I had been a sergeant for about a year working the February graveyard shift. Sunday night at 2300 hours was how my week began—and was generally quiet. I had five officers assigned to my shift and just finished briefing when my dispatcher told me we had a possible kidnapping victim being held hostage at a trailer park.
Oh well, so much for my quiet night. Several officers were already responding so I had to gather my gear, pack my sergeant’s car and then drive to the scene—about two miles away.
Meanwhile, several other officers had just arrived at the location.
I arrived a few minutes later and approached with my lights off and met Officer Doggett at the front of the location—a trailer park.
Officer Doggett spoke to a neighbor who told him a woman in her twenties was being held inside a nearby mobile home against her will by a man in his thirties brandishing a knife. Officers Sanders and Proctor managed to move close to the trailer to maintain a vigil on it as no one had seen the victim or suspect yet.
Officer Doggett and I then walked to the trailer and found it to be very dark. The only illumination was from the reflective lights inside other trailers and the moon. As we were crouched down outside the trailer, we could clearly hear and see the man tell the woman he was not letting her go and frequently threatened her with a 12 inch knife clearly visible in his right hand.
I had been on many similar domestic violence calls in the past and determined this was likely going to be a long, drawn-out scenario requiring expertise from a specialized team.
In the meantime, I gathered my officers to develop a contingency plan in the event the suspect exited the trailer. I told them if the suspect came out, he was not to be allowed to return inside.
In those days, the only offensive/defensive tools available to us were our PR-24 batons, mace and our handguns. (Tasers, pepper spray or bean-bag guns had not been introduced to law enforcement yet.)
I also had my officers find some trash cans in the trailer park to use as a mobile barricade in the event the suspect came out.
I directed my officers to remain on the front and rear sides of the trailer out of sight and keep a trash can with them. The plan was just to wait for SWAT to arrive and relinquish the scene to them. I told my officers in the event the suspect came out, use the cans as a barricade, mace him and use any reasonable force needed to take him into custody.
As an added measure of safety, I had the paramedics stage a few blocks from the scene in the event they were needed.
And now, the waiting game began.
I had been on countless calls in the past having to play out the waiting scenario. This was no different. I fully expected this incident to drag on for hours when suddenly, after about 5 minutes; I heard Officer Doggett over the radio state, “He’s coming out.”
I had taken cover about 30 feet away behind another trailer and immediately ran toward the trailer just in time to see my officers with trash cans causing them to bounce off the suspect who was now surrounded by four officers. I could see several PR-24’s swaying in the air above this man, but because it was so dark I couldn’t see the suspect. The four officers were now wrestling on the ground with the suspect where I got a brief glimmer of a large knife on the ground a few feet away. I was relieved at that point as I knew the suspect was not armed.
I was so proud of my men. They performed like a precision drill team. They definitely had the upper hand and looked like they were successfully taking him into custody.
“Excellent, excellent,” I yelled to my men.
Suddenly I heard a loud “bang,” come from the midst of my officers. I knew it was definitely a gunshot.
Officer Benson suddenly stood and backed away from the group. Appearing unsteady, he turned to his right about a quarter turn and then made another quarter turn facing me. With raised eyebrows, Officer Benson looked me directly in my eyes and said in a monotone voice, “I’ve been shot.” He then collapsed to the ground on his back.
“7-Sam, roll the paramedics, we have an officer shot.”
I knelt on the ground to his right side and saw him point to his right thigh where there was a small tear with oozing blood. I instantly placed my hand over the wound.
After the other officers managed to handcuff the suspect, they looked for a gun but none was found.
It was then that I noticed that the holster on Officer Benson’s Sam Browne belt had been twisted forward where the bottom of the holster was pointing towards his leg wound. Officer Benson told me he might have been shot with his own weapon. But how?
As soon as the paramedics arrived, I removed Officer Benson’s Sam Browne uniform belt. I then took his .45 Colt Gold Cup automatic from his holster and found an expended shell stove-piped by the ejector. I later learned our departmental issued .45 auto’s, which had been installed with an after-market grip safety, had malfunctioned and inadvertently discharged in the holster.
Officer Benson was taken to a local hospital and released a few days later. Fortunately the .45 caliber ball round penetrated only soft tissue and went through the entire upper thigh causing no long-term damage.
But here’s the most interesting part of this whole ordeal. A few hours later, after the suspect was transported to the station, he started to complain that his foot was sore. It turned out that the round that pierced Officer Benson’s leg, also struck the suspect in the knee, traveled down his leg and lodged in his foot. Isn’t justice interesting! He was later transported to county hospital and treated by doctors at the county jail ward.
He was later convicted of kidnapping and false imprisonment.
P.S. At the time of his arrest, he was employed as a janitor with our P.D.