Wayne Hooker Guilty of Shoplifting and Battery on a Peace Officer

About 9 p.m. on September 20, William Perkins, a police officer of the City of Los Angeles, who worked as a part-time employee for Thrifty Drug Store in detecting and apprehending shoplifters, observed Wayne Edward Hooker engaged over a period of 30 minutes in removing various items of merchandise from counters in the drugstore and secreting them on his person. When Wayne Hooker left the store without having paid for the merchandise, William Perkins displayed his badge and said, “I’m a police officer and you are under arrest for shoplifting.” Wayne Hooker knocked William Perkins down and started to run. William Perkins caught up, and Wayne Hooker hit him in the head and kicked him several times and again ran away. William Perkins again caught up, Wayne Hooker drew a knife, and after a series of further scuffles Wayne Hooker was shot in the leg and captured.

On September 22 in Los Angeles Municipal Court the City Attorney of Los Angeles filed a complaint against Wayne Edward Hooker charging petty theft. Wayne Edward Hooker pleaded guilty on November 8, and was sentenced to 60 days in the county jail on November 30.

Meanwhile, on November 4 in the superior court the District Attorney of Los Angeles County filed a felony information charging Wayne Hooker with battery against a peace officer engaged in the performance of his duties. A battery, knowingly committed against a peace officer engaged in the performance of his duties, is classified as a felony rather than a misdemeanor. In March 1966 Wayne Hooker was found guilty of the charge and thereafter sentenced to one year in the county jail.

Wayne Hooker appeals the judgment. He contends he was erroneously convicted of a felony because at the time of the battery William Perkins had not been engaged in the performance of duties as a peace officer.

The Court of Appeals of California considered this question from three viewpoints.

Factually viewed, the evidence discloses that William Perkins stopped Wayne Hooker outside the drugstore, displayed his badge, declared himself a peace officer, and told Wayne Hooker he was under arrest for shoplifting. Thereafter Wayne Hooker struck William Perkins. William Perkins was in fact a peace officer, and Wayne Hooker had been engaged in shoplifting. From an objective viewpoint there is little reason to doubt that the assault amounted to conduct which had been declared a felony by the statute.

If the Court of Appeals of California looked at the event from Wayne Hooker’s point of view the Court of Appeals of California reached the same result. When Wayne Hooker was stopped outside the drugstore by an individual who displayed the badge of a peace officer, Wayne Hooker had just committed a crime and it was his duty to submit to arrest. So far as Wayne Hooker’s obligations were concerned the circumstances which caused William Perkins to be present at that particular time and place were immaterial.

Only when the Court of Appeals of California looked at the event from the viewpoint of William Perkins did the Court of Appeals of California discover his special relationship to a private group and learn he was present on the premises as a result of his part-time employment by Thrifty Drug Store. Yet it is a legal commonplace to say that a man may possess several capacities and function harmoniously in two or more of them at the same time. A president may act as party leader, as head of state, as chief executive, as commander-in-chief, and perhaps as a candidate for re-election, without undue embarrassment from his multiple capacities. So may a part-time justice of the peace. So may the judges of our courts, who sign warrants and issue writs during non-business hours away from their chambers. The fact that William Perkins was privately employed by Thrifty Drug Store need not weaken or destroy his continuing authority as a peace officer. Granted that William Perkins wore two hats. Still there is no doubt that at the time of the attempted arrest he had his peace-officer Stetson firmly planted on his forehead, and had publicly undertaken to act as an officer of the law. The Court of Appeals of California thought he was functioning at that moment as a peace officer, and the sanctions for battery against a peace officer applied.

The judgment was affirmed by the Court of Appeals of California, Second District, Division Two.

The facts summarized above are excerpted from what was written by the Court of Appeals of California, Second District, Division Two. More information is available from the source documents: 12710, Court of Appeals of California, Second District, Division Two, October 3, 1967, opinion of Fleming with Herndon and Roth concurring