The night was sweltering and humid. Why did it have to be so frigging hot? While Adam had the police car’s air conditioning running at full blast the chilly air never quite seemed to cool him down. The Kevlar vest made it seem that way. So many times he wanted to just leave the vest off as some of the other officers but his wife was adamant about him leaving it on. She’d insisted she didn’t care if his clothes and undershirt was rank with sweat by the time he got home and she had to do laundry. She just wanted him to come home.
A call came over the radio, “10-32 at N. Frederick Ave and Montgomery Village Ave. White male, black t-shirt, black pants and dark colored baseball cap.” A man with a gun. Great. Just great. He sighed and accelerated his patrol car. He was just around the corner from the location.
“5086 to base, I’m 10-60.” Adam radioed in, letting the dispatcher know he was in the area. Slowly he began scanning the streets and sidewalks. As he turned onto Montgomery Village Ave he caught movement out of the corner of his eye, just over the grassy hump in the mall parking lot. He caught a glimpse of a white male, black t-shirt and a dark blue baseball cap before the guy disappeared behind some shrubbery.
As he threw his car into park and hit his lights, he radioed in, “5086’s out on a subject matching 10-32 suspect, Montgomery Village Mall parking lot, Montgomery Village Ave side!” He launched himself out of the car and pulled his gun out as he ran up the grassy embankment. Coming down the embankment into the parking lot he saw the guy a few yards ahead, walking with his head slightly down.
“Stop! Police!” Adam cried. The guy kept walking away! “I said STOP!” His heartbeat began to increase. Why was the guy still walking away? Was he going to run? Was he going to turn around in a moment and shoot at him? Suddenly the night air seemed to be stifling, making it hard to breathe.
“STOP!” He started running toward the guy as he heard a car siren blaring from just down the street. Thank goodness for back-up! But the guy still wasn’t stopping! Suddenly the back-up patrol car squealed into the parking lot, it’s red and blue lights going like a welcome beacon.
The suspect wheeled around, eyes wide. Abruptly he started to reach into his pants pocket.
Oh my God. He’s reaching for the gun! Adam’s heart seemed to jump into his throat as he raised his gun and aimed at the man. “DON’T MOVE!” he yelled! The guy paused for a moment. The baseball cap was keeping Adam from totally seeing the guy’s eyes as the man dropped his head slightly and began fishing in his pocket furiously. “PUT YOUR HANDS UP! DON’T MOVE!”
As the man bent over slightly, his hand still in his pocket and the other hand reaching over toward it, Adam began to tighten his finger on the trigger of his gun. “Dear God, please don’t…” he started to say, as he heard another car squealing into the parking lot. More back-up!
“STOP!” he screamed at the suspect. “God damn it, PUT YOUR HANDS UP!”
The guy started to straighten up, something in his hand. Adam tightened his finger on his gun even more.
“ADAM STOP!” he heard yelled from behind him. “Stop! He’s DEAF! I know him! He’s DEAF! Lower your gun!”
Tony ran up beside him as Adam realized that what the guy had in his hand was a small notepad. He saw Tony’s hand come up and cover his gun, pushing down on it. The suspect’s eyes were wide with horror and fear and his mouth hung open. He was rapidly shaking his head back and forth as he put out his hands in a stop motion and dropped the notepad.
Jesus Christ. He’d almost shot a man because the guy was reaching for a notepad to communicate with. Adam’s hand began to shake as he slowly re-holstered his gun. Tony stepped forward, fingers and hands flying in what Adam could only assume was sign language. The deaf guy and Tony communicated for a minute and then Tony said he was going to give the guy a ride over to his apartment, just down the street. Adam nodded, his heart still racing, and turned back to go back to his patrol car. He was shaken to his core. He’s almost shot an innocent man. Jesus Christ!
He climbed the embankment and came down onto the sidewalk, shaking his head. As he looked up there was a man walking toward him in a dark blue t-shirt. He had dark pants but no cap on his head. The guy started to reach into the same pocket the deaf man had. Was this guy deaf too? Was he supposed to be with the deaf guy?
Adam put his hands up in a placating gesture and began to point over the embankment to where he could still see the police vehicle lights. He reached up and keyed his microphone on his shoulder, “Hey Tony, I think I’ve got someone that might be with your guy..”
The man in front of him pulled a gun from his pocket and raised it at him.
Adam’s eyes went wide with surprise and fear, as spark of light and puff of white emerged from the barrel of the gun. Adam felt the bullet tear into his throat.
He dropped to his knees as he clutched at his throat, blood pouring over his fingers. He’d almost shot an unarmed man and then dropped his guard because he’d second-guessed himself with another. Why had he dropped his guard?! WHY? My mistake.
He pitched over onto the sidewalk as he saw the man with the gun take cover behind the hood of his patrol car and begins shooting at the officers who were coming over the embankment from the mall parking lot.
Please God, don’t let him kill anyone else.
He was cold. When had it got cold? Darkness began taking over his vision as he heard, from a distance, Tony and someone else screaming his name and yelling “Shots fired, SHOTS FIRED”. He knew they were yelling that last part into their radios.
Please God, let me live.
The coldness seemed to seep away and he felt lighter somehow.
God, if you need to take me, okay, but please look after my wife.
Two hours later, Adam’s wife glanced out the front window and saw a police car pull up in front of the house. The police chief and another officer got out of the car. Adam’s wife swallowed hard and tears began to form in her eyes. Not Adam. Not HER Adam! She moved to the front door and slowly opened it to reveal the officer’s standing there.
“Beth… I’m so sorry,” the chief began. “Can we come in?”
Both officers caught her and she began to sink to the floor. A wail of anguish and loss rose up into the night…