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.
From Chapter 4: Shootings.
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
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.
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
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.
said, 'Relax, guy, relax. We got an ambulance
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
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
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
"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
"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."
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
certain rules, and I didn't know if I violated
these rules and was guilty of the biggest sin.
should I have sacrificed myself more before firing
the gun? I was always thinkin' like that when
had a few drinks."
He finally dozed off and dreamed. He dreamed in
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
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.
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
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
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
sweating. Heart racing. I thought I was going
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,
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?'
consult a doctor or tell anyone about his stress
"What did you do?"
"I lived with it. I rationalized. I kept
saying, 'Wait a minute, you didn't die last time.
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
asleep. Had night sweats. I got irritable and
angry, but I got quiet. I didn't want to break
wife's chops because she didn't deserve it. My
blood pressure went up. I had adrenaline rushes.
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
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
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
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?"
"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
"People were being murdered," said Ian.
"The police commissioner got people he felt
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,
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
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
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
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
"Like a dark cloud was over my head. I just
always felt hurt by that. There was a lot of anger
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
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
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
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."
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
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
"There was nothing I could do for them physically
so I said a quiet prayer. If what they taught
in school is true, maybe some poor soul got into
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
self-esteem, reducing depression and fear. As
long as he was busy in something he liked, he
dwell on the past.
Nevertheless, he had changed, and resentments
festered in his heart for years. The shootings
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?"
"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
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
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
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
"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,
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
"I felt I was drinking too much," Ian
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
Tears slid down Ian's face, and all at once he
said, "I told him I'm not comfortable with
and I'm drinkin' too much and I'd like to put
an end to it and start off my retirement on the
Ian wiped away tears with the palm of his hand.
"The counselor said, 'I want you to go to
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
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?"
"There are a lot of cops," I said, "who
don't even take the first step, who won't go to
"I know. I know guys that've killed themselves,"
he said. "I know what they were thinking.
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
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
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
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
honor to have belonged to the Stakeout Unit. It's
the last outfit that stood for anything in the
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."