It has been over five years since I spent my last shift in a patrol car. The night still haunts me regularly. The pain I feel from the nerve damage is constant. Most days I do well ignoring this pain but on others I cannot shake it. It reminds me of the ambush and the aftermath.
On May 7th, 2016, I was ambushed and shot as I tried to notify the driver of a vehicle that his headlights were not working. It was the end of my shift and I had plans to see a movie with friends after.
I believed in the concept of community policing and the vehicle I had been following had already pulled into their driveway. I thought it would score some “community policing” points if I simply told the individual his headlights were not illuminated. Instead of conducting a traffic stop and taking enforcement action, I opted to just let him know. I thought wrong.
Against all training meant to keep me safe, alert, and ready for an attack, I simply rolled down my window as I approached the driveway. This was all it took. Out of nowhere, a second man who was standing near the house yelled and expletive and my name. Whoever this was knew me and it was clear he was angry. I looked in the direction of the yelling and saw the man charging at me. I did not know why he was angry, how he knew me, who he was, or what was happening.
I got out of the car just in time to meet the man as he began punching me. I was able to deflect most of the blows. Others struck me in the top and back of the head. While defending myself I draw my taser and tased the man. It did not work! This tool the public so readily believes can instantly stop anyone had no effect.
I pushed the taser into his chest and pulled the trigger a second time. This time, due to the direct contact, the main felt the electricity flow through his body. He stopped punching me and I was able to push him away, creating separation.
I backed away hurriedly while I ensured I never allowed my back to turn to the man. It was then I saw him reach his hand into his pocket and retrieve a black pistol.
I felt the pain instantly. I knew right away I was shot. If felt like I had been hit with a sledgehammer and my right arm and hand (from my elbow down) were numb and burning. Without thinking, I drew my weapon with my injured arm and returned fire striking my attacker twice.
Both he and I survived our wounds and got up to continue the fight. He ran into the nearby house and I found cover. From my position I saw the man exit the house with an AK47. He continued shooting in my direction. It was clear his intent was to kill me.
Being outgunned and injured, I was unable to stop the man. He escaped only to be killed in a shootout with the FBI a week later.
MONDAY MORNING QB
If you listen to some public commentary after the fact, it was my fault I was shot for being an over aggressive police officer. Others said I was to blame for harassing a man over something as simple as the headlights out on his vehicle. Others told me the entire altercation was my fault because I had arrested him after he verbally assaulted a black male with racial epithets at a gas station and then threated to “beat your[my] ass” when I tried to intervene. Does anyone see a pattern?
As a society we are no longer looking to hold individuals responsible for their individual actions. It is much easier to claim a person is free to do whatever they wish and then blame a different party when things go wrong.
If we listen to the talking heads, the mainstream media, and multiple politicians, it is the cops who are the one causing all the problems we are seeing. It is the officers who risk their lives, much in the same way I did, who are making our community unsafe.
It is time we wake up!
Cops are not the ones burning cities while “peacefully protesting.”
Cops are not the ones shooting young black males at epidemic rates within our major inner cities.
Cops are not the responsible party when a known gangster and drug dealer tries to run over police and is shot.
Cops are not the responsible party when a teenage boy is out at two in the morning firing guns at passing cars, runs when he sees police (while holding a weapon), and is shot.
Cops are not the responsible party when YOU break the law and they attempt to hold YOU responsible.
COPS ARE NOT THE BAD GUYS!
Jeremy Scharlow is a public speaker, advocate for military and law enforcement veterans, and author of the book, “My Brother’s Keeper: Relearning to Live with PTSD.” He served as a patrol officer for Mahomet Police Department for ten years, nine of those as a METRO SWAT member, until he medically retired after his on-duty shooting incident. Jeremy completed his Master of Art’s in Legal Studies at the University of Illinois at Springfield and went on to found Relearningtolive.com.
In addition to advocating for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Suicide Awareness in the law enforcement community, he is currently an honoree with Operation Enduring Warrior and serves as the Program Manager for their Warrior Voice Program.
“Above all, it’s about going home at the end of the shift … “
We couldn’t agree more.
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