How would I react? As officers we undergo what I call stress inoculation. Training to create muscle memory. Training to create safe habits so that we can hopefully predict with a minute amount of certainty how we may react. However, without ever actually facing a critical situation do we really ever know how we will react?
I would then and still do run scenarios through my head. Even on the way to a call I use the available information to run possible outcomes that may come upon my arrival to try and prepare myself for possible threats or emergency events. I feel this is an important skill to utilize and I believe not enough officers function in this way. You may wonder what kind of person would purposely think of things we face and what actions we may have to take to protect the innocent public and ourselves.
The next few days of work seemed normal and uneventful. Sgt. Kirkham of the Sanpete County Sheriff office was putting on a very valuable training at Manti High School in rural Utah. He invited me to attend. This training would bring together several law enforcement agencies from throughout the county. This training was incorporating school shooting scenarios and would be vital for as many agencies to attend as possible. In rural Utah multiple agencies provide support for each other as resources are scares. He had coordinated this training and I was looking forward to it.
We had planned on meeting the following morning of September 25th at 1000 hours to do a walk through and get acquainted with the layout of the high school. I ended my normal shift on the 24th anticipating the opportunity to meet with other Law Enforcement Officers and grow as a team together.
Little did I know that while my family and I were having these conversations and feelings there were events about to unfold.
September 25, 2013 was to be just another day at work, yet it turned out to be not so average. I began my shift by checking on at 0600 hours. At that point dispatch acknowledge me and stated she would give me a 21(phone call) regarding a 10-99 vehicle (stolen vehicle). The Dispatcher relayed to me that Sanpete County was looking for a stolen truck that had been taken out of Spring City, Utah. Dispatch also gave me a description of the individual that was believed to have stolen the vehicle.
The Dispatcher and I continued to talk for a minute and she very kindly and respectfully reminded and requested me to wear my body armor or ballistics vest. I thanked her for her caring thoughts and told her I always do. I firmly believe that the day I do not where my vest will be the day, I need it. In fact, my kids ask me often if I have found out if the vest works. I chuckle and say no. However, I hope that day never comes.
I got into my patrol vehicle and headed north. Some of the descriptions were that the stolen vehicle had a full tank of gas, an undisclosed amount of cash in the jockey box, and two firearms. I thought that the vehicle will most assuredly be out of Sanpete County by now. I thought I would drive up to the divide (SR-132 between Fountain Green and Nephi). I thought maybe I might see something. As I thought about the situation and the description given of the suspect, I felt that Sanpete County Sheriff Office must know who the suspect is or at least believe who it may be. I called Sanpete County’s Dispatch and stated to them that based on the description that I had received from Richfield Dispatch that they must know who they believed the suspect to be. The dispatcher relayed to me whom they believed the individual to be.
At first, I recognized the name but could not picture in my mind who it was. I got on my computer and searched the name in booking photos of Sanpete County Sheriff Office. I recognized the picture of this individual. I recognized the individual from about an incident about a month earlier. In August I had been assisting a Spring City Officer and we had dealt with the same individual. It was reported that he had been trying to kiss on his mother. He believed his wife was cheating on him and that people were out to kill him. The report came in that he was running and hiding from these people in the foothills of Spring City Canyon. This individual had been reported as being out of control and at that time he was later found back at his mother’s. We made contact with him and his mother. He was later arrested for disorderly conduct and internal possession of Meth.
I knew in my heart at that point that the individual and the truck where most likely still in the county. It was about this same time I had arrived at the Divide and was looking for anything out of the ordinary. Shortly thereafter I received a phone call from the Deputy Greenwell handling the case for the County. He relayed to me that the suspect had been seen at a local Gas station/convenience store. He purchased gas and went inside the store. The Clerk stated that the suspect had an open jacket on with no shirt. Also, that he was bloody and had a large handgun tucked in his waist band. The clerk further stated that the suspect stated, “I’m going to die today!” The Deputy stated he was going to head home quickly as he could in order to finish getting ready for the day as he had been out since 3 A.M. when the vehicle had been reported stolen. He had already contacted the owners and had made a lot of progress on the case.
I continued to patrol the divide until I got another phone call. It was Deputy Greenwell again. He stated he had been in contact with the reporting party again. He then told me the vehicle had been located by the owners and that they were keeping their distance waiting for law enforcement to arrive. It was reported that he was in the Rabbit Gulch area of Spring City Canyon. I asked Deputy Greenwell to give me further info because I did not recognize the name or area.
It was thus planned that we meet on the road to Spring City Canyon. I turned around and headed to area of the Spring City Canyon Road. On my way there I notified Richfield Dispatch of the new information and which deputy I would be assisting. An Ephraim City officer was on his way and a Sergeant, Captain, and Detective from Sanpete County headed to the location as well.
I remember a sitting in my charger rolling with a good amount of speed down of propane hill on state route 132 headed to the scene. My gut started to swirl. My heart and my brain at the same time seemed to be telling me same thing. This was not going to end well. I knew this was not going to end well, did the other officers feel the same way? Sure, I am nervous, maybe even a little scared. Yet, we were all going anyway. Was I the only one that is nervous?