Last summer, Officer Eric Reynolds of the Boynton Beach (Fla.) Police Department recognized a car used to flee an armed robbery. He took chase and Officer Christopher Munro soon followed. The driver stopped and engaged the two officers, both of whom survived the ensuing gunfight. The assailant did not. For their efforts the officers have been selected as the February 2013 Officers of the Month by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.
On the afternoon of June 12, 2012, Officer Reynolds took note of a crime bulletin describing a red Crown Victoria with a white top being driven by a suspected armed bank robber. Reynolds parked an intersection where he thought the suspect might cross as he fled. Not 10 minutes later, a Lincoln that otherwise fit the vehicle description sped past.
Reynolds followed, running the license plate and noting its handicap sticker. He wondered if maybe the driver was just an elderly person who was speeding. The car abruptly slowed and stopped on the side of the road. Reynolds parked a distance behind, radioed, and waited for backup to arrive, in case the driver was an armed robber. But the vehicle started and sped away again, with Reynolds close behind.
Officer Munro had just finished gassing up his car at the start of his shift when he heard the call over the radio. When he saw Reynolds' squad following the Lincoln, he was ready and fell in behind them. As the car continued to race through the streets tailed by two police cars, the officers became more sure that the driver was in fact the bank robbery suspect.
As the busy road they were traveling on became clogged with traffic, the red Lincoln veered off onto a smaller street and into an industrial area. The officers followed until the suspect's car hit a Toyota Camry head on.
With the pursuit effectively ended, the officers parked next to each other about 10 yards from the crashed Lincoln. They exited their vehicles and sought cover behind their doors. Once the suspect got his damaged door open, he started shooting out of his window. In response, Reynolds and then Munro began firing back, both officers finding cover behind a nearby telephone pole.
When shots stopped coming from the suspect vehicle, the officers cautiously approached. They found the driver trying to clear a jam from his gun. Reynolds and Munro opened fire and the suspect fell and dropped his gun.
"He was still moving after like 32 rounds," remembers Reynolds.
Backup officers arrived at that point and took over. The suspect was declared dead.
He didn't realize it until after the incident, but Reynolds' foot was shot during the gunfight. It took three months for him to recover and return to duty. Now when he's on patrol, he has noticed that he reacts differently. "Now on each call, I'm more expecting the worst," Reynolds says. "You're trained to, but now it's more stressful and my heart pounds. Every Lincoln towncar I pass reminds me of it."
Both officers are back on the job. Reynolds now regularly attends Q and A sessions with fellow veteran officers that are ostensibly to help train rookies. But he has found that the sessions actually help him to process and deal with the feelings he has about what happened that day. He is also grateful for the therapy sessions he attended, in addition to physical therapy.
"Reach out for help if you need it," advises Reynolds. "Lots of people are too macho. I'll talk to them as much as I can. I'm not keeping it in."
After 11 years working the streets, Reynolds is applying for a desk job. His son was six months old when the shooting occurred and he wants to be there for him as he grows up.
"That following Sunday was my first Father's Day. It made me look at my priorities," he says. "Being able to have a normal schedule means more to me now."
As for the incident itself, Reynolds is happy with the way he and Munro responded. Both were prepared and up to the task. "Officer Munro was just coming on duty, but something can happen at any time," says Reynolds. "Just be ready. Don't be caught off guard."
Reynolds looks forward to visiting the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial with Munro in May as part of their recognition as Officers of the Month. "I'm very honored," he says. "I went to the memorial wall with my mom, a retired officer, when I was a little kid. It will be one of the highlights of my life. The top three so far are the birth of my son, meeting my wife, and surviving this shooting."