When to Pull the Trigger

I am a police officer in Southern California. I work…

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I am a police officer in Southern California. I work for a small municipality surrounded by large unsavory cities, which means my city is just as bad. I have been a police officer for five years now, but about four years ago, while I was a new trainee, I encountered a situation that still sticks in my mind to this day.

I was working morning watch, 1900 to 0700 hours, with my training officer, who was an LAPD veteran. We were patrolling, when we were dispatched to a call of a man in a wheelchair, who was pointing a gun at passing cars. We were literally around the corner from the location.

As we turned the corner, I saw “Benjamin.” Benjamin is a paraplegic, who is a heavy methamphetamine user and all-around troublemaker, well known in the city. Benjamin was sitting in his wheelchair, on the sidewalk. This particular street is bordered with trees along the parkway, and he was sitting near one of those trees.

As we pulled up to Benjamin, we put both of our spotlights on him. I exited the passenger side door of the patrol car as my training officer exited the driver side. I drew my HK USP .45ACP as I stood behind my door. My training officer ran around the rear of the patrol car and took a position at the corner of a nearby building. We both had our guns trained on Benjamin as my training officer called for assistance.

Our spotlights cast a shadow on Benjamin, due to the tree he was sitting next to. He had his right hand concealed under his left armpit. I ordered him to put his hands on top of his head, which he ignored. I gave him the order several more times. Finally he pulled his right hand out. In his hand was what looked to be a small snub-nosed revolver.

When I saw the gun, I recall training my front sight on him. Benjamin began to swing the gun out in front of him, toward my training officer. I began to pull the trigger on my weapon. I remember seeing the hammer slowly come back, as I looked past my front sight at Benjamin. Just then his right hand hit the light of the spotlights. He threw the “orange squirt gun” on the ground and was taken into custody without further incident.

When I reflect on this incident, I remember the academy scenarios, which were exactly like this one. I was not afraid to shoot Benjamin because I had prepared myself mentally for just such an encounter. When I became a police officer I promised myself that my teammates and I would go home at the end of every shift.
—BG, CA

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