They shall return: Suspects returning to crime scenes
Maintain a level of awareness and preparedness that makes you dangerous to those criminals who would harm you or those you are sworn to protect
At 1125 hours on New Year’s Day, Deputy Suzanne Waughtel-Hopper was dispatched to a report of shots fired at the Enon Beach Trailer Park in Clark County, Ohio. The suspect was not located, but apparently Deputy Waughtel-Hopper discovered foot prints she considered interesting enough to photograph. She obtained her camera and began taking photos of a print she believed belonged to the suspect.
Shots Fired: A Mother of Two is Down
Without warning, 57-year-old Michael Ferryman — who as usual, was described by one neighbor as “a nice man” — suddenly swung open his trailer door. Without hesitation he aimed a shotgun at the Deputy, fired, and fatally wounded her.
Deputy Waughtel-Hopper never had the opportunity to defend herself.
Fellow officers who arrived on the scene after Deputy Waughtel-Hopper was shot called for Ferryman’s surrender. These officers, desperate to rescue Deputy Hopper who still lay where she fell, engaged Ferryman in fierce gunfight, during which, according to Sheriff Gene Kelly, “many, many, many,” shots were fired. Dramatic video of this gunfight shows Officer Jeremy Blum of the German Township Police Department courageously engaging the shooter. He is hit in the shoulder and is able to disengage under his own power, which allowed other officers to stay in the fight. He is listed in fair condition.
A SWAT Team eventually entered the trailer and found Ferryman, apparently killed in the gun fight. It is still to be determined whether the final bullet was shot by officers or if Ferryman punched his own ticket to hell. Deputy Waughtel-Hopper was found to have died from her wounds.
By all accounts, Deputy Waughtel-Hopper was a wonderful person and an outstanding officer. She was a wife and mother of two. She was a 12-year veteran and a police officer of the year.
Sheriff Gene Kelly said, “She never shirked her duties,” and whenever a volunteer was needed Deputy Waughtel-Hopper had, “her hand up.”
Shots Fired: An Officer Down Saves the Life of a Child
Suzanne died hours after another outstanding female officer was killed in the line of duty in Arlington Texas. Officer Jillian Smith of the Arlington Texas Police Department was alone at the scene of a domestic, where the suspect had left the scene. When the career criminal, who was one of the many, who police repeatedly arrest, but the system chooses to aggressively release, returned to the scene armed.
Officer Smith — who had always wanted to be a police officer — found herself alone facing an armed killer, reacted by moving to shield a young girl and was shot and killed. Her actions were not in vain, for the suspect killed the girl’s mother and himself, but the 11-year-old girl was able to escape. Officer Smith’s death was tragic, but heroic.
To Officer Blum, we at PoliceOne salute your courage and the courage of every officer at the scene of that attempted rescue in Enon Beach. To the families and fellow officers in Arlington, Texas and Clark County, Ohio your loss is this country’s loss and it is deeply felt.
Message to Parole Boards and Judges
To the courts and parole boards, do your job. Both citizens and police officers are dying because you do not have enough testicular fortitude to simply allow criminals to serve out their legally given sentences. They can’t kill innocents, when they are in prison. So when they are in prison, keep them there until their time is served.
You will save lives by doing your jobs. But by irresponsibly allowing predators free on parole, you are killing us out here!
To all officers hitting the streets, when you hear those words, “The suspect has left the scene,” and you are dispatched to that once-violent and now reportedly-peaceful scene, remember that just like MacAthur, they “shall return” sooner or later. They may have already returned. Use caution and maintain a position of advantage on the approach. Continue to use caution not only while conducting the investigation, but also, while leaving the scene.
Back-up officers who provide a low-profile, protective over-watch will have their extra vigilance rewarded. It will not only be safer, but you will often make an arrest of the suspect, who you will see returning, or you will discover still lurking near the scene.
After completing the investigation and clearing the scene, if possible consider returning to the scene to watch from the shadows. You will discover often that as soon as it appears the police have left the suspects do return, or they pop-up from their place of concealment. If you have chosen your position well, you and your back-up officer can orchestrate and arrest.
It’s dangerous out there so strive to maintain a level of awareness and preparedness that makes you dangerous to those criminals who would harm you or those you are sworn to protect.