The deputies assigned to the Street Gang Unit at Firestone Station conducted hundreds of interviews on the street, and in the station. The deputies developed many innovative interrogation techniques for obtaining the desired information from reluctant subjects. These techniques varied from outright tricks or rouses to elaborate psychological subterfuge, which involved play-acting (OK, we did lie to them occasionally about being able to go home, if they confessed, but that’s are far as it went, honest!), and sometimes such tactics as just ignoring the subject until he couldn’t stand it any longer, and began talking on his own to get our attention.
Sometimes, when none of our standby interrogative techniques were working, we just faked it with something new. Homicide Detective Dave Kushner asked us to assist him with a residential robbery-homicide that occurred at a house in Willowbrook, which was occupied by a group of illegal aliens. A group of gang members forced their way into the house, with the intention to rob the occupants, and shot and killed one of the males when he displayed a gun. Kushner was depressed because the witnesses couldn’t supply us with any workable information, and he thought it was going to be just another “unsolved.”
The Gang Unit investigators began to check out the location, and the area, which was claimed by the “Cornerpocket Crips” gang. We observed that a block away was a vacant lot where locals had a crap game almost every day, played dominos, and drugs were sold and used. We knew that it was most likely that someone in that neighborhood had probably seen the suspects walking by, on their way to the victim’s house, and probably saw them when they ran away after the shooting.
Using our jargon, we decided to “take a hostage,” which meant to find someone that we could arrest for a minor charge, that we could trade their release for some workable information.
The next morning, Ron Tardiff and I returned to the vacant lot and found what we were looking for-a local youth who had a small amount of dope on his person. We took him to an interrogation room at the station and began to interrogate him. The subject was very hostile and uncooperative and obviously did not want to give up any of his homeboys. Ron and I tried every verbal trick we could think of, but nothing was working, he just wouldn’t respond.
I was staring at the subject, who was a black male, who’s mother lived in the Nickerson Gardens project, and I noticed that he had a very light complexion. Tardiff’s nationality is Greek and he has a medium olive complexion. I said to the male, “Did you know my partner grew up in Nickerson Gardens? His momma was a ho’ and he’s a Trick Baby. He’s bright (light-skinned) because his daddy was some white man trick (customer).” The young man became interested, and said, “I noticed that you were real bright when I saw you.” and asked Tardiff if that was the truth about him being a Trick Baby. Tardiff, seeing his interest, took it and ran with it. He gave the young man a unit number in Nickerson and told him that’s where he grew up, and that his mother was still living there. He told him that he probably saw Tardiff in Nickerson when he visited his mother. Of course he remembered Tardiff, now that he mentioned it.
The subject was fascinated with this information and discussed it at great length, and eventually we all 3 became good friends and he gave us the names of 4-5 Crips he had recognized on the day of the shooting, as they ran by the vacant lot. Eventually, we arrested 6-7 suspects, who were all successfully prosecuted for 211/187 PC, and obtained a videotaped confession from the shooter. (It was very enjoyable to call Kushner and tell him that we had identified everyone, since it looked so bad in the beginning.)
About a month after our interview, Ron and I had to testify in a preliminary hearing at San Antonio MC. When the trial recessed for lunch, Ron and I were walking down the hallway, when we heard someone yelling, over and over, “Trick Baby! Trick Baby! Hey, it’s me!” All of the people exiting the courtrooms for lunch are staring at our subject, who happened to be in court that day, who is running towards us with a big smile on his face, and yelling at the top of his lungs at his two new friends. When he reaches us, he shouts, “Hey Trick Baby, remember me?” Ron turned a beautiful shade of crimson, as everyone stared at us, and of course, the Firestone deputies present in the hallway took note of the encounter, and added their comments on his new title.
After that incident, even Ron’s wife would call the gang unit office and say, “Let me speak to Trick Baby, please.” Who would have thought that one little white lie would have solved a murder case? (Pardon the pun) Tardiff still answers to “T.B.”