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Mark Rivera

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Mark Rivera, Customer Retention Manager and CJIS Security Compliance Officer with Vigilant Solutions, served for sixteen years with the Maryland State Police, retiring at the rank of First Sergeant with thirteen of those years at the supervisory and command level. He holds a Master of Science Degree in Management from The Johns Hopkins University and Secret clearance through the FBI, Baltimore.


War on Wise Street

Serving a high-risk warrant, a Louisiana tactical team found itself in a desperate firefight.

September 01, 2003  |  by - Also by this author

Alexandria’s SRT team fought a pitched battle on this property. Gas drove the gunman from the white house, and he was killed in an exchange of gunfire. His body has been marked out of photo.

Sgt. Bruce Fairbanks of the Alexandria (La.) Police remembers the moment he realized that things were about to go bad during his tactical team’s Feb. 20 service of a high-risk warrant.

The target of the warrant was a parole violator who was suspected of the premeditated ambush of an Alexandria cop. The site was two small wood frame houses at 2316 Wise Street in an impoverished area of Alexandria called the Sonia Quarters. Alexandria PD’s Special Response Team (SRT) was executing a detailed plan to serve the warrants and search the structures for evidence to connect Anthony Molette, 25, to the ambush attack. Intelligence gathered before the assault told them that Molette would not be home.

It was wrong.

Executing the raid plan, Fairbanks split his unit into two entry teams, positioned snipers at the front and the back of the property, and took up a command position with his team’s assistant commander. Near-simultaneous raids were launched on the main house known to the officers as “the pink house” and on a smaller white structure behind it known to officers as the “junk house.”

The pink house team rammed open the door, tossed in a flash-bang grenade, and began clearing the home room to room. Everything was going according to plan. Then Fairbanks realized that something was going terribly wrong. The entry team at the front of the smaller “junk house” had just rammed the door for the fourth time and then paused. That didn’t make sense. The door on the reportedly unoccupied house was flimsy. It should have cracked open with one blow.

Fairbanks turned to his assistant commander Officer Cliff Slaughter and said, “That doesn’t sound good.”

Slaughter didn’t have a chance to respond. The entry team hit the door on the “junk house” one more time, and heavy gunfire shattered the drizzly February afternoon.

The bullets came from an AK-47 assault rifle fired by Molette who was inside the “junk house.” And they were devastating.

Officer Jeremy “Jay” Carruth—who had pushed his way into the doorway of the junk house, trying to pry it open—was hit in the cheek and the temple and fell on the porch. Behind Carruth, Officer David Ezernack was shot in the throat and fell into the yard. The remaining men in the six officer stack tossed a flash-bang into the doorway, laid down suppression fire, and took cover.

I’m Coming Out

Two officers were down. Calls were put out for assistance from surrounding tactical teams, including the Rapides Parish Sheriff’s Department SWAT team and the Special Operations Group of the U.S. Marshal’s Service based in nearby Pineville.

But reinforcements were at least 20 minutes out; two of their buddies were bleeding to death in the line of fire, and the men of the SRT knew they were the only force that could protect other Alexandria officers from a man who had evidently declared war on the police. They had to make a stand.

Bloodied and shocked by the ferocity of the attack, the SRT officers could have panicked. They could have turned into “cowboys” and rushed the house. They could have made a hundred wrong moves. But their training and professionalism kept them in control and working toward two key goals: rescuing their wounded friends and containing and neutralizing the threat presented by the gunman.

The pink house raid team set up an inner perimeter, taking cover in the doorway of the pink house and behind “junker” cars in the yard. The remainder of the junk house team rolled around to the right side of the junk house, taking cover behind the wall and planning their next move.

Just seconds had passed since the first shots. And the focus of the operation was now to pull Carruth and Ezernack to safety. Officer Joey Simms and Officer Jerrod King left positions of cover to make a rescue. They were met with withering fire.

“I tried to go onto the porch to get Carruth,” remembers Simms. “Then the suspect opened fire again. I was feeling debris and stuff hitting my clothes. I heard bullets zip past me. I dove off the porch to the left.”

King was pinned down next to Ezernack. He could hear the wounded man wheezing, but there was nothing he could do.

The gunman knew the SRT officers would try to rescue their buddies and he was targeting accordingly. “I laid down next to David because I could hear the rounds cracking by me,” says King. “I could feel the dirt hit me. He was targeting me and David because I think we were the only ones he could clearly see. I laid down next to David and the firing stopped for a second.”

Now minutes into the firefight, the suspect gave the SRT a ray of hope. Officers say he used a pause in the shooting to call out that he was surrendering.

“He would holler, ‘I’m coming out! I’m coming out!’ Some of the team members would yell back at him, ‘Throw the gun out. Come out with your hands up,’” says Fairbanks. “He would reply with, ‘You want me to throw the gun out and put my hands up?’ And the team would again repeat the verbal commands. And when they would announce this second set of verbal commands, Molette had pinpointed where their voices were coming from.”

Molette was using the officers’ voices to target. He couldn’t see them, but he could hear them, and every time he heard them, he sent a fusilade of 7.62mm rounds in their direction.

Pinned Down

The gunman’s ability to target sounds was a constant concern for the officers throughout the battle. He even used it to locate the officers who had sought cover on the right side of the house. They soon found themselves pinned down, as the gunman fired down at them through a barricaded window.

SRT’s situation had grown increasingly desperate; officers were trapped against the side of the junk house; officers were pinned down next to Ezernack, and the shooting from both sides had been heavy for more than 10 minutes, so ammo was running low.

It would get worse.

Officer Slaughter moved in to try to help rescue Ezernack and was shot in the left bicep. He rolled to cover beside one of the “junker” cars. The pink house raid team behind the other junker started to move toward Slaughter, but they were ordered to stand.

Here It Comes, Guys!

Fire continued to come from the junk house. And the SRT officers knew they had to somehow regain the initiative. The officers who were pinned down at the side of the house and in the yard had to be given cover so they could pull back, and Ezernack had to be rescued.

They communicated with hand signals, and over their LASH radio headsets, and made a move.

“Here it comes, guys!” yelled one of the officers and a massive torrent of fire hit the junk house, chewing into its white wooden façade, and forcing the gunman to seek cover. At the same time, the officers at the left of the house also opened up and retreated to cover behind one of the cars, and Simms and King dragged Ezernack to safety.

Pass the Ammo

The firefight had lasted about 20 minutes at this point and ammunition was in critically short supply. Each team member carried one 30-round magazine in his primary weapon (MP5, M4, AR-15) and three spare magazines, but all the suppression fire had taken its toll and some officers were down to their last shots.

Realizing that he was too wounded to be of use in the battle, Slaughter kept one round in his Colt M4 and gave his remaining ammunition to the other men. “He started throwing magazines to us with his good right hand,” says Simms. “It was a great throw. It hit a few feet in front of me, bounced, and hit me right in the chest.”

Once Slaughter had distributed his ammo, the team laid down some cover fire, and he got up and ran to a nearby church parking lot and medical attention.

Other officers took Ezernack’s spare mags, and SRT members Cpl. Cedrick Green and Officer Jerrod King and Alexandria PD motor officer Rodney Gaspard carried him to a waiting ambulance. They then went to the command truck with Sgt. Fairbanks for ammo.

Fairbanks, Green, and King used the pink house and a beige house on the left to ferry ammo out to the team. At one point they were throwing boxes of cartridges out to the officers behind the junker cars.

Deploying the Gas

Ezernack was now out of the line of fire and Fairbanks knew there was no way for his team to reach Carruth without framing themselves in the gunman’s field of fire. He also had good reason to believe Carruth was already gone. Carruth had been shot twice in the head, and the young officer wasn’t showing any signs of life.

Fairbanks decided to deploy gas.

He grabbed the gas gun and a bag of gas grenades and moved into position in the kitchen of the beige house. From the back doorway of the beige house, he fired a gas round into one of the junk house’s windows.

CONTINUED: War on Wise Street «   Page 1 of 2   »

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