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LEO Near Miss: Averted ambush during bizarre welfare check

Officers have no idea what they will find when they respond to a call from a man asking that an officer be sent to shoot and kill him

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The image shows the layout of the residence.


Law Enforcement Officer (LEO) Near Miss is a voluntary, non-disciplinary officer safety initiative that allows law enforcement personnel to read about and anonymously share stories of close calls or “near misses,” which provide lessons learned that can protect fellow officers in similar situations.

Event summary

During third shift, our dispatch center received a 911 call from an unknown male subject asking that an officer be sent to shoot and kill him. When asked for an address and more information, the subject repeatedly demanded the request in an agitated and more expletive manner. A final request for more information and location resulted in him screaming, “I’m coming to get you!” and hanging up. No address or further information was ever obtained.

The 911 cell phone call was geolocated to a residence in the county with no other houses close by. The only two available sheriff units, myself and a shift supervisor, went to the residence. This is usually the time of night when my supervisor would be heading home, and I cover the county by myself, but he had not left yet. An additional fortune, State Police had four available troopers at the nearby post, who responded as well. This was not the usual manpower for this time of night.

The cell phone app Active911 was used to get a look at the residence and surrounding property before arrival. The house was situated at the end of a long gravel driveway (about 300 yards) that makes a 90-degree turn to the right after passing between a large barn and 2 detached sheds, with almost no cover upon approach from the roadway. The barn and sheds were a choke point at that part of the driveway.

My cruiser was equipped with an LED light bar that can illuminate the entire front bar with blinding white scene lighting. The decision was made to utilize those scene lights, along with alley lights and spotlights, with me as the lead vehicle.

My sergeant and I communicated areas of responsibility upon approach. We quickly drove up the driveway toward the outbuildings and then slowed to observe for movement with spotlights before quickly moving past them. We made the right turn to the house and positioned our cruisers 15 yards apart and about 75 yards away from the house, with spotlights on a door and a window facing us. State Police was also proceeding behind us as we approached and had stopped short of the outbuildings, proceeding on foot with rifles toward the house. Only about 3-4 oak trees served as reasonable cover around the house. Two vehicles were parked between the house and our cruisers.

Before a callout could be made, a male subject suddenly appeared at one of the windows to the left of the door, with his hands out of view. I utilized my PA to call him out of the house with hands raised. As he exited, he had a small black object in his hand, which he said was his cell phone. After complying with orders to drop it, he was ordered to walk backward to the parked cars where two troopers were positioned to cuff and frisk him. Once cuffed, I searched the sheds and barn that I could access. I then met back up with the troopers, did a 360-degree walk around the house, and then we entered and searched the house.

After clearing the house, the subject was brought in and we spoke to him. From the start he denied making any phone calls and even said he’d been asleep the entire time, only waking up to the spotlights in his windows. His phone was searched with consent and it showed a 911 call made at the exact time dispatch received the one in question.

He continued to stick with his story that he didn’t make any calls until we connected with dispatch and had them replay the 911 tape on speakerphone. He admitted the voice was his and said he didn’t remember making any calls and that he may have done it in his sleep. Mail from our local mental health crisis provider was observed with the subject’s name on it in the kitchen, which was where he was first observed in the window. Also, propped up just beside that window was a scoped and loaded 30-30 rifle and loaded 12ga shotgun.

It’s my belief the subject had prepared an ambush at that window, assuming only one officer would respond, and he suddenly abandoned his plan once we made our approach, flooding the window with spotlights and preventing him from seeing our positions.

Lessons Learned

There are many considerations for officers when responding to a residence to conduct a police welfare check:

  • There is no 100 percent safe approach to every scene. Chokepoints and environmental concealment can pose special risks to responders, so be sure to consider them during your approach. In this case, it’s difficult to determine what the best method of approach was. The layout of the property provided the subject with several locations from which to ambush responders. Approaching by vehicle provides a big, easily observable target for the subject, but it also provides cover for the officer should a ranged attack occur. Approaching by foot reduces the chance of being spotted along with greater mobility and faster weapon deployment, but also provides little to no cover. Regarding passing buildings, a vehicle can be a death trap when navigating a choke point. Once past, you also have an unknown threat at your rear. The gravel driveway with soft, muddy shoulders made the drive up to the buildings a very small approach with no ability to go off-road.
  • Communication between units was good as far as each agency, but the agencies could not talk to each other except through State Police’s dispatch, who could jump on our frequency. Even our dispatch center could not go to the State Police channel. The troopers also could scan and listen to our frequency on their mobiles, but not their portables. Agencies should continue to work toward radio interoperability with surrounding jurisdictions to increase situational awareness and officer safety in these types of situations.
  • In the absence of exigent circumstances, slow down and take time to plan a safe and tactically sound approach, using all available equipment and technology to your advantage. Slowing down on this call saved the officers who responded to this situation.


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