I believe we still had about an hour left in the shift as KHOF-TV was signing off around 11 PM at that time. We spent the rest of the time deciding what we would do next.
We finally decided we would restrain this guy and take him down to the San Dimas Sheriff station ourselves. We restrained his hands and feet and placed him in the bed of the station pickup with my Dad and Gaynor riding on each side of him. I drove our pickup truck and followed them down the mountain.
An Unexpected Visitor at KHOF-TV atop Sunset Ridge
To the best I can recall it was a comfortable summer evening in the Los Angeles basin when this story unfolded. I was at home in South Gate, California where I lived in the early 1970’s.
I remember the phone rang and on the other end of the line was a new transmitter engineer-in-training on Sunset Ridge. As I recall his name was Dennis Drake. Dennis proceeded to inform me that his trainer, Gaynor MacLaren, was outside trying to keep somebody from climbing the KHOF-TV tower! Fortunately, Gaynor was a tall and solidly built person who was able to deal with the situation.
Gaynor had his hands full and Dennis, the new trainee, was busy trying to run programs as a newbie. He called me reaching out for assistance. Unfortunately, there was no way to easily dispatch law enforcement officials to Sunset Ridge due to it being a restricted road plus they wouldn’t be familiar with the way to the top especially in the dark.
I decided I needed to go up the mountain, but it would take over 1-1/2 hours to get there from where I lived. Plus, I could possibly use some help since I really didn’t know what to expect. So, I asked my Dad, Joe Snelson, Sr., if he would be willing to accompany me up the mountain. He agreed and we took out in an old white pickup truck that we owned at the time. We got to the top within a couple of hours and, sure enough, Gaynor was working at keeping this guy from climbing the tower. Gaynor was almost exhausted in wrestling with him though the guy had slowed down some.
My Dad, who had been a deputy sheriff for Wyandotte County in Kansas, was now in plant security at General Motors in South Gate. So, he had experience in dealing with situations involving confrontations with various types of people.
The guy was now lying on the ground near the tower. My Dad tried communicating with him but got little response. He even showed him a badge to see if that would spark some activity. We noticed that the guy’s eyes looked strange and it became apparent that he was most likely on drugs and probably explained why he was trying to climb our tower.
I called the Los Angeles county sheriff’s office in San Dimas again to see if they would come up to take this person in custody. They were cordial but not willing to make the trip since no major crime had been committed. They did say, however, that they would meet up with us if we could get him down the mountain.
Joe Snelson Sr.
The drive down the mountain was uneventful, fortunately. By the time we got to the sheriff’s station this guy was coming around and beginning to talk to my Dad and Gaynor. We parked in front of the sheriff’s station and I went inside. I told them I was the one that had called earlier and we had the person trying to climb our tower in the back of the pickup truck restrained. Several deputies followed me out to the truck. As the deputies proceeded to remove the restraints I mean to tell you this guy got very active. He began kicking and swinging at the deputies. They struggled with him and finally got him to the ground, cuffed him and took him away.
While we don’t know what happened afterwards to the guy that we brought down I was thankful somebody was there to keep him from climbing our tower in the dark and having something happen to him far worse than being taken to the sheriff’s station.
Overall it turned out to be an interesting evening. It was exhausting for Gaynor who had spent the evening wrestling with this guy keeping him from climbing our tower. It was “baptism by fire” for Dennis who ran his first solo shift since Gaynor had his hands full. And it was interesting for my Dad who ended up doing more than just being company for me going up the mountain. And for me, it was another experience for my “FBN files” and one that I would long remember.
© 2012 Joe Snelson