As I walked up the driveway, I could see a young male about 25 years old, sitting with his back against the garage door. He was staring down at a large kitchen knife he had pointed at his stomach with both hands. His arms were shaking with tension and he was oblivious of my approach. Not being aware of the 21-foot (or more) safe distance zone officers should maintain when dealing with people armed with knives, I walked to within 10 feet of him. Suddenly the “victim” became aware of my presence and, in one fluid movement, came to a crouched kneeling position with the knife pointed at me!
This guy was wound tight and his eyes radiated pure animal aggression. He was clearly off his nut. I was scared and putting my hands out in the open, I started to talk him down. There was no way I could draw my gun if he chose to rush me and I was lucky he responded to my calming tone, because I doubt if he heard a word I said. Fortunately, several family members came out of the house and the “victim” eventually surrendered his knife. I was very glad to see him shipped off to the nut house without a struggle. It turned out this “victim” had a long history of violence and, in truth, I was very lucky I wasn’t stabbed that particular day.
The key component to officer survival is never putting yourself in a position where you can get hurt. I had no backup, I approached the “victim” too close and I went in with the attitude that nobody was going to hurt me. I mean, why would they? I wasn’t there to hurt anyone. Of course, I wasn’t thinking in the “victim’s” frame of mind. His perspective was a little different, I’m sure.
I didn’t understand at that time that emotionally disturbed people often try to take officers with them in their suicide attempts. Or have the officer do the killing when they can’t do it themselves. It’s good to have God on your side, but it’s better to use the tactics he gave us. You can only get lucky just so many times.