Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Avery K Tingle


I was young, barely twenty. My son was still an infant. I had parlayed mild success as a bouncer into a part-time position with a security firm. After a particularly brutal takedown outside of the 12th and Broadway BART station, one of the attending officers volunteered to back my application into the police department. I chose San Francisco over Oakland.

I thought it was amazing that I was an actual, for real, honest-and-true police officer. I would take out my uniform and just look at it; dark blue, pressed to a razor's edge with my name and my badge pinned to my chest in its respective areas. Best of all I only had to wear the damn thing for forty hours a week while I went through my probation period. My training officer was about ten years older than me and while a little jaded, he still enjoyed the job. Mostly I rode around and watched him work.

The most fun for me was when I was off-duty; when I got to wear my street clothes and I had a special wallet that was custom-made to fit my badge. I found it too heavy to wear around my neck. This is where the pride of law enforcement came in; no matter where I went, or what I was doing, I was a cop, and that meant something.

The highlight of an extremely short-lived career was running down two adult shoplifters from the local Albertson's. You should've seen their faces; as a bad-boy myself, I spotted them a mile away. They weren't even slick about it. So I alerted security and met them at the door. When they asked me what I had to do with this, I flashed The Badge; "I'm a cop. That's what I gotta do with this."

The only thing they didn't do was say "meep meep" before they took off. I ran them both down and made my only solo arrest. One of them was confined with the plastic ties I had been taught to always carry. They were my arrests, and I got to see them through the system. They both got off. Figures.

I never finished probation, though.
In my second month, my training officer asked if I wanted to take part in a bust. I thought it was a good idea at the time. I mean, it wasn't as though my hands hadn't been dirty before...
Weeks of prep work went into the raid, which was to take place about a mile away. I knew the house. I knew the people who lived there. I took pride in knowing that I would help put them behind bars.
The day of the raid, Amy couldn't stop crying that morning. I kept telling her not to worry, that I'd be okay. I kissed her and my son goodbye and left in my street clothes to make roll call.
Shortly after arriving at my precinct I was outfitted. I was given full a bulletproof jacket emblazoned with the letters "SFPD". I did my weapons check three times. I loaded into the back of the van with everyone else. Right about then, it began to set in that something was going to go horribly wrong.

I don't remember much of the raid, except that everyone was a lot more relaxed than I was. San Francisco is made up of a lot of hills, and I remember heading up and down a lot, mirroring my emotions. I wasn't sure what I was thinking, but I knew it was too late to go back.
The battering ram hit the door with a force that shook the Earth and we were all inside. As I made my way through the house behind the other officers, it dawned on me that it was my life I was risking, that I was about to be shot at, these guys would not go quietly--

My thoughts were broken by gunfire, down the hall in the bedroom. Then returning gunfire. Then shouting orders and all of us converging on a single area where one suspect had been dumb enough to fire on a cop. It had been his very last mistake.

Shell shock began to seep in. The man had so many holes in him and he had been alive only seconds earlier, and now he was gone, and I was wondering if his life had mattered for anything to anyone.

My TO snapped me out of it. Are you okay? He asked. I nod. He tells me to say that I'm okay. I look him in the eye. I tell him I'm okay. He worries about me. He tells me to stay close to him as we sweep the rest of the house.
We head into the depths of the house where light fails us. He carries his flashlight crossing his handgun and stays in front of me. I see what he's doing and do my best to mimic his movements.
That guy is dead...
The basement is huge and easily makes up half of the house, broken down into corridors for some strange reason, that makes our job a lot harder.
When he steps into one room, I see his eyes register something. He fires. Someone screams. In that same second, two shots bellow out and he is knocked onto his back.

I take his place. White guy, bald, body art, built, young, evil, took a round to his left shoulder. It's affecting his ability to hold that revolver. He's raising it at me.
I'm pointing at him. Drop it, I say. Why can't I pull the trigger?!
With horror, I realize that he has lifted the gun past my chest and I can almost see down the barrel. Why can't I fire?!
Four shots boom out underneath me. Suddenly, he's God's problem.
I watch him sink to the ground, listless, lifeless, and manage to look to my TO, who was hit in the vest. He asks me, through ragged breaths, if I'm okay.

I'm okay, I say.

The house is cleared. Two people are taken into custody. Two people are killed.
At the end of the day, I surrendered my badge and gun.
There wasn't any fanfare. I wasn't being asked to leave. I wasn't being investigated. I just left.

Someone almost died because of my inability to act. I don't know how I would've handled it if my TO had died simply because I couldn't pull the trigger.

Besides, while I wasn't being asked to leave, no one was clamoring for me to stay, either. The stigma of freezing under pressure stays with you.

I learned then to be as ruthless as the situation warranted. Most of you know the rest of the story.

Avery K Tingle

About Avery K Tingle

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