I hear this saying all the time, “That guy is a police officer’s
police officer,” and I’m here to tell you that Mark Langan is that
police officer’s police officer. Few people are born to do what they
do; fewer still can honestly say they spent a career doing a job they
love. No one tells better stories than cops, and the pages of this book
are filled with the stories of a police officer. The danger, the
boredom, the fun, the brotherhood, and the excitement when a plan comes
Mark Langan is more than a police officer, as you will see. He is a
husband, a father, and a servant of the community. To me, Mark is a
leader and one of the biggest influences on my career. With his help I
learned that drug investigations were my forte, not bank robberies. He
taught me that everyone, even the violent drug dealers and gangbangers
we dealt with needed to be treated with respect.
I remember one night having dinner with the crew at the Smoke Pit BBQ
when Mark and I noticed the parents of a major crack dealer at a nearby
table. They noticed us too. When the parents had finished their meal,
the crack dealer’s mother came over to our table. I thought, Oh, man,
she is just going to rip us, but I was wrong. She told us that she knew
her son had done wrong and deserved to be in the penitentiary but
thanked us for treating her son fairly.
In the fall of 2004 I was working a case with Gary Kula, who figures
prominently in the first chapter of this book, when I got a call from
Mark. He needed to talk to me about something important. We met, and to
my shock, Mark informed me that he was thinking about retiring from the
force. He told me he had a chance to take a job supervising the animal
control officers at the Nebraska Humane Society.
I can vividly remember saying, “So you wanna be the dog catcher?”
Wrong again. Mark brought the same energy and enthusiasm to that job he
brought to the Omaha Police Department. He is much more than a dog
catcher. He is Vice-President of Field Operations for the Nebraska
Humane Society and has made an indelible change to the job of the animal
control officer. Because of Mark’s efforts it’s now a felony,
punishable by jail time, to mistreat an animal. The officers work animal
cruelty cases and even write search warrants.
This is the story of a man who was born to be a police officer but
became so much more. How many people can say they made a difference in
their community, every day, from the age of eighteen to well into their
fifties? I am proud to call Mark Langan my friend.
FBI Special Agent
Omaha Field Office
My high school counselor told me I was too sensitive to be a cop. I told
myself he was wrong. However, these guys are counselors for a reason.
They see things in the kids that we don’t see ourselves. Or that we
are too immature and bullheaded to admit.
Being an Omaha Police Officer changed me drastically in twenty-six years
on the job from 1978 to 2004. There are parts of my personality I
don’t like. In fact, I’ve worked hard since retirement to change
dark aspects of who I am.
Change is tough.
For years others have told me I can be moody, intimidating, or appear
sullen at times. I never try to act this way on purpose and actually
work hard at making people feel comfortable when interacting with me.
At times I feel as though I have two personalities. I can be warm,
outgoing, and the type of person who makes others feel comfortable to be
around. Yet at times, when my past catches up to me, I can change and
become that mysterious guy who causes others to wonder what’s going
through my head.
They never saw the “movies” I saw played out on the streets of Omaha
all those years in uniformed patrol, working Burglary, Vice, and finally
many years undercover in Narcotics—the worst of humanity: kids who
were killed, abused, or forced to live a life of constant fear; kids
living like prisoners in their own homes or never allowed outside to
play because their drug-abusing parents never understood why kids needed
to go to school or have a rich life; women who were beaten daily and
grew to accept that; drug users whose arms were covered with track marks
and never knew what day it was or struggled just for survival, hour to
One little girl, probably five or six, walked up to me after we had
bashed her front door down with a battering ram and arrested her mom and
dad for selling methamphetamine. She hugged my legs sobbing, “Please
don’t let anybody hurt me.”
I’ve finally figured out the real reason I’m writing this memoir.
It’s time for my family to hear the whole story, not just the tamer
parts of my career I thought they could handle.
I saw things I couldn’t share and experienced emotions I couldn’t
find the words to tell them about. My wife and two kids certainly knew
what I did for a living. Their husband and dad was a cop who worked at
night, often slept in late, and was gone for many family functions.
They rarely knew what I saw, heard, and felt when I came home at night
after a rough day on the streets of Omaha. I wanted to protect them from
the atrocities I experienced, especially the heinous situations
involving kids. Little do my own children know the number of times I
checked on them before I went to bed in the wee hours of the night,
making sure they were safe, comfortable, and warm. Hours earlier I had
seen kids of the same age living in filth, cockroaches running
throughout their bedrooms, being parented by pieces of crap who put more
value on their next hit of crack than making sure their own kids were
I wish I would have shared my experiences more with my family, but I
cannot go back in time to do so. Only after my retirement do I feel that
my kids fully understood and appreciated what I did, and that’s my
fault. I should have been more open to them with my feelings about this
That’s the reason for this book. I want my wife, kids, grandson, and
future grandkids to know what the old guy did. I’m not looking to
sensationalize my career by any means. Rather, I owe it to them to tell
the whole story, the good and the bad, to make up for all the hours lost
with them during my police career.
Turns out my counselor, Brother Richard Murphy at Roncalli Catholic High
School, was a wise man. Maybe I am too sensitive. I had trouble sleeping
for years. Insomnia is a cruel monster. After I retired from the Omaha
Police Department, sleep became easier, as my mind raced less late at
Once I started writing this book, the cruel monster returned. Lying
sleepless in bed late at night has forced me to relive the sights and
sounds of little kids shaking and crying, scared to death that really
bad things are going to happen to them—worse than they’d already
been through. In way too many cases I personally saw these little angels
forced to endure atrocities that most people cannot comprehend.
Cops are not “most people,” which is why I still lie awake at night.
Let me tell you what happened on the nights I patrolled your streets.
On Valentine’s Day 2002, Officer Gary Kula and I shot and killed
thirty-seven-year-old Jose Chavez near the intersection of 28th and
Madison in South Omaha—a working-class neighborhood of mostly small
one-story homes overshadowed by massive mature trees, with plenty of
cars parked along narrow streets with wide sidewalks.
In some ways I’m surprised I hadn’t been involved in a shooting
earlier in my career with the Omaha Police Department. After all, this
officer-involved shooting occurred during my twenty-fourth year on the
job and fourteenth year in the Narcotics Unit.
I cannot begin to count the number of armed drug dealers my crew had
arrested up to this fateful night. We had chased armed suspects through
dark yards, knocked down motel room doors, finding perps on beds next to
semi-automatic rifles, and were fired upon by a sniper while serving a
crack warrant in 1992.
The odds were bound to catch up to us sooner or later that
someone—either a member of my crew or I—would be involved in a
shooting where either one of us, or the suspect, would be killed or
Yet the chances of police officers using their firearms to kill someone
are remote at best. There are close to a million cops in the United
States, with an average of three hundred fatal shootings a year by
Bad guys shoot cops too. Sadly, over the past ten years law enforcement
officers have been killed in the line of duty every fifty-seven hours.
One hundred and twenty died in 2012. So far, 19,981 names are engraved
on the walls of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in
I sure never wanted to be one of them, but standing in the street that
night … the thought crossed my mind. Ironically, in the past ten years
most officer-involved shootings have occurred on a Thursday. What is the
significance of Thursday for violence toward police officers? I have no
clue, but February 14, 2002, was a Thursday.
This particular day started out no differently than all the others, but
it ended up to be a defining moment for Gary’s career and mine. We had
shot a man who died on the street. Never before had we been the subjects
of a criminal investigation, with our coworkers reading us Miranda
warnings and refusing to talk to us outside of the investigation. And
never before had a grand jury convened to determine if we should be
indicted for murder.
Was I a killer? I was trained to kill in the police academy. I wore a
gun to work every day. I was prepared to shoot to kill. But I had never
fired my gun outside the shooting range until the night of February 14,
Excerpted from "Busting Bad Guys: My True Crime Stories of Bookies, Drug Dealers and Ladies of the Night" by Mark Langan. Copyright © 2014 by Mark Langan. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.