Tags: 1983 | police | nypd | chase | shooting

1983 Chase Shows Tough Decisions Police Make Everyday

1983 Chase Shows Tough Decisions Police Make Everyday

The sun sets behind the New York City skyline September 11, 2016. (Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images)

By Wednesday, 26 October 2016 02:02 PM Current | Bio | Archive

In light of my commentary on police shootings, I’m going to tell you about an incident I was involved with in 1983.

It was the day of the NYPD Sergeant's Exam, and I wasn’t interested in taking the test, as I wanted to be a detective and not a boss. We had limited officers working and we worked from out of the precinct. I was tasked to go get coffee and while returning I heard shots.

I looked to my right and saw a male fire three shots into another male on the corner of 126th St. and Amsterdam Ave in Manhattan. Instantly, I drove in the direction of the perp and he spotted me and he had the gun in his right hand. I got on the radio and gave my location and the shooters description as he fled westbound on 126th St. I was thinking, 'what if he grabs a hostage or a kid on the street?' so for a second I thought about running into him with the radio car.

As I turned onto 126th, I gave chase in the car as the perp ran down the middle of the street — still with the gun in his hand. I remember thinking that this guy could turn anytime and shoot at me but I stayed close as I chased, then reached an intersection, jumped out of my vehicle, and chased him on foot. He turned, looking at me as I gave chase, ran up a set of stairs to a home, and tried to get into the hallway, but the door was locked. He was now trapped and I yelled at him to drop the gun while I took a covered position behind a car on the street. His back was to me and I thought, 'if he swings around I'm going to shoot him.' I now had my sights on the center of his back, and if he made one quick move I wouldn’t miss.

Again I told him to drop the gun.

He paused, and turned his head to look at me. I yelled, "Don’t even think about it!" my finger now on the trigger, ready to shoot. I watched his gun hand very closely for any movement, then his fingers loosened and he dropped the gun.

I told him to kick it down the steps with his hands up and he complied. I remember coming out from behind the car with my gun still pointed at him. I picked up the gun, put it in my back pocket, and ran up to him. I told him to put his hand against the wall and I came behind him, holstered my weapon, and handcuffed him — he gave no resistance. As I led him down the stairs, cuffed, a backup arrived and I transported the perp back to the precinct. I remember all the thoughts going through my head as this occurred and it was like I was thinking at light speed. It was virtually milliseconds when these thoughts went through my head, assessing the best way to apprehend the shooter without anyone else getting hurt. This happened so quickly I don’t remember being scared, but I distinctly remember saying to myself, 'thank god I didn’t have to shoot him,' and realizing that tonight I was going home.

The person he had shot was transported to the hospital with three bullets in him that were not life threatening, I believe, because I had intervened as the shooting was going down, and saved him from being shot further and being killed. Several days later, he was released from the hospital. Turns out that the victim disappeared and never showed up for court, so the district attorney decided not to prosecute without the victim, even though I witnessed the perp shoot the victim.

When an incident like this happens as a police officer you have to act instinctively, there is no time to plan your moves. Your training kicks in. Everything just fell into place for me while this happened, and it was over within less than 60 seconds.

Turns out both subjects were Hispanic but the color of the skin didn’t even enter my mind during this incident. I knew it was my job to apprehend the perpetrator and do whatever it took to get this guy and his gun off the street. I remember saying to myself that I must take cover in the event the perp decided to shoot at me.

This incident shows what police face every day in this country. Life and death decisions made in a split second — there is no other job in this country that comes close. The fact is many want the police to be perfect in a world where it does not exist. The expectations for police officers are now unrealistic and that will destroy the profession and many will ignore calls to be cops.

Many officers are now reluctant to get involved because they believe if they act properly and within the law it doesn’t matter any longer. The fear is they will be utilized as political pawns and more than likely prosecuted for acting in good faith.

Harry Houck is a CNN law enforcement analyst, retired NYPD Detective First Grade, and USMC veteran. Follow him on Twitter, @HarryJHouck, or Facebook. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.

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Many officers are now reluctant to get involved because they believe if they act properly and within the law it doesn’t matter any longer. The fear is they will be utilized as political pawns and more than likely prosecuted for acting in good faith.
1983, police, nypd, chase, shooting
Wednesday, 26 October 2016 02:02 PM
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