09/03/2000

SURVIVING THE SHOOTING: SHOOTER?S VIEW, VICTIM?S (OFFICER?S) VIEW

By David Helm
Retired Hayward PD

Critical Incident means a lot of things to a lot of different people. The term is bandied about in many circles and doesn’t really mean anything. I have been involved in several Critical Incidents over the years and survived. Sometimes my friends, other cops, were not so lucky. This article deals with one such incident that I was involved in. I hope to be able to relay what happened, such as why certain actions were taken and how it affected people who mean a great deal to me (my family, my partners, the department, and many people in the community). It is not meant to be a tactical instructional text, nor do I wish to cast blame on people who were involved. There were a lot of mistakes made and several things were done which could have been done better, especially by me. If you want to read one of those ‘feel my pain’ articles, look somewhere else. Several people ended up being victims, but none succumbed to the victim mentally and I believe it was one of the reasons everyone survived.

The town had a population of 100,000 residents, however, the population grew to 300,000 or more during the day. It had always been a tough, blue-collar town, which in recent years had begun to change. Unemployment, gangs, drugs, and the proliferation of guns on the street had made it much more violent. It seemed like everyone was carrying guns. Shootings had taken the place of fistfights and the occasional stabbing. The citizens were up in arms demanding more from its police department and the cops were struggling just to make it to calls and handle cold reports, leaving little time to do pro-active policing. We needed more Officers, but there was no money in the budget according to City Hall. Morale in the police department was suffering, but all in all, the cops on the streets were a tight group who pride themselves on getting the job done.

On May 26, 1993, I was assigned to a midnight shift with 8 other Officers and a Sergeant in a town of 100,000 citizens. Swing shift had 8 officers, 2 Sergeants and a Lieutenant. We had a couple of Officers working overtime at a movie theater where the latest Gangsta Rap movie was opening. The movie was attended by a couple of hundred kids eager to watch the L.A. gangsters shoot it out with other gangs and the police over drugs, turf or anything else. There had been a riot at the theater when the previous Gangsta movie had opened, so the theater hired a couple of cops, hoping that they could handle any problems that might come up. The Area Commander had been concerned enough to stay and supervise. We had 21 Officers working that night, we were prepared for trouble and we were confident we could handle anything that came up, we always did. Our Sergeant’s briefing ended at 10:30 P.M. As always, he said, “Let’s get to work, be careful out there tonight.”

We headed to the parking lot and off we went. After I handled a couple of calls, I headed over to the theater to check with the guys working there and to see what was going on and how they were doing. We started talking and I had been there for a few minutes when my Sergeant, s-9 came back on the air and advised that the car had not yielded and updated his location to Sycamore and Alves. There was something in s-9’s voice that said something wasn’t right. He did not say anything, but the radio had picked it up too, and sent another unit. S-9 was a 25 year veteran, he was as tough as they come and very cautious, but rarely called for cover. When he did, we all rolled because we knew there was a problem. H-23 was rolling from the south end of town. I was about two miles away and started that way, just to make sure everything was all right. S-9 came back on the air about a minute later and was covered by another unit, who was requesting a transport unit. Janie, a dispatcher who had been around since dinosaurs had walked the Earth, was working our main channel. “Ma”, as Janie was always called, was regarded as a real pain in the ass to deal with by a lot of folks around the P.D. You either loved her or you hated her, but everyone respected her abilities as a dispatcher. Janie’s gravely voice was suddenly excited. She had heard something she didn’t like and immediately called for clear air. “Last unit, repeat.” The radio was silent and then came, “S-9 Officer down, I need help, I’ve been shot.”

Comm1 advised everyone to roll. For once, everyone stayed off the radio and started rolling hard. Sirens could be heard everywhere. The Lt. Came on and asked radio was rolling to the call. Janie came back with, “I don’t know, it’s an 1199, everyone should be.” Everyone was, as fast as we could. H-23 went out on the call and requested a code 3 ambulance. L-51 was the next off. The Lt. Had known S-9 for all his years on the department, they were very close friends. S-9 was lying on his back with smoke pouring out of his torn vest. The trauma plate over his heart had been blown outward. S-9 was still conscious, but in the Lt.’s assessment was in critical condition. The Lt. was a medic in Vietnam and had seen a lot of his comrades die. He was determined not to see another one pass away. He and H-23 grabbed S-9 and put him in the back of a patrol car. They cancelled the ambulance and rolled S-9 to the nearest hospital. S-9 started to fade; he was two minutes away from death when he arrived at the hospital, according to the E.R. doctor. S-9 told the Lt. He was tired and was going to close his eyes. The Lt. told him to fight, not to give up, that he was going to make it. The Doc met them in the parking lot, ripped off S-9’s uniform and immediately ordered blood. He was rushed into the hospital, X-rayed and arrangements were made to get him transferred to the trauma center several miles away. During the next 20 minutes, the E.R. staff fought to save S-9’s life. S-9 fought too.

S-9 had made a left side approach on the suspect vehicle; a new Camaro with a tinted back window. As he approached the driver’s door, S-9 felt uneasy, something was wrong. He felt it, but wasn’t sure why. As S-9 neared the door, he was hit with a shotgun blast in the chest. The driver, a 16 year old, had been laying in wait with a sawed off shotgun. S-9 had been blown off of his feet with the shot from a 12 gauge loaded with #8 buck. S-9 started to roll to one side and get to his feet as he attempted to draw his gun. The driver fired a second blast, which struck S-9 between the best panels. The pellets traveled upward, destroying a kidney and collapsing a lung, S-9 tried to roll again, he managed to get his gun as the suspect fired a third round at S-9’s head, fortunately it missed. The suspect then fled northbound. S-9 fired 6 rounds at the suspect’s vehicle as it turned left onto another street. One of S-9’s rounds hit both right side tires and the suspect vehicle flipped. S=9 got on the air and radioed for help. Help had come 26 seconds later. S-9 was bleeding from massive internal injuries.

The suspect was uninjured and crawled out of the wreck. He fled on foot into an apartment complex with his shotgun, which had been stolen in a burglary, and a Glock 9 mm in his possession. Every unit in the city converged on the area and began to set a perimeter. No one knew what S-9’s condition was; we all feared he was dead. A citizen gave a brief description of the suspect, “Black male, 23-24 years, 5’9”, 145 lbs., skinny build, wearing a Raiders jacket.” The suspect was last seen in a carport at the corner of Silva and Jackson at the Commodore Apartments. We had all been there before. It was a three story U-shaped building consisting of about 200 units. The building was predominately occupied by low-income families. There was a lot of drug activity and crime in and around the apartment complex.

I partnered up with the Area Commander, whom I had served with for 10 years while on SWAT, and B-52, a new kid. B-52 had been a Captain in the Airborne Rangers and had joined the police department 2 years prior. Units established a perimeter and we began to search the carport area for the suspect. We cleared the parking lot and the carport area within 8 ? minutes. The suspect had either gotten out of the perimeter or he was in the apartment complex. The Area Commander went to talk to the on scene Sergeant, who had our best witness.

B-52 and I went back over to the area of the carport where the suspect had last been seen. We found an open door leading into the first floor of the apartments. We went in and cleared the hallway as best we could. As we were checking, a citizen ran up to us and asked if we were looking for something. I remember thinking, “Twenty cops are all around a building with lights and sirens, and this rocket scientist want to know if we’re looking for someone.” We told him a cop had been shot and we were looking for the suspect. He asked if the suspect was a black male wearing a Raiders jacket. We told him that it was and the citizen said he had just run up the back stairs toward the second floor. There were about ten stairwells in the building so I asked the citizen to show us which one he had seen the guy run up. He led us toward the southeast stairwell. I advised radio what we had learned and B-52 and I started up the stairwell after the suspect. According to the witness, we were only 30 seconds behind the suspect. He was armed, in an apartment with hundreds of potential victims and he needed to be stopped. We were moving slowly and as tactically as we could, given the circumstances. We cleared the stairwell and made our way to the second floor. We found ourselves in the middle of the U-shaped portion of the building. We began clearing the southeast wing. We encountered a black male, about the right height and weight wearing a Raiders jacket standing near apartment #47. We ordered him down, he refused, and some meaningful dialog ensued. He finally went to his knees and we cuffed him. He was hostile, but not at all nervous. I radioed we had a suspect detained. The more I talked to the guy, the more I became convinced he was not involved. He just felt wrong, but I wanted a witness to look at him. I told B-52 to stand by with him and I returned to the stairwell where we had come up. I told radio what the situation was and began up the stairs to the third floor.

It had been 14 minutes since S-9 had been shot. Things were moving fast, and yet it seemed like hours. We had to find the suspect, he had to be stopped. There is nothing more dangerous than a cop killer. He was desperate and there were way too many people around that could be hurt. We did not have enough guys to surround the apartment complex and conduct a systematic search in a timely manner. Hell, we did not have enough to surround the building safely. All of the balconies either faced out onto the carports or into the courtyard in the middle, where the pool was. All of them made excellent sniper positions. There was only one rifle on the street, in a Sergeant’s car. We all had shotguns in the cars and our Sig Sauer 266 pistols. I had left my shotgun in the car and so did B-52. None of the shotguns had lights and I needed a hand free to use flashlight to search.

I made it to the third floor and moved down the hall toward the south wing. I looked both ways but I did not see anyone. I turned around after hearing the stairwell door open behind me. I saw a pistol, then an arm and then a dark sleeve. I took aim and began to take the slack up on the trigger. The door swung open and B-52 came into view. I dropped my aim. B-52 said, “The witness who saw the suspect had come up and found him.” He said the guy was a former cop and had agreed to take the guy we had cuffed downstairs. B-52 said he didn’t want to leave me alone so he came upstairs to help me search. I remember thinking how close I had come to shooting my own partner. Leaving him had been a mistake, we needed to slow down. I also remember thinking my rookie partner had a lot of guts, especially for a new guy. We started down the east wing toward the north stairwell. Visibility was good, nothing between the stairwell and us; just 70 feet of flush mounted doors with nowhere to hide. We were moving slowly as tactically as we could. It was not safe; there were too many doors we had to pass. We had no cover and no back up nearby. I figured the guy had run in a straight line, encountered the units closing in toward the scene and had taken refuge in the apartment complex because it was the closest place to hide. If our witness was right, he had been in the hallway for some time, just inside the carport area while we had been searching the perimeter. He probably didn’t live in the apartment complex or he would have just run straight inside an apartment. He had to be in one of the hallways or in a stairwell looking for a place to hide or waiting to find either a hostage or a way inside an apartment. I figured if we checked all of the stairwells and hallways and did not find him, we were going to be out of luck. I did not feel like time was on our side.

We made it to the north stairwell; we opened the fire door and found nothing. We stopped for a minute and tried to figure out our next move. We were standing in front of apartment #72; #71 was directly across the hallway. B-52 looked at apartment #72 and said he had been there a week prior trying to serve a felony warrant on a suspect wanted for sales of rock cocaine. I recognized the name; he was a Kelly Hill Gangster. I had dealt with him in the past when I worked on the Tactical narcotics Team. Thee guy matched the description of S-9’s shooter. He hated cops and had been arrested with guns in the past. We positioned ourselves at the door and I pounded on it, ordering the occupants to open the door. There was no answer.
The door to apartment #71 opened up. The resident asked what we wanted. I told him we weren’t knocking on his door, that we were looking for a guy who had just shot a cop and asked if he had heard or seen anything. The guy responded, “I didn’t see nothing, I might have heard shit, but I don’t want to get involved.” I told him to close the door and get as far away from it as he could.

Apartment #72 was now our focus. Too many things fit and it felt right. I worked the street for a lot of years and like most cops, I had developed that little voice that sometimes guided me. When I had ignored it, I was usually sorry. I could not justify in my own mind, calling off the perimeter. If I was wrong, we still had a maniac loose roaming the hallways. If I was right, we were going to find our bad guy. B-52 was right handed and I am left-handed. I wanted to be on the right side of the door, B-52 wanted to be on the left. He had 70 feet to get to cover if things went bad. I would have the stairwell and the fire door. B-52 and I briefed for a minute and I radioed to the Sergeant where we were and what we knew. I asked for permission to kick the door in and immediately received permission. We were both lined up on the left side of the door and I told B-52 that I was going to kick the door and take the door right off the hinges. I wanted to kick the hinge side to insure the door would come down. I figured if I kicked the lock side, the door would open, hit the wall behind it and then close. If the suspect was standing by the door, he would more than likely be standing behind the door on hinge side waiting to take us on. I had kicked several doors while on SWAT and TNT, some, in the building we were in. I knew my momentum would carry me to the right side of the door where I would be behind the only thing that could possibly be considered cover; the doorjamb. B-52 would be in the same position on the left side and would be able to cover my movement and immediately take action if things went bad. My intent was not to enter the apartment, we did not have the resources to do a search and I knew it. My intent was to do a limited tactical probe. I figured if the door came down and the shooter was inside, he going to make a move. Either he was going to give up, fight or there was going to be a standoff. It was up to him, it was his choice.

I told B-52, I was going on three. I signaled one, two and then three. I began my movement and spun, my left foot made contact with the door and the door came off about ?’s of the way. Only the bottom hinge was left partially connected to the door. I did a front kick from behind cover and the door went completely down. The interior of the apartment was dark but the hallway was lighted. We were screwed. I called out, “POLICE, COME OUT!” B-52 and I saw movement at the end of the hallway leading to the front door of the apartment. I started to call out again and reached for my flashlight, which was in my sap pocket, it should have been in my hand. B-52 and I started to pry the door. Handgun shots rang out. We were taking rounds. I felt one hit my left hip. Things started slowing to a stop, I could not hear anything. I’ve talked to several Officers over the years that had been in shootings. They have all described what they perceived was happening during the incident. They have usually fallen into two categories, either everything was a blur or things seemed to stop. I had been in a previous shooting where I had killed a robbery suspect who had taken a hostage and then pointed a gun at me. Things slow down for me, they move frame by frame, as if it was a slow motion scene from a movie. I don’t hear or feel much during those times. I started firing into the apartment and moved back behind the doorjamb to completely hide myself as I fired. I was hit. I knew I was bleeding, I knew I was hurt, but I didn’t know how badly. I heard a shotgun blast, then more small arms fire. The shotgun blast hit the door of apartment #71. I slowed my rate of fire. I didn’t have a target. I was just putting down suppressive fire. More shot came our way. My son and daughter came to mind. I wondered who was going to raise them, how would my wife do, would she be all right? Was someone else going to teach my son karate, to play ball, who was going to look after my daughter. It sounds crazy now but there I was in a fire fight and I was thinking about my family. I got angry, the angriest I had ever been. I was going to raise my kids; I was going to be there, I was going to survive and so was B-52. We needed to disengage, gather some support and end this thing. Tunnel vision had started to set in and I was struggling to control the situation as best I could and not allow the situation to control me. I looked over at B-52 and started to change my focus for a second so I could gather my thoughts. B-52 needed to go; he needed to get to cover. His dedication to do the right thing had brought him up here. But it was ultimately on me to get him out of there. I yelled for B-52 to run. He had 70 feet to make it to cover, real cover, not just a doorjamb. I yelled at him to go but he didn’t. I yelled again and fired another round inside the door. B-52 started to look my way. I yelled at him again, “Get the hell outta here, I’ll cover you.” He finally took off; he was running south toward cover. I fired another round and backed up another step. I looked back towards B-52 and then back toward the apartment. The suspect came charging toward me. From my position I could not see that there had been doorway leading from the kitchen to the front door. Part of his body came in view. I saw him before he saw me. He was nearly into the hallway with the Glock pointing toward B-52. I fired three rounds at his pelvis. I figured he must have been wearing a vest, since he had run through my cover fire. All three rounds hit the suspect; one in each leg and one hit the pubic bone. A shot rang out, B-52 had fired. The round went by the suspect and me and hit north wall of the stairwell. The suspect retreated back into the apartment as I fired several more rounds. I was getting love on ammunition. I guessed that had four or five rounds left out of sixteen. I looked back towards B-52. He was almost to cover. I fired two more rounds and looked back toward B-52. He was there; he had made it to cover. I needed to go. I had done my job and now it was time to get to the stairwell and reload. I started into the stairwell when I heard that familiar Chook-Chook of a shotgun. I looked over my shoulder toward the apartment and saw the suspect running towards me. I fired my last rounds and the gun went out of battery. I had run the gun dry. The suspect fired a blast, which impacted the wall right above my head. I dove down the stairs as he fired a second blast. He missed again. I tumbled down the stairs, tearing the ligaments in my left knee in the process. The suspect stopped advancing toward me. B-52 was shooting at him. I landed at the entrance of the second floor. I reloaded my gun and started back upstairs. The suspect and B-52 were exchanging rounds. I made it up to where the third floor landing was directly in front of me and I used it for cover. I couldn’t see the door to the apartment, but I could see the suspect. He had retreated back into the apartment. He suddenly ran across the hallway toward apartment #71 and tried to kick the door in. I fired several rounds but missed again. He made it back across the hallway and into the apartment. The suspect was screaming, “ You shot me Motherfucker, I’m going to kill you, you shot me!” I looked down the hallway and saw B-52. He was laying face down on the floor. He was not moving. I thought he was dead. I became even angrier than I had been before. I had failed. B-52 was dead and it was my fault. B-52 moved, looked up and smiled. I flashed him 4 fingers. He returned the gesture. He was Code 4. He was alive. I felt relieved. The suspect screamed that he was dying. I yelled at him to give up. There was no response. I told radio that I was hit and we needed help. I asked for a shotgun. I wanted to even the odds up. I wanted more firepower. I had fired 20 rounds. I had 10 rounds left in my gun and one more, fresh magazine. I figured if I had to fire again, my rounds were going go up toward the ceiling. If I did it that way then I could safely shoot without risking a cross fire with B-52. Radio was talking and I couldn’t hear what they were saying. I turned it off because I didn’t want the suspect to track me by sound. I couldn’t hear what was being said anyway. The suspect yelled that he was coming to kill me, that I was dead. I yelled for him to come out to get this done and called him a “punk.” I wanted him angry. I wanted him to do something stupid. He rushed out and flattened himself against the fire door. He spun and fired two rounds into the stairwell from the Glock. I fired, and he spun back against the doorway. I fired several rounds into the wall that he was trying to hide behind. B-52’s gun had jammed and he was working on trying to get it back in service. The suspect fled back into the apartment out of view. The suspect moved to the balcony that overlooked the pool. He fired down at three Officers, who in turn, fired back. The suspect dropped the shotgun over the balcony, after being hit. I did not know what had occurred on the balcony. I was short on ammunition. I checked my hip and discovered that it was bleeding. I put pressure on it and waited for help. Nine minutes after the first shot was fired into the hallway, cover arrived. Officer 91 arrived at my location. She could not cover the hallway from my position. She was not tall enough to use the landing as cover. I took a fresh magazine from her and told her to go down to the next landing and use it for cover. I told her we had multiple suspects. If any of them came out, I would take them on until I was out of ammunition. Then I was going to dive down the stairs and she would have to fire. She took her position. A minute later, a second officer arrived with me. He was about my size, 6’5”, and could use the landing as cover. I tried to brief him on what had happened. The on scene Sergeant arrived next with a Mini 14 rifle. I told him I was all right. He ran downstairs and passed the mini 14 to one of the SWAT snipers, who happened to be working. The Sergeant returned to the stairwell and ordered me to evacuate. I didn’t want to go but he repeated the order. We didn’t have the personnel to waste on getting me out so I started walking out of the building on my own, only to get lost in the apartment building. I ended up in the courtyard next to the pool.

The sniper detected movement on the balcony. He fired three rounds up at the suspect who was laying prone, trying to get back into the apartment. He was firing through peep sites, at night into a dark area. The sniper moved into an apartment across from the suspect’s position. The suspect tried to retrieve the Glock, which was still next to him. The sniper fired again. The suspect never moved again. The shooting stopped thirty minutes after the first round was fired at B-52 and I. I stayed behind a tree until the shooting stopped. When it was over, I got up and walked to the ambulance and went to the hospital.

B-52 had been hit during the initial fire fight. He received a graze on his left leg and didn’t realize it until he had gotten to cover. They took him to another hospital where he was treated and released. The SWAT teams arrived and made entry several hours later. There had only been the one suspect and he was dead. The suspect had been hit six times from multiple weapons before he was finally stopped. Next to him was a Glock 9mm, loaded with 8 rounds. About forty pieces of rock cocaine were recovered from a bucket on the balcony and the 13” sawed off shotgun was also recovered.

When I got to the hospital, they wheeled me into the Trauma room and started to cut away my clothing. Laying in the gurney across the room was a body face down and covered with a sheet. It was S-9. I got scared. The nurse walked over and told me that he was all right. He was being prepared for surgery. Things started to settle down. I started to feel the pain. Getting shot sucks. I looked over at the telephone. I needed to call my wife and let her know what had happened. After much negotiation, I got to use the phone. I called my father in law and told him where I was, what had happened and what needed to be done. He’s a heads up guy. He and my mother-in-law drove to my house. My father-in-law got me on his cellular phone as he knocked on the door. My wife answered the door and was immediately scared. “Dave’s been shot, it’s not bad, here talk to him.” I tried to make a joke but my wife wasn’t laughing. I told her that I was all right and tried to reassure her as best I could. She felt a little better and said that she was on her way.

I had started to bleed and the hospital staff was concerned. I was concerned too, but I told them I wasn’t going into surgery until I talked to my wife. She showed up with my father in law and things started to get better. The doctor sewed up a couple of bleeders, cut away some flesh and put it in the drain. My wife and I talked for a while when news came that B-52 had been shot. No one knew how bad he was. Several hours later, news came that he was all right.

S-9 recovered from his wounds. He lost a kidney and still picks out the occasional pellet that works it’s way out of his body. He returned to duty and works the street today. B-52 was back at work a week after the incident.

I was released from the hospital seven days later. My wife and I drove to the apartment building. I had to see the scene again and explain to my wife what had happened. We made it to the third floor. The hallway was much longer than I had remembered. The walls bore the scars of the sixty-nine rounds that had been fired. I looked into the apartment and discovered it was much smaller than I thought. It was shot up pretty bad. My wife looked over at me after I explained what had happened. She said the place looked like a war zone and I had to agree. We had gone to war. I had never thought of it in that way. I was a cop, ready to arrest, ready to defend my partner, and myself but I had not been ready for a prolonged fire fight. Police shootings were supposed to be short, violent events that ended with three rounds fired in about two seconds.

I answered a lot of questions, some from the District Attorney’s Office, many from the Administration but mostly from myself. I took a Pistol Course and a Close Quarter Battle Course from a Fleet Assault Team member of the Marine Corps two months after the shooting. I figured if I was ever going to end up in a war again, there was no better place to learn than from a Marine. I worked out every day that I could and sorted through the ‘why’s.

We all received overwhelming support from the community. I received hundreds of letters wishing me and my family well, as did S-9 and B-52. I walked into the police department one day and saw a letter from the White House. I figured it was a joke, but it turned out to be a letter from President Clinton. He wished us well and expressed his thanks including his signature in blue ink. The Elks Lodge named B-52, H-23 and me Officers of the Year. To some people we were heroes, to others we were cowboys. S-9 was a hero. H-23 and the Lieutenant were heroes. B-52 and I talked where we decided we weren’t heroes or cowboys, we were just cops doing the best we could.

A couple of months after the incident, a new Chief of Police awarded us each with a Medal of Valor. I received permanent nerve damage and ended up having surgery to repair the damage to my knee. I returned to the streets fifty weeks later as a better cop. I had always been a 90% shooter and had been satisfied with standing flat footed and shooting the target nine times out of ten. I learned to shoot on the move, in all directions and I increased my accuracy. Even though I had been to only one night show in my career, I learned to shoot with a flashlight in my hand. I learned at the hands of an intense and very dedicated Marine. He taught me how to shoot under stress, to tactically reload and to clear malfunctions when they occurred. I learned everything that I could about entry tactics. I had always pre-planned and thought about scenarios, possible actions, my reactions and what I could do to handle any situation but I found there was a lot that I was still able to learn. When I returned to work, my partners and I started talking about how we, as a team, could react, what we would do in a given situation and how we could do it better. Ultimately, the department was a safer place to work and we all did a better job.

We changed training and it suddenly became serious. The troops no longer sat around planning lunch and grousing about being in class instead of on the street. We trained hard. We all got new, heavy vests with side panels. They were hot and uncomfortable, but anytime someone complained on a hot summer day they were reminded about S-9.

During my make believe scenarios, I had thought about what it would be like to get shot. I figured someday it might just happen. In these scenarios, I had decided I would survive, prevail and I would always go home. I had thought about being fatally wounded and what it would cost my family, if one day I didn’t make it home. I thought about my friend and partner, Ben, who had been killed by a nut with a knife. I thought about how his killer had ended up with a plea bargain for 2nd degree murder.

That night, in the middle of the fire fight, I thought about a lot of things. Dying was not an option. I had decided I was going home to my babies. I would encourage all of you to pre-plan. Check out the open door call or the alarm and then run a scenario with your partners. Talk to your partners and coordinate actions that might happen. Work out a good response for those actions. Your responses will be 100% right but can always be improved upon. Dying was not an option, I had decided that long before that incident. I think that we were lucky, but as the saying goes, “Luck favors the prepared mind.” The guys who are at the most risk are the ones who live in denial. For you to think, “it will never happen to me,” is going to get you killed faster than anything.
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