|An up close and personal interview with U.S. Police Veteran and Togetherweserved.com Member:|
SGT II Ernesto A Pruneda (1983-2004)
Harris County Constable
WHAT INFLUENCED YOUR DECISION TO MAKE A CAREER IN LAW ENFORCEMENT?
When I was 6 years old I received my first letter addressed to me personally. It was a story about a police motorcycle team who traveled the country displaying their motorcycle skills and this had a motivating effect on me to become a Police Officer one day.
Also, my favorite TV shows at the time were Dragnet & Highway Patrol.
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR CAREER PATH AND WHAT ARE YOU DOING NOW?
After a short career in the United States Marine Corps (PLATOON 2049 SERIES 2049 G COMPANY JUNE 1977) I wanted to pursue my real dream of being a Texas Peace Officer. My goal was to protect and serve my community, city, county, state and country.
When I was growing up, I was kind of shy and a Momma's boy. After a brief time in the Marine Corps, I was taught to stand up for myself, others and to never back down. I quit being a Momma's boy and became a man. Although I still love my Momma!
I spent 18.5 glorious years in law enforcement. To me this was a passionate hobby and not a job and getting paid was just a bonus to me. My goal was to stand up, protect and represent the people who are not able to defend themselves; to go after the criminals who preyed on the weak, innocent and naive.
DID YOU SERVE IN THE MILITARY PRIOR? AND IF SO, IN WHAT BRANCH OF SERVICE? IN WHAT WAYS HAS MILITARY SERVICE INFLUENCED YOUR CAREER IN LAW ENFORCEMENT?
Yes, in 1977 for a brief period, I served in the United States Marine Corps. The Marine Corps taught me how to survive, how to fend for myself and how to protect others. It taught me never to back down or retreat.
WHICH, OF THE AGENCIES OR DEPARTMENTS YOU WERE ASSIGNED TO, DO YOU HAVE THE FONDEST MEMORIES OF AND WHY?
The unit I served with that made me the proudest was as the Harris County Constable, PCT 6, under Constable Victor Trevino. The Unit was a nationally recognized parole violation unit known as Zebra Squad. I was the fifth deputy selected out of the original twenty-two. Sgts Charlotte Kelley and Ruben Sorola and Deputies Billy Dolan, Deputy Gus Garcia and I were the nucleus of the unit. The rest of the unit were rookie deputies with under 2 years of experience.
In my 3 year tour of duty, the unit had 6,000 entries and over 2,000 arrests. The unique thing about this unit is that all 22 deputies were non-paid reserves, with 3 deputies actually quitting their real jobs. Gus Garcia, Pat Leone and I.
My wife Gloria summed up my life in the Zebra Squad the best:- I did more law enforcement in my 3 years there, than I did in the rest of my combined 18 years of service.
FROM YOUR ENTIRE LAW ENFORCEMENT CAREER WHAT PARTICULAR INCIDENT HAD THE BIGGEST IMPACT ON YOU AND WHY?
The day I made an off duty arrest when I was with the Harris County Constables PCT 7 under Constable Perry Wooten. I was working off duty as a live-in Courtesy Police Officer for a large apartment complex in Houston Texas. I received a call from the leasing agent that there was a short white male acting strangely near the office. I proceeded to put on my Deputy uniform and my vest, which I normally didn't do. I went to my prayer alter and asked God to protect me because I had this strange feeling it was not going to be a routine call.
I went towards the Manager's office and saw the subject. I advised dispatch what I had seen. Upon waiting for back up, I saw the suspect male was about 5'3 130 lbs in a crouching position at the northeast end of building 15. While I was waiting for back up to arrive, I saw a young black male about 10 years old pass by the suspect. The suspect jumped up swung a 16 inch hand saw and almost struck the child. At this point I contacted dispatch and advised them of the situation and requested a priority one call.
I approached the suspect with my weapon drawn and ordered him to lay on the ground. When I approached him, the suspect stated "Are you going to arrest me?" I said, "Well, what do you think?"
At this time the suspect sprang up and ran full speed into the apartment manager's office. I ran after the suspect and followed him in. He was trying to grab the leasing agent. I then attempted to subdue him but he slipped away. He punched me in my face, knocking off and breaking my glasses. I pulled out my ASP baton and struck him twice on both arms. The baton felt like a rubber hose. We then proceeded to punch each other. At this time I grabbed my hand held radio (my shoulder mic was taken from me a week earlier) and while still struggling to pin the suspect to the ground I called out for an officer assist. Then my radio was knocked out of my hand and the suspect grabbed it. He double tapped me on the head first knocking me out but thank God he hit me a second time. When he hit me the second time it woke me up!
During the struggle I had six kill opportunities, but for some strange reason God wouldn't let me shoot him. At this time I literally asked God, "God there is a reason you don't want me to kill him. I'll make a deal with you, I won't kill him if he doesn't kill me." As soon as I said that my back up arrived. All this took about 4 minutes before Deputy Vince Jones helped me finally subdue the suspect and handcuffed him.
To show how much respect I had for my fellow PCT 7 deputies and Houston Police Officers, there were 30 deputies on duty that morning. Twenty-one deputies and one HPD officer showed up at my scene. There was Constable Perry Wooten himself (he was the fourth one to arrive), along with former Texas Ranger and Captain of PCT 7 Jesse Mack. All officers said, "Why didn't you shoot him?" as I had every legal right to do so after getting my head split open and receiving 13 stitches. My response was "God told me not to and I'm not going to disobey God!"
OF THE MEDALS, AWARDS OR BADGES YOU RECEIVED, WHAT IS THE MOST MEANINGFUL TO YOU AND WHY?
I received 2 Letters of Commendation and a few Community Service awards. In my view the most rewarding gesture to receive is just a simple "thank you".
WHICH INDIVIDUAL PERSON FROM YOUR CAREER MADE THE MOST POSITIVE INFLUENCE ON YOU AND WHY?
Former Nueces County Deputy Sheriff and Deputy Constable PCT 1 Victor C. Castro. Deputy Castro made history in the US Marine Corps being the first Hispanic to be selected #1 Gunnery Sergeant in the Corps. He was a very distinguished and highly honored Marine. He was a Marine sniper and one of the first 20 to be deployed in Vietnam.
When I read the book "96 Confirmed Kills" by GySgt Carlos Hathcock, he told me GySgt Hathcock was a very close friend of his but for some strange reason I did not believe him. He said "I see you don't believe me. Hold on a sec." He went into his bedroom and brought out his memory book. He said, "I'm going to show you a picture". He turned the page and stated, "That's me as a senior PMI (Primary Marksmanship Instructor). Now look at the other guy. That's my junior PMI Carlos Hathcock".
I never doubted him anymore from that point on.
Sadly Gunny Castro passed away around May of 2005, three days after I last talked to him. We joked a bit that day and for some reason I told him, "Hey Gunny, the next English Bulldog I get I may I name him in your honor". He chuckled a bit and said, "You know what Ernie, I would be honored if you did". Three days later USMC Gunnery Sergeant Victor C. Castro passed away. I'm still trying to obtain a male English Bulldog to bestow that honor in his memory.
Another of my favorite Texas Lawmen was Riley Fisher, Deputy for Nueces County Constable PCT 4. He passed way in April of 1993. Fish, as I called him, drowned while attempting to retrieve a small boat that had slipped away from an elderly gentleman in Lake Corpus Christi.
His boss refused to let him be buried with the department's badge. I always carried a back up Texas Peace Officer's badge so I pinned it on his lapel.
Later on, his wife contacted me and stated that one of the most memorable moments of Riley's funeral was my giving my badge to my Brother Officer so he could be buried with honor.
CAN YOU RECOUNT A PARTICULAR INCIDENT FROM YOUR CAREER THAT WAS FUNNY AT THE TIME AND STILL MAKES YOU LAUGH?
Oh yes I do and when I tell you this story some people still think I made it up.
One day in the summer of 2000, Harris County PCT 7 Deputy Constable Perez dropped actors on the ground after a call about a reported stolen vehicle. Approximately 5 young black males jumped out of the car on beltway 8 and ran into the brush and wooded area.
My Sergeant, Riddel Wooten and I arrived in the area at the same time. We ran into this fenced small ranch north of the beltway. We saw a small barn and with pistols drawn we approached. Out of the blue comes this beautiful black stallion and he was mighty upset. Both Sgt Wooten and I were a bit scared of this beautiful creature. This horse was snorting hard and pointing his right leg and head up and down at the barn. Both Sgt Wooten and I were a bit puzzled by this. Me, being an old country boy and having seen quite a few Roy Rogers and Hopalong Cassidy movies , I finally figured out what he was doing. This stallion was intelligent and with it's right hoof kept pointing to the barn. I looked at Sgt Wooten and said, "You know I gotta do this". He smiled and said, "Go ahead."
I asked the horse "Hey, which way did he go?" The horse looked at me and with his right hoof and head pointed to the barn.
I then asked the horse, "He ran in there?" and the horse responded by shaking his head up and down and saying yes.
"How many are inside?" The horse responded by planting his right hoof and dragging it to indicate one.
"Are you telling me there is only one person in the barn?" and the horse replied by shaking his head for yes.
I motioned to the horse to back away and he obliged by backing up about 20 feet. Sgt Wooten and I approached the barn whose door was closed. I banged on the door with my ASP baton, identified ourselves as Harris County Deputy Constables PCT 7. Nothing was heard from the inside of the barn.
I again banged the door with my baton but this time I yelled. "If I come in and you shoot, I got a Glock and I'm emptying the clip. There was a silence and then the suspect yelled, "Don't shoot! I'm not armed!"
We both entered the barn, subdued the suspect and handcuffed him. The suspect asked cockily, "Hey, who told on me?" I picked him up from the ground and told him, "I usually don't like to provide suspects information on witnesses but in your case I'll make an exception".
When Sgt Wooten and I walked the suspect out of the barn this big black stallion started huffing and snorting again. I looked at the suspect and told him "You remember the question you asked me back in the barn on who told on you?" I pointed to the horse and said "It was Mr. Ed who told on you."
This is a true story and I'm sticking to it!
WHAT DO YOU CONSIDER THE MOST IMPORTANT LESSON YOU HAVE LEARNED AS A LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICER?
Honor God, Country, Integrity, being very honest and truthful. Respect all as you wish to be respected.
WHAT LAW ENFORCEMENT ASSOCIATIONS ARE YOU A MEMBER OF, IF ANY? WHAT SPECIFIC BENEFITS DO YOU DERIVE FROM YOUR MEMBERSHIP(S)?
Latino Peace Officers Association, Harris County Precinct 6 Deputies Association, and the Harris County Deputy Sheriff's Association.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU HAVE FOR A ROOKIE WHO HAS JUST PUT ON THE BADGE?
Never make it personal. Always be very truthful. Always remember that when you put your uniform on every day you are representing the thousands of law enforcment brothers that died in the line of duty. Never do a half-assed investigation. If you do, innocent people will go to jail. That may be you being set up as the fall guy.
IN WHAT WAYS DO YOU FEEL THIS WEBSITE CAN BENEFIT THE LAW ENFORCEMENT COMMUNITY?
This is a place where Law Enforcement Officers can come together as brothers and sisters and share a common bond and experiences.
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