Saving my partner: The day my warrior instincts kicked in
Brotherhood was a big reason Officer Brian Wanschura wanted to be a cop; it's also a big reason his partner is still alive
Officers Brian Wanschura and Daniel King of the St. Paul, Minnesota Police were on patrol on October 22 of last year when their skills were put to the test. Wanschura recounts the details of that night, and the events that unfolded since.
Brian Wanschura and his partner, Daniel King, had practiced for this. Night after night, they imagined and discussed different scenarios that could happen to mentally prepare themselves for the worst.
They were sitting in their cruiser around 2300 hours, filling out paperwork when the call came in: A man had stolen a shotgun from his brother and was acting strange, the dispatcher warned officers.
King was behind the wheel of their squad, parked in an alley with the engine and lights off, when a man appeared about 50 yards away with the barrel of his gun coming up over his shoulder.
Chue Xiong, the gunman, didn’t see them and continued walking westbound toward the police station, which was only blocks away. Wanschura and King couldn’t get on the air because the radio was busy, so they approached Xiong in their vehicle.
"Once he started running, we lost sight of him," Wanschura said. "My partner was driving, and he fired a round from inside the car. He was running toward a wooded park when I opened my door to get out and run — I had anticipated Dan stopping — and I rolled out of the car."
Wanschura hit the ground and saw Xiong with his rifle aimed. Surveillance video shows Wanschura firing several shots at the gunman.
"I had no cover — I was just trying to get as many rounds out as possible — until I saw the suspect fall and stop moving. I confirmed that he’d stopped moving and then checked on Dan."
King had been hit — Wanschura knew it immediately from the groans he was making and the blood across his chest.
"To be honest, I thought he was going to die because of how much blood was there. I assumed he had a chest wound, but it was blood from his arm," Wanschura said. "I thought his arm was gone; it was hanging on by just skin, just below the elbow."
King had been shot twice with a 12-gauge shotgun — one shot to the arm and a second to the back, which was barely stopped by his vest.
"I did a tour in Iraq in 2004-05," said Wanschura, who spent eight years in the National Guard, "and this was the most severe wound I had ever seen."
By this time, police at the nearby station were pouring out into the lot where Wanschura and his partner were. King was rushed to the hospital while Wanschura started on his incident papers.
We Don't Lose
Wanschura credits his and King’s mental preparation for the outcome of that night.
"The biggest thing is to be mentally prepared, to have the warrior mindset that we don’t lose," he said.
Wanschura and King were cleared of wrongdoing in the shooting in which Xiong was killed. King continues to go to physical therapy weekly.
"Doctors aren’t giving him a timetable [for when he’ll be back to work.] They just want him to focus on his arm," Wanschura said.
The officers had been working together for two years before the incident in October – and even that wasn’t their first critical incident together.
They were involved in an incident in January 2011 that caused Wanschura to fire at a suspect who was later charged with possession of methamphetamines and second degree assault on an officer.
"We’ve been through high-stress situations together; the trust that we have to get each other home safe is second to none."
Getting the Message Out
The camaraderie and brotherhood that’s associated with being a cop was something Wanschura knew from an early age he wanted to be a part of.
King and Wanschura were named joint police officers of the year for St. Paul and received the Medal of Valor. As Wanschura stood before his department to accept the award, he quoted PoliceOne columnist Dan Marcou:
"Are you dangerous? Are you hyper-vigilant? Are you over-aggressive? These words are used to describe traits considered by some to be undesirable in police officers."
Wanschura encouraged his department to seek danger rather than just respond to it.
"Anyone can write a report. It takes a special breed to go out and actively hunt evil. Without cops like that, the rough neighborhoods are only going to get worse," Wanschura said.