I was starting my shift at midnight on Super Bowl Sunday, a cold February night, when the dispatcher requested units respond to a hotel in the far north end of our city for an attempted pickup. I informed my partner that during the previous night's tour I had received information that the U.S. Marshals Service was attempting to locate and apprehend a serious criminal wanted in connection with a homicide in a neighboring city as well as a felony warrant for weapons violations from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. Apparently, the federal authorities had traced this fugitive's cell phone to the north end of our city, where there are numerous motels. Though they could not pinpoint his location, the Marshals Service did pass out fliers to all the hotel desks. Our information was that the fugitive was armed with an AK-47 assault rifle and considered extremely dangerous.
When I got to the motel, our senior shift sergeant was already speaking to the motel clerk, who believed that he had rented a room to a woman accompanied by the subject in the marshals' flier. We could not, however, find a vehicle belonging to the suspect and the Marshals Service stated that the woman who rented the room did not appear on the fugitive's list of known associates. Also, there was an employee discount applied to the room. After considering all the facts, the agent from the Marshals Service decided that it did not warrant mobilizing his resources. Though I have heard much criticism of the decision, I cannot say that I disagree with it or would have done anything differently if it had been my call; the information was thin.
That being said, I obviously would not be writing this story if there wasn't something to be said for "thin information."
As fate would have it, one of the hotel security guards smelled marijuana smoke emanating from the room that the clerk believed the fugitive was in. (I know how convenient this may sound, but it is absolutely true.) Of course, the hotel security requested our assistance in evicting the occupants from the room. I suggested that instead of knocking on the door, we bring a room key and attempt a stealth entry. As the sergeant pondered this "radical" idea, I pointed out that we were legally justified and that it was better to be safe than sorry. The sergeant conceded my point and allowed me to do it my way. The hotel security guard, our sergeant, and, to the best of my memory, five officers, including me, went to the room.
The room was only a room or two from an exit. Though the hotel staff was doing the eviction, we, too, had possession of the electronic door key since this was a potentially hazardous situation. My partner and another officer went to the exterior window. Another officer and I were on the door. I noticed that the marijuana odor permeated the air as I slipped the door key in the access slot, but instead of a green light showing that the door was unlocked, an amber light appeared. Not good. That meant the deadbolt was engaged and there was no way to unlock the door. The other officer on the door quietly turned the handle, but the door would not open.
The sergeant instructed me to knock on the door. I protested once again and told him that I had another idea. I requested that, the sergeant knock on the door as soon as I called him on the radio. I then went back to the window, and my partner's partner for the night took up a position back inside the hotel.
My partner could, and still can, communicate extensively without saying a word. We exchanged a look and he drew his handgun to cover me.
I approached the window and noticed that it could be opened. However, doing it quietly was not going to be possible. Being that it was February and extremely cold, there was rust and ice in the window track that would certainly give us away. As I looked at my partner, I knew he was ready. I opened the window enough to get my fingers inside, and then I slammed the window against the rust and ice, pushing from my right to left several times until it opened. When it did, I heard a male's voice from inside the room demanding to know who was at the window. I then called for the sergeant to knock on the door. One of the officers began to repeatedly kick the door to the room. The diversion worked perfectly and most likely saved my life.
I drew my gun with my right hand and pushed the curtain from my right to left with my left hand. I observed a black male subject on the bed with his hands under the covers, looking frantically from the door to the window and back repeatedly. I knew the moment I saw this subject that he was the fugitive from the Marshals' flier.
I identified myself and ordered the fugitive to raise his hands. He paused for a second that now seems like an eternity. Suddenly he rocked back and raised his right hand. In his hand was a semiautomatic handgun. I knew what was coming and instinctively placed my left hand back on my gun to fire. As I did, the curtain closed in front of me and several thunderous blasts roared from inside the room with bullets and glass screaming toward me.
I immediately returned fire. As I fired, I moved to my left across the window to cover. Though I would like to say I planned it that way, I didn't; I just did it. Though not the best tactical decision, since I was closer to the right side of the window, with me on the left and my partner on the right, we could cover most of the room. It is said that you will always revert back to your training. I didn't realize how true this was until I found myself reaching for a hand grenade. I quickly realized that I had reverted too far back in my training and got up to speed. I briefly wondered what the burning sensation was on the right side of my body. It was strange because I could not tell where the burning was coming from other than simply somewhere on my right side.
I remember thinking that the curtain was a serious problem. Just then, the man who wanted me dead asked me for a favor. He yelled that there was a pregnant woman inside the room. He said that she had not done anything wrong and wanted to come out. Though I did not recall seeing a woman inside the room, I knew that a woman had rented the room, and I obviously could not have seen into the bathroom.
First, I yelled for the woman to open the curtain. She did and I could see her but not the suspect. I ordered her to turn around which she did. I then instructed her to lie on the floor, and she complied again.
I yelled into the room and instructed the male subject to do exactly what I told him to, and no harm would come to him.
What the hell, it worked on the woman: Why not try it on the guy?
I ordered the suspect to put down his gun and walk toward the wall away from the bed with his hands up. Almost immediately, the suspect jumped in front of the window, yelled something to the effect of "Fuck that," and began firing at us again. In a combination of shock and fear, I pushed back hard behind the cover of the wall. Though I had been on my right knee, I slipped on the ice and fell flat on my back. I remember thinking that I had given this son of a bitch two chances to give himself up, and on both occasions he had found it necessary to try to kill me. Being that his gun was only three feet away from me, I could once again feel the concussion against my body as the suspect fired wildly.
As I got back into a kneeling position, I was joined by another former partner of mine. I will call this Officer "Big Daddy" (because he would like that). Big Daddy and I came up firing together.
I could still feel the concussion from the suspect's gun, which was squared up to the window. Additionally, Big Daddy's gun was roaring in my right ear. We both fired until the suspect fell to the ground. As Big Daddy and I cautiously approached the window, we could see the suspect's .40-caliber Glock at the base of the window as the suspect lay on his back. We entered the room through the window and secured the suspect. We then called for EMS and let the sergeant in from the hallway. I remember telling Big Daddy that I had never wanted to hug another man so bad in my life! It was an unfortunate ending, but one that the suspect chose and forced on us.
The burning sensation on the right side of my body turned out to be from my right hand. It was swollen and had a horizontal red abrasion. I don't know if it was a bullet, a bullet fragment, or a piece of glass, but something grazed me.
The suspect sustained five lethal hits and one nonlethal to his right arm (his gun hand).
I try to take something positive from every situation. In this case, I realized how precious life is...especially my own!
That is why I have waited until I was thoroughly enjoying life before writing my story, and that is why it is being written from a lounge chair on a beach in hot and sunny Florida instead of an office in the cold and dreary Midwest.