The Midnight Ride of Bonnie and Clyde

Featured in Warden Force Season 1

Warden Art Lawrence had been battling fatigue, fighting to keep his eyes open on the long drive home. But upon rounding a curve and finding a big sedan totally blocking the road, its headlights trained on deer in a meadow, all weariness vanished. As he braked to a stop facing the driver's side of the sedan, he had time only to hit the switch to his red light and reach for his radio microphone.

"I've got a spotlighter," was all that he said, then he grabbed his flashlight and stepped out into the night.

Warden Don Jacobs, still five minutes behind was confused over Lawrence's call, not knowing whether to set up an ambush or come rushing on in. He called Lawrence for more information, but got no reply. He tried again. No answer. He then jammed the accelerator to the floor, sending gravel flying, as he sped away in Lawrence's direction.

Lawrence in the meantime was carefully approaching a man and a woman in the sedan, nervous to be walking through his own headlights. He held his flashlight high, in his left hand, his gun hand resting on the holstered butt of his big magnum revolver. He had seen plenty to justify detaining these people and searching the vehicle for guns. For he had seen the man in the passenger seat hunch forward and down in the classic "furtive movement" of stuffing something under the seat.

And the behavior of the two suspects, after this furtive movement, had been plenty suspicious in itself. Upon finding themselves fixed in the headlights and red light of an arriving patrol vehicle, they had not looked at it, but had stared straight ahead through their windshield, like robots, certainly abnormal behavior.

"State Game Warden!" shouted Lawrence as he moved to approach, from slightly behind, the large woman at the wheel. "Ma'am, would you turn off the engine please?" Bonnie Nadine complied. "Now, would you folks put your hands up on the dashboard where I can see'em, please?" They complied, and Lawrence directed his flashlight beam inside for a quick look around. _Nobody in the back seat, no weapons in__view._ But he was puzzled over the way the two suspects were dressed. They looked as though they had just come from church.

"What's the trouble, officer? We're just out for a drive," said Bonnie, in her best innocent-lady voice.

"Well, I'm wondering why you're stopped like this in the middle of the road," said Lawrence.

"We were just turning around to go home," she said.

Good answer, Lawrence thought. But he was still certain that they had been up to no good. "Do you have any guns in the car?" Lawrence asked, now directing the flashlight beam at the male suspect.

"No guns," said Clyde McPhee. "We're not lookin' to shoot anything."

"OK, sir," said Lawrence. "Would you mind steppin' out, please, keeping your hands where I can see 'em?"

McPhee complied, and as he opened the door and moved his legs to exit the sedan, Lawrence spotted a rifle stock protruding slightly from under the seat.

"Now come around to this side, please," said Lawrence, watching the man's every move. Again the man complied, but there was something about him that made Lawrence real uneasy. And there was something about Lawrence that made Clyde McPhee real nervous, for Lawrence, at six-foot-four and 255 pounds, was one of the largest officers he had ever seen.

With the male suspect out in full view, Lawrence now asked the woman to come out, and while she was struggling from behind the wheel, Lawrence noted that she appeared considerably older than the man. "Are you two related?" he asked.

"I'm his mother," said Bonnie Nadine.

With both suspects now out of the sedan, Lawrence instructed them to remain where they were, and he slipped around the rear of their vehicle and approached the passenger door. Without taking his eyes off the suspects, he opened the door, reached under the front seat and withdrew the rifle. Standing again, he slipped back the bolt of the rifle and ejected a shiny .22 hollow point cartridge into his hand. Rifle and cartridge he now carried to his patrol vehicle. As he did so, the male suspect started walking toward him, and experience and instinct were now shouting urgent warnings in the warden's brain.

"Hold it, sir! Stand back where you were," said Lawrence, at a half-crouch now, his left hand raised and signaling STOP, his right hand on his gun butt. The man hesitated a moment, then moved back to stand sullenly with his mother.

Lawrence anxiously glanced up the road and was relieved to see Don Jacobs' headlights appear. Jacobs, traveling fast, braked hard and slid in next to Lawrence's pickup. Two sets of headlights now illuminated the suspects. Jacobs stepped out, and the two wardens held a quick conference in low voices.

"I really don't like the looks of this guy," said Lawrence. "Keep a good eye on him" He then filled Jacobs in on the stop, the loaded rifle and what little he knew about the suspects so far.

''A mother and son poaching team?" said Jacobs. "That's anew one!"

Lawrence asked Jacobs to cover him and watch the woman while he searched the man. They separated as they approached the suspects.

"Sir," said Lawrence, "Step over here, please. I have to give you a quick pat-down search for weapons." McPhee exchanged a quick look with his mother, then approached Lawrence near the front of the sedan. But at this point all cooperation on the part of McPhee ceased. When Lawrence instructed him to turn around and face away, McPhee turned a full circle to again face the warden. Lawrence again asked the man to turn around, and once more McPhee did a full circle. And so it went, with McPhee deliberately, but passively, resisting the warden's demands.

Lawrence had intended to be as soft as possible in dealing with the man, not wanting to manhandle the guy in front of his mother. And like many large wardens, Lawrence was concerned with being perceived by others as a "heavy." But it was now apparent that the soft approach was not going to work. So, in a new voice, low and heavy with menace, Lawrence ordered the man to turn around and lace his fingers behind his head. McPhee now instinctively complied. Lawrence then approached from behind and grabbed the man's hands, locking them together.

It was obvious to Lawrence that the man had been testing him, taking measure of him, and he fully expected the man to try something. For this he was ready. But for what happened next, he was totally unprepared.

Suddenly the woman began screaming and ripping at the buttons on her blouse. "He doesn't have a gun. Here, search me! Search me!" In seconds, she had stripped off her blouse and had begun peeling off the Spandex pants.

"Hey, stop that!" shouted Jacobs, horrified, "Stop that, ma'am!" But soon the Spandex pants were down at her ankles.

"Search me! Search me!" she shrieked, kicking off the pants and ripping at her underwear.

"Stop_ that, ma'am! Stop that!" yelled Jacobs.

It was at this point that Clyde McPhee made his move.