“I was in Iraq and the United Arab Emirates, and I get shot in Manchester.” This was the ironic observation of Officer William Beeler, who gave an impromptu press conference less than 24 hours after being shot. Beeler had his wounded left shoulder in a sling as he assured everyone he was going to be all right, when he said, “I’m a little stiff, but just happy to be home messing with my family.”
At about 1730 hours on May 19th 2011 — right in the middle of National Police Week — Manchester (Conn.) police received a report that a man was waving a gun erratically at a home at 13 Courtland Street in Manchester. It was the first call The Manchester Police Department ever received at the house. One of the first responding officers was Officer William Beeler. Beeler arrived at the scene, a man wearing many hats. Officer Beeler was not only a three-year veteran of the Manchester Connecticut Police Department, but he also was an Iraq War Veteran, a high school football coach, a father of twins, the son of a police officer, and the husband of a wife who presently is expecting their third child.
Edmanuel Reyes did not care about any of this. He was man off his meds in the midst of a bipolar episode, according to his family. He armed himself and opened fire when the police arrived. Then, he kept on shooting. Beeler went down, hit hard in the shoulder and he was pulled to safety by fellow officers. The call triggered a multi-jurisdictional response, including SWAT resources and personnel.
Reyes rained bullets down on the police shooting directly at their cars and officers if they showed themselves. The area was locked down and neighbors were evacuated. Officers maneuvered into positions cautiously and finally Reyes showed himself to a sniper on the perimeter, who took the shot and Reyes’ rampage was over.
It Could Have Been Worse
Connecticut State Police Lt. Paul Vance said, “It’s a miracle there were no more injuries than there were. Civilians were in danger, police were in danger. Every police officer who responded [that] night was truly in harm’s way. The suspect was not randomly firing. He was aiming his weapon where officers were stationed.”
Investigators revealed that they had found three weapons, plenty of ammunition, and 75 fired casings on the first floor of the Edmanuel Reyes home.
Negotiators were able to secure the release of Reyes’ wife and two children during the standoff.
In the Hands of “The Guy Next to You”
Bill Beeler has been a team player all his life and took the time at his press conference to emphasize the importance of being a part of a team. Officer Beeler said of his survival in this deadly encounter, “You just gotta rely on the guy next to you and the guys next to me really stood up and... I credit these guys for me standing here today.”
Many police trainers and writers here at PoliceOne emphasize the need to not only physically survive critical incidents, but also for officers to emotionally survive as well. One needs only look to the Fermi Falcons (The football team coached by Bill Beeler) Facebook Page to conclude Officer Beeler will have plenty of support in the emotional arena as well.
One of his students posted, “When you bleed black and blue (the Fermi Falcons school colors) not even a gunshot wound can keep you down. We love you coach. See you on the sidelines.”
Heal well, Officer Beeler, and to the sniper as well as all the officers at that dangerous scene in Manchester who foiled an attempt by this armed suspect to add multiple police names to the wall in the middle of National Police Week, “Job well done!”