Law enforcement officers are faced with a variety of life-threatening situations when protecting the public at large from dangerous elements of society. From a shootout in a mall parking lot to a point-blank gunfight in a drug den or a hostage situation on a front lawn in your local neighborhood, these men and women in blue have seen and done it all. Over the years, we’ve published numerous accounts written by and about police officers in the “It Happened to Me!” section of GUNS AND WEAPONS FOR LAW ENFORCEMENT. The following true gun stories you are about to read are powerful and compelling tales of bravery, courage, and in some cases, luck. These are the top 15 “It Happened to Me!” stories from law enforcement. Click below to jump to the story of your choice.
- Shotgun Rampage
- Butcher Knife Standoff
- Fatal Funnel
- Parking Log Rampage
- Psycho with a Shotgun
- Psycho’s AK-47 Firestorm
- Lunatic’s Joyride
- Infant Hostage Rescue
- 12-Gauge Rampage
- Fast Food Terror
- Hostage Situation Averted
- Bullets Do Funny Things
- One Lucky Son of a Gun
- Point-Blank Gunfight
- Neighborhood Showdown
While working the day shift on a Friday morning, at around 11:30am, the radio reported that there was a man shot in the parking lot of a small strip mall in the city where I am a police officer. As several other officers and I answered the call, another dispatch announced that there was a citizen on a cell phone relaying real-time information to the comms center, and that the citizen was following the shooter. The caller, who was next door to the business where the shooting took place, claimed that a man had walked up to an older male who was getting out of his car and had shot him at close range with a shotgun.
“Apparently unfamiliar with shotgun ammunition, the gunman had purchased a large amount of birdshot with which to use on his rampage.”
The caller stated that the shooter had then calmly walked across the street to a large discount store parking lot where there were several other citizens engaged in shopping and at risk of being shot as well. This courageous citizen voluntarily followed a deranged gunman while remaining on the cell phone with dispatchers, relaying vital information. Our officers responded in less than one minute, and immediately the airwaves were filled with officers relaying new information as well. The gunman began shooting into the air in an apparent attempt to frighten other patrons of the business, and then he turned on even more innocent citizens. In the parking area of this discount store, he calmly approached one middle-aged gentleman after another, adding three more victims to his list of carnage.
One of our first responding officers pulled into the parking area and spotted the gunman walking in the opposite direction. In a well-intended split-second decision, the officer chose to attempt to end the shooting spree by running over the gunman with his patrol car. Maneuvering into position behind the shooter, the officer floored the accelerator; however, the madman heard the engine revving, looked over his shoulder and slipped between cars parked in the lot, effectively avoiding being stopped then and there. Realizing that the cavalry had arrived, with shotgun firmly in hand, the criminal stopped attacking citizens and took off at a dead run toward the rear of the discount store. Taking his attention away from other innocent bystanders probably saved countless lives that day, as the gunman’s attention was now firmly directed toward arriving officers.
Reloading his shotgun from a bag filled with ammunition slung over his shoulder, he ran to the rear of the business. All of the officers now on-scene formed an impromptu skirmish line and converged on the back of the store in the direction the gunman had gone. The shooter initially ran away through a row of trees and hedges after attempting to enter the store from the rear door and finding that it was locked from the inside. However, he suddenly rushed back through the trees and shrubs, running toward all of us responding officers while firing the shotgun in our direction.
All of us on scene returned fire, and the gunman fell to the ground, leading us to believe this nightmare was finally over. To our surprise, the shooter immediately jumped back up, grabbed his shotgun and again attempted to attack us, even after being shot. Some officers were using their issued handguns while others had retrieved patrol rifles, and all of us once again returned fire, putting the active shooter down for the second and final time. We still weren’t sure if it was safe to approach the suspect without adequate cover. We quickly obtained a large police SUV from our agency and were then able to conduct a slow, static approach and secure the gunman and his shotgun.
It was fortunate that none of the victims were killed, but several had life-altering injuries, including the gunman himself. Apparently unfamiliar with shotgun ammunition, the gunman had purchased a large amount of birdshot with which to use on his rampage. His ignorance proved to be good fortune for four innocent people that day. The officers on scene were completely safe and knew that they had performed as they had been trained. On that day, my entire agency learned that these kinds of incidents do not just happen somewhere else—they are all too common and can happen anywhere.
Butcher Knife Standoff
It was a typical busy weeknight, several years ago now, in the “rough” part of town. I was working a truck loaded with our SWAT gear. My partner and I were assigned to supplement patrol officers in this drug-plagued, high-crime precinct. A 911 call came out over the radio for a residence just around the corner: “Person with a weapon. Unknown weapon at this time.” I responded to radio dispatch that we were en route.
My partner and I used to work in this area before being transferred to the tactical team full-time, so we knew the streets well. Although not regular partners, I knew my partner since high school—same grade, even sharing a few classes. Fast-forward 20 years and here we were, both cops, responding to this priority job. Those are some curious odds, and life is funny like that sometimes.
As we pulled up to the location, a standard two-story row house in the middle of the block, we were flagged down by a man and a woman out front. They were parents that had the look of fear in their eyes—they tried to explain the crisis in Spanish. I did my best to figure out the story, but my Spanish is limited. We were quickly led upstairs to the small, middle bedroom of their 15-year-old daughter.
In the far corner stood the young lady. A bed was in the center of the room and evidence of a struggle littered the floor. I noticed a picture frame with smashed glass and a torn photograph, a knocked-over, 20-inch box fan, and shards of a shattered mirror strewn everywhere. We looked in from the doorway to assess the situation, which was, again, met with a language barrier—the girl spoke no English.
We immediately noticed the large-bladed butcher knife she grasped firmly with both hands above her head. She was bringing the blade tip down to her chest and then up again in fits of rage, motioning a thrust to stab herself, all the while screaming incoherently with a contorted face full of tears and fury.
We requested over the radio for a Spanish-speaking officer to respond, as I did my best to communicate in my limited Spanish with phrases such as “What is your name?” and to “slow down.” I had no success with this hindered dialogue, and if my partner and I ventured slightly into her room she would lunge at us with the knife. We were at a cautious stalemate.
After the interpreter arrived, we learned from the Dominican family that their daughter had broken up with her boyfriend. I guess that’s who was in the ripped photo. We needed a plan to resolve the incident and stop this girl from hurting herself or others. My partner thought to grab the Taser from the truck. Our plan: I would slowly enter the room and be a distraction—eye candy—keeping the bed between me and her, and my partner would then get off a shot with the Taser. I knew him well enough to know he never misses, no matter what weapon he is given, so I was not concerned about his accuracy.
I entered guardedly, making my way to the fan a few feet away. My thought was that I could grab the fan and use it as a makeshift shield if the knife came near me. As expected, my partner found his mark. The Taser prongs struck the girl center-mass, and the knife went flying towards the ceiling. She fell down and was promptly cuffed. A happy ending. No one was hurt, and a teenager still had her whole life ahead of her.
As they made their way to an apartment where they had just received a “shots fired” call, the patrol officers could plainly see bullet holes in the walls of this rundown Section 8 apartment complex. Once at the suspect’s apartment, officers found the door partially ajar with a cord that wrapped around the handle and leading underneath a rug 3 feet inside. A veteran officer who had seen combat in Vietnam recognized this as a possible booby trap and wisely decided to withdraw and request the SWAT response, which quickly brought me and my entire team straight into the line of fire.
More patrol officers arrived to establish a perimeter and begin a limited evacuation of the very large building. Once our SWAT team was on scene, we relieved patrol, took command of the inner perimeter and began our initial approach to the apartment. When we arrived at the door, the entry team leader was able to closely observe the cord and determine that, while the device resembled a booby trap, it was fake and of no threat to the team.
Crisis negotiators attempted to communicate with the resident of the apartment to little avail—his delusions made any hope of a surrender unlikely. Due to the apartment’s small size, our team leader ordered that each man would go in armed only with a 9mm Sig Sauer P226 pistol. Each was outfitted with a 20-round magazine. We would make a slow and gradual incursion into the apartment, closing the gap with the suspect until we reached our final assault-point, where we would breach the bedroom door and confront the suspect.
During our movement down a short hallway, the suspect opened fire through the closed bedroom door. Almost immediately, one of the officers further up the stack advised that he had been shot and stepped off-line. In the next several seconds, as our team began to make a crisis entry under fire, another officer was shot.
After deploying several diversionary devices, we attempted to breach the bedroom door. It could only be forced a short way due an obstruction inside. We continued the breach. Soon the door broke in half. We climbed into the room and over the wall of a bunker that the suspect had constructed inside. During the melee that ensued, another teammate was shot, this one in the chest just outside the area covered by his body armor. Due to the low-light conditions and amount of debris in the room, none of us were able to initially find or engage the hidden suspect, until one officer found and disarmed him, just as the suspect was working the bolt action of his .22 rifle.
Taken into custody and later determined to be mentally ill, the suspect was committed to a treatment facility. All three officers were treated and released from the hospital. The officer who had been struck in the chest was fortunate: the bullet had penetrated through the side of his pectoral muscle and traveled straight through, impacting nothing vital. The other officers, each wounded in an extremity, suffered relatively minor wounds and returned to duty shortly thereafter.
There were many lessons learned that day. From those, our team began a years-long growth process that included training in explosive breaching, crisis entry, combat medicine and other subjects. From near-tragedy we found success. Today our team is one of the best in the country, fully mission capable and ready for any task.
Parking Lot Rampage
Many police departments have explorer programs so young people can learn about law enforcement. A common part of this experience is to ride along with a police officer to observe them while performing daily duties. At least this is how the day began for Sgt. Marcus Young of the Ukiah, California, Police Department and his 17-year-old police cadet, Julian Covella.
That evening, Sgt. Young was responding to a routine shoplifting call at a local department store where security had apprehended one of two suspects. Young placed the female suspect in handcuffs in the backseat of his cruiser when her alleged accomplice appeared and began to approach with his hands in his coat pockets. Unbeknownst to Young, this man was a violent felon and a member of a prison gang. What Young could see was the suspect’s shaved head, determined look and extensive tattoos, including devil’s horns on his forehead.
Sgt. Young ordered the man to stop and take his hands out of his pockets. The suspect admitted to having a concealed knife in his left pocket. As Young placed his hand on top of the suspect’s hand to disarm him, the man drew a .38–caliber snubnose revolver from his right pocket and opened fire at point-blank range, emptying all five chambers. The first shot hit Young in the cheek, exiting the back of his neck. Another shot hit his side and was stopped by his ballistic vest, but it knocked the wind out of him. As Young went down, a shot entered the gap between his neck and ballistic vest, skipping across his back. Another shot shattered his right arm, rendering it useless, and the knife tore a gash in his left hand.
Young dropped to his knees in pain and shock, his assailant standing over him still armed with a knife. It was at this point that the store security guard tackled the suspect to the ground and wrestled with him for control of the knife. Despite his heroics, the suspect gained the upper hand and stabbed the security guard, leaving him for dead. The suspect then turned his attention to the police cruiser, which contained a loaded shotgun and a select-fire patrol rifle. Ignoring the screams from his handcuffed female accomplice, the suspect attempted to free the secured weapons.
Unable to draw his service pistol, a .40 S&W Beretta 96, witnessing the unfolding horror before him and quickly losing focus from his injuries, Young called out to unarmed police cadet Covella, who had taken cover when the shooting started. Young ordered Covella to draw his sidearm for him and place it in his injured left hand. With the suspect distracted, Young, still in a kneeling position, took careful aim and fired four shots, fatally hitting the suspect in the torso and head and ending the suspect’s rampage. In fact, a later search of the suspect’s vehicle uncovered a cache of five pipe bombs.
“I survived because of many years of ongoing training, the actions of two brave men, and because God was by my side,” said Young. For his heroism and refusal to give up despite career-ending injuries, Sgt. Marcus Young was awarded the 2003 National Rife Association’s Officer of the Year award, the organization’s highest honor for police officers.
Psycho With a Shotgun
Cecil County, Maryland, located in the northeast corner of the state, has many rural areas where there are only one or two sheriff’s deputies on duty for some shifts. This was the case on January 6, 2011, just after lunchtime, when Sheriff’s Deputy Michael Zack, off-duty and driving his marked take-home cruiser, noticed a fellow deputy’s lights distantly in his rearview mirror chasing a fleeing traffic violator. Not unusual, but the call on the radio was that this violator had already rammed the pursuing deputy’s vehicle once and was known to be violent and unstable.
Fully aware that backup was distant at best, Deputy Zack immediately jumped in to render assistance despite being in plainclothes with no body armor. He spun his patrol car into a turn to cut off the suspect’s escape, but instead of slowing, the suspect accelerated with the intent of ramming Zack head-on. Deputy Zack managed to move his vehicle out of the way just in time and then joined the pursuit, taking charge of the communications.
During the 11-mile high-speed pursuit, the suspect weaved dangerously in and out of traffic and appeared to be headed in the direction of his residence. Seeking to avoid endangering other motorists or pedestrians, the two deputies backed off the pursuit, hoping the suspect would slow down. Zack and his fellow on-duty deputy decided to head toward the suspect’s home in the hopes of apprehending him there, outside his vehicle.
When the two deputies arrived, still without backup, the suspect’s vehicle was present and the front door was open. As the uniformed deputy, pistol drawn, approached the residence to perform a visual inspection through the open door, the suspect emerged with a sawed-off shotgun. The deputy ordered him to drop the weapon, but the suspect refused.
Hearing his fellow officer’s command, Deputy Zack rushed forward—drawing the gunman’s attention toward himself and away from the other deputy. At that point, the gunman turned towards Zack and took aim with the shotgun at Zack’s head from close range. Having no choice and with only seconds to react, Zack engaged the suspect with his duty Glock 23 in .40, firing five shots. The other deputy also fired at the suspect, who was felled by the barrage.
It was only after the smoke cleared that backup officers arrived on scene. If not for Zack’s selfless actions, bravery and dedication to duty, the situation could have ended very badly for his fellow deputy. For his actions, Zack received the NRA’s highest honor for law enforcement officers, becoming the 2011 NRA Law Enforcement Officer of the Year.
This award, established in 1993, recognizes the exceptional acts of law enforcement officers who are also NRA members. Anyone may nominate any public or private law enforcement officer or military police on the basis of exemplary acts of valor, public service or support of our constitutional heritage. Recipients are presented with an award at NRA Headquarters in Virginia, as well as a $1,500 award, an engraved Smith & Wesson M&P pistol, a custom-made ballistic vest from Velocity Systems and a trip to Albuquerque for the National Police Shooting Championships.
Psycho’s AK-47 Firestorm
On September 8, 2007, Deputy Carl Beier was nearing the end of his shift. Deputy Beier heard a call come over the radio for a violent domestic disturbance at a rural residence in Jefferson County, Missouri, and decided to respond. As he approached the residence, he saw a woman running toward his cruiser. The woman told him that her husband had a gun and an arsenal inside. As she shouted this, she ran past the deputy, away from the house.
“When they run by you and keep going, it’s a good indication of a bad situation.” Beier said. He attempted to put the patrol car in reverse and began backing out of the driveway, but he was unable to exit the area quickly and safely. He was trapped.
Beier looked at the house and saw a male walk to the front porch, emerging with a rifle. Beier reported to dispatch what was going on and requested backup. He then exited the car, hitting the button that opens the trunk where his Mossberg 500 12-gauge shotgun was stored. “We train our officers to get out of the car, pop the trunk and get to the rear of the car. Having the shotgun back there was the equivalent of having a Plan B. I think those actions saved my life…getting out of the car should be a top priority for anyone in a similar situation,” Beier later said.
Once he retrieved his shotgun, he found cover behind a large oak tree, where he was able to keep an eye on the front of the house and hunker down. As Beier scanned the area, he lost sight of the suspect in thick foliage. Then the suspect started heading for Deputy Beier’s location—and firing. The weapon used was later identified as an AK-47 modified to fire on full-auto. Beier maintained his composure and radioed his updated situation. “All of my thoughts were clear and I ran through at least three different plans in my head—I was going to survive and win.”
As the suspect fired the AK-47 and moved closer to Beier’s location, the deputy kept peeking out of different areas of the tree so he could keep an eye on the suspect’s approach. Beier would reemerge at a different spot each time. “Every time I peeked out, the suspect would concentrate his fire at the spot—he was very accurate and I could feel chunks of the tree ripping off.”
As the suspect closed in, he sprayed Beier’s cruiser with several rounds. Then he turned his gun back onto the tree where Beier was positioned. While the suspect was still near the patrol car, Beier saw an opportunity—a 2.5-inch wide sight picture of the suspect’s head. Deputy Beier lined up the sights on the shotgun and fired. The investigation would reveal three 00 buckshot rounds hit the suspect’s head.
Beier watched as the suspect dropped behind the patrol car, down but still alive. The investigation revealed that the suspect fired 29 times at Deputy Beier. Neighbors also stated the subject “regularly practiced firing his weapons, so he was a good shot.” The suspect made a full recovery and is in prison serving a life sentence plus 86 years.
Deputy Beier’s perseverance saved his life, the victim’s life and potentially the lives of responding officers. Beier, now a detective, was awarded the Public Safety Officer’s Medal of Valor by Vice President Biden for his actions as well as the Missouri Medal of Valor and his department’s Medal of Valor.
On February 2, 1998, 23-year-old Officer Katie Conway was driving her cruiser in one of Cincinnati’s toughest neighborhoods. As she began slowing for a traffic light, she watched a man carrying a boom box cross the street. He suddenly stepped in front of her and she hammered the brakes, barely missing the man.
Daniel Williams, 41 years old, had been arrested 17 times in the past. Earlier in the evening, his family had called the police to report that Daniel, who had a history of mental illness and was now off his meds, had threatened to kill his 71-year-old mother.
Officer Conway was unaware of all of this as Williams darted to her open driver’s-side window and slammed the boom box into her face. A stunned Conway could not recover before Williams pulled a .357 Magnum revolver and shot four times, all the while screaming, “I’m going to get you!”
The madman yanked open the door of the squad car, pushed the badly wounded and disoriented officer over and slid behind the wheel as he drove off wildly—destination unknown.
Officer Conway held desperately onto consciousness as she struggled to draw her 9mm Smith & Wesson semi-automatic handgun from her holster, which she was lying on top of. She managed to work the firearm free and aim as she was jostled about inside the speeding squad car. She indexed the trigger and fired two shots. Williams slumped forward, and Conway realized she was in a car with a dead man driving. Conway braced herself as the car went airborne and slammed into the wall of the Sam Adams Brewery, going from 50 to 0 miles per hour in a violent millisecond.
Without any warning, Officer Katie Conway had been brutally attacked with a boom box and a .357 Magnum, then decisively won. The injuries she sustained did not end her life as the suspect intended, but they did end her career. The pain she suffered would not be in vain, however, for she would share with fellow officers the thoughts she had on the seat of that squad car on that fateful night. Her words would be priceless in helping recruits survive the challenges that lie ahead of them and help them also prevail. As Katie floated in a sea of pain, on the seat of that squad she determined, “If someone is going to have to die tonight, it’s not going to be me!”
In the aftermath, investigators later discovered Conway had fired at the suspect twice. Initially, they concluded she had missed once since there was but one hole in the right side of the suspect’s head. Everything considered, who could fault her? However, the autopsy revealed that Conway, while lying prone next to a raging lunatic, in a careening motor vehicle, wounded in eight places, had fired twice but had not missed at all. Both bullets had entered the suspect through the same hole.
Infant Hostage Rescue
Standing on the front lawn of his home in a Riverside, California, suburb, the suspect yelled at police to shoot him. In one hand he held his infant son, and in the other he held a knife angled over the baby’s throat. “Come get me, I’m right here!” the man said. “You can kill me, but my son’s coming with me!”
Just minutes earlier, deputies had been dispatched to the house after a woman inside called 911 to report a violent fight with her boyfriend. Arriving in their patrol cars, the deputies were immediately approached by concerned neighbors, who directed them toward a man pacing on the yard in front of the home, yelling at the top of his lungs. As they walked toward him only expecting to deescalate a simple domestic dispute, the deputies saw the baby and the knife.
Both simultaneously broke the retention straps of their holsters and drew their semi-automatic duty sidearms. Leveling their sights on the suspect, the closest deputy ordered the man to let the child go and drop the knife. Ignoring them, the suspect held the baby at his chest as if he were a shield and retreated into the home.
Following him inside, the deputies passed the threshold of the door and confronted the suspect in his living room. Still holding the knife to the baby’s throat, he repeated his earlier threat to end the child’s life with a single motion of the blade. Blood was already visible on the infant’s neck as the suspect tightened his grip and applied pressure.
Deputies again ordered the man to release the child and drop the weapon, but again he failed to comply. Fearing for the baby’s life, a deputy, with his sights shifting from the man’s head to the arm holding the knife, squeezed the trigger of his sidearm and sent a round into the suspect. Four more squeezes in quick succession delivered four additional rounds into the suspect’s body, causing him to step back and drop both the child and the knife before falling to the floor himself. Immediately closing on the suspect with their weapons still drawn, one deputy kicked the knife away from him before applying handcuffs while a second picked up the child and ran to the street. Calling for an ambulance, the officer applied pressure to the infant’s wounds and comforted him until he saw the ambulance pull onto the street.
Though seriously injured by the suspect prior to the deputies’ arrival, the infant suffered no wounds in the shooting and was quickly treated at an area hospital, soon to be released to his mother. The suspect, shot multiple times in the arm and torso, sustained non-life-threatening injuries. After being treated for his wounds, the man was booked on suspicion of torture, assault with a deadly weapon, and willful child cruelty causing injury.
The heroic actions of the deputies in this case saved an infant’s life, spared the suspect’s, and prevented a prolonged standoff. Responding to domestic disputes is one of the most dangerous aspects of patrol, given the emotional state of the subjects involved. Callouts for these incidents can quickly turn deadly, and when they do, it will take training and resolve to end them safely without the loss of an innocent life or that of a responding officer.
Robert Kenneth Stewart entered the Pine Lake Rehabilitation Center on March 29, 2009, intent on ending or ruining the life of his ex-wife, a care provider at the facility. He coldly stalked helpless victims in this retirement home, firing his shotgun and killing eight residents.
Officer Justin Garner was the lone officer on duty in Carthage, North Carolina, a town of nearly 2,000, on that quiet Sunday morning. He sat in a nearby parking lot watching the traffic lazily roll by him as a church service let out. At 10:00am, Garner’s radio crackled, “Shots fired at 801 Pinehurst!”
He initially thought it might be hunters in the wood line near the rehabilitation center. But this call would not be routine. A female caregiver bust out of the door of the facility proclaiming, “He’s killing people!”
Officer Garner prepared himself for this moment with years of firearms training and by attending an “active shooter” presentation. He had decided that if it was ever to be his responsibility to respond to such a call he would remain calm and act decisively. With that deliberate calmness, he entered and moved through the facility. He felt engulfed in the eerie silence as he passed elderly victims. The only sound heard was the shuffling of the slipper-covered feet of residents heading somewhere, anywhere, to avoid the shotgun-toting monster.
Garner would later say, “I knew that someone was shooting them and could not figure out why anyone would shoot them. They were like children…defenseless. I thought I had to find this guy.”
He moved stealthily to the center of the facility, which had the layout of a hub with spokes coming from the middle. While pausing to listen at an abandoned nurse’s station, the silence was broken by two shotgun blasts from a room down the hallway Garner was standing in.
Stewart exited the room, reloading his shotgun. Justin brought his .40-caliber Glock 22 to bear on the killer. Officer Garner shouted, “Drop the weapon!” three times, showing the killer a mercy Stewart was incapable of understanding.
Stewart turned slowly about and swung the muzzle of his shotgun toward Officer Garner, who did not hear any shots but knew he fired first. An instant later, Stewart fired.
Garner felt a sharp sting in his ankle and foot and for a moment thought, quite incidentally, “It should hurt more to be shot.” He then slid instinctively behind cover and leaned out, prepared to meet an anticipated advance of the suspect. Instead, Officer Garner discovered that his one incapacitating shot had ended the gunfight.
Garner, wounded but still mobile, cautiously approached the shooter and handcuffed him. A search revealed the suspect had a pistol in a holster slipped into his belt in the small of his back. The outcome was announced as Justin’s voice broke calmly over the radio, “Shots fired. Suspect down.”
Fast Food Terror
One day I took my family to a fast-food restaurant for some lunch. I was off duty, in civilian clothes, and armed. My wife and daughter were finding a seat while I went to go order. As I stood in line waiting to order, an armed suspect was in the back of the worker area of the restaurant, pointing a gun at the manager and demanding that the safe be opened. I couldn’t see what was going on and only became aware after I overheard a cashier telling another employee that the store was being robbed.
Serving on the SWAT team of my department with over 17 years of experience, I was confident in my ability to handle the suspect but had to make sure the customers were also safe. I had previously discussed a distress signal with my family, that if I told my wife to leave, she was not supposed to hesitate, just grab our child, go and call 911 from a safe spot, ensuring that she told them I was an armed off-duty law enforcement officer and what I was wearing.
As my wife and child headed for the door, I started to direct everyone else to quietly leave. As I was doing this, standing near the front counter of the store, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed the suspect running in my direction with the gun in his hand. He was charging toward me and was closing fast. I instinctively dropped behind the counter for cover, drew my weapon, announced, “Police! Stop!” and took a crouching position behind the counter.
As the suspect continued advancing in my direction, he raised his weapon and I saw a distinct muzzle flash from his gun. The suspect fired repeatedly at me. I went into “combat mode,” fired eight rounds at him, striking him six times.
My weapon was now empty. I moved to another position along the counter, reached for my spare magazine and reloaded. When I came up over the counter again, I could see that the suspect was down and seriously wounded. Then it struck me — there may be another assailant in the store. I scanned 360 degrees slowly. Several of the customers had not left and were still in the store. My wife and child hunkered down in a restaurant booth. But the coast was clear. Later on, my wife told me that the door they went to was locked and she didn’t have time to try another.
Although I survived the gunfight, a different result could have occurred and my wife and child may have been injured. I was just happy that it went down the way it did.
Hostage Situation Averted
It was a slow Sunday night in November, 2008. My shift was winding down and everyone was trying to catch up on our reports when dispatch gave out a “be on the lookout.” We were looking for a red Dodge pickup truck with Mississippi plates. The truck belonged to a murder victim, and the driver was wanted for the murder. The suspect had called an ex-girlfriend and was headed to meet her in a county next to us. He was also armed with a 9mm pistol, the murder weapon.
Once set up on the highway leading from our county to the next, another deputy and I waited. We hadn’t been waiting long when dispatch called us to advise that a city police unit was out with the suspect and was requesting assistance. We both pulled into the convenience store parking lot where he was and positioned ourselves on either side of the police K-9 unit, noting that there were no blue lights on.
I could see the city officer walking around his car. Moving from front to back and side to side, not focused on the suspect vehicle. His weapon was holstered and his K-9 was still in the car. As I got out of my car, I had my patrol rifle ready, and I focused on the red Dodge truck parked in front of the store (unable to see in the cab due to its dark window tint), then on six or seven people moving around inside the store. The city officer still had not drawn his pistol.
Unsure of what was going on, I placed my rifle back inside my patrol car. I then asked the officer if the suspect was still inside the truck. He said yes. I looked at the vehicle again and could see the Mississippi plate matched the note on my dash where I had written it down. I called out to my partner, “That’s the vehicle,” then drew my sidearm.
I then saw the suspect looking at me in his side mirror. I called out to him and told him to turn off the motor, and he did so. I then went through felony stop procedures: getting the suspect out of the vehicle, hands-up, backing up towards my car. I coordinated with my partner and had him put the suspect in handcuffs and place him in a patrol car. Once he was secured, my partner covered while I approached and cleared the truck. There was no one else inside.
The suspect was extradited and later plead guilty to murder. In speaking to the city officer after the stop, we learned that he had not initiated a stop. The suspect just pulled into the store parking lot and the officer followed him in, stopping by the pump islands. As to why he did not draw his weapon, or deploy his K-9, he did not think it was justified until dispatch confirmed the vehicle plate matched that of the wanted vehicle.
I learned a few lessons on this night. 1) Do not relax. I had a weak/confused moment when I first got out due to the city officer not being alert or ready for action. I recovered quickly, though I resorted to an inferior weapon. 2) Be alert for avenues of escape. I was aware that the suspect might already be in or headed for the store for hostages. I was determined not to let that happen. 3) Coordinate/practice. We train at least once or twice a year, formally, on felony stop procedures. In addition, I am a Field Training Officer for my shift and frequently use the shift officers when training rookies several times a year. This made our stop flow smoothly once contact was made.
Bullets Do Funny Things
The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) uses task forces to combat narcotics trafficking. In New York City, this entails working with several local and state law enforcement entities. About 10 years ago, I was assigned to one based in Queens, and we were working a heroin trafficking case in New York City.
Our informant had worked up a deal to purchase a pound of heroin from a low-level dealer with the hopes of flipping him and working up the chain. We set the meet for a fast-food parking lot in southern Queens. Each agency that was part of our task force was there.
The plan was for the informant, who wore a transmitter and recording device, to leave the buy money in the trunk of the car, drive to the lot, back in and wait for the dealer. When the suspect arrived, the informant was supposed to wait for the suspect to show him the heroin, then go to the trunk of the car, open it and say our arrest phrase. At that point, we would all move in and make the arrests.
The suspect finally showed up in his car and backed into a parking spot near the suspect’s car. The suspect got out of his car, made contact with the informant, had a brief conversation, then asked to see the money. The informant told the suspect that the cash was close but asked where the package was. The suspect then led the informant to his trunk, opened it and showed him the heroin. The suspect removed a bag from the trunk and told the informant to go get him the money. As the informant walked to his car, the suspect took the bag and got back into the driver’s seat of his car. Once the informant got to his trunk, he popped it open and muttered the arrest phrase.
Every task force officer and agent emerged from their respective positions and started moving towards the suspect’s car, guns up, shouting, “Police! Don’t move!” The suspect, obviously startled by the sudden explosion of activity, started his car. As we all moved in closer, he started to rev the engine. One of the local police officers moved directly in front of the car. Police markings, badges and guns were all on display. Every officer kept yelling, “Police! Don’t move!”
The suspect decided it was time to drive off and the car started moving forward, right at the local task force officer. The task force officer did not have anywhere to go. With this imminent threat bearing down on him, he fired his Glock 9mm into the car windshield. The car kept coming, forcing the officer to jump out of way.
The car continued past the officer, who now was on the ground, then abruptly came to a stop. We all moved in to arrest the suspect. As we got him out of the car and handcuffed him, we checked for wounds but couldn’t find any. Another agent looked at the windshield and saw several holes in it on the driver’s side, but nothing on the suspect. In total, we found three holes and three rounds fired.
As the suspect was on the ground, he kept complaining of a pain in his right foot. As we checked his right foot, we found some blood in his shoe area. Further examination found a small piece of shrapnel that was lodged in his right ankle. We were lucky; had the round not splintered and sent shrapnel south into his ankle, he would have kept on driving.
One Lucky Son of a Gun
A while back, I was working a “C” tour, 3:00pm to 11:00pm, with a new recruit on his 10th day on the job, when we got a call about a stolen car. The victim suspected her boyfriend, an ex-con with whom she had argued earlier in the day. She told the dispatch officer her boyfriend liked to hang out at a local bowling alley and since that was in our patrol area we were asked to check for the missing vehicle.
We easily spotted the 1969 Plymouth wagon parked near the entrance. I radioed dispatch and told them we had their car, unoccupied, and asked if the owner wanted to come get it or should we have it towed. After a short period of time, I was asked to call the station. This usually meant they had some information they didn’t want to put over the air. We drove to the nearest payphone, since cell phones were still somewhere in the future, and I dug in my pocket for a dime.
The Trooper on the desk explained that there had been a burglary that day not far from the lady’s home with a bunch of jewelry and electronics stolen. He asked if we could see inside the car on the chance this citizen had somehow fallen back into his old habits. I approached the wagon, and sure enough, jewelry, electronics and a few other goodies were there on the rear seat. Since it would be better to catch the suspect in possession of the stolen property, I jumped back into the cruiser’s passenger seat and directed my partner across the street, where we tucked into an alley to see if anyone would lay claim to the spoils.
Before long, a slender, longhaired man with plenty of tattoos strolled out of the bowling alley and hopped behind the wheel. He spotted us right away and took off, gunning the engine through a busy plaza, narrowly avoiding other motorists. As we closed the distance, he then tried to evade us by driving through a residential area.
Suddenly, the Plymouth attempted a U-turn, slid across a grassy median and slammed into a telephone pole. We maneuvered the patrol car just behind and to the left of the wagon as the driver’s door popped open. I had my shoulder into the cruiser’s passenger door, getting ready for a foot chase, when I felt a sudden spray of broken glass across my face and caught sight through the shattered windshield of several flashes coming from the Plymouth. As I bailed out of the vehicle, I could hear the pop of gunfire and almost feel puffs of heat pass by.
I took cover behind the trunk of the old wagon and drew my issue Smith & Wesson .357 Magnum. Only 15 feet away, I had a clear line of sight as I squeezed the trigger, and just at that moment, I heard him dry-firing. I have often wondered why I didn’t pull that trigger the quarter-inch more it would have taken to fire. Instead, I screamed for him to drop it, which he wisely did. We had him face down on the ground and handcuffed so quickly it still amazes me.
It was only then that I noticed blood running from my partner’s forehead, but I was not as surprised as he was when I told him he had been shot. He never felt a thing. Adrenalin can be a funny thing sometimes. As I sat on the prisoner, I looked back at our car. Three rounds had gone through the windshield and the other three had struck the passenger door I was exiting. One of the rounds that struck the windshield had broken up and part of it lodged in my partner’s forehead. Fortunately, the wound was superficial.
After help arrived, I found the weapon lying on the ground, a .22 six-shot revolver, one of seven handguns we found in the car. The handguns, all stolen, were hidden under the driver’s seat and included a couple .38 revolvers, a .357 Magnum, two 9mm pistols and a .45 ACP. The suspect later told one of our investigators that after he hit the pole he just grabbed the first gun he felt, jumped out and started firing. If he had grabbed any of the guns other than the .22, the rounds would have gone through the car door and me.
While the narcotics team I was then a part of conducted a narcotics search in broad daylight, my partner and I found ourselves in the middle of an unbelievable battle. After securing all persons in the common area, the team began a room-by-room static search.
Going downstairs into a darkened area, my partner and I located a man with his back to us both who was vigorously working on something. An investigation later revealed that the man was attempting to dispose of a large quantity of drugs. The first thing I noticed after seeing the man hurriedly moving about was a semi-automatic pistol lying well within reach to his left, with the hammer in the cocked position.
My partner and I had approached silently and the man had been so intent on destroying any evidence that he didn’t hear us converging on him. My partner apparently saw the handgun at the same time I did.
Knowing that our position was undesirable but was the best we were going to get in the situation, we both trained our handguns on the suspect, and my partner yelled out our police identification and gave commands to the suspect to freeze where he was. The suspect chose instead to fight. In a time span that even now seems impossible, he grabbed the pistol lying to his left, spun around and began firing at both my partner and me.
I couldn’t believe that the man had decided not to surrender, much less that he actually got off the first shot. I was entirely convinced that we had him covered and that, if necessary, we were in a position to shoot him without endangering ourselves. With both of us having our handguns trained on the suspect, ready to fire if needed, it seemed impossible that he fired first. I found out quickly that it was not only possible, but was happening right then.
In the confines of a hallway at a distance of about 7 feet, all three of us—the suspect, my partner and me—began firing our handguns simultaneously. I remember thinking that there was no way I hadn’t hit the suspect and that I was exposed to his gunfire and therefore way too vulnerable to being shot.
The gunman finally collapsed where he stood, but not before shooting his high-capacity pistol until it was completely empty. An autopsy would later show that the suspect had received numerous non-survivable wounds at the onset of the gun battle but was still able to stand and fight until he had no ammunition left. My partner and I were fortunately not hit at all. This incident opened my eyes early on in my career to what is now well known about action being much faster than reaction. I’m just glad that both my partner and me lived to tell about the lesson.
On a hot July evening in 2011, at about 9:00pm, I was dispatched to an incomplete 911 call. One of our canine units offered to cover me. He was about the same distance from the call as I was. As I got close to the call, I pulled to the side of the road around the corner from the call location. That placed me a little more than two houses away. I blacked my lights out and waited; a male was yelling. It was fairly dark and there were no streetlights near the house, but there was a front porch light. In that dim light, I thought I saw some movement, so I decided to approach to see what was going on. I figured my cover had to be pretty close by now.
I put the car in drive and saw a male walking from the corner of the garage down the short driveway, away from me on the sidewalk. It was poor lighting, but he appeared to be carrying a rifle with a wooden stock.
As soon as I saw that rifle, I hit the lock on my rifle rack, pulled my personal 14.7-inch LWRC M6A1S from the rack, charged it and put the forend in my left hand. Since he was walking toward a parked car, I decided I would wait to see if he was just going to place it in the trunk of the car. However, he walked past the car and then started across the street. I couldn’t let him just wander off into the darkness, so I rested the rifle’s forend on the steering wheel, turned my light on with my left hand and activated my PA to tell him to drop the rifle.
He turned and immediately fired a shot at me. I saw the muzzle flash, heard the report, and saw sparks near the front of my car. Still seated, I shouldered my EOTech-equipped rifle and clicked off four rounds through my windshield. I looked up—he was still standing and had the rifle shouldered.
I slammed the car in reverse and requested backup. I jumped out of my car and about 10 seconds later, my cover unit pulled up on my right. He exited his car with his issued Colt AR-15. I told him I was fine and gave him a brief suspect description, pointing to the direction in which I last saw him.
Then we saw the suspect walking quickly toward us—now he was armed with a handgun. Both my cover officer and I told him to drop the gun and stop. He repeatedly said, “That’s not going to happen.” He kept approaching us at the same brisk pace. I mentally kept a line on the street, and he was not going to cross that line—otherwise he would be in range to injure us. When he got to that line, I fired, as did the canine officer. We fired the same number of times, almost in unison.
The suspect dropped immediately. I walked past my car with my gun still on him, then got on the radio to request medical aid. Through the investigation, it was found that I initially fired four rounds through my windshield and the canine officer and I each fired six rounds in the second engagement. One of my first rounds struck the suspect in his right side, causing a large laceration. There was windshield safety glass embedded in his shirt near that wound.
The suspect had just gotten into an argument with his parents and told them he was going to kill himself. That’s why they called 911. When he heard that 911 had been called, he told them he was going to go out in a shootout. The suspect was walking away from his home to set up an ambush for us. The suspect left the home with a loaded rifle, crossing the street and heading to a dark area with an excellent view of his front doorstep.
Had I not had the LWRC rifle, it would not have been possible to return fire from inside my car. That gun is easy to maneuver within my cruiser. Without it and my ready mindset, I would not be here today.
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