When your overtime employment at a business is dictated by an ongoing disgruntled former employee situation, you have every right to expect that there might be a problem. Certainly, any business that feels compelled to hire an officer to maintain a vigil lest someone resort to ballistic rage probably has good cause for doing so.
But when you decide to leave that location and get yourself something to eat, surely you could probably be forgiven for letting your guard down just a little.
Isn't that the stuff ironies are made of?
Officer Jeff Elasky was on his dinner break on the night of August 15, 2002. And he stopped in the parking lot at 5125 Edina Industrial Way to double-check that he had enough free sandwich coupons before making his way inside the local Subway.
Satisfied that he would be leaving with his appetite sated and his wallet intact, Elasky got out of his car and approached the Subway. On his way in he recognized a car in the parking lot as belonging to a reserve officer with the department, Craig Borchardt.
Spotting Borchardt inside, Elasky joined the man and the two began a leisurely conversation as they slowly migrated toward the front of the line.
Elasky was relaxed and had his back to the counter when his peripheral vision picked up something: The front door flying open and two men—one black, one white—marching inside.
This Ain't Going to Happen
The duo's brazen entry and determined pace set off red flags in the minds of the two officers. Standing opposite one another, they glanced toward the front door, then back at one another, each silently communicating the same thought: This ain't going to happen.
"This is a robbery!" yelled the black male, confirming their fears. To emphasize his words, he raised a gun and pointed it at the patrons. "Get on the ground!"
Elasky, clad in a white Minnesota Gophers t-shirt and jeans, was immediately grateful that neither he nor his reserve friend was in uniform. Still, he knew their lack of identifiable attire might prove a moot point if he wasn't able to get to the .40 caliber Smith & Wesson hidden inside his fanny pack, especially as the fanny pack's significance would probably not be lost on the suspects the moment they saw it.
Get Your Wallets Out!
For Elasky, the implications of surrendering or not surrendering his wallet were one and the same.
If I don't give it up, he'll shoot me, and if I do, he's going to find my police ID and cap me, Elasky thought.
Meanwhile, his reserve friend stared at him, his expression saying what he wouldn't dare voice: Well, are you going to do something?
Elasky was asking himself that same question.
He'd never been in an off-duty situation before, but like most cops had contemplated the possibility, particularly in a circumstance such as an armed robbery. Unlike most cops, Elasky was now living the nightmare. He didn't have much time to go over the pros and cons of the situation. He didn't know what he might do if he had a radio, or backup, or a sidearm that he could easily whip from the holster of his Sam Browne. Nor did he have any idea of what he could expect of the reserve officer.
But one thing he did know: The two men were making steady progress in his direction.
Reflexively, Elasky turned and stepped through a small swinging door allowing access behind the counter. There, he crouched down and took stock of his situation. Whatever else, in envisioning the possibility of being caught up in some armed takeover situation, Elasky had long ago come to peace with the idea that unless the situation was conducive for him to do so, he would forego identifying himself and just engage the suspect or suspects.
Now the moment of truth was at hand.
"Get out your wallets!" The suspect yelled again. "Get them out now!"
As people threw themselves to the floor on both sides of the food counter, the suspect continued sidestepping down its length, alternating his aim between employees and patrons.
Elasky looked down and realized his semi-auto model 4013 TSW was in his hand. A split second before, the officer had wondered how he would access his handgun before getting shot. But in that split second that he'd ducked behind the counter door, he'd somehow succeeded in getting the .40 caliber out of his Uncle Mike's holster fanny pack. Gripping the weapon in both hands, Elasky took a breath. He could feel anger welling up inside himself.
How dare these two guys come in here and terrorize some working stiffs who are just here trying to get something to eat, he thought.
We Need an Ambulance
Looking up, Elasky saw that the black male was standing with his arm extended toward the Subway employees behind the counter. In focusing on the Subway employees, the suspect had profiled himself perfectly to Elasky.
As far as Elasky could tell, the second suspect didn't have a gun—at least not one that was visible. He decided to commit his attentions on the first suspect, as there was no ambiguity about his being armed—or in charge.
Elasky was down on one knee as the gunman came within 10 feet of the cash register and stared directly at him. "I told you to get on the ground!"
And with that, the man started to swing the gun toward Elasky.
Elasky rose and aimed his sidearm at the robber using a Weaver stance, his feet centered and his body positioned for as much cover as the counter could afford. Then he opened fire.
Elasky's first round struck the suspect in the right bicep before traversing into the man's torso. A second round struck the man in the groin area, while a third went wide of the mark striking an interior wall.
There was no doubt in Elasky's mind that his triple tap volley had hit the man, and hit him hard. It was all the more reason why he was shocked to see the suspect turn tail and run for the front door, even as his white partner darted for the rear exit.
Panic enveloped the room as employees and customers cried or scrambled for cover. With both suspects out of the business, Elasky ordered the reserve officer to call 911 on his cell phone. With Elasky describing the situation as he covered the doors with his gun, the reserve officer relayed everything Elasky related to him to authorities on the other end of his cell phone: "We need a crime lab unit, a supervisor, and an ambulance."
Put Your Hands Up!
Time passes slowly when one waits for help. It passes even slower when the threat of a renewed danger continues to be present. As Elasky alternated his aim back and forth between doorways, making sure that everyone stayed low and out of any line of fire, time seemed to stand still.
Mercifully, the first person through the front door was Elasky's best friend, Viktor Konters. Elasky advised Konters that one suspect had gone out the front door and the other through the back. He told Konters that they should first search for the suspect who went out the back door and suggested that the uniformed officer lead the way, as he was wearing a bulletproof vest, a luxury Elasky lacked at the moment. (To blend in as an employee at his overtime assignment, Elasky had been wearing a T-shirt and no vest).
Sgt. David Nelson came through the front door, then joined the two officers as they made their way out back.
While searching for the suspect, Elasky heard Konters yell, "Put your hands up! Put your hands up!"
Approximately 50 yards away, he could see his friend was yelling at a black male who was down on the ground. He ran to assist his comrade.
Elasky immediately recognized the downed man as the suspect he had shot.
Lamont A. Scott's last breaths were shallow. The 30-year-old ex-con's eyes were half shut and the semi-automatic firearm that he'd brazenly waved around lay impotent at his feet.
He died without saying a word.
As for Scott's 19-year-old partner, the guy probably wished he'd died. He had run to a nearby TGIFriday's restaurant where his flight into a women's restroom was seen by everyone inside.
Taken down inside the location, the suspect made a full cop-out later that night, admitting that he'd helped plan the robbery of the Subway, his former place of employment.
And this Subway was not the only one that the robbery partners had hit. Indeed, their downfall might have had something to do with pressing their luck, as they'd taken down a half dozen Subways prior to crossing paths with Elasky and his fellow Edina officers.
Ready to Act
Elasky considers himself fortunate that neither suspect got a round off, but also knows that he made his own luck by acting decisively when he had to.
It may have been destiny that saw Elasky being where he was that night. For he says that five other patrons came in just as a Subway employee had finished making his sandwich, and he remembers thinking, "Come on you bastards, just ring me up so I can get out of here."
So he could have easily been out the door instead of in position to stop the robbery. As it was, he was not only at the spot; he was ready and willing to take action.
"I'd gone over and over and over in my head: If I was ever presented with a deadly force situation, then I was going to fire. I had made up my mind that I was going to open up, and that's what I did," Elasky says.
Such a preconditioned mindset prompted Elasky's quick and decisive actions, actions that saved not only his own life but those of his fellow patrons and the Subway employees.
Elasky says that if the shooting has left its mark on him, it's been in his increased vigilance while going about his business off-duty.
"My wife says that I always have my guard up," explains Elasky. "I'm always getting a lay of the land, and I don't just barge into businesses. You never know what's happening on the other side of the door."
Elasky may never have gotten a chance to exchange his coupons for a free sandwich, but for his actions that day he got much more.
He received the Edina Police Department's Medal of Valor.
And maybe a hero sandwich, or two.