An interesting thing happened the other day while I was writing. I’ve always tried to portray Will Diaz as a man who looks for the alternative to killing anyone. He’s been a cop for over fifteen years and has either managed to talk the individual down or to use a non-lethal means of taking them into custody.
It’s not to say he hasn’t killed. He killed an Iraqi soldier in Desert Storm. A man who turned out to have an empty weapon (of course he didn’t know that. He just saw an AK coming up and beat the guy to the trigger). The other was when He almost broke psychologically, almost drew a weapon to shoot another individual (Only a friend standing behind him, and putting his hand over his and whispering in his ear that he wasn’t worth it) stopped him.
In the novel, he ends up taking down two individuals on two different occasions. One individual shot and killed his wife in a bar room full of people, and fired not once, but twice upon Will and his team of Police Officers. By every interpretation of the law, Will would have been justified to use deadly force in his apprehension.
Instead, when they did the take down, Will tackled the guy. Will’s justification, was “ . . .He was half blinded by the tear gas. I had the advantage . . .” But Will and everyone in his team saw the guy coming around with the pistol before Will tackled him.
The second incident involved a guy who raped a girl at gun point, had fired on Will and company during the take down, but tossed his weapon away. Despite having the rule of lethal force filled, Will didn’t kill him either, saying instead, “ . . . He tossed the weapon away before I could engage . . .” Yet, while he was firing on them, Will had him center mass, but still didn’t engage.
Later, Will reflects that rarely does anyone question the fact that you let someone live. It’s the lethal shootings you have to justify, not the ones where the gunman was captured alive. But his discussion with his pastor reveals it all:
Finally, I said. “I’m still trying to figure out why they think I’m such a threat. Who do they think I am? Batman?”
Pastor Morgan smiled and said, “Obviously.”
I looked over at Jewell and smiled. “I reckon that makes you Batgirl.”
She shook her head, and a sly smile played on the corner of her lips. “Nope,” she said. “I’m Wonder Woman.”
She let the smile out. “Yep, she’s smarter and badder than Batgirl, and a heck of a lot hotter!”
I fell over on my back laughing. Leave it to the love of my life to take a serious situation and inject some humor into it. I had to admit, she was definitely right. Jewell was probably tougher than Batgirl, and could give Linda Carter a run for her money in the looks department.
“I like that,” I said finally, while laughing still.
“Good one, Jewell,” Carol said.
Pastor Morgan was still laughing when he said, “Does the fact that you might be up against ex-KGB bother you?’
I chuckled one final time, and then said, “Do I respect what they can do? Yes, I do. But at the end of the day, it’s just a pretty girl with a gun,” I said. “And in that context, this isn’t my first rodeo. It’s been tried before, and I’m still here.”
“How about them coming after your family?” he asked. Obviously he wanted to make sure I’d thought this through.
That got my attention. The grin that was on my face before went away. “They can try,” I said. “And I’ll erase them and whoever hired them from existence so thoroughly, even God will be sure they never happened.”
I saw a small twig in the dirt, picked it up, and started poking at the dirt. “Do you guys remember in Exodus, where when the Israelites were getting ready to go into the Promised Land?”
“What about it?” Pastor Morgan said.
“They sent in the spies and all except two came out shaking in their boots. They were saying the people there were huge, that they were giants, and that they seemed like ants to them.”
“Well Joshua and Caleb sure didn’t see any giants. They walked in with rest of the spies, and saw the same things they did. They weren’t that impressed with the folks living there. Their report said, yeah, they got walled cities. They got armies. So what! God is on our side and we can take them.”
“Let me hear you say it,” Pastor Morgan said. He had a smile on his face.
I smiled and went on. I’d been praying a lot about this one. “You ever heard the expression;’ it’s not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog’?”
I looked around at my wife and friends. “That old expression isn’t Biblical, and near as I know, it’s not even found in any other religion. But it applied perfectly to them. They just didn’t have much fight in them.”
I paused, thinking about the how the Israelites had gone to Egypt as guests and ended up as slaves. “They had just spent four hundred odd years as slaves. They were still thinking with a slave mentality. They didn’t see themselves as warriors. Indeed, there’s not a lot of evidence that they were even willing to stand on their own. Everything about them was provided by God, and they still complained. They kept looking back at Egypt. Forward thinking just wasn’t something to be had there.
“And it doomed them to wander about for forty years. It was their children and grandchildren who ended up going in and taking the Promised Land. I don’t think the people there got one inch shorter in the 40 years while they were wondering about. What did happen was that the people of Israel got bigger. Not in the physical sense. I don’t think they got much taller, but they did get bigger where it really counts. The got bigger in their hearts and in their minds. They fought battles, won a lot of them. When they came back, they were a whole different breed of cat.
“There was fight in the dog now.” I poked at the ground again. “About the only thing that had changed was that they’d stopped thinking like slaves. They stopped putting God in a box, factored him into the equation, and said, “Heck yes we can do this.”
I looked up. “And if I let them scare me off,” I said. “About the only thing I can do is wander in my own desert and say ‘it might have been different’.” I paused. “I’ve lived in enough deserts, thank you very much.”
Pastor Morgan nodded. “I was hopping you’d say something like you did.” I noticed he’d picked up a couple of loose stones in the dirt, and was laying them out. “There is something I need to ask you,” he said. “And you really need to stop and think about it.”
“Go on,” I said.
He looked up at me from under the brim of his hat. “You’re been involved in two incidents the last five months where you could have used deadly force, but didn’t. Why?”
I blinked. It wasn’t a question I was expecting to be asked. In a bad situation like that, you’re almost always asked why you shot the guy. You have to explain the use of deadly force, but few people question why you let someone live.
“I had the upper hand,” I said.
He cocked his head, and I noticed the women were listening closely. “Did you, now,” he said. “I’ve read the reports and talked to people. Pam from Sanford. We ran into her at a rodeo, and I talked to her about it. She said you were first in to hit the door. She was right behind you. She said the guy was turning towards you with a loaded weapon. Yet you vaulted across a bed and knocked him down like you were a tackle for the Bronco’s.”
“The guy was half blinded by the gas. The odds were on my side.”
“So, what you’re saying is just because he couldn’t see to aim, that he was incapacitated.”
“Was he? He’d already shot at you twice. Once in the alley, and once when you guys kicked the door in. And let’s not forget,” he said, holding up a finger. “The man had murdered his wife in a room full of people. Right there in front of your wife.”
I looked at him, wondering where he was going with this.
“There was nothing to say he couldn’t have just started squeezing the trigger till he ran empty. Good chance one of those rounds might have caught you, or part of your team. And those flak jackets you guys were using wouldn’t have stopped it. He was still deadly, and yet he lived through it.”
I looked over at Jewell. I could tell on her face that Pastor was pursuing a line of questioning that neither one of us had thought of.
“Go on,” I said.
“And how about El Pedrito,” he said. He was putting the pebbles in an order that resembled where everything had been the night we took him down. “The paper said he was taken down after shots were fired. It said that he’d fired on you guys, and the worse that happened was his windows got shot out.”
“He surrendered the minute they fired,” I said.
He nodded. “And you had him in a position, covered with a Colt 45. You had him sighted in center mass. And yet . . .” He paused and then went on, “ . . .and yet, you never pulled the trigger.”
“He surrendered right away,” I said.
“Will, are you sure that’s why the other guy is alive awaiting trial, and why El Pedrito died in prison? Why you didn’t shot them? You’d have been perfectly justified if you had. The one guy killed his wife, shot at your guys. El Pedrito had raped a girl at gun point, and had already fired on you. My understanding is the Rules of Engagement would have justified deadly force. Yet, you took them both alive.”
I glared at him. “I thought as a minister of the gospel would be against the killing of people.”
He was for a second. “Oh, I am. The unnecessary killing of people? Most definitely. But in these two instances, you were under fire. Every other cop in the world would have killed them. Why didn’t you?”
“I choose not to.”
He nodded. “Listen to those words. I choose not to.”
I shook my head. “Are you concerned with the choice I made?”
He nodded. “I am,” he said, and then smiled. “Understand, I’m glad you choose not to kill them. But you’re getting ready to go into a big battle. Your adversary might as well be the devil because she and the people associated with her won’t think twice about killing you.”
“What are you saying, Pastor?” I asked.
“The question I have is this. Can you honestly look over the barrel of a gun, sight in your adversary, pull the trigger and kill them.” He asked.
What Will is discovering is that there very much is a “Giant” in his life. He’s felt guilty over the killing of an enemy soldier who had an empty gun. He’s felt even more guilt and fear over his almost losing control and gunning down one of his superiors.
So, the question becomes, is it the tactical choices he’s made, or the guilt driving the tactical choices he’s made.
It’s a question that doesn’t get answered for Will till the end of the novel, and what happens really doesn’t help him at all.