As a kid growing up in Philadelphia, Scott Magro used to take short rides on his father’s patrol motorcycle. His dad was a Philly cop. He was killed in the line of duty when Scott was just four.
Today, Scott Magro’s fondest memories of his father are those moments on his dad’s police bike. Maybe that’s why he has followed in his father’s footsteps, first into the military and then into law enforcement.
And like his father, Officer Scott Magro has faced a deadly confrontation with a bad guy.
Be On the Lookout
Twenty-six years after his father’s death, Magro sat in his own patrol car on the desolate back roads of Spring Hill, Tenn.
Magro’s duty for that November night was to monitor the radar gun, and it wasn't exactly his cup of tea. The late hour didn't help, with the cold keeping all but the most stalwart of locals inside their homes. Not that Magro was suffering the night alone. His sister car, driven by Officer Brant Pewitt, was out and about, as well.
Beep 34....Beep 33....Beep 35.
With the mind-numbing metronomic beeps of the radar gun keeping him abreast of each approaching car and its speed, Magro huddled against himself for warmth. He maintained a vigil for anything that would warrant his investigative attentions and justify freezing his ass off. It would come soon enough.
"Spring Hill to 220," the radio crackled. "Be on the lookout for a late-model beige four-door sedan operated by Ronald Brown, black male, 50 years old, wanted for attempted first-degree murder and aggravated domestic assault. Suspect is considered armed and dangerous.”
No sooner had Magro acknowledged the transmission than an update came over the radio.
"220, the suspect is said to be heading up to Spring Hill from Columbia on Highway 31.”
Putting his patrol car in gear, Magro turned onto Highway 31 and parked on one of the darker stretches of its median. His best bid to intercept the suspect’s car was to pick it up as it passed in the opposite direction. With each passing vehicle, Magro swiveled his head back and forth like a Wimbledon spectator. As he contemplated the danger approaching him, Magro felt adrenaline course through his system. Soon it felt as though his very heart might punch itself through his vest.
Could this be it? Was there finally going to be some action in this boring town?
Then he saw it. The distinct pattern of four headlights common to sedans of the 1980s approaching from the south.
As the vehicle neared, Magro saw that Officer Pewitt had already picked up the suspect vehicle and was following closely behind it. As the vehicles passed in front of his headlights, Magro saw that the sedan's driver was an older black male. No passengers were in view.
Pewitt called the license plate into dispatch as they passed Magro, who pulled out of the median and took up position behind Pewitt's car. The radio crackled again.
"Spring Hill to 219, that license plate comes back to Ronald Brown of Columbia.”
This was the guy. A career criminal, Brown had prior convictions for robbery, assault, and aggravated assault. On active parole at the time of the pursuit, Brown was also wanted for two counts of assaults with a deadly weapon and being an ex-con in possession of a firearm.
This is what Magro had trained for, why he had spent his nights performing the mundane duties associated with being a small town police officer, to take down a dangerous threat to the community. While his mind was wholly committed to the pursuit, Magro was fully aware that the man they were pursuing had already fired a gun at his sister and pistol whipped his girlfriend. There was a very good likelihood that gunfire might be exchanged at the end of the pursuit.
As the officers and their quarry approached the city’s business district, the officers decided to initiate a felony stop for fear that any further progress by the suspect would endanger innocent civilians. Their emergency lights and sirens activated simultaneously, as if the officers had been rehearsing for months. But the driver of the sedan ignored their attempts to stop him and he increased his speed dramatically.
Blue lights danced off the store front windows. Magro looked at his speed. 93...95...99 mph.
They were quickly approaching the intersection of Main Street and Duncan. The sedan slowed abruptly, tires squealing, and made a sharp right onto Duncan Street, heading into a residential area. The driver began a series of hairpin turns onto side streets in the hopes of throwing the officers off his scent.
"Eighty-seven miles per hour, road conditions dry, no traffic, heading west on Sheridan," Magro radioed in to dispatch.
Suddenly, the driver screeched to a halt and made a U-turn in a gravel parking lot. The rear of Pewitt's car rose up in the air as he slammed on his brakes. Magro quickly stomped on his brakes, steered left, and came to a sudden stop after going around in a vigorous 180-degree spin.
The suspect remained stopped for just a second, but it felt like an eternity. Then, like a bull charging a matador, he spun the rear tires and attempted to broadside Pewitt. Pewitt quickly accelerated his patrol car and avoided the near-devastating collision.
"Pewitt, you OK!?" Magro quickly called to him on the radio.
Pewitt's response was surprisingly calm and reassuring.
Magro was directly behind the sedan as it accelerated through a sharp left turn and approached Hughes Street. The sedan's brake lights lit up and then the strangest thing happened.
The suspect activated his turn signal.
As the suspect literally signaled his intentions, Magro followed his left turn and continued down Hughes Street. The suspect then made an abrupt, hard right turn into a driveway, spitting gravel, and drove through the grass behind a house.
Magro slammed on his brakes and skidded sideways, coming to a stop in front of 805 Hughes Street. Pewitt pulled in front of him. Magro flung his door open and launched himself out of his patrol car, only to be yanked back into his seat.
"Take off the seat belt, you idiot!" he exclaimed to himself.
Once out of his car, Magro drew his weapon.
"Go around the south side of the house," he yelled to Pewitt. "I’ll take the north!"[PAGEBREAK]
Get Inside and Stay Down
Magro ran to the front corner of the house, dry autumn leaves crunching beneath his feet.
Throwing his left shoulder against the siding, Magro took up a position near the corner of the house. An elderly woman creaked open her front door and asked timidly, "What's going on?"
Magro shushed her. "Get in your house and stay down!"
The woman wisely retreated back inside and closed the door.
Magro quickly glanced around the corner of the house, peeking into the backyard.
Sensing his father’s spirit watching over him, Magro was instantly reminded of his duty and purpose as a police officer and his need to maintain good officer safety.
"Clear," he said, as though someone—perhaps his father—might be listening to him.
He moved from his cover toward the back corner of the house. Glancing around the downspout, he took in a glimpse of the backyard.
The suspect was clambering up a small hill in the backyard toward the tree line.
The sky was empty of clouds and the moon lit up the ground like a floodlight. If the man were wearing darker clothes, Magro might not have seen him right away. As it was, the white T-shirt the suspect was wearing acted as a bull's-eye.
Magro steadied his hand, raised his weapon, and then stepped out of the shadows.
"Police! Get down now!"
The suspect turned and without a moment's hesitation, fired his handgun three times directly at Magro.
Magro never heard the shots. He saw only the muzzle flashes piercing the darkness. He wondered if this was it. Images of his wife dressed in black, holding a folded American flag, and his daughters walking down the aisle alone flashed through his mind.
Tunnel vision set in, locking Magro’s eyesight on the white T-shirt illuminated in the moonlight. With the suspect silhouetted against the tree line, Magro stepped left and repeatedly squeezed the trigger of his .40 caliber Beretta. Seven shots blasted out across the yard.
Twenty feet away, the suspect's right arm flew into the air and he doubled over before dropping to the ground.
"Shots fired! Shots fired!" someone was screaming over the portable radio. It was Pewitt's voice, but without the calm assurance he'd displayed when he'd had his own close call.
You Shot Me
Magro cautiously approached the suspect, weapon trained on the man's every move.
When Magro reached the man, he noticed a revolver lying three feet away, a beer bottle still clenched in his left hand. Magro kicked the revolver away from the suspect.
"You shot me!" the man yelled in protest. "I can't believe you shot me!"
The man was evidently too drunk to remember what had transpired during the preceding 10 minutes. Pewitt secured the suspect and returned to Magro's patrol car.
Magro sat on the curb next to his car. Adrenaline surged through his body, causing his left leg to shake seismically.
A sheriff's deputy, who heard the pursuit over the radio and responded to the scene, approached him.
"Are you OK?" he asked.
Magro nodded, thankful for the presence of his father’s spirit, like a guardian angel looking over his shoulder.
As for Brown, he was convicted of attempted second degree murder against a police officer, attempted first degree murder on his sister, and aggravated domestic against his girlfriend.