From its inception in the early 1990s, the Fort Worth Police Department's Weed and Seed Team had but one mission: incarcerate criminals that plague the Nashville East Side Sector while facilitating the assimilation of more desirable citizens. In other words, "weed" the bad guys; and "seed" the good ones.
While their mission may have been singularly defined, the crimes they targeted were varied. Yet those crimes often involved the same people. Dope dealing, a burglary, an armed robbery often involved the same scumbag.
Such was the case in early November 1994, when a problem was brought to the team's attention: local drug dealers were supplementing their already illicit income by extorting area school children.
The Weed and Seed Team went to work, conducting a surveillance operation as the drug dealing predators indulged their sense of sociopathic entitlement by stealing lunch money from kids.
But hooking up the dirtbags was one thing; putting them away for long stretches would be another. So the team brought in an undercover narcotics officer who on different days made two buys from the dealer, enough to get a signed search warrant.
And on November 9, directly across from the Maude I. Logan Elementary School that the suspects exploited, a large van pulled up and parked outside 2221 Dillard Street to serve the warrant.
The target location was a small square house with a living room, a kitchen, three bedrooms, and one recessed bathroom. As the van's cargo bay door slid open, a squad of officers spilled out in front of the house. Four headed for the front door, search warrant in tow.
Officer Billie Daniels and Officer Rudy Johnson were with Teams 1 and 2, two of an eight-officer complement deployed at the location. Two catch teams set up on the front, two more to the rear, with an FBI agent (the program was federally funded) in the front of the house with the breach man.
Within seconds of their arrival, the breach man hit the door and the teams streamed inside. Daniels and Johnson targeted the room furthest inside the house.
The two men had worked together for five years, having known one another even longer from the days when Daniels had informally mentored the fresh-from-the-academy Johnson.
Each was a star athlete in school, with Daniels having been a Second Team All-American in football. Neither was shorter than six-foot, two-inches. And while he weighed less than Daniels, the bodybuilding Johnson was a formidable force, as well.
Despite his size, Daniels prided himself in relying on his interpersonal skills to get him home at the end of the day. Not that he was afraid to mix it up when necessary. If someone was going to pick a fight with him, he'd take the fight to them.
As he crossed the threshold of the front door, Daniels had no idea that the battle he'd soon be fighting would be for his life.
The officers made their way through the house, each team veering off into their assigned room, their entries preceded by the announcement, "Police! Search warrant!"
Everyone who was ordered to get on the floor did so.
But when Daniels and Johnson reached their target room, each immediately noticed that the offset door prevented them a clear visual of the room beyond. Daniels was about to angle for a look inside the room when an elderly man suddenly charged out, running headlong into the blindsided Daniels, knocking his gun hand in the direction of his partner, Johnson. Daniels felt a split-second of relief, having conscientiously kept his finger off the trigger to prevent an accidental discharge.
Daniels dealt with the elderly interloper at the doorway, then he observed a second man seated atop a bed inside the room. The young man's eyes were fixed on the two officers, but his hand gravitated elsewhere, searching blindly for something that was behind him.
Daniels didn't want the man to reach for anything other than the sky. He shoved the geriatric facedown to the floor with his gun hand, then looked up and saw the man on the bed raising a .380 semi-automatic.
Darkness Closing In
Since his academy days, Daniels was acutely aware of the inherent dangers of standing in a doorway. So his reaction to the threat was swift. Yelling, "Gun!" he pushed Johnson out of the death portal just as the suspect opened fire.
Daniels saw Johnson collapse, then felt his own legs give out from under him. As bullets peppered the walls around them, the two officers lay on the floor. They'd both been hit.
An enveloping darkness had settled on the outer periphery of Daniels' vision. He knew he'd been hurt—bad—but he also knew that the suspect wasn't apt to back down and reconsider having taken shots at officers.
The darkness closed in on him, but despite his wounds, Daniels pushed himself up to a seated firing position. Propped up by his weak hand, Daniels raised his .357 Smith & Wesson revolver for some one-handed point shooting. As the suspect jumped about indecisively on the bed, Daniels squeezed off a round.
With his second round, Daniels found himself feeling dizzy…sleepy.[PAGEBREAK]
Daniels couldn't think of the last time he'd been so pumped on adrenaline. Yet here he was, losing consciousness when he most needed it. Daniels fired a third round—then collapsed.
Daniels' shots did their job, keeping the suspect at bay until Officer David Ukle was able to rush past Daniels and set up position at the doorway. Using the door frame as a barricade, Ukle then engaged the suspect as Officer Chip Gillette grabbed Daniels and dragged him from the scene.
At the same time, Rudy Johnson was able to get up under his own control and removed himself from the path of the incoming fire as still more officers swept in to assist in helping the wounded Daniels out of the house.
Inside, Officers Brett Ladd, Cpl. Robin Krouse, and Rudy Johnson set up outside the bedroom. The trio of officers fired a volley through the wall that separated them from the suspect. They were targeting the corner of the bedroom where the suspect crouched, but the outside catch team had to duck as the barrage pierced through the rear of the house.
Their guns now empty, the officers began to reload. That was when the suspect—preacher's son-cum-crack addict Harold Curtis Edmonds—took advantage of the lull to leap for the window. But before Edmonds could clear the opening, Ukle fired. His round sank into the back of Edmonds' leg and the addict collapsed, half in and half out of the window where he was taken into custody.
Fight for Life
Out on the porch, Daniels lay bleeding from an unseen wound.
Fellow officers cut away his clothes, finding a bullet wound in Daniels' upper thigh. Having seen similar injuries of the femoral artery during his time as a military medic, Gillette at once recognized its severity. He went to work, removing Daniels' inner belt, as well as another officer's and his own. Using the three belts, he cinched their Velcro enclosures around the affected area: the first above Daniels' left knee; a second in the crotch below the injury; and the third across the rear buttocks.
"I'm not going to die, man," Daniels vowed. "You got to get me to the hospital. I'm not dying."
Fortunately, a Med Star Ambulance was situated a block away on a dead body call when the first shots rang out. It was now on scene.
Johnson had also taken a round, the bullet traveling from his left thigh to his right between his skin and his abdominal muscle. He joined Daniels in the ambulance.
Hit Him, Hard
Just before their transport, one of the EMTs asked for someone to ride in the ambulance with Daniels—someone who wasn't afraid to put his hands on him.
Fred Myers' hand shot up.
The EMT who'd assisted a number of wounded officers, had specific instructions for Myers.[PAGEBREAK]
"Every time he closes his eyes," the EMT instructed Myers, "you've got to hit him in his forehead, hard. That's the only thing that's going to keep him alive. Don't let him lose consciousness or he'll shut down."
"And that's the way it was," Daniels recalled in a recent phone interview. "As we were rolling to the hospital, I could hear the sirens from the other officers, see those officers that were blocking the intersections along our route, and the paramedics working on me, and the entire time Fred's popping away, jamming my forehead.
"I was so pissed, I wanted a piece of Fred," says Daniels. "I was about to come up off that gurney, but they had me tied down.
"Then I would feel myself shutting down or feel my eyes close, and Fred would lay into me again and we'd start all over. Right before they stopped at the hospital, Fred hit me once more for good measure. I remember that he hit me pretty good."
The ambulance arrived at the hospital in six minutes. Daniels had been on the scene for 15. The femoral artery has a 3.5-minute bleed out.
Dr. Jim Sloan, the physician who helped save Daniels' life, said, "In man's light, it was his time to die. In God's light, it wasn't."
But it couldn't have come any closer. The doctors worked on Daniels for six-and-a-half hours, losing him briefly at the four-hour mark before successfully resuscitating him.
The surgeons had their work cut out for them. A bullet had entered Daniels' left upper thigh, severing the femoral artery and striking a nerve. Then it ricocheted off the pelvic bone and struck a rib. From there it changed directions, coming back down and nicking the femoral artery in Daniels' right thigh before veering left where it came to rest in his pelvic bone.
Daniels recuperated in the hospital for 24 days, where he was visited by many friends and co-workers.
But there were also a few unexpected visitors. Some of Fort Worth's Blood gang members had come to respect Daniels through his contacts with them. He knew as much. Still, he was taken aback when the gang members visited him in the hospital and made an unusual offer.
"The guy who did this to you, we don't like him," said the de facto spokesman of the throng who'd convened in his hospital room. "If you want us to, we'll take him out and his whole family."
Daniels laughs now thinking about it.
But he was shocked at the time and had to find a way to communicate to the young thugs that he didn't want them to retaliate against the shooter or his kin.
"I said, 'No, no, no. I'd have to live with what'd happen to you guys—death penalties, long prison terms. You can't do that.' They said, 'Okay, we'll respect that.'"
Unfortunately, the criminal justice system let Daniels down. During the trial, Edmond's defense attorney played to the parental sympathies of the jurors. So the suspect received a sentence of 10 years probation.
With the announcement, the courtroom went quiet.
"You could hear a pin drop, but I could hear a fellow officer unsnap his holster," Daniels recalls. "And I could hear the 'sound,' you know the sound a gun makes when it's coming out of the holster. He carries a .45. And I grabbed his elbow and was trying to push it back down. A sergeant came up, and I said, 'Don't do this. He ain't worth it, man.' But the officer said, 'I'm going to kill this motherf'er in this courtroom. I don't give a damn what happens to me, but I'm going to do this.' So we talked the officer down. As we were talking him down, I looked into the courtroom.
"All the jurors were hiding behind their seats, crying. The judge was behind his desk. The bailiff was an old guy; he had his hand at his gun and he was shaking. The defense attorney had jumped under the desk covering the defendant. We talked the officer into letting that gun go, and we gave it to the sergeant.
"Then the officer stood up with tears in his eyes and he grabbed the badge on his shirt, jerked it off his shirt, and threw it onto the courtroom floor. He pointed at the jurors, and said, 'I'll be back in the courtroom when this guy sells crack cocaine to your children. And I hope you're in the stands, I hope you're sitting in the stands watching your trial go—your trial—because of him.' Then he walked out. That was very intense."
Daniels' gratitude extends to many people. To his chief, Thomas Windham, who had emphasized the importance of a range training program that incorporated shooting from a variety of positions and not the static range qualification familiar to all too many officers.
Daniels also acknowledges that the confluence of experience and professionalism that came together that day saved his life, the life of Rudy Johnson, and possibly the lives of other officers, as well.
And finally, Daniels is grateful for the emergency medical care that he was given by the EMTs and the head smacks that Fred Meyers gave him in the ambulance. Both helped him make it to the hospital and ultimately survive.
WHAT WOULD YOU DO?
Think about the raid that wounded Fort Worth officer Billie Daniels:
- The team had good intel on the suspects, but it was not enough to prevent the firefight that ensued subsequent to the warrant's service. What means do you have of acquiring suspect information prior to a raid?
- During the firefight, a couple of exterior containment officers had to take cover from rounds exiting the walls. What kind of measures do you take during containments to minimize the likelihood of friendly crossfire?
- Daniels' life was saved in large part by the presence of an on-scene EMT who ensured that makeshift tourniquets were quickly applied to his wounds. How comfortable do you feel about the prospects of yourself or your fellow officers having the ability to take such actions? Do you have professional medical personnel among your reserve officer pool?