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5 incidents that prove ‘regular cops’ are extraordinary heroes

While routinely responding to customary calls, conducting such mundane duties as traffic stops, and supervising the day-to-day police activities, these officers did something extraordinary

Uniformed patrol will always be the front line of law enforcement in America and the first line of defense for our communities.

While it is not particularly common that “regular coppers” get the spotlight for the great jobs they do, certain events prove that it’s usually the street dogs who start the ball rolling toward that high-profile bust by the SWAT team or fugitive task force units.

As testament to those unheralded — and sometimes anonymous — troops who are out there day in and day out, pounding the street or piloting the tin cans, here are a handful of instances in which it was a patrol officer who saved the day.

1. Oklahoma City, April 1995
Oklahoma State Trooper Charlie Hanger noticed that the old Mercury sedan that drove past him was not displaying a tag. He got behind the vehicle, executed a proper T-stop and asked the operator for his docs.

When the driver reached into his back pocket, Hanger noticed a bulge in the subject’s windbreaker. The bulge eventually revealed a hidden handgun.

The driver turned out to be 29-year old Timothy McVeigh who had just committed one of the most heinous crimes in recent history — the murder of 168 individuals via a 7,000 pound bomb who were inside the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.

McVeigh was executed in 2001. Hanger is presently the Sheriff of Noble County, Oklahoma.

2. Fort Hood, November 2009
When US Army Major Hassan Nidal, age 39, walked into the Medical Readiness Processing Center at Fort Hood, Texas and opened up with his FN semi-automatic pistol, the call went out as “shots fired.”

Two of the initial responding officers were uniformed civilian Patrol Sergeants Kimberly Munley and Mark Todd, both members of the Fort Hood, Texas Police Department. By the time they engaged the suspect, Hasan had murdered 13 soldiers and wounded 30 others.

Munley used her Beretta 9mm to engage Hasan before she was struck three times — in the thigh, knee, and femur — by his laser-sighted FN. He was eventually dropped by Todd who fired five shots to stop Hasan’s onslaught.

Hasan has since been sentenced to death for his cowardly and brutal murder of those 13 unarmed soldiers.

3. US Navy Yard, September 2013
One of the first responding officers to the “active shooter” call at Building #197 at the US Navy Yard was US Park Police Officer Carl Hiott — a 29-year-old, three-year veteran of the agency. Upon entering with his backup officers — US Park Police Officer Andy Wong and Metro DC Officer Dorian DeSantis — Hiott found himself face-to-face with 34-year-old Aaron Alexis.

Alexis was armed with three weapons; an AR-15, a Remington 12 gauge shotgun, and a Beretta 9mm pistol. Alexis had killed 12 innocents before the troops arrived.

Shots were fired when Alexis suddenly appeared from a desk he was hiding behind. One of Alexis’s shots hit DeSantis. He,Hiott, and Wong returned fire.

Alexis was eventually neutralized at the hands of US Park Police Officers Hiott and Wong and Metro DC Officer DeSantis. A total of 51 rounds were fired by the trio — 17 hit Alexis.

4. Garland, May 2015
When the sedan entered the Curtis Culwell Center in the Dallas suburb of Garland, Texas where a private event was taking place, two officers exited their patrol vehicle to check it out. One was an unarmed Garland School District security officer, Bruce Joiner; the other a City of Garland Police Department uniformed patrol officer.

As the two officers were exiting the marked squad car, two suspects exited their sedan and began to fire on the two officers with AK-47 rifles. The school district officer was hit in the leg almost instantly and went down. Armed with just his service pistol — a Glock .45 — the uniformed Garland patrol officer managed to drop both heavily armed, armor-wearing suspects.

Outgunned but not out-trained, the as yet unnamed officer is being hailed in the press as a hero — and rightly so.

5. Constable, June 2015
The search had gone on for more than three weeks for two escaped inmates from the notorious maximum security prison in Dannemora, New York.

Richard Matt — armed with a stolen .20 gauge shotgun — had already confronted a CBP agent the week before outside of Malone and paid the price.

But convicted cop killer David Sweat had managed to evade the dragnet of 1,300 federal, state, and local officers for an additional three days. It was shortly before noon on June 28 when NYSP Sergeant Jay Cook, a uniformed patrol boss checking on his troops who were manning a skirmish line, spotted Sweat jogging down the side of a rural county road near the town of Constable.

When the con tried to flee, Cook took him down with two shots.

What do all these officers have in common? All were uniformed patrol officers who routinely respond to the normal and customary calls such as “shots fired” (like Officers Munley and Todd) or who conduct such mundane duties as traffic stops (like Trooper Hanger), or who supervise the day-to-day road patrol operations (like Sergeant Cook). With the exception of DeSantis — who was a member of the Metro DC Tact Unit — none were assigned to specialized units like, ERT, SWAT, or Emergency Service Units.

The words ‘routine,’ ‘mundane,’ and ‘day-to-day’ are italicized above, because there are quite a few TV and media pundits, and still a few police administrators, who continue to view those tasks by patrol officers through that incorrect prism. But nothing could be further from the truth. Patrol officer out there on our American streets continually go above and beyond the call of duty — it’s just not all that often they’re recognized for their efforts.

Dave Grossi is a retired police lieutenant from upstate New York now residing in southwest Florida. A graduate of the State University of New York, Dave has served as a patrol officer, undercover narcotics investigator, detective, sergeant, and lieutenant. For 12 years, Dave was the lead instructor for the Calibre Press Street Survival Seminar. He has instructor credentials in virtually every force discipline and has testified both in the United States and abroad as an expert witness in use of force cases. He is a combat veteran of Vietnam, and a member of the Force Science Research Center.