A couple of recent posts over on Officer Smith's blog reminded me of the time that I stopped a seventeen year old punk kid for speeding on my highway.
I'd approached his car and was standing just behind his door post as usual. I told him who I was and why I'd stopped him, and he was collecting his license, registration and proof of insurance as instructed. As I watched him open his center console to get the paperwork, I suddenly saw the butt of a pistol inside that console, and his hand was going right towards it. I had a second or two to decide what to do, and my phone with patent lawyer David Woycechowsky's phone number on it was way back in my cruiser, so I had to make a fast decision.
Fortunately, my training took over, so I was spared the need to reflect and contemplate probabilities. My sidearm was in my hand in an instant as I stepped sideways behind his door post (and not back into traffic) and yelled "STOP!" as loudly as I could.
I did not yell "freeze". Only Roscoe P. Coletrane yells that. No real cop ever yells "freeze". That word is too long and does not lend itself to enunciation under stress.
Fortunately for both uf us, Junior actually did stop, and he pulled his hand away from that pistol. He was literally less than four pounds away from dying right there.
With a quick sideways glance to make sure that no traffic was coming, I reached down with my free hand and yanked his door open, then reached in and grabbed him by the hair and extracted him from the car and away from that gun.
It may not have been an Academy-approved technique, but it worked.
I pulled him from the car and proned him out on the pavement, grateful that I'd at least positioned my cruiser such that there was at least a small safety zone to work in. I quickly got him cuffed then got him up and moved him to the safety of the grass for a proper search, calling for backup as I did so. In a few moments, the back-up units began arriving, so I turned the kid over to another officer and went back up to recover the gun.
Damned if it wasn't a very realistic BB gun made to resemble a Beretta Model 92. It was the same size, had the same finish, and junior had even gone the extra distance by painting it's orange muzzle cap black. at a glance, it was indistinguishable from the real thing.
I'd almost killed this kid over a toy. To say that I was pissed beyond belief doesn't begin to describe it.
Well now this had gone out over the radio, and supervisors were aware and enroute, so there was no way I could just kick the kid in the ass and send hm on his way even if I'd been so inclined--which I wasn't. We have a statute here that allows a charge for pointing or brandishing a weapon or an object similar in appearance, and even though it was a bit of a stretch since his hand never actually touched it, I reasoned that his having it in a spot where it was likely that I or someone else would see it was good enough to at least hook him up. Let the lawyers argue it later. He went to jail and his car went to car jail.
It should have ended here, or more precisely, it should have ended a few days down the road when the prosecutor quietly dismissed it after things had cooled down, but Junior's dad was a big wheel who was more upset that his son had been:
--sworn at by a police officer,
--struck by a police officer, and:
--nearly shot and killed by a police officer for no good reason.
At least that was the gist of the formal written complaint that was served on the department the very next day, along with notice of intent to sue. Dad was going to show us all now that we couldn't scare or disrespect his darling kid like that.
As it turned out, he should have quit while he was behind.
I quickly called the prosecutor and he agreed not to drop the case. I was investigated, per the complaint procedure, and I was exonerated as I'd acted in compliance with our policies and my training, save for the his claim that I'd given him a ding on the dome with my pistol, which I officially deny having administered. (I did bring the muzzle of my cocked pistol into contact with his forehead during the vehicle extraction, but I didn't beat him with it like he claimed. Not that he didn't have a good ass-whipping coming... But we just don't give those out any more.)
A couple of months later, the case wound up in court on the misdemeanor docket, but even the high-priced defense attorney that daddy dearest shelled out for couldn't negate my testimony coupled with the presentation of the pistol as evidence. Not unexpectedly, the kid didn't testify, but I had my transcript of his post-arrest interview in which he'd stated that he was carrying the pistol to "goof" people who disrespected him and that he'd painted the muzzle black "so that it would look more real." The best line that his attorney could come up with was "if you really thought it was a real gun, why didn't you shoot him?" I replied that I didn't have to because he instantly complied with my instructions. On re-direct, the prosecutor asked me if I would have shot him if he hadn't complied, and I replied: "God help me, I sure would have." When he asked why, I said that I wasn't about to die on the side of the highway because I'd second-guessed my training and guessed wrong.
Junior was convicted, and largely because I spoke prior to his sentencing and asked for it, he got ten days in jail, to be served on week-ends for five weeks. He also got 18 months' probation and a condition of the probation was that he wasn't allowed to own or possess real or toy firearms. and then the judge actually praised me for my level-headedness and told the boy and his father that they should be grateful every day that the kid didn't did in the front seat of that car because of his stupid choice to carry that toy gun. They left the court room without even making eye contact with me. And believe it or not, I was still angry over what could have and almost did happen. While I can deal with shooting some slug who had it coming, I don't appreciate being put into a position where I almost wound up killing a kid whose only real crime was being immature and overly-coddled.
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