By David R. DeKay
Sworn Officer, Waverly PD, New York, 18 years
I am thirty-nine years old. I am married and have three children and live in a small village called Waverly, New York, which is located in the Southern Tier of New York State. I am employed by the Village of Waverly Police Department, a ten-officer department. I have about eighteen years on the job now. Waverly, with a population of just four thousand, is generally pretty quiet. It’s a nice place to live and not as dangerous as some bigger towns and cities. Usually.
But being a police officer is always potentially dangerous. You can never get careless or sloppy.
It all started on September 18, 2000. I had worked the day shift from eight a.m. to four p.m. I normally work the evening shift, but I had switched shifts with another officer that day. I started my day out patrolling and following up with investigations. Nothing too complicated. I was enjoying the nice sunny day in Indian summer, looking forward to the beginning of a week’s vacation after my shift ended.
It was three p.m. — just an hour before my shift ended. Just an hour until I could kick back and relax. The first thing I was going to do was take a seat in the backyard, open a beer, and think about how I was going to spend the seven days.
In the middle of this pleasant reverie, I observed a male subject that I knew was driving on a suspended driver’s license. It wasn’t much of a big deal really. I followed him, pulled alongside, and waved at him to pull over to the curb. Maybe I could get this over with quickly and get on home.
He looked me with a wild expression on his face and began to slow up. Suddenly he screamed a curse and hit the gas and the pursuit started. I can tell you I was pretty surprised — and pretty angry, too. I just knew, right then, that it could only get more complicated.
And it did. When the pursuit started, the fleeing suspect was going so fast he almost lost control of the car. He swerved into oncoming traffic and almost caused several head-on accidents. The suspect then struck a curb, which blew out his right front tire. But that hardly even slowed him down. By this time, a second officer from my department was behind me, and we continued the pursuit at increasingly reckless speeds for about eleven miles outside of Waverly.
During the pursuit, this idiot sped by several school buses that were letting children off, putting citizens and children in grave danger.
That got me steamed. Halfway through the pursuit, my chief terminated the pursuit. We had already identified the driver of the vehicle and the risk of some innocent bystander getting killed was becoming too much of a risk. I disengaged my lights and siren at that point, but I continued to follow the suspect at a safe distance. I felt an obligation and my duty to follow this suspect and have him in constant sight until other patrol units arrived from other agencies.
This guy didn’t seem to care that he was going to kill someone. I had stopped thinking about my vacation. I wanted this guy.
As I was following the suspect, my backup officer was behind me most of the way. He stopped, however, to put out a couple of fires along the way — sparks from the suspect’s car rim had started grass fires all along the roadway.
I didn’t think about how dangerous this jerk was. I didn’t think about the fact that I had no backup. The guy was dangerous. It was my job to stop him. The suspect sped into a highway construction site where there were numerous construction workers. At that time, I don’t think either of us realized that the road came to a dead end.
When he saw he could go no further and I was blocking the road behind him, the suspect stopped his vehicle. He just sat there. His hands were on the wheel. He didn’t seem to have a weapon so I got out of my vehicle with my weapon drawn and ran up to the driver’s side of the vehicle. I ordered the suspect to get out of the car and get onto the ground with his arms spread out. The suspect didn’t even look at me. He put his vehicle in reverse and stepped on the gas and the front end of the vehicle swung around and knocked me to the ground.
I got up and the suspect drove directly at me. I couldn’t get out of the way in time; he just came on too fast. The suspect struck me head-on. I flew up onto the hood of the vehicle with my weapon still in my hand. I yelled at the suspect to stop, and I had my weapon pointed at him through the windshield. When the suspect began to speed up, I fired one round through the windshield. That’s when I was thrown from the vehicle onto the ground. The SOB turned and started to drive off, so I fired another round at the vehicle as it drove away. I then radioed for help as numerous construction workers were helping me to my feet. I didn’t seem to be hurt too badly.
Nothing was broken, I thought. Frankly, I just wasn’t concerned about myself. I wanted to nail this suspect.
I ran back to my patrol vehicle and went after the suspect again and found that the vehicle had gone through some bushes and into a yard and stopped about a hundred yards away. I ran up to the vehicle to find the suspect slumped over in the driver’s seat. I pulled the suspect out of the vehicle and tried to provide medical treatment and found that I had shot the suspect through the center of his chest. He was dead. Shortly after that, other police agencies were arriving on the scene.
I was transported to a local hospital to be treated for minor injuries and released that night. The New York State Police did the investigation of my shooting and later my case went to grand jury, where I was cleared of any wrongdoing and found justified in my shooting incident.
Whether you live in a large city or a small town, anything can happen in this job. At any time, anything can happen. There is no such thing as a simple vehicle stop. Nothing about this job is ever simple. Ever.
If you remember that, you stay safe.