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Judgment Day


Many civilians are not aware that a police officer must always be on the alert, and instantly are ready to use the appropriate response, in diverse situations. His conduct and actions have got to be done right, the first time, because lives may possibly be at risk. That is why an officer undergoes constant training under experienced supervision, so that he can instantly respond, to apply the correct measure of procedure, to any given situation.
One of these measures is the skillful application of the implied threat of deadly force; presented forcefully and clearly; to alter or change the direction of the subject's movement in time to another, hopefully towards a more reasonable response to life's complex choices. But to each individual is given a measure of decision-making. The decision they make may affect the outcome of their lives forever, possibly ending a precious thing, called human life. This situation occurred some years ago, and I was the officer involved.
Deep into the graveyard shift, I completed the paperwork of my evening shift that had swamped me. I settled down to enjoy my last cup of coffee before I headed home to bed. Tim* came in and asked if I wanted to ride with him for a while. I knew what Tim wanted to talk about. It was no secret that all of us deputies were highly unhappy with our Sheriff; who spent most of his life in an auto parts store; and now was our boss because of his election to office. He had little knowledge of law enforcement, which caused deep problems and dissension within the department.
I liked old Tim, a big bear of a man who had the heart of gold. He was a twenty-year veteran of Dade County Metro, being part of the Presidential Drug Task Force with many citations. His body bore the scars of much combat, and so he came home to a little town called Hapsburg*, leaving the violence of Miami behind him.
It was quiet and dark that summer night, and well past midnight. The oppressive humid heat of southeast Arkansas still filled the air. Neither one of us used the air conditioning, relying on the speed of the cruiser to help cool the unit with the windows down. Pulling out of Hapsburg on the main highway, we discussed the politics that was tearing the department apart, and what we could do. There was no traffic on the road. Shortly we entered into Crescent*; its streets empty, the houses dark, as the town slept.
"Crack Alley should be empty now," I thought to myself as we started to leave the city limits, the highway growing darker once again.
In the distance we heard dogs barking, and I told Tim I thought they were on the left. Something had to disturb them, as it was near two o'clock. Tim slowed down the patrol unit cautiously, almost to a crawl, as we neared a store that was on the right. One of that stores' outside light burned dimly in the darkness.
"The dogs must be on the right," Tim said.
I wondered about Tim's hearing, then questioned my own. Listening intently as we cruised closer, it became obvious the commotion was on the left side of the highway.
"Man on the left with a gun in the bushes!" yelled Tim, and I opened the door and bailed out.
I wanted to reach for my flashlight, but the door slammed shut as Tim hit the accelerator to spin the unit around. For a fleeting moment I felt naked, leaving the security of the womb of the patrol unit to stand alone in the cruel dark reality of life. As the headlights settled on the subject, and cold blue flashes piercing the night, I was already crouched in a shooters' stance; my weapon drawn, the hammer pulled back and cocked, the deadly revolver aimed at the subject.
"Police Officer," I shattered the silence!
"Throw your weapon down; put your hands up; and come out of there," I commanded him slowly!
The young man slowly got up. Holding a rifle in his hands, he approached me, and then stopped about twenty feet away. I issued more commands to him, but he didn't respond.
I sight aligned my revolver, aiming at his heart. Swiftly glancing with my eyes to my right, I saw Tim out of the unit, crouching by his open door, intently watching the subject. I concentrated on the man.
It is hard to explain the experience of that moment. Everything was shut out. No chirping crickets, no sound of the cruiser; a soundless black void where total concentration was on the movements of the subject, my weapons' intended target. My thoughts instantly assessed all the legal ramifications of shooting; and I saw the full panorama of inquiries, court, and a trial. I could picture in my mind the formed bullet of lead, spiraling, hurtling, towards the heart of the subject, ending his life forever upon impact. I knew that he was one hairbreadth from dying. It was his judgment day on earth, as I was keenly aware of my finger on the trigger.
As I looked at the young man, I will never forget those eyes. It was like looking into a blank void, where one could dive in and be lost forever. It seemed like an eternity, and then I watched as his eyes opened extremely wide. He then threw his rifle down and we affected the arrest, during which time I smelled the odor of alcohol. I emptied the rifle of its cartridges, and found the beer the man had been drinking.
"What do you want to charge him with," Tim asked?
"Disorderly Conduct and Public Intoxication," I immediately responded.
"What did you think you were doing," I asked the young man?
He responded by telling us, "that some Black kids were throwing stones at his fathers' sign at his place of business across the highway, and that he was going to shoot to scare them off."
I looked at him and asked, "What would you have done, just as you pulled the trigger, a women driving a station wagon full of kids crossed your view? What would you have done then?"
He never answered.
"Or if you would have killed a kid?"
Again, no answer.
I hope that he grows up to understand, as we all should, that all men are accountable for their own actions; to the laws of the land, and the laws of God. What one decides does affect his life on this earth, then at the Judgment Seat of Christ. Because one day, we will all have to stand before ourselves, and Him, on Judgment Day.
© Copyright Jon C. Randall 1994
-All Rights Reserved-

ENDNOTES:
* The names of individual and towns changed.
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