I made a comment in an earlier blog that if a police officer was going to get injured or killed, it would probably be at a domestic disturbance. The key to a domestic is to show up with help (at least one other officer). The first thing to do is to separate them. Get them in separate rooms and watch them like a hawk.
Don’t take sides.You’re not there to solve their problem. Unless someone has been assaulted, the best idea is get one or the other out of the house. Give them a ride to a friend or relative. Once they calm down, they should be fine.
Never, ever let one one of them go to a bedroom by themselves (an officer should go with them). Why? Most people I know have a handgun in the closet or nightstand.
Be careful, and stay calm.
Nice rules but in some cases, they’re almost impossible to implement. Most of the departments I served with were small. When it came to patrol on duty, there was often times, me, myself, and I. I might be able to get a deputy or an officer from another jurisdiction to back me up, assuming one was nearby.
I’d just taken a patrolman position with the City of Antonito, Colorado.
The former police administration and officers had been asked (translation – run out of) town by the townspeople. The former Sheriff was hired as chief, and he brought me aboard.
Antonito is one of my favorite little towns. It’s full of good people and I have fond memories of my time there. That said, it had a reputation for being a hard town to work. Bars out numbered churches and many people lived on the edge of or below the poverty level.
This creates problems. People drink to escape from life pressures, and all they’re really doing is lowering their ability to deal with things. Alcohol and drug use have this amazing ability to take away our coping mechanisms.
And so it was that night.
I’d been with department for less that two months. I was alone. I’d already had a few interesting encounters to include yours truly taking on a fair fraction of the community in an effort to make an arrest. That worked out because it showed the community that, while I was a fair man, I wouldn’t run either.
But I was still feeling my way through it all, and when the call of a domestic disturbance came through, I responded. I’d called the Sheriff’s Office to see if there was a deputy nearby for backup.
There wasn’t. It was Lone Ranger time.
I pulled up to the house, and the first thing I see is a man out front with a shotgun. I stepped out with my pistol in my hand and pointed at him.
“Put the shotgun down!” I shouted.
He looked at me in surprise, and put it down. Automatically he put his hands up.
“I’m the neighbor,” he explained. “I took it away from old Floyd.” He jerked a thumb over his shoulder. “They’re still in there.”
The front screen door was hanging askew and the door was open. I could hear yelling coming from inside the house.
“Leave the gun on the ground,” I told him.
“I will,” he said. The neighbor had been in the Navy and been assigned to one of the Iowa class battleships. He’d cleaned the main guns plenty, and well appreciated the size of the muzzle on those things. He later told me finding himself looking down the business end of a .38 made the 16 inch guns look tiny by comparison.
I rushed into the house.
It was a scene I’d seen before. She was busy trying to get her coat to leave and he’s screaming at her. She just wanted out. He was totally unaware I was there.
It was obvious he’d already struck her, and he doubled up his fist to do it again. I stepped in and grabbed the hand and twisted the wrist like they’d trained me in the academy. I brought the hand up behind his back, pushed him against the wall, and reached for my handcuffs.
“Let’s not do that again,” I suggested as I put the cuffs on him.
I looked towards the wife and asked, “You OK?”
She was, and then asked what was going to happen to her husband.
He reeked of booze. “He’s going to DeTox tonight. Probably jail tomarrow.”
“Good,” she said. “My brother is coming to get me. I think you need to get him out here before he shows up.”
I could understand that. I’d follow up tomorrow and get a statement and pictures. With just me handling it all, it was difficult to do a proper investigation right then and there.
I led him out of the house, and put him in the back of the patrol car. One more thing to do.
I walked over and picked up the shotgun from the lawn. Quickly I emptied it, then picking up the rounds, took it and the shells and locked it in the trunk of the crusier. It was evidence now.
I took him to the DeTox facility in Alamosa. As we went, we talked, and he told me he’d gotten the shotgun to stop her from leaving. I told him how close his neighbor had come to getting killed.
“That could have went really wrong,” I told him. “If I even thought he was coming around with that shotgun, I’d have killed him. And you know what, you’re the one who would have to live with having killed him because you got the gun.”
That seemed to make him stop and think.
At any rate, he got help. He got off the booze, did some anger management, and is one of the few instance where a wife beater never did it again.
I later learned that while the drugs to stops drinking and counseling helped, I think the real help came from his wife.
She told him it it ever happened again he’d pay for it dearly.
I think the term “weenie roast” was used.
He must have believed her. He never stepped out of line again.