A mother calls police to her condominium over concerns that her son, Mike, is acting erratically and is a threat to both himself and his own son. Because Mike is armed with a gun, police attempt to isolate him. A stand-off ensues which turns violent.
The Detective: Detective Chris has been in law enforcement for 10 years. Over the course of his career he has been on patrol and served on his agency’s SWAT team. As a detective Chris has been assigned to property crimes, as well as violent crimes detective, which include crimes against children. Chris grew up playing sports and currently enjoys playing golf, poorly. He also enjoys spending time with his wife.Read Transcript
Chris: [00:00:05] We had been shot at quite a bit. Really, the whole team has been shot at that’s back there. He’s pretty indiscriminately shooting. There’s holes near the garage door. Our canine officer’s patrol car, one of his headlights got shot out. We’re all getting shot at.[Small Town Dicks intro]
Yeardley: [00:00:24] Hi, there. I’m Yeardley.
Dan: [00:00:26] I’m Dan.
Dave: [00:00:27] And I’m Dave.
Yeardley: [00:00:28] And this is Small Town Dicks.
Dan: [00:00:30] Dave and I are identical twins, and we’re retired detectives from Small Town, USA.
Dave: [00:00:35] Together, we’ve investigated thousands of cases. From petty theft to sex crimes, from child abuse, to murder.
Dan: [00:00:41] Every case on our podcast is told by the detective who investigated it, offering a rare personal account of how they broke the case.
Dave: [00:00:49] Names, places, and certain details, including relationships have been altered to protect the privacy of the victims and their families.
Dan: [00:00:56] And although we’re aware that some of our listeners may be familiar with these cases, we ask you to please join us in continuing to protect the true identities of those involved, out of respect for what they’ve been through.
In Unison: [00:01:07] Thank you.[Small Town Dicks theme playing]
Yeardley: [00:01:20] Today on Small Town Dicks, we have the usual suspects. We have Detective Dan.
Dan: [00:01:27] Hello, there.
Yeardley: [00:01:28] Hello, you. And we have Detective Dave.
Dave: [00:01:31] Greetings, team.
Yeardley: [00:01:33] Greetings, you. And Small Town Fam, we are thrilled to welcome a new guest to the podcast, Detective Chris.
Chris: [00:01:42] Hello.
Yeardley: [00:01:43] Chris, thank you so much for joining us. Thank you for giving up one of your precious days off. We’re so grateful. Thank you.
Chris: [00:01:50] Yeah, I’m happy to be here.
Yeardley: [00:01:53] Chris, you have a really interesting case for us today. I’m just going to let you take it from here.
Chris: [00:01:59] Okay. It wasn’t long ago, we had a patrol call. They responded for a welfare check at this condominium complex. The complainant on the call was concerned about her adult son and also her grandchild. Her name’s Debbie. The adult son, Mike, and her grandson, Alex, came over to her house.
Yeardley: [00:02:25] How old is Mike about?
Chris: [00:02:27] In his late 40s.
Yeardley: [00:02:29] And how old is Alex?
Chris: [00:02:31] 10, I believe, 11.
Yeardley: [00:02:33] Okay.
Chris: [00:02:33] Debbie said that Mike was acting strange. She was just worried about his behavior, acting pretty erratically, wasn’t sure if it was mental health or drugs and alcohol. And Mike was refusing to leave. She was also worried, of course, then of the welfare of her own grandson, Alex. Things just began to escalate. Debbie didn’t feel safe, and so she left the house. Alex lived with Mike, and they had come over from Mike’s house. So, Alex was still inside with Mike. Debbie said that Mike had some access to firearms, and Debbie wanted Mike out of her house. The reason why he even wound up over there is Mike was adamantly telling Debbie that they were coming over for dinner. Debbie thought that she was going to go to their house for dinner. Mike said, “No, it’s not going to happen. We’re coming over,” and they just arrived. So, what’s she going to do?
Yeardley: [00:03:36] Right.
Chris: [00:03:37] She just didn’t want him at her house in the condition that he was in. And I think she didn’t want him there, because if she’s at his house, she’s in the driver’s seat. She can leave at any time.
Yeardley: [00:03:46] Got it.
Chris: [00:03:47] Debbie did get her grandson out of her condo, and patrol was trying to get in contact with Mike and it just wasn’t happening. He basically wasn’t playing ball. He wasn’t going to come outside. He wasn’t going to leave the house. He’s saying things like he had the right to be there, whatever. This is over the phone. And then, how I got involved is patrol needed a loud hailer, that ceased communication with him over the phone. There was no answer at the door. They knew Mike was inside, and what they wanted to do is just set up a loud hailer outside to be able to talk to him.
Yeardley: [00:04:25] Is that like a megaphone?
Chris: [00:04:26] Basically, yeah. On the SWAT team, we have this specialized loud hailer, it’s called an LRAD, and you can either attach it to a vehicle, you can set it up on a tripod. The plan was, let’s get the LRAD set up on a tripod right outside this condo to try to get this guy to come outside.
Yeardley: [00:04:47] What does LRAD stand for?
Chris: [00:04:49] It stands for Long Range Acoustic Device.
Yeardley: [00:04:52] Oh, cool. Chris, are you part of your agency’s SWAT team?
Chris: [00:04:57] I was at the time of this incident. It wasn’t to the point of a SWAT callout, but it’s SWAT equipment. So, patrol felt it was appropriate to reach out to the SWAT side of the department to ask for permission. This is kind of new equipment, and it’s not super easy to set up unless you’ve been trained on it. So, they basically said, “Hey, let’s get a few SWAT guys to go deploy the LRAD to get in contact with this guy.” So, that’s what we did. I went out that first night, helped set up the LRAD, loud hailer, they hailed him for a while. What’s cool about the LRAD is it’s wireless. So, you can be quite a distance away from that piece of equipment to be able to communicate with a suspect or with anybody.
Yeardley: [00:05:41] So, you don’t have to be right up on it is what you’re saying, you can be in a truck?
Chris: [00:05:46] Right. What happens usually in these situations is we’re going to get a crisis negotiator that’s trained in crisis negotiation. They can just wear a headset with a microphone that can also record. You can get family members to speak into the recording, and then officers would decide if that was an appropriate message to play for the suspect. It’s pretty effective. So, the first night I went out there just help set up this LRAD, and it was an unsuccessful event. Mike didn’t come out. We don’t really have probable cause for a crime. And if there was anything, it was really minimal crime.
Dave: [00:06:22] And I imagine, this is hugely disruptive to that whole complex.
Chris: [00:06:28] Yeah, there is something like 90 houses in a pretty small area.
Dave: [00:06:32] You have to think about the residence around there as well. How much mileage do we give Mike with disrupting dozens and dozens of lives?
Chris: [00:06:43] Exactly. And so, we all went home.
Dan: [00:06:46] Does Debbie go back to the house with Alex?
Chris: [00:06:49] No, good question. We set them up in a hotel. We felt they weren’t safe, and the police department paid for them to be in a safe place. But the next day, 15 hours later, this call comes out with a command post that was pretty close to where I was the night before. I was like, “Okay, I think I know where I’m going. This guy must still be there.” And sure enough, it was like round two. Again, it’s Mike at Debbie’s house. Alex is there, kind of repeating this day before, but things had escalated.
Dan: [00:07:26] So, the next day, you’ve got Debbie and Alex, and they returned back to her house?
Chris: [00:07:32] Yeah. Debbie wanted to get back to her house. She had medications in there that she needed. So, there’s health reasons why she needed access to her house.
Dan: [00:07:41] So, she calls on the second day when she returns with Alex. She eventually calls the police, and that’s when some of these details start getting fed to you guys?
Chris: [00:07:51] Yep. One thing that happened is Alex disclosed to Debbie that his dad had hit him, and had been hitting him. So, now we have a domestic violence piece, and it’s a mandatory arrest if there’s evidence that this is true and accurate. Now we have a crime potentially against Mike. Debbie has fled her home once again. She also confirmed that Mike had shown Alex a gun. Then, we had officers talking to Alex directly. He had made some comments about Mike woke up Alex one day by spraying a cleaner into his face. Think of like a Lysol or like a bleach.
Yeardley: [00:08:34] Oh, my God.
Chris: [00:08:35] He’d put Alex’s head through the wall, essentially. We recovered quite a bit of Alex’s clothing with blood all over it. And also, Mike had killed one of his pets as a punishment to Alex.
Yeardley: [00:08:47] Argh.
Chris: [00:08:48] That’s the type of person we’re dealing with. Somebody who wakes her kid up by spraying him in the face with a cleaning product. And someone that kills his kid’s pet as a punishment.
Dan: [00:08:58] We’re at felony level abuse at this point.
Chris: [00:09:01] Yes. Alex had a child forensic interview about the details of what was going on.
Yeardley: [00:09:08] And where’s the mom?
Chris: [00:09:09] Alex’s mom? Totally out of the picture. Years and years ago, she’s gone. So, it’s just Mike, single dad, but also has some help from grandma, Debbie.
Dave: [00:09:21] What kind of history did your department have with Mike?
Chris: [00:09:25] Very little. He had a theft. But as this call progressed into the second day, we learned that Mike was arrested for murder in a different state.
Yeardley: [00:09:37] Oh.
Chris: [00:09:38] Yep. He didn’t actually go to prison for murder, but the arrest was made. So, that information comes out. And, again, it escalates the level of threat that Mike is to us and also to his family and to the neighborhood. Once again, we got the loud hailer out. Now, we had armored vehicles though, for a SWAT callout. We really want to make sure we contain the residence that’s involved. The problem is you can contain a single-family residence, but we’re dealing with a row of five residences with attached walls. We have walls of these other residences that this house is sandwiched between. But usually, when people see the SWAT team or a bunch of officers and there’s a lot of commotion, a loud hailer people demanding that Mike comes out with his hands up and free of anything. Usually, people are like, “Yeah, I think I might go to my friend’s house,” or like, “I’m going to go to mom and dad’s. I don’t really want to stick around.” But you have a lot of looky-loos too that do want to see what’s going on, because it’s exciting. If you’re a citizen, like, “Oh, my gosh,” everyone’s got their cell phones out, and they want to take pictures. And we can’t force people to leave their homes. We simply advise them of the danger that they’re in by staying.
[00:10:58] We had a perimeter set up on the house. When we arrived, more details came out that Mike had been on the phone with his dad, and then Debbie again, and Mike made mention of being lost in the woods. And they said that they could hear birds in the background, which to us, it’s like, “All right, well, that’s pretty good information that this guy would be outside,” because it’s a heavily wooded area that this residence was.
Yeardley: [00:11:24] He’s not contained anymore.
Chris: [00:11:26] Exactly. And on the phone, Mike made mention of having a gun and that he was going to take officers out. So, now we have to be concerned about this guy, out and about in the woods around us.
Chris: [00:11:57] Mike, as far as we know, is not contained. Do we need to spread out and push our containment perimeter farther? Or, are we going to stay put and then bring in a second containment piece. But nonetheless, we were where we were, and we had a mandatory arrest to make because of the domestic violence side of this. SWAT was called out because of the weapons’ side, and that kicked off this lengthy standoff. So, we were all pretty much hanging out in these armored vehicles.
[00:12:28] Eventually, Mike does get back on the phone with, we call it CNT, the Crisis Negotiation Team. CNT had been on the phone with this guy numerous times. They did a great job. Mike just was not going to come out. He sounded belligerent, and Mike was saying that he was inside the house maybe, he’s kind of playing games. So, we had good containment on the residence, but we just weren’t sure if he was there or not. Eventually, we were able to confirm or at least think that he was probably inside the residence. So, we’re there for quite a while. Let’s call it a surround and callout. You surround a house or place a business wherever, and you try to call them out to you to safely get this guy in custody.
[00:13:13] When it gets serious, we’ll call all these different teams out to come help. I mean, it truly is a massive team operation. We have the bomb teams out there. We’re out there with SWAT, CNT’s out there, the drone team’s out there. I mean, it felt like half the department had been called out. And, of course, the conversations that have now been happening for two days with Mike are exactly the same. CNT has been online on the phone with him numerous times for hours, and it’s the same belligerent behavior and response. As time goes on, now you have to take these next steps. He’s not coming out. So, I was on the backside of the house where there’s a garage. The garage is actually detached from the house. So, there’s a garage, there’s this little patio, and then there’s the house. The garage door was already open. So, we had a good view through the garage pedestrian door that led to the patio area, and then there’s a glass slider–
Yeardley: [00:14:11] At the back of the house?
Chris: [00:14:13] Exactly. We had good visibility of the glass slider. All we needed to do is pop up in the pedestrian door and we could shoot. They’re called less lethal munitions for breaking windows, breaking lights, things like that. So, we’re going to try to break out the glass slider in the back of the house. A team of us enter the garage. We have guys with rifles, so we have lethal coverage. And then, we have one person. It was Officer Judd assigned to– it’s called a 40-millimeter. The 40-millimeter gun shoots the less lethal munitions. Technology is always evolving. So, we have sponge rounds and then there’s this thing called BIP rounds. They’re simply made for breaking windows, breaking lights, things like that. The sponge rounds truly are spongy. You can squish them pretty well. The BIP rounds are a little harder. So, the plan is to break this glass slider.
Dave: [00:15:09] Was the thought to break the window to gain better visibility into the residence or to get his attention and maybe confirm that he’s inside?
Chris: [00:15:18] Yeah, good question. It was to get a robot in. We wanted to break the door to be able to get a robot inside. And the first two shots, they were sponge rounds. They bounce off the glass slider, so they didn’t break the glass slider. A lot of times those still would have worked. I mean, that’s why they were still shots, like we didn’t know that they were sponge rounds being shot out. But it just didn’t break the glass slider. Well, I had knelt down, because the glass slider has these blinds that were lowered but they were only lowered like waist high about, maybe knee high. So, when I knelt down in this garage, I saw two legs just inside the slider, and the end of a rifle.
Dave: [00:16:00] So, you guys have bounced a couple of foam rounds off the window, didn’t break it, you kneel down, you see this guy, and he’s displaying a rifle. And you’re like, “All right, time to move.”
Chris: [00:16:10] Yeah. We see the gun, and now it’s like, “All right, let’s get out of the garage. [chuckles] This is a bad spot.”
Dave: [00:16:17] And what’s the proximity between the pedestrian door that you guys are looking through to the slider?
Chris: [00:16:23] Yeah, probably 15 feet, 20 feet, I would guess. So, really it’s way too close.
Dave: [00:16:29] Yeah. I know that you were on the SWAT team for a number of years. There’s the pucker factor when you get to these barricaded subject calls, or you’re aware that somebody has a weapon, and the only separation you have is drywall, some siding or a piece of glass. That gets the blood pumping real quick.
Chris: [00:16:49] Yeah, exactly. Huge pucker factor. We know that there’s a difference between cover and concealment. Concealment, they can’t see you, but it doesn’t mean that [chuckles] bullets aren’t going to see you. Drywall, cars, you name it, there’s a lot of stuff that people think, “Oh, I’m safe standing behind this,” but you’re absolutely not. They just can’t see you. You might as well be standing in the bushes.
Yeardley: [00:17:13] What’s cover?
Chris: [00:17:14] Cover is true hard cover, we call it. Something that is more likely to stop a bullet if it hits it.
Dave: [00:17:22] Big trees, engine blocks on cars, that kind of stuff.
Chris: [00:17:27] Yep. Cement walls, brick walls, or if it’s less durable, at least maybe numerous walls.
Yeardley: [00:17:35] [laughs] Right.
Chris: [00:17:38] We evacuated out of that garage and took cover. Mike has escalated this call significantly now, like he’s at the door holding a rifle. It’s one thing to have information about possible guns or possible ammunition. It’s another thing to see the person you’re now talking to you for the second day in a row at the slider holding it. And he knows very clearly that it’s the police that are outside. So, we retreated to cover, and CNT was on the line with him. And so, then CNT, their communication with Mike changes too. The whole point here is how do we keep Mike level headed and try to get him to comply, telling him like, “Hey, we’re real concerned that you have a weapon in there. Do not come outside with the weapon. Do not. Do not. Do not.” This is on repeat, to try to get this guy to just come out like, “We don’t want to hurt you. We don’t want you to hurt us. Let’s just resolve this today. Nobody needs to do anything crazy. Let’s just deal with it, is what it is. We’re here, we can’t leave.” We’re trying to push them in the right direction, and our crisis negotiators are great at that. But you can only lead a horse to water, right?
Yeardley: [00:18:49] Yeah.
Dave: [00:18:50] When you say you took hard cover, what does that position look like, and now what’s your proximity to this backslider?
Chris: [00:18:58] We’re back in the driveway behind the garage, the open garage door that I was talking about, and we were in the BearCat on that side of the house. The BearCat’s an armored vehicle. And then our other armored vehicle was on the other side of the house. So, we all hunkered down behind this hard cover to see what the next step was. Again, more time dragged on, and Mike still wasn’t playing ball. We were able to finally go back into the garage and break out the slider correctly, shattered the glass slider, and we were able to get a robot in. We have different sizes of robots. One of them, I would say, is big. Once it’s all extended, it’s probably half as tall as typical adult.
Yeardley: [00:19:44] Does it look like a person?
Chris: [00:19:45] No, these things are on tracks. Yeah, that’d be awesome, Yeardley.
Dan: [00:19:49] It’s a T-1000.
Yeardley: [00:19:50] It’s like Terminator 2 coming in there. “Hey, man, sorry. You’re giving up. Trust me.”[laughter]
Dave: [00:19:56] You’re coming with me.
Chris: [00:19:57] [chuckles] Yes. Now, these are all tank tracks a little bit. That’s what they kind of look like, like rubber tank tracks on the bottom.
Yeardley: [00:20:04] Treads.
Chris: [00:20:05] Yeah, some of them have extendable arms that could kind of grip things.
Yeardley: [00:20:09] What would they grip?
Dan: [00:20:11] They’ve got little claws on them so they can grab explosives to place them somewhere else. They can move objects. Say there’s a blanket covering someone and you want to know what’s underneath, they can grab the blanket, pull the blanket back. And it’s got a camera on it, so you have a live view, a real-time view of what that robot is seeing.
Yeardley: [00:20:31] Right. That’s cool. Okay.
Chris: [00:20:33] Yeah, it’s great.
Yeardley: [00:20:34] At this point, you break the glass and Mike is–
Chris: [00:20:39] He had gone upstairs. So, the robot goes in and clears the first floor, and the robot can open doors and stuff too. It’s pretty cool.
Dan: [00:20:47] Maybe Mike’s thinking that robot’s not going to be able to come up the stairs. And Mike couldn’t be more wrong.
Yeardley: [00:20:53] Oh, really?
Chris: [00:20:53] Oh, yeah. They’ll climb stairs. They’ll go over objects and rooms. They do a really good job. So, the robot had gone upstairs and it did get eyes on Mike. He was upstairs. Mike is bouncing room to room a little bit in the hallway. And then, shots started being fired from inside the house.
Dave: [00:21:13] It’s clear that Mike is shooting rounds.
Chris: [00:21:15] Exactly. The robot that was upstairs, the camera went out. So, we assume Mike probably shot the robot.
Dave: [00:21:25] Johnny number five is wounded.[laughter]
Chris: [00:21:29] We’re really on the defense now. Mike’s got full access to this whole house. He can get himself set up in places a position. We’re really in a tough situation there. And what you want to do is turn the tables a little bit. The biggest way for us to do that is to start putting some gas onboard. We can’t make it easy for Mike to do whatever he wants to do. Through my training and everything, I’ve been in houses that had been pumped full of gas, and it’s very uncomfortable. And it would be very difficult for me in that situation to take a targeted shot at anybody or anything. If Mike still wants to continue shooting, let’s at least make it difficult for him to see what he’s shooting. That’s the goal. And it’s also to make him uncomfortable to the point where he’s like, “Screw this, this sucks. I’m done. I want to come out. I don’t want to play this game anymore.”
Chris: [00:22:42] What you want to do is turn the tables, and the biggest way for us to do that is to start putting some gas on board.
Yeardley: [00:22:51] Can the robot deploy that gas? Or, does an actual human have to get closer to the house now?
Chris: [00:22:58] We have to expose ourselves again to do this. The robots, it’s tricky. They’re not that good at deploying a lot of munitions. We do have some tools that allow us to just put a pole through a window, for example. And then, you can mechanically pull the pin out of it to deploy gas. But when Mike start shooting at us, our sergeants and lieutenants immediately kind of come up with a gas plan. Part of that plan is again Officer Judd and I going up onto this garage roof, one house over from Debbie’s house. We get help up there. Officer Doug helps us out, he deploys a ladder for us, and we have a ton of gear on, 50-60 pounds of gear. So, it’s a lot of stuff to carry around and it’s difficult to move into positions that you need to move into and stuff. So, Officer Doug has the wherewithal to do that right.
[00:23:49] This might seem small to most people, but him just holding that ladder for us to get up on the roof was huge. So, he holds a ladder for us and Officer Judd and I make our way up. I told you before this is a condo that’s two stories, and we’re on the backside of it. So, there’s that patio between the garage and the residence. The downstairs has that back sliding door that led to the kitchen area. Well, above that is another deck patio on the second story, that also leads to a slider, like a master bedroom situation. That’s where we believe Mike is at. We believe he’s in the second-story bedroom that has this access onto this back deck patio. So, Officer Judd and I are up on the roof of the garage of the neighboring house.
Dave: [00:24:40] What time of day is this that you guys hop up on the roof?
Chris: [00:24:44] It’s still daylight. It’s in the evening sometime. We still had a couple more hours of daylight.
Dave: [00:24:49] And the slider upstairs, is it the same situation with the blinds or is it wide open that you can see?
Chris: [00:24:55] It’s the same situation with blinds. We cannot see in very well at all. Mike still has the upper hand there. The plan is for both sides of the house to start putting some gas on board. We also have these little paintball rounds that called Pepper Ball. It looks like a paintball gun. Some of them are inert, meaning they don’t really have any other effect. It’ll just have a white powder that doesn’t do anything. Some of them have gas-type components, similar to a pepper spray. But once we’re up on the roof, again, we’ve got to deal with this glass. So, the gas rounds that you can shoot out of the 40-millimeter rifles, they have plastic tips at the end, they are very durable, and they will pretty easily break glass.
[00:25:45] The front of the house had put some gas on board. And then, it’s a pitched roof, like there’s a V at the top. We’re crouched down on the backside of it so we can kind of get concealment. Again, this is concealment versus cover. We stand up over the pitch of the roof, and Officer Judd fires two rounds of gas. He fired one and reloaded and fired another and we crouch back down. And then, it was just volleys of shots from Mike shooting at us.
Dave: [00:26:17] How long was the delay from your gas rounds breaking the window and going inside to the return fire from Mike?
Chris: [00:26:25] A few seconds. And then, he was just hammering the trigger. We shoot the gas rounds, we hear rounds come out. And then, we shoot more gas rounds. And then, we hear it really, really loud, hitting the roof and stuff close to us. And then, the third volley though, when he started shooting at us, it was very clear that he was honing in where we were. We were getting hit with debris from Mike shooting rounds at us. We’re getting hit from the roof debris.
Dave: [00:26:55] So, it’s kicking up shards of plywood and shingles?
Chris: [00:27:00] Yeah. And then after the fact, the deadly force team goes out there and they do their investigation, and they start doing measurements and all that. And yeah, those rounds were like 10 feet from us. It sucked. [laughs] It was not a good feeling at all.
Dave: [00:27:16] So, the last volley of rounds come in, and it’s clear that he’s now aware of your position, at least the angle he needs to be shooting at.
Chris: [00:27:24] Yeah.
Dave: [00:27:25] What do you and Judd do?
Chris: [00:27:27] I’ve never been so flat [chuckles] on any surface. It was like we just became pancakes, and tried to slide backwards down the roof because it was so clear, like, “All right, he’s got us dialed in here.” Mike is shooting, probably five rounds per volley. So, he’s shot 10 to 15 rounds at us. And he shot out the front too. I mean the guys on the front, they heard bullets whizzing and clipping leaves and trees and stuff like that, just like [swoosh].
Yeardley: [00:27:57] Mike is shooting out the front of the house as well?
Chris: [00:28:00] Yeah, we’re still in the back. And then, there’s another big section of the guys on the team that are in the front.
Dave: [00:28:06] So, Mike’s got to divide his attention between your side of the building and the team on the front. I imagine he hears windows shattering on the front and he’s like, “Oh, shit,” and starts shooting out there. Then, all of a sudden, behind him, the windows start breaking on your side of the house. And now, he’s just spraying bullets both directions.
Chris: [00:28:23] Right. Yeah, he’s dealing with stimulus from both sides of the house, which is great. We want to confuse him. If he has to react to different noises, different sounds, different munitions coming from all different angles, that’s what we want. You want to create some amount of chaos in his world so that he can’t accurately shoot us.
Dave: [00:28:44] At this point, have any of your officers or SWAT team members fired lethal rounds into that residence?
Chris: [00:28:52] No. I’ll tell you why. You’ve got to know what your backdrop is. I’ll never forget on this call. This is nighttime now. There was a gal in the condo next door. It sounds like a warzone. And she’s literally putting face cream on her hands and then just putting it on her face getting ready for bed. This was all going on, and she’s just getting ready for bed, watching TV or something. It was crazy. But my point is, like we said earlier, you can’t force people to leave, and we aren’t going to spray a room just because we know there’s a bad guy in there. You have to know your backdrop. And in this circumstance, we got a bunch of condos and this whole community of like 90 houses. We’re not shooting into that house unless we can get a good shot on Mike. So, no, we had not fired any rounds though we had been shot at quite a bit.
[00:29:51] Nearly the whole team is being shot at that’s back there. He’s pretty indiscriminately shooting. The BearCat got shot. Our canine officer’s patrol car, one of his headlights got shot out. There’s holes near the garage door where Officer Doug was where he was helping us with that ladder, I mean, we’re all getting shot at. It’s just that Officer Judd and I are up there in a pretty exposed spot, where he could then kind of hone in exactly where we were shooting gas from.
Dave: [00:30:17] So, you do your pancake impression, and then where do you go?[chuckles]
Chris: [00:30:21] Yeah. I literally tried to get off this roof on my stomach, but your knees don’t bend that way.[laughter]
Chris: [00:30:27] You’ve got to be on your back to get your knees to bend the right direction to get onto a ladder. But then it was go time, get behind cover, and we need to get into positions to be able to end this. So, myself and one of our snipers that was on the back side, we grabbed the ladder and sprinted to the west, where we could get up on another roof and get much better visibility of Mike’s bedroom.
Yeardley: [00:30:53] Is it part of the five roofs that are connected?
Chris: [00:30:56] No, it’s the same layout. But it’s a different row of those five houses. So, we get up on this other roof to the west and try to get into a position where if he does expose himself and he’s still posing a threat, that we could get a shot off from the west. Once we got up on that other roof, it started to get dark, and CNT was still online with them at times, still hailing. And we’ve got another robot inside. One of our sergeants did an awesome job, just articulating exactly what Mike was doing inside the house. We never saw him again on the backside of the house. He was inside the house the remainder of this call. And our sergeant did a great job just describing Mike still holding the gun, acting kind of erratically. Eventually, we’ve been here for hours. Our sergeant described him over the air, over the radio, like, “Mike’s coming downstairs. He’s still got the gun. He’s coming out. Looks like he’s heading for the front door.” And what I heard was one shot. But what it really was, was two shots, like absolutely simultaneously from two of our snipers on the front of the house. And they both hit Mike, and he goes down.
Yeardley: [00:32:31] As Mike is coming down the stairs, is he coming down with intent? Is he sauntering down, does it look like he has a purpose?
Chris: [00:32:39] Well, he’d been advised thousand times not to come outside with a gun. So, there’s some amount of intent there with his knowledge. He’s been told over the loud hailer, of course, but also directly from CNT officers over the phone, like, “Just come out with nothing in your hand.” So, it’s hard to say what his intent was. But he came down, ready to exit with the firearm and it was very clear prior that that he was ready to shoot us. But Mike was shot by both rounds, and now we transition immediately into rescue efforts, which I think that’s one of the coolest parts about our job. We have constantly people that we’re dealing with, they despise us or they’re trying to shoot us. But as an enforcement, you switch it over. And it’s like, “All right, the threat’s over. Now what are we doing?” And so, our guys loaded up Mike, getting him to medics pretty quick. He gets transferred the hospital and gets rushed into surgery. And Mike did survive both of those two shots.
Dave: [00:33:41] I’m curious what Mike’s demeanor is, as these officers are now hovering over him trying to save his life.
Chris: [00:33:48] He was saying he wanted to die. “Just kill me. Just do it. Finish me off,” that type of stuff.
Dave: [00:33:55] Not fighting with him?
Chris: [00:33:56] No, he was just asking him to finish the job.
Dave: [00:34:00] What happened to Mike? Did he get convicted of anything or–?
Chris: [00:34:03] They’re really looking at attempted murder, but it was hard to articulate that he knew exactly where we were and was truly targeting us. So, they went attempted assault one.
Dave: [00:34:16] Sentencing wise for our listeners, that would be several years in prison. Mandatory minimum sentence in our state.
Chris: [00:34:23] Right.
Yeardley: [00:34:23] And did he also get charged for child abuse?
Chris: [00:34:26] Yep, he did. After the shooting came out, that investigation continued. And that led to quite a bit of information from Alex and some evidence.
Yeardley: [00:34:36] Like what?
Chris: [00:34:38] The biggest piece of evidence is probably a bloody shirt that Alex said would be where it was found, and that that was from when he got his head slammed into the wall. Also, another good piece of evidence was Alex’s head had a scar, had some hair trimmed. It was still kind of a patchy spot. Some home remedy from Mike, never took him to the hospital.
Yeardley: [00:34:59] Unbelievable. Now, Mike has survived his injuries, and he’s in custody, but the fact that he was shot at by the police would lead to an internal investigation, no matter what, wouldn’t it?
Dave: [00:35:13] Yeah. The deadly force investigation team, we get called out after there’s a deadly use of force by police officer. We’re less concerned with the crime scene that occurred to get the police called out. We are solely focused on the use of deadly force by the police. Certainly, it’s a consideration to think about the severity of the crime. And if weapons were used, the suspect’s state of mind. But our concern is, did the police use a reasonable amount of force when they decided to shoot at suspect?
Yeardley: [00:35:47] So, essentially, you separate the domestic violence charge in this case with Alex and the deadly force incident with Mike?
Dave: [00:35:57] Correct. The initial agency handles the initial crime of domestic violence. We handle the police actions thereafter.
Yeardley: [00:36:05] I see. And then, how does that work? Do you present your findings to a DA or–?
Dave: [00:36:12] Right. The deadly force investigation team is comprised of detectives from multiple agencies within our county. It’s not the agency that shot at the suspect who’s leading that investigation. They have a piece where they are with us on that investigation, but they are not the primary investigator on that scene to avoid the conflict of interest, obviously.
Yeardley: [00:36:37] And then, once that outside group of people investigating investigates, where does that information go?
Dave: [00:36:44] The deadly force investigation team is supervised by the district attorney’s office. So, they are with us while we investigate. They look at things that maybe we aren’t thinking about looking at, and they direct us in certain areas. Once we finish our investigation, we hand that investigation to the district attorney’s office, and they make a determination on whether or not they feel the shooting was justified. If it’s not, then there might be a criminal aspect to this where we need to look into if we violated someone’s rights by shooting them. And now, the officer who shot or officers who shot would be looking at criminal sanctions. The DA is in charge of determining that that’s a justified shooting. Once they bless the shooting and say, “Okay, the cops did everything right,” or, “it’s a reasonable use of force,” then that case is over with. If the DA has questions, they would forward that to the grand jury and have a panel of grand jurors decide on whether or not they feel that use of force was justified.
Yeardley: [00:37:53] So interesting. I feel we could do a whole separate mini episode about that. But we digress. Back to you, Chris.
Chris: [00:38:02] Yeah. This case, it’s not yet closed, it’s because of COVID. These cases have gotten kicked down the road for so long, and there’s no such thing as a speedy trial anymore. Unless the defendants waive their rights, they can make this thing go in 60 days if they want to. But all the defense attorneys too, they’re like, “No.”
Yeardley: [00:38:26] “Yeah, don’t do that.”
Chris: [00:38:27] “Don’t do that. We need time.”
Yeardley: [00:38:29] “I’ve got to build the case.”
Chris: [00:38:30] Yeah.
Yeardley: [00:38:31] Is Mike being held in custody, at least or is he out?
Chris: [00:38:34] Oh, no, he’s in custody.
Dan: [00:38:36] Him being in custody, actually, for the medical care that he’s going to receive is probably a good thing.
Chris: [00:38:42] Yeah.
Dan: [00:38:43] Getting shot twice in the lower torso, I’m sure he’s still requiring medical care, and he’s got it right on sight where he is.
Chris: [00:38:50] Oh, yeah. I mean Mike’s not doing too hot physically after all this. So, who knows how many years he’s actually going to have left? I guess we would all hope that he gets the help he needs and can come out and miraculously become father of the year. Odds are against him, and he’s going to be certainly spending quite a bit of time in prison.
Yeardley: [00:39:13] Chris, what happened to Alex? Did he end up living with his grandmother, Debbie?
Chris: [00:39:17] Yep. He’s with Debbie. She was very kind and appropriate, and it was just an unfortunate situation in their family dynamic.
Yeardley: [00:39:26] And at any point in this process after the fact, did Mike express any remorse or give you a reason why things went off the rails?
Chris: [00:39:35] No, didn’t really have much of an attitude change. Kind of the same guy that was out there. Investigators tried to talk to him and he didn’t say much, and then he just lawyered up. And that was that.
Dan: [00:39:47] If you go back how many times CNT told him, “Hey, we’re here to get you help. We want a peaceful resolution,” and Mike had no interest in a peaceful resolution. I don’t know exactly what Mike was going through. It sounds like some controlled substances were maybe contributing to this. But the totality of the circumstances is what we have to look at in law enforcement. And people might say, “Well, bringing SWAT out was an escalation.” No, bringing SWAT out, the primary goal of SWAT team is to contain this threat. And I just want listeners to know that this was two days of trying to find peaceful resolution to this, hopefully get Mike some help. And then also, let’s get Alex out of an abusive situation. Those are the goals here.
Chris: [00:40:38] Right.
Yeardley: [00:40:39] And also, you’re dealing with the situation where this house is sandwiched between two other houses, you have innocent people on either side who are potentially at risk.
Dan: [00:40:49] And that’s one of the things that we weigh is what’s the risk to the public if we don’t take action here.
Chris: [00:40:55] Yeah, exactly.
Dan: [00:40:56] Mike had numerous opportunities to make this all end peacefully. Mike dictated what was going to happen that day. It wasn’t the SWAT team. It wasn’t Detective Chris and his partners out there. Mike made the decisions.
Dave: [00:41:11] In these situations, there are times when family members have called the police in and asked for help in dealing with the situation. Then it turns south, ends badly for the suspect in this situation. He’s taken two bullets. I’m curious what Debbie’s demeanor towards you guys was after she learned that her son had been shot.
Chris: [00:41:35] She was sad, because it came to that. I think it’s just obviously a natural emotion for a mother to see their child in such despair. But she was grateful for just the professionalism and the care that she felt was given to her son. She knows that he was in the driver’s seat. Poor Alex has dealt with years of this abuse, and Debbie’s, I’m sure, been worried about him, her grandson and has a son that has all these issues. And she just felt stuck. And it came to a head on that day.
Dan: [00:42:14] I’ve been in situations where I’ve had to use force, and I’ve been criticized by the actual 911 caller for using a taser on someone who is pointing a gun at me and said, “I thought the taser was a little excessive.”
Chris: [00:42:28] Yeah. It’s incredibly frustrating, right?
Dan: [00:42:31] It really is.
Chris: [00:42:31] You probably saved that guy’s life.
Dan: [00:42:33] I absolutely saved his life, and the other officers that were there, we saved his life.
Yeardley: [00:42:37] How so? How did you save his life?
Dan: [00:42:40] Well, the alternative to the taser is using a gun, meaning deadly force with deadly force. He’s pointing a gun at me. I could have shot him and the other officers that were there could have shot him. We used the taser on him and it kind of worked, but at the end of the five-second cycle of the taser, the guy immediately goes back for his gun and we bum rush him and tackle him to prevent him from getting a shot off. That’s why I say we saved his life by using a taser. And then to be criticized by someone who called us for help, saw that someone was pointing a gun at me and I used the taser and then says it’s excessive, it’s like you’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t.
Chris: [00:43:24] Yeah. And so, it’s unfortunate, and it’s just such a big part of our job dealing with the naive as a cop. If you don’t have a grip on how you deal with the public and how you deal with your own emotions in those moments when you have somebody like that, that is so naive to think that you should have just talked to this guy instead of tased him while he has a gun out or something. It’s hard because you have other experiences going on in your own life. We all have bad days. Everybody has bad days, but it’s cops, like you’re just expected to leave everything at the door. Come to your job, do it the right way and do it well, and make everybody happy, which is impossible. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t situations.
Dan: [00:44:13] Exactly.
Chris: [00:44:14] After the shooting happened, it was scary up there on the roof. We were certainly in fear for life. We’re under fire. I’m not going to pretend that wasn’t like a scary moment. It’s intense though, and you have this task in mind still to accomplish. So, it’s like you’re still so goal oriented when that’s happening, that you really don’t decompress much until far later. And what happened with me is I got really angry at Mike. One of Mike’s historical abuse things was Alex didn’t make the cookies right, so he sent him to his room and then he came in he threw the raw cookie dough at them.
Yeardley: [00:44:51] Oh, my God.
Chris: [00:44:53] I got so pissed off after the shooting because myself and Officer Judd are up on the roof getting shot up by this guy, and it just made me so pissed off that a little bit less luck on our side and I’m gone or Officer Judd’s gone.
Yeardley: [00:45:09] Yeah. Hats off to all of you for doing the hard things. I mean, it’s easy to be an armchair quarterback, but it’s impossible to know what exactly you all have been through.
Chris: [00:45:20] Yeah. Thanks.
Yeardley: [00:45:21] Thank you so much for bringing that to us today.
Dan: [00:45:24] Thank you, glad you and the boys were safe.
Yeardley: [00:45:26] Yeah.
Dave: [00:45:27] Appreciate it, Chris.
Chris: [00:45:28] Thanks, you guys.
Yeardley: [00:45:32] Small Town Dicks is produced by Gary Scott and Yeardley Smith, and co-produced by Detectives Dan and Dave. This episode was edited by Logan Heftel, Gary Scott, and me, Yeardley Smith. Our associate producers are Erin Gaynor, the Real Nick Smitty. Our music is composed by John Forest. Our editors extraordinaire are Logan Heftel and Soren Begin, with additional editing assistance from Jacqui Fulton. Our books are cooked and cats wrangled by Ben Cornwell.
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