In 1997 I was an FBI Special Agent with over 28 years service at the time. I was assigned to a Joint Fugitive Task Force consisting of the FBI, local police, Sheriff’s Office and Department of Public Safety Officers. My duties consisted of locating and arresting persons with arrest warrants for violent felonies. To be prepared for encounters with those who do not want to be arrested, we trained regularly at firearms, defensive tactics and arrest techniques. We all drove non-descript vehicles and wore plainclothes to avoid the appearance of law enforcement, but when we made arrests, we all wore vests with “POLICE” in large letters front and back.
Part of the training we underwent consisted of “street jumps” where we would block in a fugitive’s vehicle on the street with ours. In an ideal situation we would block the fugitive’s car in front, back and on both sides so he/she would have nowhere to move.
In 1997, one of those we were seeking was an ex-convict who was wanted for 12 armed bank robberies and a kidnapping. Each of his robberies became more brazen than the last. He started off with masks and hats, and finally progressed to no disguises at all. We had been looking for him and heard he fled the state. The investigation slacked off for a while until we learned he was back in town.
We developed a source who told us they could take us to where the subject was staying but that we had to be careful. The source said he was carrying three pistols, had access to a rifle and ballistic vest, and was driving a stolen car. The source told us that if he was wearing a fanny pack with a gun in it and that if we tried to stop him he would flee, and if we tried to arrest him on foot, he would shoot it out, as he did not want to go back to prison.
A detective from the police department and I picked up the source, who directed us to a neighborhood in the southwest portion of town. The source pointed out the house, and parked in front was the stolen car. We parked some distance away and called on the radio for the rest of the squad to respond to our location. After two or three of our cars arrived, we left to take the source back to their residence. A decision was made not to attempt an arrest until the whole team was there.
While we were staking the home, radio traffic indicated that the subject had come outside wearing a fanny pack, entered the stolen car and drove away, followed by our cars on the scene. The other team members were still en route to catch up to them. We could monitor the radio traffic and learned that a police helicopter had joined the surveillance, which went west several miles and then turned north. The fugitive was driving through shopping centers with branch banks and we suspected he was casing another bank for a robbery.
We finally arranged to have a marked patrol car stake the source’s home and we proceeded to join the surveillance. By then the fugitive was now driving east in our direction. We hastily drove to meet the others in our team, which now consisted of enough for us to make an arrest when the opportunity arose.
We pulled over, turned around and waited for the surveillance to come to us. When it did, we got a good look at the subject and his car as it passed us. We fell in with the others on a busy main street that was four lanes wide at this point. One of our team members managed to get directly in front of the stolen car in an unmarked SUV. When the traffic slowed down, the squad supervisor called for a street jump at the light. During the drive, I quickly pulled out my Smith & Wesson Sigma, however, I forgot to put on my spare magazine.
When the call went out for a street jump, traffic was stopped for a red light. I was to be on the driver’s side of the stolen car but, as happens in these things, it did not work out as desired. We ended up with a task force vehicle in front, a civilian behind, two task force vehicles on the passenger side of the stolen car and a civilian car on his driver’s side. By the time we realized that this is what happened due to traffic conditions, it was too late to call it off.
I jumped out of the driver’s side and ran to slightly in front of the driver’s window on the stolen car. My partner ran to the right side of the vehicle. I noticed another team member come up on my right by the rear driver’s side door but did not look to identify who it was. I learned later it was another FBI Agent.
As I ran up to the driver’s window, I had my pistol out and pointed at the fugitive. I yelled in a loud voice, “Police! Put your hands up.” The subject appeared startled, as he had apparently not spotted us. He put both hands up and looked around at me, then looked over his left shoulder at the team member next to me. He then looked around to his right at the officers on the right side of his car.
The subject then looked back at me, smiled and dropped his left hand for his fanny pack. I yelled at him at least twice to put his hand back up. He ignored me and dropped his right hand to push the gear shift into reverse at which time he floored the gas to back into the car behind him in an attempt to escape the boxed-in situation he was in. Knowing what I had been told by the source about him having a gun in his fanny pack, I feared that he would pull a gun and either shoot me or someone with me as well as put the public in danger if he attempted to get away in the car.
As he backed up I fired a shot that shattered the driver’s window into flying glass. The person next to me also began firing. I continued firing while he backed up and I remember thinking that I must be hitting him, as I was within just a few feet. He managed to knock the SUV behind him backwards and he then slammed the car into drive and floored it. As he came forward, we both continued shooting. When he cut his wheels to the left, I had to jump out of the way to avoid being run over. As he passed me, I stopped shooting, as there was a major intersection full of cars in the direction he was travelling.
What I did not see as he pulled away was that he almost ran over the DPS Officer in front who had to step back. As he stepped back, he fired a shot from a 14-inch-barrel shotgun through the front passenger window. When the car passed me, all I could think of was hoping the Agent behind me did not shoot me in the back if he continued shooting.
As the car drove away, it started slowing down. It eventually came to a slow speed and struck a pickup truck head on that was waiting to make a left turn. When we arrived, the subject was pulled out of the car, but he died of his wounds a few minutes later.
When the police department for that city arrived they cordoned off the entire intersection. I later met with the detective who came to our office to speak with me and the first thing he asked was how many shots I fired. I said I did not know. He asked how many I thought I fired and I said “a lot.” When we unloaded my pistol we found that I had fired 11 shots. The FBI Agent who was next to me had fired 6 shots from his 9mm pistol. The DPS Officer had fired one shot from his 12GA shotgun.
It was determined that the subject had been hit 4 times with my .40 caliber pistol rounds. Two went through the left lung, through the heart and the right lung and stopped in the right chest cavity. One went through the left lung and exited the center chest striking the dash of the car. The last went through the left abdomen and stopped on the right side. I had put 7 shots into the front door just below the window, none of which penetrated the door panels. The Agent behind me fired 6 shots, none of which hit the subject. The subject was hit in the left leg with a rifled slug, which broke his leg bone and tore off his hamstring muscle.
One of the officers who was in a pickup truck on the right side of the stolen car said he saw the subject try to unzip his fanny pack before he ducked down in the seat when the firing started. It turned out the subject had a 10mm pistol in his fanny pack and two 9mm pistols on the floorboard of the car.
In retrospect I realize that I made a tactical mistake when I did not take the time to remove my Heckler & Koch 10mm submachine gun, which was mounted in a roof rack inside my car. Had I used that, I believe the subject would have been stopped sooner. I also realized later that it was a good thing I had a high capacity pistol since I had forgotten to put on my spare magazine and would have had nothing to reload with if I had shot my pistol empty. I also learned that what I had heard about what happens to your senses during a shooting is true. I had been told that things seem to move in slow motion. I agree with that. I had also been told that you get tunnel vision. I can attest that this was also true with me. One other strange thing is that auditory senses seem to shut down. After the shooting had stopped my ears did not ring or hurt like they would have if I had fired off 11 shots on the range with no hearing protection. The body can do funny things in stressful situations.
This incident also shows that just because you shoot someone in the heart it does not stop the fight immediately. The body still has enough oxygen in the blood for the brain to live for about a minute. During that time they can still kill you, given the opportunity. That was certainly true in this case.
It would have been nice if everything had gone as planned and the arrest could have been made with no injuries to anyone. However, as anyone in law enforcement knows, you plan for the best but it doesn’t always work out that way. The main thing in this case is that no one on the Task Force was injured. The fact that the subject died was a direct result of the decisions he made at the time. You just have to train the best you can and realize that it can happen to you.