Stories From The Force: The Dreaded Sound of "Click" - ITS Tactical

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Stories From The Force: The Dreaded Sound of “Click”

By James Engel

Disclaimer: All names have been changed as to protect the identity of those involved.

Sounds. There are many each of us have come to learn and recognize. The sound of a door opening. The sound of a shotgun racking a round in the chamber. The sounds of commands issued out between members of a firing team. The sound of a Police radio, which we refer to as radio ear.

StoriesFromTheForce

Each bears different weight upon the listener. Yet, one sound can be heard clear, no matter the conditions. The hollow, chill sending, dreaded sound of a “Click.” No sound has the effect on a seasoned Military or Law Enforcement veteran, as the sound of a firing pin falling on an empty chamber.

Patrol

0645 hrs. Normal weekday morning. Fresh cup of coffee sitting in my center console. iPod playing through an AM/FM converter sitting on my patrol bag. I was on patrol in my unit as I was every morning. Uniform still smelled of starch from the night before. I was making my rounds through my assigned area and waiting for 0700 hrs. when the local diner opened for breakfast.

I was busily milling over the day’s task ahead, checking emails and making sure to mark event times in my calendar so the Chief didn’t use the speed dial with my number on it. The radio squawked. “Headquarters to LP7, 10-34 103D.” It was my radio number, but a domestic? This early? Odd. I answered with the standard “LP7, 10-71”, meaning proceed with traffic.

The call came out as a domestic disturbance in a residence involving a husband and wife. The wife had called and stated the husband was drunk and was breaking every object in the residence. She had made several attempts to calm him, yet he refused to calm down. The wife reported she had exited the residence and left the husband alone inside. “Drunk at 0645 hrs. Must be nice,” I thought to myself.

Then it struck me. That was John’s house. I know John. I see John every morning. He works across from my office. This can’t be right. I double checked the numerical and was confirmed. It was John and his wife Sally. At this point I was on the main highway and approaching the street. A local Sheriff’s Office Deputy, Lt. Andrews, was on his way to work and heard the call. We met up at the top of the street and after a brief pre-plan, proceeded to our objective.

A note quick on Lt. Andrews. Lt. Andrews is the Lt. Commander of the patrol division of the Sheriff’s Office. He has more than 20 years as a LEO along with being former K-9, SWAT, etc. Basically, he knows his stuff.

On Station

As we approached the residence, we were met by the wife Sally in the middle of the street waving her arms to stop us. We staged our units and ushered her to cover and preformed a quick interview to establish what was going on. We were told John came home drunk and began trashing the house. TV’s, mirrors, glasses, didn’t matter. If it broke, he broke it.

We left Sally by the units and proceeded towards the house. The entrance was a side door in the car port with an SUV parked inside. Plenty of room to walk. Lt. Andrews and I stacked up as I opened the side door. John was standing in a pile of broken glass, almost like he was expecting me. I asked him to step outside and without any issue, he complied. Once outside I started my normal investigation and found John to be very compliant.

He knew he was drunk and he knew he was pissed. When I asked him why he was so upset, he stopped. I asked him what the argument was about and he stepped back. I proceeded with my questioning. “John. It’s Engel, you know me bro. Just let me know what’s wrong.” Another step back, this time towards the SUV door. “John, relax brother. I just want to figure this out so I can help.” John opens the SUV driver door and dives into the SUV. “JOHN! EXIT THE VEHICLE!” I demanded. The first level of retention on my holster snapping open. He complies, right along with an object in his right hand. I zero in on the object and realized it was just a lighter. I breathe. A shooting was not what I wanted. John raised the lighter up to his head and  CLICK!

“*^%&^%#&& GUN!” I somehow order out. As if by magic, a Glock 19 appeared in my hands, front sight zeroed in. Slack. Sight. Squeeze. “DROP THE WEAPON!” I demand. “DO IT! DO IT NOW!” I could hear Sally screaming behind me and I knew Lt. Andrews was still there. Something just didn’t feel right. John realized his weapon was empty and lowered it to waist level. “John, Drop the weapon!” I demanded again.

Something still felt wrong. I watched as the weapon lowered past his waist. White. Wait. White? Why am I seeing just white? It’s my notepad! Still in my off hand somehow wrapped around my weapon. Good job Engel. I let it fall to the ground. John then does the one thing I was praying he wouldn’t. Up until now I knew the weapon was empty. Then he decided to rack the weapon. I drew my breath in and called out one last order to drop the weapon with my breath finishing on the midpoint. Sight alignment. Sight picture. Slack. Front Sight. Squeeze. John dropped the weapon and kicked it away. The next few seconds would have made a Honey Badger proud. There is a saying with my old patrol buddies. The Gorilla Stomp. That, is exactly what happened. John was hit by 210 lbs. of adrenaline fueled, pissed-off gorilla and stomped. Er, taken into custody and transported. Gently.

Debrief

Regardless of how the suspect was taken in, or how his broken wrist ensued, I’m thankful no one was introduced to St. Peter. Still, the lessons learned will never leave me. After watching the video of my dash camera, the entire suspect contact took place in less than five minutes. From opening the residence door, to suspect in custody. When John grabbed the weapon and attempted to fire it the first time, it took maybe two seconds. In the next second he had racked a round into the chamber. Half a second later I was zeroing in a t-zone shot. Within three to four seconds, a person I knew went from talking to suicide. We had zero reaction time.

Throughout the entire incident, both myself and Lt. Andrews had tactics planned. Our units were staged correctly. Contact and cover was used. The tactical “L” was employed upon suspect contact. Even verbal commands were textbook. Yet I made mistakes, the most obvious being attempting to grip a firearm with a notepad in my offhand. Why? Because I never trained with it. I train with empty hands from the “interview stance.” Meaning my hands are waist level. Never while taking down information. So when I went to present with a notepad; it followed.

Second. I never moved. I called out commands. Presented my weapon; notepad included. Yet I never once stepped out of the line of fire. And I’m a firearms instructor! Why? Again, habit. I have to shoot the qualification course so often; in which there are no steps to the side, only the rear. I preformed exactly as I trained. Yes, I’ve preached and heard this more times than I can count, however, I preformed what I practiced most. Not what I attempted to correct.

Third. I let the incident get to me. I will be man enough to admit it. I had a hard time with this incident afterwards. For one reason and this reason alone, I knew the guy. I saw him every day for the last five years. I still do to be honest. He still lives in my area. It hit me harder than if it were some out of nowhere crackhead. If this guy can pull a gun on me, anyone can, right? Then the paranoia got to me and messed me up pretty good. Thankfully, I have some God sent friends in this line of work that saw the impact and took measures to adjust me. I’m not talking hospitalization or meds. Just a six pack and a deck of cards on a Tuesday night.

Lessons Learned

  1. Training is great, but only if it matches the conditions. Train as if you aren’t expecting to draw your weapon. Not at the ready watching the target.
  2. You WILL react as you train. Not as you correct. Meaning, if you do an action wrong five times and correct it once, guess what. You’re going to do it wrong under stress. Not “I just ran five miles” stress. I mean %$^@&% GUN! Stress. When your brain shuts down, which it will.
  3. No one is bulletproof. Physically or mentally. My wife caught a bit of hell afterwards from this and thank God she’s more stubborn than I am. Your family and friends will notice. After a critical incident, some people just need to talk. Others need help. It’s nice to be the badass, just remember those we leave in our pride’s wake.
  4. And to the person who’s  inevitably  going to ask why I didn’t pull the bang switch? Read On Killing by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman (Ret).  

Editor-in-Chief’s Note:  Please join us in welcoming James Engel as a guest contributor on ITS Tactical. James has been in Law Enforcement for over six years, where he’s obtained his current Firearms Instructor position and the head instructor for his current department. Prior to Law Enforcement, he was enlisted in the U. S. Army Reserve and pulled two years active duty while assigned to the 464th Transportation Detachment out of Fort Story, VA. Besides Law Enforcement, he owns Ares Weapon Training teaching concealed carry weapons courses in south Louisiana.

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