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Departments : Shots Fired

Shots Fired: Portland, Oregon 12/14/1996

Officer Scott Westerman was sent to help a paranoid woman, but she had other ideas.

December 21, 2010  |  by - Also by this author

A Loud Bang

Enraged, Sweany turned toward Westerman, placed her left hand on his chest, and tried to push the officer out the door.

If Sweany's bid proved impotent, it was due more to her small stature than any lack of determination. Grabbing her left hand and placing it behind her back, Westerman said to the paramedic, "Let's just take her into custody now."

In preparation for cuffing her, Westerman tapped Sweany's shoulder and told her to place her right hand behind her head.

Instead, Sweany's right shoulder lunged forward. Paramedic Ream, standing by the front door, saw something that Westerman couldn't. The woman reached for her waistband with her right hand and removed a .38 caliber Smith & Wesson Model 60. The deranged woman shoved it into Westerman's gut.

For his part, Westerman was blissfully unaware of the threat pressed up against his torso. All he knew was that Sweany wasn't cooperating with him. Ream knew otherwise, and reached for Sweany's armed hand as Westerman pulled up on her left arm, still held behind her back.

Westerman heard a loud bang.

Out of Battery

Things in the room came to a complete stop, then began to move in slow motion. The sensory distortion was unlike anything Westerman had ever experienced before. He tried to analyze what had just happened. Knowing the bang hadn't been a firecracker, he still found himself looking for telltale signs of spent firecracker wrappings floating through the air. The possibility that it'd been a car backfire was just as quickly discounted and Westerman knew that it could only have been a gun shot.

But from where? His own sidearm was still in his holster and the paramedic didn't have one. The kid in the living room was too far away. Then it dawned on Westerman: She's got a gun.

Part of Westerman still didn't want to believe it. He'd tracked her gait as she made her way across the room to the front door, seeing nothing to suggest anything other than a small-framed woman in a state of agitation. But superseding any concerns over his initial inability to recognize the threat was how Westerman would now deal with it.

Looking over Sweany's shoulder, Westerman saw Ream double over.

Realizing that Ream had been shot, Westerman lunged over her back for the gun with his free hand but could not reach any further than the middle of her right forearm without relinquishing control of the left.

For two seconds the two struggled, as fear washed over Westerman — not for himself, but for others should Sweany pull the trigger again as its barrel swung back and forth in their direction. He had but two options: Keep fighting for the gun and run the risk of a bystander getting hurt, or shoot Sweany.

He didn't recall pulling it out of his holster, but he found his .45 caliber Glock 21 in his hand and pressed it into the woman's back. He pulled the trigger.

Click!

Westerman heard the voice of his firearms instructor, Ken Gardner, telling him that he had pressed the gun so hard into Sweany's back that the weapon was out of battery.

Pulling the gun back to let the trigger reset, Westerman again asked himself whether or not he had to shoot, again coming to the same disagreeable conclusion.

Tags: Mentally Ill Subjects, Portland Police Bureau, Shots Fired, Officer Involved Shootings, Firefighters


Comments (2)

Displaying 1 - 2 of 2

kevinobrien8527 @ 12/22/2010 5:59 PM

Well... All I can say is I don't like Scott's tactics and complacency that allowed the crazy lady to control too much of the situation. I don't know how big Scott or the wacko are but for the life of me I cannot figure out why he could not control her. There are a million things this story does not have in it tto fill in so many blanks, but the important thing is Scott Westerman went home afterward and lived to get out and do his duty again. There - but for the grace of God go every one of us. Thought provoking and I'm glad the specific discussion of "Out of Battery" was brought up. At a recent training event we practiced tactical contact shots and no one made any reference to my Glock being O-o-B. In fact I didn't even know it could happen. This article may actually save someone's life!

KMO

Orange County, CA

dscoville @ 12/23/2010 11:24 PM

Among the things I truly like and respect about Scott - and there are many - is his sincere desire to spare others the heartache he and others endured. Whatever else, the tragedy (which took place in a very different place and time) might well have been prevented had the policy changes since implemented been in place at the time of the shooting. If there are any particulars that you'd like to have clarified that I can answer, please ask (I will try to answer herein). Finally, please remember almost every officer that I have interviewed regarding their shooting has expressed a wish that they could go back and do something different with the advantage of hindsight. The difference is that they are bravely willing to say so for the record.

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