Every cop gets asked that question at least…a thousand?…times in his or her career. And, surprisingly, not by children. Or in formal settings.
It’s usually at a friend’s birthday party, or a wedding reception, or in the stands during your kid’s school sports day.
So. For the record. No. I have never killed anyone.
But there was this one time…
After it happened, I put it out of my mind for years. And then, one day, someone asked me the question I get asked all the time, and, for no apparent reason, it all came rushing back.
I was working as a beat cop in downtown Toronto. It was a hot summer night. A Friday. My partner and I were detailed to walk up and down Yonge Street–the place to cruise up and down, back in the day, on a night such as this. And by cruise, I mean cars were bumper-to-bumper, inching along, radios blaring, watching the people on the crowded sidewalks who came out specifically to be watched by those cruising in cars, radios blaring….
More often than not, there was some interaction between the people in the cars and the pedestrians. Maybe a cat-call, maybe a beer bottle thrown from a car (or from the street at a car), maybe someone from the car jumping out to pound someone they took offence to (or from the street who had taken offence to someone in the car). You get the picture.
Our job was to try to keep the occupants inside of their cars, the pedestrians safe, and the traffic moving (even if just at a snail’s’ pace). It was seldom a winning battle. The only saving grace was that very few of those involved in these interactions wanting to report their mishaps. But that’s a story for another blog (or two).
So, on this particular night, that call came over.
10-33 Assist PC
My partner and I were a couple of blocks away from where the call originated. We ran as fast as our feet would take us. Bear in mind that, by the time you take the bullet-proof vest, gun belt and all that it held, and the heavy issue-boots we had on, we were carrying at least thirty pounds of extra weight.
We were the first officers on scene. We saw a solo office losing the fight with a man inside a bank kiosk. We distracted the man long enough for the officer calling for help to get away, but the man was close on his heels.
When he saw my partner and me, the man immediately lost interest in the first officer.
Standing outside with his back to the glass wall of the kiosk, he pulled his fists forward and then smashed the glass behind him with his elbows, picking up a large shard before focusing on me.
My back was against one of the cars that was inching along the roadway, bumper-on-bumper with the car in front and behind it. There was a crowd of maybe 100 people on either side of me.
I had nowhere to go. I was trapped.
Everything they told me would happen in my police training happened.
As soon as I felt the metal of the car at my back, the deafening noise of the stereos and the car horns, the people laughing and yelling back and forth to one another was gone. All I could hear was my heart beating.
Ga-gunk. Ga-gunk. Ga-gunk.
And the headlights, taillights, overhead lights…everything that had been annoyingly bright before…also gone. All I could see was Him. Moving closer to me. With that broken piece of glass in his hand, above his head like a machete.
Our eyes locked. The world stopped.
It was at that point that I truly believed that one of us was going to die tonight. And it was then that I decided that it wasn’t going to be me.
In my mind, I had drawn my Smith & Wesson revolved (that’s what we had back then). I had pulled the trigger. I had shot the man. The bullet had dropped him. I had handed my gun off to my partner (procedure in a shooting). He was dead. I was alive. It was over.
And then I saw a blue uniform flash out from nowhere and tackle the man.
Now it was over.
The man was arrested without incident. I had not shot him. We were both alive, unharmed.
I had forgotten all about that night until someone asked me if I had ever killed anyone years later.
If you have any questions, leave a comment below. Or, as always, feel free to drop me a line.
Until next week, I’m 10-7 for shift.
Desmond Ryan – Real Detective. Real Crime. Fiction