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LEO Near Miss: Lucky, but safe would be better

‘I got lucky that day that he decided to toss the gun instead of lying in wait with the gun drawn on me as I stepped through the gate.’

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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

I was dispatched to an in-progress vehicle burglary that the reporting party was observing real-time on his Ring camera. He provided a good description of the suspect, and the incident was in a neighborhood with two vehicle access points.

I responded to the scene with several other officers also en route. As I pulled into the neighborhood, I immediately saw a male matching the suspect’s description a couple of blocks into the neighborhood. I parked my patrol car with my headlights illuminating the subject and made contact, keeping about 20 feet of distance between the suspect and me.

The male was acting cagey, looking around, reaching into his pockets, and giving pre-flight indicators. He denied burglarizing cars and was somewhat compliant as I issued commands to keep his hands out of his pockets, but he refused to sit down when told to do so. While talking with him, a male drove up, identified himself as the reporting party, and I asked if the subject I had detained was the guy he had seen on video. The RP gave positive identification, and as soon as he did, the male took off running down the street.

I gave chase and advised I was in a foot pursuit on the radio. Another officer on FTO started running with me, but then quickly turned back to get a patrol car to follow us. The male continued reaching in his pockets as he ran and dropped several items. He ran about 200 yards before attempting to buttonhook around a house, only to pause when he rounded the corner and came face to face with a fence. He then crashed through a “French door” style gate in the fence, and I lost sight of him briefly.

I closed the gap to the fence, and at least had the presence of mind to slow down, get a flashlight out, and check through the opening in the gate to try to get eyes on him again before proceeding through. I saw the male sprawled out on the ground, as he had gotten knocked to the ground by the gate, and his shoes had been knocked off. I stepped through the gate, drew my TASER, and ordered him not to move. He complied while the FTO and SO who had been on scene handcuffed him.

The suspect had a felony warrant and caught new charges for vehicle burglary and possession of meth. I felt great about the event that night, but several weeks later, a neighbor living next to the gate the suspect had crashed through called to report that he found a handgun while mowing his lawn. I immediately realized that the guy I had been chasing had clearly ditched the handgun just before I caught up with him.

Again, I had lost sight of the suspect briefly, and while I had the presence of mind to pause and assess rather than charge through the gate, I got lucky that day that he decided to toss the gun instead of lying in wait with the gun drawn on me as I stepped through the gate. I should have gone through the gate with my gun drawn, and maybe even waited for the other officers to catch up so we could make a plan and go through together. I’d rather we all be smart and safe than lucky, so hopefully, you can all learn from my mistake, as I have!

Lessons learned

  • After losing sight of the subject going into a fenced backyard, I should have waited for other officers to arrive, requested containment, made a plan and gone through the gate with guns drawn as a team.
  • Never take a low-level call, like a vehicle burglary, for granted. Criminals who commit low-level crimes can have the same motivation to get away as criminals who commit violent crimes. Slow down and use good tactics because you never know when these calls may escalate into a deadly encounter.


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