Book Excerpt: "Cease Fire!" from S.W.A.T.: Blue Knights in Black Armor
Ed Note: The following selection of real-life inspired fiction from the outstanding novel S.W.A.T.: Blue Knights in Black Armor by Lt. Dan Marcou, which is presented by permission of the author and his publisher. He is also the author of The Making of a Veteran Cop. Both books are available through Barnes and Noble and Amazon.com. You can obtain a signed copy, inscribed to "an Honorable Modern Knight," by emailing Dan directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dan Marcou is a PoliceOne columnist who focuses on matters related to SWAT techniques and training.
Chapter Fourteen: “Cease Fire!”
As McCarthy laid down to sleep, it was 1:30 in the afternoon. He was feeling pretty miserable about Slade walking out of court a free man. He knew that Judge Alice had the ability to rule in their favor with the case presented, but the police called her “Alice in Wonderland” because she lived in a fairy tale world when she looked at criminals. She was Alice to the criminals, but the cops always faced the Queen of Hearts screaming, “Off with their heads.”
Victoria sat on the bed next to him. “What’s wrong, Honey? You look a little out of sorts. Was it a bad day in court?”
“Yeah. Judge Alice let one go today that I think is going to kill someone some day. She could have put him in prison, and instead she cut him loose.” Victoria brushed his hair lightly with her fingers. “It wasn’t even that she let him go that bothered me. She made a comment about over zealous cops calling in false calls to give themselves reasons to stop innocent people for no reason.”
“I’ve been shot at and missed and shit at and hit, and still all I am when I put on that uniform is a public pissing post.” He then raised his voice, “Come one, come all. Bad guys, media, tax payers, step up and piss on Dan McCarthy’s leg and tell him it’s raining. He’s got to take it because he is a PPP, which stands for Paid Police Person, which translates to Public Pissing Post. Step up, one and all.”
“My, aren’t we cynical today? You have told me that I am supposed to let you know when you are sounding like Stanley Brockman. Well, Stanley, where is my obnoxiously positive husband Dan McCarthy? We need him here,” asked Victoria moving her gentle touch to his forehead. He yawned. She was working her magic.
“You are right. I have heard Stanley give that speech a hundred times. I am obnoxiously positive? You think?” asked McCarthy.
“I am sure that it is to some, but I love it most of the time. Sometimes I find it a little annoying, but not obnoxious. I sure prefer it to Stanley Brockman Junior, though.” Dan’s eyes were now starting to flutter. She leaned forward and kissed his forehead.
“Stanley Brockman Junior? Thanks for the heads up. I’ll feel better in the morning.” He then closed his eyes, and he was out in less than a minute.
As Victoria quietly slipped out the door and closed it noiselessly, she whispered to herself, “I wonder what that is like, to wake up in the morning with your husband next to you. That would be nice. Maybe that will happen some day.” She had been the wife of a cop for eight of their nine married years, and he had been on the night shift for all of that time. There was no sense in complaining because there was no end in sight.
Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep! McCarthy woke up already on his feet. He looked at the clock and it was 3:30 pm. He snatched his pager from the table and saw the numbers 1025 calling for a general response to the station.
He dressed fast and grabbed his gear. Victoria was gone, picking up the kids from school. As he passed the refrigerator, he took the marker hanging from the eraser board and wrote SWAT and then a heart and a “U” and signed it Dan.
When Dan got into his car, he turned on the radio and knew immediately what was up. There had been an armed robbery at the Farmer’s Co-op Bank in a community close to La Claire. A citizen followed the bank robber, without the robber noticing, and watched where he went. He was in room eight at the Settle Inn, a little old-style mom and pop motel on highway 41 in La Claire. It was one story and a line of doors, where the customers park in front of their door.
When McCarthy arrived at the station, there was a flurry of activity. The shift commander was briefing Dooley and Carpenter. McCarthy stepped into the briefing. “First Shift has been held over to handle day to day calls. Second Shift was sent straight out to the scene and perimeter. They have the suspect contained in room number eight. Compton set up a command post at the Kwik Trip just north of the hotel. The hotel has been evacuated. The only ones there were Mom and Pop Evans and the bad guy. Highway 41 has been shut down north and south. The state patrol is handling that.”
“You guys take one of your own cars and come in from the north and see Compton at the Kwik Trip. He will assign you. There is an FBI Special Agent on the scene also.”
“There is one snag. A national news chopper had been in the area doing a story on power lines that were affecting cows’ milk production. They got wind of this, and now they are hovering over the scene. The problem is they are sending live shots of the scene to people all over the country and, oh yeah, the bank robber! Captain Hale said he will attempt to contact the news people and have them either stand down or stop using live footage.
“Is all the SWAT gear out there?” asked McCarthy.
Dooley answered, “The SWAT tactical gear is on scene. Compton took it out. Gloria already headed out with the negotiator’s equipment also.”
McCarthy and Carpenter rode in Dooley’s Explorer. When they arrived, they discovered they were in the midst of organized chaos. Compton was always calmly at the eye of the storm. He never appeared shaken. He handled everything as if he had done it a thousand times before because most things he had done a thousand times before.
The chopper hovered overhead. “God that has to be an FAA violation,” said Dooley.
“There’s never an FAA cop around when you need one,” said Carpenter.
“Dooley, Carpenter, McCarthy, get together with Stammos. He is putting together a team to deliver a throw phone. The suspect initially destroyed the phone. Initial responding officers were yelling back and forth to him. He says if we throw in a phone he will talk. See Stammos. He will assign you.” Compton then was back on the phone talking to the chief.
Stammos was on the back side of the Kwik Trip. “McCarthy, you are carrying the shield. We do not know what he might have. We know he has what has been described as a 1911 Colt 45, but he may have something bigger. We are using the big shield. You know it’s heavy, so you will be hands free shield only. Got it?”
“You bet, Randy,” answered McCarthy.
“Dooley, MP5. Carpenter, you’re throwing the phone. Brockman, hands free in the event he surrenders, take him through the ritual; I will be carrying another MP5. Questions so far?”
“Stack?” said Dooley.
“McCarthy, shield; Stammos, MP5 right; Dooley, MP5 left; Brockman, hands free; Carpenter, throw phone. The sniper team is set up covering the move. After we deliver the phone, we will set up along the north wall in the event that an entry or the surrender ritual has to be facilitated,” said Stammos.
“What about a breacher?” asked McCarthy.
“Thanks. I almost forgot. There will be no breacher. The bad guy is going to prop the door open for the phone. If it’s not open, we will not deliver the phone.
“Propping the door open?” asked Dooley.
“Yeah it’s either a real good sign or a real bad sign. We are going to go up there and find out which one it is. Be careful and stay behind the shield. Questions?” asked Stammos.
“Can I shoot that fucking chopper down?” asked Brockman.
“I wish. Everything we do is going out live and real time. If the bad guy has his TV on, he will be able to watch our approach and there is nothing we can do about it,” said Stammos. “God bless freedom of the press. Let’s do this,” said Stammos.
Michael Mattix was a three-time loser. He was looking at life in prison. He was even looking at the possibility of death if they were able to connect him to the Farmer’s Mutual Robbery in Liberty, Missouri, where he shot a bank president in the forehead when the man looked like he was reaching for an alarm.
Mattix had been out of prison for two years even though he had eight years left to serve of a twenty-five year sentence for bank robbery. He skipped out on parole, and he had been on the run for most of that time. He could not tell anyone how many bank robberies he had done, but it was at least fifteen, maybe twenty. He liked to hit banks with the name Farmer in them, and he would hit them on Friday afternoons near closing. Hitting Farmer’s banks was a big city prejudice. He thought very little of rural communities and felt he would less likely to be caught by “hicks.”
Mattix did not know that La Claire was less than one hundred miles from Northfield, Minnesota. That was the town that Jesse James’ gang rode straight into and was shot straight out of by that small farming community. Members of the James’ gang were left littered across the state of Minnesota after that miscalculation. It was a farmer that managed to follow Mattix. This farmer did not need to belong to a neighborhood watch to know that he was responsible for the quality of life in his community. The farmer would later be called a hero, and he would say what all heroes always say, “I didn’t do anything that anyone else wouldn’t have done,” even though he did what few ever do.
Mattix was caught off guard but not yet caught when he was called to surrender. He realized then that the news alert with aerial shots of a standoff with a bank robbery suspect was him. “Fuck!” he said. “Fuck! Fuck! FUCK!” was the response the officers received.
“Well, at least he’s talking,” said Compton.
Mattix could see from the live bird’s-eye view that there was no escaping this little predicament alive. “I’m not going to fucking prison,” he said to himself. Then he saw an out. He saw the SWAT tactical van show up. “I’ll draw those fuckers in and take some with me,” Mattix said to himself.
Then the phone rang. “This is Gloria Dooley of the La Claire Police Department, sir. I’d like to see if I can help you out of this situation without anyone getting hurt,” Gloria said in her best, most empathetic negotiator’s voice.
“Suck my big hairy dick, lady!” was his response, and then he ripped the phone out of the wall and threw it through the window of his room.
Mattix then readied himself for his final battle. He took some duct tape out of his bag. He checked the magazine in his Colt 45 and slammed it home. He checked his chamber and closed it on a shiny new round. He did a lot of shooting, and so his ammunition was always fresh, “I like my ammo fresh and hot.” He once told a cellmate in prison, “Just like my mamma’s home-baked bread if’n I was ever to have had a mamma that baked homemade bread.” He didn’t.
Mattix taped the pistol to his right hand and wrist so that he could not be disarmed. “Just like that bumper sticker. They’ll have to pry this from my cold dead fingers,” he said with a smile. “No way am I fucking going back to prison.”
Mattix then poured himself a tall glass of Jack Daniels and drank it down. He poured another and sipped and enjoyed. Then he shouted, “Cops. Can you hear me?”
“Yes,” called Gloria with her bullhorn.
“I’m sorry. I was pissed before. I want to talk. I don’t want to shout, but now I don’t have a phone,” shouted Mattix through the broken window, baiting the hook.
“We can send in a phone,” echoed Gloria.
“You got a sexy voice. I’d like to talk to you,” shouted Mattix.
“I’ll talk to you, but how are we going to deliver the phone?” asked Gloria.
“If you promise you won’t rush in here and shoot my ass, I will prop the door open and you can throw it in. Then we will talk and work something out. I just don’t want anyone to get hurt, especially me.” That was the truth. Mattix didn’t want to hurt anybody. He wanted to kill them all and leave them piled at the door. He did not want to be hurt either. He wanted to be dead.
Mattix didn’t care if they rushed in or tried to deliver the phone. He was taking some cops with him. A SWAT team might be tough, but if they were expecting just to deliver a phone with no trouble, they might just give him an opening to kill a couple and wound a couple. Even if he did somehow survive, he would go back to prison with status. “Cop Killers” are the top of the food chain in prison. He sipped his Jack Daniels, “This is most likely my last drink,” Mattix said out loud somberly and then finished the glass.
After finishing his drink, Mattix went back to work. He ripped down the curtain rod in the bathroom and used it to cautiously prop open the door to number eight. He kept the 45 hidden behind his leg in the event that he exposed himself momentarily. He did not want to die meaninglessly by justifying a sniper shot.
After propping the door, he turned the television so he could watch the SWAT team approach on TV. Then he slid under the bed. He duct taped his shooting hand to the bed, allowing for some movement but also insuring that his weapon would be aimed at the doorway even after he was wounded. “I will be able to kill as long as I have bullets and can squeeze the mother-fucking trigger,” thought Mattix. Now he would watch the news and wait. He looked at the words on the top of the screen. “Live coverage, ain’t that nice.” He had a perfect field of fire at anyone coming into the fatal funnel of the doorway. The camera in the helicopter was keeping him informed of every movement of the police. He breathed in through his nose and out through his mouth and belched. “Yeah, Jack Daniels. I hope there is Jack Daniels in Hell.”
McCarthy picked up the shield. It required both hands to carry, but it would stop everything this side of a 50 caliber. He looked through the window in the shield, which made the world look like it was under water. It didn’t seem like it should be, but the window was also bullet resistant. His helmet protected the portion of his head which was above the shield. He felt everyone fall in behind him and then came the tap.
McCarthy took off at a quick walk. SWAT guys called it the “Groucho” because it looked like the way that the young Groucho Marx used to walk. It allowed a team to move quickly and smoothly and shoot on the move accurately.
“We’ve got movement,” reported the announcer as the helicopter-cam followed every step of the team. “It looks like they are carrying some sort of explosive device in a black case,” said the news man watching and reporting from a studio in New York City. He was referring to the throw phone, which was contained in a padded black case.
McCarthy’s SWAT instructor, Logan Tyree used to say, “Smooth is Fast.” It was true. SWAT teams moved as one and fought as one. Bad guys usually gave up when they came up against a SWAT team. The options were always there. They could fight, flee, posture, or submit, and when the SWAT team showed up they would usually submit. Mattix was a stone cold killer. He had submitted for the last time.
McCarthy followed the wall toward door number eight. It was propped wide open. Even though they were expecting exactly what they found, McCarthy got a feeling. It was overwhelming. He had learned never to ignore it. “Guys, something doesn’t feel right,” whispered McCarthy into his mic. “Let me clear this.”
Mattix saw the arrival at the door on television and then he turned and focused on the bright opening from his dark lair. “Come on in, boys. I got it just the way you like it. Hot and fresh,” whispered Mattix, grinning ear to ear.
McCarthy stayed tight behind the shield and leaned cautiously into the fatal funnel of the doorway peering through the shield’s window.
Mattix was peering at the doorway waiting to see black, anything black. When Mattix saw the shield appear in the doorway, his heart leapt. “Fuck you and die!” he shouted. “Pop! Pop! Pop! Pop! Pop!” As the 45 spit out potential death from under the bed, to McCarthy, it sounded slow and distant. He saw the first round hit the window of the shield. He would wonder no more about the reliability of the shield’s window.
McCarthy could sense members huddling around him at the doorway. He was their best cover. He could see wood chipping and splintering from the doorway being shot away by the rounds of the suspect. Then it came, “Brrrap. Brrrap. Brrrap,” the sad song of the MP5. McCarthy could feel and hear the brass casings clinking off his shield and helmet but did not sense the gun fire. The clinking of the brass off his helmet seemed to last forever.
Through the damaged window, he could see the hand of the suspect holding the semi-automatic handgun, firing and firing. Then he could see his Glock appear in front of the shield, and it was firing. He was surprised that it was in his own hand. He could see the muzzle flash but could hear no noise from his weapon. He had passed again into the surreal world between life and death. He wondered which side he would exit on this time.
Dooley was firing from the left side of the shield. All he could see was the hand and the gun. “Brrrap, Brrrap. Drop the gun!” he shouted. “Brrrap. Reloading!” Dooley racked the action, removed the magazine, replaced the magazine and slapped the action shut.
Stanley Brockman dropped to prone. He didn’t think about staying mobile. It never crossed his mind that his supine body would cause the rest of the team to fall and sprawl if any of them tried to retreat. It did not matter today though. Today there would be no retreat. Mattix had not left the door open for a retreat. In this gun fight, there would be no podium for second place. Brockman was the only one who could see Mattix clearly. He fired his Glock. Brockman could see all the rounds hitting. It was not like a Hollywood movie. It was real. Mattix was being chopped to pieces, but the gun was still there. He was somehow still holding the gun high. “Drop the Gun! For God’s sake, please Drop the Gun!” screamed Brockman, in a high-pitched scream of horror. The muzzle was pointed right between Brockman’s eyes. He could see it. It was a nightmare, but he was too busy to pinch himself. He was too busy shooting and did not think of retreating from the muzzle. He was frozen in that spot. Frozen on the trigger, Brockman was doing the only thing he could pull from his bag of tricks at that moment without a conscious thought. He was shooting and shooting and shooting.
Stammos fired from the right of the shield, “Brrrap. Brrrap. Drop the gun!” he shouted. Mattix would not drop the gun. Mattix was occupied at that moment, heading away from the light toward the shadow. He had exited the surreal world between life and death. Mattix was on his way to do time for his crimes. Mattix was dead. The duct tape held his arm in place. Duct tape was truly a miracle product. It held fast. It allowed a lifeless man to remain in a gun fight that he had lost a lifetime ago. It held Mattix’s lifeless hand in place. The muzzle looked like a cannon to everyone in the doorway. The hand was still holding the gun, holding the gun, holding the gun. “Brrrap. Shit, still there. Reloading!” Stammos racked the action of the MP5 open and switched to the second magazine and slapped the action shut.
Then McCarthy thought, “Something strange is happening here, something very strange.” He then shouted, “Cease Fire! Cease Fire!” The shooting stopped. It was quiet, but the hand and the gun were still there. The gun was suspended and twisted grotesquely from an unidentifiable bloody appendage. It was over.
“Gun!” screamed Brockman.
“No, Cease Fire!” shouted McCarthy.
“What do you see, McCarthy?” shouted Stammos.
“I can see the gun. It’s still in his hand, but there is no movement. I am going to check it out.” McCarthy then moved farther into the doorway and hit the lights on the shield. It was something he could never forget. The suspect was under the bed, and the rounds had not only killed him, but they had turned Mattix into a bloody, meaty, unidentifiable mass. McCarthy could see the gray identifiable duct tape holding the gun in place, still looking menacing and seeming to clash with the gray brain matter mixed with the bloody chunks of meat. McCarthy did not need a medical opinion on this. This man had robbed his last bank. “It’s over. Has anybody been hit?” asked McCarthy.
There was a pause while everyone checked themselves, realizing sometimes you can be shot and not know it.
“Everyone’s OK,” said Carpenter, who was last in line. He had brought a throw phone to a gun fight. His Glock was at low ready, but he was out of position to do anything but watch. He saw the shooting but, like everyone else, could not understand what could possibly make four officers fire so many times. They did not see the muzzle. They did not see the hand. They did not have every cop’s nightmare come to life in front of them, so they could not understand. There was a long silence.
The cameraman in the helicopter could not contain himself, “Holy shit, I got it all. Motherfucker, I got it all. This beat the hell out of cows standing next to power lines. I shit you not!” he screamed to the pilot.
McCarthy got on the radio, “Shot’s fired. Suspect down.”
“No shit,” said Brockman to no one in particular, panting like he had run a marathon.
“Let’s clear this place,” said Stammos. “Move… Now.”
The room was a small place to have your last drink in. The smell of fresh blood was heavy in the air and created a sickening mix with the Jack Daniels, which was a prominent smell since one of the rounds shattered the bottle. In less than ten seconds, the call came out, “Room is clear. Suspect is down. EMS is not needed. This is a crime scene. Lock it down,” said Stammos.
“Now, all you guys. We are going to ease out of this place. Try not to move anything. Step over the brass. Leave the suspect DRT (Dead Right There),” said Stammos. “We won’t be hearing a peep from him anymore today.”
The television was still on. They stopped and gazed fixated on the screen like four-year-olds watching SpongeBob Square Pants. “He saw us coming. They shot footage of a SWAT team making an entry, and they put it live on TV, and this guy was watching us and waiting for us. They could have gotten us all killed,” Brockman was absolutely right.
“All of us,” said Carpenter.
“Killed,” said Stammos.
“The weapon?” asked Brockman, looking at the weapon still sticking ominously out from under the bed.
“Leave it,” said Stammos. “Leave the scene as it is. Guns don’t shoot people. Live people shoot people. This one ain’t going to be shooting anyone else,” said Stammos.
The entire entry team stepped out, and for the first time heard the helicopter. They had never heard it, until now, and it head been hovering over them throughout the entire gunfight. The cameraman was still running live feed to the world. “Look at that guy,” said Stammos quietly to McCarthy. “He’s grinning. The horse’s ass is actually grinning,” Stammos said incredulously.
“Yeah and I bet he’s got a hard on too,” growled Brockman. Then Brockman did what everyone wanted to do, but no one but Brockman would do. He lifted his right hand slowly, ceremoniously up to the chopper and as he mouthed the words, “Fuck you,” he flipped them “the bird” live on national TV.
“Ooooh, that’s going to leave a mark, Stanley,” said Stammos. Then he looked into Stanley’s eyes. He slowly reached up to Stanley’s out stretched arm and gently folded up Stanley’s finger and put his arm around Stanley and gently patted his shoulder like a brother, for if they weren’t before, they now were truly a band of brothers.
Then Stanley did one more thing that everyone saw nation-wide live on national news. It was a real scoop. No one had ever seen Stanley Brockman do it before. The incorrigible Stanley Brockman… cried.