Updated: Jul 4, 2019
Greetings friends. I’m filled with emotion this morning after reading a headline news story about a Las Vegas Metro Police officer who has been fired after “freezing with fear” while responding to the Steven Paddock Active Shooter incident in Las Vegas.
This incident reminded me of a similar incident that happened in Florida on Valentine’s Day 2018. In that shooting, a school resource officer, who was on the scene when the shooting began, also failed to confront and attempt to neutralize the shooter. I remember feeling similar extreme emotions after learning about that incident.
Both of these incidents involved veteran police policers, who were at the right place at the right time; and holding leadership positions. How often does that happen? It almost always happens in fictional police dramas. When it happens in real life—it’s like hitting the lottery; for the good guys!!!
As I’m writing this, I’m reminded of two additional incidents. (Both of the following incidents are based on my memory of them.) One incident is real and the other fictional. The real incident happened in Calumet City, Illinois back in the 90s. It made big news at the time.
The Calumet City Police received a call of a burglary in progress in an apartment building late at night. After the Cal City officer or officers arrived, they had some evidence that the burglary was real, and that the offender was still inside the residence with the victim.
The responding officer(s) did not confront the offender because the doors were locked and they decided to wait for the key-holder. In the meantime, the victim was inside waiting for assistance.
Calumet City is near the southside of Chicago. A Chicago PD officer happened upon the scene while the Cal City officer(s) waited for the key-holder.
Upon learning what was happening the Chicago PD officer acted immediately. He or she broke through the door and entered the apartment and confronted the offender and the offender was arrested.
The fictional event comes from the movie “Saving Private Ryan.” During a building by building search, a confrontation takes place between individual American and German soldiers. The soldiers are engaged in close-quarter, hand to hand, to the death combat.
After they run out of ammo, a German soldier grabs a knife and stabs an American soldier in his heart. Afterwards, as the Germans flee the room where the American soldier was stabbed to death, another American soldier, who was close by and heard the fighting, confronts the German exiting the building, via a narrow stairway.
The American has the “drop” on the German soldier. However, the American soldier freezes, starts to cry, and allows the German to walk past him without confronting him. This is a very emotional moment in the movie. Some might feel it’s not realistic. We know different.
Right now, the closest example I can recall from my own experience involves an incident that happened in Joliet, Illinois in the 1980s.
In the 1980s I was a young state trooper on patrol in District 05 Joliet. While working one midnight shift, I overheard a dispatch on my portable scanner from the Will County Sheriff’s Department regarding an incident at a tavern after hours in Will County.
Will County Sheriff’s Lieutenant Marilyn Dixon was checking out a bar which was open after closing hours. Lt. Dixon was talking to the bar owner, Mike Bianco, about him being open after hours. I could hear loud voices yelling in the background as Lt. Dixon was reporting the incident via her portable radio to the dispatcher.
Bianco was yelling profanities and complaining. Lt. Dixon asked the dispatcher to send units to assist her at the bar. I was close by and I decided to stop and assist.
Another Will County Deputy arrived as I arrived and we entered the tavern together. As we entered I saw Lt. Dixon, a tall African American woman, standing in the rear of the bar, approximately 30 feet away from us—near the entrance. Lt. Dixon was on the public side of the bar, and Bianco was on the bartender’s side of the bar. Next to Bianco a young woman was wiping off the bar counter top.
Bianco continued yelling and cursing as the barmaid continued cleaning. The barmaid was very nonchalant, and acted as though she was used to Bianco’s antics.
Next, as the backup Deputy and I began walking toward Lt. Dixon, Bianco reached under the bar counter top and retrieved a hand gun and pointed it directly at Lt. Dixon, across the counter top. Bianco said something like, “I’m gonna blow you cops away for always fucking with me!”
At that point I drew my handgun and took up a cover position near a cigarette machine. The other deputy retreated and returned with his shotgun. No one discharged their weapons.
I didn’t because it was dark and I didn’t have a clear target. Also, Lt. Dixon was too close to Bianco, and the barmaid was standing near them, as well.
Additional law enforcement personnel arrived at the scene. Eventually, after several hours of negotiation, Bianco’s attorney and Will County Senior Command agreed that Bianco would turn himself in after all the law enforcement officers left the bar.
Although not exactly like the prior three incidents, it’s the most immediate personal example from my own experience that I can recall. My point is that it is vital to act when you have an opportunity and obligation to.
Ever since I was a little boy watching movies and tv shows, I vowed that if I’m ever in a position to act in behalf of others, I would!
Of course, I was not present when these other incidents occurred. I’ll admit, it’s not possible to know what goes through a person’s mind when faced with a difficult, dangerous choice.
However, you only have one life, and maybe one opportunity to do something meaningful for others.
If you do have that chance, and you don’t confront that challenge, you’ll live with a lifetime of regret! And that may be a longtime.
Friends, “Regret” is like criticism—if you dwell on it too long, you will become distracted and depressed. The best way to avoid regret is to pursue difficult challenges, do the right thing and get out of your comfort zone.
So, if you’ve thought about what it’s like to become a detective, register for my Introduction to Investigations Workshop.