We worked the night shift in a “snuffy” job in a food warehouse pulling orders to load onto trucks which delivered to small grocery stores. It was a weird crew, we worked 11 pm to 7 am or until all the orders were filled. Robert was our supervisor and black. Another guy was black, a third was white, middle-aged, gay and very funny. Then there was Mike and I.
We got the job through Mike’s sister Karen. It seemed she knew everyone in Houston in those days. The owner of the place gave us the job after Karen talked to him. He thought we fit right in, a couple of “hippies” mixed well with the rest of the rather eclectic crew.
Robert was a quiet and hard-working guy who was never the “boss” type. He was also huge in the arms and shoulders, almost 6 foot but probably over 200 pounds.
One night Robert asked Mike and I what we thought he should do about a problem. It seemed that 2 cops, a real “Mutt and Jeff” team, who were on duty cruising the warehouses would stop, pick up the woman clerk who worked the front office doing invoices and such and be gone for an hour or two. I think they were taking turns with her—whatever… Robert said that because this was happening she was not processing the orders fast enough nor billing properly and the trucks went out late.
Robert, worried about the situation since the owner of the warehouse was a real nice guy and gave Robert a great job and treated all of us just fine. We suggested he talk to the owner; or we called the owner (do not remember his name) and told him the problem; I’m not sure which. In any case Robert told the owner and the owner suggested we call the police and report these two guys if it happened again.
The next night it happened again and after Robert talked to Mike and me he called the police station and reported the incident. Within a few minutes one of the cops literally exploded into the warehouse and wanted to know “who the fuck Robert was”. When Robert stepped forward, the cop, a really BIG guy, (Robert is about 6′ and 220, no wimp himself, but beside the copy he was a dwarf) started being abusive in front of all of us, telling Robert that he had gotten them into trouble and who was he to be sticking his nose in, yada, yada, yada. At the same time he was pushing his finger into Robert’s chest, hard and backing him up into a corner of the warehouse, trying to get Robert angry enough to strike back. Bad idea for Robert, black guy, white cop, Houston, bad, bad situation with Robert being the loser or dead over it.
Mike and I could see that Robert was getting really pissed off and being no small guy could probably have taken the cop if it would have just been man-to-man but being a cop made it a huge problem. We looked at each other and said what the hell? So we followed them into the corner. Looked like blood in the eye of the cop, so Mike and I tried to interfere. He told us to get our “hippy asses” out of the area and stop trying to protect the nigger. That got my blood boiling so I wrote down his badge number and name and got his partner’s also (a real Barney Fife, by the way, true Mutt and Jeff act those two).
One of us, me I think, suggested out loud that all three of us, Mike, Robert and me, should go to the office, call our boss and call the police station informing all parties about what was happening. We walked away making sure Robert came with us, to his credit he did. Mutt and Jeff then left if I remember right.
Later a Lieutenant came out to interview us and promised us that if we let him take of it internally, nothing more would come of it. (yeh right, the check’s in the mail too.) So, being basically stupid we said OK.
We called the boss and the police station and spoke to an officer who said he would come right out. He did and sat down with us and said we could handle it two ways: fill out an official complaint and go through some court and inquiries and other hassles or; he would handle it internally and ensured us that nothing more would come of it. (yeh right, the check’s in the mail too.) So, being basically stupid we said OK. I am not sure what happened to the woman clerk, I think she was fired.
Mike and I usually drove to work together and for several nights after the incident, we continued to do so. One night, he said he would drive his Jag XK-150 because he had a morning dental? appointment. We had a busy night and he had to leave before we finished. After work I went back to our apartment (we were roomies) and to bed. About mid-morning, Karen’s husband woke me up banging on the door. I let him in and he said that Mike had been arrested and taken to the police station. We went down there just as a lawyer friend of Karen’s was bailing Mike out. Mike had bruises on his face and was hurting around his stomach and back I seem to remember. He made a joke that the cops wanted him to sign a blank piece of paper and he asked if they had any blank checks he could sign also. I guess they hit him for that also.
The story as best I remember it is that Mutt and Jeff waited in ambush for Mike and beat him up with their phallic flash lights, you know the 8 battery ones. They then threatened to plant a bag of reefer on him (At that time, Texas had a potential life imprisonment for possession of ANY amount of weed). They stopped him around 6, waited until 9 to decide to charge him with resisting arrest and assaulting a cop, both felony charges. They told Mike they were going to get that other “nigger lover” Hogue. They know our addresses, our cars, everything. They tried to get Mike to sign a blank piece of paper and he asked them if they wanted him to sign a blank check also, they of course hit him for that remark.
I guess they then took him to the station and it took them more than two hours to decide what they initially stopped him for. They decided on a faulty muffler and in the course of events they claimed he got abusive, hit one of the cops and resisted arrest. These are felony counts! Fortunately Karen’s lawyer friend got him sprung and out again. For quite a while after that we rode to work together and watched each other’s backs. I never saw Mutt and Jeff again. Mike was on court order not to leave Harris County Texas until his arrest had been settled. I think eventually all the charges were dropped because one of the arresting “officers” died or was killed.
Mutt and Jeff figured, wrongly, that we were just a couple of “hippies” travelling through on our way to nowhere and that they could get away with beating us up and harassment. Without Karen’s well-connected lawyer friend, that would have been true.
Houston was a maelstrom of “killer kops” in those days, they were, for the most part, fascist jack-boots who delighted in busting kids for dope, taking the dope and selling it back on the streets. They were also implicated in murders of black, Hispanic, gay and long-hairs. Eventually one case went national and caught the attention of Walter Cronkite on CBS News who presented the case to the public and finally got Lee Otis Johnson out of prison for allegedly giving one joint to an undercover cop who had begged him for the dope. Johnson’s real crimes were that he was a Panther and “agitator”.
Looking back, I am pleased that Mike survived the event, but we were lucky. It could have been a lot worse.