Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. A Story from Chicago Triggers a Memory

 

From Second City Cop:

A Chicago man is facing felony theft charges after police allegedly found him hauling $14,263 worth of stolen sewer lids in the back of his pickup truck Thanksgiving morning on the West Side.

Lashawn Powell, 52, admitted that his friend pays him to collect the sewer lids from city streets so he can sell them to scrapyards, prosecutors said.

Cops responded to a call of a suspicious vehicle carrying stolen sewer lids in the Garfield Park neighborhood around 4:55 a.m. Thursday. It wasn’t long before they spotted Powell allegedly driving around with 31 manhole covers in his truck bed.

In case you’re wondering, sewer lids weigh about 249 pounds each, according to Wikipedia. So, 31 lids would weigh about 7,700 pounds. The city values them at $460 each, prosecutors said during Powell’s bond court hearing Friday.

Docking With A Death Star-A Rerun

Everyone who drives has seen an overloaded pickup truck on the road like the one in the photo. Portland police officers call them Death Stars.

When a Death Star is on the move and for whatever reason goes from 40 or 50 mph to 0 mph in less than two or three seconds some of the objects in the bed of pickup keep moving at 40 or 50 mph and like meteors that break up when they hit the earth’s atmosphere some of these objects separate from the truck. These objects keep moving until they come to rest, sometimes without hitting anything, or until they are stopped by something like the front end of your car, windshield, or a pedestrian. Hence the name Death Star.

This is a story about docking with a Death Star while working the streets on a Friday night in North Precinct.

At about 2300 hours I see a pick-up truck about six blocks ahead of me. The truck moves through pools of light cast by street lamps, from light to dark as it moves down the street. As the truck moves a shower of sparks follow the truck. Maybe it’s just his muffler. I give my car a little more gas and as I get closer I find out I’m following a Death Star. There is a motorcycle in the back of the truck and attached to the motorcycle is a chain, attached to the chain is a manhole cover bouncing off the pavement. On go the red and blues and when the truck stops on go the take-down lights. Time to get on the radio.

484: Traffic.

Dispatcher: 484 go.

484: at N. Columbia and Portsmouth with Oregon plate number (I won’t use a plate number for the story because somebody might actually have that plate number.)

Dispatcher: 484 Copy

On my way to the driver’s door of the truck I stop at the back of the pick-up and light up the manhole cover with my flashlight. “City of Portland” is engraved on the manhole cover. Before I get to the driver’s door the dispatcher calls me.

Dispatcher: 484 10-51 (Can your subject overhear this.)

Me: Go ahead.

Dispatcher: 484 the RO (registered owner) has anti-social tendencies.

Me: Let’s have another car come to my location.

Dispatcher: Copy 484.

Anti-social tendencies means the subject resists arrest. I don’t know at this point if the RO is the driver but I know the manhole cover doesn’t belong to the driver and the Harley that is attached to the manhole cover does not have a license plate.

I tell the driver I need to see his license, registration, and proof of insurance. The inevitable question comes from the driver. Is there a problem officer? I like to keep things simple so once more I say license, registration, and proof of insurance. He hands me his license and registration. He doesn’t have insurance. My cover car arrives so I have the driver, who is the RO, get out of the truck. He sees the second officer and asks me why there is two of us. I tell him we always work in pairs because one of us knows how to read and the other knows how to write.

I walk him back to the manhole cover and ask him to read the engraving on the cover. I’m met with silence. I tell him, this is your lucky night because I’m the officer who knows how to read and what I’m reading states; “City of Portland”. More silence. Do me a favor and tell me where this manhole cover belongs. You wouldn’t want someone to get hurt in a traffic accident, or falling into an uncovered manhole. More silence. You’re under arrest put your hands on top of your head. We handcuff him and then I Mirandize him. Now he wants to talk.

Subject: I just bought the bike and the owner couldn’t find the key for the padlock that he used to chain the bike to the manhole cover.

I said; Let me see the paperwork on the bike.

Subject: The owner said I could get the paperwork tomorrow.

Did the owner give you a key for the bike?

Subject: No I have to get that tomorrow.

Well, how much did the bike cost you?

Subject: $6,000.

So you paid $6,000 for the bike but you don’t have a bill of sale, title, or keys to show for your $6,000? How about an address for the owner then you and I can go talk to him and verify what you just told me. Silence once again.

I arrested him for theft of the manhole cover and forwarded a copy of my report including information on the Harley to detectives. I had his truck towed to the police impound lot, or as police officers call it, Seizure World. I had radio check the VIN number of the Harley for a stolen report. There was no stolen report at the time of my traffic stop. That doesn’t mean that someone wasn’t going to find their Harley missing on Saturday morning.

It was a quiet ride to booking. Luke Skywalker and me, keeping the universe safe from Death Stars.

Published in Policing
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  1. Arahant Member

    Doug Watt: I tell him we always work in pairs because one of us knows how to read and the other knows how to write.

    Brilliant. Far better for you to get that in than waiting for your “client” to attempt such humor.

    • #1
    • December 1, 2020, at 9:01 AM PST
    • 12 likes
  2. TBA Coolidge

    So scrapyards owners would have taken that? 

    And $460 seems steep unless they’re individually crafted (I’ve seen some nice work in my time). 

    • #2
    • December 1, 2020, at 9:37 AM PST
    • 1 like
  3. Doug Watt Moderator
    Doug Watt

    TBA (View Comment):

    So scrapyards owners would have taken that?

    And $460 seems steep unless they’re individually crafted (I’ve seen some nice work in my time).

    I don’t know how sales of scrap metal is handled in Chicago. In Oregon buyers of scrap metal record their purchases of scrap metal to include recording the photo ID of the seller, and the items involved in each sale. The selling price is based upon weight.

    • #3
    • December 1, 2020, at 10:02 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  4. OldPhil Coolidge

    TBA (View Comment):

    So scrapyards owners would have taken that?

    And $460 seems steep unless they’re individually crafted (I’ve seen some nice work in my time).

    Any government property is “valued” at least 10 times more than it’s worth.

    • #4
    • December 1, 2020, at 10:02 AM PST
    • 6 likes
  5. SkipSul Coolidge
    SkipSulJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    TBA (View Comment):

    So scrapyards owners would have taken that?

    And $460 seems steep unless they’re individually crafted (I’ve seen some nice work in my time).

    Scrapyards have a well earned rep for taking way too much and not asking questions. Here in Ohio they have been increasingly regulated because the bad eggs of 20 years ago really were taking manhole covers, stolen wire, stolen plumbing, and stolen roofs. Cut the covers up and spend a few minutes with a grinder and it’s just so much lump steel, mixed with so much other lump steel.

    • #5
    • December 1, 2020, at 10:02 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  6. SkipSul Coolidge
    SkipSulJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    OldPhil (View Comment):

    TBA (View Comment):

    So scrapyards owners would have taken that?

    And $460 seems steep unless they’re individually crafted (I’ve seen some nice work in my time).

    Any government property is “valued” at least 10 times more than it’s worth.

    It’s the grade and quality of the steel in the covers – this stuff has to handle truck traffic, sewer gas, oils, fluids, de-icers, snowplows, and my father as a kid throwing cherry bombs down the storm drains to watch the swamp gas detonate (he claims he did blow a manhole cover loose once). On the scrap market it fetches a premium, far far more per pound than regular sheet metal.

    • #6
    • December 1, 2020, at 10:07 AM PST
    • 9 likes
  7. Captain French Moderator

    Doug Watt (View Comment):

    TBA (View Comment):

    So scrapyards owners would have taken that?

    And $460 seems steep unless they’re individually crafted (I’ve seen some nice work in my time).

    I don’t know how sales of scrap metal is handled in Chicago. In Oregon buyers of scrap metal record their purchases of scrap metal to include recording the photo ID of the seller, and the items involved in each sale. The selling price is based upon weight.

    In my last years before retiring (2010), one of the local scrap yards was the police / prosecutor’s best friend. It was scrupulously honest. We prosecuted a lot of cases from there. You’d think the word would have got around the thieves, but it didn’t seem to.

    • #7
    • December 1, 2020, at 10:19 AM PST
    • 9 likes
  8. PHCheese Member

    In Pittsburgh some years back they caught a scrap yard cutting up railroad cars. He would call the RR and ask for five cars to haul scrap to the steel mill. He would cut one up and put it on the bottom of the remaining four cars and then cover them with legal scrap. Different train crews did the pickup and the drop offs except for someone called in sick and was replaced by a guy who had done the drop off and remembered it was a five car drop while doing the pickup. The RR changed it procedures . They could only charge the scrap yard with stealing one car. No one knows how often they got away with it.

    • #8
    • December 1, 2020, at 10:27 AM PST
    • 15 likes
  9. SkipSul Coolidge
    SkipSulJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Al French of Damascus (View Comment):

    Doug Watt (View Comment):

    TBA (View Comment):

    So scrapyards owners would have taken that?

    And $460 seems steep unless they’re individually crafted (I’ve seen some nice work in my time).

    I don’t know how sales of scrap metal is handled in Chicago. In Oregon buyers of scrap metal record their purchases of scrap metal to include recording the photo ID of the seller, and the items involved in each sale. The selling price is based upon weight.

    In my last years before retiring (2010), one of the local scrap yards was the police / prosecutor’s best friend. It was scrupulously honest. We prosecuted a lot of cases from there. You’d think the word would have got around the thieves, but it didn’t seem to.

    I’ve often thought of the barb hurled at teaches – “those who can’t, teach”. It is unfair, of course.

    But there are any number of similar aphorisms that apply magnificently to the criminal underclass, such as “Thieves: not smart enough for real work.”

     

    • #9
    • December 1, 2020, at 10:38 AM PST
    • 6 likes
  10. kedavis Member

    SkipSul (View Comment):

    Al French of Damascus (View Comment):

    Doug Watt (View Comment):

    TBA (View Comment):

    So scrapyards owners would have taken that?

    And $460 seems steep unless they’re individually crafted (I’ve seen some nice work in my time).

    I don’t know how sales of scrap metal is handled in Chicago. In Oregon buyers of scrap metal record their purchases of scrap metal to include recording the photo ID of the seller, and the items involved in each sale. The selling price is based upon weight.

    In my last years before retiring (2010), one of the local scrap yards was the police / prosecutor’s best friend. It was scrupulously honest. We prosecuted a lot of cases from there. You’d think the word would have got around the thieves, but it didn’t seem to.

    I’ve often thought of the barb hurled at teaches – “those who can’t, teach”. It is unfair, of course.

    But there are any number of similar aphorisms that apply magnificently to the criminal underclass, such as “Thieves: not smart enough for real work.”

    And that includes not smart enough to realize that they’re dragging a manhole cover which is making a lot of sparks, and presumably a lot of noise too.

    • #10
    • December 1, 2020, at 11:07 AM PST
    • 6 likes
  11. Kozak Member
    KozakJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Was driving in LA right by Dodgers stadium on the freeway in 1982 after starting my internship.

    As I was driving a truck in front of us suddenly dropped a piece of steel that was about 6 feet square and 1 inch thick. The kind of things you see at construction on streets to cover a big hole.

    The damn thing stood on end right in front of me. I instinctively swerved and just missed it. thank God no one was in the lane next to me because I didn’t even glance that way. Looking in the mirror the thing stayed upright for a few seconds then toppled over.

    If I had hit it it would have been like a knife through cheese at 70 mph.

    • #11
    • December 1, 2020, at 2:38 PM PST
    • 8 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  12. kedavis Member

    Kozak (View Comment):

    Was driving in LA right by Dodgers stadium on the freeway in 1982 after starting my internship.

    As I was driving a truck in front of us suddenly dropped a piece of steel that was about 6 feet square and 1 inch thick. The kind of things you see at construction on streets to cover a big hole.

    The damn thing stood on end right in front of me. I instinctively swerved and just missed it. thank God no one was in the lane next to me because I didn’t even glance that way. Looking in the mirror the thing stayed upright for a few seconds then toppled over.

    If I had hit it it would have been like a knife through cheese at 70 mph.

    Crazy!

    • #12
    • December 1, 2020, at 2:47 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  13. Vance Richards Member
    Vance RichardsJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Stealing manhole covers . . . amateurs

     

     

    • #13
    • December 1, 2020, at 2:56 PM PST
    • 10 likes
  14. kedavis Member

    Vance Richards (View Comment):

    Stealing manhole covers . . . amateurs

     

     

    Not the first time I’ve seen/heard stories like that. But Florida Man does seem to do it a lot more.

    • #14
    • December 1, 2020, at 2:58 PM PST
    • 5 likes
  15. Full Size Tabby Member

    7700 pounds IN (as opposed to on a trailer being towed) a pickup truck (even a heavy duty pickup) is going to cause some drivability issues that might attract attention.

    • #15
    • December 1, 2020, at 3:01 PM PST
    • 8 likes
  16. MichaelKennedy Inactive

    TBA (View Comment):

    So scrapyards owners would have taken that?

    And $460 seems steep unless they’re individually crafted (I’ve seen some nice work in my time).

    The famous “Mouth of Truth” in Rome is a manhole cover.

    https://rome.us/ancient-rome/mouth-of-truth.html

    That’s my daughter.

     

    • #16
    • December 1, 2020, at 3:07 PM PST
    • 10 likes
  17. Paul Stinchfield Member
    Paul StinchfieldJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    SkipSul (View Comment):
    But there are any number of similar aphorisms that apply magnificently to the criminal underclass, such as “Thieves: not smart enough for real work.”

    I have long wondered how often that explains the “school is for chumps” attitude.

    • #17
    • December 1, 2020, at 3:34 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  18. Basil Fawlty Member
    Basil FawltyJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Manhole covers?

    • #18
    • December 1, 2020, at 4:06 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  19. TBA Coolidge

    Basil Fawlty (View Comment):

    Manhole covers?

    Personhole, you gender-unspecified swine! 

    • #19
    • December 1, 2020, at 4:10 PM PST
    • 8 likes
  20. kedavis Member

    TBA (View Comment):

    Basil Fawlty (View Comment):

    Manhole covers?

    Personhole, you gender-unspecified swine!

    My question is, which hole on a man are they intended to cover?

    • #20
    • December 1, 2020, at 4:19 PM PST
    • 5 likes
  21. Kozak Member
    KozakJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    kedavis (View Comment):

    TBA (View Comment):

    Basil Fawlty (View Comment):

    Manhole covers?

    Personhole, you gender-unspecified swine!

    My question is, which hole on a man are they intended to cover?

    There was a gay bar in Chicago called the Manhole…..

    • #21
    • December 1, 2020, at 4:47 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  22. kedavis Member

    Kozak (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    TBA (View Comment):

    Basil Fawlty (View Comment):

    Manhole covers?

    Personhole, you gender-unspecified swine!

    My question is, which hole on a man are they intended to cover?

    There was a gay bar in Chicago called the Manhole…..

    With no cover (charge)? Or just no condom dispensers?

    • #22
    • December 1, 2020, at 4:54 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  23. Basil Fawlty Member
    Basil FawltyJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    kedavis (View Comment):

    Kozak (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    TBA (View Comment):

    Basil Fawlty (View Comment):

    Manhole covers?

    Personhole, you gender-unspecified swine!

    My question is, which hole on a man are they intended to cover?

    There was a gay bar in Chicago called the Manhole…..

    With no cover (charge)? Or just no condom dispensers?

    Getting close to a limerick here!

    • #23
    • December 1, 2020, at 5:01 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  24. Jules PA Member

    Great story. 

    Glad no one got hurt. 

    • #24
    • December 1, 2020, at 7:40 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  25. OldDanRhody's speakeasy Member

    Doug Watt: Everyone who drives has seen an overloaded pickup truck on the road like the one in the photo.

    In South America I recall seeing a Toyota Land Cruiser pickup truck (the vehicle of choice in that region for its utility and durability) hauling some long hardwood beams through town. The front wheels barely had a nodding acquaintance with the road, and the driver would suggest steering direction each time they touched down. Just business as usual.

    • #25
    • December 1, 2020, at 8:03 PM PST
    • 6 likes
  26. Old Buckeye Inactive

    Leaving manholes uncovered might seem like nothing to a thief, but it can cause fatalities. There was an incident in Jackson, Mississippi, just a couple of years ago where a young woman on her way to her high school graduation practice was killed when her car hit an open manhole. In that case, I think the city was at fault, but it could just as likely have been from a theft. 

    • #26
    • December 2, 2020, at 1:49 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  27. kedavis Member

    The last place I lived in Phoenix, there were water meters all over for the various units, and the covers would go missing sometimes. At one point there were several missing, and I called the city water dept about getting them replaced. They basically yawned over the phone. When I pointed out that there were kids riding bicycles all over and if someone got hurt – or worse – because of a missing cover they might get sued, BAM! they were replaced within a couple hours.

    • #27
    • December 2, 2020, at 10:29 AM PST
    • 4 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  28. cirby Member

    Kozak (View Comment):

    Was driving in LA right by Dodgers stadium on the freeway in 1982 after starting my internship.

    As I was driving a truck in front of us suddenly dropped a piece of steel that was about 6 feet square and 1 inch thick. The kind of things you see at construction on streets to cover a big hole.

    The damn thing stood on end right in front of me. I instinctively swerved and just missed it. thank God no one was in the lane next to me because I didn’t even glance that way. Looking in the mirror the thing stayed upright for a few seconds then toppled over.

    If I had hit it it would have been like a knife through cheese at 70 mph.

    I was driving down Orange Blossom Trail in Orlando once, and a semi in the next lane over hit a not-quite-in-the-hole manhole cover. At about 40 MPH.

    It tiddly-winked, with a charming “BOING BOING” sound.

    So I got to see a couple of hundred pounds of steel bounce past my car. When it went past me, it was at head height and parallel to the ground, just far enough to the side to not quite hit my car. It would have gone through my windshield, my head, the seat, and the back of the car with no effort.

    On a different occasion, back in the 80s I was on a motorcycle in Los Angeles, cruising down the road at about 70 in the left lane. Heavy traffic. Up ahead was a pickup with a pool table in the bed. Upright.

    Suddenly, the strap came loose, and the pool table fell off and landed flat, to the right of the truck. The wood shattered, and the slate was sliding down the road at 70. Cars were hitting the debris, and hubcaps started coming off.

    As I mentioned – motorcycle. At 70. So I slipped left into the breakdown lane, downshifted, and hit the throttle. I missed the worst of it, but I still hit two hubcaps and ran over a third. When I passed the truck, he was just starting to slow down.

     

     

    • #28
    • December 2, 2020, at 2:20 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  29. Captain French Moderator

    cirby (View Comment):

    Kozak (View Comment):

    Was driving in LA right by Dodgers stadium on the freeway in 1982 after starting my internship.

    As I was driving a truck in front of us suddenly dropped a piece of steel that was about 6 feet square and 1 inch thick. The kind of things you see at construction on streets to cover a big hole.

    The damn thing stood on end right in front of me. I instinctively swerved and just missed it. thank God no one was in the lane next to me because I didn’t even glance that way. Looking in the mirror the thing stayed upright for a few seconds then toppled over.

    If I had hit it it would have been like a knife through cheese at 70 mph.

    I was driving down Orange Blossom Trail in Orlando once, and a semi in the next lane over hit a not-quite-in-the-hole manhole cover. At about 40 MPH.

    It tiddly-winked, with a charming “BOING BOING” sound.

    So I got to see a couple of hundred pounds of steel bounce past my car. When it went past me, it was at head height and parallel to the ground, just far enough to the side to not quite hit my car. It would have gone through my windshield, my head, the seat, and the back of the car with no effort.

    On a different occasion, back in the 80s I was on a motorcycle in Los Angeles, cruising down the road at about 70 in the left lane. Heavy traffic. Up ahead was a pickup with a pool table in the bed. Upright.

    Suddenly, the strap came loose, and the pool table fell off and landed flat, to the right of the truck. The wood shattered, and the slate was sliding down the road at 70. Cars were hitting the debris, and hubcaps started coming off.

    As I mentioned – motorcycle. At 70. So I slipped left into the breakdown lane, downshifted, and hit the throttle. I missed the worst of it, but I still hit two hubcaps and ran over a third. When I passed the truck, he was just starting to slow down.

     

     

    You still have seven lives left.

    • #29
    • December 2, 2020, at 5:23 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  30. kedavis Member

    Al French of Damascus (View Comment):

    cirby (View Comment):

    Kozak (View Comment):

    Was driving in LA right by Dodgers stadium on the freeway in 1982 after starting my internship.

    As I was driving a truck in front of us suddenly dropped a piece of steel that was about 6 feet square and 1 inch thick. The kind of things you see at construction on streets to cover a big hole.

    The damn thing stood on end right in front of me. I instinctively swerved and just missed it. thank God no one was in the lane next to me because I didn’t even glance that way. Looking in the mirror the thing stayed upright for a few seconds then toppled over.

    If I had hit it it would have been like a knife through cheese at 70 mph.

    I was driving down Orange Blossom Trail in Orlando once, and a semi in the next lane over hit a not-quite-in-the-hole manhole cover. At about 40 MPH.

    It tiddly-winked, with a charming “BOING BOING” sound.

    So I got to see a couple of hundred pounds of steel bounce past my car. When it went past me, it was at head height and parallel to the ground, just far enough to the side to not quite hit my car. It would have gone through my windshield, my head, the seat, and the back of the car with no effort.

    On a different occasion, back in the 80s I was on a motorcycle in Los Angeles, cruising down the road at about 70 in the left lane. Heavy traffic. Up ahead was a pickup with a pool table in the bed. Upright.

    Suddenly, the strap came loose, and the pool table fell off and landed flat, to the right of the truck. The wood shattered, and the slate was sliding down the road at 70. Cars were hitting the debris, and hubcaps started coming off.

    As I mentioned – motorcycle. At 70. So I slipped left into the breakdown lane, downshifted, and hit the throttle. I missed the worst of it, but I still hit two hubcaps and ran over a third. When I passed the truck, he was just starting to slow down.

     

     

    You still have seven lives left.

    Maybe he’s auditioning for – or being auditioned for – the next series of Final Destination movies.

    • #30
    • December 2, 2020, at 5:26 PM PST
    • 1 like