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True Tales of the Mojave Desert II

army2…as told to me by Officer Mark A. Ward


Is this a photo of the mysterious Colonel Meister? It’s one that pops up when you do a Google image search. Former Needles P.D. officer Mark Ward, says, “If that’s not him it’s his twin brother.”

Needles, California, 1969. Rookie officer Ward and his best pal on the force Bob Reed get a call about a disturbance at a Route 66 motel. They respond. As Ward recalls it the motel was U-shaped with a parking lot inside the U.

The young cops hear muffled rants from the motel room in question. They knock on the door, identify themselves, then stand aside as they’d been trained. (“Unlike most cops today,” grumbles Ward.)

This proves a smart move because a fusillade of high-powered .45 rounds splinters the door a moment later.

The cops call for backup. More coppers roll up and pump the room full of tear gas. No one emerges.

When the cops finally bust through the door they find the shooter, whom Ward describes as “male, middle-aged, medium American in all ways,” lying on the floor of the bathroom face down, a wet towel over his head to protect himself from the tear gas.

Ward and Reed haul the man off to the hoosegow. He identifies himself as Colonel Meister, US Army Intelligence, though he carries no ID and is not in uniform. He’s extremely apologetic for firing through the door, saying he was convinced the cops were “them”.

The Needles Justice Court sentences Col. Meister to 14 days in the NPD jail, the maximum for that facility. Officers Ward and Reed find this light sentence remarkable given the severity of Col. Meister’s offense. But he proves to be a model prisoner, continually apologizing for firing through the door. The cops press the Colonel to reveal who he thought was after him.

Col. Meister says, “I know too much about the JFK assassination. If I tell you who ‘them’ is, they’ll eliminate you too.”

Officer Reed repeatedly offers to take Col. Meister to a remote place in the desert where he can tell his story to the media in safety. The Colonel defers, saying, “This is too big. They would kill us all.”

When Col. Meister’s 14 days of incarceration are up, the jailer springs him right on cue. The Colonel walks up the ramp from the basement jail of the Needles PD to the staging area in front. A white Chrysler Imperial sweeps in.

Officer Ward sees this from the first floor office and yells to Reed, who’s in the men’s room. Ward observes as four “federals” in black suits, white shirts, black ties and sunglasses place the prisoner in the back seat with an agent on either side of him. Col. Meister does not resist. The Chrysler quickly backs out.

The Chrysler is well down the road by the time Officers Ward and Reed scurry out.

Days later the CI&I – the California Criminal Identification and Information – report comes back. The US Army confirms that Col. Meister did indeed have top secret clearance as he had claimed.

Officers Ward and Reed call their local FBI contacts.

Their FBI contacts swear that their agency didn’t haul Col. Meister away and, furthermore, didn’t know one damn thing about him.

Years later Ward attempted to find out more about the mysterious Colonel but was unable to do so. Online research on my part has not turned up anything definitive either, other than the above photo. Given that he was middle-aged in 1969 it’s unlikely that Col. Meister is still alive. But the mystery lives on.

Published inneedles california

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© Copyright John Knoerle 2015