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“Please, come quickly. There's a man in my house!”
“Please, come quickly. There's a man in my house!” That was the call that came into the emergency response centre on an up-till-then peaceful Tuesday evening in late June. The voice was laced with sheer panic as the elderly lady reiterated that there was indeed a strange man in her home. She lived alone and was fearful for her safety. The dispatcher kept the frightened woman on the line as she radioed for any local unit to respond.
“Golf-Two-Bravo? What is your location?”
“High Street, heading towards Cross Street, over”, I replied into my lapel mike.
The dispatcher outlined the call and the urgent nature of it as she gave me the exact address to head to.
Adrenaline is a funny thing. The human body can go from cruise control to adrenaline-controlled frenzy in 0.2 seconds flat! Many a night is spent by a police officer cruising the streets literally waiting for something to happen, only to be met by monotony on most occasions. So, when a call such as this came in on this particular night, my senses kicked into over drive.
With minimal information given other than that the source was a frightened elderly lady, I headed at well over the speed limit to the address given. Working in a town of 6,000 people, the police manpower was lower than any trusting member of the public would ever suspect. They were all sitting blissfully ignorant in front of their television sets to the fact that my nearest back up was a full 20 minutes away at the scene of a 2-car traffic accident. I knew that and yet I headed at full speed to the scene.
"Okay, I'm going in..."
“Golf-Two-Bravo, the complainant says that the offender is still on the premises. What is your eta?"
“About three minutes,” I yelled into the radio so as to be heard over the sound of my sirens booming throughout the police car. Concentrate on the road, I said to myself. After all, better to get there even a minute later than not at all.
As I came to the final corner before the street that the victim lived on, I silenced my sirens and even doused my headlights so as to make a “silent” approach to the premises.
It doesn’t matter what training you have had, how many role play scenarios you have gone through or even what real life experiences you have encountered as a police officer, no two scenarios are ever exactly the same. I had absolutely no clue as to what I was going to find at the house. Was this intruder just a simple burglar, was he a rapist or was his end game capture or murder? A thousand possible eventualities played through my mind as I pulled up a hundred yards down the road from the scene.
“Roger that Golf-Two-Bravo. Early update please.”
The house was located on a dimly light street. However, directly opposite the front was one of the streetlights and it was casting an orange glow across the front façade of the home. I was aware that my approach would be easily spotted in this glow and so shuffled along hidden by a 5-foot hedge that fronted the property. The front porch light was unlit and I could see that there were lights on in the room to the right of the door but the curtains were drawn ensuring that I could not see into the room. The front door had two vertical panes of glass in the top half that were covered by a sheer curtain on the inside of the door.
As I slowly made my way through the gate at the end of the front footpath I was startled by the loud voice coming through my radio…”Golf-Two-Bravo, any update?”
Darn it, in the excitement I had forgotten to turn my radio volume down from the loudest setting that I needed on the drive to the scene and now it seemed to bellow echoingly across the deserted street. So much for my silent approach.
“Still approaching the house. How far away is backup?” I whispered into my lapel.
“Golf-One-Romeo is on his way to you. ETA of 10 minutes. Complainant has just hung up on us but says the man is still in the house.”
After a split seconds hesitation I said, “Okay, I’m going in.”
"He's still here. He's in the living room..."
As I made my way to the front door, I saw the sheer curtain in the door glass move and could make out the dark silhouette of a face at the window. I froze. Has he seen me? Maybe I should wait for backup and surround the house? What if the lady doesn’t have time to wait and is counting on me?
There comes a point when your instincts take over. It’s not really a calculated thing or even something you can rationalize later, but you just know as you know what is the right thing to do. I decided to continue to the door and see what unfolds.
As I placed my boot on the front door step, the door opened at the same time as I raised my full length Maglite to defend myself against the attacker. I was ready and prepared to strike out with my full force and ask any questions later. Better him than me after all.
As I raised my metal flashlight I was met by the wizened, pale face of the homeowner, who gasped as she saw my hand held up ready to strike.
“It’s okay, it’s okay. It’s the police,” I immediately said in an effort to calm her down and stop her from screaming which I knew would, in turn, scare the intruder.
Her frightened, crackled voice croaked out to me, “He’s still here. He’s in the living room. I’m so scared!”
“It’s okay ma’am. I’ll take care of it from here. Please stay by the front door and don’t move. Okay?” She merely nodded her reply and shrunk back against the hallway wall as she pointed at the door of the living room.
I waited for a few seconds as I gathered my thoughts, listening for any sounds from behind the closed door.
“Is there any other door out of that room?” I asked her. She shook her head in reply.
So now we were at the moment of truth. Even now I can recall the things that went through my head. I found myself mentally rehearsing my Ju-Jitsu moves from training school so that I was ready to grapple with the man behind the door. Then there was the image of my new bride that flashed before my eyes. Less than six months married and so much life ahead of us. My parents were next albeit just for a fleeting moment and then an image of myself in a hospital bed in a coma. I tell you, the mind can play some games on you at times like these. Police officers are still human beings, sworn to serve and protect, but still humans with loves and lives.
One deep intake of breath and I gently turned the door handle and slowly opened the door. I don’t really know what I expected to see when I entered the room but it was not what greeted my eyes on that June evening. I took a step inside the living room to give me clear vision of the whole room and was speechless at the sight in front of me. For a moment I was completely frozen, absolutely unsure of my next step. A 3-second count passed and I turned and looked at the old, fragile lady still huddled by the front door.
I'll take care of this...
“There’s nobody in here,” I said to her, “Are you sure you didn’t hear him leave?”
“No, officer,” she said, “He was just in there before I opened the door to you.”
I stepped back into room to make sure I wasn’t missing something and proceeded to make a systematic search of the room just like I had been taught. Look anywhere where something of the size you are hunting could physically be even if it seems ludicrous. A grown man can only hide in a limited number of places but I searched everywhere. Having satisfied myself that he was not in the living room, I proceeded to search the remainder of the one-storey home. That process took only about 5 minutes as each room was very sparsely furnished with minimal hiding places.
As I returned to the front hallway, the old lady was just exiting the living room with a look of anguish on here face.
“He’s still in there!” she said, “He’s still in there!”
Throwing caution to the wind, I ran into the room and saw that the room was still completely empty, just as I had left it 5 minutes earlier. I went back out into the hallway and took the timid lady gently by the arm and led her into the living room.
“See ma’am. The room is empty. The man has gone. It’s all okay”.
“No, he’s right there,” she exclaimed, pointing to the coffee table.
“Where exactly?” I calmly asked her.
“Right there,” she said again clearly pointing to the top of the coffee table.
I looked and spread on top of the coffee table was a selection of magazines. The magazine on the top had a full size picture of the face of Tony Adams, the then-captain of the England football team because of recent news stories involving him. I walked over to the coffee table and pointed directly at the face on the cover.
“Is this the man you called us about?” I said calmly to her.
With genuine fear written all over her face and fighting back tears she nodded to me.
Like I said earlier, no training can prepare you for every eventuality and so you have to rely on your gut reaction.
“But I know this man,” I said, “Please wait outside in the hall and I’ll take care of this.”
The lady scurried out of the room and with a smile on my face I proceeded to pick up the magazine, roll it up and snap one loop of my handcuffs around it before proudly parading the 'prisoner' past the relieved lady and out into the night.
“Golf-Two-Bravo to control. One offender apprehended. On my way back with the prisoner!”