If John Neal had been a Police Officer in Southern California instead of Mountain View, you might have watched “J.W. Neal” instead of “T.J. Hooker”, because John’s long career was a collection of exciting cases and wild events that a Hollywood scriptwriter might have thought strained plausibility.
(And yes, there really was a Tom Hooker, a swashbuckling L.A.P.D officer who was said to be the basis for the TV character)
John came to the MVPD in the late 1950s, and like all rookies, spent his first few years working nights, creeping around the downtown area on foot. He worked hard, and displayed an uncanny instinct for policework and for being in the right place at the right time. Within a few years, he was promoted to Detective, and he was teamed with the venerable Lt. John Tomac. Together, they would work all of the major cases that were suddenly grabbing headlines in once-sleepy Mountain View.
He and Tomac were an incredible team; John was the intuitive foot soldier while the analytical Tomac put the pieces together to build a case. John was there when they broke the 1963 murder-for-profit of a woman killed by her dancing instructor. He chased the murderer of an Armored Car driver killed in the Payless Store around the country; the only time a criminal from Mountain View ended-up on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted List. Murderers, Armed robbers, counterfeiters and safecrackers all learned the hard way that the detectives in Mountain View weren’t fooling around.
After several tours as a Detective, John rotated back to patrol. He was assigned another partner; this time, an enormous canine named Suma. They too found themselves in the thick of the action: Shoot-outs, chases, chases that turned into shoot-outs…there seemed to be no end to the excitement that John turned up.
Eventually, John was promoted to Sergeant, and he became Chief Robert Schatz’s Special Investigator. The new Police Station was even designed with John’s office in a back corner near a little used door so he could usher his informants in and out without attracting attention. John did all the Background Investigations for Police and Fire applicants during this time as well, and he followed the careers of the successful applicants he investigated with tremendous pride.
John enjoyed a long retirement, but in 2016 he suffered a fall and his health declined rapidly. He had many visitors at the skilled nursing facility, but fittingly, the last one was Chief Max Bosel, who had stopped by for an impromptu visit on his way to a meeting in Los Altos. Chief Bosel ended the visit with a heartfelt and respectful salute…and by the time the next visitor arrived 15 or 20 minutes later, John had passed.