Rise and Fall of a Deputy Sheriff: Part III
If the sounds coming from the room at the opposite end of the hallway sounded inhuman, its because they were. At least partially. The yelps and growls of the K9 neck deep in its work and the shrieks and wails of the object of the dogs aggression, made for quite an unsettling cacophony. Over that ruckus was the K9 handlers shouts of “SHOW ME YOUR HANDS!” I was at the other end of the hall, gun drawn at low ready, my back to the action, watching the living area of the house for any other occupants that may still be hiding out. We had already called two subjects out of the house prior to entering and other than me, my FTO, the K9 and his partner, and the victim of the K9’s canines, the only people we knew were in the house were the two small children fast asleep in the bedroom across the entryway from me. Fortunately, they seemed to be oblivious to the fact that their grandfather was being mauled by a dog and that he had shot their grandmother in the hand minutes before.
Third Phase of FTO was a good phase. As mentioned in the last installment, the town I was assigned to wasn’t very big and was far from being a cesspool of criminal elements, but it did have its share of bad guys. It was the kind of place where next to nothing would happen all week then all of a sudden you’d get one big event. That first week it was the vehicle pursuit. It was also here that I had my first foot pursuit (which I won’t got into detail about right now….he got away).
I got along great with my trainer, who was actually the brother of a friend of mine that worked for another agency. Though it wasn’t a particularly busy place to work, I got plenty of practice doing the day to day stuff a deputy sheriff does: making traffic stops, contacting people on the street, patrolling problem areas, and so on.
In about my third week of Phase Three, I was dispatched to the hospital to meet with a woman who had come in with an injury to her hand. Her husband had shot it. As we prepared to drive to the hospital, another deputy said he would meet the victim at the hospital so we could go to the house and find out exactly what had happened. Information continued to come in as we made our way the house. The victim had been driven to the hospital by one of her two sons. She stated her other grown son and daughter were also at the house with her husband, as well as the daughter’s two small children. She stated her husband had been acting strangely that evening and when she went into the back bedroom to check on him, she found him with a gun in his hand. There was some sort of a struggle and now here she was at the hospital.
We arrived at the house with about four other units, including a sergeant. I had just recently been reading through the trainee expectations for each phase and at Phase Three the trainee should be handling every call on their own unless it is something they have never handled before. The first part of that statement kept running through my head as we approached the house. Then just about when I hit panic mode, I remembered the last part, “unless it is something they have never handled.” Now I could relax a little. I’d never dealt with a shooting before, so I knew my FTO wouldn’t leave me hanging. And he didn’t.
My trainer and I crossed the street from the house and took cover behind a pick up truck parked in the driveway of another house. Another deputy took up a position behind a car directly in front of our target house and the K9 and his partner walked up on the sidewalk in front of the garage of the house. They were somewhat exposed, but out of view of any doors or windows. The sergeant and at least one other deputy took up positions behind the house, trying to get a visual on any movement inside.
From our position, we could see someone walking around inside near a window. It was dark, so we couldn’t make out much about the subject, but it appeared they were looking out the window in our direction. The subject spoke, “Is someone out there?”
My trainer announced our presence and ordered the subject to come out with his hands up (yes we really say that). The subject complied and we had him walk out towards our partner taking cover behind the car. He was handcuffed and sat down on the street. The subject told us his dad, sister and two small children were still inside. About that time the sister came to the door and she was ordered out, and I handcuffed her.
We asked the two what had happened. They said they thought their dad had taken some Ambien and went to bed and the next thing they knew they heard a loud bang and their mom’s hand was bleeding. Their other brother had taken her to the hospital. They said their dad was still in his bedroom. Though the gun that had been fired was taken by the other brother when he drove the victim to the hospital, the two we had detained told us there were several other guns inside the parents bedroom.
Based on the fact that shots had been fired, we an armed and unstable man inside the house with two small children, we made the decision to enter the house. The K9 and his partner lead the way, followed by my FTO and then me. We entered the front door and made an immediate right turn down the hall. Since we didn’t have time to clear the rest of the before making contact with our suspect, I remained at the end of the hall near the entry way to cover my partners’ backs. Before long the miserable caterwauling previously described was filling the house. When the ruckus finally died down to a mere commotion, the small girl in the room across from me, sat up, looked at me, gun drawn, then laid back down and went to sleep.
Obviously, I didn’t see what had happened but here’s how it was explained to me. When the K9 and his partner entered the room, they found our suspect lying on the bed, his back to the door. The handler ordered the suspect to show his hands, but he was unresponsive. The handler continued to shout commands at the suspect, who’s only response was to look over his shoulder and raise his right hand in a one-fingered salute to the deputy. Meanwhile, his left hand was still concealed under the covers. Fearing there may still be a firearm in play, the handler deployed his partner and the German Shepherd latched onto the suspects right shoulder. The suspect continued to resist, even as he screamed in agony. He punched the dog in the snout repeatedly, to the point where he knocked out at least one of the K9’s teeth. Finally, after what seemed like forever, but was really about 10 seconds, the suspect relented and the handler disengaged the dog. My FTO cuffed the suspect and the handler removed his partner from the area.
Medics were brought in and as they tended to the suspect’s injuries, I tried to question him as to what went on. He insisted he and his wife had not been in any kind of a fight and he didn’t understand what had happened. Somewhat understandably, he was not very cooperative. Even with the trashing he had taken from the dog, I’m not sure he was totally shaken from his Ambien induced haze.
Questioning him further at this point was futile, and he needed to get to the hospital anyway, so we let the medics load him into the ambulance. After releasing the brother and sister, getting their written statements and checking on the kids, we headed toward the hospital for follow-up. After he was treated, I spoke with the suspect. He had taken an Ambien earlier in the evening and rather than going straight to bed, drank some wine. Ambien and wine do not make for good bed-fellows. He claimed to have been in such a state as to not have realized what had happened. He stated he remembered getting the gun out of the safe and his wife coming in the bedroom. He said he heard a loud noise, but the next thing he remembered he was getting eaten by a big dog. It seemed a convenient statement, but it did seem to match with the victim’s and witnesses statements. They all said they knew he had taken an Ambien and had seen him drinking wine soon after. The victim had gone into the room to check on him and found him holding the handgun. She tried to take it out of his hand and when she did it went off. As it turned out she hadn’t actually been hit with the bullet, but the gases discharged from the gun split her hand open and gave her a pretty nasty burn. The suspect was charged with resisting arrest, but there was no intent to fire the weapon, so no further charges could be filed.
All in all, it was a strange experience, but I got high marks from my trainer. He said other deputies had commented how I remained calm and collected and didn’t let the situation overwhelm me. That was nice to hear. Things seemed to be progressing as planned. I only had about another week before Final Phase and felt good. And yet, I am a deputy no longer.