The Chief - Cover

The Chief

Copyright© 2011 by Robert McKay

Chapter 26

The next afternoon I held the biggest press conference in Red Hawk's history. I hadn't planned it that way, but this case had attracted reporters from Camargo and Taloga, and even Woodward, Clinton, and Elk City. It was almost surprising that no one had shown up from Oklahoma City.

My office was too small, so I commandeered the investigators' squad room. None of the investigators were there – Allen Mills was transporting Ramos to the county jail, along with a couple of deputies from the sheriff's department, two were out following up leads in their cases, and one was on his days off. We had the place to ourselves. I sat on Mills' desk, it being against the wall, so that the reporters could sit at the other desks and form a sort of semicircle around me. At that, half a dozen reporters were more than there were desks, and the chairs that suspects and witnesses sat in while talking to the investigators came into use.

I began with a statement, that being press conference protocol. "Yesterday uniformed officers and investigators with this department arrested a suspect in the murder of Héctor Rodríguez Rios." I spelled the name, knowing that Okies get little practice with Spanish, and I had pronounced the name as a Hispanic would. "Investigators with this department interviewed him at length regarding the case, and his statement admits guilt in the killing. He also admitted to shooting an officer of this department on the day before – that officer was wearing armor and, while on light duty today, suffered bruises only. The suspect is currently in county custody, and will go through the usual process for those facing charges of murder and attempted murder."

"That's a short statement," said the reporter from Camargo when he realized I was done.


"And that's a short answer," said our own Sam Sowell with a grin. "Y'all guys had better get used to it. Our chief here speaks right to the point."

"I guess we didn't want sound bites anyway," said the Elk City reporter. I was having trouble with their names, though they'd all introduced themselves, but this guy had a badge on – it said he was Franklin Tallifero, which in Oklahoma you pronounce Tolliver. "None of us are TV airheads. Chief, what I want to know is whether this was drug-related."

"It was. I meant to mention it in my statement, but I didn't write it out and forgot. He's admitted ownership of 10 kilos of almost pure cocaine – the largest single amount ever in the history of the Red Hawk Police Department. He hasn't told us what he planned to do with it, but we can guess. It's far too large an amount for personal use, so clearly he was going to sell it – I would assume some of it as powder, some of it as rock. And by the way, y'all are going to make sure that you differentiate in your stories between facts I provide, and my speculations, right?"

They all nodded, though I didn't trust anyone besides Sam. I'd learned over the months that what she said, she did – she had to live in the same small town with the people she wrote about.

"What can you tell us about the suspect?" asked the Woodward reporter – George Something, my memory told me.

"I'm going to just give you the basics. I'll let the Dewey County Sheriff's Department, and the DA, go beyond that if they want to. His name is Fidel Ramos, his street name is el Toro Loco which means the Crazy Bull, he's a member of the MS13 gang out of California, and based on what he told us and what little else we learned about him during the investigation, he's here to try to get MS13 in as the controller of our drug trade. Red Hawk isn't, obviously, a huge place, but as the cities come under this or that gang's control, they spread out from there."

"What's MS13, Chief?" Sam asked. "We don't get a lot of gang activity here, as you know."

"Yeah, I do know. For y'all folks from outside Red Hawk, our 'gangs' aren't very big, very fierce, or very cohesive by the standards of other places. All together they wouldn't stand a chance against a real push by some actual big gang. The MS13 gang is originally from Los Angeles. Immigrants from Central America formed it to defend against the indigenous Hispanic gangs. The actual name is Mara Salvatruchas – I don't know where the number comes from, not having dug into that. The gang's extended back into the Central American countries its members first came from, and it's expanded across the United States as well. It is a very vicious, very violent outfit, and it's a good thing for Red Hawk that Ramos and Rodríguez are, as far as we can tell, the only MS13 members who've ever come here."

The reporters were all scribbling furiously. Red Hawk was probably the smallest town any of them had ever been in, but even the big cities – big cities by my standards, anyway – they represented weren't nearly the size of LA or New York City, or even Oklahoma City. Gangs would be more common in Woodward or Clinton than in Red Hawk, but nothing like in the enormous collections of humanity that spawn gangs.

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