name, and the vehicle…
No wants or warrants. I ask him again, “What are you really
doing here?” He replies that he visiting his girlfriend. I
reply that she doesn’t have a boyfriend. He asks, “How
do you know?” I simply reply, “I know things…”
At this point, I’m trying to get the Young Lady to come to
the door, but she’s not coming. She’s doing exactly
what we instructed her to do. She’s barricaded inside. I get
Dispatch to wake up Dale at home, and have him try to call the Young
Lady on the CB Radio… No luck. If I can’t get the victim
to say, I want to press charges, I can’t arrest him. This
guy is still protesting loudly. “I’m a big land owner
in this county! I have a hell of a lot of power!” I calmly
explain that “I’m the Chief of Police! I have more power
than you want to mess with..!” Besides, I know of most of
the big land owners and prominent citizens in this community, and
he’s not one of them.
Unfortunately, I can’t hold him. But I've documented him and
his vehicle thoroughly before I kick him loose, with the reminder
that I have my eye on him!
Game is Afoot!
The next morning… (Yes in the morning!) I got up
early to go on duty. Before I even went to my office, I stop by
the residence of the Young Lady. I told her that I finally caught
someone messing around her home the night before, to which she replied
she heard the all the commotion outside, and followed my advice
specifically by locking herself and her kids in the bathroom! I
told her the name of the subject, and asked if the name meant anything
to her. She said that he was one of the guys who hangs out at the
Auto Shop downtown. She met him while taking her car there for work.
He had asked her out on a date on more than one occasion, but she
always declined. The little voice in my head is already starting
to tell me that I have a hot issue by the horns, but I calmly ask
the Young Lady, “Would you like to press charges for Trespassing
and Disturbing the Peace?” She replied that she’d have
to think about it.
I proceed straight to my office… I’m already starting
to put some of the pieces together. The first call I make is to
State Patrol HQ Intelligence at Lincoln… I provide the subjects
name, and I get a long, pregnant pause… “We’ll
call you right back, Chief!” Five or ten minutes later the
clerk shouts down the hall to me, “Randy, NSP Omaha is
on line one for you!”
“Randy, this is the Patrol’s Intelligence Officer at
Omaha. Did you call Lincoln about this guy?”
“Yes, I did…”
“Do you know who you have here? Do you know who you stumbled
“I have a good idea of who, or what I have, but tell me anyway…”
It turns out the guy I had spread out over the hood of a truck in
the middle of the night was one of the guys from Arkansas that everyone
was on the lookout for! This subject was part of the big dope
“Randy, I’m leaving Omaha right now to come up there.
I’ll be there in about an hour. Can we meet?”
Scene of the Crime:
Trooper Chuck from the State Patrol arrived right on time. Something
you have to understand. The Drug and Intelligence guys at the State
Patrol don’t look like Troopers. They look like outlaw bikers!
So the City Clerk has one eyebrow raised when the “Leader
of the Pack” arrived to meet with me.
The first thing Chuck tells me is these guys are reportedly armed
and dangerous. “Did you find any weapons during the contact?”
I hadn’t, so we both breathed a short sigh of relief. Chuck
read me in on the intelligence he had. The guy I had contact with,
was their “growing expert.” There were at least three
others, who were known to be involved, and known to be armed. I
looked at the photos, and didn't recognize any of them. I briefed
Chuck about the auto shop, Shop Guy, and his known associates, and
the log of Arkansas plates coming and going. I also described Shop
Guys known associates, and the prominent individuals who always
seem to apply political pressure whenever Shop Guy gets into any
One of Shop Guys best buddies is a party whom we’ll refer
to as "Bruce." Bruce was the son of a moneyed land owner
who resided north of town. Part of their land boarded on the Elkhorn
River. Chuck says, “Ya know, we’d been looking for these
guys to be working about thirty miles west of here, but how much
do you want to bet they set up just north of your town?” I
agreed it’s possible…
says, “Let’s go take a look!”
We arrive in the area in Chuck’s plain old car, with a general
idea of where we might be going, and an old County TAM Map as an
aid to finding the place. Eventually, we find an out of the way
location to park the car, and walk a considerable distance cross
country until we arrived at a somewhat concealed vantage point on
a hill, with a good view of the valley below toward the river. The
county road leading to Bruce’s farm runs east and west, and
was about three hundred yards off to our right. Through binoculars,
we can see someone working on a house or cabin down in the valley,
but nothing untoward.
About that time a telephone company truck comes barreling westbound
down the county road, throwing a ton of dust into the air as it
sped by. If anyone was watching, this dust plume could be seen from
a very long ways away! Now we hear a dirt bike or motorcycle racing
out of the cornfields to the west, from near the river. This was
apparently in response to the telephone company truck coming too
close to something!
“Let’s get back to town..!”
Start Moving Fast:
On the way back to my office, Chuck went on to explain the need
for secrecy over this case. I was told in general terms not to discuss
any of the matters to anyone without a need to know. I was specifically
instructed not to discuss any of the case issues and plans regarding
the investigation with the Washington County Sheriff, Bill Gutschow
or by extension any of his deputies. The State Patrol would deal
with Sheriff Gutschow. It was made clear, that Sheriff Gutschow,
for whatever eason, was considered a risk when it came to intelligence
information. I could guess, but I was not told why. I was instructed
as to what information I could divulge to Cpl. Bessey and any of
my other officers, based on what they needed to know, if and when
they needed to know it. My City Officials, Mayor, City Councilmen,
City Clerk, etc. were not to be informed. After arrests were made,
then the matter could be openly discussed, and the media would also
When we arrived back at my office, Chuck made some phone calls,
and I was advised that I would be receiving instructions no later
than the following morning…
Not that anyone noticed, but sometime over the next twelve hours
a flight of two RF-4C Phantom Jets from the 155th Tactical Reconnaissance
Group, Nebraska Air National Guard made a high altitude reconnaissance
sortie over the Elkhorn River Valley separating Washington County
and Dodge County, Nebraska. After the photo run was complete, the
jets flew directly to Little Rock Air Force Base in Arkansas where
the film was unloaded, processed, and analyzed by military experts
in aerial photo reconnaissance. A report and copy of the photographs
were submitted to the Nebraska State Patrol indicating a large quantity
of Marijuana being cultivated in and near the cornfield in the area
observed by Chuck and me. (Note: Cultivated versus Growing Wild.)
RF-4C Phantom was the type of aircraft used by the
Nebraska Air National Guard at the time.
The following morning, I received a telephone call from NSP Lincoln.
I was informed that the team would be assembling at the airport
in Fremont. My initial assignment was that I would be riding in
the NSP Helicopter to guide the movements of personnel in the field,
due to my knowledge of the local area. This assignment would be
changed soon afterwards. A team briefing would be held at the Airport
late in the morning.
The Federal Drug Enforcement Administration, (DEA,) as part of the
War on Drugs, would pay for the majority of the costs of such an
operation with Federal Funds if news of the successful completion
of the operation was publicized with the local media. My seat on
the chopper was taken by a television news reporter and cameraman
from Omaha’s WOWT-TV. Not a problem. I still got a ringside
Present at the briefing, was Chuck representing NSP Intelligence;
The NSP Troop A Drug Investigation Team; the NSP Troop A Special
Response Team, (SRT); the NSP Aviation Team; several area State
Troopers; several members of NSP Command Staff, myself, and various
representatives from the Dodge County Sheriff’s Office and
the Fremont Police Department. Obviously missing was any representation
from the Washington County Sheriff’s Office. The briefing
included the synopsis of the investigation, and photos and overviews
of each of the individuals suspected to be involved. Some of these
people, especially the ones from Arkansas were particularly nasty,
with violent backgrounds. The estimate of the size of “the
crop” was stated to be significant, and the remark was made
that this might be the largest seizure of a cultivated grow operation
in the state up to this point in time.
Finally, the plan was laid out. The Drug Investigation Team, and
the SRT Team would advance overland, starting from about a mile
and a half away across the valley floor from the southeast. All
were cautioned to be watchful for booby traps and potential armed
resistance. An NSP SRT Sniper with a high powered rifle would be
stationed near a wooded promontory with a good view of the valley
below, and the objective. Myself, and the members of the Fremont
Police Department and the Dodge County Sheriff’s Office would
also be positioned at this location, along with the sniper. The
helicopter would hover at high altitude over the scene and watch
for movement, or entry and exit from any other vehicles or persons.
Once the “crop” was secured, uniformed troopers would
move in on the residence, and take any individuals there into custody.
This photo was taken over thirty years after the
events in this article took place. Many things have changed.
For instance, the area north of Point A and east of Points D and
E were completely undeveloped. Many of the
roads seen here did not exist. Point A indicates the approximate
location Chuck and I viewed the area suspected
to contain the marijuana field. Area B indicates the approximate
approach of the drug investigators and the NSP
SRT Units on the day of the operation. Area C indicates the approximate
location of the cultivated marijuana field.
Point D indicates the approximate location of me, the NSP sniper,
and members of Fremont Police and Dodge
County Sheriff’s Office. Point E indicates the farmstead,
and the approximate location where the subjects ran their
drug operation, and where the search warrant was served. This view
is covering about six square miles or more.
Once the briefing adjourned, everyone proceeded to their assignments.
It was about 1:00 PM by the time I was in my place at the point
overlooking the valley, along with the NSP sniper, the Fremont PD
Chief of Detectives, and the Dodge County Chief Deputy. The NSP
Drug Investigators and SRT team had just started their advance across
the field. The helicopter was way up above… I was amazed to
find that when the helicopter was orbiting at that high of an altitude,
you could not hear it! Further, you had to really look hard to see
it, and needed binoculars to be able to identify it as a helicopter!
It was a fairly long wait… Perhaps an hour and a half to two
hours before the team on the ground reported that the objective
was secured. The order was given for the Troopers to secure the
residence; then all hell broke loose!
Fortunately, no shots were fired… The action started north
of my position, literally over the hill and far away. The uniformed
State Troopers in marked patrol cars came into the farmstead, fast
from the north to the house where the subjects were living. The
bad guys, seeing the cavalry coming, bailed out the back of the
house to the west, and down the hill into the cornfields which were
growing tall and thick in August! Of the five individuals from the
house, only a woman identified as the “housekeeper,”
and the “growing expert” whom I had contact with in
Arlington two nights before were taken into custody! We now have
the NSP SRT Team trying to secure the whole cornfield, and the helicopter
coming in low over the field! I recall a view of a State Patrol
4X4 pickup truck, with three or four NSP SRT members riding in the
bed, zooming north across the corn field. From our view, we could
barely make out the truck in the tall corn, giving the illusion
of four guys surfing across the top of the corn!
The helicopter had been flying up and down the corn rows of the
field until they reported they were low on fuel, and would need
to depart. After the loss of air support, it became apparent that
we weren’t going to capture the remaining three suspects for
the time being. Our team was ordered to move north, cross country
from our vantage point to the farmstead.
On our arrival, we find the usual “after the raid” chaos.
Chuck is talking to “”Bruce” and his father. (Remember
Bruce?) They lived in another house on the farmstead. They were
renting the house where the subjects had been living, and the portion
of bottom land where "the crop" was growing to the subjects.
Naturally neither of them had any idea anything illegal
was going on. They were of the opinion that the guys living in the
house were seed corn dealers from Arkansas, and the plot of land
they were renting down on the river bottom was a test plot for their
seed corn. From the old man, I might be able to buy this account,
but not from Bruce. Bruce knew something that he was not saying…
Wind Down, but Not Over:
The two subjects in custody were transported to booking at Blair,
Nebraska. Two Drug Investigators were posted outside of the house
in question while Search Warrants were obtained to search the premises.
(The crop in the field was ruled in “plain view” thus
no search warrant was required up to this point.) Before leaving
the scene, I was told by the NSP Lieutenant from the Drug Investigation
Team that they would need a uniformed officer on hand when the warrant
was served. Since I lived close by at Arlington, and everyone else
involved lived at Omaha or Lincoln, could I stop by home and change
into my uniform. Not a problem, until I arrived home to find that
my wife had started laundry with all my summer uniforms… I
reach in the closet, and pull out one of my long sleeve dress uniforms,
complete with the silver buttons and braid. I took a shower, grabbed
a quick bite to eat, briefed Dale about the day’s events,
and headed off to Blair.
Arriving at the Sheriff’s Office at Blair, I was told by Chuck
that the Sheriff was none too happy, but that the State Patrol was
dealing with him. The “growing expert” was being interviewed,
and was not providing any useful information. Dale picked up the
Young Lady at her home and brought to Blair where she was allowed
to view the Growing Expert through the two-way mirrored glass. She
was reminded that he could not see or hear her, as we asked if she
could identify him. She said she recognized him as a guy who would
hang out at the auto shop in Arlington, but that she really didn’t
know him. I told her that this was the guy we caught spooking around
her home in the middle of the night and asked if she wanted to press
charges against him for trespassing and disturbing the peace. She
broke down and started crying, saying she just wanted to be left
alone… I told her that this guy has a whole lot of other problems,
and it wasn’t likely that he was going to be able to bother
her again if she chose to press charges. I also told her that she
didn’t have to press charges, but that it was her right if
she wanted to do so, and if yes, this was her opportunity. She continued
to crying, again saying that she wanted to be left alone. Dale returned
her to her home. No charges were requested to be filed regarding
the peeping tom incidents.
Now, it was my turn to interview the subject. I introduced myself
to him and I asked him if he remembered me. He said he didn’t.
I advised the subject of his Miranda Warnings, which he’d
likely heard for the fifth or sixth time that afternoon. I asked
the subject again if he remembered me. He said no. I said, "Don’t
you remember that you told me you were a big, powerful land owner
after I caught you sneaking around this lady’s house?"
replied that I must have been thinking of someone else… I
told him, “No, I recognize you, and I wrote down your name,
and she recognizes you too!”
looked at me in silence… “It was you, that’s all
there is too it!”
reminded the subject that he was in a whole lot of trouble. Not
only with the cops in Nebraska, but I expect from his employers
back home as well… I suggested that he might as well give
up some small sign of cooperation, and perhaps tell us what he was
doing behind that house in the middle of the night, and all the
other nights. After all, at this point he had little to lose on
the account this peeping tom case. He just stared blankly back at
Have a nice life.” So that was Case Closed on the matter of
the peeping tom.
I assisted Chuck in the preparation of his search warrant affidavit,
and anything else I could do. Remember, this was in the day before
computers, so everything was drafted out by hand, and then typed
with a typewriter, with great care so no errors were made.
of the Search Warrant:
Chuck and I arrived back at the scene with the warrant in hand.
Also with us, was a uniformed Washington County Sheriff’s
Deputy. I knew this guy, and in spite of the fact that his Boss
was a putz, he was an alright guy. He was square and honest. We
didn’t ask for a “no knock” search warrant as
there was no need, although we did request a night time search,
as we had no idea how late it would be before we arrived back at
the scene. As it was, it was now sunset on this August evening…
The “Housekeeper” was brought along as a guide to what
was what and where in the house. The Lieutenant takes the warrant,
and even though no one is home, knocks on the door. He nods his
head, and after a few seconds knocks on the door again… No
answer. He announces that “It looks like nobody is home!”
then taking the Housekeeper’s keys, unlocks the front door,
and one by one we all enter. First, the uniformed deputy, followed
by me, then all the others.
First order was to clear the house. This is to make certain that
no one is still actually in the house. Clearly it was presently
unoccupied. Now, one gets to take in the whole view of what’s
in this house, which was pretty amazing. The entire home is set
up similar to a tobacco processing and packaging facility, but it
was not tobacco, it was dope! The basement was entirely set up with
tiers, three levels from floor to ceiling so the marijuana plants
could hang and dry. Each area of the basement was sectioned off
with heavy plastic sheets to separate the various areas. Several
de-humidifiers where running to aid in the drying process. That
was just the basement… Upstairs, were stations set up for
stripping the leaves from the stems, then other stations had been
set up for sifting the pot through screens. The majority of the
seeds were separated from the pot, and set aside in jars for other
uses; possibly another future crop. Finally, the pot was weighed,
and packaged in units of about one ounce each, and the individual
packages were boxed and made ready for shipment.
When a detailed search was made, we discovered hand guns everywhere.
We found guns under the sofa cushions, between the bed mattresses,
in the kitchen cabinets, and even in the bathroom vanity or medicine
cabinets! These guns weren’t meant to repel law enforcement.
They surly had the opportunity to use them if they wanted. In their
mind, the cops were the least of their worries! They were worried
about rival business interests. Remember this was organized crime.
They were concerned that some other mob group might come to pay
Another piece of evidence, at least from my perspective was in regard
to Bruce. Remember Bruce? It was Bruce who we were able to link
from the auto shop in Arlington to this place out into the boondocks.
The same Bruce who told us that he had no idea that anything illegal
was going on in this house, or in the field. Hanging on the refrigerator
door in the kitchen, was one of those magnetic message boards where
one can write notes to other family members, except in this case,
it was a different sort of family. Written on the board was a message
from Bruce which read, “The Farmers Home Administration
will be out this Friday to appraise the house. Make sure all the
dope is cleaned up and out of sight before they get here!”
He then signed the note with his signature! You’ve got to
love it when people, especially some criminal master mind like this
can be so stupid!
The rest of that night, the six of us went about collecting and
packaging the evidence. Down in the basement, we needed to bag up
all the dope plants that were hanging to dry. Every time we touched
one of those plants they would disintegrate into an extremely fine
powder. The “dope dust” became so thick that the room
looked hazy! Remember I was wearing my dress blue uniform? By the
wee hours of the morning, my blue uniform looked dirty gray and
was sticky to the touch. The Deputy’s brown uniform looked
the same. You also have to consider that we were breathing all this
in while working with it… Not long before we were done, one
of the NSP Drug guys asks, “Hey… What time does
the local café in Arlington open for business..? I could
go for a big stack of pancakes right now..!”
So all the evidence is locked up and secured in NSP’s van.
The Housekeeper is transported back to the jail at Blair by the
Sheriff’s Deputy, and the Nebraska State Patrol, Troop A Drug
Investigation Team and I go out for breakfast at our local café
in Arlington. There, the locals got to observe their Chief of Police
in a dirty uniform, laughing, and eating pancakes with a bunch of
bearded biker types….
formal photo was taken of me just a few months before or after
the events of this article. This was probably the same dress uniform
was wearing during the execution of the search warrant.
For the next few days, this case was all over the news. This had
indeed been the largest drug bust in terms of quantity in the history
of the State of Nebraska up to that point in time. Something like
200 pounds of dried or processed marijuana was recovered from inside
the house, while a figure close to two tons of growing marijuana
was recovered from the field. It took two dump trucks from the State
Department of Roads to haul it all off!
I saw the Young Lady around town a few times after. Her peeping
tom issues had stopped. Aside from passing greetings, I never had
a need or opportunity to converse with her again. I hope things
got better for her…
The “Growing Expert” was convicted for his part in the
dope growing operation, and I believe he served about four years
in prison. The “Housekeeper” was not charged with anything,
and was released. Warrants for the arrest of the three subjects
who got away at the scene were issued, and they were all ultimately
apprehend over time, convicted, and sent to prison.
The County Attorney refused to file any charges against “Bruce.”
Being the son of a prominent land owner carried a lot of sway in
Washington County back in those days. Several years later, it was
strongly suggested that the Sheriff of Washington County, the County
Attorney, and one of the deputies, (not the one mentioned in this
story,) by the Nebraska Attorney General to “retire”
from law enforcement, and leave office. They took the advice. It
should be stated loudly that all the other deputies of the Washington
County Sheriff’s Office were honest, hard working, decent
cops! One of them is the elected Sheriff of that county today, and
he is doing an outstanding job!
The “Shop Guy” closed his shop and eventually moved
quietly away from Arlington. The local businessmen who always came
running to this guy’s rescue remained in town, but made work
difficult for me for the remainder of my time working at Arlington.
Many of the law enforcement officers who worked on this case had
long careers in law enforcement, and went on to high rank, and great
accomplishments! I’ve not mentioned their specific names in
this article out of respect for their privacy. If they want to be
mentioned by name, I’m sure they’ll let me know.
How did this affect my career? It had a near term, intermediate,
and long term affects. In the near term, some of the affects were
expected, while some were rather surprising.
The first affect was being summoned by the Mayor who heard “complaints”
that I was socializing with a bunch of hippies and outlaw bikers
in the café early one morning. I explained that I was having
breakfast with several State Troopers, to which he replied, “No!
You were with bikers, and having a good time!”
calmly explained that undercover state troopers don’t wear
uniforms, and most often don’t wear suites. If he wished to
verify that I was with the State Troopers in the café, all
he had to do was call NSP Troop A Headquarters at Omaha, and I’m
sure they will let you talk with one of them.
The following evening, I was summoned to a City Council Meeting.
I wasn’t expecting a commendation, but I thought I’d
at least get a pat on the back. Instead, I was chewed out with accusations
of dereliction of duty, and operating outside of my jurisdiction.
“We’re not paying you to work outside of town!”
(Clearly the political pressure machine was already running in high
was told that because of me, “Arlington would now be known
as the Drug Capitol of Eastern Nebraska!”
replied that had it NOT been for me, Arlington WOULD have
become the Drug Capitol of Eastern Nebraska!” As far as working
outside of my jurisdiction, I informed them that I was working under
the direction of, and under the colors of the Nebraska State Patrol,
thus the matter of jurisdiction was not an issue. Further, the days
I spent outside the city were on my regularly scheduled day off,
so they weren’t paying for any work I was doing outside of
room by this time was pretty quiet. So I left, adding a comment
that perhaps they needed to get their public safety priorities in
It turns out that a problem I had then, and throughout my career,
if it can even be considered a problem, was that I maintained an
unshakable attitude for honesty, integrity, ethics, and what was
legal in all my decisions and actions. This rubbed some people the
wrong way. It got me into trouble at Arlington, and it got me into
trouble later. At least it was the type of trouble which allowed
me to hold my head up, and sleep well at night! I have no regrets.
I continued as Chief of Police at Arlington for about another year,
but it was a difficult year. Clearly I had made political enemies,
and they were gunning for my job. The salary I made as Chief of
Police was hardly worth the effort to be constantly dealing with
the political issues on a day to day basis. When I received a telephone
call from the Mayor of the City of Valley, in Douglas County asking
if I would consider visiting with him about working on his police
department, I jumped at the chance! The pay he was offering was
much better than what I was making at Arlington, and I was assured
that I would be allowed, and expected to continue working in the
active manner in which I had become known. (Yes. I made some political
friends too! It was these people who referred me to Valley.) The
only concession I asked, was that I would not be forced to sell
my home, and that I could commute from Arlington to Valley, which
was totally acceptable to Valley’s mayor.
The intermediate and long term affects on my career were positive.
Working on this case alone provided so much experience which could
not have been obtained in the classroom. Beyond that, the experience
gained and the contacts I made and methods I learned helped shape
my work in Law Enforcement Intelligence down the road. My work on
this case was another one of the several pieces which led to an
invitation to becoming part of the Nebraska Law Enforcement Intelligence
Network in 1991. It was said that my work at Arlington PD was a
text book example of gathering and assimilating criminal intelligence
at a local, small town level, combined with inter-agency cooperation
which lead to successfully combating and resolving a major crime.
Purple Sage Law Enforcement