On the evening of Jan. 3, 1996, my partner, Dave Huffman, and I were attempting to make a drug arrest in one of the most drug-infested neighborhoods in Norfolk, Va.
The two men, both of whom were engaged in a drug deal, took off in opposite directions. Dave and I did likewise, each chasing a different suspect. We were on 21-speed mountain bikes, and within a matter of seconds, I had caught up to the man I was pursuing.
"Give it up, man!" I shouted, hoping, even expecting him to throw his hands skyward and drop to the ground. I was wrong, almost dead wrong. I was within four feet of the man and preparing to knock him to the ground when my life changed forever.
I've got shots fired!" Huffman shouted over the radio. "Chris, where are you?" An eerie silence followed. "Chris, where are you?" After several seconds, the silence was broken. Trying to stay as calm and level-headed as possible, I said, "I've been hit!"
The suspect fired a .38 point-blank into my chest striking my left shirt pocket. Fortunately, I was wearing my bullet-resistant vest which prevented the round from penetrating my chest. I immediately but unintentionally locked my brakes and was propelled over the front end of my bike. While I was in the air, the suspect fired a second time, striking me in my left thigh. Bleeding and dazed, I hit the ground anticipating three, four or five more rounds to tear through my body.
The suspect had turned to run away when, apparently to his surprise, I moved. He immediately turned back and raised his gun a third time to "finish the job." I had rolled onto my left side and managed to draw my 9 mm. For what seemed like much longer than the second or two that actually passed, there we were, 10 yards apart, pointing our guns at each other. We fired simultaneously. My entire body tensed as I expected to be hit again, but he missed, and a strange sense of relief swept over my body. He was not as fortunate. My round struck him in the chest. I fired two more times, striking the suspect in the head and instantly killing him. In one hand he held the gun he had used to try to kill me. In the other was a bundle of money. This man died as he had lived, surrounded by drugs, guns and cash.
My partner and I learned some valuable lessons that night. They may be helpful to you as well:
Expect the unexpected
- Always wear your bullet-resistant vest-if not for yourself, wear it for your family
- Have faith that your co-workers will be there to back you up
- Beware of suspects who might be "playing possum"
Hope for the best; prepare for the worst • No matter what, protect and serve
It is my hope that others may learn from my experience and if forced into a deadly force encounter, they, too, will come out survivors.
Chris Amos is an officer with the Norfolk (Va.) Police Department and serves on the bicycle patrol unit.