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

Ensconced in their powder-blue Chrysler Gran Fury, two plainclothes San Francisco police officers cruise Harbor Road in the Potrero Hill projects.

"There are a lot of murderers loose up here," Inspector Bob McMillan tells me, pulling off his 49ers cap and resetting it on his head. "We'll point 'em out to you," he adds.

"This is murderers' row," his partner, Officer Michael Philpott, points out.
The projects' deathly reputation has to do with drugs, guns, territory, proximity, and, of all things, a guy stepping on another guy's foot.

Harbor Road is on the downhill side of the projects. Oakdale, where another crew of hoods hangs out, is on the uphill side. A few years back, the two crews got along. Then one night at a party, an Oakdale guy stepped on a Harbor Road guy's foot. Or maybe it was the other way around. Anyway, harsh words were passed. Everyone started fronting. Punches were thrown. And ever since, the Harbor and Oakdale crews have been killing each other.

True to his word, McMillan spots a killer. "Derek Dashawn," he says. Dashawn was involved in a drive-by last summer on Palou, McMillan says. Dashawn and his associates missed their intended target, someone who had disrespected a young girl at a party, but killed a pregnant women with a stray bullet.

Seconds later, a young man races by on his BMX bike. "Charles Gaines," McMillan says. "He's a stone-cold killer."

"He has death in his eyes," Philpott adds.
The tour continues on the flatlands of Bayview-Hunters Point. At Newcomb and Third, McMillan points to a man tearing into a rib at an impromptu sidewalk barbecue party. "Tony Miller," he says. "He killed a guy named Baby Lawrence."

It happened at the longshoreman's hall dance last year. McMillan says Miller sprayed Lawrence with a machine gun as he climbed some stairs to get away. Miller suspected Lawrence of stealing $15,000 from his house. "There were plenty of witnesses, but no one will testify," McMillan says.

Around just about every corner, the two cops point to another unpunished killer. "There are no rules out here," McMillan says. "You know the saying, to 'get away with murder.' Well, you can out here."

By "out here," McMillan means the southeast quadrant of the city: forgotten war zones like Hunters Point, Double Rock, and Sunnydale where the vast majority of the city's African-American community resides. Out here, death and drugs guide the rhythm of life. Out here, blacks kill blacks and the police generally don't give a damn.

But that changed five months ago, when two veteran homicide inspectors, Napoleon Hendrix and Earl Saunders, examined the record, discovering that 33 homicides, all of them black-on-black, were still unsolved. Some were 5 years old. The stagnant cases had other similarities. Amounting to approximately one-third of the annual murder rate, the killings had all taken place in the southeast corner of the city. Most of the victims were themselves unsavory characters, killers and crack dealers.

The nature of the crimes did not excite an aggressive police response, Hendrix and Saunders say. After all, cops could ask themselves, hasn't street justice been meted out here? Are these really the victims we should occupy our time trying to vindicate?

"We kind of took it personally," says Hendrix. "If you hadn't noticed, me and Inspector Saunders are black."

"Racism plays a lot into this," Saunders stresses. "It's like the dirty air you breathe, as American as apple pie and Chevrolet. If there were this many unsolved murders in the North Beach area, there would have been a massive task force on it right away."

In 1995, the San Francisco Police Department has amassed a record of inaction with dramatic racial implications. Dramatic but not surprising. For the better part of the last century, cops have been more than happy to look the other way as blacks killed one another . Segregation kept blacks out of sight, out of mind. That lackluster attitude has nurtured the code of silence in poor, black areas and perpetuated the cycle of distrust between police and blacks.

Under constant pushing from Hendrix, the department finally decided to devote resources to solving the 33 homicides. The result was CRUSH, the Crime Response Unit to Stop Homicide.

Hendrix and Saunders fielded six cops -- three white, two black, one Filipino -- with deep roots in the southeast sector and put them in plainclothes. Their mandate: beat the bushes and flush witnesses, guns, and informants so homicide inspectors at the Hall of Justice can close cases.

The plan shredded the standard SFPD rule books. Only one of the team members, McMillan, is an inspector. The rest are grunt officers. Normally, the officers would be light-years away from working murder investigations out of the Inspectors Bureau. But Hendrix and Saunders needed action, and they wouldn't have gotten that working from seniority lists.

So far, CRUSH has made more than 250 felony arrests, for crimes ranging from possession and parole violations to attempted murder and murder. They've solved three of the 33 homicides and made 10 additional homicide collars, confiscating more than 60 firearms along the way.

Still, numbers never tell the whole story of police work. Many of the crimes CRUSH is investigating will probably remain unsolved. The simple truth is that if a killer isn't nailed in the first week after the crime, the chances are he won't be. (The CRUSH unit has had to content itself with busting seven murderers for lesser beefs to get them off the street.) Still more cases will be adjudicated on the streets. And new homicides will quickly take precedence.

But CRUSH's main purpose goes beyond solving the 33 cases. Hendrix and Saunders know that the Police Department needs to weave itself into the fabric of life in the southeast part of the city. It might take years, they concede. But if peace is to be brought to that wide, forgotten swath of San Francisco, cops are going to have to show that they give a damn, that killings, no matter how sordid, will not be forgotten.

Imparting that to the community is perhaps CRUSH's most critical task. Once the message is anchored, law-abiding residents might just begin to see the police as approachable public servants.

But the CRUSH team is dogged by a twin paradox: To regain their footing, the officers will have to begin by vindicating the memory of dead killers, dead rapists, and dead drug dealers. And to make progress on the cases, the team has to apply substantial pressure to witnesses, informants, and suspects -- actions that could exasperate rather than dispel the antipathy and distrust the community feels for the police.

Team members gather around a table to discuss the day's work, as they do every day at noon. They convene in a locker/meeting room adjacent to the Bureau of Inspectors offices on the fourth floor of the Hall of Justice. The room is coldly institutional. Oddly matched lockers line the walls. A blackboard on the back wall bears the crude illustration of an intersection where a crime occurred. The table is covered with warrants, mug shots, and police reports. Deputy Chief Fred Lau walks through on the way to his office next door. "Hey, chief!" the men shout out.

Around the table sit:
Officer Maurice Edwards. Studiously reading a report, Edwards is removed from the clubby banter around the table. The 17-year veteran is fondly referred to by his teammates as "Maurice the police" or simply "Mo." He's the newest member on the team, and everyone is still getting used to his pace, which is slower and more measured than his colleagues'.

Inspector McMillan. Called "Mac" or "Max" by cops and criminals alike, he leans back in his chair and listens. He is taciturn but friendly, the wisest member of the team. He also has the most experience, 18 years, all of it in the southeast sector. He calls himself a "black man trapped in a white Irishman's body." (Hendrix endorses that assessment. "He's black out there," he says.) "If they put me out in the avenues, I'd just get in fights. I love the people out here," Mac says, referring to the southeast. While some team members have a tendency to wind people up, Mac puts them at ease. He chills them out. I will learn later that Mac is a sentimental family man who carries scores of photos of his three children in his wallet and is prone to teary revelry when drinking. He has also been known to do karaoke versions of "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'." He handles the high part.

Officer Philpott. The youngest member of the team, he laughs off a reference to a date he had over the weekend. "Let's just say I made out well for myself," he says. Philpott is Irish San Francisco to the core. In the fourth grade, he campaigned for Dan White -- for a free lunch at Mickey D's, he stresses. He comes from a cop family. Aside from his father, Deputy Chief Diarmuid Philpott, his brother, Brian, is an officer at Southern Station and his sister, Teresa, is the secretary in the narcotics division. His slightly flattened nose testifies to his former boxing career. Pot, as he's called, illustrates his phi-losophy of life by frequently repeating a line from The Last Waltz. "I just want to break even," he says, quoting Richard Manuel, the Band's late piano player: His romantic adventures and misadventures are a frequent topic of conversation, especially his crush on Van Morrison's daughter, Shannon, whose band plays at Ireland's 32. "I'm going to be calling Van 'Dad' by Christmas," he says. Pot is prone to bearhugs when drinking and recently bruised Mac's chest while trying to squeeze him out of a cocktail-inspired funk.

Officer Michael Bolte. Fiddling with the straps on his bulletproof vest, he passes photos of suspects across the table to another team member. Bolte is 10 years in the department, and sometimes he's not too happy about it. "If I won the Lotto, I'd just say, 'Fuck it,' " he says one day. Bolte is pissed about the department's reputation for brutality and misconduct, which he thinks is unfairly earned. He constantly harps on the Office of Citizen Complaints and defense attorneys. "It really gets to me," he says of the media's portrayal of the department. On duty, Bolte is one big twitch, crackling with energy for the job. His hands knife the air when he makes his points. But his most notable physical attribute is his constantly arching left eyebrow. His eyes are like icy fire. "He wants to be in on every arrest," Hendrix says. Bolte has the kind of computerized memory for detail that helps break cases. Entering a potential witness' home, within moments he's boring into his subjects by citing who has had a kid with whom and where so-and-so lived back when he was selling drugs for what's his name.

Officer Paul Lozada. The 10-year veteran is practicing his reach. He sticks his Beretta in a holster in the back of his pants and makes a few practice grabs for it. Satisfied that he has easy access to the weapon, he sits, flips down his shades, and hunkers in for the meeting. Lozada is a former gang member who was kicked out of just about every high school in the city for fighting. He's a black-belt karate champion. "I've been 10 years a cop but a gangster my whole life," he says. Fond of pimp shades, leather jackets, and roomy plaid shirts, Lozada looks more criminal than cop, a perfect pose for a plainclothes officer seeking street cred. Cool on the outside, he can pop into the excitement of police work at any second, volunteering to take the wheel for a hot chase into oncoming traffic. He likes to kiss one bullet for good luck before putting it in the clip for his gun.

E.R. Balinton. The former deputy sheriff picks under his fingernails with a rather large knife. Six years in the department, he worked another nine in the jails and at Juvenile Hall. Nash, as he's called, played for the Cincinnati Bengals in the '70s, but he was let go after one season. He describes his football career in a high, squeaky voice: "Itsy, bitsy, witsy, liddle, teeny, weeny, eeny, meeny." Nash is the moralist, frequently scolding crack addicts for smoking while pregnant. "Give the kid a chance," is one of his favorite lines. While the rest of the team don't mind talking about themselves, Nash keeps things pretty close to the vest. "We have a foreigner in our midst," he says of me one day.

At the head of the table is the legendary Hendrix, the towering Texan with the textbook no-bullshit attitude. To smile would probably hurt the man. He's been a detective for so long, 30 years to be exact, that he can convince the hardest con that it's in his best interest to confess all. "If Nap was here, he'd have this guy sucking his dick in a minute," Lozada says one day referring to a suspect.

Hendrix is team leader. He gives the men assignments every day: Pick up this witness, work this informant. Most days, though, the CRUSH team makes it up as they go, following their instincts.

By today, Nov. 6, I've been tagging along with CRUSH for almost seven days. Besides the 33 unsolved murders, they've picked up several other cases.

The most nagging new case involves an Oct. 26 shooting in Boeddeker Park in the Tenderloin. Two drug dealers engaged in a gunfight. One of the dealers, Reggie Gordon, grabbed an innocent bystander, a homeless woman, and used her as a shield. She caught a bullet in the head and one in the chest and died the same day. The suspected shooter's name is Demoin Stroman. A warrant has been issued for his arrest.

Stroman is getting under CRUSH's skin. He has already given the team the slip once. The night of the killing, McMillan and Bolte tracked him to his girlfriend's house in Pittsburg, but Stroman vanished in a car chase. "He rolled out of the car and jumped a fence," Mac says.

But the main topic today is Jerry Banks, who's been accused of murdering Ronnie Hodges, a small-time hood from Potrero Hill who made a living robbing drug dealers.

Earlier in the day, as McMillan prepared for the noon meeting, he told Hodges' story. "I knew the guy," he said walking down the hallway to the homicide detail office. "He was destined to get it. He's been ripping off drug dealers for a while. The guy who we think shot him is someone Ronnie may have shot at a few days before."

Police say Banks and Hodges rumbled on Nov. 4 at a touch football game at the Potrero Hill recreation center, where O.J. Simpson used to play. The dispute ended blocks away when Banks chased Hodges into the Four Way Market on 23rd Street. Firing six shots, Banks hit Hodges once in the back, piercing his heart. Within a half-hour of the killing, an informant called in to the SFPD, asked for McMillan, and put the finger on Banks.

Hendrix tells the CRUSH unit that the videocassette from the store's security camera has conveniently disappeared and the owner is playing like he didn't see anything. All police have to go on is the word of the snitch and a palm print on some broken glass in the store. The detective adds that he's working Banks' mother, trying to get her to convince her son to surrender.

Bolte recalls the last time he saw Hodges alive. He had busted him on a robbery beef involving a cellular phone. "I told him the robberies were going to catch up with him," Bolte tells the crew. "He said, 'I don't give a fuck, I've been shot six times.' "

rugs are at the heart of most of the 33 murders. Suspects and witnesses are often dealers or addicts, or the victim is involved in the drug business in some way. Since the drug trade in the city travels between the southeast and the Tenderloin, the TL is a natural place for CRUSH to work cases. And there's really only one way to work a cold case: roust people.

CRUSH's favorite targets are people who lost their Fourth Amendment rights when they agreed to parole or probation conditions that allow police to detain and search them without cause.

Dealers and users are good marks, too. They're most likely holding, and a cop can say -- truthfully or not -- that he or she has seen a drug deal go down and use that as cause to detain and search them. If drugs are found or if the police perform a warrant check and discover a suspect is wanted by the court, they have the necessary leverage to go to work. And work means milking the dealers and users for information, putting the pressure on, cutting deals, and turning them into snitches. Cops call them confidential informants. Makes 'em sound more respectable.

At Turk and Leavenworth, Nash and Lozada spot a drug deal going down, a young woman passing crack from her mouth to the mouth of a young man. Nash jumps from the unmarked squad car, a filthy maroon Olds, and grabs the girl around her neck from behind before she knows what's going on. He tries to open her mouth, but she resists. The struggle becomes almost violent, and Nash has wrestled her nearly to the ground before she stops resisting. "Open your mouth," he yells.

"I ain't got no dope," she mumbles furiously between clenched teeth.
Nash gives up, apparently not wanting to escalate the wrestling match, and lets the girl swallow. "It was candy," she says.

He opens her mouth and shows me white specks on her cheek wall. "See there, there's some of it."

"I was being nice to you," Nash says. "But you're a liar, girl, a liar from your mama's womb."

In the meantime, Lozada has detained the woman's male companion and called in a warrant check over a cellular phone. Coming up cold, Lozada has to release him.

The girl, Tara Glenn, tells Nash she's 19. No warrants come up on her. "Damn man," she says, leaning against a car. "You really had me." She's smiling because she knows she can't be arrested.

"You like that feeling, huh?" Lozada asks her. "Like rough sex."
Getting back in the car, Nash issues a parting warning. "You made your money today, now get off of my turf. I don't like it when I don't get dope. Come back tomorrow."

On Eddy, Nash sees a pregnant woman walking down the street with a group of men. "Go home," he yells at her from the car window. "What are you doing out here smoking cigarettes, hanging out. Give that baby a chance."

Minutes later, as we launch onto 280 at Brannan and Sixth Street, Nash goes into a stirring rendition of Malcolm X's speech: "You who slick back your hair with pomade and hit your women like a dog. You call yourself a man."

Heading to Potrero Hill the conversation suddenly turns to boogers. Nash tells Lozada about an old friend of his named Ronnie Rat who picked his nose in a friend's car and wiped it on the seat. "Why didn't he roll it up between his fingers and fling it out the window?" Lozada asks in all seriousness.

"I don't know," Nash says.
We exit the freeway at 18th Street and drive over the peak to the Potrero Hill projects. All the children returning from school stop and stare at the car. You can almost hear it in their heads: "5/0," the universal appellation for police.

"Hey where's the R.I.P. [graffiti] for Ronnie Hodges?" Nash asks a laid-back kid with dreads. "I'm glad as a motherfucker he's dead," the kid says. Nash just laughs.

Lozada sees a guy sitting in a car who he knows to have a felony warrant. "Want to get him?" he asks Nash.

After a head nod, they roust him from the car, cuff him, and put him in the back seat of the Olds.

Nash goes to work. "You know Jerry Banks. He just smoked Ronnie."
The man, who with his close-cropped hair and gold-rimmed Lennon glasses looks like he could be a lawyer or a professor, asks, "What are we talking about?"

Lozada leans over the back seat and cuts the crap. "Put him down somewhere." (Translation: Give us an address.)

Nash clarifies, as if the situation weren't already clear. "It's let's-make-a-deal time. You like freedom? Know about anything else. Guns? Drugs?"

"Check this out," the man, who is wanted for parole violations, says. "All I know about that boy is he lay sometime in the Fillmore on McAllister, where his mom is."

The felony warrant is too good to let the man go, so Nash and Lozada drop him off at Potrero Station. "I ain't tripping," the parole violator says as they lead him into the station. "I'll see you out there again in 60 days anyway. But you could have at least let me stay out for my birthday."

Most of the time while I was riding with CRUSH, the unit respected the Fourth Amendment rights of people they rousted. They were mindful of reasonable suspicion and probable cause standards when they detained and searched someone. But sometimes, in the legitimate pursuit of killers, they appeared to cross the line.

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.

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.

The officers fail to find the kilo. Perhaps he ditched the drugs somewhere between his house and when Mac spotted him on Geneva.

Driving through the projects, Mac sees the kingpin of the Samoan gang, sitting in his car. He decides to take him on. As soon as Mac gets out of the car, six or seven youths, some Samoan, some not, come from nowhere and take positions surrounding Mac as he jacks up the druglord. Mac ignores them.

He asks permission and looks in the gangster's car. He walks around the corner and eyes the trash. Still nothing. "Thanks man," Mac says to the druglord as he gets back in the Gran Fury.

A few blocks later, a call comes over the phone. It's Hendrix. Earlier in the day, Mac and Pot located a Potrero Hill hood that Jerry Banks had been using as an alibi. Mac had convinced the hood to go to the Hall of Justice and talk to Hendrix. "He tore Terry's alibi apart," Mac announces, happy that the day bore fruit.

Continued...

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