I work for a large Sheriffs Office and I’d like to think I’m pretty good at what I do. However, I never thought I would fall victim to tunnel vision, but it happened. It was Christmas time and I had just been transferred to the evening watch. We were experiencing a large volume of calls this day and I had that feeling we would get into something big. I just wish it wouldn’t have been me.
I was working as a backup unit along with a good friend of mine. My friend received a call in reference to six or seven males behind an apartment complex. The males were allegedly selling narcotics and all possessed unknown types of weapons. This anonymous caller even had the presence of mind to ask that when we arrived in the area, to turn our headlights off. This wasn’t just any apartment complex, but an eight-building, low-lit area with as many abandoned apartments as there were ones occupied. I’ve lost track of the number of narcotics and gun arrests that were made there.
My partner and I spoke briefly on our talk channel and decided to approach the complex from the south. I would pull into the first parking area, building H, and he would follow a short distance further north. Upon entering the area we both did as we were asked and killed our lights. I was the first to see the subjects and it appeared that there were more than seven people present. As soon as I depressed my brake pedal, on those awesome Fords we drive, they began to squeal. At that point all of the subjects became aware of our presence and fled on foot, northbound behind the buildings.
I should mention that all of these subjects were attempting to get into a maroon vehicle that was parked in the dark area behind building H. I quickly pulled my unit behind the vehicle, blocked it in, and gave chase on foot. After advising dispatch that the subjects were all fleeing, my partner advised that one of the subjects was running in front of the buildings. The subjects that I was chasing began to break away from each other and run on the sidewalks, between the buildings, toward the street.
I ran approximately three buildings down and decided to move to the front due to losing sight of the subjects. I ran down the same sidewalk that I watched these guys run through, at full speed. Right at this moment, I should have slowed down but I was just thinking of catching these guys. At the front of these buildings, on both sides of the sidewalk, is a 5-foot brick wall. I’m guessing that these were made to provide a level of privacy to the residents, however the only thing it succeeded in doing was concealing the drug dealers.
As I approached the opening to the front of the building I actually felt my right hand reaching for my Beretta. Maybe I should have taken this as a clue, but again I only had my mind on the bad guys. I rounded that brick wall to my right, and my life changed forever. (Please turn to page )
Waiting between that wall and the shrubs, in front of the building, was a male who did not want to be caught that night. I’m not sure if he knew I was coming up behind him or he was getting ready for responding deputies in the front. This subject began to stand, and I could clearly see a pistol in his right hand.
The subject had turned to me, and while holding the handgun in his right hand began to chamber a round with his left. I knew I would never get my Beretta out in time with the barrel of his gun aimed directly between my eyes. The barrel of that gun looked as big as a tunnel and I fully expected the gun to fire. In this short time I also thought of my daughter being without me, my wife and brother (cops with local PD’s) yelling at me for getting shot and my friends finding me shot in the head. I don’t know why this was going through my head, but I soon realized I was in a fight for my life.
I quickly released my hold on my Beretta and it was never drawn during this incident. The only thing I could think of was to redirect the subject’s handgun. Still believing that it would fire, I felt my only chance was to grab the gun and attempt to strip it from him. If I was going to get shot at I thought it would be better to maybe lose an ear or the hearing in an ear rather than being killed. This was something I trained myself to do in case this situation arose. I grabbed the subject’s hands and squeezed with all my strength. I believe that this caused the pistol’s slide to lock back. I like to think that I actually caused it to lock back, but in reality I don’t know why it did. I was able to force the handgun upward and to the left side of my head.
While still maintaining my grip on the subject’s hands and gun, I started to use my body weight and force him backwards. I then thought of our self-defense instructor and head of our training academy. I thought of every class I attended with him and remember him wrestling with us “big guys.” Every time we would simulate an attack or gun grab, he would start knee strikes on either side of the body to assist with his escape. He would have been proud when I tried to drive my right knee into the subject’s chest.
This gave me a chance to attempt to remove the gun from his hands. However, we both began to spin around and I knew I was not letting go of that handgun. Once we approached the street, while still spinning, I was able to strip the handgun from his hands. The handgun fell to the ground with the slide still locked to the rear. The subject’s crack cocaine (10 grams) and cellular phone also fell to the ground. The subject was able to escape my hold and he again fled on foot. Once I was able to “see” the subject’s face I immediately knew his identity. I had arrested this subject on three previous occasions, at this same apartment complex for resisting arrest and narcotics charges.
The subject was able to elude us that night but was apprehended four nights later. The subject, in that maroon vehicle I blocked in, robbed an all-night gas station in our district. After a car pursuit, another attempt to flee on foot and a physical altercation, that subject was arrested. Unfortunately I was not working that night, but everyone I work with, and even other deputies in the adjoining district, called me that night. It felt good that so many of my co-workers, no I mean friends, wanted to get this guy as much as I did.
This subject, who was only 18 years old at the time, certainly changed my life after almost ending it. And the only reason for it would have been my own tunnel vision. My body was telling me to slow down when I was running down that sidewalk. Just that action of grabbing my Beretta should have made me stop in my tracks, and clear the corner by the brick wall. I’m convinced that making a response in my head to different situations I may encounter out here saved my life. Everyone needs to do this, whether it’s something small like where to conceal yourself if shot at while getting gas or something big like having a gun pointed at your head.
I have learned from this incident and have promised myself not to be placed in that sort of situation again. Well, not by my own actions, I mean. I am quick to critique my co-workers and I will not let them make the same mistake I made. I have not been placed into this type of situation again and I never will!
— PS, Internet
I work for a large Sheriffs Office and I’d like to think I’m pretty good…
by Guns & Weapons / May 1, 2007