Editor’s Note: The crew of CopBlue is pleased to have LEO Near Miss as our partner. Law Enforcement Officer (LEO) Near Miss is a voluntary, non-disciplinary officer safety initiative that allows cops to read about and anonymously share stories of close calls or “near misses,” which provide lessons learned that can protect fellow officers in similar situations.
One article will be featured each month to share with the CopBlue family of Street Cops. We believe this is just another way that we can expand our effort to, ‘Save just ONE life.’ Please join us and welcome LEO Near Miss to the CopBlue family.
I was dispatched for a suspect reportedly assaulting his neighbor in the driveway of a vacant house. (The suspect used to be the homeowner of the residence before the house was foreclosed. The neighbor was now trying to buy the house to use as a rental property, which the suspect was not happy about.)
This suspect was known by the department due to many past alcohol and domestic violence related incidents. I had personally arrested this suspect twice on prior cases.
I arrived on scene with a backup officer from another jurisdiction. We contacted the victim and his wife and determined an assault had occurred. The victim stated the suspect fled on foot to the backyard of the house.
I knocked on the front door to the house without any answer. The door was locked, and the house appeared vacant through the window. I told my backup officer to be careful because the suspect was known to have guns and had attempted to hide from me during a prior incident.
The other officer and I went around the house to the backyard and approached the back door. I knocked on the door and called out to the suspect, but there was no answer. I opened the door and again called for the suspect to come out of the house, but no answer.
There was approximately 2 inches of new snow on the ground from the night before, and at that point, I observed fresh footprints leading to a chicken coop in the backyard about 50 feet away from us. I told my backup officer to stay next to the back door (since the house hadn’t been searched yet) and I would check the footprints.
I drew my handgun and went into the fenced area around the coop. A few more steps and I was at the door to the coop. I opened the door and observed several windows stacked to prevent me from entering the chicken coop.
It was dark inside, but I attempted to look past the windows for any sign of the suspect. I then saw the suspect step out from hiding with a rifle aimed at me. We were approximately 12 feet away from each other. I reacted and dove to the left. As I was going to the ground, I heard the suspect shoot at me. (From entry to the suspect shooting at me was about 4 seconds.)
As I hit the ground, I shot through the wall twice. I heard another shot from the suspect, which came through the wall and barely missed hitting the top of my shoulder. I remember thinking the suspect is still shooting at me, and I have to get up and finish this. As I got up, I thought about how I would likely lose in a firefight against a suspect armed with a rifle, so I decided to take cover.
The closest cover was a nearby tree, but I knew that I would be exposed as I ran past the open door. I decided to go for the tree, and as I ran by the door, I shot one more time at the suspect to cover my run. I jumped over a small fence and made it safely behind the tree. My backup officer took cover at the back corner of the house. I called out to the suspect, but he wouldn’t answer me.
On the front of the chicken coop were windows, which afforded the suspect a full view of the rear of the house, including the corner where my backup officer had taken cover. The suspect shot at the officer and hit the house two brick lengths from his head. I called out to the officer to move because he was in sight of the suspect. The suspect continued to shoot randomly from the chicken coop.
Multiple officers responded to assist, and a SWAT team was eventually called out. After six hours of negotiations, the suspect finally surrendered. He has since been convicted of attempted murder of a police officer and sentenced to life in prison.
- Slow down with your tactics, make an arrest plan, and wait for more help.
- Be observant of your surroundings to detect and prevent a possible ambush. When we were checking the back door of the house and when I was approaching the chicken coop, we were in full view of the suspect from the chicken coop windows.
- Be mindful about what type of uniform you are wearing during enforcement action. The backup officer was wearing a polo shirt with an embroidered police badge and a baseball cap that was embroidered with “Police.” In court, the suspect successfully argued that he did not know my backup was a police officer because of what he was wearing, which resulted in a lesser charge for shooting at that officer.
At the bottom line, it’s all about saving just ONE life.
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If you would like to read more stories like this one, please visit LEOnearmiss.org. We also ask that you consider sharing any near misses you have experienced. The five minutes you take to share your story can save the life of a brother or sister in blue.
LEO Near Miss Overview
Law Enforcement Officer (LEO) Near Miss is a voluntary, non-disciplinary officer safety initiative that allows cops to read about and anonymously share stories of close calls or “near misses,” which provide lessons learned that can protect fellow officers in similar situations.
A near miss is defined as any incident that could have resulted in a law enforcement officer being seriously injured or killed if not for a fortunate break in the chain of events. Near misses oftentimes include contributing factors like hazardous conditions, subjects with concealed weapons, failed equipment, or lapses in situational awareness.
Regardless of the situation, they provide lessons learned, and reporting a near miss allows fellow officers to learn from these incidents so they can go home to their loved ones after every shift. Officers often share their near misses with their close friends, but rarely are these stories, and the lessons learned from them, shared with officers across the country. LEO Near Miss provides a secure way for cops to share this vital information.
LEO Near Miss is strictly for promoting peer learning and enhancing officer safety and wellness. Officers can visit LEOnearmiss.org or download the free smartphone app (LEO Near Miss), read the lessons learned from near misses experienced by other officers, and anonymously share their own near-miss experiences.
Near-miss stories submitted to LEO Near Miss go directly to the Police Foundation (www.PoliceFoundation.org), an independent, non-profit research and training organization that manages the system in partnership with other national organizations like Below 100, the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, the Officer Down Memorial Page, and the National Tactical Officers Association. Each story received undergoes a two-stage review process by current and former law enforcement to remove all personally identifying information (ensuring anonymity when published) and to highlight important takeaways for improving officer safety.
Once a story has finished the review process (about 7-10 days), any personally identifying information is permanently deleted from our records, and the story is made available for vetted law enforcement personnel to access on the LEO Near Miss website and smartphone app. Furthermore, no IP addresses are ever tracked or linked to any stories submitted to the system, and officers do not need to log in to submit a story.
Please support this critical officer safety initiative by reading and sharing the near-miss stories and lessons learned that your fellow officers have shared, and please consider sharing your own near-miss experiences at LEOnearmiss.org or through our free smartphone app. The five minutes you take to share your story can save the life of a brother or sister in blue.