Off Duty-On Alert

I was off duty on the night before Thanksgiving in…

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I was off duty on the night before Thanksgiving in 2006. My wife asked me if I would go to the store to buy some last minute items for dinner the next day. I was working the midnight shift at the time, so she knew I would be up late anyway. I guess it would be more accurate to say it was the early morning of Thanksgiving because it was around 2:00 in the morning when it happened.

As I was leaving the store and heading to my vehicle, I noticed an old white Ford Bronco slowly cruising the parking lot. You see it a lot in this area, people looking to victimize someone else in whatever way they can. These people were no different and I figured that they were waiting for me to leave the parking lot so they could pick their next car to break into.

I never leave the house without my “arsenal,” as my wife describes it, which consists of my 1911, two spare magazines, a cellular phone, and my badge with credentials. Each has a specific place on my person and I practice my drills with my off-duty gear on a regular basis because “perfect practice makes perfect.” My pistol is kept in a holster near my right back pocket (where people tend to put their wallets) so that if I am robbed of my wallet it won’t look out of place when I reach for the pistol. Knowing this, I headed for my vehicle, opened the trunk and began to place my groceries inside.

I watched as the Bronco stopped near my car and the man in the passenger side got out. The man proceeded to approach me from alongside the passenger side of my car. I did not look up from what I was doing, I just told him to stay where he was and state his business. He clearly had not expected any demands from me and it caught him off guard. It caught him off guard to the point of stepping back and stuttering while trying to explain what he wanted. I have lived in this border town for several years and this was not my first “Rodeo.” People of the criminal mindset love having the Mexican border so close. It allows them the opportunity to victimize and then run across the border before the police can be called.

This man clearly was no exception to the rule. He began to weave a tale of misery and woe about how he was falsely accused of a crime and convicted, did time, life on the rocks, etc. The kind of story those of us “on the job” hear every day. As he was telling the story I kept a close eye on his hands and body language, and the movements of his friend, the driver, (who was looking around the parking lot for any of my brothers or sisters on patrol). As he told his tale he must have thought that I was feeling less threatened by him because he stepped towards me. Immediately I asked, “What part of ‘stay right there’ did you not understand?” He was not used to being spoken to by his “mark” in this manner and he looked to his friend as if to ask, “What now?”

It was at that moment, when he was looking away, that I reached for my “wallet.” He turned back and saw that my hand was near my back pocket and assumed I was getting out my cash. He smiled a knowing, sinister smile and began to move closer, all the while looking around to see if anyone else was watching.

I had never noticed, until that moment, how loud the safety switch on my Colt Defender was. To me it sounded like a loud snap. To him it must have sounded like thunder because that was all it took to stop him dead in his tracks. Slowly the knowing smile slid from his face, he put his hands up in front of him, and backed away towards his buddy. “I don’t want any trouble, man. I just wanted to wish you a happy Thanksgiving,” was all he could say. He got into the Bronco and they sped off out of the area. I called it in, but like I said, Mexico is just down the street. If the guy is smart enough he won’t be trying anything like that in the future. But then again (some would call me a cynic, I would say I am a realist) I doubt that night’s events made him re-think his career choice. It probably just made him pick an easier-looking mark.
— JB, TX

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  • Al Newman

    Shoulda plugged him on sheer principle.