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Departments : Shots Fired

Shots Fired: Palm Desert, California 03•30•1996

A quiet shopping trip ended in a furious gun battle when Dep. Jason Hendrix tried to stop an angry man from killing several hostages.

November 19, 2009  |  by - Also by this author

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To Jason Hendrix and his fiancée, March 30, 1996, seemed a perfect day to go shopping for appliances for their new home. It was a beautiful, warm Saturday-"postcard weather"-and pulling into the Circuit City parking lot in Palm Desert, Calif., the couple found plenty of similarly disposed customers inaugurating the first day of Spring Break with their own various shopping sprees.

What the off-duty San Bernardino County (Calif.) Sheriff's Office deputy couldn't have known was that he'd soon confront a man with a very different kind of spree in mind.

Hendrix parked and exited his truck and entered the Circuit City store with his bride-to-be. Passing through the doors, Hendrix noticed a heated discussion taking place at a customer service counter. Figuring it was just another business dispute and none of his business, he continued to the rear of the store where the appliances were located.

For the better part of a half hour, Hendrix and his fiancée priced washers and dryers as a store employee dutifully went over the relative merits of each model. Hendrix tried to be respectful of the employee's time, but repeatedly found his attention drawn to the front of the store. With each passing minute, the disturbance escalated, the voices of those involved grew louder, and their choice of words became more blunt and profane. The argument came to a head with a woman's sudden scream.

"He's got a gun!"

Come On, Cavalry

Now, Hendrix's whole attention was fixed at the front of the store. The disturbing party was a male about 30 in jeans and a shirt. But Hendrix didn't know what to make of the situation, none of the dynamics thus far suggested a robbery. Still, it was enough for Hendrix to know that it involved a firearm.

Retrieving his own revolver from his fiancée's purse, Hendrix shoved it in his back pocket then showed his badge to the store employee who'd been helping them.

"Do you have any armed security inside or outside the store?" Hendrix asked.

But the talkative employee had suddenly become mute, stupefied by what was unfolding.

At least he isn't panicking like the others, Hendrix thought.

Chaos had broken out in the store as customers and employees trampled over displays and one another to get away from the threat. Still, Hendrix wished that the employee hadn't vapor-locked. It would be up to Hendrix to somehow ensure that neither he nor anyone else who stood to interject themselves into the situation would become a victim of friendly fire. Hopefully, he wouldn't have to get involved at all.

Telling his fiancée to call 9-1-1, Hendricks started to make his way to the front of the store.

"Come on, cavalry," Hendrix said to himself.

Out of the Store and Into Trouble

The disturbing party exited the front doors. He was prodding a second male forward while dragging a woman by her neck.

As Hendrix followed the trio out, employees told him that the guy with the woman in a headlock had a gun.

Hendrix moved within 15 feet of the trio and tried to blend in with the rest of the people populating the parking lot. His game plan was to simply keep a vigil on what was happening. Off in the distance, he could hear the blessed sirens of responding Riverside Sheriff's Department deputies.

Good. Maybe I won't have to be anything other than a good witness, he thought.

Hendrix's desire to be nothing more than an observer ended very suddenly. The suspect produced a Glock 17 and jammed it under the front male's chin and said to the woman, "I'm going to blow his head off!"

Hendrix now knew that if he didn't do something there and then, these two individuals were going to be killed in front of him.

Comments (8)

Displaying 1 - 8 of 8

skinni99 @ 11/22/2009 3:06 PM

This was a great story. I am proud to have had the opportunity to work with and know Cpl. Jason Hendrix. He is the definition of a Hero if you ask me. He did what I hope any law enforcement officer would do if a family member of mine happened to be faced with a maniac like that. I think he brings avery good question to light... how many rounds does your off duty hold?

Officer Kenneth Hammond of the Ogden Police Department was faced with a similar situation in 2007. If I remember correctly he had an 8 round 1911. We are living in a violent world these days. You should never tell yourself, "it will never happen to me..." instead ask yourself, "will I be ready for war when my time comes?" Because it will!!!

inthe10ring @ 11/23/2009 5:06 PM

Gun fights can/do happen so quickly, and it may not be fair to take a 20/20 stance by an armchair non-participant, but without a doubt Officer Hendrix has my deepest admiration. Firepower is of course important in a fire fight, but shot placement may have been a key factor that was not discussed fully in the article. Law enforcement is typically trained to shoot to "center of mass" (what ever that may be at the time), but in a hostage situation, with a firearm in the felon's hand, shot placement is paramount! Again, I speak as an observer and after the fact, but a head shot by Officer Hendrix may have resulted in an immediate end to Ripleys calous actions. You have to turn of the computer - immedaitely! Going for cover was mentioned, and is wise planning, but training and more training is mandatory becasue on the street you are only 40% as good as your are on the range. Four out of five is "admirable" Officer Hendrix, but were they in vital areas that would bring an immediate ceasation of the hostilities? More traning, and more training . . . it is the only answer. More lead down the pipe is nice, but those rounds have to count - especially with a dedicated (or crased) opponent like Ripley! Thank you Officer Hendrix, for your willingness to put yourself in the line of fire in such a desparate situation. My hat is off to you, and all those like you, who serve our communities in such difficult times.

Namdray @ 11/24/2009 6:40 AM

Great story, but I'm confused. How did Ripley shoot Hendrix with his own gun if Hendrix had already emptied it?

jshendrix56 @ 11/25/2009 4:07 PM

Outstanding article by Dean Scoville. That is a day I will never forget. I certainly appreciate the constructive criticism. I stress all of those points during my officer survival courses. Cover, weapon, round capacity and shot placement are all key factors. A head would have been great...The shootout started from 15 feet and ended at 31 feet. I had extensive training with the weapon I was carrying...yes, was carrying...I no longer carry that weapon as an off-duty for obvious reasons. I tried to reduce the risk of hitting the female hostage, but after taking mulitple rounds, it was all I could do to just point the weapon at him and hit him. I had a whole in the side of my head, I wore glasses at the time and they were mangled from the head shot I took. I had blood in my eyes and it was really a bad day! LOL I can laugh about it now as most cops do..our sick sense of cop humor. Excellent point "inthe10ring". I don't think for a minute that it is armchair's reality and the only way we learn is from incidents like these and training training training!! 3 of my shots were potentially leathal rounds and struck vital organs, but even a properly placed shot in a vital organ does not always incapacitate the suspect...unless we are talking about the spinal column or the motor center..."Computer" as it was described. Dead on points, no punn intended!

I will check back periodically to see if there are other insightful comments like the previous and would be happy to help in anyway I can. gun was empty...he attempted to excecute me with his weapon. Maybe you misread the article. He was using a glock 17. He was attempting to make it to his vehicle where he had a .380, a .45 and an AK47 with 90 rounds loaded into 3 30rd mags. He was there to do some damage!

Thanks again to Dean! Great Job

jshendrix56 @ 11/25/2009 6:56 PM

Sorry about my misspelling in my previous post...I was in a hurry to finish comment before the end of my shift. I meant "Headshot" and it was a "Hole" in my head, not a "Whole"...Maybe it's all the lead poisoning!

One a perfect world, where targets don't shoot back or when they do, they aren't very accurate, it is easy to place shots where we want them. However, as we all know, we live in the real world...suspects do shoot back and they do hit us...certainly makes it more difficult to place accurate, effective shots. I constantly train with speed drills and point shooting. There is really no such thing as front sight when we are that close and taking rounds...which is why point shooting is a very important skill to learn. Please do not think I do not advocate using sights, because they are very important. These are all skills we must master in order to survive in the real world. I was involved in 3 other shootings where 2 of them were point shooting. Each time I went home. I am currently assigned to our Dept.'s Firearms Range as a Firearms Instructor/Defensive Tactics Instructor and I constantly stress the points brought up in the posts as well as my training and experiences. I hope all of this helps. Happy Thanksgiving!

codethirty @ 1/14/2010 10:00 PM

Dep. Hendrix,

I first heard about this harrowing event from a SBCSD deputy during a recent CCW renewal class. Now a civilian, I was once a LEO for a small PD located in LA County. While only portions of this story were shared with the class, I felt compelled to register here to read the complete account. I can tell you that the entire class was completely riveted as the story unfolded and the details emerged. I think each one of us thought about facing such a life-or-death situation and how we would react. I'm glad your extensive injuries haven't kept you from doing what you treasure - being a peace officer and sharing your valuable experience with new deputy sheriff recruits. Thank you for allowing us the opportunity to hear your story, for your unselfish actions that day, and the important work you continue to do for the SBCSD.


A Grateful Citizen

Armed Citizen @ 11/28/2011 10:17 PM

Man o man i wish you had a Beretta 84 on you with 14 rounds of Golden Sabres.

Marty Cutshall @ 4/5/2014 1:07 PM

I was an employee there and was the first to attend to Jason after the suspect shot Jason. I followed Jason out when the gunfire erupted. I could not believe the suspect went up to Jason and started firing at point blank range, while Jason lay in the ground, seriously wounded. After the suspect left Jason, I carefully ran out to assist Jason and he told me to tell his fiancee that he was ok. An off duty nurse came behind me to help Jason. I then followed the suspect as other officers and I tackled him and stopped the deranged person. I use to be a police officer in Oregon, and my training kicked in when the incident began. A few years later, Jason came into the store and came to see and thank us for helping him. It was great to see him again. Jason was certainly the hero for the day and I am glad that he is still working as a deputy sheriff. Blessings to you, Jason.

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