In the Line of Duty

January 21, 2010
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The boy appeared at the door of the cabin, looking at me with a scared look on his face. “Where are you from?” I asked. “Our cabin is number 232, a few cabins down the road. Someone broke into it and killed my father. I don’t know what they want!” All of a sudden, I observed a man running from the distance with a rifle in his hands, pointing it at the boy. I took him inside, locked my door, and told him to get down and stay under the bed, to stay safe. This is not how I wanted to spend my vacation week!

I rushed out to my car to grab my MP5 automatic rifle. I had no clue what was happening, or why I got involved, but I knew I had to do something. Thinking thoroughly and quickly, I grasped it out of my trunk and grabbed my badge too. I am a police officer on the Special Weapons and Tactics team for the city of Los Angeles and carry my weapons with me all day and night, in the event of being called out. I thought about getting on the radio and calling for help, but soon remembered, I was in the remote mountains of Orange County, miles away from where our frequencies pick up. I rushed back into the cabin, hoping nothing happened, not knowing if the man has forced his way into the cabin causing harm to the small boy. I slowly opened the door and held my gun at the ready, yelling “LAPD, put your weapon down and surrender. Let me see your hands!”, when all of a sudden the mystery man shot 13 rounds in my direction. I looked around the corner to aim, so I didn’t shoot the small boy by accident.

I heard the front door of the cabin shut and the running of several individuals on the gravel-filled driveway. I looked to where I told the small boy to hide, and he was gone. I looked out the window to observe the individuals entering a Dodge Intrepid sedan. All three men got in, and started to drive off. I started to fire at their tires, hoping to shoot one out, to disable their car… no luck. I grabbed my keys, ran out to my car, got in, and drove after them. I activated my lights and sirens to let people be aware that something was going on. The Intrepid turned a corner, out of the cabin park onto a main road, where they started driving at speeds of up to one hundred miles per hour. I stayed on them like a hawk looking at its lunch. I got my cell phone and dialed 911. The Orange County dispatcher answered. I interrupted his greeting and yelled “I’m a cop, Rick Stevens with Los Angeles. I have a shooting suspect in pursuit on Interstate 101, just passing Morrison Boulevard…” I told the dispatcher everything, and within minutes there were several squad cars assisting me with the pursuit. I looked at the speedometer. Based on the fact that I was at 97 mph, the suspect had to be going about 115 mph, advancing lanes faster than I could. A police car came out of nowhere from the side street on the left and tried to block his path. No can do… the suspect turned to the right and went down another street.

I continued to follow until the suspect driving lost control, crashing the now totaled Intrepid into a tree. All three men continued on foot, as did I. While driving, I had managed to grab my bullet-proof vest from the back seat, in case they ran like they always do. I ran out of the car, with my MP5 slung around my back. I pulled out my Glock 17 pistol and chased after the shooter. “Stop… police! I will use deadly force!” The man quickly stopped, turned around, and took out a revolver pointing it at me. I fired 3 shots, he got the ground after the second. “One down, shots fired.” I reported on the radio. I looked around and one of the SWAT officers of Orange County called for a medic, and stayed with him. I continued on foot until I saw another suspect on the ground, not knowing if he was dead, or faking dead. I pointed my pistol at him, he got up and surrendered. “I got one in custody!” I yelled.

There’s still one guy. I saw him in the distance heading towards a nearby residence. “He’s going in the house!” I yelled to the other officers running through the area with me. The suspect opened the unlocked door, shut it, and stayed inside. Other officers from Orange County surrounded the house, while I called my department, informing them of what is happening. In response, they sent out the LAPD helicopter to keep watch on the suspect. I looked inside the house and saw a family of four up to the window. The armed man had taken them hostage and in plain view, reloaded the weapon, showing us everything.

One of the Orange County lieutenants came on scene in his car, asking me what had happened prior to the chase. I advised him of everything that went on, and he told me that the person I shot had died from gunshot wounds to the stomach, lungs, and one shot to the heart. Did I feel bad, yes. Did I regret it? No. One of the points that instructors taught in the academy, and while learning how SWAT works, is that if anyone is threatening your life in any way, take action. That’s exactly what I did, therefore my actions were justified. A SWAT truck came from behind me with seven heavily armed men, now getting their gear all together. They asked me what I was doing here, seeing the “LAPD” that was written on my vest. I told the story again. “So what would you like to do, Mr. LAPD?” asked the Sergeant in charge.

I am an experienced hostage negotiator as well as a highly experience SWAT officer. I got into their truck, grabbed the microphone and started talking to the suspect inside. “Look, if you let them go and come outside now, we will not hurt you. Lower your weapon and surrender. This is the finish line, man. We have this house fully surrounded. One of your buddies we have in custody, and another one of them is dead. It’s your choice what you want to do. You’re the only one left, and we aren’t leaving until we have you.” One of the officers threw a throw phone to the house, a cell phone that makes it easier to talk to the “HT” hostage taker one-on-one.

I called the number after the man picked it up and went outside. “What do you want, man?” he asked. “I want you to come out with no weapons in your hands or anything. Let that innocent family go. What would your friends want you to do? I have no clue why we’re in this situation. Right now, the ball is in your court. You can do what you want, but we’ll stay here until you come out.” I heard the phone click. I advised the officers that he may be coming out, so to move to the front door to cover the suspect coming out. I also notified the chopper as well, that was hovering above.”

All of a sudden we heard sever gunshots, and even saw the flash from the weapon through the window. All officers, including myself took action. I holstered my Glock and armed myself with my MP5. We broke the door open and entered the house. A man with a mask was on the floor bleeding to death. I took off the mask and realized that this was the father, not the suspect. The officer in the helicopter chimed in, yelling “He’s running out the back! He’s on the next street prior to the house and is running towards what seems to be Highway 101!”

We all ran out to our units, which mine was several hundred yards away, and we sprung into action. I followed the directions from the chopper. And what do you know; he comes right in front of my car. I slow down, but keep moving to hit him so he goes down to the ground. I advise officers of my location, and I can hear their sirens in the distance. The man tries to get up and run, aiming his pistol at me. Knowing that he’s too close to use deadly force, I whip him with my MP5, causing his to go down to the ground. I called for a medic and then cuffed him. “I have another one in custody.” I advised.

The medic came instantly. They loaded him onto the stretcher and quickly evaluated him. “He has a fractured skull! What did you do to him?” the paramedic asked me, as if he had absolutely no idea as to what took place. “Well, first, he and his friends tried to kill a kid for no reason up in Campo-Robinson Cabins there, and so I chased them in their car. I killed one of the assailants, one is in custody, and we chased him, and he tried to shoot me, so I swung my gun and hit him in the head, disabling him” … “Oh” Said the paramedic, now up to speed. “So glad, you’re okay, sir.” He and his partner drove off taking the suspect to the hospital.

I asked the captain on scene what happened to the little boy in the car. I had been waiting eagerly to hear that he was fine. “The little boy is DOA; He was shot in his forehead at some point when they were in the car.” I was so disappointed that he hadn’t lived. “What should I do now, sir? Let me type up a report when I get back to my office today, and I’ll fax it to you.”

“No son let us handle it. Enjoy your vacation, brother; let us take it from here.”

I went back to work the next week, still upset about the boy. I had never, nor never will know why those men killed his father and eventually killed him. Both men were charged with two counts of murder, assault on a police officer, and were also arrested for warrants they had outstanding against them. They both received life in jail. As for me, I got promoted to the Sergeant of the SWAT team, leading the team through what seemed to be hell surrounded by chaos. And life goes on…





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