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One Mistake Nearly Cost Me My Life

Updated: Sep 23, 2021




Another bitterly cold winter night in Michigan. I looked over at my partner, Officer Chris Baldino.


"Less than two hours to go and I am going home and jump into bed. Denise will take care of the boys, no court on Saturday, so I am sleeping all the way to dinner."


"That is exactly what I am going to do. What a night this has been. Don't these people realize it's ten below zero with the wind? Apparently, they don't. Look at this stack of reports. I am still not done."


"I agree. Like the last run over on Merrill. Those two idiots had to get into an argument in the middle of the street. When we pulled up there are at least twenty people cheering them on."


"Richard, you impressed the hell out of me on that one. I loved how you just pushed your way through the crowd and started yelling, the party is over, unless you want to go to jail, get out of here. It worked."


"I learned that one from Sgt. Watson. You come in like that and they know you mean business."


"Or you are nuts."


Before I could give it back to Chris.


"Dispatch to Frank-10."


Chris grabbed the mic.


"Go for Frank-10."


"Frank-10, - Go to 59345 Mound Road. The female resident called. Her husband came home intoxicated and started arguing with her. Caller advised he slapped her twice on the right side of her face. There are no weapons in the home."


"FRANK-10 -10-4,"


Chris hung up the mic. "This run may delay our getting off at seven?"


"I tell you what, if he hit his wife, the old man is going with us. How about we guess what the exact time is when we call out. Loser gets the report and booking. Winner gets to go home."


"Richard, that is why we make brilliant partners. I was thinking the same thing. I will take 0516hrs."


"I will take 0518hrs. I promise to drive at the speed we normally go on a run like this one."

When we arrived, Chris called out and asked for the time. Dispatch responded.


"0518hrs – FRANK-10"


With a bit of joy in my voice. "Looks like I will be going home on time."


Chris was a bit sarcastic. "I am so happy for you."


"Why Officer Baldino, that did not sound meaningful."


As we walked up to the house, we could hear both of them yelling at each other. They were yelling so loud they didn't hear the doorbell. Chris hit the front door with a few loud knocks and shouted, "Police."


A moment later, a woman in her late twenties opened the front door and let us in. She was breathing heavy, no doubt from arguing. We could see the husband standing in the living room. He, too, was breathing heavy. She looked at us and said, "I am so glad you are here; he was going to kill me."


As soon as the husband heard that. He yelled. "You stupid bitch, you really called the cops on me?"


He started towards his wife. Chris stepped in front of him.

"That's far enough."


"Fuck you, this is my house."


"What's your name?"


"Why the fuck should I even talk with you."


The wife shouted. "He's Steve Norbert."


That set him off. He started shouting at her. "You stupid bitch. Keep your damn mouth shut." I moved the wife into the kitchen, hoping that would help calm him down. This was the only place I could talk to her and still keep an eye on Chris. The problems with kitchens, too many weapons, such as knifes, skewers, pans, the list is endless. But I had no other choice.


Chris was able to get the husband calmed down.


Since everything seemed fine with Chris. I started talking to the wife. As she spoke, I looked around the kitchen for anything she might use as a weapon. From experience, I knew it was not uncommon for a spouse to change their mind when they see the other being arrested. I didn't see any potential weapons.


The wife told me the argument started over his constant drinking. When he is drunk, he hits her. I could see a mark on her face where the husband hit her with his hand. As we were talking, I heard the husband shouting. "Fuck you. That bitch started the whole damn trouble. What don't you arrest her?"


I heard Chris yelling at the husband, "get back, get back now."


I turned to my right just in time to see the husband fighting with Chris. At that exact moment, out of the corner of my eye, I saw something shiny. I turned just in time to see the wife with a large knife in her hand swinging towards me. I could step out of the way as she swung towards me. Then, in one motion, I grabbed her and spun her to the floor. The knife flew across the kitchen. I held her down and grabbed my mic and called dispatch.


FRANK-10, Requests back up.


I cuffed her hands around a kitchen table leg and ran into the living room. Chris had the husband in an arm lock up against the wall. We were able to get him handcuffed as other officers arrived.


I went back to the kitchen to un-cuff the wife from the table and then re-cuff her. Both were under arrest.


Here was the woman that called us for help. That was just hit by her husband and by her own words, hit before. Then tried to stab me and as I was un-cuffing her, spit in my face and basically called me everything in the book.


Officer's Flynn and Kreider transported the husband to the station. Chris and I had the pleasure of transporting the wife. Fortunately, our cars had a plastic shield protecting us from prisoners in the back seat. In this case, it was worth it. Between her spitting at us and her mouth, the shield saved us. She did not stop bitching at us the whole way to the station and continued up in the elevator to our detention area.


When we turned her over to the booking officers, she pointed to Chris.


"That son of a bitch jumped my husband for no reason, and the other one thinks throwing a woman on the floor makes him a man."


Chris and I both started laughing when Marc Johnston, one of the booking officers, started telling her, "Those two lead the department in officer complaints."


Chris shouted back as we headed to the elevator. "Department? Hell, the whole country."


When we got to the report room and started working on our paperwork. Chris asked where did she have the knife?


"It looks like it was under a kitchen towel on the counter."


"Hell, how could you have known there was a knife under a towel?"


"Chris, I can't afford to miss something like a knife. I have to do a better job. Maybe the handle or blade was showing. You know as well as I do, we cannot afford to make mistakes. I am lucky to be here. That was a rookie mistake. One that nearly cost me my life. I will NEVER make a mistake like that again."


Unfortunately, as a police officer, you cannot trust anyone. This story is a good example. The wife called us for help. Her husband assaulted her. Yet, as soon as he went at my partner. She turned from a helpless victim into a woman ready to kill for her man.

_________________________________________________________________________________________


I could give a hundred examples of why a police officer must suspect anyone they come in contact with. Their lives depend on it.


Here is one example. A police officer working midnights for a department in southeastern Michigan came up on a car with the emergency flashers on. The driver was an older man in his 70s. The young officer spoke with the driver and found out his car just broke down. The officer offered to drive the older man home. The car would be safe until he got back with a wrecker.


The young officer did what I would have done in the same situation. With one key exception. My rule was no one went in the back seat of my car without a pat down search. Ladies' purses also were checked for weapons or drugs. What he did wrong was trust the old man. More than likely, when he looked at him, he saw a man like his own grandfather. He put the old man in his patrol car's back seat.


That was where he went wrong. He allowed himself to trust this stranger. I would think most of you reading this. Would do the same as that young officer.


With the old man in the backseat, the officer got on the radio to let his dispatcher know he would transport the driver to his home. Before that young officer could put the car in gear, the old man shot him in the back of the head, killing him.


The young officer let the man's age and appearance overrule his thinking. "Come on, this is somebody's grandfather. He is harmless."


Well, he wasn't harmless. This young officer died making one simple mistake. Letting his feelings overrule his training. "If you are going to put someone in your backseat. You pat them down for weapons."


Now the reasons the old man killed this young officer are irrelevant for this example. What is relevant is that young officer would be alive today if he did not let this man's age, or appearance, affect his judgement.


I hope after reading this story and the example I used. You will understand why an officer may treat you as if you are a criminal. Simply, he does not know you.


My goal, like every officer across this country, was to safely get through my shift and come home to my family.




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