In the fall of 2004, my husband and I were on our regular late night stroll down a nearby heavily forested trail. Everything seemed quite ordinary until 15 minutes into our walk we realized something was different. A man was walking behind us, but never catching up, even though we were walking at a slow pace. When we slowed, he slowed. When we sped up, he sped up, always remaining about 50 yards behind us and always remaining close to the trees lining the trail.
It seemed that he didn’t know we could see him but months of night walking along the dark trail vastly improved our night vision. Ten minutes passed and we were still being closely followed. We were quite a ways down the lightless trail and there were no other walkers around. We knew we had a serious problem on our hands.
As we approached a clearing on the trail where some residual light fell from the rear of a small building my husband and I prayed, then decided we should stop in the clearing and get ourselves ready. My husband never leaves home without his handgun, and that night he pulled his pistol out of his pocket and chambered the first round. I had left my pistol at home because I didn’t want anything weighing me down.
So other than my husband’s handgun the only other weapon we had for self-defense was my fairly large and heavy stainless steel flashlight, which I grasped like a lifeline. I mentally rehearsed the self-defense and tactical training my husband had diligently trained me in. Who knew I would have ever had to use it for real?
On reaching the clearing, we stopped. The night stalker stopped also. Then without warning he began to approach us at an unbelievably rapid speed. With only moments to spare, my husband and I wordlessly separated, my husband moving to the left side of the trail, and me moving to the right – a move that would make it more difficult for the assailant to harm us both in one fell swoop. Then the situation went from bad to worse. When the assailant was within 50 feet of us, he switched on a bright flashlight and aimed it directly at our faces.
We were blind! My husband and I could not see each other to communicate, and we couldn’t see where or how close the assailant was; we were like sitting ducks! Then I remembered my flashlight. I flicked it on and aimed it directly into the light coming from the assailant’s flashlight. The attacker stopped advancing, but kept his flashlight on us.
Blinking against the night blindness, I sensed that the assailant was now 10 to 15 feet in front of us. I kept my flashlight trained on him, hoping that my husband wouldn’t have to use his handgun. For at least 5 seconds no one said anything, and no one moved. Then the assailant lowered his flashlight. The first thing I saw was the words “POLICE” written on his SWAT-looking clothes. He was a cop!
I was relieved. My husband and I blurted out at the same time, “Whew! You scared us half to death! Why didn’t you announce yourself as a police officer? Why were you following us?” He responded that we looked suspicious because we were wearing jackets and it didn’t seem cold enough for jackets. Then he said nothing else.
We all stood around awkwardly for a moment in the clearing. I noticed my husband had quietly slipped his firearm back into his pocket but that his hand remained in his pocket. The man then mumbled something about us “checking out” and “enjoying the rest of our walk” before turning around and heading back down the dark trail. He never saw the handgun in my husband’s hand.
Our sense of relief was short-lived. Something about the whole event was not adding up. Beginning with the man’s SWAT-looking police uniform. Why didn’t his uniform have the city’s name on it? As we continued walking, question after question began flooding our minds as we attempted to re-center ourselves from the frightening ordeal.
Why would a police officer be trailing two law-abiding citizens just because they were wearing jackets? Why would a police officer descend on a strolling couple in such a predatory manner without announcing himself? Why did he purposefully blind us with his flashlight? Where was his partner? Where was his police car? Why did his police radio look like a plaything and why was it completely silent? Why did his handgun look unusually large and clunky compared to the firearms the police officers in the city carried? Why didn’t he ask for ID? Why didn’t he show us his badge?
The farther we walked the more the realization came to us that this person could not possibly have been a cop, and that we had indeed been attacked. The moment we got home we decided to call it in, figuring the police would probably not even bother with our case.
In less than 10 minutes after the call, two uniformed police officers arrived at our home to speak with us and to get a description of the man on the trail. The officers informed us that for the past few months there had been several attacks in the city by a man wearing police clothes and he fitted the description we gave.
Apparently, under the guise of a police officer, the attacker would get his victims to comply with him, specifically in being handcuffed. The attacker would then relieve his victims of all their valuables and leave them sitting in the dark handcuffed and helpless.
Since then I make more of an effort to carry my handgun with me. I also realized how fatal our relief to see a person in a police officer’s uniform could have turned out. I found that it is best to trust your instincts. I know that God was especially looking after us that night, and I am certain that our trained tactical reaction to the assailant’s attack dissuaded him from pursuing his crime and prevented what could have been a deadly altercation. Our assailant went on to attack and rob a few more folks in and around the city wearing his “police attire” and as far as I know he has never been apprehended.