Good News: Nobody Hurt or Killed in Thursday night SWAT team U-Haul Retrieval!




Can you say “overkill?”

Around 11pm on the cold rainy night of last Thursday, the Anaheim Plaza Walmart parking lot was suddenly overrun with flashing police cars – at least twenty cops.  A friend of ours, Corie Kline, whose brother Joe Whitehouse had been killed by Anaheim police back in 2008, began filming live on Facebook.  It’s a common instinct among the bereaved – to try to prevent or at least bear witness to the next tragedy.  This was also the same lot where Theresa Smith’s son Caesar Cruz had been shot to death by five Anaheim cops in 2009.

Some of the police drew their rifles and raised their shields, focusing on a small U-Haul truck.  Had there been a report of someone armed and dangerous in that truck?  A desperate gangbanger or suspected terrorist?  We called dispatch and they said it was a case of a “stolen vehicle.”  Next thing we knew, a SWAT vehicle was ramming the U-Haul truck.

Walmart shoppers were warned away from their cars, and had to stand in the rain or go back inside the store.  Tension mounted as the police held their rifles fixed on the U-Haul.  Our friend had to leave so around 11:30 Donna and I headed the few miles down there – she also has that urge to try and prevent any more unnecessary killings like that of her son Joey  in 2012.

By the time we got there, there were only two young cops left on the scene, a male and female, friendly as can be, searching through the junk in the back of the small U-Haul truck.  Apparently it hadn’t been returned, was reported stolen, and was left there abandoned, filled with boxes of stuff nobody wanted.

Had somebody reported a dangerous situation?  No, the APD PIO (the very helpful new one, Shane Carringer) told me, it was all “officer observation” – the first cops on the scene thought they saw someone inside the truck (which had cab-to-cargo access) but later determined no-one was there after all.

(Shane’s predecessor Daron Wyatt never returned our calls, possibly because we used to remind people that he had unnecessarily shot point-blank and killed Adolfo Sanchez in his SUV in 2009.)

Continues Carringer, “It was not a SWAT team operation, but on-duty SWAT personnel were on scene and an armored vehicle was used to restrict the u haul trucks movement, so I can understand why someone would think it was a swat operation. Snipers were not deployed either, but again our officers have rifles and if a patrol officer takes certain positions they may appear to be acting as a ‘sniper.’ The use of a shield wouldn’t surprise me either and shields are available and used regularly during a variety of incidents.”

Afterwards we all laughed, partly in relief, but doesn’t that seem like a pretty big over-reaction, perhaps a waste of resources, traumatizing to a community that’s witnessed and suffered so many officer-involved shootings, and literally dangerous to passersby, with so many tense policemen holding their rifles at the ready?

Well, the good news is nobody was hurt or killed this time, the U-Haul company got their little truck back, and APD can use this incident to show how indispensible their military equipment is, for ramming an unoccupied, abandoned, rental truck.


About Vern Nelson

Greatest pianist/composer in Orange County, and official troubador of both Anaheim and Huntington Beach (the two ends of the Santa Ana Aquifer.) Performs regularly both solo, and with his savage-jazz quintet The Vern Nelson Problem. Reach at, or 714-235-VERN.