Shootings
Allen R. Kates, B.C.E.C.R.



The following book excerpt is reprinted with permission from author and AAETS member Allen R. Kates, B.C.E.C.R.. To order, please call toll-free 1-888-265-2732 in the US and Canada. Foreign orders, write Holbrook Street Press, Box 399, Cortaro, AZ 85652 USA.

Excerpt From Chapter 4: Shootings.

"Police!" barked Ian.

From a few feet away, the man fired his Magnum. Ian felt something hot hit his forehead. On
reflex, he jerked the trigger of the shotgun.

The slug tore into the bandit's chest. The man stood there, puzzled. He didn't fall down. Then he
tried to back toward the elevator, his gun still pointed at Ian.

"I shot him again," Ian told me. "And he kept looking at me, trying to get to the elevator. And I
shot him again. And then I heard over my shoulder, BANG, and then he went down."

Over Ian's shoulder, Eric had fired his shotgun into the bandit.

"I stepped on his wrist," said Ian, "and took the gun off of him. And he immediately got like
apologetic and he said, 'Oh shit, I'm hurt.' And he told me, 'Take my shoes off, man. I can't feel
my feet.' And I thought, He's dyin,' I've severed his spine. And he tried to give me his jewelry. I
said, 'Relax, guy, relax. We got an ambulance coming.'"

Ian said, "There was a lot of noise. Screamin' from the office. There was f****** gunsmoke all
over the place and he was yelling and screaming. A lot of blood."

"You got something on your face," said Eric.

Ian touched his forehead and his fingertips came away black. He was so close to the robber's gun
when he fired, it peppered his skin with lead shavings.

In minutes, the lobby filled with cops. They wanted to see the shooters, the cops who fired their
guns and survived. Ian noticed "they had that look." Soon Ian's boss arrived at the crime scene.

"Look, Ian, how you doin'?" he said.

"All right, everything's all right."

"You okay to talk?"

"F***, I wanna get a drink and forget about this."

"Let's get the money off the mutt," said his boss, "and go in the office and count it, okay?"

They searched the gunman's pockets as he lay on the floor "like a mangled rag doll." They
counted the money, most of it covered in blood, not talking much about the shooting, not talking
at all about Ian's anguish over it.

In the bathroom where the perp had emptied the wallets, Ian scrubbed the blood off his hands.
Then he went to the precinct. He had paperwork to do. At least he could be alone to sip a coffee.

After writing up the shooting report and noting the late hour, Ian signed out. He went to a bar,
alone, and then he went home.

"I went home and stood in one spot in my kitchen," he said. "My wife was still up and we talked
about the children, shopping, anything but what happened. I didn't tell her. My wife said, 'Ian,
you're going to wear a hole in the rug. I think you're drinking too much.'"

Ian wanted to deny it but he couldn't. A drinker since a teenager, he drank more and more after
joining the Stakeout.

He went to bed. It was now a few hours after he shot the bandit. Unable to sleep, he lay in bed
thinking about right and wrong.

"I was brought up a practicing Catholic," he told me. "And I had these ideas that God set out
certain rules, and I didn't know if I violated these rules and was guilty of the biggest sin. Like
should I have sacrificed myself more before firing the gun? I was always thinkin' like that when I
had a few drinks."

He finally dozed off and dreamed. He dreamed in slow motion...

The bandit sailed around the corner.
"Police" yelled Ian.
A gun flashed.
Ian pulled the trigger of his shotgun and out the end of the barrel a slug waltzed lazily a
few feet and tumbled to the floor.
"What's wrong with the bullet?" mumbled Ian.
He fired again.
Rotating to the end of the barrel, the bullet fell out of the gun...

From repressing his feelings of vulnerability and fear, Ian could not untangle his many conflicts. In
a sweat, he awoke from his nightmare with a distressing question on his lips. Is it right to further
your career in a detail that engages in violence? He had no solution, and his nightmares
continued for many months of nights.

This shooting incident was a turning point in Ian's life in the Stakeout Unit. He told me, "I never
really come to terms with it. I started questioning every little thing regarding that area of my life."

Before long, Ian's inner turmoil announced itself in a way he couldn't ignore or control. "I was
driving over the George Washington Bridge on the way to work and I couldn't breathe no more,"
he said. "I was choking, and I felt like I was going to pass out, like I was going to die. I was way
up in the air. I couldn't pull to the side. When I got to the other side, it didn't subside. I was
sweating. Heart racing. I thought I was going to faint."

Ian's panic attacks occurred frequently throughout his third and final year in Stakeout. And they
didn't only occur on the bridge. Sometimes when he was out for a walk, he would suddenly be
overwhelmed. He'd become dizzy, nauseated and his heart would pound like it was in his throat.
Feeling like he was smothering, he got chills or trembled for no apparent reason. And always, he
believed he was going to die.

"Did you see a doctor about it?" I asked.

"I didn't want people to call me a whiner or say, 'Well, what is he, nuts or something?' Ian didn't
consult a doctor or tell anyone about his stress reactions.

"What did you do?"

"I lived with it. I rationalized. I kept saying, 'Wait a minute, you didn't die last time. You're not
gonna die this time.' The only way I wouldn't get the attacks is if I had a few drinks."

Ian experienced panic attacks and exhibited posttraumatic stress reactions common to combat
soldiers and victims of violent crime. He said, "I had difficulty falling asleep. Difficulty staying
asleep. Had night sweats. I got irritable and angry, but I got quiet. I didn't want to break my
wife's chops because she didn't deserve it. My blood pressure went up. I had adrenaline rushes. If
I drank, I had those little sad times and cried."

Ian told me he experienced depression and tried to deny feelings of guilt and remorse for the
shootings. Sometimes images from shooting scenes unexpectedly invaded his thoughts. He tried
to avoid thinking about the shootings or driving by places in which they happened.

At times his feelings fluctuated between wanting to scream to withdrawing into himself. Ian lost
interest in doing things and stopped exercising. He became mistrustful of others. His sense of
smell became quite keen, especially if something was dead nearby, and he could detect even the
smallest trace of gunpowder in the air. Ian sought to medicate his symptoms by drinking too
much.

Aware of Ian's excessive drinking, his boss gave him an offer he knew he shouldn't refuse. "You
wanna get out of here? What do you say?"

Ian knew it was time. "Yeah, I want out."

"I'm gonna give you a good recommendation. You'll get your detective's gold shield."

Recommendation in hand, Ian applied to the newly forming Organized Crime Control Bureau
(OCCB). The department was planning a move on narcotics, prostitution and gambling. "It was a
new concept," Ian told me, and "they were recruiting the cream of the crop."

Ian had an unblemished record and no citizen complaints. He had earned commendations and
awards. Even birth was on his side. The Irish ran the police department. Coming from an elite
unit, he was trained, tested under fire, a stable, respected, well-liked guy. Ian and his boss thought
it was a shoo-in.

On the day of the interview, Ian sat on a hard bench outside the OCCB hearing room. He sat all
day, from eight in the morning until late in the afternoon. Finally, they called him in, the last
applicant. Ian told me, "I knew something was amiss." It wasn't so much what the three-man
board members asked as how they asked it, with an edge of hostility. A supervisor's distaste for
Ian became apparent.

"I want to ask you a question before you leave," said the supervisor. "What makes a person like
you join an outfit like that?"

"Exactly what do you mean, Inspector?" Ian asked.

"What makes a decent guy like yourself join an outfit like that Stakeout Unit?"

Ian said his mouth was dry. He licked his lips and chose words he thought might get through to
the man.

"People were being murdered," said Ian. "The police commissioner got people he felt were solid.
Do you know how many lives we saved? How many times did we panic and hurt a civilian, sir?
Not once. How many of our guys were shot? A few. We put ourselves out there. I guess they
needed guys like me."

Another supervisor spoke up in Ian's defense. "The officer has a good record. What did you ask a
question like that for? It doesn't have any relevance."

It didn't matter. Ian knew he was done. He got up, shook their hands and thought to himself, You
f***. "The brass had shitcanned many of the other guys in the Stakeout Unit for no good
reason," Ian told me. "They were standup guys, Vietnam vets, jungle fighters and gunboat guys."
Ian didn't think they would do it to him.

In a bar that night, Ian sat alone drinking scotch, thinking about his day. The supervisors made
him feel like he had done something wrong, something illegal. "We were branded, unwanted
people like we were capable of what these bad guys were capable of." But he was under orders.
He saved lives. I did the right thing, didn't I? Where he had doubts before about his own
motives, now those doubts seemed like certainties.

"I began to think I wasn't the good person I thought I was," he told me. For the department he
had risked his life and violated the fundamental principles he believed in. Exodus 20:13-Thou
shalt not kill. Most of all, he felt shame. How, he wondered, can I ever hold my head up again?

A few days later he ran into his boss from the Stakeout Unit. He had already heard how Ian was
treated and was ashamed to face him.

"Why?" asked Ian.

"It's political," said his boss. The newspapers had savaged the police department, said there were
too many shootings, the cops overreacted. "The brass threw us to the wolves."

"Where can I go?" said Ian.

"Nowhere," said his boss. "Nobody's moving from the outfit. Nobody will touch you."

There would be no gold shield. No move to the detective division. The Stakeout Unit was to be
disbanded.

Ian was overwhelmed by the blatant message - he was expendable, as expendable as the soldiers
fighting in Vietnam.

"How did you feel after this?" I asked Ian.

"Like a dark cloud was over my head. I just always felt hurt by that. There was a lot of anger that
I turned inside. But you could never say nothing. Then you become a malcontent in the police
department. You get labeled and you've done yourself a double whammy."

Ian was led to believe the stakeout job was ordained, sanctified. He believed the police
commissioner, the mayor, the chief of police, all the top officials were behind him. He counted
them among his friends in the police administration. His friends included supervisors like
sergeants, lieutenants, captains. His pals were the patrol officers.

Perceiving that everybody at work now looked the other way when he walked by, he felt isolated,
utterly alone. And the stress caused from being a scorned outsider, Ian said, was unbearable.

In numerous studies, psychologists have pointed the finger not at the danger on the streets, but at
the police organization-administrators and supervisors-as the major source of stress for officers.

"The bookworms avoided you. The up and coming that weren't interested in cleanin' up the
streets. They were more interested in who they were seen with, and they didn't want to be seen
with you. It was the change in the guard. My superiors were clamoring for recognition, and it was
watch how quick I can f*** this cop.

"You were proud to have belonged to that Stakeout Unit, but they made it so bad you didn't
want to be seen two of yous talking together."

While the brass were ostracizing Ian, officers Ian knew, and he believed respected him, continued
to treat him as a disgraced police officer.

"The patrol guys I knew, they looked at me differently like was I still the same guy? Did I value
human life? They wondered if I had a conscience. When somebody hears I shot people, they say
'He must be one real hard guy.' People form opinions on you. 'You murderer. You piece of shit.'
The bottom line is I'm just like you."

The rejection by Ian's bosses intimated that what he'd done in Stakeout was morally wrong. Ian's
assumption that even his buddies in patrol were rejecting him, forced him to conclude they
believed it too. If they could not accept the shootings as justified, how could he? His internal
conflict caused the panic attacks to increase in frequency and harshness. Still, he told no one.
Whom could he trust to listen?

"Do you think the rejection blurred your perception about the Stakeout Unit?" I asked.

"Sure. I didn't see things clearly, but I saw them clearly after three drinks. I'd make my plans who
I was gonna tell off someday. Then do nothing. The Stakeout Unit was just a sad part of my life.
If I could, I'd like to wipe it out. I never found any goodness in it."

Ian was not allowed to move from his position. He could, however, move within his division of
NYPD nowhere men. So he transferred to the Emergency Services Division, (ESD), today's
equivalent of S.W.A.T. Ian thought he had seen everything in the Stakeout Unit. In ESD, the
slaughter was astounding.

He said, "The South Bronx was the asshole of the world. More murders than in Saigon." The
calls were a hurricane of heavy weapons, retrieving dead bodies, warrants, murders, barricaded
criminals, jumpers from bridges and airplane crashes.

During his first airplane crash, he wandered through the rubble in shock. "I thought you were
killed by impact," he told me. "I didn't realize how many people were killed by lacerations from
the torn metal, severing limbs, throats, creating deep, gouging wounds. People bled to death.
Children too. You wonder, why didn't God give 'em a break?"

"There was nothing you could do," I said.

"There was nothing I could do for them physically so I said a quiet prayer. If what they taught me
in school is true, maybe some poor soul got into heaven."

Despite the horror, the work had saving graces for Ian. The assignment was exciting, and ESD
received a lot of praise for its work. Unaccountably, Ian's panic attacks seemed to peak over the
next two years, then lessened and disappeared. Ian believes the importance of the job increased his
self-esteem, reducing depression and fear. As long as he was busy in something he liked, he didn't
dwell on the past.

Nevertheless, he had changed, and resentments festered in his heart for years. The shootings hurt
him psychologically and spiritually. The groundless criticism by his superiors created a secondary
injury that intensified his posttraumatic symptoms. He still had bad dreams from Stakeout.
Sometimes when he tried to relax at home, sickening crime scenes preoccupied his thoughts.

"Did your wife say anything about your preoccupation?" I said.

"My wife knew I was damaged. I never gave in to it. She pointed out to me that my personality
changed and she was right."

"Did the changes affect how you treated your children?" I asked.

"It was a cycle of getting angry, apologizing, getting angry, apologizing."

Then his status at work changed again. The NYPD began a series of layoffs. ESD was cut in half
and Ian was moved back to patrol. Although four years had passed since the Stakeout Unit, he
still had not dealt with his feelings from that period. And now he had stored many more traumatic
images of death and depravity in his brain.

Returning to patrol was like a demotion. He began to feel bad about himself again. The bad
feelings allowed the traumatic memories he had repressed for years to express themselves through
dangerous or self-destructive behavior.

Ian revealed his self-destructive inclination during a hot day on patrol. He answered a call to a
drug area in Washington Heights. In moments he was running after two men who had gunned
down a group of drug dealers.

The first shooter turned around on Ian after Ian had made a tactical error of stopping parallel to
him without any cover. From a few feet away the man fired at Ian eight times, missing him. Ian
did not return fire. His partner shot the man. Ian took off after the second man. A similar situation
occurred. Ian caught the man who then attempted to fire a pen gun into his face. Rather than
shooting, Ian slugged it out with him, forcing the weapon from the perpetrator's hand.

"Why didn't you shoot?" I asked.

"I didn't shoot him... I think the Stakeout Unit changed me. For some reason, I became unsure of
myself."

Even though Ian received the Medal of Valor for risking his life in apprehending the felons, his
heart wasn't in being a cop any longer. Never shirking his duty, he continued to make numerous
collars, but he became, at times, apathetic and despondent.

"My attitude was, 'If I do this, the result is not going to be right for me anyway.' I was
disappointed my career wasn't going the way I thought it should."

In his sixteenth year on the force, Ian was finally promoted to detective. There in the robbery
detail, he made "good arrests." He earned back the respect he thought he had lost. Yet, he never
came to grips with his role in the Stakeout Unit and the things he had done. He always felt he
couldn't talk about it to anybody. He felt somehow he had disgraced himself in the eyes of the
department, his family, and in the eyes of God.

A few months from his twenty-fifth year in the NYPD, Ian decided to retire. He could no longer
contain his memories or hide his anxiety.

"Why did you decide to leave?" I asked him.

"I felt I was drinking too much," Ian said.

For a man who had denied for many years that he had a drinking problem, a man who refused to
tell anyone including his wife about the upheaval inside him, this was an immense step forward.

"I wanted to leave clean," he went on. "So I went down to the peer counseling unit, and I met
with one of the guys there. I told him..." Ian's voice cracked. "I told him I wasn't comfortable
with myself..."

Tears slid down Ian's face, and all at once he said, "I told him I'm not comfortable with myself
and I'm drinkin' too much and I'd like to put an end to it and start off my retirement on the right
foot."

Ian wiped away tears with the palm of his hand. "The counselor said, 'I want you to go to the
hospital. I want you to go through detox for alcoholism.' I told him I don't need that. He said,
'You got to do it.' So I said, 'Okay.' I went to a treatment center for three weeks, and it took a
year to make me better."

Ian allowed his tears to flow. He told me he felt humiliated for going to detox. Tough guys can
hold their liquor. I told him I didn't think anybody was that tough except in movies.

I asked him, "Have you told many people about going to detox?"

"A few."

"There are a lot of cops," I said, "who don't even take the first step, who won't go to see a
counselor."

"I know. I know guys that've killed themselves," he said. "I know what they were thinking. But
that was never for me. Never for me."

After Ian retired in 1991, he saw a therapist for a while about his unresolved issues. The doctor
confirmed his panic attacks were stress-related. They evolved from suppressing feelings about the
shoot-outs. Control, he was told, was at the base of his fear. At the shootings, he had no control.
When he drove over the bridge, he was high in the air and couldn't pull to the side or turn around.
The bridge took his control away, and he panicked.

The psychologist told Ian he had a very structured personality and liked to live by rules. Growing
up in a strict Irish Catholic house, Ian obeyed rules and expected others to follow them too.
Shoot-outs have no rules except for one tenet-kill or be killed. And once he realized how easy it
was to kill, he came in conflict with his upbringing. The rejection by his superiors reinforced the
conflict, rubbing his face in his sorrow.

Even though Ian displayed many of the symptoms for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), the
psychologist told him he did not have it. A key symptom of PTSD is flashbacks and Ian did not
suffer from them persistently. He also did not experience other symptoms. He did, however, suffer
from posttraumatic stress.

A person with posttraumatic stress may experience a variety of reactions from panic attacks to
depression to eating disorders. Not everyone will react in the same way. On the other hand, PTSD
is an official diagnosis with specific symptoms. If not managed by stress controlling techniques,
posttraumatic stress may develop into PTSD.

As important as knowing what PTSD is, it is also necessary to know when the criteria for PTSD
are not met. A therapist may determine a diagnosis of PTSD if the subject displays a minimum
number of symptoms from different categories as defined in the American Psychiatric
Association's diagnostic manual. Ian did not satisfy the minimum.

For police officers, shooting someone is a terrifying, debilitating event. Studies say most will
never forgive themselves no matter how justified they were. The shock is so great, many officers
involved in a shooting leave law enforcement. For those who stick it out, the job may become a
source of fear, guilt and regret.

Fighting his personal convictions, Ian became overwrought when he had to shoot someone.
Eventually, he came to terms with his religious belief that demands you don't kill people. He
found that sometimes killing is justified, that at times God requires someone's life as punishment
for a crime. Ian learned that there is a difference between killing and murder. Murder begins with
evil intentions. And Ian was never evil.

Ian said, "You know, it's only recently that people... It's a rah, rah thing. Now it's a badge of
honor to have belonged to the Stakeout Unit. It's the last outfit that stood for anything in the
job."

I turned off the tape recorder. We shook hands, and I followed Ian to the door. He turned to me
and said, "This is something I'd like to give my children to read someday and say this is about me,
and now you'll understand cops."