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Calendar >  Chaos In The Inland Empire – Thomas Calabrese

Chaos In The Inland Empire – Thomas Calabrese

By   /  June 12, 2021  /  14 Comments


Rivco 90

Thomas Calabrese – Herman Browning joined the Marine Corps after graduating from San Marcos High School. He served in the Infantry, Recon, 1stAnglico and the Raider Regiment. Herman had eleven deployments, was awarded two silver stars, one bronze star and was wounded six times while in combat or operating behind enemy lines. He was a highly skilled marksman, proficient in martial arts and had over 500 parachute jumps at various altitudes.

The career Marine met Cindy Carrera while stationed at Camp Pendleton during his last three years in the Marines. The dark-haired Hispanic beauty was working at the Wounded Warrior Barracks as a physical therapist while Herman was rehabilitating his left knee and torn rotator cuff. He was injured while returning to base with his team after completing a mission in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan. The helicopter he was riding in was shot down by rocket fire.

It took three months to get back to full duty, but 1st Sergeant Browning’s special operations days were over. He was assigned to First Reconnaissance Battalion and began seeing Cindy on a platonic basis when both their schedules permitted.

Cindy was divorced, living with her parents and raising two young daughters with the help of her mother and father, after her husband abandoned the family and moved to Florida. She liked Herman and whenever they were together, they had a good time, no matter what they were doing. However, Cindy did not want to bring another man into her children’s life then have him disappear like their biological father.

A year had passed and Herman still did not know where Cindy lived or anything about her background. He knew that she was keeping something from him, but he never asked what it was.

Finally, Cindy said, “How come you’ve never asked me anything about my life?”

Herman smiled, “What I know is good enough for me. Is there something you want to tell me?”

            “I’m divorced, have two daughters and live with my parents. Besides my job on base, I work part-time at my parents’ small restaurant in Vista. I don’t have a lot of free time, that’s why I mainly see you during lunch and not on evenings or weekends except on rare occasions. My first priority is my children so if you don’t want to see me anymore, I’ll understand.”

Herman hesitated for a moment then replied, “Your children should be your first priority. You wouldn’t be the woman that I think you are if it was any other way. If I can’t be with you as much as I want, then I’ll see you when I can. I’m pretty good at adapting to situations, especially when I think the mission is important. From my perspective, there is nothing more important in my life than you.”

The following week, Cindy invited Herman to her house to meet her daughters, Alicia and Cara and her parents Arturo and Rosa.

After that visit, Herman and Cindy’s relationship just flowed naturally to the next level. Herman did his best to stop by Arturo’s Restaurante whenever Cindy was working and his Marine Corps obligations permitted. While he had zero experience being a father or even being around children, Herman developed a close relationship with Cindy’s daughters and thoroughly enjoyed their company.

When he thought about retiring from the Marines, Cindy was the first person that Herman discussed it with.

            “So what’s your plan?” Cindy asked.

Herman answered, “I thought about leaving California.”

Cindy was caught off-guard and her face turned ashen white. She definitely did not see this coming “Oh…”

            “That was before I met you so if you’re staying in the Golden State then I am too,” Herman smiled, “I’m not trained for anything other than law enforcement. A Marine I served with is currently working with the San Diego Sheriff’s Department. He told me that they were looking for former military personnel. I thought I would apply.”

            “You’ve got my full support.” Cindy said, “I might be biased, but I don’t believe there is a situation that has been created that is above or beyond your capabilities.”

Cindy was correct, Herman Browning finished the 25-week course at the Law Enforcement Academy at the top of his class. He worked one year at the Vista County Jail, before being assigned to the Sheriff’s Station on 388 East Alvarado Street in Fallbrook, California.

On a clear July evening, while sitting in the backyard of Cindy’s parents’ house with her daughters present, Herman turned to the young girls, “I’d like to ask your permission to marry your mother.”

Alicia and Cara jumped into the former Marine’s strong arms and said, “Yes!” in unison.

Herman had invested wisely during his military career so with his savings, retirement income, current salary and Cindy’s salary, they pre-qualified for a 750 thousand dollar home. The wedding was held at the family restaurant and the newlyweds moved into their home in the Jeffries Ranch area of Oceanside after the honeymoon.

Two years later, Herman was working three twelve-hour shifts. Since he did not have much seniority, he was placed on the Friday, Saturday and Sunday schedule and worked noon to midnight.  While cruising near the San Luis Rey Thoroughbred Training Center in Bonsall, Herman received a radio call at 10:33pm, “Charlie two seven…this is Charlie One.”

Herman answered the call, “Charlie One, this is two-seven…go.”                                                    

Dispatcher, “415(disturbance) at 5322 Camino Del Astro.”

            “Roger that, two-seven responding to 415 at 5322 Camino Del Astro,” Herman made a quick left turn and proceeded to that address.

Upon his arrival at the location, it was more than a disturbance, it was a barbecue that turned into an all-out drunken brawl between seven men and four women. They were hitting each other with chairs, bottles and anything else they could find. Herman radioed, “Two- seven, request back-up at location.”

The wise decision would have been for Herman to wait for back-up, but when an elderly woman came walking down the road on a late night stroll with a small dog on a lease, the Deputy Sheriff realized that the lady was headed directly into the melee if he didn’t stop her. When Herman exited his vehicle, the people involved in the altercation turned their attention and collective rage toward him. One intoxicated man rushed at Herman with a club and the Deputy Sheriff blocked the assault with his nightstick. Herman then hit the man across the forearm with his stick and broke his arm. A lady threw a bottle at him and Herman ducked under it and it shattered against the windshield of his car. A heavily muscled individual began yelling obscenities at Herman, then came at him like an enraged bull. The Deputy Sheriff quickly sidestepped to the left, did a leg sweep and the man fell face forward and knocked out his two front teeth when he hit the pavement.

By the time back-up arrived, four men were in need of hospitalization. The Sheriff’s Department conducted a routine investigation, not an unbiased one, because politics quickly became involved. County Supervisor Martha Disher was far less concerned with the truth and public safety than she was making a name for herself by getting a few soundbites on the news with anti-law enforcement rhetoric. “It is evident to me that you brought your PTSD with you from the Marine Corps, Deputy Browning. You attacked innocent citizens and used your combat skills to inflict pain and suffering.”

Herman knew where this was headed so he responded simply, “Is there a question in that statement?”

Margaret Disher was obviously irritated that she wasn’t able to rattle Herman, “What about the woman that you said was the reason that you intervened without having back-up. Where is she?”

            “She has chosen not to testify. Last time she was interviewed she had two distinct and vague positions, I don’t remember and I didn’t see anything.”

Two weeks later, Sheriff Frank Price called Herman into his office and from the look on his face, he didn’t have good news to share, “I did my best, but I was outnumbered…I’m sorry.”

Herman smiled, “Don’t worry about it. I was cautiously optimistic and realistically pessimistic.”

            “It is not all bad news. They are giving you the opportunity to resign rather than be terminated. This will allow you to get on with another department. I’ll be sorry to lose you, I sincerely mean that. As one former Marine to another, Semper Fi,” Sheriff Price said.

After Herman resigned, he spent the next couple weeks contemplating if he wanted to continue in law enforcement. His wife, Cindy put things in proper context, “One battle does not win or lose the war.”

Herman smiled, “Where did you hear that?”

            “I can’t remember exactly where or when I heard it, but I definitely could pick out the guy who said it. His face is indelibly etched into my memory,” Cindy cooed and kissed her husband on the cheek.

Herman spent the next six weeks doing projects around the house, exercising at Planet Fitness and firing and cleaning the weapons from his gun collection. When his cellphone rang, he didn’t recognize the number, but answered it any way, “Hello.”

“This is Riverside County Sheriff Kurt Delaney, “I heard that you might be looking for a job. Let’s talk.”

Herman quickly volunteered, “I’ve got some baggage.”

            “We all do,” Sheriff Delaney responded then added, “I knew that before I called you.”

            “Where did you hear about me?”

“A mutual friend of ours,” Sheriff Delaney was evasive, but he knew that Herman got the message loud and clear that the mutual friend was San Diego County Sheriff Frank Price.

Five years later, the Browning family sold their house in Jeffries Ranch and moved to the upscale neighborhood of Alessandro Heights in Riverside, California. Cindy took a job as Director of Physical Therapy at the March Life Care Campus on March Air Force Base.

Alicia was in her first year at U.C. Riverside and Cara was a junior at Alessandro Heights High School. Crime was on the rise throughout the country as many cities began defunding police departments. The federal government also ceased selling surplus military equipment to civilian law enforcement.

Herman explained to his wife how frustrated many of his comrades were with the way things were going at the Department, “When I left my other job, I thought that there was too much politics involved in law enforcement. If I had known where things were headed, I would have tried to get a civilian job on Pendleton.”

            “If we knew what we needed to know when we needed it, we’d be a lot less needy later or something like that.” Cindy replied.

A group of deputies met with a lawyer to develop family trusts so that if they were ever sued, their families would be protected.

Deputy Stan Zimmer inquired, “So you’re pretty sure that this will work?”

Attorney Jerry Mosher answered, “Nothing of value is in your name, it is all in the trust. They can’t touch it.”

The Chinese Communist Party never misses an opportunity to sew hate and discontent in America. They were currently pumping billions of dollars into Hollywood and social media websites to push their anti-American agenda and further divide the country. They were also responsible for numerous ransomware attacks on businesses, hospitals and the infrastructure which disrupted supply chains and raised prices for consumers.

China would never be satisfied, the next step in their nefarious plan was ordering the Triad, a Chinese transnational organized crime syndicate based in Greater China, with gang affiliations in countries around the world, especially in the United States to organize a crime spree across America. They would rob banks, jewelry stores and high profile targets, creating a greater divide between those in favor of law and order and the defund the police radicals. Two areas on their target list were San Bernardino and Riverside Counties.

The Fitbit Gang consisted of Paddy Duncan, Darren Wright, Denny Tyner and Doyle Bosley, four Canadians, who had been smuggling tons of fentanyl across our northern border for the last two years. The Triad made an offer to the ruthless criminals that they couldn’t refuse. They would furnish the equipment, weapons and provide valuable Intel on each target and allow the criminals to keep all their loot. The Intel included police response times and escape routes and was transmitted to the Fitbit watches that each robber wore on his wrist in real time.

The gang also wore high tech body armor, used automatic weapons and special ammo that was called ‘cop killers’ because the rounds could easily pierce the bullet resistance vests that most police wore while on duty. Over a period of two years, the Fitbit Gang robbed 33 banks, 19 armored cars and 11 jewelry stores. The total accumulation of the stolen loot was almost 19 million dollars. At one particular robbery at a Wells Fargo branch office in Moreno Valley, the gang pumped three hundred rounds into the first police cruiser that arrived on sight. The officer was seriously wounded. When other police officers arrived and saw they were badly outgunned, they had no other choice but to make a strategic retreat.

Many deputies pleaded with their leadership to give them the proper weaponry to defend themselves against the gang and protect innocent citizens, but their requests were denied by mayors and city councils. Some politicians continued to demonize the police for their inability to stop the criminal rampage. One delusional bureaucrat even said the issue was too many prisons. She said that impressionable youths were criminalized in the penal institutions by insensitive correction officers and their unlawful behavior was merely the result of an unfair system and they were just venting their frustration.

Riverside County named the massive crime spree ‘RivCo 90’, which stood for Riverside County and the 90 seconds that the criminal gang usually stayed on site before making their escape. Herman Browning was born to serve and protect, whether it was in combat across the globe or in civilian law enforcement on the streets of America. He didn’t however, sign up for a suicide mission or file away his self-preservation instincts because they were politically incorrect. Two important lessons that he learned as he got older was that it is always easier for ‘so called’ leaders to spend other people’s money and risk other people’s lives, rather than their own.

The decision he made would cost him his job if he was caught, but Herman figured it was worth the risk. Before starting his routine patrol, he would drive by his house, put his Barrett 50 caliber rifle and fifty rounds, an automatic AR-15 with ten magazines and body armor into the trunk of his police vehicle.

 At the end of his shift, he would detour by his home, take out the weapons before going back to the station.  If he got into a fight with the Fitbit Gang, Herman intended to be prepared.

On June 11, 2021, 3:40 p.m., the Fitbit Gang arrived at the Riverside branch of Security Pacific Bank in their armored van, armed with shotguns, a G3 rifle, HK93s, handguns, AR-15s and improvised explosive devices. They were spotted by an employee who was working the drive-through at Carl’s Jr. across the street and he called 911. Deputy Glenn Bultaski was the first officer to arrive at the scene.

Doyle Bosely called out from his viewpoint inside the bank, “We’ve been spotted…let’s go!”

The gang quickly grabbed as much cash as they could and exited the building. They opened fired on Bultaski, riddling the police vehicle with bullets. Bultaski slammed the car in reverse and crashed into the Carl Jr’s across the street. He was seriously injured and unable to extricate himself.

In a matter of seconds, a dozen more police vehicles arrived on scene and they began taking heavy fire. The Fitbit Gang took cover behind their armored van and began tossing explosive devices at the police. Paddy Duncan got behind the wheel of the van and the rest of the gang jumped in back. Duncan began ramming police vehicles to clear a path for their escape.

By the time Deputy Herman Browning arrived, the bullets were flying and businesses and vehicles up and down the street were being hit. Herman quickly assessed the situation, he got out of his vehicle, opened the trunk and pulled out the Barrett rifle and fired three 50 caliber rounds into the engine of the van, destroying it. He fired three more shots into the van killing Darren Wright and Denny Tyner. Herman dropped the Barrett and picked up his AR-15 and two bandoliers of magazines and ran to help Deputy Bultaski.

Paddy Duncan and Doyle Bosley got out of the disabled van and continued firing with their automatic weapons. A burst of gunfire hit the wall above Herman’s position, concrete and bullet fragments struck him in the neck. Ignoring his injury, Herman was able to get the seriously wounded Bultaski out of the field of fire. When another deputy rushed over to help, Herman re-engaged the two robbers and was shot in the left calf and fell to the ground.

Duncan and Bosley commandeered a Toyota pick-up truck that belonged to Mitchell Tinsley who had stopped at the intersection when the gunfight began. Once inside the truck the two robbers began throwing fragmentation and smoke grenades at the officers as they made their escape.

Herman was bleeding badly from his neck and leg wounds, but refused to stand down.  He limped over to his patrol car and pursued the fleeing robbers. Bosely was firing back at Deputy Browning while Duncan drove. When a police helicopter got too low, Bosely fired and hit the rear rotor. The pilot was forced to make an emergency landing on a vacant field, ending his involvement in the pursuit.

As Deputy Browning got closer, Duncan weaved into several cars, causing them to crash and create a major pile-up on the four lane road. This slowed Herman’s pursuit as he had to swerve off the pavement and onto the gravel shoulder to get by the wrecked vehicles. Herman was getting weaker by the minute from loss of blood, so he grabbed a small towel and held it tight against his neck to slow the bleeding as he raced on.

Duncan rounded a turn and pulled over. Both robbers got out and prepared to ambush their pursuer. When Herman’s vehicle came into view, it was hit by a dozen rounds and it careened into a light pole. The airbag deployed, a dazed Herman crawled out, just moments before Duncan and Bosely reloaded and emptied their magazines into his cruiser. When they came closer to investigate and finish the job, Herman, who was lying in the brush, shot and killed both men before lapsing into unconsciousness.

By the time the damage was calculated, it was quite extensive. The four robbers were killed, eight deputies were wounded, three seriously and Deputy Bultaski did not survive. Thirty police cars, a helicopter, numerous nearby businesses, homes and vehicles also suffered some damage. The area outside the bank resembled a war zone.

Herman’s fellow deputies had the foresight to remove his private weapons from the scene before the crime site was cordoned off with yellow tape. Herman survived his wounds and the surgeons were able to remove most of the larger bullet and rock fragments from his neck. Doctor Steve Griffin told Herman as he lied in hospital bed, “The smaller fragments will eventually work their way to the surface in time. We may need to do some minor surgeries to extract them in the future if they don’t, but for the time being you are out of danger.”

            “Thank you, I appreciate your hard work, “Herman replied, “As we used to say in the Marines after a firefight…any day is a good day if you’re still breathing.”

Herman was released from the hospital four days later and went home to recover. Two day after that, it was 0500 hours when several black SUV’s pulled up to the Browning residence. A group of men in tactical gear came to the front door. One of them prepared to knock and the door opened before he could. Herman was standing before him and said calmly, “Let’s see it.”

The man was confused, “See what?”

Herman said, “The warrant.”

The man handed Herman a sheet of paper, who looked at it and saw that it was signed by the State Attorney General, then returned.

Herman, Cindy, Alicia and Cara sat in the living room and watched One America News as the California Department of Justice Bureau of Firearms agents conducted an extensive search of the premises.

Two hours later, the leader of the raid approached Herman and demanded, “Where’s the guns?”

            “What guns?” Herman responded innocently.

The man’s false bravado was evident, “Don’t play games with me or I’ll chop you off at the knees!  Your reputation doesn’t scare me.”

Herman laughed, “How long did you rehearse that little soundbite…cause it isn’t working.”

Right about that time, Attorney Julio Sanchez showed up and confronted the agents with a restraining order from a superior judge and showed it to the agent in charge, “This search is over. Exit the house immediately.”

When the State Agents walked outside, they saw that the street in both directions was filled with dozens of law enforcement vehicles. Their red lights were flashing like a visual symphony. All were there to show their unwavering support for their fellow officer and to send a clear message to the Governor and the Department of Justice that there would be hell to pay if they came after Browning.

There was the customary dog and pony show, called an official investigation.  Whenever some self-serving bureaucrat or clueless political appointee swayed off subject to attack or trick him, Herman was much too skillful for them. He kept his composure, looked them straight in the eyes and responded simply, “To the best of my recollection, I do not recollect.”

On that fateful day, a true patriot and warrior stood tall and strong in the midst of Chaos in the Inland Empire. Rivco 90 was just one more battle to add to Herman Browning’s legacy of honor, courage and unwavering adherence to his code of conduct.

The End

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, business, events and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.


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  1. Robert says:

    Very good. Keep them coming.

  2. Craig says:

    Scintillating story Tom. I recall the actual crime that happened in So. Calif. many years ago.It seemed like all the hold up guys were wearing seemingly impenetrable body armor and were very heavily armed. I forget how long the gun battle lasted but was extremely intense ! The police had a rough go of it but were unbelievably heroic. As is often the case,your story is a wonderful blend of fact and fiction. An excellent read. The Fitbit gang. Suitable name for a bunch of insane killers!


  3. Bart says:

    Great and timely story.

  4. Clyde says:

    China is a trouble-maker and combine that with the knucklehead anti-police movement and you got a recipe for disaster. This story is more fact than fiction

  5. Cary says:

    You kept my attention throughout the story. The fact that this story was based off a true event and fictionalized to bring in timely issues made even more interesting.

  6. John michels says:

    Another great read Tom.

  7. wolf says:

    Enjoyed it. I too remember When LA police were out gunned. The movie HEAT had a similar shootout. The story is right on the mark with current events. THE armed citizen is the real 911

  8. Jeremy says:

    I really enjoyed the story since I remember a bank robbery like the one in this work of fiction.

  9. Steve says:

    I loved it!

  10. Tony says:

    Great Sunday story by Mr. Thomas Calabrese but they always are and I have yet to be disappointed after reading any of his stories Posted in the Vista Press. This excellent story added a bit more in the loyalty department because of friends doing the right thing and helping their colleague and not throwing him under the bus. Law enforcement is under a lot of scrutiny lately and I do not think they mind it because those I have met law enforcement officer’s like the main character in this story, Herman Browning, that are truly professional and look out for the public’s safety. They abide by the rules and regulations they are taught. Then we have some over zealous people that will go out of their way to make a name for themselves. This story brings out the best and worst in people. Best advice I can offer is to comply with the law enforcement Officer’s instructions and if you think you are right fight it later in a court of the proper place. I recall a friend of mine that was stopped one night on his way home. When I found out about it I teased hi a bit by telling him we could make some money buy suing the Police Department, Officers and the City because he was stopped and was a person of color, racial profiling and I would be his attorney. My friend looked at me and said “No, they did not stop me for being a person of color. They stopped me because I was speeding. I knew my friend was a stand up guy and he just confirmed it to me even though I was joking with him about suing. Thank you Mr. Calabrese for writing your Sunday stories and entertaining us.

  11. Joe says:

    Three cheers for our first responders!. Great Story.

  12. Kyle says:

    I agree with Tony. Thanks Tom for reminding me of the risks that our police experience on a daily basis.

  13. Greg says:

    Tom did a great job…thanks for the history lesson.

  14. Joe says:

    Tom, another excellent story with lots of places easy to identify and people who stem from reality. The undercurrent is something we all concern ourselves with these days.

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