Hostage situation: One shot to save a boy's life

When a 30-year-old gunman with a history of substance abuse and trouble with the law threatened the life of an innocent high school student, Sergeant Jeff Young took action


Sergeant Jeff Young may not see himself as a hero – but one 18-year-old boy would very likely disagree with that assessment.

On March 14, Young was one of roughly two dozen officers who had surrounded Bradley Allen Wilson — a 30-year-old with a history of substance abuse and trouble with the law — who held the boy hostage at gunpoint outside a pet food store. 

When Wilson began a motion to point his gun at the hostage, Young discharged a single round from his GLOCK 21 duty weapon, killing the gunman and saving the boy’s life.

Started with a Welfare Check
Wilson had already led officers from Bannock County (Idaho) Sheriff’s Office on a high-speed vehicle pursuit as well as a foot pursuit through a nearby apartment complex when Young spotted him outside a Petco store in Chubbuck. 

It was Wilson's own mother who had called police in the first place, asking cops to conduct a welfare check on a son she later told a local newspaper needed help so badly that she “wanted them to take him to jail if that would get him help.”

When officers heeded Jonnie Wilson’s request to check on her son, the man fled in his car. The vehicle pursuit was discontinued briefly twice for safety reasons, and rejoined again a third time soon thereafter.

Wilson lost a tire on his car, abandoning it and taking off on foot. Upon finding the suspect vehicle, officers set up a perimeter around the area and as Young was approaching, he saw the gunman outside the Petco store. 

“He exited the apartment complex and entered Petco and took the boy hostage,” Young explained.

One report stated that Wilson had entered the store looking for alternate transportation. Wilson pointed his gun at the young customer and reportedly said, “You're going with me.”

Young said, “He walked that hostage back out into the parking lot, and he tried to enter one vehicle and couldn’t get into it. He started back to the store, but couldn’t get into that either — Petco had already locked their doors.”

Ended with Poise, Precision, and Perfection
Young continued giving verbal commands to Wilson, but the gunman kept moving — his back literally to the wall — trying to find a vehicle in which to flee with the hostage he’d taken. 

“I was about 17 yards away — that’s what they told me — paralleling him," Young said. "He wrapped his hand into the kid’s shirt and pulled him in closer.”

Wilson started moving the gun from his own head and started moving it toward the kid’s head.

“That’s when I took the shot,” Young said.

Young explained that he had very little target area — he was standing at the suspect’s side — with the innocent hostage pressed up against the gunman’s chest in that classic “human shield” stance we’ve all seen on paper targets countless times at range training.

But static, paper targets and moving, living gunmen are worlds apart.

“All I had was from about his waist to about his shoulder,” Young told me.

Think about that a moment.

The average man’s torso would easily be covered up by a standard manila file folder. Put that file folder 17 yards away, and put it right up close to something you simply cannot hit.

Young had the poise and the precision to make that one shot perfectly.

“It went right through his arm and into his chest. The kid fell forward and other officers got a hold of him and got him out of there.

“I went in to take the suspect into custody. He tried reaching for his gun again but a city officer kicked the gun away from his hand. That’s just about the time he passed away.”

Success Has Many Parents...
I first learned about Sergeant Young’s heroics from Lieutenant Dan Argyle, who was effusive in his praise for his officer. 

“We’re very proud of Sergeant Young and the job that he did,” Lieutenant Argyle told me.

“It’s not often that a hostage-taker is stopped with an officer’s handgun at a distance of roughly 15 yards."

“Multiple officers had surrounded the suspect, but Sergeant Young made the decision to end the situation. He did a fantastic job and I’m glad to share his story with the law enforcement community.”

Meanwhile, Young credits his lieutenant for helping him to be completely prepared for that deadly confrontation. 

“Lieutenant Argyle set up a lot of our firearms training. He has us doing lots of realistic training, realistic shooting. We do a lot of shooting and moving, and we get a good amount of trigger time.”

In addition to getting good training, Young also has the support of his agency.

Some agencies are not so protective of their officers, but in even the earliest news briefings after the incident, Bannock County Sheriff Lorin Neilsen stood behind Sergeant Young.

“He felt he had a clean shot and he made that shot,” Neilsen said. “It was done in a split second.”

Nielson said further, “We don't hire officers to kill people. We hire them to help people.”

Per policy, Young was put on paid administrative leave while Bingham County Sheriff's Office investigated the shooting. Young was quickly cleared and has been back on patrol for about two weeks now.

Sergeant Young told me that the boy, who was at the Petco just to get some dog food, is doing well.

“I got to meet him a couple of weeks ago, and he’s a good kid.”

He’s an ALIVE kid, thanks to Sergeant Jeff Young. 

About the author

Doug Wyllie is Editor in Chief of PoliceOne, responsible for setting the editorial direction of the website and managing the planned editorial features by our roster of expert writers. An award-winning columnist — he is the 2014 Western Publishing Association "Maggie Award" winner in the category of Best Regularly Featured Digital Edition Column — Doug has authored more than 800 feature articles and tactical tips on a wide range of topics and trends that affect the law enforcement community. Doug is a member of International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA), an Associate Member of the California Peace Officers' Association (CPOA), and a member of the Public Safety Writers Association (PSWA). Even in his "spare" time, he is active in his support for the law enforcement community, contributing his time and talents toward police-related charitable events as well as participating in force-on-force training, search-and-rescue training, and other scenario-based training designed to prepare cops for the fight they face every day on the street.

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