Andrew Barrientos shows off his forearm gang tattoos "DeCoto" and "Gangsta." Photo: Alameda County D.A.
Fortunately, no one else got hurt and Young ultimately trumped Barrientos' efforts to kill him.
"One of the reasons I survived was my fighting mindset, a winning mindset, if you will. You have to keep that mindset at all times—when you're in the heat of the battle, in surgery, and in rehab. You have to fight the pain and get through it."
Young takes pains to emphasize the import of Simunition round training, crediting it as a huge factor in his survival.
"The first time you get hit in Simunition training, you’re expecting it so the adrenaline thing is working for you. You don’t feel it that much. But I noticed that the more SWAT training I did, the more it would sting when I'd get hit with M4 Simunition rounds. Those things are coming out at a pretty good clip and they hurt, especially when they hit your fingers on a cold day. But they reinforce the desire not to get hit by them—Also, I hate washing pink paint out of my SWAT gear—but more than that they condition you to fight through whatever pain you are experiencing and stay in the fight."
Young notes that both he and Tang did everything that they'd expected of themselves during such an operation.
"Neither of us rose to the occasion," he notes. "Both of us fell to our level of training."
Faced with a similar situation again, Young would do one thing differently: He would have retained his SWAT gear after the DEA operation.
"I had my M4 with an EOTech holographic weapon sight in the car, but unfortunately that was where it remained when I went after the guy. I'm pretty good with the weapon and believe that even wounded I would have taken out the suspect even at 60 yards and prevented any civilians from being harmed. I wouldn’t have had to fire a bunch of times to hit him."
Beyond such objective appraisals, Young doesn't Monday morning quarterback himself on the incident; at times, he and his friends have even found humor in what happened.
"Later on we could laugh about some of it," Young says. "Guys would say of the suspect, 'He was running? Hell, man, he was waddling! And you couldn't hit him?' The female officer who'd helped me in the patrol unit did a presentation at a Women Leaders in Law Enforcement conference. She joked to some 500 hundred people that here she was worried that I was about to pass out and die and this 'tough son-of-a-bitch' is monitoring radio communication and correcting suspect information as it’s being broadcast. That kind of thing ultimately takes the edge off of things and makes you feel better."
There was one conversation that was more difficult. The one when he returned home from the hospital and was called on the broken promise he'd made to his six-year-old daughter.
"Daddy," she said, hands on her waist and head shaking back and forth in an admonishing manner. "I thought you said that you wouldn't get shot. That good guys don't get shot."
"Yeah, I got shot," he conceded sheepishly before offering his best defensive reminder. "But, hey, I didn't die."
Young might have felt sheepish fessing up to having broken his promise, but more than that he was grateful that he was still around to do it.
He shares his story with other officers in the hope that they won't have to break similar promises to their children.
What Would You Do?
Put yourself in the shoes of Officer Todd Young of the Fremont (Calif.) Police Department and responding members of the Oakland Police Department, and consider the following questions:
- Are you more apt to wait for EMS units to respond, or to roll the officer yourself? What are the pros and cons?
- Confronted with the same situation, would you attempt to stop the subject then and there? What other options might you explore?
- The subject was armed with an extended magazine. What is your agency's policy on carrying them? Do you have any available to you?
Todd Young's Long Road Back
Returning To Duty: Todd Young (photos)