by Ernest Hancock
In a couple of hours the Phoenix Police Department will hold a press conference that will undoubtedly have every media outlet there to get the details about a deadly shootout with police that resulted in the death of a man.
Just after midnight today, helicopters, dozens of police cars and Swat teams stormed my front yard where a man died in his car. Right now a tow truck is in front of my home with the police car that was involved in the shoot out, on the flatbed while hooking up what looks like a new pearl colored Toyota Avalon 4 door sedan with a few bullet holes of its own that is parked where my kids usually park their vehicles. All of my 4 children were out with friends on a Saturday night and were warned that they should plan on waiting a while before coming home or stay with friends.
I’ll provide some details as I witnessed them but my focus will be on the lessons to be learned.
As is often the case on a Saturday night, my wife Donna and I do our best to but the finishing touches on our day and relax in the living room with a movie or two while we make sure our semi-grown children are accounted for and safe throughout the evening.
We live in what is considered a safe area of north central Phoenix that consists of small 3 bedroom 2 bath homes that are desired by many that hate long commutes to work in Phoenix. In this area the police have a presence resembling the fire department (they are only around when called…. Just the way I prefer).
Donna was sleeping on the couch and I was reacquainting myself with one of my sons Rubiks Cubes that a friend gave him for Christmas. The movie “Blade II” was on the TV and this movie has lots of gunfire. But even with the volume I like my action movies at (loud) I was able to hear rapid gunfire close by. On the other side of my back yard is an alley shared by neighbors that have their home on a busier street. So it was about 40 meters from my back door that a car that was under helicopter surveillance for the past 10 plus miles was pulled over by more than one Police car. I was told by the officer that before he even got out of his car the driver of the Avalon got out and started firing at his car. He drew his sidearm and you can see 5 closely grouped holes coming out of the center of the windshield about where you’d expect the right shoulder of the officer would be. At first I thought that the holes were going the other way and that the dead shooter had some real skill. But his rounds were spread across the front of the car in the hood and the fender towards the officer. We’ll know more later but I think that the officer hit the man. He then got into his car and fled around the block and stopped right in front of my home across the street.
It took only seconds for me to realize what was going on. Helicopter lights were already on the vehicle and officers were twice the distance behind and ahead of the car that I was to the side looking at the driver slid down low in the driver’s seat.
First things first,… bolt the front door and grab your readily available home defense weapon (I choose to share more than most might feel comfortable with. Remember, No Fear). My first choice was the bedside SKS 7.62 x 39 with 20 round capacity and a pistol griped foldable stock. I took a position at my front picture window where I had the protection of my front block patio wall and the block wall of my house. I had what was likely the best view of the entire situation with my favorite firearm for just this type of situation. Within 10 seconds of me seeing the Avalon stopped in front with spot lights on it I had my firearm and quickly scanned my front patio to make sure no one was hiding there. I took a position I felt comfortable with and waited. My first thought was to protect my home from becoming a haven for a desperate criminal that just shot at a cop. The option of going out the back into the alley to just run away wasn’t an option since I had no idea how many people were involved, if they already exited the vehicle, were in my back yard, alley or if a cop would have shot anything that moved in the area. My wife Donna woke up immediately with my bolting the front door. She saw what was going on outside through the blinds and hit the floor. Without my having to say a thing she got her .38 Special that she caries with her (she’s an unwilling victim as a real estate agent that is always meeting new people in strange and vacant places). She tries to quiet our two small dogs by putting them in one of the bedrooms. I corrected her by telling her it was time for them to earn their keep. I needed them to help alert me if anyone was trying to get into the house at any of the many windows and doors. I asked that she now get my sidearm. I strapped on while she called all of the children to tell them that they should stay away and that we would stay in touch. My 20 year old son had just gotten a new 12 gauge shotgun for his birthday from his 18 year old brother a couple of months ago and he offered its use. But I knew that he had decided to leave it unloaded in his room with the shells located,…. Somewhere. Today he decided to keep it loaded and he just left with a friend to go to the shooting range to become familiar with his gun and to evaluate different ammunition.
Once set and stable I asked my wife to bring me the video camera my son had just bought my wife and I for Christmas. Setting this up would allow me to see what was going on with a close up on the car and I would be able to look at the screen instead of being at the window. I then heard more gunfire. A little later I think I might have heard another round go off. I told my wife that I thought I saw the driver commit suicide. But I still didn’t know how many were, or had been, in the car. It was then that the dogs started barking at something in the back yard. Our back door was being pounded on but I couldn’t make out what was being said. By now the front was covered by the arriving police cars that were demanding over loud speakers that the driver put his hands on the steering wheel etc. I went to the rear of the house where I could hear a man yelling to open the door for the police. I demanded that they show a badge through the doggie door before I would open the door. At first I heard one of 6-8 men saying that they didn’t have to do that immediately followed by a smarter officer that said I could see his uniform while he moved to the window (OK, good enough,… not perfect but good enough. Here in Arizona it is often reported how much damage is done by people claiming to be police in just these sorts of situations). I opened the door so they could clearly see me. They wanted us to evacuate to the alley. We were allowed to get shoes and jackets but they asked/told us to leave our firearms. After they abandoned my wife and I in the alley where it curved back to where the officers were located behind the stopped car, another officer saw us standing in the alley and started yelling at us to go back to our home etc. It was then that I made the comment that I felt safer having at least my sidearm in my holster since I didn’t get one of the gazillion officers to take charge of my personal and up close safety (I was nice). Another officer corrected him and they took us through a neighbor’s fence and gate to the larger street right to where the shootout began. That’s when I got to inspect the officer’s car close up.
The home owner behind our home and directly in front of where the initial shootout started invited us in to wait out the siege. Throughout this time I heard what sounded like concussion grenades but were likely some sort of pepper gas charge that they inserted through the open sunroof of the car. Officers had used my step ladder and a telescoping ladder to get on my roof where it would be easy to get one in the car. I suspect that they did something like this from our going out to the alley to check on things and getting a dose of irritated eyes and sneezing. The part of the alley that connected to our street showed the officers more relaxed and walking across the street without the bullet proof shields they were using earlier so I went to retrieve my sidearm and check on the dogs my wife put in the bedrooms while getting our jackets. I went back to where Donna and the neighbor were. That’s when we felt the effect of some chemical. The woman was very scared and had a near break-in just a few days before while home from work sick. Fortunately a neighbor saw the man trying to get in and called the police that scared him off. She is about 50 and living alone. She asked about getting a gun and rationalized that she would be better off with one than without. So I offered to help her when she was ready.
So the block is taped off from traffic and two of my children came home after the all clear text message from us but they had to be escorted to our home from the boundaries by officers that chastised them for being out so late and asking all sorts of questions. We made sure that officers knew they were coming but that didn’t stop the interrogations at 3am. My 17 year old daughter could have been allowed to stay with her 19 year old boyfriend all night so as to avoid violating the government's curfew... NOT! So she had to point out to the officer that she wasn't allowed to brave the gunfire to get home at the time he thought appropriate (lots of good lessons for the kids :) My 20 year old son wouldn’t give them any more information other than “I was just chill’n” repetitively (Okayyy, but don’t be surprised that doing that at another time might result in a jack-boot on your throat in the middle of the road).
We offered coffee to the officer assigned to guard the crime scene in front of our home and went to bed. This morning produced various departments doing their thing and removal of the body that was followed by a “cleaner” with some chemicals and scrubbing of the asphalt to help remove some blood that pooled on the street for some reason.
With all of that background now we can get to the point that really prompted me to take the time to write this article.
The press conference will describe the details of the event but the media will spread the ‘required fear’. TV cameras from several local stations found their way to my front yard getting footage of the car before and during the towing of the vehicle while getting comments from neighbors. Up and dressed I went out to snap some photos of the car close up before it was towed. I did see an investigator looking at a scoped bolt action rifle from the car,... interesting.
TV reporters and cameramen were very interested in getting me on camera with my firsthand account of the horror etc. I stated that anything I would be willing to have aired wouldn’t be allowed by their producers so it wasn’t worth the effort for either of us. The cameramen were cool with this but a young ABC 15 reporter was more cleaver. She would start the conversation a little later after the others left with, “I would have been terrified, what were you thinking?” the cameraman was ready to spin in on me but a side glance from me made it clear it wasn’t going to happen. The reporter told me then that a fax was sent to the news media by the Phoenix police press office and that at 2pm there would be a press conference (later I will add links to more information about what happened as reported in the media) but she would like to ask me questions on camera. With cameras off, this is how the conversation went.
I introduced myself as a resent candidate for office as a Libertarian (I got the impression she remembered my signs :) . I made it clear that I would be happy to explain what happened but that it wasn’t what she was looking for. I told her what happened and that my family’s preparation for such events not only reduced the “Fear Factor” but made our neighborhood safer. In fact, one of my main concerns was the well being of my elderly neighbors across from my home. I explained that in an extreme case where a law enforcement officer’s life was in danger, exactly like what happened to start this thing off, my help might have been greatly appreciated. But since none of this would ever make it in the news segment it would be a waste of time talking to me any further. She understood but needed to share her mortal fear of guns etc. I ended the conversation pleasantly and went inside to write this article.
What this experience reminded me of was a recent interview with a retiring (going to work as a lobbyist) reporter with the Arizona Republic that told the story of how he was recruited from a college newspaper for writing about the need for government to protect the helpless sheep etc.
I’ll keep you guys updated on this story as I learn more or more is reported that I’ll link to in this article.
Just another day in the life of… :)
Publisher – FreedomsPhoenix
I just saw the local CBS news (KPHO TV5) at 5pm. The lead story was the shooting. They got my next door neighbor to provide a few words. At the end of his comments about what he saw the final question of course was, "Scary situation, huh?" I could see Steve's willingness to please so this former NFL lineman that is about 260 and 6'4" weakly agreed. This is like a standard formula that is constantly followed. Do I really need to watch all of the newscasts? I almost never do anyway because of just this type of useless editorializing of such events in an effort to promote the "Fear Factor".