Better And Better

If you don't draw yours, I won't draw mine. A police officer, working in the small town that he lives in, focusing on family and shooting and coffee, and occasionally putting some people in jail.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Crazy Man With A Gun

"34**, I need some help here!" I heard Art's voice coming shakily over the radio, like he was running. Don, my corporal who was working deep night shift and who had relieved me 20 minutes before, had been chatting with me at the P.D. He swung his feet off the desk and onto the door as I rebuckled my duty belt back on. We hit the door at the same time, heading toward our respective cars.

"I got it!" Don declared. As my corporal, he could tell me to not go to the call. Doing so anyway, after I was off-duty, in a city car, would be a bad idea if he had ordered me not to. But he hadn't precisely told me not to go. He just had said that he "had" it. I kept going to my car. "I said I got it...!" he repeated himself. Uh-oh. He was about to directly tell me not to go, and I was going to have to make a decision. I knew Art.

"34**, he's got a gun, and he's chasing me around with it pointed at his own chest--- get me some help out here, now!" We both ran the last few steps to our cars, with no more discussion. Gravel flew, light bars lit up, and sirens wailed as we ran code in.... opposite directions. We had different ideas of where he was. I kept going. Heck, Don may have a better idea, or I might. But we could double the chance of getting that deputy some help if we kept on. I asked for a vector-in, from a now highly-harried dispatcher. It took some time. During that time, I made a bad guess on a dirt road that, while technically going more directly toward my destination, was rutted and potholed. I risked wrecking at 45mph. I stepped it up to 55.

"I NEED SOME HELP!" Art's voice was pointed. He was panting, and running. Involuntarily, my foot responded, and the speedometer briefly flirted with 60. A pothole the size of New Hampshire almost disabled my car, sending me half into the ditch. I slowed it back to 45. If I wrecked, I couldn't help. I finally got to blacktop, and found triple digits quickly. A railroad crossing immediately before a stop sign had me settng my tires down again about halfway through the intersection. I had every light and sound device on the car broadcasting.

Another brother with a badge from another agency arrived just about a minute before I did. When I got there, Art and Jeff were behind Art's car, and Jeff had a shotgun pointed at a man standing in the road about 20 yards away, who was holding a pistol and a beer. Art had just gotten a less-lethal beanbag shotgun out, and was yelling to the guy over it. At 20 yards away with lots and lots of open range behind him, the man with the beer was frankly a little far out for the beanbag gun.

We all found ourselves yelling to the guy. Art, whose call it properly was, also had a little bit more training with this stuff. He quite correctly told the rest of us to shut the hell up. And, thinking again about it some more, he put away the beanbag gun and got out the Mini-14 patrol rifle. At least now we had a rifle pointing at the guy, who was a good 30 yards from Art's car, by this point. The guy kept walking toward and away from us, with the pistol pointed at himself or to the side. He never pointed it at any of us, though. I made a point of getting my car spotlight and headlights on him, not only to help us see him, but to keep him from being able to see us. Putting a guy in a pool of light allows you to move about with a lot more stealth.

It began to rain cops. I decided to move alongside the guy. His pickup was parked at a cross street about 50 yards off and he'd already gone back to it for a beer. He kept moving as if to return to it. Well, I figured, maybe I can get to that pickup, and cut off an option. I began moving along a steep ditch to our left, to parallel the guy. The ditch had a lot of loose shale and brush, which meant that moving without giving my location away was hard. I got to a point about halfway to the truck and realized that I wasn't going to make it without a lot of distraction. I looked for cover. Ah! A utility pole! I snuggled up to it, and found that I could hide behind it. I took a practice sight picture on the guy with my Kimber, and found that, at about 20 to 25 yards, I felt confident that I could hit the guy in the upper body, but was NOT confident that I could make a first round headshot. I cursed my old chief for dragging his feet on adopting the proposed patrol rifle policy that I had written. (I now work for a more enlightened chief.)

About this time, the guy declared, "Well, that's it. It's time," and he poured the last of his beer out and dropped the can. He then began to stride toward Art's vehicle, behind which about 10 other cops were now gathered. I could hear Don now among them. I hoped he had good cover. I prayed that the guy didn't come my way, drawing all those muzzles in my direction. The guy pointed his pistol out to his right, straight out, and kept walking toward Art's car in that manner. I realized that the pistol was pointing straight at me as he passed me. He never knew I was 15 yards (at that point) beyond the end of that pistol. Rather than holler at him to watch his muzzle, or shooting him, I made myself a splinter on the far side of that creosote-soaked utility pole.

He kept walking toward Art's patrol car. Jeff had his shotgun aimed at the guy's center. Art, kneeling in the crease made behind his open driver's side door and front door post, had a good rest and was looking through the sights of his Mini-14 at the guy. Art began yelling for the guy to stop. Stop. "STOP!" The guy kept coming. As he got right to the front of Art's patrol car, it was reported to me that his sergeant began murmuring to Art, "Take him. Take him!"

I couldn't hear that just then. I too was yellng for the guy to stop and was fully expecting to hear the shot. The guy began to swing his right arm, with the gun, toward the cops. The gun, however, was reversed now. He slid it up onto the hood of the Crown Victoria, and stepped back. EVERYone began yelling for him to get down on the ground. He did so, and was quickly handcuffed as I secured the pistol. It was a... Hm. what did they call them? Ah yes, a Vektor. Cute little South African plastic pistols that were a good example of style over function. With no magazine in it, it felt light. I checked the chamber. Empty. I handed off the pistol and went to the truck. On the bench seat was the magazne, and a 50-round box of Winchester Western 9mm FMJ ammunition. He meant to die that night. He just wanted a good man to do it to him.

Thank gawd Art didn't.

The distance from Art's rifle's flash supressor to this bozo's chest couldn't have been more than 5 feet when the guy leaned over the pushbumper and slid that gun up the hood toward Art. Probably more like 4 feet. Call it a meter and a half. There were probably 10 guns pointing at the guy, and nobody dropped hammer on this armed man refusing to stop when ordered to. Remarkable, really. But Art was closest. His call. He was talking to the man in a clear, direct manner while looking through the sights. I'd like to believe that it was his confidence in his ability to stop the guy that saved the man's life. In the light and shadow there that night, no one could see the empty magazine well, and that wouldn't mean anything, anyway-- who wants to be the unlucky one to catch the single round in the chamber of an improvised single-shot?

Art's sergeant started telling cops to clear out. Some of us who had hurried to get there almost got our feelings hurt. But we cleared out.

The next morning, I checked on this crazy guy that had:
-gotten drunk,
-led Art on a short pursuit after being called in by his family,
-held us all to a stand-off for almost half an hour, and
-then nearly caused an officer to be victimized by his actions.
He had been booked in for DWI and Unlawful Carrying Of A Weapon (both misdemeanors), and had been bonded out by noon. No psych hold was placed on him. (Did someone drop the ball? Oh HELL, yes.)

He can legally buy a gun, drive a car, etc.

Why is it so hard to put correct tags on the legitimately unstable guys? So much so that, with two sergeants and numerous other cops on scene, no one had the gumption to ask for one?

We need to find a way to better deal with the people whom we've identified as crazy (like Cho Seung-Hui). Right now, there aren't enough beds as the public or or private hospitals, and you pretty much have to be activelly hacking off digits and throwing them at people to get committed. How about bringing about a simpler mechanism to get a person some help BEFORE it gets to that point?

Because, right now, I'll tell you: it's pretty frickin' bleak to us who run across 'em. And saying "I told you so" isn't much solace.

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At Friday, April 20, 2007 8:50:00 AM, Blogger HollyB said...

Well, as a Social Worker who has begged for additional funds for years, the problem is that Mental Health is not treated the same as physical health. It's still seen as something "shameful". You know the attitude, "If they just tried harder, had a stronger 'character', they could control themselves."
When the general public realizes there is, indeed, a bio-chemical component to mental illness, much like hypertension, or diabetes, THEN the insurance companies will cover it fully like they cover physical ailments, and police and other official agencies won't be so reluctant to "tag" someone with a "Mentally Ill" diagnosis.
Sorry to be so longwinded this morning.

At Friday, April 20, 2007 1:22:00 PM, Blogger Ambulance Driver said...

Damn. Just...damn.

And for all your professionalism and restraint, the guy walks without even a psych evaluation.

He'll do it again, Matt. And next time he'll encounter cops with more fear and less restraint, and they'll shoot him. And the sad thing is, the cops will be made the scapegoat.

At Friday, April 20, 2007 2:37:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

" . . . an' all you bloodthirsty cops, just WAITIN an HOPIN for a chance to use your guns - - "

Right. Maybe I'll write down the url of that entry and keep it in my billfold. Next time I hear some cop basher sound off with that kinda bullstuff, I can hand it to him (her) and say, "Yeah, JUST like those guys were?"

Unmentioned in most after-action discussions: A cop with a steady position and good sight picture is seldom afraid for his own safety. The stream of consciousness runs more like, ohdearGodIdon'twannakilltheSOB butigottheshotIfidon'ttakehimNOW is hegonnashootArtorJoseorBill Dontdoitdontdoitdont"

I'm proud of you, Matt, and all the others who waited just that extra instant . . . .


At Friday, April 20, 2007 11:24:00 PM, Blogger Matt G said...

Holly, your point is well made-- we should treat mental illness before it gets to the emergency stage. True 'dat.

But this instance --and many others-- have demonstrated to me that we aren't even effectively dealing with the mental emergencies. At the very least, one of the deputies in charge should have availed himself of the legally-afforded 72-hour mental evaluation hold. This man invited the gravest extreme, and walked out on bond before all the supplements were written.

I wrote a 2.5 page supplement, in hopes that his lieutenant would see it and recommend Art for a commendation. He deserved one.

Art received no commendation, and I've overheard at least some scorn, for his difficult call. "Shoulda shot the SOB..."

"Art" still works in my area, and we've disagreed on some aspects of some calls. But he knows that I hold him in high esteem for what he did, and what he didn't do, that night.


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