The one that didn’t get away

The one that didn’t get away

by Paul Teetor

If it was a Hollywood movie, the suspect would have swum away in the darkness as police stood on the shoreline and cursed their bad luck. But this was real life, and the crime drama that unfolded Sunday night at the pier ended with the suspect dragged out of the surf in handcuffs.

According to police reports and interviews with two of the officers involved, it all started shortly before midnight, when a Manhattan Beach cop spotted a lone male surrounded by a group of young men. When the officer approached, the group walked away and left the lone male.

The male, who appeared to be intoxicated, told the officer that he was walking home from one of the local bars when he was surrounded by the group that had just left. One of them, he told the officer, had stolen his wallet out of his rear pocket.

The officer put out a broadcast of what had just happened and advised that the suspect was among a group of teens he had just seen walking westbound on Manhattan Beach Boulevard, away from the pier.

Seconds later, Officer Patricia Picker , a 20-year veteran of the Manhattan Beach police force, spotted the group at the base of the pier.

Picker approached the group and told them that a man had accused one of them of taking his wallet.

That’s when, police said, Michael Greer Warren, a 6-foot-5, 18-year-old from Bellflower, walked away from the group towards a nearby trash can.

"I saw him drop a dark object that appeared as if it could be a wallet in the trashcan," Picker said. "Then he came back to the group."

Officer Picker separated Warren from the group and asked him what he had put in the trashcan. When Warren said he had merely spit in the trashcan, Picker went to the trashcan and retrieved the wallet.

She then decided to detain him for further questioning.

But when Picker tried to handcuff Warren, he resisted, a struggle ensued and Warren yelled for his friends to get her off him.

Warren then tripped and fell, kicking Picker as he went down. He injured her leg and forearm with the kick.

Still holding on to him with one hand, Picker called for help on her radio. Warren broke free and ran away as she was on the radio.

Picker gave chase, and was soon joined by other officers who had responded to her call.

Greer was chased up three flights of stairs after emerging from some bushes where he had been hiding.

At that point, Picker and the other officers had their guns drawn and thought they had Warren cornered.

"Suddenly he jumped past me over the railing and fell badly," Picker said. "It was at least a 10 foot drop."

So Picker and the other officers followed Warren back down, through the parking lot and over the Strand near the women’s bathroom. Cornered again, he took the only possible way out: into the ocean.

By that time it was past midnight and a helicopter from the Hawthorne Police Department was hovering overhead with a searchlight. Several Hermosa Beach police officers, including Officer William Charles, had also responded to the scene.

"We responded just north of the pier and saw a suspect in the water up to his neck," Charles said "When we spotted him, he swam underneath the pier and hid behind a pylon."

Warren ignored several orders to come out of the water, Charles said, leaving only one option: someone would have to go in and get him.

"I told the other officers that I was in shorts, so I would go in and arrest him," Charles said. "I dropped my gun, belt, vest and shoes, and took a pair of handcuffs with me."

Charles, an avid surfer who hits the waves almost daily, waded right in.

"I didn’t know if he was armed, and he wasn’t saying anything," Charles said. "It looked like he was trying to hide. I ordered him out a couple of times but he ignored me."

With the searchlight pinning Warren down behind the pylon and with the waves up to his neck, Charles knew he would have to do it the hard way.

"I dove in and grabbed him, then quickly handcuffed him," Charles said.

Warren was tired and offered little resistance, even telling Charles that he couldn’t afford to be arrested and asking Charles to let him go.

Warren was booked at the Manhattan Beach Police Department on suspicion of robbery, felony battery on a police officer, resisting arrest and giving false information to a police officer. Bail was set at $60,000.

When it was all over, Charles warned other suspects not to follow the same tactics.

"We’re glad when suspects go in the water because it makes it easier to capture them, "Charles said. "Once they go in the water, there’s no way out." ER