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Tales from the Patrol Beat: On a stakeout, but not alone

Editor’s Note: Tales from the Patrol Beat is a new occasional column about unusual, humorous, or unsettling incidents experienced by retired Stevens Point Assistant Police Chief Ron Carlson while he was on patrol. The names and locations have been changed, or omitted entirely, to protect the privacy of those involved, but the other details are true.

By Ron Carlson

It was the early ’90s and I was assigned to the Investigation Bureau, dealing mainly with sensitive crimes.

At the desk next to mine was Detective Kurt Helminiak, who was hired on the department a couple of months before me. Kurt was the department drug officer working investigations both in Stevens Point and central Wisconsin. It was September, and Kurt asked for my help on a stakeout concerning drug activity at a home in Stevens Point.

He went over the details, explaining neighbors of a vacant residence had reported to the landlord that drug deals were being made both inside and outside the home in the early evening hours. Kurt had received a key from one of the landlords of the property (The home was owned by a company) and we planned the stakeout for the following evening.

The next night just before sundown we entered the home. We searched the basement, the main floor, and upstairs bedrooms. The house had no furniture aside from a refrigerator and stove. The house was empty.

We locked the door and decided to take our vantage points from the upstairs bedrooms. Kurt took the bedroom overlooking the backyard, while I went into the bedroom overlooking the street. We both crouched down on the floor next to our respective windows.

As darkness fell, we were unable to see each other from across the hallway. It was deadly quiet, so quiet that the leather jacket Kurt was wearing squeaked and squealed with every movement he made sounding like someone playing a loud screeching violin.

As time passed I started to daydream about bowhunting, I was startled back to reality by a noise coming from downstairs—it was footsteps, someone was in the kitchen. Their hard-soled shoes were clomping on the bare floor.

My pulse quickened and I thought, we got someone, the info was good. The footsteps then went into the living room clomp, clomp, on the hard floor. Back the footsteps went into the kitchen, as though whoever it was, was looking for something. Back into the living room, the footsteps went: then they suddenly stopped at the bottom of the stairs that led to our location.

The last thing I wanted was for someone to rush up the stairs and find us sitting on the floor. I flashed a small light across the hall at Kurt making hand signals to rush the stairs on the count of three. I felt an adrenalin rush as we leaped up and ran down the stairs ready to confront our drug dealer with guns drawn shouting out, “Police!”

The only thing was, no one was there. We quickly searched the home: nothing, nobody—and the door was still locked. What the hell just happened? We sat on the stairs in the darkness going over what we just heard. We both agreed someone had been in that home with us, walking around. There was no doubt in our minds. After a couple of minutes of trying to digest what happened, we got the heck out of there.

The next day I returned the key to a secretary at the rental office. I explained what the key was for and why we had it. She asked if we had any luck. I told her we thought we had someone but that it turned out to be nothing.

She looked at the tag on the key and said, “Oh you were at this address, we have had people in the neighborhood call your department at 2 and 3 in the morning saying they have seen someone walking around in the living room. However, when your officers arrive, they have found no one there, and no signs of forced entry.”

I left feeling better about what we had heard the night before, knowing it wasn’t our imaginations but someone or something in that house with us and I wonder to this day when I pass this house if anyone else hears footsteps in the darkness.

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