Police found stacks of bills in the trunk of the car the robbery suspect was driving. Photo: Skokie PD
"There were 17 total hits on his body including three fatal shots to his head, a couple to his torso, and one to his abdomen," Gramins says. "Which means that even though Maddox was mortally wounded before the head shots, he was still able to engage me.
"People don't die the way we think they do," Gramins says. "I had 17 rounds in the guy. That will teach you how critical shot placement is."
Gramins' inability to successfully place rounds in the early part of the engagement is readily understandable given both the spontaneous nature of the attack and the confined environment he'd found himself in. Still, he'd made the most out of suppressive fire.
"Early in the fight, I didn't see where my rounds were going," says Gramins. "I had a favorable backdrop but didn't have my front sight. You need to find that front sight as fast as you can.
"They always talk about getting the front sight, and it's true. I knew the rounds I shot when I was prone and perpendicular to my unit hit him because I had a good sight picture on him as he was kneeling on the other side of my squad car on the opposite side of the street," he says.
Gramins readily credits his training as the key to his survival, and he tries to convey that same kind of training to others. He emphasizes the need to take one's range and tactical training seriously and shares his "will to survive" philosophy. But in discussing the shooting with other officers, Gramins is occasionally dismayed to hear someone comment, "Shooting through the glass? Holy cow, I wouldn't have thought of that."
"Well, why not?" Gramins asks them rhetorically.
Such encounters make him wonder if police agencies are doing an adequate job of training their personnel. He also wonders to what extent officers take it upon themselves to enhance their training through their own initiative.
"I'm lucky because my SWAT training has given me more training than many other officers get, and that training comes into play," Gramins admits. "But I've also supplemented that training with outside training. I also make a point of reading books like Dave Grossman's 'On Combat' and Alexis Artwohl's 'Deadly Force Encounters: What Cops Need To Know To Mentally And Physically Prepare For And Survive A Gunfight.'"
But even with all that training and a round in the chamber, each of Gramins' available 12-round gun magazines came into play that day-and he had a mere four rounds left when the smoke cleared.
"When you run empty, you run out quicker than you think you're going to," Gramins observes. "My backup was a Glock 26, but I didn't get to it."
The Glock 26 wasn't the only weapon that didn't come into play: An SKS rifle was recovered from the Bonneville. Gramins demurs when asked if his aggressing Maddox on foot may have prevented the man from accessing the weapon, but it is something to consider.
So are the unexpected things that one can experience in a firefight. For Gramins, just getting off his first round provided a huge psychological lift. "You feel a little better once you're up and in the game," he says.
Gramins has accustomed himself to cardio training and to routinely performing "what if" scenario training throughout his work day. He hopes that other officers working patrol are as conscientious about keeping themselves mentally and physically conditioned and that they always have something at the forefront of their consciousness to fight for. For Gramins, that proved to be his love for his son.
"It was my son's birthday, and we were going to have a party for him that night," Gramins recalls. "I was determined to be there for my son, and that goal gave me all the determination I needed to come out on top."
One image stays with Gramins, who was named Illinois State Officer of the Year and one of 10 law enforcement officers selected by NAPO to visit the White House for their heroism. The image is that of a resident on the northeast corner of the street who throughout the incident was yelling his support for the officer.
"'Get this guy!' he's yelling," Gramins laughs. "'Get him! Get him! Shoot him!' I could hear him the whole time. It was comforting to know that someone was cheering me on and that I was not out there by myself. It was like having a coach on the sidelines during a game."
AUDIO: Listen to the neighbor's 911 call.