Friday, April 9, 2010

Shoot, Don't Shoot (by HF)

The other night I had an experience where I had to decide whether or not to shoot someone.  I was sent to a business alarm in the middle of the night.  Fortunately on this night I had a cover officer available and he was en route to back me up.  I waited outside for him to arrive.  As I was waiting I saw two people exit the property.  I identified myself and told them to stop.  They looked at me and ran.  My back up officer was in the area about to arrive as I was chasing the two suspects.  I identified myself again and yelled at them to stop and show me their hands.  One of them did, and as she turned around with one hand up in the air, the other one was holding an elongated dark object the way one would hold a gun; and it was pointed at me. 

What happened next was nothing short of amazing.  Time seemed to slow down.  My body started to react automatically.  I stepped off-line as I drew my weapon.  I yelled "Police! Drop the weapon!"  I felt my arms punch out into my shooting platform and I watched as the object stayed in her hand.  In my mind I saw my wife and children and as I obtained my front sight focus and placed my finger on the trigger the last thing that went through my mind was, "I am going home to them tonight." 

As I began to take up the slack in the trigger I noticed a blurry dark object drop to the ground.  My eyes sprinted to the suspect and I saw that she had dropped what had been in her hand.  My finger let off the trigger and I ordered her to the ground.  She immediately complied and I scanned and breathed.  During my scan I saw that the other suspect was returning.  I ordered him to the ground and he complied as well.  My cover unit arrived and together we took the two into custody.

The dark object turned out to be an older cell phone.  I asked her why she had pointed it at me and she only replied that she didn't know.  Knowing what I now know of the suspect, I think she was so scared of being chased and then caught by the police that she had gone into mind-lock and just had frozen up.  It was dark enough that it was hard for me to see exactly what the object was, but there was enough ambient light for me to be able to see how she was holding it.

The strangest thing about the whole incident was how comfortable I felt when it was happening.  I actually felt relaxed.  During the academy I read Lt. Col. Grossman's book, On Combat  and I remember reading about this kind of thing, but I guess I never thought that it would happen to me.  I never thought I would be comfortable in the heat of it. 

I have gone over and over this event in my mind to figure out what I could have done better.  How I could have waited longer or just radioed ahead their direction of travel.  I guess I didn't expect them to stop.  I got excited when I saw them leaving, they were so close to where I was waiting.  But I am constantly being reminded that this job can be very unpredictable. 

I am grateful for that automatic response.  And I know who gave it to me.  I am grateful to those men for the time and effort they put into preparing me for that moment when I had to make that decision.  I am glad that I didn't have to squeeze that trigger, but I'm also glad for that final driving thought:

I am going home to them tonight.


Christopher said...

And had you made the other decision, you still would have been justified.

Thankfully, this decision you made spared her life and saved you the stress of a justified but none-the-less guilt-producing shooting. Good work under high pressure.

Sean said...

Well done sir.

And, for what it's worth, you have done the most important, mature and professional part of the whole thing - you have critically examined your own performance for weaknesses. It's an excellent habit to get into and one I still do after all my time.

Glad it all turned out fine.

911 and the Randomness.. said...

Thank you so much for sharing! I'm beyond glad that things turned out well and you went home.

Paula said...

Thank God that it turned out the way that it did. Gods Hands were in on this one

Sister Copinherhair said...

I'm in the midst of our Citizens' Police Academy and what you have just described has been told to us more than one time now. The time slowing down and the "We go home to our families at the end of every shift" mantra.

I have a lot of admiration for how well you handled this. And thank you for what you do everyday.

Jenney said...

Thanks for sharing this story. The decision to shoot is so hard, and I hope my husband doesn't have to live through it (again). Well, I hope he would live through it instead of the alternative...perhaps I should say that he doesn't have to FACE the situation again. Be safe out there.

Momma Fargo said...

You are awesome! And had you shot, you would have been justified. Lt. Grossman is a great guy...hope you get to meet him in person someday. He is down to earth and has walked in our to speak. All that training and with your super cop abilities worked...glad to know.

And glad you are safe.

April E. :) said...

and we are glad you got to go home to them! Great thinking!

Cop Mama said...

Amazing what all those drills at the range they put us through can do. You hate them at the time, but when it counts, it's so worth it.

I've met Lt. Col. Grossman before when he spoke locally. Very intense guy, but man, does he know his stuff. This was a good reminder why I need to take everything he says to heart.

KD said...

Thanks for sharing with us. Wow.

I'm reminded again that I want to find that book you mentioned for DH!

Slamdunk said...

Lots of emotion, but still you fell back on your training and hard work. Great post HF.