I pulled my patrol car into the long graveled parking lot of the park. Looking down it, one side, ran parallel with a retaining wall for small lake. The other side, thick woods, making it difficult to see through. I could see the light blue Honda station wagon was backed in, facing me and the only entrance/exit. Tactilely, this is about the worst case scenario to roll up on an armed suspect. There was no way of getting close to him without being seen.
About an hour before coming across this blue Honda station wagon, I had met with a woman, whom had called 911 to report her husband as suicidal and missing. The wife was, a 5’0″ middle aged Asian woman with salt and peppered hair and aging skin. After talking with her and listening to how she alone had kept her husband alive after countless suicide attempts, I began to think her premature signs of aging was due to the stress her husband had put on her. She explained how time after time, she had found him hanging from a thin rope in their garage or lifeless on the floor after taking a handful of pills. How she was there for him to recover, lovingly and non-judgmental. She said with empathy and pain in her eyes, “He just wants to die, he is not of this world and the world is against him in every way.” She was nervous because she had found a receipt for a shotgun and one buckshot shell for said shotgun. It was bought at a local pawn shop the day before. His wife told me the last time he tried to kill himself he went to the park and tried to hang himself from a tree, adding “He likes pretty places.”
As I drove around with my pessimistic training officer for the day, a burnt out 20-year sergeant, large beer belly, black and gray curly hair with some type of skin disorder. His skin was always ashy, making his uniform look dirty. He would tell you war stories about his career and scratch both arms like a junkie needing a fix. Causing his dry skin to take flight and cover everything around him. He was tired of everything, everyone and talked non stop about an on-duty car crash he had been involved in, leaving him temporally dead for a few minutes. The lady whom pulled left in front of his patrol car was killed. He constantly said how he wished his heart had never started again and now refused to wear a seatbelt or a bullet proof vest. He told me in so many words that I was wasting his time, because the “asshole” went to the mountains to kill himself.
I learned really fast that this is not the type of person you want as your cover officer on a man with a gun. As I started down the parking lot, driving straight at the car, keeping the motor between him and us. When I got within 40 feet of his car, I could now clearly see the license plate and was able to confirm that the man sitting in the drivers seat was our guy. He was motionless, as he looked down into his lap.
When I realized it was him, I was really excited that I had found him, proving my sergeant wrong. But like a kid who catches a fish twice his size, I immediately felt overwhelmed and wasn’t really sure what to do. I mean, this guy had a gun!
I watched as he started to fish around with his hands, reaching fast and deep in front of him, making his head dip down and around each side of the steering wheel. When his head came back up, I could see that his face was pail white, he was looking right at me as I yelled over the PA, “Stop! Don’t move! Don’t move, show me your fucking hands, NOW!!”
My training officer was starting to get out of the patrol car with his hands up saying, “Come on buddy. It’s okay.” I felt the cold rush of adrenalin come over my body and my bullet proof vest was now constricting my breathing. I could only see him as tunnel vision had set in, almost like a filter, only allowing his face to be seen.
Feeling like a fish in a fish bowl, I flew open my door, pulled my pistol and took a position between the open door and the drivers seat. Still yelling “Stop, don’t move! Show me your hands!” Quickly, he jerked the barrel of the shotgun up and into his mouth. I remember thinking, “Fuck, he is going to do it!” Fuck, I don’t want to see this!” I was instantly sick, and like a train wreck, and for my safety, I continued to force myself to stay in the game, with my pistol pointed at his head, yelling for him to drop the weapon.
With his lips around the barrel of the shotgun, I watch helplessly as his head jerk back… And nothing… He just sat there for a second, and then pulled it from his mouth. He inspected the gun, and put the barrel back into his mouth and appeared to try it again. Nothing, the gun didn’t go off. My sergeant was now about 10′ from the car, his gun still holstered and hands in the air, he was approaching the car, taking half steps and saying, “Come on buddy… It’s okay, give me the gun.”
Right then, I could see the expression on the guys face change from sadness to anger. His eyes narrowed and lips tightened as he flew the door open and leveled the shotgun right at us. I still had my gun pointed at his head and was now squeezing the trigger of my Glock .40. At that moment, I could see my sergeants figure step directly in front of the barrel of my gun, as he closed the gap between the man and us. He was now standing nearly directly in front of me. Still using the car as a shield, I had no shot, so I dove down to the gravel, and watched as my sergeant walked up to the car and take the shotgun out of the mans hands.
It only takes 6 to 7 pounds of pressure on the trigger of the Glock model 23 to make it fire. Police officers are trained to squeeze the trigger, applying the 6 to 7 pounds of pressure until the firing pin is released and sent forward to strike the primer of the bullet, causing the black powder to explode, sending the 11.7g ball of led at the target. As the bullet travels down the threaded barrel, putting a twist on the round. Much like a spiral on a football, giving it more stability as it travels at about 1000 feet per second. To put in in perspective, in theory it could travel one mile in about five seconds.
At this moment, I became sick at my stomach and started to shake. I had almost squeezed a round off into this mans head. And my crazy ass sergeant nearly got his head blown off. For just a moment, I laid there in amazement and shock. My sergeant pulled the man from the car and I patted him down for more weapons. Non were found. I pulled my handcuffs out and started to cuff the man, when my sergeant told me to stop, adding, “He isn’t a criminal, he just wants to die.” I remember looking at my sergeant with amazement and complete disappointment as I cuffed the man and sat him in the gravel of the parking lot.
I opened the chamber of the 12 gage shotgun to clear it and noticed the primer of the bullet had been struck by the firing pin, leaving a distinct imprint. It had failed to fire at least once or twice. My sergeant told the now distraught man he had better learn more about weapons if he was going to be successful at ending his life and called him a pussy.
I remember the mans face like it was yesterday. His entire face was droopy, with a lack of life around his eyes, cheeks and mouth. He looked so sad and depressed. I remember my anger for him pointing a gun at me being replaced with feeling sadness for this mans desire to end his own life.
So, what ever became of my sergeant? He left that department a couple of years later, unceremoniously. He ended up being a police chief for a small department south of Denver. About five years ago I heard about how he and his wife were having an argument when he pulled a service pistol and shot himself, right in the head. Permanently scaring his wife, who was a police officer too. He did this and right in front of her.
And the man who wanted to end his life so bad. I saw him and his wife a couple of years ago. I remember him looking happy as he was holding hands with his wife, walking down a sidewalk. They had a little girl, about three years old, she was pulling on him yelling “Daddy, daddy…”