Friday, June 12, 2009

Is it real, or is it...

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.

31 comments:

MTBLaura said...

Wow, what a stupid judgemental error that kid made that almost cost him his life. Why people carry toy guns is beyond me because when push comes to shove, what is the ultimate plan, give the other guy an infection with multiple plastic shard wounds.

Ok, sort of unrelated question? If when you pulled up, the kid said, I have a cc permit and I have a gun in my console and that is where my paperwork is, what do you do? Does that then make it ok for him to get his license/regi or do you ask him to get out of the car so you can get the paperwork?

I know that you have to be on alert for all instances, so I am curious to know what then the driver is safest doing without getting bopped in the head (or thinking they did ;-)) or arrested in a similar instance where the gun is both real but, legal.

Richard said...

So you pulled over someone who was not guilty of anything. You saw a toy which you assumed to be a gun, you then pulled a gun on an innocent person. You admit to nearly killing an innocent person, and you admit to the possibility that you struck this innocent person with a gun. Then you charged him with a crime, even though you admit he had done nothing.

It sounds to me my friend that first, your judgment is out of whack, and second it strikes me that you don't seem to know anything about the real history and philosophy behind your profession.

I'm hesitant to suggest that attacking an innocent person and filing charges that even you agree are BS is in itself a crime.

Perhaps if you are concerned with justice and believe that crime should be punished you would go ahead and do a little research, and file charges against yourself.

Krylen said...

Good Job :)

also, typo, second to last paragraph:
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.

did -> die

Well Seasoned Fool said...

Good for you! That parent and his child should be thanking you. My oldest is autistic. Someone induced him to rob a bar. His weapon? A tree branch not more than a twig. Two policeman responded and he screamed and charged them. They didn't mess around in subduing him; he got scuffed up.

When I arrived at the station, two very uncomfortable officers explained the situation. They were worried I would go off because of his injuries. I was profoundly grateful they didn't shoot him. It wasn't until they had him in cuffs that they realized what they were dealing with. Two gutsy officers and I'm still grateful they didn't take the easy way out.

David Woycechowsky said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alecs Stan said...

I think you're being a little bit too hard on the kid. I guess the kid will surely become more self conscious of his decisions, and more aware of his environment, he has surely lost his innocence, but i think innocence is a precious thing to have around.

You are trained to protect it, i don't know for sure but i think you have sworn that. You are trained to be hard so that not everybody needs to be hard. Showing mercy and a higher understanding, where it is deserved is maybe a greater act than showing strength and power in face of evil intentions. Greater good can come from this.

Just my opinion. We can argue, of course if you feel like.

evilsychomonkey said...

Hopefully he learned his lesson, but with your actions due to his dumbass father I doubt it had the impact you intended. I'm happy for you that you don't have something to weigh on your conscience. He got off easy with the orange tip being painted. I know that in certain states that would be treated as a concealed weapon without license.

Alex said...

So, if I get stopped and I happen to have an airsoft or other BB gun in the car, what's the intelligent way to proceed?

Officer Krupke said...

Alex, the intelligent way to proceed would be to not have the gun in a place where it's accessible by the driver or the passengers. Put it in the trunk, or keep it locked in a case. Second, tell the officer immediately that you have it and where it is. Don't put your hand near it. Police aren't trained to try to figure out if a gun is real or not. Guns are always assumed to be real, functional and loaded, and toy guns can get you killed as easily as a real one can if the police see it. The officer won't know that you didn't just pull a stick-up or a drive-by.

Officer Krupke said...

And Richard...

First of all, I pulled the kid over for speeding. reading is fundamental. Go back and look.

Second of all, I saw a gun. Period. Real or toy, it's not our job to ask which. We assume that it's real and loaded.

And finally, there is a law in this state that specifically makes carrying or displaying things that look like weapons--even toys. I merely referred the case to the prosecutor according to state law. The prosecutor made the decision to charge and prosecute he read the law and heard the facts, and the judge made the decision to convict after he read the law and heard the facts. The kid's conduct was clearly in violation of the law, and even his own attorney never argued that it was not.

So Richard, I'm sorry that you are upset because your fellow burger-flipper caught a conviction, but maybe next time he won't drive around with a toy that he deliberately modified to look more like a deadly weapon, and maybe after reading this, you'll take that airsoft toy out of your car and put it back down in your bedroom in your mom's basement where it belongs.

Officer Krupke said...

Laura,

With valid CCW holders, I don't have a problem. They tell me that they have a CCW (and I already know, because it comes up when I run their license plate prior to my approaching them) and then we take it slow and easy while they get their paperwork without touching their firearm. People who have CCWs are not generally people that I view as imminent threats. But when I see a weapon that someone neglected to tell me about beforehand like the law requires...well that's a whole different kettle of fish.

b0bca7 said...

IF you pulled me over, you would not know I had a CCW - I do not own a car, I rent one maybe once a year. The pistol, that I own.

In my state, there is no gun+car database anyway.

I think you did not answer that question.

Jeff said...

I have a question -- you said "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. " As you are sworn to uphold the law, and you knew this was not a violation of the law, why did you charge him?

ed said...

your professionalism make me proud you're out there protecting our families, our homes and our quality of life.

Thank you

Officer Krupke said...

bobca7,

Our state's CCW law requires you to notify the police immediately if you have a weapon in the car. If you do as most visitors to our state do and obey that law, it won't be an issue.

If you don't mention it and I should happen to find out that you do have one, you'll probably get cited for that. When you're in our state, you're responsible for knowing and following our laws.

I hope that answers your question. If not, feel free to ask it again.

Officer Krupke said...

Jeff,

I hooked him up because what he did would have been against the law had that been a real weapon, and because he had modified the gun to look more real by painting the orange tip on it black, suggesting that he was actually using it to intimidate people--something that he actually admitted to later. And I made the decision after talking to my peers on the scene and my supervisor who came out. The consensus was to take him in and run it by the prosecutor. If the prosecutor later decided to dismiss it, fine. But in this case, the kid's conduct was in violation of the law against brandishing faux guns because he'd placed it where a reasonable person might see it and be alarmed.

I don't know what world that some of the commenters here live in (I suspect it's quiet suburbs with their parents)but in this area, we have a lot of gang-bangers and other thugs who actually do keep weapons accessible in their cars just so that they can quickly grab them to shoot people. I've found numerous real guns in car center consoles right where that one was and this one was indistinguishable from any of those.

If you want to pretend that your toy gun is real, you need to understand that other people might believe that it's real and react accordingly.

Mike said...

I have a CFP. Before I travel out of state, I am very careful to review the concealed carry laws where I'm going. Some states require that you inform an officer that you're carrying when you're stopped, and some don't.

I haven't been stopped by the police while carrying a pistol, but I know exactly what I will do when that happens, regardless of whether I'm required to disclose the presence of the pistol. Other than opening the window and turning on the interior lights if it's dark out, my hands will stay on the wheel motionless. When the officer approaches, the first words out of my mouth will be: "Good day, officer. I have a CFP and I'm carrying a pistol. What would you like me to do?"

If I don't do that, I'll be very, very fortunate if all I get for it is a bonk on the head and a pair of handcuffs to wear.

Officer Krupke said...

Mike,

If you do like you planned, it will be a non-issue. You'll get your ticket--or a warning, depending on what I stopped you for--and you'll be on your way. I have no problem at all with law-abiding people carrying guns. In fact, I encourage it.

Freezing Drizzle said...

Apparently it is "Richard" whose "judgment is out of whack." Does he realize how authentic and detailed these current "toy guns" are? Some even have blowback features in which the slide is thrown back by the compressed air, and a new round of ammunition is chambered when the slide goes forward. The sound of this action is even authentic. That's why an orange plastic extension is required by law on these weapons. Naturally, numb nuts painted over the orange with black. Richard, it's time to set aside the video games and move out of your mother's house.

MotorCop said...

I'm guessing Richard is the type who also think we can shoot the gun out of the bad guy's hands...or maybe a knee shot. Gonna go out on a limb and guess 'ol Richard isn't a cop. It's all about going home, dude.

Krupke...you're not the only one to deal with this little issue, either.

http://tinyurl.com/mh6epu

Texas Ghostrider said...

These type of incidents are becoming all to common. These "toy" guns look to real, working slides, extra clips. then the "real" guns are now painted all different colors. I treat and teach all of my rookies that anything that remotely resembles a working firearm will be treated as such. I have been in the same type of stiulation. We received intel of a possible gang fight with at least 1 gun involved. We respond as undercover units to the location. A 15 year old pulls out a toy gun from his waist band racks the slide as me and my partner drawl down on him. He has no idea how close to death he was the split second before he dropped it. I still cringe on the perfect replica of a beretta. Bless all of us for we shall need it!

Officer Krupke said...

It gets worse these days. There have actually been reports of gang members painting the tips of real guns orange, either to allow them to pass them off as toys, or in order to make police officers hesitate for a few seconds when they see one of these things pointed at them.

Real or not, if it looks anything like a gun and it's held or carried like a gun, it has to be treated like the deadly weapon that it represents.

Alex said...

Here are some photos of real guns that look like toys:
http://www.jimsgunsupply.com/DuraCoat/color.html

With real guns that look like toys and toy guns that look real, you can't take any chances.

Stay safe out there.

MTBLaura said...

It gets worse these days. There have actually been reports of gang members painting the tips of real guns orange, either to allow them to pass them off as toys, or in order to make police officers hesitate for a few seconds when they see one of these things pointed at them.

Holy Cow!!! That's horrific. I can understand the police mentality even more so about these scenarios. If I had to deal with that kind of deception, there would be no toys in my mind no matter who had it. You obviously can take nothing forgranted. The negative comments here about whether it was "real" are irrelevant and stupid.

In fact, I think that would make me feel that if someone even pointed a gun finger mime at me, I'd be on red alert anyway. :-)

bcmc25 said...

For those of you who watch too much television, until you have walked in our shoes,boots or motor boots it is better to keep your mouth and be thought a fool then to open your mouth and remove all dought. That child's choice almost got him killed there and then. But what is even worse is the lack of the childs father to take responsibility for his child. Have been there and almost done that.

jen91 said...

Good job. Children should be taught to respect guns and not use them as toys.

The Dispatcher and Her Officer said...

Thank you for being safe and reacting so quickly to keep the rest of the public safe!

You did an excellent job!
-Dispatcher

Capt. Schmoe said...

Dude,
I mean officer. I have two teenage sons that went through the airsoft thing. I walk up the hallway into the den and notice what appears to be a Glock 23 sitting on my son's desk. As I have a few Glocks, all I can think about is "did I leave the safe open"? and "I am gonna whup that boys ass"!
It turns out, the Glock is an airsoft pistol that he uses to wage war with his friends.
I advised him not to play with it anywhere that he could be seen. He is a good kid, but kids are, by nature, not always the best decision makers. I am glad he has moved on to a job and surfing!!

One Time said...

@Richard You are the walking definition of a fucking moron.

Mr. Police Man said...

I almost shot an RP who took out a gun to help search a building. I told him, that is what the cops are for.

TheBronze said...

I love how you worked the David Woycechowsky reference into this story!

I think Richard actually is David Woycechowsky. It sounds just like something he'd say.