Fifteen years ago, while I was coming to the end to my field training phase, My Field Training Officer (John) and I were working the grave yard shift, during a hot summer night. It was a relatively busy shift and we had been going from call to call for most of the evening.
We were assigned to the downtown area of the City we work for which is a Marine Corps Base border town in Southern California. After the bars closed up, things began to slow down and we were able to catch our collective breaths. As we sat in the darkened portion of an industrial warehouse parking lot completing the evenings reports, the radio crackled and the dispatchers voice, spoke out. "13 Ida 2, Report of a Man with a Gun, last seen walking north bound along the railroad tracks from Wisconsin Street". I started our patrol vehicle and off we went,
As I drove, John began to grill me on the procedure and the tactics that I should use while responding to the call. I rattled off the answers to his questioning as if reciting the book they where written in. Feeling pretty good with myself, I tactically shut off my lights as I pulled my vehicle into a darkened space about a half a block away from Wisconsin St. We exited our vehicles and silently locked and closed the doors to the car. Without a word to each other, we waited until our "Night Vision" came and we each took up a position on either side of the railroad tracks. We began to walk north bound looking for our "Man with a gun".
On we walked, seeing and hearing nothing, I kept John in my peripheral vision, looking to the right and to the left, listening for the tell tail sound of gravel as someone walked on it. As we began to approach the next north bound intersection, I could see a subject silhouetted against the street lights. I motioned to John about what I had observed and we began to tactically sneak up to the subject.
The closer, I came to the subject the clearer his silhouette became. He appeared to be the correct height and weight as the guy the dispatcher had told us about, and it was then that I noticed the subject was walking toward us. Fearing that the subject would see us, I motioned for John to stop. He froze and did not move. I stopped myself and melted into my surroundings to keep from being seen. The subject continued walking toward us, and as he came closer, he became clearer, and I could see that in the subjects right hand was the silhouette of a hand gun. I waited until the subject was about 25 feet from my hiding place, and firmly said "Police, don't move!"
The subject stopped as if frozen. As the adrenaline pumped through my heart, I shouted, "Drop your gun!", and immediately the suspect dropped his gun.
Wow!, I thought to myself, "I'm pretty good at this Police stuff". "Raise your hands above your head!, I shouted at the suspect, now full of my own power and position. And again immediately the suspects hand went up above his head, his elbows automatically lock-out, and hands flat facing toward me.
"Take four steps to your left" I told the suspect (to get him further away from the gun he had just dropped). And four steps he took.
"Down, on your knees, I told him and down he went.
At this point, many things were running through my head, as I was dis-arming and arresting my very first armed suspect. Certainly not the least of which was how calm, cool and collected I must have appeared to my Training Officer, Plus the fact and "I" was taking this "Scum Bag" off of the street, therefore protecting the rest of humanity from this insane "madman with a gun".
Pausing for effect, I shouted to my "Partner, Cuff him up, John".
As John began to approach the area in which I had stopped this desperado, I could see John looking harder and harder at the guy. Feeling something was amiss, I glanced over to my partner just as he exclaimed, "Hey Jimmy, I think that's Eddie!".
Fear crept into my heart, and replaced the adrenaline the had been there just moments ago. "Who are you?", I asked my all but silent charge. and it was then that my worst fears were confirmed.
"Sergeant Eddie Morten!" came my suspected thug's reply.
Moving to confirm my "crooks" identification, I began to profusely apologize to my Watch Commander, Sergeant Edward Morten, who had decided to also respond to my call to see how I handled it.
As we all walked back to our cars, I walked with my deflated ego four paces behind and one to the left of the two senior Officers, fearing that I would soon be given my "pink-slip" and told, "not everyone is cut out for police work, son"
I listened as my FTO and Sergeant talked about the call, and I sheepishly asked, Sir, why didn't you just identify yourself when I told you to "stop".
He stopped, smiled and said, "Officer, when someone, and I don't care who it is, points a loaded .357 magnum handgun at you, you do exactly what you are told to do, and nothing else".
Needless to say other than cleaning my Sergeant now dusty hand gun, putting up with some ribbing from the senior guys for "Gunning down Eddie", I finished my training phase without shooting my Sergeant.
James Leitholf #0679
Oceanside Police Department
Special Enforcement Section
Gang Suppression Unit
Visitor Humor Home