Sounds of the fight disturbed the neighbors in the Holiday Mobile Home Park. They'd heard the couple go at it before. But this one was different. There had been screaming and yelling, car and trailer doors slamming, then the young man and the young woman zoomed away in separate vehicles only to return so the battle could continue and get even worse.
Neighbors peered out of the windows of their trailers hoping she was finally going to leave him. Maybe it would be for good this time. But they quickly learned she wouldn't be allowed to go quietly. She was in her Chevy Cavalier trying to drive off. He was jumping on the hood and raising the devil's own noise.
Enough was enough, one of the neighbors thought while dialing 911.
Working the Mid-Shift
By around 6 p.m. when the neighbor's call came in about a domestic disturbance in the mobile home park, Officer Chris Shine of the North Liberty (Iowa) Police Department had been on duty for about three hours and had another nine to go. The day shift officers were heading home and the night shift was coming on.
Shine heard the address on the call, 238 Holiday Lodge Road, and recognized it immediately. He'd been there just a few weeks before. Several other officers had also been called to that address over the last month or so.
Sgt. Adam Olson, Officer Cody Jacobsen, and Shine headed out in separate cars.
Minutes later, the officers arrived at the mobile home park. The neighbor who had called in the reports was nowhere to be seen, but the female half of the fighting couple was outside of her trailer. She'd been crying, and her face was red in a way that led Shine and the other officers to believe she might have been struck.
The officers interviewed the woman about what had happened. She detailed the story and explained that she had come back for more of her stuff, which she had packed up and placed near the door for quick transport. She told the officers that all she wanted was to get her stuff and go but her boyfriend wouldn't let her do it.
Shine knew the couple had a one-year-old daughter. He asked her if the infant was in the house, and was very glad to hear that the little girl was staying with the woman's father. The final question was about weapons in the house. She told the three officers that her boyfriend had a gun, but she thought it was in his truck.
The three officers asked her to move back from the mobile home. Then they moved toward the door to speak with the boyfriend.
As they walked up to the door, Shine took note of the tactical situation. And he didn't like it. The only way to reach the front door of the single-wide mobile home was up a five-foot long ramp. At the top of the ramp was a waist-high swinging gate that led not only to the trailer's entrance but also into an enclosed porch/deck area that was screened from view by a lattice wall. The front door was a storm door with a three-inch wide by 12-inch high slit of a window, so no one standing at the door could see much of what was inside.
Sgt. Olson took the lead with Shine behind him to the left and Jacobsen behind Olson to the right. Olson and Shine had experience with the man behind the door. They knew him as Taleb, full name Taleb Salameh, a North Liberty resident and a graduate student at the nearby University of Iowa in Iowa City.
Olson spoke with Salameh through the door. He wanted the man to come out so they could talk. Salameh did not want to come out and talk. After a bit of back and forth, Olson ordered Salameh to open the door and warned him that he was about to kick in the door, if Salameh didn't comply.
Jacobsen drew his TASER. Shine prepared to go inside the mobile home. Olson kicked the door. But the door didn't give.
Salameh started yelling, "De-escalate! De-escalate!"
"Open the door, right now!" Olson ordered him.
Salameh ran to the back of the trailer.
Olson told the other two officers that Salameh was on the move. He said he would go around the trailer to catch Salameh coming out the back door. He ordered Shine to kick in the door. Then he was on the move.
Before Shine could kick the door, shots came through it.
Then the door started to open. Jacobsen fired his TASER at Salameh and missed. Jacobsen then dropped the TASER and moved off to the right to find a better tactical position, report the shots fired situation, and call for backup. Shine--who was on the left--ended up deeper into the porch, which was cluttered with junk and garbage.
Shine crouched down in the debris and assessed his situation. He wasn't sure of the location or the condition of Jacobsen and Olson. The gunman was inside the trailer, probably with his sights on the now open door, and the only path Shine had off the porch would be across that doorway. Which meant he would either have to wait out the gunman or engage him. Shine waited. He had no target to engage.
But he didn't have to wait long. The gunman was impatient. He came out into the doorway and started firing.
Shine now had a target. He stood up and opened fire.
Salameh was in the doorway. Shine was standing no more than 10 feet away on the porch. The two men exchanged fire.
Shine was not sure if his shots were hitting Salameh or if they were having any effect. Time seemed to stop in front of him. The gunshots were like distant pops because of auditory exclusion. He kept firing.
Salameh started to slowly fall.
Shine's duty pistol was empty. Salameh was down. Shine moved quickly off the porch to cover so he could reload.
The entire incident from Olson's first knocks on the mobile home door to Shine's final shots had transpired in less than 60 seconds.
Hits and Misses
Sirens of North Liberty PD and other responding agencies wailed. Other officers arrived on the scene and Shine rejoined Jacobsen and Olson.
For the first time Shine realized he'd been hit. There was blood all over his hands and a burning pain in his side.
Jacobsen, who was cross-trained as a paramedic began assessing Shine's wounds. He tore off Shine's uniform shirt. There was a bullet trapped in the ballistic armor just above Shine's navel. Another bullet had slashed a two-inch-long graze across Shine's side where the armor gapped. The blood on his hands was caused by shrapnel fragments from the aluminum door that were still embedded under his skin. Shine was taken to the hospital, treated, and released.
The incident could have easily turned out much worse for Shine and the other involved officers. While Olson had been blocking the gunman's escape from the back door or while he was ushering the woman to safety, a bullet struck his vest right over his heart. There were also bullet holes in Jacobsen's uniform pants. Fortunately for him those shots did not find flesh.
Taleb Salameh was killed in the exchange of fire with Shine. Although that would not be known until later that evening when a bomb disposal robot was sent into the trailer.
Salameh was 28 and working toward his master's degree in mechanical engineering at the University of Iowa. He had been born and raised in the Iowa City area and had family in North Liberty.
It's a mystery as to why he opened fire on the officers and why he was so determined to carry out the attack. There is really nothing in his background that would indicate he would have been capable of that level of violence. His records reveal he had convictions for theft, trespassing, and alcohol and traffic offenses. He had also been arrested in 2009 for public intoxication and for assault causing injury but not convicted. One friend told local media the incident that led to that arrest was a "bar fight."
By all indications the relationship between Salameh and his girlfriend—who is not named in any publicly available reports—was stormy. For about a month, the couple's address had been a frequent site of domestic disturbances and subsequent police activity. At one point a temporary restraining order had been filed against Salameh to prevent contact with the woman. It didn't go into effect because she failed to appear in court. That Sunday afternoon the fight was apparently triggered by the girlfriend removing their daughter from the home and moving out herself.
Still, no one thought Salameh was immediately dangerous to law enforcement. Which is evidenced by the fact that before Salameh opened fire not one of the officers had drawn his service pistol.
As for Salameh's intention that evening, it's a matter of speculation as he took those secrets to the grave. It's unclear why he yelled "de-escalate" twice at the officers after Sgt. Olson kicked the door. Was he ordering the officers to back off? Or was he trying to get his own emotions under control? It's also unclear what would have happened if the officers had not intervened on behalf of the girlfriend. But from the evidence one could surmise that Salameh might have planned to kill himself, kill his girlfriend, or commit a murder-suicide.
What Ifs and Awards
Chris Shine says he no longer thinks much about the shooting. But for a while he had a hard time keeping it off his mind, worrying about what he and his fellow officers could have done differently that evening. "You relive it in your mind over and over," he says. "It's hard to cancel out that "what if" thinking. But you just have to let it go."
Another concern Shine faced was how his wife would react to the incident. They had married the previous summer and were expecting their first child at the time of the shooting. Shine feared that she might want him to change professions.
But that didn't happen. Shine is now a sergeant, and he is still serving the people of North Liberty, Iowa.
Shine, Olson, and Jacobsen received numerous awards and honors for their actions that evening, including the Top Cops award from the National Association of Police Organizations, as well as the Medal of Valor and the Lifesaving award from the North Liberty PD.
Individually, Shine received a Purple Heart from his agency, and he was honored with the National Rifle Association's 2013 Officer of the Year Award. The award is in Shine's name, but he's quick to say that what happened outside that trailer was a team effort. "I share that award with Olson and Jacobsen," he says.
Shine says such honors and decorations are more important than most people realize. "It's easy to get sucked into what the media is saying and into reading the comments people leave on stories and start wondering if you did the right thing. So to have people come out and say you did the right thing, that means a lot," he explains.