For this edition of the Captain’s Blog I have two guest contributors, Officer Tim Gooler and Sergeant Marcus Sprague. They told me about a call for service they both handled on the night of Tim’s first patrol shift and I had to share it. The story below is taken from both of their accounts of the incident, and told in the officer’s words, with contributions from his Sergeant.
It was June of 2015. I remember it well, because it was my very first day as a police officer with the city of Santa Rosa. I was fresh out of the academy, sitting in the passenger seat of a black and white patrol SUV, with my first Field Training Officer behind the wheel.
I had watched enough episodes of Cops growing up, and seen enough Die Hard movies, that I thought I knew exactly what to look forward to in my first night as a police officer. Driving to hot calls with my lights and siren on, catching criminals in the act and taking them to jail. Whatever the night held, I hoped I was ready for it.
A little while into my first shift, dispatch put out a call from a man who said a horned animal chased him into a tree along the Joe Rodota Trail, just west of Dutton Avenue. My Sergeant, having heard calls like this before, quickly decided that the caller had to be high on meth and hallucinating. That would seem more logical than having an actual horned beast treeing people in the middle of Santa Rosa, right? People who are high on meth can be unpredictable and dangerous, so the Sergeant and several other officers started driving that way too. I didn’t know what to expect, but you can imagine my surprise when I got there and found that the caller wasn’t high at all. He really had been chased into a tree…by a mean, long-horned goat. I’ll call the goat Billy for now.
We got the man safely out of the tree, and tried to corral the goat using our patrol cars. Although I identified myself as a police officer to Billy, he wasn’t swayed by the verbal de-escalation skills that I had been taught in the police academy. Billy didn’t cooperate with my requests to go back into his fenced field, and eventually he began to ram the tree and our patrol cars with his horns. One of our more senior officers grew up on a farm, and she looked askance at the rest of us as we tried to keep from being taken out by the angry goat. She tried to take the goat by the horns and wrestle it to the ground, but even with her farm experience she couldn’t take the animal off its feet – I mean hooves.
I thought back to the 20 weeks of police academy training and realized there hadn’t been a class on “goat wrangling.” Come to think about it, none of the tools on my duty belt or in my patrol car were for goat wrangling either. My Sergeant handed me the dog catcher’s pole and told me, “Rope the goat.” I looked at him for a moment like he was joking, but his expression never changed. “Seriously?” I asked. He had to be messing with me since it was my first night on the job. He told me again, “Rope the goat.” I tried to put the wire loop over the goat’s head as my Sergeant shouted encouragement and instructions, but quickly learned that it was too small to fit over Billy’s horns. I had no luck using our leg restraints either.
Finally, a homeless man named Jorge came wandering down the trail with two bags of groceries. He looked at all the police cars and officers and asked in accented English, “Can I pass?” We said, “Sure, but watch out for that goat. He charges anyone who gets near him.” He said ok, and continued down the trail past our cars. After a few yards he stopped. He looked at the goat, then looked back at us. “That goat?” he asked. “I know that goat.” He called out in Spanish to the goat and the animal walked calmly over to him like a pet dog. I shouldn’t repeat the name he called the goat, so we’ll stick with Billy. It turned out Jorge was the goat whisperer. He looked at my Sergeant, held out his grocery bag and asked, “Hold this?” With both hands now free he lifted up the barbed wire strand on the nearby fence and led the goat back into the field where he belonged. We thanked our helper and let the goat go with a warning for attempted vandalism and resisting. 🙂
My first night on the job showed me you never know what each patrol shift will bring.