That First Terrifying Night Part 2

Moon against the Belt of Venus

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If this is your first visit, Part 1 is located here.  I was not nice, and posted it as a teaser, sorry but I couldn’t resist. 


Here I was looking over the barrel of my Glock, using the sights to view one of the most surreal episode of my life.  The light from the moon was casting a  murky,  ominous light on the scene being played out before my unbelieving eyes.    I was seemingly viewing what was happening as if,  a spectator in a roadside freak show. 


My mind, processing information so quickly yet inwardly appearing to be a slow meticulous checklist of right and wrong.  My thoughts pointing out the plethora of things I had done wrong, and not much on the positive side.  I was facing this man, this obviously drunken man who’s thoughts had to be impaired, or he wouldn’t be doing this.  My mind searching, feeling, trying to come up with a solution to this very dangerous predicament. My hesitation scaring the shit out of me, and causing even further second guessing.


“Sheriff’s Department, PUT THE GUN DOWN, DO IT NOW” (God I hope he does it, he could shoot me any time, what the hell am I waiting for).  As my mind continually reviewed all that I had done wrong, and examined all the possibilities that I had in front of me.


“Put your down and I’ll put mine down”


(What the hell;   ¿  hey wait a minute, he’s giving me an opening, a way out of this mess.  I could let him save a little face, and hopefully put an end to this crazy situation)  My mind started examining this possibility, and all of it’s implications from every standpoint including officer safety.


“OK,  I’m putting my gun down”.  (What the hell am I doing, I can’t put my gun down, I can’t do that, it’s against all the rules!  Yes I can, It’ll stop this crazy shit, the ends justify the means in this circumstance)   I kneeled down, and placed my gun on the dirt of the road, not taking my hand off it.  (He can’t see any better than I can!)


“Good, I’m doing the same.”  As he stumbled forward, and placed the shot gun on the ground, then stood back up.


“Now back up, away from the gun.” (Thank God) while he was backing up, I picked my gun up and slid it back into the holster so he couldn’t see it.  I held my hands out so he could see them, and started walking across the road.  As I got closer, his face took on a smile and he held his hand out as if he was meeting someone for the first time. (Jesus, he wants to shake hands as if we just met on the street. Dam in a way, I guess we did.)


“Hello, I’m Glenn Bannon, (belch) who are you, and what is going on here.”


I reached out and grabbed his hand to shake it, my body tensed, every muscle ready, preparing for some kind of action. (I could take him down with an arm bar, he just handed me his hand. No, no, lets play this out and see what happens, give 104 some time to get here)  About this time, I started hearing all those things my mind had blocked out.  That tunnelvision of singular clarity broken, and opening up those other senses.  I could hear the fireman talking on the radio with dispatch, giving a blow by blow description of what was happening.  I heard 104, telling dispatch that he was on Red Hill, and going as fast as he could. (Shit, even if he’s going 100 MPH it’ll still take 20 minutes for him to get here. I’ve gotta buy some time here, talk this shit out and keep things toned down). 


“I’m Eric, with the Sheriff’s Department.  We’re here because you have that bonfire, and the county has a fire ban on due to high fire danger.”


“Ahh hell, I was just burning some trash, I have it in a pit, and its completely safe.  Come on, I’ll show you.  I got some beer, you want one”  (You have to be kidding me.)


We walked up the driveway to his house, and shed.  He showed me where his fire pit was, and how it was constructed.  I told him about all the dangers of the fire, including the flying sparks and ashes that he could not keep in his fire pit, and pointed them out to him as we spoke.  Explaining as best I could why the fire was dangerous, and that he needed to let the fire department put it out.


My pack set had been a constant hum of activity.  The fire department had informed dispatch that I had gone up the driveway with the suspect, and they could no longer see me.  Dispatch had started trying to status check me, and was getting more and more frequent, meaning they were worrying, and about to call out the Calvary.


“Glenn, I have to answer them, or your going to be dealing with a whole bunch more problems." He nodded his head. “Fairplay, 132, I’m 10-4.  break 751, you can come up and put the fire out.”


Glenn then took me around his property and showed me all the defensive bunkers he had built.  He was really proud of them, and could have in theory defended his property from a massive military assault.  I found out he was a Viet Nam Vet, and had a few issues to deal with.  Before I knew it, 104 was on scene, and I gladly handed the case over to him.  I stayed right with him, watching and learning, paying attention to everything he did.  Unfortunately, he chose not to arrest Glenn that night, just secure the weapons, and file for a warrant later.  I’ll not try to understand his reasoning, just accept things as they happened.


A little while later, I was sitting down at my patrol car, collecting my thoughts, and trying to review what had just happened. When the Ambulance drove by, on their way out, surprisingly, this had a profound, grounding effect on my mood.  I realized at that moment, that the ambulance was there for me, and things could have very easily turned out far worse than they did.  I started shaking, feeling the cold of the night for the first time.


The shotgun was illegal, being sawed of at less than 18 inches long, and had been loaded with double ought buck shot.  It would have been hard for him to miss at that range, with that weapon and load.  I learned my first set of very valuable lesson that night, the hard way.  Always make sure your equipment works, and never take anything for granted.  I found out later that the dispatcher working that night was Glenn’s ex wife.  She told me that she had been wishing I would have shot the “son of a bitch”.  He had abused her mentally and physically for many years before she got away from him.


When this case came up for a preliminary hearing, the defense attorney asked me one question only. “Deputy, tell me were you really in fear, I mean come on.”  My answer was simple,


Only a fool is not afraid, it is what you do with that fear that separates you from others, and defines you as a person.


I was criticized by many of my fellow reserves and regular paid officers.  Many of them stated flat out that they would have shot Glenn as soon as he started raising the shotgun.  The Sheriff at the time was one of the few that told me “Forget them (with a little more colorful use of terms) they were not there.  As far as I’m concerned, you did the right thing because NO ONE got hurt”. 


This incident actually caused me a fair amount of sleepless nights and recurring dreams.  The dream was always the same, I was involved in a gunfight, and my weapon would not work, my friends and coworkers were falling around me, and there was nothing I could do.  I had that dream fairly consistently until another situation I was involved in occurred that proved the dream to be false.  Perhaps I will tell that story some time.


This call firmly cemented my reputation as a “Shit Magnet”.  I had already been considered one because every time I rode with the Deputies, all hell would break loose.  My reputation continued, and was bolstered on more than one occasion through out my career.

Quote of the day:
The folly of mistaking a paradox for a discovery, a metaphor for a proof, a torrent of verbiage for a spring of capital truths, and oneself for an oracle, is inborn in us. - Paul Valery


Note:  Specific names, such as streets and addresses, along with any names other than mine used in these stories have been changed to protect identities of the innocent or accused.  This story is based on actual events in my life.

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Kel said...

I think the department lost an excellent officer when you left.

June Saville said...

Well Eric - now we know! We know that you're not just a ghost staggering around with gunshot holes aboard. I loved the short sharp sentences that carried through the tension in your first few paragraphs. Highly appropriate eh?
By the way, glad to see that you visited my BlogCatalog page ...
June in Oz

Lilly's Life said...

Eric, that could have ended so differently couldn't it? It's so easy for others to say what they would have done when they were not the ones having to face the drama head on. Big tough guys going to shoot the guy - oh dear. Glad your superior supported you though.

The horrible thing is you obviously may have had a case of post traumatic stress disorder after this kind of event. Did they offer you any counselling after all that? I wish there were more people like you in those kind of positions of power too and so glad that guy put his gun down too! I owuld have run in the opposite direction - it's hard to know how you would react unless in the situation.

I really enjoyed that story Eric and hope to see some more stories too!

tashabud said...

Oh, Eric, that was just tensed. I would have felt the same dilemma if I were in your situation. "Should I? or shouldn't I put my gun down?" Luckily and thankfully for you, your decision was the right action for that man. It might have been a different outcome with another person, eh? I'm glad it was over and that you were safe.

I hope that you're not having those unpleasant dreams anymore?

Your story is riveting and gripping.

Have a great week,

the walking man said...

Better the nightmares from doing what you did then those of what might have been. Good strong tale Eric.

my3sons said...

Great story! Great decision as well. It shows your level headedness (if that's not a word it should be) in a hairy situation.

Isn't it funny that everyone has advice on how they would have handled such an intense situation? Staring down the barrel of a sawed off shotgun and reacting with the calmness that you did is absolutely commendable.

phoenix said...

that was really a nail bitting gripping story ive read in a long long time :)


confused said...

great story Eric..and you are braver than I..the detail was tremendous..

Barbara(aka Layla) said...

Wow, great are one brave guy. But even more impressive is that you were able to trust your own instincts and have confidence that in doing so, no one would get hurt.

Eric S. said...

@ Kel, Thanks

@ June, Yea, no holes in the ole bod, thank god. Thank you.

@ Lilly, Oh yes, I have imagined the different possible ending many times. I've found that people are quick to tell you what they would have done, when they have the leisure of time to make their decisions. PTSD? I don't know, I did have some issues. Before being hired by the town, I had to go through an extensive Physiological exam. The Dr. had many questions about the incident, but made no mention of it in the final report. As far as counseling, at that time it was not considered a necessity. Things have changed these days.
Like I said, another situation resolved those issues for me.

@ Tasha, Thank you, and no I don't have those dreams anymore. They ended right after another situation that resolved them in real life for me. I'm glad you enjoyed the story.

@ The Walking Man, I completely agree. The other possible result may have indeed made far worse dreams.

@ My3Sons, Thank you, You would be surprised at how focused you become during stressful situations like that. I didn't feel calm at all, I felt totally on edge and uncertain. I guess it just looked like I was calm.

@ Phoenix, Thank you, and welcome to Small Town. Come back anytime and just make yourself at home.

@ Confused, Thanks, I don't know about brave, definitely foolish.

@ Barbara, Thank you, Like I said I don't think myself brave at all, just foolish at times. Believe me, it was a struggle with in my own mind between the two completely different sides.

Pearl said...

Wow. Great story -- and you're a great guy to have around in a pinch.


Eric S. said...

Thanks Pearl, I don't know but I just did what I thought was right at the time.

soulMerlin said...

This is really interesting, and opens quite a few thoughts and questions.

Firstly I agree with Kel, you sound like you were an excellent officer - unlike the dispatcher, who although having suffered abuse as Glen's ex, should not have hoped that you had shot him. Apart from the fact that it is unlikely he deserved to have had his troubled ended, she allowed her personal feelings to cloud her professional judgement. Damnibly, If you had shot Glen, you would have followed procedure, and yet there would be one life less...rather like what happened in London, when the young guy was mistaken for a terrorist and shot many times in the head. Hard decisions and obviously your decision could have meant the end for you and your collegues.

All I can rest on, is that YOU were meant to be the one who confronted him that night and the lessons learnt by you and Glen...did Glen learn from the experience? Or is he still malfunctioning?

Your story is excellent and thought-provoking.


Eric S. said...

Henry, Thank you, I would have never known about the dispatchers past had she not talked with me well after the incident was over. A person would have been hard pressed to discern even the slightest change of tone, or action on her part during the incident. The questions and decisions an officer makes at times like this are generally guided by training. I can only say that I'm thankful that my training allowed me to evaluate all sides to the equation, and make a decision based on my better judgment. I will freely admit that judgment should be one of the qualifying factors in a position of law enforcement. The unfortunate part is there is no true test of judgment, and you'll never know how a person will react to a particular situation until it happens.

Glenn did not learn any lessons, and I had dealt with him on a number of occasions since. Thankfully not in the same setting or manner.


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