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Mark Rivera

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Mark Rivera, Customer Retention Manager and CJIS Security Compliance Officer with Vigilant Solutions, served for sixteen years with the Maryland State Police, retiring at the rank of First Sergeant with thirteen of those years at the supervisory and command level. He holds a Master of Science Degree in Management from The Johns Hopkins University and Secret clearance through the FBI, Baltimore.

Departments : Shots Fired

Shots Fired: Ontario, California 02/03/2002

On Super Bowl Sunday, officers of the Ontario PD found themselves in a true "sudden death" engagement with a local gang member.

September 12, 2011  |  by - Also by this author

Three 12-gauge bursts struck the passenger side of Officer Lavoie's cruiser. Photo: Officer Lavoie.
Three 12-gauge bursts struck the passenger side of Officer Lavoie's cruiser. Photo: Officer Lavoie.
Dead End

Martinez didn't get out of the car, but Lavoie could see that the man was in the driver's door opening, bent over. He looked at Lavoie over his shoulder and then turned his attention back to the car. Calculated or not, Martinez's actions made Lavoie consider the possibility that the man didn't speak English.

Lavoie tried using his limited Spanish but got nowhere—the man continued to fixate on something beneath the Olds driver's seat. Lavoie removed his SIG 220 from its holster and broadcast over the radio that he had one at gunpoint to get the troops coming.

Martinez's lack of compliance and neither-here-nor-there posture in the car's doorway suggested to Lavoie that the man was fidgeting with some unseen weapon. Meanwhile, through the rear window of the car Lavoie saw a quick flash of what appeared to be a handgun. A split second of cognitive dissonance kicked in: There was no way I just saw a gun.

Then Meza rose up and out of the passenger side door with a shotgun.

Taking Fire

Lavoie immediately fired a volley of two rounds through the back window of the car, through the passenger-side headrest. Meza started to fall backward, causing the barrel of the shotgun to elevate. Squeezing off a third round, Lavoie moved to the back of his car for cover, dropping to one knee behind its trunk. Meza rose up, firing four rounds from the shotgun and shattering Lavoie's lightbar and windshield.

Meza's barrage of gunfire continued; Lavoie's mind kicked into hyperdrive. His SIG had seven-plus-one capacity, and he carried two extra magazines. On bent knee, Lavoie opted for a tactical reload near the trunk of the car. When the second magazine locked into the gun's well, quiet fell upon the scene and Lavoie thought that maybe his rounds had found their mark and the suspect was down.

But when Lavoie peered back over the roof of his patrol car, the sight shocked him. Meza was not down but on the move, bearing down on Lavoie with the shotgun as he made his way around the Olds to the rear passenger door of the officer's unit. Lavoie started pumping shots through the back window of his car, but the .45 rounds didn't penetrate through the interior cage and the rear glass.

The Olds' driver was backing the car to give the shooter cover. Officer and suspect momentarily backpedaled from one another. Meza went for the cover of the Olds as Lavoie went for a truck parked in the carport behind his car. Lavoie fired four rounds of suppressive fire to cover his move.

The shotgun-wielding passenger might have been the more obvious threat, but Lavoie hadn't forgotten about the driver and the possibility that the two men might try to triangulate on him. The thought of each suspect coming up on him from different angles weighed on his mind.

Moving behind the pickup, Lavoie conducted a quick peek over the bed then retracted his head tortoise-like just as another shotgun blast peppered the truck. Lavoie moved behind the tailgate and fired another round in Meza's direction, forcing the man to duck down.

Lavoie started to reload, but was interrupted when Meza suddenly emerged around the back corner of the truck, pointed his gun at Lavoie, and squeezed the trigger.

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