Three police cruisers, lights flashing throwing a fantastic dance of red and blue on the Sunset Variety Store and the surrounding buildings on Main Street, in the usually quiet community of Hyde Park.
The store was in chaos. There were bags of potato chips, candy bars and beer cans strewn all over the floor. Display racks were turned over and in the corner, just by the door to the washroom, stood a young gunman. He was jittery and his head shook rapidly; it appeared that he was under the influence. He had the store’s clerk in a chokehold, with, what appeared to be a 22 caliber pistol, held to her head. She was shaking in fear, crying, begging for help and for him to let her go. Each time he just pressed the barrel of the gun harder to her temple and told her to, “Shut the fuck up… bitch!”
Deputy Felicity Steele, tall and slender with short cropped blonde hair peeking out from under her Stetson and her K-9 partner, ‘Chance’, were assigned to crowd control, to keep the ever growing group of onlookers from getting in the way. Chance was an excellent deterrent, his presence alone kept people behind the police tape. Most people seem to have an inherent fear of dogs to start with, and this fear worked in Deputy Steele’s favour. Chance was on “alert” and was trained to snarl every once in a while, which re-enforced the crowd’s fear.
Inside the store, recently promoted, Sgt. Rebecca (Becky) MacDonald stood holding her gun pointing at the gunman, as she tried to negotiate with the suspect and end the stand-off.
“Look, we have the place surrounded. You’re not going anywhere, especially not with a hostage. Give up now, and it will go a lot easier on you.” Sgt. MacDonald said.
“I want a car, gassed up and waiting outside the door, in ten minutes or this bitch gets it!”
“It’s not going to happen; we don’t ever allow anyone to get away with a hostage. It’s department policy. Let her go. It will show good faith on your part. Let’s end this now. Nobody needs to get hurt.”
“I ain’t got nuttin’ to lose, anyway. I’m a three-time loser. I go in; I go in for a long time.”
The clerk was whimpering, trying to get air, but the more agitated the gunman became, his grip increased, and she grasped at his arm and her throat as he did. She prayed she would get out alive, but slowly the edges of her vision start to go black, she felt a sickly warmth coursing through her body, and then nothing. She collapsed while she was still in the arm of the young gunman. It took him totally by surprise. He couldn’t hold her up with only the one arm. As she slumped to the floor, he lost his grip, and she fell in a heap at his feet.
Sgt. MacDonald yelled, “Drop it, drop the gun now!”
He looked down at the fallen clerk, and when he raised his head, he raised his pistol at the same time.
MacDonald saw it all happen in slow motion, the pistol coming up and pointing at her, without further thought, her training kicked in and she fired her weapon in self-defence.
He was shot three times in the chest before he could squeeze off a shot.
Sgt. MacDonald kept her gun on him while other deputies raced forward to make sure he was disarmed. She went to him and took the pistol, unloaded it, made sure it was safe and helped drag the girl away from the suspect and towards fellow deputies and EMTs waiting behind her. Checking the suspect for a pulse, an EMT confirmed what she had suspected, he didn’t find one. She checked on the girl, she was traumatised, but otherwise seemed okay, but she knew she was in good hands. MacDonald was pumped up with adrenalin. This was her first shooting.
Sheriff Seth Tyler came into the store and put his hand on her shoulder looked her in the eyes and said, “You did what you had to, he wasn’t going to give up. You got the girl safely away from him that’s what really matters.”
“I didn’t get her away from him. He did it himself. The choke hold he had on her, cut off the blood supply to her brain, and she passed out. I’m just glad he didn’t shoot her on her way down.”
“You know, we’ll have to take your gun in as evidence and you will be riding a desk for a while during the Officer Involved Shooting Inquiry. You don’t have anything to worry about, you followed procedure. I saw and heard everything, the hard part will be having to deal with what’s in your head. Don’t let it get to you. Talk to a counsellor or if that doesn’t work for you, talk to one of your fellow deputies that have been involved in a shooting, but talk to someone, don’t keep it bottled up.”
MacDonald said, “I hear you, Sheriff, I’ll be okay.”
The Sheriff nodded, but felt she would have a hard time dealing with it.
Outside, three hours later, the crowd started to thin out once the cruisers began to leave. Felicity and Chance still mingled, making sure no one got the group too excited because it was a police shooting. Becky MacDonald came up to them and said, ”Hey.”
“Hey, back at you. You did a good job tonight, Becky,” Felicity told the well-built officer, whom she knew, spent most of her free time in the gym pumping iron. Her physique made many of the male deputies look almost feeble next to her, and she had the stamina to match her strength. Chance moved over to Becky and nudged her leg, it had the appearance he was looking for some attention, but Felicity knew he sensed something was wrong with Becky’s mood. She saw the glint of moisture in her eyes as they spoke.
“Well now, who’s the good boy”? Becky asked Chance as she ruffled the scruff of his neck vigorously.
Felicity said, “We’re 10-42 when we leave here, want to grab a coffee and maybe some pie?”
“That sounds good, Angie’s?” Becky replied.
“Perfect, it’s on the way back to the office. I’ll meet you there or do you need a ride?”
“No, I’m good, just need to double check with the Sheriff and let him know I’m leaving.”
They packed up their gear, cleaned up the police tape and headed over to Angie’s Family Restaurant in Logan City.
Felicity and Chance were the first to arrive at Angie’s. They seated themselves at the back where Chance was allowed to be due to his position as a therapy dog. He crawled into his spot under the table by Felicity’s legs, and they waited patiently for Becky to show up. Half an hour passed before Becky arrived.
“I’m so sorry; I thought that you might have left, thinking I stood you up. I got held up talking to a Detective Markus Lewis from the Logan City Police Department, he’s in charge of doing the preliminary investigation into the shooting. It sounds like I’m in for a fun ride.”
They ordered their coffees and pie from Ruby Ellis, a petite young server, who was relatively new to Angie’s and still had a lot to learn about being a good server. Her biggest problem was when it was quiet; she liked to hover around the customers and try to chat with them, not realizing they often wanted to be left alone or needed some privacy.
When Ruby came back with their order, she immediately took a position across from them on a stool and tried to start a conversation. Felicity sighed and as gently as she could, informed Ruby that she and Sgt. MacDonald had some police business to discuss and could they be given some privacy.
Ruby, embarrassed, was apologetic and ran off to the other end of the restaurant and focused her attention on the only other customer in the place.
Felicity said, “I feel bad having to do that to her, but she has to learn somehow.”
“You’re right. It needed to be done. Tell me, how was the crowd outside the store handling the shooting?”
“For the most part, quite well. You had the odd instigator that tried to rally the crowd into a mob against the police, but they were shouted down by others that had more brains. Everyone could hear you try to talk him out of the situation, and when you yelled for him to drop the gun twice, and then shot. It left little doubt you gave him a fair chance to give up.”
“It’s the look in his eyes as he stared straight at me, like he didn’t believe I’d actually shot him. I can’t get the look of those eyes out of my head.”
“Fortunately, I haven’t had to fire my weapon on the job as a deputy, but when I was in Afghanistan, I did several times, it’s something that stays with you for a long time, at least if you care. You had a situation where you had little choice how things would turn out. It was always in the hands of the gunman. He was the one who decided to rob the store with a gun. He’s the one who took the clerk hostage. He had her in a choke hold, which I hear, oddly might have saved her life, due to her passing out and falling. He came up with his gun pointed at you; it was him or you. You made the only choice that made any sense. If you took just a second or two longer, it would have been you on the floor.”
“When you say it like that, it all makes sense, and I do know it was my only choice, but the picture in my head won’t go away.”
“Look, Becky I can tell you about all the right things you did, but you should seek someone professional to help you get through this. Take it from me, and my personal experience, getting past a traumatic ordeal like this needs to be dealt with appropriately, with professional help. Talking it out with your fellow deputies will help a lot, so keep the communication flowing, whatever you do, don’t get sucked into booze or self-medicating, they will just make it worse.”
“I won’t, my addiction is body building. I’ll probably just work-out more at the gym and sweat it out.” Becky said with a weak smile.
“Don’t take this too lightly. All I’m saying is, be careful it doesn’t screw your head up. Don’t forget, in this job it could happen again and if you’re unsure and hesitate, next time, it could be you or another deputy that goes down.”
“I hear what you’re saying. I’ll make sure I get some help if it continues.”
They chatted for a while longer, laughed about some funny stories around the office and then called it a night. Felicity was worried Becky wasn’t taking her warning as seriously as she should.