Not all shootings are like the movies


On Saturday night I had the pleasure of having my son on another ride along. He would go out with me every night if he could because he wants to be an officer.

The first two hours of my shift were spent trying to catch up on my paperwork. My son was like a caged lion that was pacing back and forth in the office. Every so often he’d ask when we were going outside. Each time I said,  “When I’m done.”

For some reason, the night was unusually slow and he was itching to see action. As the hours ticked away toward EOW(end of watch) the chances of action were slipping through his fingers.

At about 1:30AM we met two of my friends at a legendary taco place for some food. My son was having fun listening to guy talk, but he wanted to get back into the police car. I could also tell he was getting tired because he had been up all day.

That’s when that sleepy eyed look sprang to life when a shooting call went out. We were only about two blocks away from the call so we headed that way.

As we left the restaurant my son was walking fast and leaving me behind as he went toward our car. I pointed out to him it didn’t matter how fast he got to the car because I was the one driving.

While we were en-route, an officer broadcasted over the radio that the victim was shot in the arm and was uncooperative.

We were the fifth car on scene as we drove into a rundown neighborhood that had seen better days in the 1950s. The apartment buildings were in disrepair and tired looking. There was graffiti spray painted all over the walls as a reminder that gang members believed this patch of concrete belonged to them.

We got out of the car and walked up to the victim, who was lying in the grass in front of an apartment complex. He had a shaved head and was wearing the trade mark baggy white t-shirt and dark pants of a gang member.

An officer was applying pressure to the wound as we waited for the fire department to arrive. My son stood next to me as he watched everything that was going on and being said. He was like a sponge at that moment taking it all in. If only he would listen to my wife with that much attention.

After a little while we left because there was nothing to do. As we drove away my son said, “I thought there would be more blood.”


“Yeah, I also thought he would be in more pain. It’s not like the movies.”

“Sometimes there is more blood. It just depends on where the person gets shot,” I told him.

He then made me laugh as he said, “You really have to be ghetto if you won’t even tell the cops who shot you.”

“Some of these guys won’t say anything when they’re shot,” I replied.

“You guys were so calm. It was like you see that every day.” I couldn’t help but smile at that. It’s true. That stuff really does becomes “normal” after a while on this job. It’s just part of this crazy journey called police work.

The Day I Almost Shot An Unarmed Man


What is it like to almost shoot an unarmed person?
I was working day shift in patrol when dispatch broadcasted a 417 call (man with a gun). I was sent as primary and my sergeant was my back up. The description of the suspect was: A white male in his thirties, wearing a hat, a vest, glasses, and headphones on his head.

The location was given and I was there within a minute. I got out of my car and guess what I saw? A white male in his thirties, wearing a hat, a vest, prescription glasses and headphones on his head.

He was walking in the middle of the street and did not see me pull up. I drew my gun as I yelled at him to stop and put his hands up. He turned around and looked at me with a confused look. I was less than thirty feet away from him.

He saw me, but it still didn’t click in his head that a police officer was pointing a gun at him and giving him orders to put his hands up. He then reached into his vest with his right hand.

What do you do?

• Did I have enough information that he was the correct suspect? Yes.
• Was he in the location dispatch sent me? Yes.
• Was he dressed as described? Yes.
• Did he put his hand into his vest? Yes.
• Could he have pulled a gun out? Yes.
• Did I have reason to fear for my life? Yes.
• Could I have shot him? Yes.

Here’s what happened.

I was prepared to shoot him, but there was something about his facial features that made me think twice. There was just something about him that told me I needed to give him an extra second before I pulled the trigger.

With my gun pointed at him, he then pulled his hand out of his vest. As I started to pull the trigger I saw that his hand was empty.

He didn’t have a gun. He was reaching into his vest to turn off his Walkman (yes, I dated myself). After speaking to him, it was clear he was mentally challenged.

Some might ask why I didn’t shoot him. Some might second guess me. But there was something about his face that told me I had to wait that extra second.

It was the decision I had to make right then and right now. I couldn’t make it two days, two months or two years from now. The decision could not be made from the comfort of my living room while watching the news on TV. Not in Starbucks with friends, wondering why the cops shot an unarmed, mentally challenged man. Not while reading about it on Facebook.

The decision to shoot him had to be made right there in the middle of the street at that very moment with the information that was given to me.

I didn’t ask to be there. I was sent because that was my job.

You can ask every cop and they’ll tell you a similar story where they could have shot someone, but didn’t. Think about that for a moment.

Every day and night across the United States there are situations where cops don’t shoot, but could have. The public never hears about the restraint officers have in these high pressure situations.

Only a person who has walked in those shoes can understand.

It’s important to remember that working the street is not like a video game. You can’t start the game over and there is no pause button.