I’ll never forget it. The night of the first time I wanted to kill someone. I mean really wanted to violently cause another person’s death. I wanted it so bad I could taste it; I was shaking with rage and begging for a chance to kill.
I was a cop for 16 years. During those years, I was involved in two police action shootings; one I pulled the trigger, one I did not. The one I did not is the one I referenced to start this post. My fellow officers killed him. The one I pulled the trigger did not result in the suspect’s death. He lived and, as far as I know, is still in prison.
I was recently asked my opinion about the recent police shootings and the racial ramifications. I had declined to comment but now I think I’m ready to comment a bit. So I want to start by telling you a story about that night mentioned above.
I was a member of two different departments during my career and, during my 16 years, I spent 10 of them on SWAT or SRT or whatever you want to call it. If you watch TV or movies or the news, you know a bit of what those guys do and what I did.
That night was cold. We had been called out to help the local Sheriff’s Office execute a court order. An elderly WWII vet had apparently lost his mind and had been threatening people with harm. He would answer the door to receive his mail with a carbine slung over his shoulder. So a judge issued an order that he was to be detained and brought to a hearing to determine mental competency. We got the call. I won’t bore you with all the details but will cut right to the chase, so to speak.
I was deployed on a sniper post that night so was not on the entry team. Under “normal” circumstances I was the point man, the first one through the door. But not this night.
When our guys made entry into the house, the suspect opened fire from behind a fort he had built inside his living room. I will never forget it; the sharp staccato of the Glock 18 carried by our shield man, the heavy sound of the suspect’s rifle, the screaming on the radio of, “Shots fired! Shots fired! Officers are down, officers are down!” Then the covering fire commenced. I could hear via the radio in my ear, “Get out, get out! I’ve got covering fire!”
I was raging and shouting while squinting through my scope, begging for a shot, my mind working far too fast. I don’t even remember what I was thinking.
Then an eerie stillness. Our guys were out. I ran across the street to help with the wounded. Craig’s blood was gushing over my arms and hands. It was so hot compared to the cold air that it almost felt like it was burning me. Craig was bleeding to death in my arms while the medics scrambled to control the bleeding. His femoral artery was ruptured. I held him and kept saying, “You’re gonna be fine, brother. Hold on! Look at me, you’re gonna be fine!” But I really didn’t know.
By God’s grace, the three officers wounded in that operation lived. Two of the three were forced into medical retirement because of their injuries. The suspect was killed in the firefight.
I tell you that story because I want you to know that cops are not bad people. Now don’t get me wrong, there are bad apples out there on the job. There are bad people in every job imaginable. But, based on my personal experience, 99.9% of cops are good men and women doing a job that is becoming increasingly hard and heavily scrutinized.
So here’s what I think about what has happened recently.
Let’s wait for all the facts before we all start rioting and calling cops racist and chanting for the death of police officers. When those facts come in and the investigation is complete, then you may protest if things aren’t kosher. But don’t call people racist and riot just because you have an agenda. There are no police officers who go to work wanting to kill someone; I guarantee that.
If, when the facts come in, it turns out that the police involved used force that was unlawful or unnecessary, then by all means punish them to the full extent of the law. Lock them up just as you would anyone else. But don’t convict them before you have the facts. I speak from experience when I tell you that pulling the trigger is never a fun thing and will haunt that officer for the rest of their life. Trust me on that.
I still have nightmares. I can still hear the gunfire and feel my buddy’s blood soaking my hands and arms.
Without delving too deep into the weeds of race, let me say this. During my career, I worked with black, white, Hispanic, male and female officers. Rampant racism was not something I saw from my fellow officers. Were there cops that I worked with who had improper and wrong views of people different than them? Of course. But that was not solely white officers I worked with. I worked with black officers who made their racial biases known loud and clear.
But this is where I want to offer some hope. This is where the Church can do so much. When these times come and these situations happen, we have a chance to be the voice of love, hope and reason. I’ve been frankly disappointed in some religious leaders who feel they need to shoot their mouth off about things that are outside their experience. We can be the ones the world turns to in moments of violence and pain. We have the greatest news to give a broken world! We can be the ones to embrace our fellow humans no matter their ethnicity or gender and tell them that there is a better way, that grace is for them also.
Can we all just agree that there is sin in the world and that our job as the Church is to offer an alternative to the narrative of pain and death? We are the voice of peaceful opposition to the narrative of division and death. We are the hands and feet of Christ in the world today. Let’s show that love and offer grace to any and all that come our way.
Of course pray for justice.
Of course speak out against injustice.
And above all, preach the reconciling power of the gospel and the love of Christ. Grace is for all who will repent and believe. Let us preach the reconciling gospel of God’s grace. Let us pray that His kingdom will come on earth as it is in heaven. Soon.
Come quickly Lord Jesus!