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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

Shortly after noon on Feb. 20, the Alexandria SRT attempted to serve a parole warrant on Anthony Molette and search warrants for the buildings at 2316 Wise Street. The Alexandria SRT was divided into two entry teams supported by two sniper positions. Team one hit the pink house, team two the white or “junk” house at the rear of the property. Molette fired on team two, mortally wounding two officers and igniting a 45-minute firefight. Molette was suspected of an earlier ambush attack on an Alexandria officer.

The gunman responded with concentrated fire at Firebanks and the other officers in the beige house. His shots slammed into the kitchen appliances as the officers took cover on the floor and prepared to fire another gas round.

When the fire stopped, Fairbanks stood up behind the doorjamb, and using the maneuver called “slicing the pie” lined up another shot. He pulled the trigger and the shot found its target.

But for a split second, Fairbanks was framed in the doorway. The gunman fired, and one of his rounds shattered the glass of the beige house’s storm door, peppering Fairbank’s face and eyes with splinters, and tearing through his ear. Fairbanks was knocked down as the bullet grazed his skull. He tried to get back up but fell down. And two of his men carried him to an ambulance.

This Has Got to Stop!

Some 30 minutes earlier, 14 Alexandria SRT officers had arrived at 2316 Wise Street to serve two warrants. Four were now down. One in the doorway of the junk house, covered by the gunman’s fire in such a way that any rescue attempt would have been suicidal. Three others were on their way to the hospital.

The 10 standing SRT officers were now reinforced by Rapides Parish SWAT, but it was still primarily their fight. Tired, stunned by the violence of the last half hour, and frustrated by their inability to help their wounded buddy, they held their ground and waited.

They didn’t have to wait long.

A wild-eyed and gas-stung Molette, shirtless in camouflage pants, came out of the house spraying fire from his AK-47, which was suspended from his neck by a length of swingset chain. A blue bandana was wrapped around the forearm of the rifle.

He stood on the porch and shot at SRT sniper Darren Edwards and Rapides Parish SWAT. Edwards was hit during the exchange and Rapides SWAT operators returned fire and pulled him to safety.

Molette was driven off the porch by a hail of Rapides SWAT bullets, and he charged into the yard at the SRT officers behind one of the junker cars.

Officer Chris Wolf had taken a position in the doorway at the side of the pink house early in the fight and it was from this vantage point that he saw Molette charge his comrades who were prone behind one of the junker cars. He believes it was providence that put him in the right place at the right time, with a loaded M4.

“I had already gone to my pistol just before he came out,” explains Wolf. “I had gone through three M4 mags and through two-and-a-half pistol magazines. And just by the grace of God, I felt another 30-rounder stuck in my vest. So I jacked it in and got it set up, and two seconds after that, he came out.”

Wolf opened up on full automatic at a range of 18 to 20 feet with the lanky 6-foot, two-inch, 150-pound gunman running toward him. He watched in amazement as his .223 TAP rounds opened wounds in Molette’s legs and chest, and the gunman didn’t fall.

Molette kept coming and Wolf poured on the fire. “I kept thinking, this has got to stop,” he says. “I mean, that’s the only thing that goes through your mind is, ‘Stop! Stop! Stop! Stop! This has to stop!’ And he was still coming at us. It’s just hard to believe.”

Even harder to believe because Wolf wasn’t the only officer firing.

Alerted by Wolf’s shots, the four officers behind the car—Officer Chris Cooper, Cpl. Pat VanDyke, Officer Darrel Bradley, and Officer Joey Simms—were also shooting at Molette with 12-gauge slugs and 40-caliber MP5s. And despite all this punishment, he was still shooting back.

“His shots missed my face by a couple of inches,” says Officer Chris Cooper. “His shots busted the taillight of the car, and the glass actually shattered off the taillight and hit me in the face. We opened up on him and he just kept firing. He wouldn’t go down. I didn’t know if the rounds that we were shooting at him were holding him up or what. He kept running; he kept firing. He hit the ground and was still firing.”

Simms adds, “As I looked up, Molette appeared and he was running. He was running as fast as he could, firing and turning toward us. He was probably only 10 or 15 feet away and firing that AK in our faces, and we all just started returning fire at him.”

It was a horrific moment that lingers in the memories of all the men who were in the battle, some of whom still see Molette in their nightmares. “When he came around that car, he looked like a 10-foot-tall monster to me. I remember seeing the flash of his muzzle and feeling the concussion,” says Simms.

Cooper characterizes Molette as “pure evil” during the firefight. “When he came out, he must have thought he was untouchable. Either that or he just didn’t care. I can remember everything about him when he came out. I can actually watch him being hit.”

It’s estimated that Molette was hit 40 times, including three center mass shots with 12-gauge slugs before he fell. Consequently, some of the officers involved in the shootout believe he was on PCP or other mind-altering substances. Unfortunately, their suspicions can never be confirmed because of a medical examiner’s error.

Not Over Yet

Despite the fact that the threat from Anthony Molette had been eliminated, the SRT team held their positions for another five to 10 minutes. They believed because of the volume of fire that had come from the junk house that they were dealing with a second shooter.

But Anthony Molette acted alone.

Five to 10 minutes after the gunman bled out and expired, a decision was made to clear the junk house. With the remaining members of the SRT team providing cover, Rapides Parish SWAT and the U.S. Marshal Service recovered the body of Officer Jay Carruth, and entered the junk house.

Inside, the deputies discovered that Molette or someone had fortified the interior by nailing two-by-fours and old wooden doors over key ports of entry. The windows were also covered with plastic sheeting so that the occupants could stand at them and remain unseen.

Tragedy and Recovery

Jay Carruth was pronounced dead on arrival. David Ezernack was mortally wounded in the firefight. He died some five hours later in a local hospital.

Wounded SRT members Sgt. Bruce Fairbanks and Officer Daren Edwards have returned to duty and to the SRT team. Officer Cliff Slaughter suffers great pain from the wound that he received in his left bicep and is still recuperating.

Despite the casualties, Fairbanks says he believes the actions of his team were professional and necessary, and he doesn’t know what he could have changed in the assault plan to prevent the tragedy. He adds that he has requested an armored vehicle from the city council and believes it could have made a great difference on Feb. 20.

But armored vehicle or not, a gunbattle like the shootout on Wise Street turns on the courage and discipline of the officers involved. And Fairbanks says he is very proud of his SRT.

“Even in the absence of myself and assistant commander Slaughter, this team stood together and exchanged shots with this guy when he came out,” he says. “They maintained professionalism and fire discipline, and that made all the difference.”

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