We’re still talking about it, the deputies and I.
They ask me the logistics of what happened and they wonder if it’s too soon for bad jokes. I’m good with the jokes. It helps cover my anger.
Their talk is my therapy.
My partner and I, together with my dispatcher, try to piece together exactly how long the fight lasted. At the Academy, they tell recruits most fights last less than 30 seconds. Bad fights go two or three minutes. Terrible fights go upwards of five minutes.
We figure out, in the days afterward, that my fight with Scotty lasted the better part of twelve minutes.
September 30, 2008
He’s on the far side of the kitchen. Then he’s directly in front of me. The stink of booze is large and foul on his breath and his eyes are hard on mine. I realize then why he didn’t recognize me.
He’s not there.
His body comes at me but no one is home. Utterly vacant.
“Scotty? No, no. Stay back, stay back.”
As he’s coming, his mother screaming at him to stop, he raises his hands and my finger slips into the trigger guard.
I’m sure I’m going to see the flash of a hunting knife.
So this, then, is what I’m going to do. I’m going to shoot him in the chest twice…maybe three times…until he’s no longer a threat. I can’t let him kill us. I can’t let him stab me and take my gun. If he gets it, he’ll kill everyone. Me first and then the girlfriend’s parents and uncle. Then his parents. Then he’ll torture the girlfriend with rantings about how much he loves her and just wants to be with her and why did she have to break up with him. Then he’ll kill their kids, maybe doing them first in order to terrorize her, maybe doing her first and then cleaning up the loose ends.
Then he’ll kill himself and when my back up arrives, they’ll find ten bodies.
I’m raising the Glock 21 and I’m ready to go. This is what I have to do. Deadly force with deadly force.
But in the moment before he reaches me across that yellowed kitchen floor, I realize his hands are empty.
There is no knife. At least not here, not now.
I start to reholster.
Scotty slams into me and then we’re falling to the floor and my Glock is not in my holster and it’s not in my hand.
We hit the kitchen floor and his mother is beneath him, trying to squeeze him tightly to her chest. Trying to keep him from moving, I realize. Scotty’s father is trying to hold one of his arms. The girlfriend’s uncle is trying to hold the other.
And I’m on top, my cheek pressed to his back, trying like hell to get my hands between him and his mother.
I’m trying to get my Glock 21 back.
Scotty has taken it from me and has one hand wrapped around the butt, one hand around the barrel. He’s having a hard time manipulating it because his mother is hanging on to him so terribly tightly.
I get my hands on the weapon and try to yank him free of it. But when I pull his right hand, I realize his finger is wrapped around the trigger. If I yank too hard, he’ll squeeze off a round and someone will die.
So I try to turn the gun. I try to get the barrel pointed as much as I can toward Scotty. If that goddamned thing goes off, I want Scotty to be the only one dead.
Everyone has given statements.
Except Scotty and his parents. They refuse to talk and I understand. His mother doesn’t want to make it worse for her son.
But she did speak to me in the moments immediately after, when I was coming off the adrenaline dump, confused and shaking and boiling in my own anger. She said, “He’s not on drugs, he’s just drunk,” and “He doesn’t need jail, he needs help.”
Even then, it feels like Mama is prepping Scotty’s defense.
The other deputies and I don’t talk about the incident so much in the weeks after. Thus is law enforcement. Something else comes along and becomes the newest item of discussion.
But I want to talk about it. I want to talk about the white-hot acid anger burning me from the inside out. I’m enraged at Scotty for putting me in that position. I’m enraged that his mother drove her intoxicated son to his former girlfriend’s house at 3 in the morning and thought it a good idea.
If I can talk to someone, I can bleed out some of that anger.
But also I can decide whether or not I did the right thing. That’s the thought that plagues me for weeks after.
Should I have fired? Should I have fought? Did I fight the best way? Did I use the right training and tactics? Or was it a street fight with no fucking rules because he had my gun and that trumps everything?
Some deputies say straight up I should have killed him, that there was more than enough justification to shoot. Others refuse to take a stand because they weren’t there and say they don’t know what I was facing.
It’s pretty simple, really. I faced nothing but fear.
And a drunk man high on PCP (allegedly, though Scotty has never admitted it ‘officially’).
Nothing but the worst fear of my entire life. There was a drop in my belly and white noise in my head and my vision was nothing but Scotty even as my knees went weak and my own bile choked me.
But when he slammed into me and took my gun and we fell to the floor, I had only one thought: get that gun back. Whatever it takes, get that gun back.
Most deputies don’t want to talk about what happened, though one came to my house within hours to make sure I was okay. The entire incident scared some deputies while others were bored with it and one or two were jealous it happened to me and not them.
But in the weeks after, my dispatcher, my partner, and I still talk about it. We talk about the girlfriend’s phone call.
A few minutes into the fight, when the magazine had popped out of the scrum and suddenly I was worried about one bullet rather than fourteen, the girlfriend, yelling, asked what to do.
“Call 911,” I yelled. “Tell them he has my gun.”
She didn’t call 911. She looked up the number for the Sheriff’s Office in the phone book, then called that. But she told them the right thing.
My dispatcher told me she screamed at my partner, “Scotty has Trey’s gun!” and my partner was gone in the blast of a burning engine and smoking tires.
That was the first moment, six or seven minutes into the fight, that anyone outside that house knew anything was wrong.