I close my eyes, only for a moment, and the moment’s gone
All my dreams pass before my eyes, a curiosity
Dust in the wind
The homicide detective isn’t singing these lyrics — he says he’s a terrible crooner — but he’s finger-picking the 1977 Kansas classic from his cubicle inside Anaheim PD headquarters, a stack of cold-case files on his filing cabinet.
When he was a sophomore at Orange Lutheran High School, Det. Ryan Hunter, now 32, got an acoustic guitar as a Christmas present.
He started taking lessons, but after breaking his left pinkie and right collarbone in back-to-back weeks in football (he was a running back and safety), he stopped playing.
That is until around June 2016, when former APD homicide Det. Shane Carringer, now a patrol sergeant, handed over to Hunter a Fender Santa Maria 12-string acoustic guitar fitted with six strings.
The dusty old Fender has been a mainstay at the APD, in the Homicide Unit and Crime Task Force (CTF) detail, since 1992.
Over the years, several APD officers have taken temporary ownership of the guitar, busting out soothing love songs, country staples and classic rock hits to break up their often grueling shifts, during which they investigate among the ugliest of crimes.
“It just kind of shows up in your cubicle one day,” says Hunter, the fifth APD officer to take ownership of the guitar in the last 26 years.
On the other side of the room, Det. Julissa Trapp toils at her desk as Hunter briefly plays portions of songs, including “Ring of Fire” by Johnny Cash.
“It’s especially nice to hear (the guitar) at around 4 a.m., which we refer to as the ‘Dead Zone,’” says Trapp, who with her colleagues are called out to homicide scenes at all hours of the day or night.
They spend time in the field before heading back to the office to hit their computers and phones — and, when the mood strikes, to enjoy brief but cherished respites listening to a colleague play the guitar.
“It’s relaxing,” says Det. Eric Michaelson, who in his cubicle beside Hunter’s is preparing for a murder trial.
Jerry Blair, now a special events sergeant, was the first to play the guitar, when he was an investigator on what was then called the SNU, for Street Narcotics Unit.
“He wasn’t that great of a player — I’ve heard him,” cracked veteran homicide Det. John “JD” Duran.
“Don’t tell him I said that.”
Officer Rudy Delgado, a retired sergeant, was the next to take ownership of the full-bodied acoustic guitar, when he was working on the CTF.
The Fender then went to Delgado’s CTF colleague Bruce Linn, the undisputed guru of the APD guitar who played it the longest, from 1997 to 2015.
Linn, now an investigator for the Orange County District Attorney’s Office, brought the Fender to the homicide unit in 2011.
“I honorably left it (in 2015) with Shane Carringer, who honorably left it with Ryan Hunter,” says Linn.
“I only had it for about a year or so, so I turned it over to Ryan Hunter in June 2016,” says Carringer. “Don’t let Bruce be modest. He is by far the best guitar player out of the bunch. Although I couldn’t compete with Bruce, I would try to bang out what I could, usually grunge, classic rock or some country songs.
“The guitar was always an instant release, if even for a short moment, from grueling homicide investigations.”
JD says Det. Gus Maya tried to play the guitar like a cello, and wisely passed on becoming one of the Homicide Unit’s resident guitar gods. The other officers currently in the APD Homicide Unit are Sgt. Jeff Mundy, Det. Mark Gell, Det. James Monsoor and Det. Caesar Flores.
In addition to the Fender at his office, Hunter, an officer at the Placentia PD for 6 ½ years before he joined the APD in May 2013, plays a Taylor 414ce and a Yamaha at home.
He’s learning to play songs for his twins, age 7.
APD Acting Chief Julian Harvey once walked into the Homicide Unit and heard Hunter playing “Sweet Caroline,” by Neil Diamond.
“I’m glad to see you’re keeping busy,” Harvey quipped.
The Fender is in desperate need of new strings and a cleaning, but Hunter says he doesn’t want to mess with it.
“It’s the patina on it, you know what I mean?” Hunter says.
He tunes the strings with an iPhone app.
“It doesn’t sound the best — it rattles at times,” Hunter says. “The softer you play, the better.”
Linn has fond memories of his old APD guitar.
“I played about one summer of guitar in the sixth grade,” Linn says. “I didn’t have my own guitar, so that’s all I played was one summer on a friend’s guitar. I knew the same four or five chords and for the next 25 years played James Taylor, John Denver, Credence Clearwater Revival, etc.”
Detectives on the CTF detail do a lot of surveillance.
“There is frequent and lengthy dead time,” Linn says. “You can talk. You can read. You can throw a football. You can learn how to play the guitar.
“I played the guitar.”
Linn says having the guitar at APD headquarters was “a unique blessing.”
He says the Fender even taught an inmate at the APD Jail to play “This Little Light of Mine,” a gospel song written for children in the 1920s.
Says Linn: “I had one goal in 1997: To be able to pick up a guitar and make it sound pretty. Maybe more people should try that in this world.”