The sun was out in full force in a cloudless California sky, and I was patrolling the Clairemont area of San Diego, a mostly quiet middle-class neighborhood.
It was hot and nearing lunch time when the call came across my Mobile Data Terminal, two seconds before the dispatcher aired it over the radio. "415 D.V. 113 John and 111 John to handle."
I was 113 John. I acknowledged the call and turned my black-and-white down the main street that led into the subdivision where the domestic violence complaint was reported. I heard 111 John answer up and say that he was en route. I was already pretty close to the address and arrived first. I parked my patrol car one house away, and stood outside the car next to the driver's door for a minute. This kept the car between me and the house, just in case.
There wasn't any screaming or shouting coming from the house. I walked up to the screen door and knocked. The front door stood open.
I figured 111 John would be here any minute.
A woman's voice called out from inside the house, telling me to come in. I pulled open the screen and stepped into the entryway and then walked around the corner into the living room.
The living room was dark; all the shades had been drawn to keep the sun out. The only light filtered in from the screen door. Also complicating matters were my prescription glasses. They're the kind that are tinted in sunlight but turn clear indoors. It takes several seconds for the lenses to turn clear.
A lot can happen in several seconds.
The woman was seated on the couch. She was thin and looked older than she probably was. She held a tissue up to her face.
"He's in there." She motioned with her free hand to a doorway that opened onto the hall.
I just turned my head to look in the direction she indicated when I heard a footfall on the carpet.
"He" rounded the corner of the doorway. In his right hand was what to my eyes appeared to be a very large handgun. From the snapshot image that imprinted itself into my brain, I guessed it might even be a Mac-10 machine pistol, judging by the threaded end of the short barrel.
In the split second that I digested this information, I realized I was in a very bad spot indeed, outgunned, outdrawn, and facing the wrong way.
This was the first and last bit of thinking my brain processed before my reflexes and training took over. I drew my Smith & Wesson 9mm pistol. Fast. So fast, in fact, that I don't remember the motion of drawing from the holster at all. All I remember is staring down the front sight of my gun, center mass on the "bad guy."
I can't tell you why I didn't pull the trigger right then. I do know my finger was on the trigger, exerting enough force to make that handgun very, very dangerous to the person it was pointed at.
"He" threw both hands up into the air and shouted, "It's a Makita!"
I yelled back, "Drop that thing!"
I was a trifle stressed, you understand, and I wasn't going to take my eyes off of my front sight till his gun (or whatever it was) was safely on the ground.
He dropped the "gun" like it was on fire. It literally sprang out of his hand and hit the floor. Yep, sure enough. It was a dark blue Makita cordless drill.
I had almost killed a guy who was doing some chores around the house. They were probably the same chores he and his wife were arguing about when this whole mess started.
Just doing what his wife wanted him to do and not fighting about it could have saved that man's life. It's something I think about every time I take out my own Makita drill for some housework.
George Eliseo served 11 years as a patrol officer for the San Diego PD before retiring in 2000.