“There is always one more thing you can do...” are the words of Lt. General Hal Moore, the hero of Ia Drang. On October 7, 2009 Officer David Retlick of the Madison Police Department would face a situation as dire as any police officer could face, while dramatically proving those words to be true.
Retlick was responding to help close off a perimeter around Cousins sandwich shop at 1124 Park Avenue in Madison, Wisconsin. An armed man had just robbed the business and had carried away a substantial amount of cash. Retlick had already been in the area looking for a suspect with the same description who had robbed a Subway Restaurant a short distance away in Shorewood Hills (a suburb of Madison).
When Retlick drove into the area of Lakeside and Whittier, a quiet residential area, he observed a 26-year-old man walking. This man was later found to be a wanted fugitive named Gregory Bickford. Retlick felt this man looked close enough to the description of the suspect to stop and frisk the man. When Retlick contacted the suspect, Bickford resisted the frisk and a desperate struggle ensued.
Bickford was able to access a concealed .22 caliber nine-shot revolver and spun to stick the gun into the face of Officer Retlick. This moment in time lasted less than an instant for Officer Retlick reacted immediately. As nearly hopeless as this situation might sound to some, Officer David Retlick had not yet worked his last shift, seen his last sunset, and he had most certainly not yet played his last card. As Hal Moore would say there was at least one more thing he could do and Retlick did it.
Officer David Retlick blocked the muzzle away from his face as he moved and drew his weapon. He fired five times, striking Bickford four times in the torso. The fight was over, because in doing this he not only saved his own life, but insured that this individual would never pose such a deadly threat to anyone ever again.
Bickford, According to his Attorney
Bickford was a wanted fugitive at the time of the stop. He had two outstanding warrants for his arrest, because he had skipped out on a $1000 bond for stealing $1789 worth of Blue Ray DVD’s from a Wal-Mart.
In a unique development Burdick’s attorney, David Knoll, made statements about both his former client Gregory Bickford and Officer David Retlick. Knoll happened to know both of them well. He described Burdick as being, “exceptional in his ‘unexceptionalness’.”
Knoll described Officer Retlick as, “a good guy and a good cop,” who is going to suffer terribly over this, “because he’s a decent guy.”
Although the investigation continues Madison Police Chief Noble Wray almost immediately held a joint press conference with Dane County District Attorney Brian Blanchard. In Blanchard’s assessment he said, “There is no question this is a justifiable use of force. It’s hard to imagine a more dangerous situation for any human being.”
Chief Noble Wray summed up that moment Retlick faced, when the outcome was yet to be decided. “The gun was pointed just inches away from his face,” and then he went on to explain how Officer Retlick turned the tide, “He blocked the gun and had to use deadly force.” Chief Wray observed, “He is a brave man...he did what he was supposed to do.”
The Evidence is Clear
A robbery note and what appears to be the cash from the robbery was found on Bickford. Bickford did not manage to get a shot off, apparently so startled was he by the effective counter to his deadly assault.
Chief Noble Wray, who was at the scene assisting Officer Retlick shortly after he had been assaulted, reminded the Madison community, “This has been a very traumatic situation...” Wray said, “We all wear the uniform. All the uniforms look alike, but sometimes we forget that there are human beings in these uniforms. What I saw... was a human being that was traumatized.”
There Is Always One More Thing That You Can Do
When Officer Retlick had that revolver pointed up to his head and all appeared lost, it wasn’t. He did not cover his head and give up. He finished the fight. He won the fight.
This needs to be said to all the David Retlick’s in law enforcement who did not give up, and instead fought their way back from the edge and have been understandably traumatized by their close brush with death. I think I can safely say I speak for everyone at PoliceOne when I say thank you for representing every man and woman that wears the uniform so courageously.
Now there is one more thing that you can do. Enjoy the rest of your life. You earned it!