Military and Police

These Days, Everything Always Ends In Gunfire

“Silly me for thinking common sense had any place at the club on a Friday night.”

It’s Friday night around 2am on my night off. I should be at home sleeping, but I’m working an “extra job” at the kind of nightclub that you couldn’t catch me dead at on my own time if I didn’t need the money—but I do, so here I am. Normally, you deal with the typical nonsense of breaking up fights between drunks and walking them through their list of unhappy outcomes if they don’t make good on their bar tabs.

Then there are a few times per month where things get crazy, when rappers like Lil Wayne, Young Jeezy, Gucci Mane, or Migos show up and attract the dregs of society to my doorstep. Tonight is one of those nights. Blood gang members are out in strong numbers, and they’re not here to just kick back and have a good time.

I’m sitting on the push bumper of my patrol car just minding my own business in a parking spot about 20 yards from the front door when one of the bouncers signals me with his flashlight from inside. “Here we go again,” I say to myself as I walk in his direction. I enter the front door and see a large scrum of several men shouting at one another and posturing to fight. The steady bass is hammering away, and I can hardly hear myself shouting commands for them to get out. I already know what I’m dealing with here, but I see one perp wearing a red bandana over his face and it’s reaffirmed for me. This isn’t a good crowd.

The mass of bodies gets herded out through the front door with the help of a staff of rather large bouncers, but the squabble just spills outside onto the street. Even so, I’m still being nice. Here I am with my body camera activated, so I’ve got to use my manners and be a good boy. The problem with that is that my nice-guy requests to get these fools out of the street are going in one ear and out the other. I’m not surprised about this. I’m speaking in the wrong tongue, after all. I then turn my head, and one thug is looking me up and down like he wants to do something. “What’s that all about, man?” I ask. Then I tell him it’s time to leave.

Just when it looks like the two groups are about to separate and I’m thinking that this crew isn’t as motley as I initially determined them to be, the shoving picks back up. The swarm is on, and Officer Friendly ain’t handling this one. I pull out my taser and hold it about chest level aimed at the ground in front of me.

It makes a “cack-cack-cack” noise as I arc its electrical currents to get their attention. “Who wants to get tased?” I yell. The shoving stops on a dime. Several agitators jump back, and I take notice of the whites of their eyes and startled expressions. I, along with one other officer, are now standing in between the two sides.

I shout, “Get the f- out! It’s over!” and “Back the f- up!” while my taser bites the air until the group of gangbangers flocks across the parking lot to their cars. I always try to be nice and talk to people with respect and measure, but there are times when you’re going to have to speak a different kind of language—their language—if you want to be heard. With the language barrier now fully breached, order is restored, and I’m returning to a balanced demeanor. Three of my colleagues stand with me to watch car after car leave the parking lot. Then the shooting starts.

It sounds like fireworks, but not quite. When you do what I do, you learn to tell the difference. The loud bangs are coming from the rear of the night club, and I’m hearing round after round going off from multiple weapons. Before I can turn around and look at the guys I’d been standing with, I’m running toward the front right corner of the building and shouting at a group of gawkers standing out in the open to get inside and out of harm’s way. Silly me for thinking common sense had any place at the club on a Friday night.

The shooting stops, and I see vehicles taking off through the parking lot. One of them catches my eye as it slows down for a suspect trying to get into it. I sprint in the vehicle’s direction, and the driver traps their vehicle in the parking lot while attempting to get away. My voice is hoarse from screaming “Hands up! Let me see your hands!” but I keep repeating it. The car backs up and tries to find a way to go, but there are now three of us dialed in with our pistols. There’s no way out.

I take cover behind the base of a concrete light pole about 30 yards away, and I strain my eyes to see into the dark front seat of the vehicle that is facing me. Nothing. At this point, my finger is on the trigger guard, and I’m just waiting to see muzzle flashes from the bullet-holed windshield so I can return fire. Seeing hands or weapons is just not realistic in the dark at this distance. But the flashes never come. It feels like a long time, but it’s only a matter of 30 seconds or so of the three of us screaming commands at the tops of our lungs before a black male suspect comes tumbling out of the front passenger seat and onto the ground.

I close the distance. My partners cover the female driver and do the same. I place him into handcuffs and see that he’s been shot in the leg. I then realize that the other suspect who was trying to get into the vehicle is outstanding because they left him there while fleeing the scene. So much for brotherhood with these street gangs. I make a beeline toward the next intersection and find him standing behind a tree and some bushes. I order him to lie on his face and then remind him not to do anything stupid. Once he’s cuffed, dispatch advises that there are multiple people shot behind the club.

I hustle over there, and every unit in the city is already on scene or converging with lights and sirens. Two men are down. One is lying down conscious and breathing with a gunshot wound to the lower body, but the other is critical with a gunshot wound to the head. I can hear the wheezing and choking as blood is getting stuck in his throat, so I turn his head. He coughs up blood all over my arms.

This sends me shooting up off the ground and in the opposite direction like a ping pong ball. I’m now like a man wandering through the desert in search of not water, but hand sanitizer. I don’t know what he has, and I don’t want to bring it home to infect my wife and kids.  I douse my arms in hand sanitizer and glove up so I can apply pressure to the wound until the ambulance arrives on scene. Spent shell casings litter the ground, and I sit back and say to myself, “What the hell just happened?”

If it were a movie or a short, it could just end there. But it’s not. This is what I do for a living. Everyone scrambles to secure the crime scene, get witness statements, and most importantly, secure the perps. Then the writing begins. Everything must be painstakingly detailed. If this victim dies, our good police work on the documentation end is going to be what decides if his killer answers for it.

I was supposed to get off at 4am, but I’m on the road and headed home at 8:30am. It’s been one of those nights where I’m telling myself I’m an idiot for taking the risks I take for the amount of money I make—but I’m also laughing off the adrenaline rush while I think about how I wouldn’t have it any other way.

T.B. Lefever

T.B. Lefever is a Senior OpsLens Contributor and active police officer in the Metro-Atlanta area. Throughout his career, Lefever has served as a SWAT Hostage Negotiator, a member of the Crime Suppression Unit, a School Resource Officer, and a Uniformed Patrol Officer. T.B. is also a certified Field Training Officer. He has a BA in Criminal Justice and Sociology from Rutgers University. Follow T.B. on Twitter @tblefever.

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