C.R.U.S.H. (Part I)

Five months ago, two black homicide detectives got fed up with the Police Department's inaction on black-on-black murders. Thus was born the Crime Response Unit to Stop Homicide (CRUSH): six cops with the grit and guile to tackle the toughest cases in the

For example: One day, Nash sees a couple of guys on a Tenderloin corner putting batteries in their boombox. Both men are wearing red sweaters and red bandannas.

"Hey, does that represent anything?" Nash asks them, leaning out his window. The two men walk away puzzled.

"They're holding," Lozada says, guessing. Following them down the block, Nash pulls the Olds up on the sidewalk to block their passage. Lozada, Nash, and Bolte pour out of the car.

"Come here. Police," Lozada tells the men.
Lozada searches one of the men and calls in a warrant check.
The younger of the two men gets into it with Nash.
"You ain't so bad," he says to the 6-foot-plus cop.
"Let them do their job," the older man says.

Bolte leans against a nearby building smoking a menthol cigarette. "You may need us someday," he says to the men. "If someone goes off on you, we could be there for you. Protect and serve. Damn straight."

No warrants come up on the men, and the team piles back in the car. "Thank you, gentlemen," Bolte says as they depart.

week earlier I'm sitting with Lozada, Nash, and Bolte waiting for a pile of ribs at James & James Ribs 'N Thangs on Third Street when a call comes over their radio: 406, officer needs assistance. All three officers charge out of the rib joint. "Keep 'em warm," Nash yells over his shoulder.

The officers jump into the maroon Olds, and we're off: wild race down Third Street to the intersection of Newcomb and Third, where the call originated. The nature of the crime in progress and the description of the suspect are unclear. Lozada is hunched into a ball. Grabbing the wheel at 10 o'clock and 3 o'clock, he pivots with the car, absorbing each turn in his shoulders. He jumps lanes and suddenly we're racing at high speed into oncoming traffic, cars peeling away on either side of us. "Paul, Paul, Paul. My Lord, Lord, Lord," Nash says with muted alarm.

Before we get to the scene, the dispatcher cancels the 406. Lozada seems disappointed. We never learn what the hubbub was.

On the way back to the restaurant, we slow down by a bus stop and Lozada guffaws as he spies a man waiting. "Poor Sammy Marks," he says.

Lozada and Nash had rousted Marks a few weeks ago on a dope beef and told him to produce information, otherwise they'd pick him up and have him charged for the dope. They gave him two weeks and Poor Sammy Marks didn't produce in time. His decision to catch a bus on such an oft-traveled thoroughfare was equally unwise. Lozada calls for a black-and-white and Marks is taken away, expressionless and wordless throughout the arrest. "That boy's a striker," Nash says as we head back to the ribs. "He's going to do hard time."

At Ribs 'N Thangs, heaping piles of saucy ribs arrive and I learn that Hollywood producers are sniffing around Lozada and Nash, hoping to make a movie about them. Lozada says Warner Bros. and Universal are engaged in a bidding war over the rights. A producer has paid Nash and Lozada $10,000 each for a six-month option to tell their story. He also hosted the two officers and their female companions to a trip to Hollywood a few months back, where they were wined and dined. Lozada still raves about the crab ravioli he had.

"They are looking for the craziest, most shoot-'em-up, cowboy cops," Lozada says.

The producer rode along with several other partner teams and was unsatisfied -- until he rode with Nash and Lozada. Within 10 minutes, the producer was in a high-speed chase over the Bay Bridge and into Oakland. "They had never had a wild ride like that," Lozada says. "It was like Die Hard. We clicked with them. They liked our style. It wasn't phony."

Lozada wants Jean-Claude Van Damme or Sylvester Stallone to play him. "Sly gets a good gate," Nash says. Nash wants Denzel or Wesley. Either would be apt.

While Lozada and Nash are most definitely the action heroes of the unit, Mac and Pot are the all-American corn dogs, two hopelessly white Irish guys who bicker like an old married couple.

A day with Mac and Pot invariably involves a stop or two at the Daily Scoop, a coffee and ice cream joint at 18th and Missouri. The place is run by three beautiful young Irishwomen, so it's a natural reconnoiter place for them. Every day lunch is exactly the same -- burritos -- usually at a Mission District joint where Pot flirts with one of the employees.

One day at the Daily Scoop, the radio is playing Cher's "Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves." Mac and Pot sing along to the chorus. "Gypsies, tramps, and thieves. You hear it from the people in the town. They call us ...." The conversation quickly turns to the famed Cher hair flip. I ask Mac if he can do the flip. He obliges in grand style. Pot makes a less spectacular, yet still impressive, attempt.

As we leave with lattes and espressos on Nov. 7, Mac gets a call from a snitch. Nothing doing with any of the murders, but there's a big drug deal going down, a kilo of cocaine is coming into the Sunnydale projects.

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