I received the Medal of Valor Award from the Chief of Police for my actions on 19 July 2009, in August 2009 of that same year. These are the events that lead to this commendation, my PTSD and dismissal from this same police force.
On 19 July 2009 (midnight shift) I jumped a radio call for a possible burglary in progress. I went as an assist car because the call sounded odd, and the responding car was a two-man car with one of the officers being on her last night of field training.
It took about two minutes to get there and within roughly ten seconds after arriving on scene I saw the young female officer (23 years old) at the front of the residence confronted by a large man and she looked intimidated and he looked like a very bad situation. I got out of my car drew his attention away from her and to me. He had a baseball cap in one hand, hiding something in the other that I assumed was also bad and I was right. At a distance of about ten feet he pointed a revolver at me and I shot him twice. And, I was still on a collision course with him when I put him down. I mean close enough that I could smell his breath when the torso shot knocked the wind out of him and I could even smell and taste (I kid you not) his blood, mixed with the smell of gun smoke. He didn’t get to pull the trigger of his stolen .357 magnum revolver, which had been cocked and ready to fire single action. He was handcuffed and died shortly after arriving at the hospital. Massive blood loss for which there was no way of repairing.
When you listen to the audio and check the time it is roughly 22 seconds from my arrival on the scene until I called in “Shots fired.” The man I killed was the head of a crew of either seven or eight armed gunmen out of North St Louis who had targeted the homeowner for a home-invasion robbery. Maybe the wrong house as these folks had no money or drugs. They homeowner and his disabled son were badly beaten and pistol-whipped and had been covered with a blanket in their living room in preparation for their executions when we interrupted them. Everyone got out of the house except the man I killed. Two fled in a stolen car when the first squad car arrived on scene and turned the wrong way, giving them time to make good their getaway. The others fled out the back door when the FTO for the new kid came to the driveway to handcuff the man who was bleeding to death in the driveway.
This was not like on TV or in the movies. He did not be quiet and simply die a bloodless death. This young man spat curses at me and called me the usual gamut of names in between gurgling and gasping for breath and yelling ,”Then more gurgling and more cussing and more labored breathing and then as he continued to bleed out he got a little more quiet, sobbing and whispering etc.
I am a Christian. I believe in Jesus! I am a Catholic. I was an altar boy. I was a Boy Scout. I knew when I pulled the trigger that I had killed him. I knew where my bullets went. I could see it on his face, in his eyes. He knew he was dead and he knew that I had killed him, he just wasn’t completely dead yet. But, we both knew it was coming. I knew he would have killed that young officer had I not showed up. He did his best to kill me. He was just a little too slow. What I really wanted? I wanted to kneel down and pray with him. Hold his handcuffed hands and tell him to make peace with his God, but there wasn’t time to do that.
There were still people in the house. It was still a hostile scene. There was nothing to hide behind, no cover, no concealment, just me standing with one foot on his back, telling him to shut up, asking him how many people were in his crew, while being called foul names and listening to him gasping for breath and gurgling in his own blood. Directing the young officer to back up and to shoot anyone else who came out that front door. I am a husband, a father to five, a grandfather to four, and there was no way I was going to let this young officer get shot or killed. I took a few breaths and put the call out on the radio and asked for more cars to help. I called for an ambulance and a supervisor. I followed police protocol to the letter. I did my job, and I did it well! Walt Whitman said, “If you done it, it ain’t bragging!” (I love that).
I knew from the second I pulled the trigger that my career was over, because the place from whence I come is very wicked. What happened next solidified my suspicion that the upper echelon of my department had never handled, or for that matter even read police textbooks on how to handle an OIS.
The first supervisor on the scene (I don’t know where he was coming from. He did arrive after, the proverbial and literal “smoke” had cleared) but managed to interrupt radio traffic during a situation when the only people on the channel should have been me, and the dispatcher. His first words should have been, “Are the good guys all okay,” sort of thing.
I got the hands on hip, “What happened?” Confrontational body language from someone who has never done the things I have done. I started with “This guy came out of the house and I thought he a gun pointed at the young female officer…” This is the classic time for a supervisor to keep his pie hole shut and let the man speak, Interruption, “you thought he had a gun? You THOUGHT he had a gun!”
That was it for me I handed him the bad guy’s gun which I had rendered safe and put in my rear pants pocket until the scene was safe. I handed it to the sergeant and said, “If you would let me continue, yes, I thought he a gun and then I knew he had a gun because he fucking pointed it at me and was going to shoot me. Be careful…it is loaded!”
The Captain who commanded “for lack of a better word” the uniform division (Just an aside, we are the largest municipality in Saint Louis County Missouri with a near one hundred sworn officers protecting about 17 square miles and nearly fifty-five thousand residents) arrived to handle things. No “Are you guys okay?” No “Good job.” What he did was call our former police chief turned mayor and discuss the “legitimacy” of the shooting.
The current chief’s only comment was “Well you sure didn’t miss that time!” Referring to a shot that I had taken at a bank robber a few years prior who was hell-bent on not going back to the Federal Pen and while attempting “suicide by cop” flinched when I shot grazing his head and popping his hat off his head. I did do that in the presence of the chief who joked that I should go to the range ASAP and hone my pistol skills.
I was kept on the scene for over two hours, complete with the arrival of news camera crews one of whom is a close personal friend who was kind enough to avoid any close-ups of me.
Back at the station, the BFO captain called me into his office, seconds after the sergeant told me that the gunman had died shortly after his arrival at the hospital.
The captain said that I needed to be interviewed immediately by a detective sergeant (an uneducated political hump). I countered with “I don’t think so.” I told that particular sergeant, “Not much to it really. The guy came out of the house pointed a gun at me and I put him down. Now, I’m going home we can talk about the particulars later.” I left at 0230.
Before I left, the BFO captain told me that I wasn’t a big ticket writer and that I should pick up the pace and start writing more tickets. Seriously!
I asked where the young female officer was, and was told that she had gone to the hospital. I thought that she had been injured without my knowledge until I learned that the sergeant put her in the ambulance for the last, long ride, for the dying gunman. So, here she is, on her last night of field training, in the bus with a guy cussing and begging for his life, covered with blood and she had just seen me shoot him, twice while she was a mere twenty feet away. Now we suspected that this man was a gang member and we knew that six or more of his friends were out there, some of them still had guns. One of them dropped a pistol while hopping some fences, which left six or seven bad guys with nearly that many guns, headed where. Hospital? Who knows? But still, this kid is at the hospital by herself, gunman is dead and no one to back her up. She should have never been put in that bus in the first place.
Police protocol is pretty simple and consistent following an OIS, brief statement, surrender of officer’s weapon and supplied with a new one, decompress, and then an official statement after a couple sleep cycles. When young female officer, whose father is on the job at in another large police department gets a call form his daughter he goes to the hospital and sits with her until she gets the call to come back to the PD. They broke her balls for “calling her daddy!” When, back at the PD she is hit with a full-blown interview and an ordered written statement. No Garrity Rights, no implied Garrity, no Miranda, and P.S. they attached her written statement to the official police report.
I came in at noon on 20 July and handed the captain a written synopsis of the event and said, “Take what you want from this.” Guess where that ended up? Attached to the official police report, yes m’am!
We were both sent to the shrink on 21 July 2009, which coincidentally was my 50th birthday and cleared to go back to work. The young female officer was on her rec days. I was told that the department was short-staffed and I had to be back to work that night on the midnight shift. I hadn’t even been to sleep since the shooting and now I was back at work less with than two days down time.
The first call out of the box was an armed robbery with one gunman on the scene. Who caught the call? I did. Employees and patrons running out the front saying the robber came in through the back door. I went in and took a young copper with me. The bad guy had already left. But, I got grilled on what was I prepared to do had he been in the restaurant with his gun. I asked the brass why I would be placed in such a predicament. I was told that a scenario like that “never” happens. It did in the 1970’s in Miami, same cop, two shootings, two days back to back, and I’m being looked at like I’m the smartass.
Second night after I’m back at work two bad guys get a flat tire on their stolen sled and park in my second driveway and blackout their headlights and try to figure out what to do. My wife and kids are home and they can see the car and hear men walking around and talking near the side of our house. Do you think my wife and kids lost their minds? Turned out that it was totally unrelated to my shooting, but I should been at my own house for couples days, and, better yet, have a car posted at my house for a protection detail.
I saw a press release on the afternoon of 20 July naming me as the officer who shot and killed the gunman. They were going to put it in the paper! You should have heard the conversation between the public relations sergeant and me.
I continued to “revisit” the shooting on a regular basis. In September I was notified that I was to receive the Medal of Valor in November 2009 for my actions in July.
The BFO boycotted the event citing “It’s the glorification of the taking of a human life.” He made it abundantly clear to other members of the department that I “had other options” that night. The only other options from my perspective were to run away, get shot, or surrender, none of which I ever considered.
I was kept out of the loop as far as the investigation went on, not knowing who the other players were until way after their arrests. No shared information. Finally I had to call the County Prosecutor personally to ask him if there was something afoot that should cause me to retain legal representation. I think this captain was trying to make out like I had murdered this guy. It was so bizarre.
So before the shooting I was a field-training officer and a good one too. After the shooting the captain made it clear that I was no longer to be an FTO. Someone asked him why and was told, “It’s just never going to happen.” I was denied the opportunity to attend certain schools and training events. Just little odd things like, “Write more tickets.” Our parking tickets are $100 flat fines. I wrote sixty-plus in one night. “Tell (me) parking tickets don’t count.” Okay switch to seatbelt tickets, ten bucks a pop. I set up on a stop sign, you run the stop sign you get a warning on the $200 tag and I give you a $10 dollar seat-belt ticket. “Tell (me) seatbelt tickets don’t count.”
Anyway I may sound like I was borrowing trouble, but all I ever wanted to do was be a cop. I volunteered to come in early, stay late, run surveillance for guys who are afraid of the dark. Knock and talks, consents to search (Never in 28 years was I denied entry on a consent to search and I’m talking about getting guns and hundreds of pounds of dope without needing to get search warrants because of my people skills, I worked dope undercover for two years. I’ve seen tons of things nobody else has seen and done things that no one else has done or should have to see or do. I’ll put my jacket up against anybody’s in my department. I’ve worked homicides and I generally got sent to the “bad” neighborhoods where the food is lousy and so are the people, but that was my job. The politicos went to the odd random homicide in the “affluent” neighborhood where “Bad” things are less likely to happen.
I’ve been on plenty of search warrants, written plenty of search warrants, served plenty of search warrants and have never shied away from being first in the door or window. I’ve disarmed gunman and people armed with knives, been in plenty of shitty dope houses and shooting galleries and have hung out with the lowest of the low. I’ve seen suicides both old and young, infant deaths, done CPR on people more times than I can count and I mean mouth to mouth with blood and puke and piss. I’ve had to burn uniforms and washed brains from the cleats of my boots. I’ve delivered death notifications, photographed murdered kids in the morgue, at the hospital, at the scene of auto accidents, rapes, strangulations, hangings, carbon monoxide suicides, heads blown off, blown open, listened to the cries of children who have lost siblings, parents who have lost children, children who have lost parents, stood over the bodies of the dead who have no one to grieve for them. I have prayed with criminals, whores, and junkies, given my last five bucks to homeless people so they can eat. I have smelled the smells that no one should have to smell. I have been in burning buildings. I have held dead or dying babies. I would never abandon a brother or a sister when everything went to shit. I would take a bullet for a partner.
I took a blood oath and prepared everyday to write a check for my life, signed with my own blood to pay for the protection of those whom I swore a sacred oath to protect. Nothing has shock value anymore and like so many, have grown numb, simply numb.
So, I wandered off as I have a tendency to do. In September of 2010 I started to experience what I assumed were simply “dizzy” spells. It turned out they were just episodes of my heart stopping for a minute, perhaps a little more. I didn’t’ know this until early 2011. I would go three sometimes four nights without sleep. I didn’t want to end up crashing a squad car and hurting someone so I did what I thought to be “the right thing.”
My doctor, whose husband is a career, battle-hardened soldier, saw the signs of PTSD and arranged for me to see a psychologist and I went at her behest.
In April of 2011 my psychologist that I spoke with diagnosed me with having PTSD, a serious case, as a result of the OIS and intensified by my treatment following the OIS. His recommendation was to take some time off the street, away from the Police Department, before the PTSD killed me or the PTSD killed my heart.
I tipped my hat to the PD and was sent home on 28 April 2011. On 29 April I was requested to meet with the Chief of Police. He said that he was aware of my PTSD issues and felt the department was responsible for the aftermath. He asked me if I had a worker’s comp attorney. I told Him that I did. He told me to call him and submit a claim for PTSD related to the shooting. I made the call to my attorney from the Chief’s office in his presence along with another friend who was then in command of the BFO. The chief told me that I could receive treatment at the city’s expense and be paid while I was being treated for one year before I had to use any of my accrues sick time or vacation time. He said to follow my doctor’s orders and after a year, if I still had issues I could use my sick time if I needed to or simply, convalesce and come back to work.
My last day in uniform was 24 April 2011.
In July of 2011, the police department stabbed me in the back. I was told that the insurance company handling the worker’s comp claim was not accepting the claim at face value saying they needed to investigate further. The city went retroactive and started taking my sick time and vacation time away from me, but they wouldn’t send me to a doctor and I’m telling you I begged them to send me to as many as they’d care to.
I went to a deposition with a lawyer from the insurance company in August 2011.
I was never sent to a doctor of their choosing. They were merely letting the clock run out. No ranking officials from the department checked on me, nor did the mayor or members of the city council. The unqualified HR director was very pushy about me signing off on long-term disability, which is a joke. I smelled a rat, a big one!
31 January 2012 I was advised that my sick time and vacation time had been depleted and I was stripped of all pay and insurance benefits, but I wasn’t terminated, yet.
Our Fraternal Oder of Police paid our health insurance for six months, roughly thirteen hundred dollars per month.
I could not receive unemployment benefits because the city still carried me on the books as an employee. They were forcing me to retire of take long-term disability.
I was finally sent to a doctor of their choosing on 2 February 2012 who dragged his feet before saying there was nothing wrong with me. Officially the WC claim was being denied.
On 1 May 2012 I was told that the city was going to “separate” from me citing my “continued inability to perform the essential duties of a police officer.” My doctor cleared me to return to work with reasonable accommodations in compliance with ADA regulations, basically a desk job for a while to ease back into things. Denied, stating there did not exist in our department any type of light-duty assignments (although there is a light-duty form and a long list of people who have performed those duties including every female office who sits on the sidelines once learning they are pregnant until after their babies are born and myriad of other situations and maladies not related to the job). I requested, in writing temporary assignment and was simply denied each and every request.
So officially I was “Separated” from the department on 1 May 2012 and the worker’s comp case had not been settled. I did win the case in the fall of 2012 and went with virtually no income for three solid months nearly losing our home in the process.
I was terminated for having not one, but two disabilities.
When I did eventually get seen by the worker’s comp doctor, it was two days after I had been terminated (separated is their term)
They also kept me on the books until 31 May 2012, which denied me access to my pension money (which wasn’t much) for four months!
And the city never paid one dime for treatment for the work related injury/Illness
I was forced to go on permanent disability. The judge was kind enough to backdate the date of injury, which expedited getting SS disability and insurance and kept us from losing our home.
I filed my lawsuit against my former employer in April of 2013 and we’re just getting the ball rolling.
I have been alienated by members of my department, mostly for fear of them losing their jobs or being punished for being seen with me because I’m a bad influence. I only keep in contact with about seven of my brothers and sisters out of nearly 100, which is sad!
I keep to myself a lot. I hang out with my family, my dogs, my cats and Corrina “The Wonder Horse” (she’s a great gal!) and wait.
My ultimate goal is to help other cops who get in this sort of a jackpot. And honestly, had I known I was going to put my family through this kind of hell, I would have kept my big yap shut and probably just died on the job.
The young female officer later married another officer I trained. I went to their wedding and later I got to hold their baby, Maddie. People often remind me, had I not shown up on that call there might not have been a wedding or that beautiful baby!
A police officer from one of the largest municipalities in
St Louis Missouri area