It was just another cold November night serving drug search warrants as breecher for my agency’s emergency response team. We knew from past experience that the occupants of the house to be searched were far from friendly towards local law enforcement, and we had tried to plan accordingly. An undercover officer attempted to make a cocaine purchase to get the door open. However, when this failed it was my job to force the door. Following the knock and announce I used my battering ram to force open the door and stepped back out of the way so that the team could make entry. In the split second that the door opened and I stepped back, my teammates were already in motion.
Even now as I look back, they did not sound like gunshots. But I do remember the burning and tearing as the 9mm round came through the wall and entered my throat. It entered on the right side of my throat, passed underneath my Adam’s apple and exited the left side of my throat. The point of entry was later found to be almost four inches from the exit wound. Witnesses said I was twisted around to my left as I was shot.
I remember setting the ram down as usual, reaching up to feel my throat and my fingers coming away covered in blood. I heard shouts from inside and believing the first entry man had also been hit I drew my issue pistol and entered.
I know now that I was dazed but my only concern was to get to my teammate. Once inside I verified that he was unharmed before telling another member, “I think I’ve been shot.” Ironically this was the first night our team’s medic was with us, and he quickly came to offer assistance by literally plugging the holes in my neck with his fingers. He later told me he and another team member had to drag me away, with me telling them I was all right. I did not want to leave my team until the house was secured. My assailant was taken into custody unharmed. As he fired the shot that struck me, the first man in returned fire, narrowly missing him. He then decided to throw the gun under the nearest bed and begged, “Please don’t kill me.”
I was driven to the hospital in an unmarked unit and once inside I called my wife on a nurse’s cell phone so that she would hear my voice before she was notified by the media or the dreaded visit by a supervisor. Within fifteen minutes of being wounded it was being broadcast throughout the city with no regard for the families of all the officers working that night. Amazingly, a little under two hours later I walked out of the hospital with a bandage and the doctors’ assurance that someone upstairs must have been looking after me. He stated there was no medical reason that it should not have been a serious injury.
A long and hotly contested trial led to life imprisonment for the shooter. My team was decorated and a fellow officer and myself were awarded additional citations for valor. Within six months, and long after they proved it was not because of a lack of courage, our commander and one entry team member resigned. We learned from our mistakes, and today I am exceptionally proud to be a part of this fine team.
If there is an applicable lesson I believe it to be this: Train the way you fight and you will fight the way you train. Instincts and training took over after I was injured. I never once considered myself out of the fight. The thought I might die was never allowed to enter my mind. Not only did that night reaffirm my belief in my reasons for entering law enforcement, it showed me what a fortunate person I am to serve with the outstanding men and women that form that thin blue line.