Police remember Mike Manhatton - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Police remember Mike Manhatton

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Left to right: Mike's sister, Mike and his mother Left to right: Mike's sister, Mike and his mother

It's hard for those of us who know Mike Manhatton the anchor to imagine Mike Manhatton the reporter.

It's kind of like visualizing your dad as a teenager. That old yearbook photo just isn't the man you know.

But I got the chance to glimpse that other Mike at the scene of a police standoff last summer. Mike was off, but he came to the scene anyway to help out.

His video was better than mine, his rapport with the officers easier, his questions better. I realized how much I had to learn.

That was the same day he found out his cancer had come back.

In the days since Mike passed, I got the chance to sit down with some of the officers who knew Mike when, way back when, 33 years ago, he came to Savannah, a cub reporter from Chicago.

These officers, like Metro Capt. John Best and Chatham-Savannah Counter Narcotics Director Everett Ragan, were beat officers and detectives back then. 

Ragan worked homicides.

"We said if you wanted the stories, it would cost him," Ragan remembers.

Hot coffee was the price. Mike took up the running joke and started showing up at every scene with two hot cups from Krispy Kreme.

"He knew Tiny wanted cream and sugar, and I wanted mine black."

He earned their trust, became one of the guys.

"He was out there with you," Ragan said. "You know, when you are out there at 3 o'clock in the morning, and it's cold and raining and wet."

They gave him a nickname.

"Mike Manhappy, always with a smile. We would walk up and we would say, 'How you doing, Mike Manhappy?'"

Metro Maj. Larry Branson, who worked homicides in the 1980's, said Mike earned some hard to achieve respect. He earned it by showing it.

"He knew what we were looking for, and we knew what he was looking for," Branson said. "And, at some point along the way, a friendship developed, and then there was a blending, a merging between professional cohort and dear friend."

Effingham Sheriff Jimmy McDuffie said the key was how Mike asked the questions.

"'What can you tell me? And it seemed like he always had that same. It wasn't, 'you need to tell me something,' or, 'what you gonna tell me?' or, 'I need some info.' It's, ‘what can you tell me?'"

Thunderbolt Police Chief Robert Merriman said Mike knew when to hold back, when a detail might put an investigation in jeopardy.

"He thought a lot about victims," Merriman said.

But Mike had his tricks on a scene. Here's one he taught WTOC's reporters. To get good video, offer an officer your camera light.

McDuffie remembers asking Mike one night if he wanted some good video. "Of course," Mike answered. "Well come on."

"And I grabbed him and his camera," McDuffie said. "And we were under the 18-wheeler, videoing the brakes because he had that big light up on the camera. And we were under there with his light, and I was taking pictures. And he was doing video.

But Mike's best trick was just being a good guy. Someone easy to talk to, someone you wanted to know better.

"He was a very private person," Branson said. "But when he talked to you, it was like you'd known him forever."

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