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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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You're Making it My Problem

Hendrix's hand went to the snub-nosed Smith & Wesson.

Model 36, five-shot revolver he'd stashed in his back pocket while inside the store. Pulling it out, he adopted a Weaver stance and took aim at the suspect. For the benefit of all present, Hendrix loudly identified himself as a police officer.

With Hendrix's announcement, the suspect-Robert Ripley-swung the female between himself and Hendrix. The male hostage took advantage of the distraction to dive onto the ground.

Hendrix couldn't believe how quickly things were evolving-and not necessarily for the better. He'd succeeded in stopping the gunman from firing into the man's head, but now another nightmare was playing out: The man was holding a female hostage as a shield and preventing Hendrix from getting a clear shot.

Further complicating Hendrix's situation was all manner of seemingly clueless people walking around them, between them, and behind the suspect. Hendrix had a clear shot on everyone but the suspect. Figuring the oblivious throng about them was a lost cause, Hendrix tried to reason with the man, advising him again that he was a cop and asking him to put the weapon down.

"It's not your problem!" Ripley yelled.

Hendrix wished it wasn't.

"But you're making it my problem," Hendrix told Ripley. "I can't just let you shoot these people. This is not the way to handle this."

That's Gonna Hurt

The female-who Hendrix later learned was Ripley's ex-wife-started to struggle, pulling the suspect to the ground with her. But as soon as he hit the ground, Ripley rebounded, yanking the woman up with him before opening fire on Hendrix.

Having already drawn a bead on Ripley, Hendrix immediately returned fire when he saw the first muzzle flash. His aim was true and both rounds tore into Ripley's torso.

Unfortunately, Ripley's aim had proven accurate, as well.

A bullet struck the earpiece of Hendrix's glasses before deflecting through his left ear and out the backside of his head. Reflexively, Hendrix reached up and touched the side of his head. As he did, he glanced down. Blood was seeping across his T-shirt above the abdomen, and Hendrix's weird sense of cop humor struck him then, too. Chuckling under his breath, he mused to himself, "Shit, that's gonna hurt."

Yet Hendrix felt no pain-not in his stomach, at least. His head was another story. It felt like Mike Tyson had beat him with his fists then done that Holyfield thing with his teeth to his ear.

Ripley had been hit, too, but one wouldn't know it to look at him. Incredibly, the man was moving toward Hendrix.

Hendrix had seen a big pillar in front of the store. In a bid to put some distance and cover between himself and Ripley, he ran for it.

Ripley stalked after him. Both men exchanged more rounds as they moved. Hendrix's third shot hit Ripley just as one of Ripley's rounds stuck him in his right lower leg, causing Hendrix to collapse onto his back as his fourth round went wide of Ripley, striking the store behind him.

Lying on the ground like some upended tortoise, Hendrix knew he had but one round left. From the outset, Ripley hadn't had to concern himself with conserving rounds, and was even still shooting at Hendrix. Desperate, Hendrix raised his gun once more at Ripley and fired his last round. It struck Ripley in his left leg, severing the femoral artery.

Still the man kept coming.

Hendrix was in a state of terrified disbelief-why weren't his rounds doing what they were supposed to do? Why was this crazy son-of-a-bitch still on his feet? How was he still able to advance?

As he dropped his spent revolver to the asphalt, Hendrix could only hope that Ripley might still retain some vestige of humanity and show some mercy.

He didn't.

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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