The Officer's Son
Gail D. Prentice
© Copyright 2020 by Gail D. Prentice
“Folks, there is absolutely no escaping Hell, once you enter eternity without Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior,” proclaimed Evangelist Daniels, “there is absolutely no hope of a return for a do over.” Sweat dripped from his brow and trickled down his cheek, under the blue and white revival tent on a sultry, late afternoon.
“Ah, baloney,” came a deep voice from the rear of the tent. “Do you know how many years that hogwash has been declared? Jesus was supposed to have come several times according to many of you counterfeit Christians. Jesus has been coming soon for more years than all our ages added together.
“I think it is time to silence all of you morons!”
Instantly the voice from the rear of the tent quit shouting. The disgruntled man quickly raised a revolver and fired at Evangelist Daniels.
Bang, bang, bang, there was a slight pause and then three more blasts from the muzzle of the revolver.
Evangelist Daniels staggered backward and fell prostrate onto the makeshift platform within the tent. People screamed and began to scatter in all directions. Pandemonium reigned and several were being trampled in the mass exodus from the tent. Some people tripped over the tent stakes and ropes, while others tripped over people lying on the ground. The parking lot came alive as those who had made it to their cars, started the engines and raced out of the parking area, throwing up a cloud of dust and spraying gravel from under their tires.
In the confusion which had instantly erupted, the lone voice of opposition disappeared. It all happened so quickly that nobody had gotten a clear glimpse of the shooter and likewise, nobody knew where he went to. He seemed to just disappear in the crowd.
With the once crowded tent virtually vacated, Pastor McClennan dialed 911, as he rolled the evangelist over to his back and applied direct pressure to Evangelist Daniels’ three bullet wounds in his abdomen and hip.
A few who had fled, began to re-enter the tent to offer help to others who were hurt in the stampede, while others assisted the attendees who were hit by cars in the parking lot. Some stood around dazed and in shock or just wandered around.
It seemed like hours before the police and ambulance arrived on scene, but it had only been eight minutes. As they rushed onto the scene, the EMS quickly took over the care of Evangelist Daniels as Pastor McClennan rolled back on his knees and gazed around the tent in disbelief.
“He is going to be okay,” the EMS nurse said as he pulled tape from a roll with his teeth. “No vital organs were hit and you did a good job of stopping the bleeding.”
As the medical saviors loaded the unconscious minister on the gurney, the police came forward to begin examining the crime scene.
“Where was he standing when the shots were fired,” a sergeant asked the pastor.
“Huh?” Pastor McClennan stumbled to answer.
“Where was he standing when the shots were fired,” the sergeant repeated in a stronger tone of voice.
“Uh, right there behind the pulpit,” the pastor said as he stood to his feet.
“Did you see where the shooter was when he fired?” a different policeman asked.
“No, no, I’m not sure. I was looking at the people that were responding to the message, but I don’t… remember…”
“Where were you?” the two policemen almost asked in unison, interrupting the pastor.
“Where were you? And were you standing or sitting at the time?” the sergeant continued.
“I was standing over here facing somewhat this way… How could anybody do something like this?”
“There a lot of terrible people in this world,” a detective said as he strolled up to the pastor.
“My name is Calvin Roberts, I am a Special Investigator with the Falcon Center PD. Was this a Christian revival?” he continued with contempt in his voice.
“Yes,” Pastor McClennan answered. “Could that be a contributing factor?”
“Not a doubt in my mind,” Calvin sneered. “You Christian types are going to be in for a surprise soon. The vitriol that every last one of you spout will finally be brought to an end.”
The sergeant and the other officer looked at each other and grinned as if they were in complete agreement.
Standing to his feet, in a state of shock, Pastor McClennan was speechless. Not only had his friend of many years been shot right in front of him, the police were quite indignant about having to be there and felt that he deserved to be shot.
Gazing around, somewhat still in shock, Pastor McClennan looked at the holes in the rear of the tent. He stepped off the platform and walked to where he presumed the shooter had stood. By the appearance of the holes in the tent and the position of where Evangelist Daniels had been standing, there was no way that he could have missed the other three shots.
There were three rounds that had struck Daniels in the lower part of his body and the three holes in the tent aligned themselves to where his chest, neck and head would have been. Shuddering, the pastor called to the detective, “Officer Roberts,” his voice quivered, “would you come here please?”
Roberts looked back towards the pastor and ordered irately, “Please return to the stage and stop moving around. You are most likely interfering with evidence. And pick your feet up. I don’t want you to mess up any more footprints than you already have.
“Now you are a crime scene expert, I presume,” Roberts snipped. “Just stick with what you know,” he continued, “Baffle people with your baloney and hate but leave the police work to us.”
Befuddled, Pastor McClennan carefully walked back to the platform and stood as far as he could out of their way. “Is there anything I can do?”
“Just sit down there and shut-up,” Roberts stressed. “When we need to know something, we will ask.”
“Being a little hard on him, aren’t you?” the sergeant asked quietly.
“Not any harder than he is on the suckers that sit there and listen to him every Sunday,” Roberts snickered.
The police photographer showed up and instinctively started snapping shots in almost every possible angle of the platform and the tent in general. He spent several moments studying the holes in the tent and taking photos of them from different angles.
“Any idea where the shooter was, Calvin?” he asked.
“Somewhere near the rear of the tent on the north aisle, I would presume. Get a picture of the pastor’s shoes so we can identify where he was throughout this ordeal. He has been all over the place since we got here. I don’t know if he was intentionally doing this to mask the evidence or if he might be the shooter and wants to throw us off track,” Calvin barked back.
The pastor’s eyes about popped out of his head when he heard the detective’s comment. As he lifted his feet to allow the photographer to take pictures of his shoe soles. More than ever, he was in disbelief of what was now happening. This appeared more bazaar than the actual shooting which nightmarish by now.
“Do you really think that the detective believes I could have done this?” Pastor McClennan asked the photographer cautiously.
“Calvin is the best detective on the force. He never minces words, and he has always caught the perp,” the photographer said flatly. “Don’t cross him or get in his way.”
As the pastor dropped his feet to the floor, he began to stand from the chair he had been sitting.
“I said sit there,” Roberts almost shouted! “When I want you to move around and mess up my crime scene or speak, I will tell you to!”
Terrified to move or to say anything, the pastor sat there like a small child who had been grounded and put in the corner. For nearly ten minutes, he sat there without so much as a twitch. He sat there studying his surroundings and trying to recall the last hour’s events.
Flashes of different scenes kept zinging through his mind. He kept seeing the horror on the people’s faces as they fled. The shrieks were overpowering his ears as if they were still screaming as they ran for safety. Visions of different people appeared and disappeared as if watching a slideshow at a high rate of speed and his friend falling to the floor brought horrid memories of the tours in Vietnam he had served.
One person that kept reappearing was a young man in his mid-twenties in blue jeans and a blue shirt, that would give the impression of denim, shirt. He had reddish hair and a scar down his left cheek that was angry and red in color. The visions that he saw varied from a pleasant look to distraught and tormented expression. Could this have been the man who did this horrible thing? Where was he sitting? Was it in the front, middle or rear? North or south? His mind raced with images and thoughts.
“Pastor?” Roberts voiced strongly. “If you are done daydreaming, do you think you could answer some questions now?”
“Uh, uh, yes,” the pastor stuttered. “What can I help you with?”
“You were standing here, is that correct”
“You were watching the crowd?” he continued.
“I was watching the crowd and Brother Daniels. I wanted to see if he might need some help as people came forward…”
“Yeah, yeah, to receive Christ as Lord and Savior. Did you see who did the shooting or did you do it because you were jealous of the fact that Daniels ministry was more flamboyant and visible than yours?”
“What?” McClennan exclaimed in amazement.
“Did you stash the gun under the platform or have an accomplice haul it out for you?”
“What are you talking about? I didn’t shoot him. I don’t have a gun and I didn’t pass a gun to anybody to haul out of here. I don’t know what you are trying to do here…”
“Just answer the questions,” Roberts broke in. “You wouldn’t mind going down to the lab for some GSR tests would you?”
“GSR? What is that?”
“Gun Shot Residue. It will tell us if you pulled the trigger or were very close to the shooter.
“Did you see who might have shot him?”
“As I sat here thinking, I kept seeing a young man about twenty years old, in blue jeans and what might have been a denim shirt. He was the only face that really stood out from the rest.”
“Kind of reddish and hung just over the ears. Not very well combed.”
“I don’t know, maybe about my height or a little shorter.”
“That doesn’t tell me much.” Roberts snapped. “You are over six feet, so shorter means exactly what?”
“I would guess average height. Five ten or so. He probably weighed one hundred and seventy pounds or so…” he paused and tried to recall the details. “And he had a scar on his left cheek, I believe.”
“Sergeant, would you take the pastor down and have him checked for GSR? If he has any, book him!” Detective Roberts barked rudely and even more agitated.
“Wait a minute,” Pastor McClennan balked. “Booked?”
“I didn’t stutter,” spouted Roberts angrily. “If you don’t have any residue, you have nothing to fret.”
“By all means, let’s go then,” the pastor replied indignantly.
As they handcuffed the preacher and loaded him in the patrol car, they drove out of the parking area, the pastor, from the back seat of the police sedan, saw the young man in the denim shirt.
“There is the young man I described to the detective. Standing just down the block, do you see him?”
“Twenty-two, dispatch,” the sergeant spoke as he keyed the microphone that hung on the dash. “Unidentified male suspect standing at the corner of Forty Second and Ash. We need to pick him up for questioning. Can you dispatch a unit to apprehend him?
“White male, blue shirt and blue jeans, red hair, carrying a dark blue or black bag, possibly a backpack.”
“Ten-four, Twenty-two. Dispatch, Sixty-three, did you copy Twenty-two?”
“Ten-four, about there now, three blocks away. Twenty-two, please stand by for identification.”
“Ten-four,” the sergeant responded.
As the sergeant pulled to the curb the man began to run.
“Suspect running west on Ash… turning onto Forty-third. We are following.”
“Just turned on Forty-third from Willow, ETA thirty seconds,” Sixty-three quickly responded.
“Suspect now going south down alley between Willow and Ash.”
“Got him in sight, will apprehend.”
“Ten-four. Taking our suspect on in,” the sergeant grinned as he looked in the rear-view mirror, pleased to use the word suspect.
As the squad car pulled into the police station, the radio broke silence as Sixty-three shouted, “Shots fired, assistance requested, Willow and Forty-fourth.”
The doors of the police station burst open as several officers raced to their cars. From around the back of the building, sped a black van that looked like a retired bread truck with lights flashing. As the barrage of police vehicles rolled onto the street, sirens blared as they flew toward the scene.
“Sounds like you might have gotten lucky,” the sergeant said as he helped the handcuffed pastor out of the car and directed him through the door of the station. “A runner already makes you look innocent. But,” he stressed, “the lab will prove whether you were the shooter. That doesn’t make you innocent, though. You could still be an accomplice.”
Still in shock, that he witnessed this horrendous act and was then handcuffed and hauled away in the back of a squad car, Pastor McClennan shivered with cold chills at the thought of being formally arrested for something that he had nothing to do with as he stumbled along by the push of the officers behind him.
“Sit,” a new officer demanded as he pointed to a single straight-back chair.
A young lady in a white lab coat opened the door next to him and scowled, “Is this the perp for the GSR?”
“I am not a perp,” Pastor McClennan finally spoke firmly in his own defense.
His voice had no more than finished echoing in the vacant hall when he felt a stabbing pain in his side as both the sergeant and the other officer grabbed him and prodded him soundly in the ribs with the riot batons as they pinned him to the back of the chair against the wall.
“Settle down there, Bub,” the other officer said gruffly. “We will not harm you unless you continue to get unruly. If you continue, we will have to do whatever is necessary, do I make myself clear?”
They released their grip and removed their batons from his ribs and with a groan in pain, Pastor McClennan nodded in agreement.
As soon as they released their grip, the lab technician grabbed his hand with her gloved hand and swabbed a liquid over both of his hands. Then she applied some more to the sleeves of his shirt and jacket.
“Not finding anything,” she said disgustedly. “He is not your shooter.”
“Then, you are free to go for now,” the sergeant said.
“May I get a ride back to the tent, please?” the pastor asked as politely.
“Call a cab,” the other officer answered curtly. “They will be glad to help you out.”
Ten minutes later, Pastor McClennan stepped out of the cab and walked up to the tent that was now surrounded by plastic, yellow police ribbon, barricading him from entering. As he looked around, the parking lot that was no longer empty, there were onlookers standing everywhere as they viewed everything as if a famous celebrity were present.
There seemed to be such joy in everybody’s face as they murmured, pointed and meandered around, hoping for a better vantage point.
“Was this one of those tent revivals?” asked one of the bystanders.
“Yes, it was,” Pastor McClennan confirmed. “This was the last afternoon of the meetings here in the park.”
“I could hear the music from my house down the street. Was the guy who got shot doing the singing?”
“He was,” Pastor McClennan started. “Not only is he a great singer, but he is an awesome preacher…”
A volley of shots rang out with a zinging of a ricochet resonating nearby, causing the gallery of people to run helter-skelter once again.
Two policemen came running around the corner of the restroom in the park, chasing hard after a man in a blue shirt and blue jeans, waving his gun frantically as he charged through the terrified crowd, knocking some of them to the ground.
Pastor McClennan stepped quickly into the path of the oncoming marauder and caught him on his throat, just under his chin with a strong right hand. The sudden stop, lifted the young man’s feet from the ground and the pastor stepped two more steps forward, causing the young man’s feet to continue up and his head wrenching brutally backward. With a violent shove, Pastor MeClennan drove the man’s head into the graveled parking lot with a thud, where the runner now lay limp.
The two policemen by then had caught up with guns drawn. “I think that this is the man that you are looking for,” Pastor McClennan spoke softly. “He will not resist now.”
“You could have gotten killed,” one of the officers panted.
“Worse yet,” wheezed the other, “you could have gotten someone else killed.”
“That was a very clever move,” came the voice of the detective from behind him. ‘Where did you learn that one?”
“US Army, First Infantry,” Pastor McClennan affirmed.
As the detective stepped around the two arresting officers, his face turned pale as he viewed the perp on the ground and his knees buckled. As he knelt on the ground, about four feet from the completely dazed youth, his face turned red and his eyes turned to steel.
“Where is the weapon?” the detective demanded.
“Over here,” a voice from the crowd said as they pointed to the revolver that had flown from the hands of the dazed shooter.
The detective stood and walked briskly over to it and picked it up with a pen, through the trigger guard.
“Call an ambulance,” the first gasping officer said.
“No, don’t do that. He isn’t hurt, just had the wind and the sense knocked out of him. Stand him up and cuff him.
“His name is Calvin Roberts Jr.,” Detective Roberts said slowly. “This is my revolver that he evidently stole from home.
“Pastor,” Calvin continued, “I owe you an apology. You could have, blinded, permanently maimed, or killed my son if you would have followed through with your training.
“I have always thought that Christians were lowlife cowards that only thought of themselves, but today, you stepped out in the face of grave danger to protect everybody here. You, by natural instinct, because of your military training should have killed him and could have killed him before he hit the ground, but you didn’t.
“I should have recognized you, Colonel,” Detective Roberts said meekly. “Fort Riley, Kansas at Camp Forsythe, 1960, Fort Polk, Louisiana, Alpha Company, 1965. You trained my stepfather, Lieutenant Samuel Leesan.”
“I am sorry,” the pastor said with great compassion as the two officers led the young Roberts away. “I hated to hear that your dad lost his life in Vietnam, he was a great officer… and then this.
“What can I do to help?” the pastor breathed sympathetically.
“Go tend to your friend in the hospital, while I finish up here. I want to talk to you more about the three shots that missed the preacher…,” he hesitated, “They shouldn’t have.”
With a kind and understanding nod, Pastor McClennan went to his car and drove to the hospital, knowing in his heart that there would be a long and lasting relationship with Special Investigator Calvin Roberts, the wayward son of a great military officer.