Both of the officers knew that there were people in danger inside the building. But they didn't know where.
McDonald had recently gone through Rapid Intervention Training. While Pruitt had not actually attended the training, he had read up on the technique and philosophies behind it in preparation for a sergeant's exam. And with a SWAT E.T.A. of an hour, both knew that they were the only ones in a position to stop this man from killing others. They had to make an entry.
Pruitt propped open the door with the suspect's discarded duffel bag, offering a means of ingress for McDonald and himself as well as any who would be responding behind them. Then McDonald led the way into the building, attempting to relocate the suspect by visually slicing the pie as far to his left as he could without losing sight of the foyer or exposing himself.
The officers hugged the wall just inside the door, moving toward an interior stairwell where they'd last seen the suspect. Pruitt had watched the suspect step onto the bottom stair and believed that he may have gone upstairs. McDonald believed that he may have doubled back behind the stairwell that shadowed recessed restrooms.
McDonald had advanced several feet when he saw the man coming down the stairs, the shotgun in tow.
"Suspect!" McDonald yelled, warning his partner.
Both officers leveled their .40 caliber Glocks at the man. Just as he put pressure on the trigger, Pruitt realized that McDonald, directly in front of him, was in harm's way. Not wanting to hit or deafen his partner, Pruitt eased his finger off the trigger.
There were no obstacles for McDonald. He squeezed off a volley of four to five shots that sent the suspect scampering back up the stairs.
With Pruitt shadowing him, McDonald continued to move on the suspect, taking cover behind a pillar that flanked the base of the stairwell. There was no telltale tug at the rear of his uniform belt, no hint that Pruitt felt uncomfortable with their progress.
As the gunman scampered back up the stairs, McDonald realized he still had a shot at the man, a man who had already killed, and was threatening to kill again. But he considered the totality of circumstances. Shooting the man in the back would probably be justified in a court of law, but the court of public opinion was another thing altogether. McDonald resented the reality, and his ability to even contemplate it at this crucial moment. The gunman cleared the top of the stairs and disappeared.