With gripping re-creations, law enforcement's most popular writer on survival tactics takes you inside more than 20 unforgettable confrontations where officers' lives are on the line. How do the threatened officers meet the challenges suddenly thrust upon them when a normal shift or a tranquil off-duty moment turns in a flash into a fight for life? Read the following chapter summaries to get a preview of the kind of 'blood lessons' that officers learn from ordeals that will help you survive.
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Chapter 1: A Call to the Dark Side
The 911 call could be a false alarm, a horror show, or anything in between. As it turns out, it’s a horror show. Within minutes, Officer James Priebe confronts the first shooting of his 12-year career and the lakeside city of Sheboygan, Wisc. tallies the first fatality from police gunfire in its 167-year history. Investigators on the scene begin to unravel a grotesque saga of bondage, torture, and a rage to kill. Officer Priebe now speaks candidly about the lessons he believes have helped him most in making the personal journey back from his call to the dark side.
Chapter 2: Head Voices
Officer Candice Milovich-Fitzsimmons engages in a foot pursuit with a 25-year-old gangbanger that leads to a violent battle, ultimately changing the way Milovich-Fitzsimmons approached policing forever. She explains how important mental preparation and a survival mindset are to overcoming a suspect who is intent on killing you.
Chapter 3: Naked Fear
It was a cold day but a hot call. Guy Rossi, then a patrol officer on the Rochester, N.Y. Police Department, remembers the fight for his life: sweating and grappling on broken glass with a naked man who was willing to saw off his own arm. Rossi says he still occasionally has nightmares about the harrowing confrontation, and he still remembers the lessons he took from it.
Chapter 4: Prison Trick
When Trooper Barry Goines had a suspect’s gun jammed against his neck, he had to think fast to save himself and his rookie partner. Goines explains the importance of acting quickly to prevent a suspect from gaining too much control over a situation, and how to overcome the stress of being taken hostage.
Chapter 5: Circle of Dog Blood
It wasn’t until the disemboweled cat was nailed to his door that Detective Dave Spaulding got worried. Until then, he’d brushed aside disturbing signs that he was being targeted because of a spooky investigation he was conducting. Haunting questions about that incident still linger, and Spaulding offers some tips for hardening yourself as a target.
Chapter 6: True Grit
When Sergeant Marcus Young looked down to his chest and saw his badge covered with thick blood, too badly injured to draw his sidearm, it was actually his attacker who was in the deepest trouble. Unwittingly, his suspect had taken on an officer with a limitless well of resourcefulness and never-say-die spirit. Young credits his career-long devotion to proactive training and describes the benefits of going above and beyond minimum training standards.
Chapter 7: Desperate Ingenuity
On a graveyard shift that began quietly, a surprise shotgun blast from an offender who had already murdered three people tore into Deputy Ed Martin’s left arm, ruptured an artery, and sent him reeling toward the brink of death. In a moment of desperate ingenuity, Martin used a Flex-Cuf to save his own life, and became the ultimate example of the old officer survival mantra, “Improvise…Adapt…and Overcome.”
Chapter 8: Ambush!
Three bicycle officers fought for their lives against a drunken gunman on a suicide-by-cop mission. In less than 10 seconds, at least 20 rounds were exchanged. Two officers were wounded, one critically, and the suspect died. In recreating their alley ambush, the officers repeatedly credit their survival to their department’s cutting-edge training programs.
Chapter 9: Bionic Trooper
Trooper Matthew Swartz became the first trooper in the 89-year history of the New York State Police to work what the agency terms “full and strenuous duty” despite an amputated limb. Whether he wanted to return to policing or not once he recovered from his amputation was never a question; his focus from the beginning was how it could be done. In recovering from profound injuries, Swartz learned that mindset can be as vital as skilled medical care.
Chapter 10: Legacy of Haunting Questions
Undercover Agent John “Jay” Balchunas learned how plainclothes officers in familiar settings can be the perfect target. After being attacked in a parking lot, Balchunas’s experience helps officers understand how to avoid complacency on or off duty.
Chapter 11: Danger Cues
Officer Frank Lombardo credits the passenger-side approach on vehicle stops as the single most important tactic that saved his life the day he encountered a speeding car carrying two fugitive bank robbers. From his brush with death, Lombardo gives officers tips to remember when making vehicle stops.
Chapter 12: Shot in the Back
When a coroner’s examination revealed that Sheriff’s Inv. Tim Robertson had killed a suspect with a shot in the back, Robertson was arrested and charged with voluntary manslaughter, later “upgraded” to murder. The case is an alarm bell for officers to develop a better understanding of their rights so that an officer-involved shooting doesn’t take an unexpected turn for the worse.
Chapter 13: Collateral Impact
Do you ever wonder how you and your family would react if you were caught together in a violent confrontation when you were off duty? Sgt. Terry Azbill learned the hard way how commitment to policing can put family members at risk. He reminds officers to always have a plan and to communicate with your family.
Chapter 14: 72 Minutes of Madness
Denver SWAT stalks an active killer in “Dante’s Inferno” – a labyrinthine warehouse quickly filling with smoke from multiple fires. The successful police response reinforces principles for dealing with a challenging active shooter scenario, including the value of training an entire department in the urgent tactics needed to combat a violent suspect.
Chapter 15: Unexpected Twists
Police Captain Cecil Lancaster had to make a quick decision when he spotted a patrol unit and regarded the men in the front seat with suspicion. The tactics he chose nearly cost him his life, but in the long run helped him turn his life around.
Chapter 16: Responding Officer/Witness/Victim
Sergeant Rob Relford was off duty when the department’s secretary rang his cell phone, telling him that a man called and said he was going to shoot himself. The suspect turned out to be Relford’s father, and the incident that followed changed the way Relford felt about being an officer, and the thin blue line that holds police families together.
Chapter 17: Hole Card
How do you calm down after a shotgun blast whizzes past your ear so close it fans your hair? When Officer Brian Cook came up to a scene where four people, including a deputy sheriff, had been fatally ambushed by a deranged killer, one of the “weapons” he carried with him was a white plastic wallet card that was critical to his emotional survival during the most traumatic call of his career.
Chapter 18: On the Edge
When a tormented officer sits at the grave of his murdered partner with his gun in his mouth, what keeps him from pulling the trigger? Officer Keith DeVille’s story is a cautionary tale for officers who are unprepared for the kind of calamity that can strike at any moment on any shift, and for supervisors and administrators who may not know how best to react when it does.
Chapter 19: Four-Footed Fury
An 80-pound boxer was attacking Officer Michelle Hertling, snarling and lunging for her throat with snapping jaws. He’d bitten her multiple times on the legs and chest and knocked her cell phone out of reach. Hertling was off duty and wasn’t carrying a gun or weapon. At the core of her harrowing fight to survive were her courage and tenacity, a reminder for all officers involved in savage attack situations.
Chapter 20: Expect the Unexpected
Part of the mindset for surviving the many hazards of police work are three important rules: always remain skeptical of appearances, avoid making assumptions, and expect the unexpected. Cst. Scott Enlow had a brief moment of complacency that he almost paid for with his life.
Chapter 21: Roadside Showdown
A desperate drug criminal shoved a loaded gun under the edge of Sr. Patrol Dpty. Jon Watson’s vest as a 70-pound pit bull charged at him. During a traffic stop with multiple officers for backup, Watson still offers reminders to help officers maintain close control of their suspect’s movements.
Chapter 22: Waking up to a Bloodbath
Caught by surprise in a killer’s rampage, off duty Lt. Dan Marcou helped a lone first responder initiate a tactical strategy that ultimately led to the gunman’s capture. Marcou’s encounter reinforces the need for statewide uniform training standards to aid a smooth and effective police response during a hostage situation. On a personal level, the experience highlights the special demands of being an off duty officer.
Chapter 23: Spontaneity Challenged
Not all the threats to your survival, nor all the lessons learned, are on the street. Lt. Herbert “Sonny” Bourgeois, an 18-year veteran with the New Orleans Police Department, looks back on his career and addresses a special type of critical incident all too familiar in law enforcement.
Chapter 24: Deadly Delivery
How does a trooper come to terms with his profession and his sacrifice when a violent criminal leaves him maimed for life? Trooper Ken Gager of the Nevada Highway Patrol discusses “home survival” and awareness after a retaliatory bombing sent him to the brink of death, and changed his life forever.