Night of the Ninja

Published 9:21 am Wednesday, December 28, 2016

By Joe Joe Wright


If I told you that I met a real NINJA, a lot of you might think I was lying. Well, not this time. This is a TRUE story.

The year was 1986 and the City of Cordele was a buzzing little pint-sized metropolis. We had plenty of all the wonderful small town attributes, and we were cursed with an exuberant amount of crime. On what seemed an ordinary night, a burglar came to town, a very unusual burglar. You see, this bandit made a living breaking into Pizza Hut’s up and down the I-75 corridor. Why Pizza Hut? Well, that is still an unanswered question 30 years later.


I was a young Deputy Sheriff and was out and about in the county when the call came in from dispatch to the city police. A 10-15 (burglary) in progress at Pizza Hut on 16th Avenue in Cordele. I started that way but was at least 10 minutes out. The Cordele Police were there in a matter of two minutes and what happened next is one for the history books.


A schoolmate of mine was a young police officer at the time, and his name was Morris Coley. The Supervisor on Duty was Lt. John Wiggins – yes, the same Major Wiggins at the Sheriffs Office now. Patrolman Coley was first on the scene and out of the car and caught the suspect crawling backward out of the bottom half of the west side door of Pizza Hut. “Freeze, get your hands up!” Apparently, the suspect didn’t understand English, because his next very quick move was to swing around with his 22-inch “Aikido Bokken” sword and slice a hole through the front of Morris’s shirt missing his skin by less than an inch. (Now would be a prime time for the old Clint Eastwood Spaghetti western music to be playing with the whistling and all). The next part was even more right out of a Bruce Lee movie as the man dressed in full-fledged Ninja Apparel, did a series of 6 or 7 back flips away from Coley, and flung his Ninja “stars” back in the officers direction as he moved away. At this precise, moment Lt. Wiggins was exiting his patrol car as the suspect began to run towards the apartments behind Pizza Hut. Civilians had begun to come out of their apartments after hearing all the commotion and this created a dangerous and potential hostage situation. A quick thinking John Wiggins drew his service revolver and fired one shot into the buttocks of the wanna be Asian assassin, and he went down like a sack of taters. “I couldn’t let him get up amongst those citizens, he was dangerous,” said Wiggins.


We will move forward now about 5 or so hours. The suspect has been to the hospital and the bullet hole was repaired (I believe it went clean through the muscle). He was being housed in one of the holding cells down in the old Crisp County Jail. I walked back their to check on him and as he looked at me through the small window, he said, “You know I really am a Ninja. Whenever I get an injury, my mind is trained to ignore pain.” “Really,” I said. “That is fascinating. I have never had such a skill.” I went back into the office and about 10 minutes later he screamed out, “I need some medicine for my butt. It hurts!” Well, so much for the pain mitigating techniques of the Ninjas.


In all, the burglar was charged in 8 or 9 counts of burglary, aggravated assault on a police officer, and other lesser charges. As far as I know, this is the only encounter for Cordele with a real