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Departments : Shots Fired

Shots Fired: Bozeman, Montana 06/02/2006

Working overtime and with his wife in the passenger seat, Lt. Rich McLane made a routine traffic stop and then it was no longer routine.

July 26, 2010  |  by - Also by this author

At the driver's window, McLane smiled and greeted the man with an explanation for the stop.

Normally, Gottfried was one for poor impulse control, with a battery of narcotics arrests and others to validate the assertion. But tonight, the 48-year-old's demeanor was calm and personable, and the broad smile he extended from beneath a large handlebar mustache matched McLane's.

"How are you doing?" he asked amicably.

Everything about Gottfried's demeanor was so immediately disarming that any reservations McLane had about the driver's delay in pulling over or the man's vigilance of his approach seemed to dissipate.

And it was at that moment that Gottfried swung the barrel of a Glock right at his face.

Kill or Be Killed

McLane's synapses kicked into hyperdrive, his mind asking if the gun was real and just as quickly discounting the possibility it wasn't. With a mere six inches separating his face from the barrel, there wasn't much ambiguity about the threat. Gottfried's finger squeezed the trigger.

Click.

McLane didn't know what was more incredible-that the man had tried to kill him, or that he'd failed. A misfire? An empty chamber? McLane had no idea, but he knew he couldn't count on fate or the driver for any second amnesty.

Batting at Gottfried's gun with his left hand, McLane stepped back and to his right, determined to simultaneously put distance between himself and the gun and saddle Gottfried with a more difficult angle to draw a bead from.

As he moved, he saw Gottfried's hands were already manipulating the slide in a desperate bid to rack a round into the Glock's chamber.

McLane wasn't going to allow the man that chance. He drew his own Glock sidearm and fired five rounds, rapid fire.

Darting back for his driver's door, he knew that he didn't want his wife confined to the car if the firefight continued. Pointing at a bank across the street, he wordlessly indicated where he wanted her to take cover. Rhonda didn't hesitate, and moved from the passenger door of the unit and around the rear of the patrol unit for the bank.

McLane dove behind the driver's door of his unit, appreciative of the angle that he'd selected for parking the car and the fact that he had an engine block between himself and the suspect. He then radioed the shooting in.

Verbal commands failed to elicit any response from Gottfried, and once a sufficient number of officers were on scene, they made a tactical approach on Gottfried's vehicle. They found him unconscious. He was transported to the hospital where he was pronounced dead two hours later.

Back to Normalcy

McLane's first four rounds of Speer .40 S&W formed a tight grid on the left rear of the driver's compartment window. A fifth round was just to their right as McLane had compensated in anticipation that the driver might slump or dive to his right.

Some have speculated that this incident was a suicide by cop. McLane suspects not.

Tags: Shots Fired, Vehicle Stops, Assaults on Officers, Families of Officers, Bozeman (Mont.) PD


Comments (1)

Displaying 1 - 1 of 1

Morning Eagle @ 7/28/2010 1:54 AM

As always Dean, your Shots Fired columns are worth reading for the lessons they contain. Having made a couple of traffic stops myself I can't say I would have done anything much different than Officer McLane did except for one small point. When he heard the 10-12 call that should have been enough of a warning that there was something out of the ordinary about the subject he had pulled over stop his approach. I do not want to sound like an all-wise early Wednesday morning quarterback and I know McLane was there and did what he thought best at the moment. But I might have told the subject to hang tough, I would be right back then backed away while observing him closely and would not have had to turn my back to him to do that. True, that maneuver could have alerted the subject that I might be onto him but it would have also put some distance between us and maybe allowed me to reach the partial cover of my patrol vehicle while obtaining whatever info dispatch had for me and perhaps getting some backup on the way. I am not criticizing him and he is absolutely correct that this was not an attempt to commit suicide by cop, it was instead an "I am going to kill a cop" day. His use of deadly force was definitely justified and the idea fostered by many movies, TV and the general media that using deadly force is supposed to be emotionally devastating for the officer is wrong. And, listen up internal affairs investigators and senior administrators, if it was a "good" shooting there is no need to put the officer through some kind of inquisition because you think he or she isn't showing an adequate degree of remorse. I am not saying that happened here but it certainly does in too many incidents.

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