One night while on patrol, my sergeant calls me on the radio wanting me to check by to help out at a domestic violence call. The original call was for ‘mutual aid’ to help out a neighboring police agency that bordered our city. While en route I wondered why I was needed — three patrol units and an ambulance had been on the scene for a fairly long period of time.
I arrived, and without thinking turned on my audio pocket recorder. I was met by the sergeant who explained that because I had a “silver tongue” I was specifically chosen to talk a “crazy man” into giving himself up, placing him under arrest and taking him to jail for what was probably going to be a very long time bearing in mind his lengthy criminal history. He had just assaulted both his elderly parents who were being treated by paramedics in the back of the ambulance. Dad had a broken nose and Mom had a split lip, thus undoubtedly jeopardizing any future inheritance.
I felt like I had just won the lottery because I was “chosen” for this special task. But I quickly sized up the situation after the sergeant said “here’s the key to the front door, he’s mad as hell, there are no guns in the house but he’s holding half a dozen kitchen knives and a meat cleaver.” I suddenly felt like Mikey in the 70’s Life Cereal commercial where those two kids say, “I’m not going to try it, let’s get Mikey to try it!”
Now, apparently, I’m Mikey!
I unlocked and opened the front door, all the lights in the house were off and before I had a chance to step inside the door I saw a raging maniac running at me with a meat cleaver raised above his head and for half a second the thought of Jack Nicholson in the movie ‘The Shining’ yelling “Here’s Johnny” flashed in my head. Thinking this might not be a good time to discuss things with him, I stepped back and quickly shut and locked the door.
Maybe this guy just needed a hug. Maybe he just needed some anger management counseling. One thing for sure was he had that meat cleaver, so I decided to talk to him through the door. I asked him if he would count to ten along with me and take some deep breaths. As I counted, I could hear him calling me bad names. I reminded him to use “I” statements to describe a problem and not “you” as in “you son-of-a-bitch.” He started pounding violently against the inside of the front door. I told him getting exercise was a good outlet for emotions.
As we continued to speak through the door, I told him humor was a good way to release tension and he screamed at me that I was a dipshit. I told him sarcasm only hurts feelings and makes things worse. I told him listening to soft music, writing in a journal or doing yoga encourages relaxation. He yelled through the door he would like to kill me while I was doing yoga. I told him that he was allowing negative feelings to crowd out positive feelings and that he needed to collect his thoughts and think before he speaks because he might say something he will later regret. He screamed something unintelligible and told me to leave.
I gave the key back to the police officer. He took out his gun and muttered something that sounded like he wasn’t playing around anymore and proceeded to open the door. My sergeant gave me that look of disappointment — if you’ve been married for any length of time you probably know that look. I don’t know why I followed the officer into the house but I did. Maybe because I wanted to see what was going to happen next — a guy bringing a meat cleaver to a gun fight isn’t going to be very pretty, but I wanted a good view of this action! Maybe it was the thought of security in numbers and a show of force that would intimidate this madman into coming with us peacefully (not!).
Just inside the front door of this house was a small atrium, about the size of a toilet stall in a typical police station locker room. The police officer we were checking by with looked liked a mythological Ogre. He was every bit of 6’ 8” tall and weighed in the neighborhood of 370 pounds. I entered the house right behind Officer Shrek and he’s taking up every bit of this atrium. We both have our guns drawn and flashlights pointed at Mr. ‘Pissed and Crazy.’ Officer Shrek yells “put down the knife!” and ‘Pissed and Crazy’ yells, “Here’s Johnny”!
Now before I tell you what happens next, let me first say that because of the size of Officer Shrek in the small confines of this atrium, I could barely see let alone point my gun at our target. Shrek continues with verbal commands of “drop the knife” and “don’t come any closer” with ‘Pissed and Crazy’ inching his way toward us and slowly raising gourmet-quality cutlery over his head in a throwing position when suddenly I hear a single blast from Shreks gun.
“Bang!” The next thing you hear is me saying, “Aw... [bleep!]”
Shrek and I move toward ‘Pissed and Crazy’ — who is now ‘Quiet and Bleeding’. Shrek shot him in the upper thigh and a pool of blood was quickly starting to circle out at us. I cuffed our suspect and moved the cleaver and half dozen knives out of reach because I remembered in the police academy that drugs and adrenaline can cause these injured [bleeps] to come alive and start attacking again like Jason in Friday the 13th! No way did I want that to happen.
I got on my radio and had the paramedics who were still parked out front treating mom and dad, enter the house and load up Shrek’s collar. My sergeant tells me to follow the ambulance to the hospital until I get relieved by an officer from their agency. As luck would have it, an officer relieved me a few minutes after we arrived at the emergency room. So now I’m headed back to the scene and upon my arrival I am met by a nice man holding a clip board who says he’s with the District Attorney’s Office of Police Integrity. After introductions he asks me if I have any physical evidence. I wanted to say no because I wanted to make a copy of the audio recording of the incident before releasing it. I figured I would never see it again if I turned it over.
I reluctantly gave him the audio tape (like I had a choice!) and told him I rewound the tape and to hit ‘play’ on ‘Side B.’ To my surprise he told me I could pick up the original audio tape the next day at his office!
The next afternoon I went to pick up my audio tape recording of this shooting incident and was met by a group of investigators and assistant DAs who wanted to meet me. Apparently they put the audio recording on ‘Side A’ and listened to almost two hours of my traffic stops! Everybody wanted to meet me, Officer Friendly, because all my traffic violators were literally thanking me for giving them a ticket! They couldn’t believe people were actually saying things like “thank you officer for giving me this traffic ticket and making me a better safer driver and possibly saving my life and the lives of others!”
I thought this was odd because I thought all police officers were thanked by their violators.
I received my audio tape back and made my own copy, turning the original over to our agency’s investigators. Eventually the police chief heard the recording and played the shooting at a staff meeting. Everybody wanted to know what was going through my mind when I said, “Aw, [bleep!]” right after Shrek shot ‘Pissed and Crazy’ in the leg.
I said, “all I could think about was all that paperwork, reports, supplements, sworn statements, and interviews I was going to have to do, not to mention having to take my gun to the lab so they could fire a round into the evidence (water) barrel to make sure everybody involved was telling the truth about exactly who fired the round and how the incident occurred, not to mention making an appearance to the Grand Jury! The chief later told me he wanted everybody to focus in on my anger management tips.
Because Officer Shrek was an enormous person and he took up the entire atrium, I couldn’t safely fire my gun without possibly shooting Shrek! Had I been able to get a shot off, it would have been center mass and a different result probably would have occurred. I had been taught in the police academy that you shoot to stop the threat if you’re in fear of your life or someone else’s life — there may have also been a ‘shoot-to-kill-if-someone-calls-you-a-dipshit-clause’ but it’s been a while so I may be misremembering that!
Officer Shrek was No-Billed of course. Because the incident was recorded on my pocket recorder, that’s all the Grand Jury had to hear to make their decision. Pissed and Crazy’ got 10 years in the State Pen, where he got to take lots and lots of Anger Management classes and write a letter of apology to his parents and the officers involved.
I never received my letter.