I started my law enforcement career in 1980, working for a mostly rural sheriff’s office in central Ohio as an unpaid reserve deputy. I had just gotten clear for solo patrol activity and was also cleared to work paid special duty jobs.
One of my first paid jobs during that summer was working security with one of our department’s sergeants at some motorcycle races at the local dragstrip. This particular track had national notoriety and was a very high-end operation. Thinking it would be no big deal as it was on a Sunday, I wasn’t worried about the situation until I arrived with the sergeant. As it turned out, this wasn’t just an event for some guys racing drag bikes, rather it was an open forum for anyone who wanted to race their cycles, and this meant outlaw bikers as well as the law-abiding operators. There were hundreds of them, openly wearing their “colors” — Hell’s Angels, Outlaws, Avengers, to name just a few. We immediately decided that we didn’t have anywhere near the manpower to enforce any minor laws at this event. In fact, we were mad that the owners didn’t warn the department about the racing format, and possible clientele, so we could have a much larger contingent of deputies on hand. So there went any enforcement on minor drug violations, (marijuana smoke was flowing through the air), open containers or any like violation. We couldn’t ask for much backup, as there were only 3 deputies out working the road for a 600 square mile county that afternoon. This of course would change if the situation was urgent, which it soon became.
As an eager young deputy, I was on the lookout for anything. As we walked the grounds, I spotted a rather large (6’4”, 265-pound) outlaw biker type wearing a belt on his blue jeans that was made up of hundreds of loops containing .22 LR cartridges. This fashion statement immediately caught my full attention, which caused me to notice, in those pre-concealed carry permit days, the outline of a two-shot over/under derringer clearly outlined in the right rear pocket of his worn out jeans. I alerted my sergeant and asked what we should do. He decided that he would call in two of the three officers on the road and we would make an approach on the suspect after they got there and he was isolated.
After the additional deputies arrived, we made our approach and separated him from other members in the crowd. We got the derringer (turned out to be .38 Special, I don’t know what the .22’s on his belt were for) and informed him he was under arrest. He said “No.” If it were 30 years later my first response would be to pull out the Taser and let fly. But back then we just grabbed him and restrained his arms, but we couldn’t get him to put them behind his back. I drew my straight baton and as instructed then, cracked him across the shin. By this time we were drawing a large and hostile crowd, about 50 to 100 of them, mostly the outlaw bikers. The sergeant warned me not to strike him again as it would inflame the crowd more. I went to my gas while the other guys were holding him. The brief spray caused him to blink, but not to put his hands behind his back.
About that time, some guy from the crowd came at us yelling, “That’s my brother, leggo of my brother!” I stood between him, his “brother” and the other deputies, ready to fight, when suddenly I was falling backwards on the gravel parking lot. One of the decent citizens told me in the aftermath that someone had grabbed me from behind and jerked me down. As I was falling, I realized that my gun was not in my holster.
I was wearing what was touted by the firearms instructors of the day (who were not cross-trained in defensive tactics) what we called a “muzzle cant forward” holster, with a single thumbbreak, that held the grip to the rear. What was “superior” about this rig was the fact that you could draw your weapon with a locked wrist, like a competition shooter. It sure wasn’t much for retention, especially from behind. Fortunately as I hit the ground on my back (no body armor back then) I recovered my gun with my right hand, a blue steel Smith & Wesson M19 .357, loaded with Speer 125-grain JHP’s (magnum loads weren’t allowed by the Sheriff). As I grabbed it, I noticed the suspect’s “brother” coming straight at me while I was on the ground. I raised the M19 at his chest, got a rough sight picture, and was started putting pressure on the trigger. I knew if he got my gun while the other deputies were struggling with his “brother” the situation would be disastrous. His eyes got big as saucers as he saw what I was doing. He halted in his tracks, threw his hands up and said, “No man, don’t do it!” He then took off into the crowd, never to be seen again.
We finally got the primary suspect away from the crowd (guess the possibility of gunplay, even with a six-shooter made them not so eager to hang around) and moved him to a quiet area, although his buddies were watching nearby. The sergeant got his ID, and made a deal for him and all his to buds leave, and he wouldn’t go to jail right then. In part this was due to the procedures we had to follow from our prosecutors office at the time, so a warrant for his arrest was filed. With that, he and his fellow members left the track.
We recovered, realizing how close things had gotten to being very ugly, and I resolved never to work in another department without one of those new style security holsters. With that type
of holster, I doubt I would have lost
my gun. I am thankful everyday that I
immediately recovered it.
— SW, OH
I started my law enforcement career in 1980, working for a mostly rural sheriff’s office…
by Jack Satterfield / Apr 1, 2010