Master Officer Ken Hammond shares details of the encounter with Editor Dale Stockton. Photo courtesy Sarita Hammond
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Ogden (Utah) Police Department Master Officer Ken Hammond was recognized at the 2007 IACP Conference by apparel vendor The Force (formerly Horace and Small) as the 2007 winner of their Positive Force Award for his heroic off-duty actions during a tragic mall shooting that killed five people and injured several others. Hammond warned people to stay down and take cover, then engaged the shooter armed with a shotgun and handgun. His actions kept the shooter contained until the arrival of a Salt Lake City Police Department tactical team.
I had the opportunity to sit down with Hammond and his wife right after the award presentation and learn first hand from him the real story. In an exclusive interview, he candidly shared his thoughts, actions and what he would have done differently.
Dale Stockton: What were you doing right before this happened?
Ken Hammond: I d taken my wife out for dinner. We d just finished, and we were buying a Valentine s Day card.
DS: The shooter had already injured or killed several people out front before he came into your area. What did the two of you do?
KH: She did a great job. I knew what I had to do, and she knew what I had to do and what she needed to do. She needed to leave. If she d been there, I would ve been trying to protect her.
Sarita Hammond: He reacted a lot faster than I did, and I knew he knew what to do.
DS: Had you talked about something like this ahead of time?
KH: We never discussed what if, but we definitely should have, and I recommend that officers do that with their families.
DS: What gun were you carrying?
KH: A Kimber .45. I carry it light six rounds. (Hammond explained he does this to minimize the wear on the magazine spring and to increase reliability.)
DS: How were you carrying the weapon?
KH: I carry it on my belt with a cover shirt or jacket concealing it.
DS: Is this also your duty weapon?
KH: No, I carry a Glock 22 on duty.
DS: Do you carry handcuffs off-duty?
KH: No, when I m not at work, I don t like to be at work. There s a limit to what I want to carry, but I always keep my gun with me.
DS: You were armed during this incident, and it made a real difference. What s your thought about officers who don t carry while off-duty?
KH: It makes me sick to my stomach. One of the 911 calls that came in [during this incident] was from an officer who d been standing right next to my wife. He didn t have his weapon with him. Me personally, that would have ruined my career.
DS: Was this your first off-duty confrontation?
KH: First time engaged in an off-duty incident yes. It s not that unusual for an officer to be involved in a shooting in our area, but this was my first incident like this and the first time something happened while off-duty.
DS: When you first engaged the suspect, were you trying to contain him, keep him in a certain area? Some of the news reports made it seem that way.
KH: No, I wanted to kill him. He was shooting people. He looked up, started turning towards us and shot. I wanted to kill him.
DS: When you engaged, tell me some of the first thoughts that went through your head.
KH: I fired only three rounds because I was only carrying six. I also didn t want to be seen as a suspect. I m thinking, I m off-duty, no body armor, short of ammo, out of my jurisdiction and I m dealing with an active shooter.
DS: Tell me about your concern about being seen as a suspect.
KH: I couldn t get to my badge, which was in my back pocket. Here I am in civilian clothes holding a gun. I made eye contact with the first uniformed officer on scene. He was on a lower level of the mall. Somehow he just knew.
DS: Any specific advice about off-duty confrontations?
KH: Absolutely. You need to be able to access your badge. I couldn t get to mine during the incident. You need to carry an extra magazine. That was one of my first thoughts after I fired that I had very limited ammo. I give so much credit to the Salt Lake City PD for their rapid response. They [arrived] in just a couple of minutes, and they saved my life and a lot of other lives.
DS: Any thoughts about off-duty mindset?
KH: The biggest thing is that you need to think, It s not if, it s when. That s the mindset you have to have.
Sarita Hammond: I don t want to be with you on the next one.
KH: If you re not mentally prepared and ready to engage, you need to re-evaluate your line of work. Training is so important. Train as you carry off-duty and carry extra ammo. Plus, keep your badge accessible.
Ken Hammond is the real deal. He s an ordinary cop who did an extraordinary thing. He s a humble hero, but a hero nonetheless. He s candid about his thought processes, and we can all learn from them. He went from having dinner with his pregnant wife to fighting a gun battle in a matter of seconds. It can happen anywhere, anytime.
Ask yourself these questions: Do you have the right mindset? Have you talked out a plan with your family? Do you have an extra magazine available, and can you access your badge once you engage with your weapon? Do you train with your off-duty weapon and shoot from the position where you carry it concealed?
You can read more about Hammond s award and last year s winner at www.theforceonline.com
Dale Stockton is the editor of Law Officer.,