After 60 years, a Vista grandfather returns handcuffs to LAPD, with apology

Close up of handcuffs and a key
The LAPD tweeted this photo of handcuffs and a letter of apology from a grandfather who’d scooped them up when he was 14 and kept them for 60 years.
(Courtesy Los Angeles Police Department via Twitter)

The handcuffs came skidding across a Van Nuys restaurant floor, lost by a police officer struggling with a suspect. A teenage bystander scooped them up and kept them.

But guilt tugged at him. Sixty years later, those handcuffs turned into a life lesson for the now 74-year-old Vista grandfather and his two young grandsons.

The man wants to remain anonymous. He’ll let his letter to Los Angeles police tell his story. It arrived last month at the Police Department’s West Valley station. With it, the handcuffs and a $100 donation to the department foundation.


The letter was addressed to the Los Angeles Police Department, but a copy of it also went to the little boys, ages 6 and 9.

Circa 1960, the man was 14 and in a Bob’s Big Boy restaurant when he witnessed a scuffle between an officer and a “young ruffian,” the letter reads. When the cuffs went flying, he picked them up and took them home. Admittedly, he wrote, he “felt a little guilty” when he looked at them over the next six decades.

When his grandsons were visiting and playing with plastic handcuffs, he figured he’d show them the real thing, to impress them. They did think the cuffs were cool — until he told the story of how he acquired them.

“They were aghast and asked me why I stole the handcuffs from a policeman,” the letter reads. “I, of course, had no good explanation.”

The boys later brought it up to their parents. A long talk followed. The grandfather apologized and was forgiven.


“But I can’t stop thinking I did wrong on so many levels, so I am returning the handcuffs with this confession and a note of apology,” the letter reads.

The man told police both boys will get a copy of the letter “in the hope that they get a different perspective than the one I left them with.”

Los Angeles police tweeted the letter Thursday, along with a photo of the old handcuffs. The man’s name is blacked out.

The atonement resonated.

“At the end of the day, the message was it’s never too late to do the right thing,” said Officer Mike Lopez, an LAPD spokesman. “He instilled those values into his grandchildren.”