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

All Mac knows is that the deal involves a well-known Samoan gang and another dealer they know, who's been brought aboard to cook the powder into rocks. On the phone, the snitch tells Mac that the Samoans are bringing the kilo to the dealer's house, who will then take it by foot or car to an unknown location where it will be cooked.

Mac calls the other CRUSH members and apprises them of the imminent drug deal. If they can bust some guys on a kilo deal, those arrested will be susceptible to turning snitch and perhaps telling them about a murder.

Much of time, CRUSH calls its own shots. No other unit has as much latitude to "go free-lance" as they call it. No other unit operates under so little administrative layers. As Bolte puts it one day, "We don't really have a boss. We have Nap [Hendrix], and he's kind of a boss but not really. Still, hey, in months we haven't fucked up."

When the unit goes free-lance it moves from plodding investigative work into a whole other realm of police work. Cases have comfortable parameters; they have suspects, addresses, witnesses. Going free-lance means taking risks. It means constantly fighting to stay on top of events.

Today, as the information comes in on the kilo, the team is already behind. The deal is going down in less than 10 minutes, and they are easily 10 minutes away from the dealer's house. Mac and Pot pound back their espressos and race along 280 to the Sunnydale projects where the dealer lives.

Mac calls into the narcotics unit and asks them to send a "cool van," a vehicle that won't be recognized. A downside to weaving oneself into a community is one gets known. And drug busts by nature are undercover operations. Narco radios back that there isn't time. "Damn," Mac says and clips shut the phone.

The team meets at a nearby bank parking lot to strategize. Lozada and Bolte hop in a car with Pot and Mac and they take off. They drop Bolte at a golf course, where he can spy the dealer's house with binoculars and communicate with the rest of the team by radio. The others position themselves several blocks away from the dealer's house at the end of a cul-de-sac overlooking the projects.

The sun is bright, and flocks of pigeons are sweeping over the rooftops. Kids are riding their bikes and Big Wheels, and women are standing in doorways holding babies. Addicts shuffle in between.

They wait. "If we get Chabez," Lozada says of the dealer, "he'll give up Damian." Damian is a suspect in one of the 33 murders. Chabez is on parole, so he'll be a soft target to turn snitch.

A woman walks to the back door of the dealer's house, Bolte announces over the radio. "I think it's a tweaker lady," his voice crackles.

The woman walks off, carrying a purse. The team springs. Catching up with her, they see she's distributing Willie Brown for Mayor literature. Still, she looks tweaky. Bad teeth. Ravaged face. Twitchy. "You got anything in the purse?" Mac asks.

Yeah, the woman says, and pulls out a pork chop wrapped in a paper towel.
"She had a pork chop in her purse," Mac radios to Bolte.
"A pork chop?" Bolte asks.
"10-4, a pork chop," Mac replies.

We drive back to the vantage point. Queen's "We Are the Champions" plays on the car radio. The narco guys finally arrive with a cool van, and Lozada jumps in. He drives to a post closer to the dealer's house.

Where the hell are the Samoans?
Lozada sees someone he thinks is the dealer moving a package from one car to another. But he isn't sure. "It looks like him all cleaned up," he says over the radio. "But I'm used to him all greasy."

Before Lozada can decide if he's seen the correct dealer, the suspect leaves in a car. Mac pulls out, and he and Pot start looking for the suspect. They spot him on Geneva Avenue, flip their light and siren on, and pull him over on a side street.

People leave their houses to watch. Women with children. Children alone. A man with a dashiki keeps a watchful eye as Mac cuffs the dealer and a narcotics officer who has joined the team searches the car for the kilo.

To the side, a young man adopts a threatening pose and swings a baseball bat, patting it in his palm and staring straight at Pot. "Got a game today?" Pot asks. The kid just rolls his head and mouths "sheeesh."

A few weeks earlier, a cop making an arrest in the projects here had his teeth bashed in by a kid with a baseball bat. "If he gets near me with that thing I'll smile in his face and ...," Pot pauses, smiling and nodding his head as if I know the rest of the sentence.

The dealer, bare-chested and wearing greasy, smelly jeans, leans against the back of the Gran Fury and watches as Mac searches the car. "I known Mac for years; Mac's an OG," the dealer says using the acronym for original gangster.

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