Three officers deep was often as good as it got during afternoon shifts on the Pauls Valley (Okla.) Police Department. Such was the case on April 28, 2007. Having just taken down a burglary suspect, the trio was back in the station to book the prisoner and relieve the dispatcher. While at the station, Officer Cricket Warren and Officer Scott Collier were told of a disturbance just a few blocks away on Walnut Street, so they quickly headed back into the field.
Warren arrived outside a single story residence on South Walnut just ahead of Collier and jumped out of her unit to contact a woman standing outside the house. As Collier pulled up and stepped out of his car, he heard yelling coming from inside the wood-framed dwelling. The duo approached the house where they found the front door standing half-way open. The two officers stepped across the threshold and into the living room, and they picked up sight of a male adult darting toward the back of the house.
"He's going to get a knife!" a woman inside the residence yelled.
Neither Collier nor Warren allowed the "beagle reflex" to get the better of them. Instead of giving chase, they drew their sidearms before making steady, deliberate progress through the living room. They crossed paths with three women as they approached a doorway that led to the kitchen. Collier wondered if the man would dash out the back door, but given the warning about the man having a knife, he readied himself for a confrontation.
As they peered into the kitchen, the man, Jeremy Scott Beasley, came back into view. Clad in a gray shirt and jeans and soaked with Jack Daniels, the scruffy looking man stood just inside the kitchen with a sharp kitchen knife in one hand and a turkey baster in the other. While the knife's presence was the less agreeable sight, it could at least be explained away.
God knows what he's planning to do with the baster, thought Collier.
The knife gripped tightly at his side, Beasley made a beeline toward Warren.
Cold, Blank Stare
"Drop the knife!"
At the sound of Collier's commands Beasley turned his attention away from Warren and veered in his direction instead.
Collier had been a street cop since 1997, and knew full well what a knife in the hands of someone proficient in its use could do. Immediately, he began to backpedal in a bid to get some distance between himself and the knife-wielding stranger whose eyes were now completely fixated on him.
Warren hurriedly ushered one of the three women inside the house away from the suspect, as Collier re-traced his steps in reverse through the living room to the front door. He paused at the threshold, unwilling to leave others still inside the location and in jeopardy of being attacked by Beasley.
But making a stand was fast proving to be problematic. In a bid to make an exit, a panicked woman inadvertently got in Collier's way obligating him to guide her to his left with his free hand. By the time she cleared the door, Beasley had closed the distance to a few feet. Collier's commands for Beasley to drop the knife were met with a cold, blank stare. Beasley dropped his shoulders, gave a guttural growl, and charged straight toward Collier.
Collier reacted immediately, squeezing off three rounds from his .40 caliber Glock—point shooting at center mass. Beasley continued his charge and closed the distance between the two. Collier's gun was so close to his body that the slide hit his vest and wouldn’t allow the gun to rechamber.
Going to Ground
Collier was unsure what caused the problem with his gun, so he backed up to give himself room to clear it. He stumbled backward down the porch steps, maintaining as much distance between himself and the suspect as possible. He managed to clear the steps but tripped backward over something on the lawn and fell onto his back.
Beasley was on top of him, swinging the knife viciously and occasionally making good with his efforts. From a sitting stance—on his back, shoulders off the ground—the officer rolled from hip to hip kicking outward at the suspect, doing everything he could to keep the man's blade from striking a mortal blow.
Beasley was just as determined, perhaps even emboldened at having gotten the officer onto his back. And the fact that Beasley appeared oblivious to the fact that he now had three .40 caliber rounds in his torso made him all the scarier.
At one point Beasley leapt at Collier and got a size ten boot planted in his chest for his efforts and bouncing backward before resuming his charge. The man seemed hell-bent on getting around Collier's legs.
Clearing the Jam
"My gun's jammed!" Collier yelled to his partner. But the man's manic and erratic movements compromised her ability to draw a bead on the suspect without putting Collier likewise at risk.
Collier got a couple of good solid kicks on the suspect, propelling him backward and setting himself up for another good boot to follow. Finally, he was able to create enough distance between himself and the knife to spin around and get to his feet. Dropping his magazine and clearing the jam, Collier reloaded on the run.
As Beasley continued to chase Collier into the middle of the street, Warren spotted a bit of daylight between the two men. She took the only clear shot she'd had since Beasley began his charge and hit him in the shoulder. Collier spun on his attacker and fired four more rounds from his Glock. Beasley's knees buckled. Collier watched as the man sank to the asphalt.
As suddenly as it'd begun, the attack was over.
Unsure who else might come after him, Collier moved to a safe zone and called for an ambulance.
Training Was Key
It wasn't until Collier got to the hospital and started taking his gear and uniform off that he realized he'd been stabbed.
"I was covered in blood because I'd shot him and he was on top of me most of the time. When they got done with me at the hospital, the only thing that wasn’t saturated with blood was my underwear."
Collier believes that multiple training sources factored considerably in his ability to prevail during his confrontation with Beasley. One major factor in his survival, Collier says, was his well-honed defensive tactics.
"I've been training in martial arts since I was 12," he says. "I'd done some knife fighting classes, so by no means was I afraid of the knife. I knew that if I was going to get cut, as long as I didn't get cut anywhere that's vital, it would be OK. A couple times, he got pretty close to my throat with that knife, so I used my hands to keep him away. When he was trying to come over the top of me, I kept pushing him with my feet. He could stab my feet and the bottom of my legs and that would be better than my midsection or around my face or throat."
Collier cited the value of his police training, as well, particularly his experience on the local Garvin County SWAT team. "I learned a lot there, particularly in the way we shoot and handle our guns. Typically, as a cop, you stand still and shoot targets that aren't moving. I had a moving suspect and a moving situation, so my SWAT training of shooting at moving targets kicked in, as did my gun handling training," he says. "Without my training, I wouldn't have been able to act the way I did. I definitely would have had a lot of problems because it was a pretty horrific situation. Once your gun jams, everything goes downhill. I knew my gun was jammed, I kept my cool, and I did what I had to do."
Collier was recognized for his courageous actions on multiple fronts that afternoon, including receiving the Oklahoma Medal of Valor and a "Hero Award" from the Pauls Valley Police Department.
Following the shooting, Collier's attentions turned right back to work and doing his job. "I knew what I did was right and went about my business. This was something that never happened in Pauls Valley before. Other guys could see that I could go back to work, do my job, and put it behind me. They could see that I didn't let it change my life. It does, but you don't have to allow it. You learn a lot from it and understand a lot of things from it."
In recognition of his career in law enforcement, his ability to maintain cool under pressure, and the leadership he demonstrated among his peers, Collier was appointed chief of the nearby Stratford Police Department. As chief he continues to stress the importance of training to his officers.
"Everything falls into place, no matter what you do. If you box, if you do karate, whatever you learn physically, you're going to use it," Collier says. "That also goes for working on your gun skills—your draw, your reloads, clearing jams, your accuracy. You’re going to use that training. When it comes time to use it, you don’t have to think about it, you’re going to just react."