Out of the Matrix Innocence is Lost.
July 8, 2013, Officers from the Pooler police department responded to a house in an upscale middle-class neighborhood to check on a mentally unstable man. The complainant actually happened to be another Pooler police officer who was working and the mentally unstable man was his father.
When the officers went to the house, their knocks at the door were met by a shotgun blast, fired from inside the residence and through the front door at them. The Officers backed off, formed a perimeter, and called for help.
Pooler is an upscale bedroom community outside of Savannah. Garden City, the jurisdiction I work for, sits in-between Pooler and Savannah. We are NOT an upscale bedroom community. In fact, the city I work for has a violent crime rate index 300 points higher than the city of Chicago and Baltimore.
Pooler officers are not accustomed nor equipped to deal with violent threats like they faced that night, so when they called for help it was in hopes of bringing in officers from other jurisdictions to assist with the violent barricaded gunman they currently were dealing with.
At the time when they called for help, out of all of the municipalities around Savannah, only me and one other officer with our agency, were on-duty that were SWAT certified and equipped with the weaponry to handle this kind of threat. This other officer, and me responded to the scene.
While we were on the way, the man inside the home kept calling 911 and telling the dispatcher that he wanted the Pooler Chief of Police to come to his home right now. If the Chief didn’t show up in 10 minutes he was coming out to start killing cops.
When we showed up, we threw on our helmets and level III body armor. Ideally, this was a stand-off situation, and we had no intentions of breaching the home unless something significant happened. More importantly, we had absolutely no intentions of breaching with just two of us without something really crazy happening.
At the time the potential for more crazy was there because we were being told there may be more people inside the home. Basically, if gunshots started going off inside the house and we thought the suspect was shooting at hostages, we would have to breach with just two of us regardless.
It was decided that my partner would carry the M4 rifle with 5.56 rounds, and I was going to carry a 12 gauge shotgun. I wanted the shotgun in case we did need to breach the residence and it was better suited for close quarters combat.
Officers were already spread out behind police cars and taking cover near residences across the street from the house. We moved up about 70 yards from the house behind another police car so I could survey the layout of what we were working with.
I was about to try to get a layout of the floor plan of the house on my iPhone, however, after being on-scene for five minutes the guy inside opened the front door and came out of the house.
Evidently, our 10 minutes was up.
When he walked out of the house two things immediately struck me.
It is normal for people to leave themselves a path of escape. It is human nature. Even if you are going to go with a fight and not flight, you still always consider a path of flight if for some reason fight doesn’t pan out.
However, when the guy closed the door when he walked out the house, I knew we were going to have to shoot him. He left himself no path of escape.
The other thing that was significant to me was that the guy was carrying a .308 rifle over his shoulder.
When he walked outside, I immediately regretted not carrying my M4 with 5.56 caliber rounds. I have an expert rifle marksmanship badge and am a perfect 100 shooter with a carbine rifle. At 70 yards the shot would have been nothing for me. I realized the fact that he had a .308 rifle and had already fired at officers. I needed the M4 so I could have taken a headshot to take him out immediately. I couldn’t risk center-mass shots going through and through and giving him enough time to fire the .308 rifle. That .308 round would have sliced through the other officers on scene’s body armor like a hot knife through butter.
At this moment and time, to me, he was not a person. He was a threat to safety and life.
Behind cover, I popped out my 00 Buckshot slugs that were stacked in the shotgun’s magazine tube and put in two 1 oz slugs as the first two shells in the chamber.
With the slugs, I knew I could hit him and aim center mass because the kinetic energy of the slug making contact would have taken him down.
The guy proceeded to walk from the front yard and into the middle of the road, yelling obscenities at us. All the officers on scene were yelling at him to put the gun down. Calling him by name and telling him to stop and think about what he’s doing.
This whole time I’m focused on one thing, which is how to effectively take him out if I have too. At 70 yards, I could easily hit him with a slug. However, it was uncommonly windy that day. I began to have concerns with the dynamic stability of my round.
Essentially, when a bullet exits the barrel, the bullet wobbles because of gyroscopic precession. When the wobbling is dumped out, and the bullet is dynamically stabilized, the bullet longitudinal axis no longer points in the direction it’s traveling, but instead has a yaw angle, called yaw of repose (or equilibrium yaw), toward the direction of the spin. The bullet is actually skidding along the trajectory, with the center of gravity following the trajectory and the tip pointed to the right and slightly upward. The incoming air pushing on the left side of the bullet causes it to drift. My concern was that at 70 yards my bullet would begin to drift up.
By the time the guy is about 40 yards away in the middle of the road, I decided I wanted a better vantage point if I had to take my shot. I decided the corner of a brick house across the street would have been a better place to position myself, as it would have made my angle now with the backstop behind the guy his house and not his neighbors home. This way, should for some reason, there be an errant shot, I wouldn’t have to worry about the round going into a neighbor’s house and possibly harming an innocent person.
I told my partner he was going to have to cover me with his M4, while I broke cover to make it to my secondary position. He acknowledged me and I let him get his line of sight on the guy.
Now, this whole time the guy is still in the middle of the road with the .308 yelling profanity at us.
Just as I stand up to move, the guy turns towards me, begins to bring the .308 rifle down in order to shoot at me and yells “You ain’t about to do shit!” I immediately stop and level the front ball site of my shotgun at the guy’s sternum. At this distance, there won’t be much drift and the round should impact him center mass.
In this moment, this guy and I, are in a situation that means of life or death. The determining factor over who the Reaper will be coming to collect today depends on who can get their shot off first.
I move my finger into the trigger guard and onto the metal trigger of the Remington 870 when I hear the roaring blast of a shotgun.
I watch as the guy spins a complete 360 as his legs give way and he collapses on the ground.
I hadn’t fired…
Instead, another Pooler officer who was about 20 yards from him, behind the cover of another police car, fired his shotgun at the guy. He was loaded with 00 buckshot, and all 9 .32 caliber 00 buckshot pellets landed along the right-hand side of the guy’s torso.
Immediately as he hit the ground I run up to the guy to see if we can render medical aid. As soon as I get to him, he’s already taking his last breaths. All .32 caliber pellets had entered his chest cavity, slicing through his vital organs. I get on the radio and tell dispatch to immediately, roll EMS, who was staged around the corner from us.
“Shot’s fired, suspect down, 9 GSW — center mass.”
The guy was already unsalvageable by that point.
I left the other officers to tend to the man and direct EMS in and immediately turned my attention to the residence. We still had information that others might be inside the home. I told my partner we had to clear the residence, and by that point, an officer from another jurisdiction showed up that was equally equipped, so we three made entry into the home to clear it.
Inside, there were no other persons, however, the guy had five other rifles and three pistols laid out on a table in the living room. Clearly, he had been preparing for whatever he was going to do that day.
After clearing the house, I spoke with the officer who fired the shot that killed the guy. He was pretty shaken up. The guy was the father of another officer he had just recently trained. He kept saying, “Oh my God! That is my rookies Dad.”
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation was called in to investigate the shooting. I gave my interview with a GBI agent on the scene in the front seat of his car.
After we got done with the interview I told the agent, “I think it might be time to consider getting out of this line of work.” He replied, “Yeah, these kinds of events can be pretty scary.” I replied, “That’s the problem. I wasn’t scared during the entire thing and I’m not scared now. I was prepared to kill a man, and ultimately watched him die in front of me and I feel nothing. I don’t feel anxiety, sadness, anger, fear, confusion. I feel nothing… I don’t think that is normal.”
I have shed tears for people I don’t know, after hearing stories of their hardships and suffering. I have been reduced to depression and a desire to withdraw from all human interaction simply because of events like Charlottesville, or Las Vegas and the toll they take on me. I’ve felt pain, sadness, fear, and grief from strangers, so significantly I feel like I was actually there and going through whatever they’re going through with them.
However, in my professional life, I’ve held dead infants; seen mutilated bodies; been to police officers funerals; been in high-speed car chases an excess of 120 mph down city streets; heard bullets cutting air past my head; had a man who shot his friend in the head because of an argument over a $20 crack debt, tell me that he was about to shoot me, then reach for a .38 caliber revolver. Only the fact, that I beat him to the punch and pressed the barrel of a .40 caliber Glock against his head and said, “I’ll blow your fucking brains out,” kept me alive. I’ve held the hand of a young man, I’d known since he was 10-years-old, as he lay on the pavement crying in agony and begging me for help. Bullets had torn through his body and shards of bone jutted through his skin.
I don’t hate the law enforcement profession…
I don’t hate the public…
I don’t hate anyone…
However, a part of me truly hates that my profession exists. I hate whatever “it” is that makes the necessity for a profession to exist in societies that require them to carry a loaded handgun and body armor as the necessary tools of the trade.
I hate that there are a lot of others just like me out there. Not just the ones who enjoy the benefit of professional protection behind the darkness that has numbed them to emotional trauma. The ones who don’t get the benefit of people saying “I Back the Blue!” or “Blue Lives Matter.”
Rather, the ones who have seen and endured the things I’ve been through, however to them… it is their entire environment… it is their life.
I hate it because I know that the things I’ve seen in my career have stolen a piece of me.
I realized this a few years ago when I was walking out an electronics store after buying a brand new big screen smart TV. I should have been thinking about the upcoming college football season and how it would all look in 1080p Hi-Def. Instead, I’m scanning the parking lot for threats, because I’m certain someone is watching me, ready to pounce and rob me at any moment for my new TV.
Other people pull up to a gas station and run inside to buy a drink. I pull up to a gas station and notice the drug deal going on off to the side of the parking lot.
Other people live inside the Matrix, where the horrible things that people can do to each other are primarily reduced to the headlines you read.
Now, assuredly everyone has their own example of trauma in their lives. I don’t want to negate that and make anyone feel like I’m diminishing one’s specific painful emotional experiences. However, during my career, I’ve been parties to tens of thousands of other people’s emotional trauma.
I’ve been in this job for 15 years now. My entire professional work career, since I was 21-years-old.
In the mornings when I get off after working the night shift, I look at all the morning traffic as people head into work, and I wonder, “What do those people talk about in their ‘normal’ jobs?”
Last night, I discussed with my officers how I had to tell a mother that her son committed suicide by drinking anti-freeze. What do people in office jobs talk about? Football? Politics? America’s Got Talent? Honestly, I have no clue.
So, I know Carl posted a question about people’s opinions regarding the officer who had a panic attack after being involved in an on-duty shooting. Honestly, I feel like this type of response should be normal. It should be emotionally difficult to be in a life or death situation. It should mess someone up to have to take someone’s life.
In truth, a part of me is envious that this officer still feels that significant of emotion in his life. For me… Innocence has long been lost.