by Ed Reynolds
Officers Patrick E. Henry and Charles “Rocky” Rockyvich were on routine patrol March 21st, 1960, but they knew that nothing in Paris Alley is routine. Paris Alley was that small, but very dangerous area of the deuce, in downtown Phoenix. Located near Second Street, between Jefferson and Washington Streets. The area was well known in the 40’s and 50’s for its blatant prostitution including several well-known brothels or “whorehouses” as they were called back then. But in 1960, Paris Alley wasn’t so much about whorehouses as it was about gambling and liquor. The excitement of that run-down area full of all-night Bars and Liquor Stores, drew thugs of all sorts into Paris Alley.
Patrick Henry was model Police Officer who knew his beat well. Rocky an up and coming young Officer would someday be one of Phoenix best Night Detectives, eventually retiring with more than 40 years on the force.
As they were patrolling the Deuce late that evening, Henry spotted a car leaving Paris Alley with its lights off, a sure sign to any veteran cop of somebody up to no good. They carefully approached the suspicious car and pulled it over near 2nd street and Jefferson. There were two very hinky men in that car and as Henry was speaking to the driver he could hear the passenger crinkling a paper bag as he stuffed it under the seat. Henry stepped away from the car as he and Rocky talked before Rocky left for the phone. Henry gave the men’s information to Rocky who had to walk to the Paris Alley police call box and call into headquarters where a fellow officer would run a record check on the two men, leaving Henry alone with them.
Paris Alley Call Box.
As Rocky was away and Henry all alone back at the car, Henry could hear the radio in his car blare out the warning “All units, 10-12 for hot traffic”. In other words, everybody stand-by for an incoming emergency call. Upon hearing this Henry’s ears were glued to the sound of his car radio, but he knew he had to get back to those two thugs at the car. As he approached the car again he could hear the dispatcher advise of an armed robbery that just occurred at the “Open Door Liquor Store”, which was at the other end of Paris Alley.
Henry now knew what these two were up to, driving away from the scene with their lights off hoping nobody would see them as they were getting away. As he got one step closer to the car, he was interrupted by one of the men who seemed to come out of nowhere and then swiftly brought up a .32 caliber handgun and pushed it sternly into his face smashing his nose in until it hurt.
Henry immediately thought of his training in the academy, you push the hand away with one hand and grab the gun by the barrel with your other hand. But, this guy held the gun tightly with both hands and Henry was unsure if his training move would work. Henry made his move quickly, grabbing the gun barrel and trying with all his strength to move it out of his face before it discharged. This whole incident probably took only a few seconds but as Officer Henry remembers it, it seemed to take hours. As he struggled to move the gun away from his face he could see the cylinder turning, almost in slow motion. And then he saw the bright orange muzzle flash. “Oh no”, he thought, “he shot me”! But he was still struggling to move the gun and he felt no pain, no loss of strength, “whats happening here” he asked himself. He continued to struggle for another brief moment and then let go of the gun and instinctively ducked under the front end of the car. As he was doing this he could see the face of his attacker now, he could also see that he was preparing to fire again. He was kneeling behind the left front fender, resting the gun on the top of the car as he pointed it directly where Henry was taking cover. There it was again, the orange flash, but again he is not shot. Now he realized what was happening, he had seen this before at the pistol range when someone fires their gun on a poorly loaded cartridge. It was a misfire, the bullets firing but barely with enough power to come out of the barrel. This was typical of very old ammunition. Henry seized the opportunity and quickly drew his own gun which was still in his holster and returned fire. Officer Henry could see the first shot strike the man just under the right ear. He quickly jumped into action and disarmed the now injured man, pulling his hands behind his back as he grabbed for his well-polished handcuffs, slapping them quickly on his wrists. With renewed vigor, Officer Henry threw this thug to the ground and with a stern and assertive voice advised him a certain portion of his anatomy would certainly be going to jail tonight.
As back-up Officers arrived in just a matter of minutes, which seemed like an eternity to Officer Henry he began to relax for just a moment and the vision of the mis-firing gun continually played over and over again in his mind’s eye. This single event, one of many that had occurred to this brave Officer would forever change his life.
If this shooting had happened today, he would receive counseling and would have access to a psychiatrist if he needed someone to help him deal with the demons inside him who would repeat the events of that night over and over again. But on that cold and dreary night in 1960 there were no peer counselors, no chaplain, no psychiatrist to talk to, a man was expected to “Man-up” to those demons alone and never reveal to anyone what went on your head after such an ordeal.
Alexander Hicks was booked into the County jail Hospital unit that night and almost died. He was sentenced to several years in Prison for the events of that evening. It didn’t take long for Hicks to get out and run into Officer Henry again one night. As he again was being taken to jail he advised Officer Henry that he was in fact trying to kill him on that dark night on March 21st, 1960. A night that would live eternally in Officer Henry’s mind, a night he never forgot. Because you see, that was the night Officer Henry would begin a life plagued with bouts of alcoholism. Leaving the police department and living a very tough life without his closest friends on the force.
Thank God that today you have these sources available. It may have taken too long to occur, but it is there now, for all to use. Just ask for help. You can do it privately; your discussions will remain confidential between you and your counselor or doctor. You don’t have to “Man-up” anymore. Don’t let those demons take control of your life. Help is only a phone call away.