July 3, 2006: A Huntington Beach police dispatcher gets a strange call on the eve of Independence Day celebrations. “He called the station,” says Officer Bill Murphy. “The suspect said that he was going to kill someone or a cop. Right then I knew that this guy wanted a suicide by cop.” In other words, this person didn’t want to take his own life, he wanted a police officer to do the dirty work instead. This is a fairly common occurrence.
Officer Murphy responded to the call and learned that the suspect had served time for killing previously. With his partner and other officers arriving on a scene, they positioned themselves so that the suspect’s vehicle would serve as a bullet trap in case rounds were fired.
The suspect had been waiting. Officer Murphy pulled out his 12-gauge Remington shotgun that was fully loaded with Federal magnum slugs. The suspect stood with a pistol and looked into the eyes of each officer. Choosing one, the suspect raised his pistol. This act caused Officer Murphy and his partner to engage their threat. Murphy’s partner suffered a malfunction with his pistol that was found to result from improper maintenance. Murphy’s Remington shotgun didn’t fail and sent the first slug, initiating the simultaneous assault by all other officers.
The suspect was killed but not before 27 shots were fired with 24 hits to the suspect. “We train our officers to a high degree of accuracy,” says Murphy. “We only had to account for three errant misses. The officer who had a malfunction served as an example of disciplined behavior in the department. He cleared his pistol and, seeing the suspect was put down, he didn’t continue to engage.”