Inspector Christopher Scallon received the Norfolk (Va.) PD's Medal of Honor for his actions.
A cop's mind is a tricky thing. In a split-second it can recognize those situations wherein things have somehow deviated from the norm. Accustomed to rapidly digesting and analyzing information, it is not shy about divining reasons for disruptions of the routine.
Non-cops might generously color such cognitive powers as acts of "intuition;" others less taken with the idea of extra sensory perception are more apt to dismiss them as some form of "profiling."
By any name, Investigator Christopher Scallon had it working for him the night of April 15, 2007.
The off-duty Norfolk, Va., police officer had pulled into a Shell gas station in a bid to fuel up his car before driving to meet his girlfriend in nearby Newport News. Scallon had intended to park near the front doors so as to get in and out as quickly as possible, but found a group of people congregated near the doors. Normally, the 10 o'clock hour found the doors of the Shell Station at Granby Street and Taussig Boulevard locked and employees conducting transactions from beyond the pane of a bullet-resistant window.
Maybe they're just having a smoke break or something, Scallon thought as he parked the car nearby.
Still, something wasn't kosher. There wasn't anything that he could readily put his finger on, but it was undeniably there. Something wasn't quite right.
Having experienced such sensations before only to find some latent suspicion confirmed, Scallon found himself evaluating the postures and attire of those gathered: The man standing with his back to him in the hooded sweatshirt (not a particularly warm night)…no hands up in the air…no looks of palpable fear…
All the same…
Draping his jacket over his gun, Scallon stepped from his ride. As he approached the front doors, he heard one of the men outside the store yell what sounded like a nickname.
In response, the guy in the hoodie spun around and spotted Scallon. The investigator could now see that the man, Paris Wynn, was also wearing a bandana and carrying something in his hand. Clad entirely in black, Wynn's eyes were the only part of him visible through the bandana and they grew large upon seeing Scallon. Wynn suddenly pushed the clerks from outside to inside the store.
Realizing he'd probably happened upon a robbery in progress, Scallon gave chase. Years of working narcotics had conditioned Scallon to the inherent threats associated with plainclothes attire. Muscle memory kicked in and his chain-tethered badge came out of his left front pocket. Tossing it around his neck, Scallon yelled, "Police officer!" as he crossed the store's threshold.
That was enough for Wynn. He pointed his gun in Scallon's direction and fired.
The door jam next to Scallon pinged with the impact of Wynn's bullet. Leveling his own Glock 9mm Model 17 on the gunman, Scallon aimed for center mass. He squeezed the Glock's trigger. The round center-punched Wynn and caused the robber to stagger backward.
Wynn retreated down an aisle. Scallon pushed a bystander behind the cashier's counter. Then he tried to track Wynn as the man darted back and forth down the aisle a row over.
The store's shelving units were only about four-and-a-half-feet tall and barely constituted concealment, let alone cover. Save for the obscuring potato chips and other foods occupying the shelves, the two men could see portions of one another through the slats. Still, that was more protection than what the front of the store afforded Scallon.
Worse, Scallon knew that there was another possible threat outside of the store. Someone outside had yelled to warn Wynn. Scallon didn't know where that person was or what his intent might be, but he did know that he could be targeted through the store's plate glass windows, which offered him no concealment. But rather than be distracted by the possible whereabouts of the man who'd shouted to Wynn, the investigator resolved himself to committing his attentions to Wynn.
Moving down the aisle, Scallon fought for his balance, sliding on the blood-slicked floor. The balancing act didn't stop there, for the investigator was simultaneously determined to keep Wynn from not only getting to the front doors but also to two employees behind the counter. There was no way that Scallon was going to allow the man to take them hostage or somehow allow them to get caught up in the crossfire.
The dangerous game of cat and mouse continued, with Wynn darting back and forth between the aisles, angling for a means of somehow putting the officer down or getting by him through the store's only exit, the front door. Periodically, the suspect would pop up over the top of an aisle to squeeze off a round at Scallon who'd return fire with greater accuracy. At least, that's what he thought.
And yet the SOB wouldn't go down.
That the suspect might be wearing body armor crossed Scallon's mind. But Scallon also knew that if the man had been in a vest he probably wouldn't be sliding around in his blood.
With each passing minute, Wynn's determination became more desperate, his willingness to take the fight to the investigator more brazen. A mere aisle now separated the two men, and Scallon knew that he'd have to do something to end this. He'd committed himself to closing the gap just as Wynn moved to his right.