North Minneapolis, Minnesota
July 7, 2013, 12:22 AM
Officer David Hardin’s POV
I looked down the alleys as my newest partner, Officer Vanessa Miles, drove down Second Avenue North near Interstate 35W. “What are we looking for,” she asked.
She was new to the Northside beat, having spent most of her probationary period directing traffic and patrolling downtown streets during events. In her first year, she’d pulled her firearm once. On the north side, she’d had her gun out four times in her first ten weeks! She was eager enough, but it would take some time to get used to the pace of the night shift beat I worked.
“We’re seeing a rise in copper thefts, so Sarge wants extra patrols on the warehouses and construction sites.”
“So, we’re doing that early? While nothing else is going on?”
I rolled my eyes. “You did NOT just say that.”
She looked at me, her tanned skin backlit by the streetlights. “Don’t be so superstitious. It’s not like what I say here can affect what goes on outside our car. You don’t understand the concept of an independent agency, do you?”
The radio call came before I could respond to her idiotic statement. Of COURSE, it could affect things. Just like talking about a no-hitter in the dugout and yelling at the television during the football game changed things. You didn’t fuck with fate. “Sixteen North, Thirty North, Ten-seventy-nine, Thirteen-thirteen North Irving Avenue, respond Code 2.”
Vanessa hit the lights and made a right turn. I picked up the radio, rolling my eyes at the call. Domestic situations were the worst calls to get. If you are lucky, you show up, talk the people down, and write a report. Sometimes you take a guy to jail, usually over the objections of the woman he just beat on, ‘because he still loves me.’ Then there are the times it goes from nothing to a deadly force situation in a heartbeat.
Domestics and traffic stops were the most common use-of-force scenarios. The Lieutenant reminded us last month that domestic disturbances led to 29% of all officer fatalities. You could never let your guard down.
The call location was showing on our computer. “Sixteen North, roger, three minutes out. Any other details?”
“Location has four prior calls this year,” the dispatcher replied.
“Thirty north, ETA six minutes,” came over the radio. That was Sergeant Nick Maitland, a mid-shift supervisor.
“It’s probably nothing,” Vanessa said.
“With four prior calls, it’s something,” I replied. “Just remember that whatever happens is your fault.”
She shrugged her shoulders as she raced through the dark streets. “Whatever.”
We stopped on Irving just south of 14th Street. A black woman in her forties was standing on the sidewalk and waving us over. “Thank GOD you’re here! I think he’s going to kill her this time!”
I could hear the shouts from inside the two-story house. Constructed in the twenties, it had seen better days. Like most homes in this neighborhood, the upstairs was a separate apartment. “Who is going to kill her, Ma’am?”
“Virgil. That bum just got out of prison, and he’s nothing but trouble!”
Vanessa came to my side. “Has he hit her?”
She nodded. “Beat her ass last month and was supposed to spend two months in County for it.” It didn’t surprise me; the County was cutting costs, and incarceration was expensive. Add in a County Attorney who pled everything down, and the criminals didn’t face many sanctions.
“Door on the right,” the woman replied. “Take his ass to JAIL and leave him there!”
“I’ll see what I can do,” I promised. The shouts got louder, and Virgil threatened to kill her for cheating on him. She was giving him hell back, telling him he was a bum who couldn’t keep a job. This situation wasn’t going to de-escalate. “Let’s go,” I said.
“He’s on his way,” I said as I started up the stairs to the porch. I could see the lights from Thirty approaching from the east. “You live downstairs, Ma’am?”
“Yes. Nobody else is home. It’s the one on the right.”
“Thanks.” The owner had left the original wood door for the ground floor apartment, while a plain steel door led to the stairs for the upstairs apartment. Luckily, it was open.
I led Vanessa up the narrow stairway. Halfway up, the wall shook from an impact, followed by the sound of breaking dishes. The woman inside was screaming for help. I took the remaining stairs two at a time, pounding on the door with my fist. “MINNEAPOLIS POLICE! OPEN UP!” There wasn’t a lot of room at the top of the stairs, so Vanessa was two steps down from me.
“THE FUCKING COPS! I’LL CUT YOUR FUCKING THROAT, BITCH!”
The woman screamed he had a knife, and I couldn’t wait any longer. I kicked the door open, my Glock 22 held in my right hand as I caught the door with my left. I scanned the room, stopping with my gun pointed at a skinny black man by the refrigerator. Virgil stood over his girlfriend, a bloody kitchen knife in his hand. “DROP THE KNIFE,” I yelled.
“FUCK YOU.” He drew his hand back, getting ready to stab her again. My finger squeezed the trigger once, hitting him in the left arm. A fraction of a second later, my next shot hit the left side of his chest. I heard another shot from behind as my hip exploded in pain. I kept my pistol on Virgil as I fell forward, unable to balance myself. I saw Virgil drop the knife, so I didn’t fire again.
I screamed in agony as my body hit the floor.
“DAVID!” Vanessa ran up to me, kneeling on the kitchen floor by my side. “I’m so sorry!”
“Secure him,” I grunted out as I fought the pain. I rolled onto my left side, keeping my gun on a slumping Virgil as his girl screamed his name.
“What the FUCK,” I heard from the door. “Thirty North, shots fired, officer down. Thirteen-thirteen North Irving.” I saw Vanessa shake her head as she checked Virgil for a pulse. “Suspect is down along with the victim. Officer down, roll EMS.”
Sergeant Maitland was at my side a second later. “Miles, grab a towel and apply pressure to her bleeding. Take her into the other room.” She moved off, visibly shaking. Meanwhile, Sarge put his hand over the right side of my groin, where blood was spurting out from the exit wound. “David, you hang in there. I’ve got you, and the cavalry is coming.”
He grabbed a dish towel from the oven, folded it with one hand, then pressed it to the back of my hip and the front of my abdomen by my right pocket. “She fucking shot me in the ass,” I gritted out. The pressure of the improvised bandage sent stabbing pain up my side.
“I figured that,“ he replied. The pain was intense, and I gritted my teeth to keep from screaming. “You’ll be fine; she missed your dick. Stay still, dammit!”
I could hear the sirens outside as units pulled up. Everyone responds to a call like this.
One of the responding officers set his First Responder kit with him. I could see people coming by me, and their faces told me it wasn’t good. The suspect was DRT, dead right there. The woman had defensive wounds on her arms; it didn’t sound bad.
Two Emergency Medical Technicians arrived with their case and a litter. “It’s too fucking narrow to get the gurney up here,” one of them said.
“GSW to the right hip with an exit wound at the right abdomen,” the second EMT said. “Get me two pressure bandages and start a line.”
I was struggling to follow everything that was happening around me. I heard Sarge tell them to take possession of Vanessa’s gun and put her in a car until the shooting team arrived.
“I’m cold,” I told Sarge as he held my hand.
“Quit fucking bleeding then. You’re making a mess of the woman’s kitchen.”
I knew what it meant. I could feel the pool of blood beneath me. I was bleeding out. “Tell Tracy I love her.”
“You’ll tell her yourself,” Maitland responded. “You’re not going to fucking die on me, Officer Hardin. I’ve never lost one of my officers, and I’m not going to start now! You hang on, you hear me?”
I barely noticed as the EMTs cut off my duty belt and part of my pants while I lay still on my left side. I couldn’t see past all the people in the room now. Even the Sarge was pushed aside by the paramedics.
“We need to move him NOW,” one of the men said. The guy holding the bandages held them tight as they rolled me onto my left side. I felt the bones in my hip shifting, and I nearly passed out from the pain. I bit back a scream, taking a deep breath through the oxygen mask they’d placed over my mouth. The men attached Velcro straps after getting me on the backboard. “Lift on three.”
The pain kept me awake as they maneuvered me down the narrow staircase and out to the waiting gurney. My fellow officers reached out to touch me as I was rolled to the ambulance, others shouting encouragement that I couldn’t acknowledge. After the ambulance doors closed, I could feel my body shutting down.
I couldn’t keep my eyes open, and it felt like I was going underwater.
People were talking around me, but it was all fuzzy.
I could feel my body jump when they used the paddles on me, but I didn’t feel any pain.
“Tracy,” I tried to say, but nothing came out. A light appeared to me; it was soft and comforting, and I felt myself moving to it. The world faded, and then there was nothing.