Those who know me in person or are familiar with my musings will likely agree that I am.... how would you say it in a nice way...."passionate". All this self defense stuff is not a hobby for me, it is life and death, especially after a cold winter night in February 2000.
It was the start of a typical wintertime midnight shift, a cold, clear Sunday night. I was supposed to be off but had been talked into covering for another officer. The agency's jurisdiction was divided by Interstate 40 in Harford County Maryland, just about smack dab in the middle between Baltimore and Philadelphia.
On the way to the station, as was my habit, I stopped in at WAWA and picked up a cup of coffee. After putting my key code into the door, I made small talk with the off going shift. There was nothing much going on. During a brief roll call I noticed that one of my shift mates Larry only had one spare magazine on his belt. When questioned about it, he said he had been off since Friday when he had court and it was in his car. I was not impressed, about that or the fact that even though there was snow on the ground he was wearing those damn ass shiny shoes instead of boots. Working that night was me, Rick, Jesse, Mark, and Larry. The first two were corporals and that others officers just like me.
After roll call we all headed out in different directions, no doubt with different things on our mind. Mine was on Frank, my newborn son who was resting at home after going through his first open heart surgery at Johns Hopkins. He had died there, but they brought him back and saved him. I had been off or a while and had not been back to work full time for very long.
I pulled on to the lot of 53 West Bel Air Ave. A project on the east side of town, my assigned post for the night. Still sipping on that cup of coffee I heard the radio crack. "Dispatch-70"..."70"..."Dispatch-70, 10-25 Colonels Choice reference individual failing to pay"..."70, 10-4"...."27 (me), direct".
Just as I was turning onto Rt 40 West I heard "Responding units be advised the patron has now displayed a 10-32 (man with a gun)" Even though that was a very common call, I got a feeling in the pit of my stomach that something was different this time.
As I turned onto Carol Ave where the Colonels Choice Restaurant was located on Rt 40, I could see who I believed to be the complaintant leaning into 70's (Mark's) car window. Mark pulled his car to the side and we both got out of our cars. The complaintant then walked up to me and said "he ran behind that motel and he has a Dirty Harry gun". About this time Jesse and Rick were pulling up. Without saying much, all four of us began to walk across the street towards the hotel. With frozen snow crunching under our feet, we split into two man teams. Mark and I were on the left, and Rick and Jesse on the right. We started to go down the back of the hotel, and Rick and Jesse were about 10 yards from us along a privacy fence.
We could not have walked more than a few yards when I heard Rick yell "show me your hands". At this time I saw the suspect standing behind what at the time I thought was a propane cylinder (turned out to be a water tank) and in his hands I could see a gun silhouetted against the night sky. But I did not think "gun." I thought Colt Python because I could see the ventilated rib. I began to yell 10-32...10-32" and in slow motion he began to bring the gun down into about a 4-6 inch gap between the building and the tank. Defaulting to my SWAT team training, both Mark and I were members, I had my left hand on Mark's right shoulder with my pistol extended past him. As the gun came down, Rick fired and his round hit the tank and ricocheted into the building. I could plainly see the silhouette of my gun between me and the threat when I pulled the trigger. The suspect then disappeared and all hell broke loose. I pulled Mark back against that wall so hard it shredded his uniform sleeve. I had no chance to get on the radio because everyone else was. As I got back to my car, I could hear more gun fire. It sounded like a running gun battle.
After I got back to my car, I pulled it up on the shoulder of RT 40 West and popped my trunk to access my Mossberg 590 12 GA. Before long I was joined by the other officers who said that the suspect had run into a wooded area we were in front of. By that time it seemed like every cop in the county was coming with blaring sirens. Before long the State Police helicopter was overhead lighting everything up like a Christmas tree. At some point I was told we were going in after him. I made a conscious decision to download my shotgun of the slugs it was loaded with and switch to OO Buck hoping it would fare better in the brush. Before I knew it, with the helicopter overhead, we were being lead down a dirt road by a K-9 handler from the county who had another female deputy with him. They were followed by Rick, Jesse, me, and Mark. We cautiously moved down the road which had woods on both sides of it. I guess we were about 75 yards in when I saw the K-9 Handler turn almost all the way around backwards and yell "drop the gun". The dog had totally missed the suspect who was laying on the ground about 5 yards to our left. As I looked all I could see was the muzzle of the gun. Gunfire once again split the night air, rounds of 40 S&W, 9MM, and two rounds of my OO Buck. The suspect slouched for a second and then aimed the gun at us again. In that second, Jesse had begun to move forward of my muzzle and I yanked him back with my left hand with the shotgun still on my shoulder. Somehow in the same second I managed to fire two more rounds of OO Buck and everyone except for the female fired again. As a matter of fact she never fired at all. When the dust cleared, she had a flashlight in each hand. Something in the second volley blew the gun out of his hand. I would later find out that one of my pellets blew the thumb off his gun hand. As we all covered him Rick moved around and grabbed the suspect's legs and pulled him out of the bush, away from the gun. Someone picked up the gun and said "it's a BB gun". I yelled "fuck, fuck, fuck".
After he was pulled out of the bushes, Rick pulled up the leather and jean jackets he was wearing and bent his legs towards his chest in an attempt to push blood back up into his upper body, it looked like Daffy Duck when he would get shot by Elmer Fudd and all his blood would pour out. All the bullet holes began to weep as life slipped away. The State Police helicopter landed in the middle of RT 40 and the reality of what had happened over the last 15 minutes began to set in.