Looking back, it was one of the most stressful times in my life. I was preparing for a rigorous sergeant’s exam that was to take place over three weeks. My wife was out of town and I was at home with my two year old son. The following morning I had the last hurdle of the evaluation process; that being an oral interview with the sheriff and chief deputy. The interview was to take place at 10:30 and I was in bed by 9:30 planning on getting a solid 8 hours before morning broke.
An hour later my phone began buzzing. I couldn’t believe the timing of it all. The message was a request to assist another SWAT team on a barricaded suspect who had just shot his girlfriend in the chest. My mind scrambled as to who I could call at this time of night to come and stay at my house while my son slept. There was only one guy I knew who kept the same late night hours I did and fortunately he was able to come over. I grabbed my gear, stepped into the December night, and began driving to our office to link up with the other team members.
More information began to trickle in. The incident began when the suspect drove to an extremely rural area where his ex lived. He parked away from the house, walked in on foot, broke into the house and shot her in the chest. She feigned dead but texted a friend to call 911. As events unraveled, a hostage rescue attempt was made in which the woman was rescued from the home and flown to a hospital. She would survive the horrific nightmare. During the rescue a standoff occurred between the suspect and the SWAT team. When we arrived the suspect was laying on a couch in the living room with a gun to his head while the team was behind bunkers in the hallway, staring right at him.
Our team came in and provided needed relief. I, along with two other team members, took up a perimeter on the outside of the house should the suspect try and escape. What took place over the next 90 minutes were negotiations between law enforcement and the suspect to put down the gun and be taken into custody. I received limited updates over the radio as to what was occurring and wondered how long this would drag on for.
Then it happened. I heard a single shot from inside the house and heard a bullet tumble through the trees just to the left of my position. I didn’t know if the shot was from the suspect or a team member. Then the news came across my mic: “One down. Self inflicted gunshot wound.” That was it. We packed up our gear and left as investigators came in to piece together the rest of the puzzle.
There was nothing about the way this man had decided to live in the last 90 minutes of his life that led me to think he loved Jesus. The shot that I had heard caused his heart to stop beating and catapulted his soul in front of the King who had given him life. The reality of it all was something that lingers in my mind.
After packing up, driving back to our jurisdiction, unpacking our gear and driving home I crawled into bed at 4:30AM. My alarm mercilessly sounded at 7:00AM. The coffee was made strong that morning. At 10:30AM I was sitting on a chair in the hallway of our sheriff’s office as the chief deputy came out the door and said, “Are you ready?”