Editor's Note: View photos from the Redford, Mich., crime scene of the shooting involving two sergeants.
Sgt. Adam Pasciak had been on the Redford (Mich.) Township Police Department long enough to know the high temperatures and astronomical humidity of a southern Michigan summer were just around the corner. But June 10, 1998, had been shaping up to be a pretty decent day for the folks in this Detroit suburb, and that included the men and women of its police department.
The day had even come with a bonus for Pasciak: The scheduling of three shift commanders meant that Pasciak had been able to partner up with fellow sergeant Jim Turner, an old friend that he'd worked with in narcotics. They sat through a relatively quiet roll call—the only blip on the radar was discussion of possible transmitter issues with radio communications—then went out into the field.
Three hours into their shift, the two sergeants decided to head to the north end of their jurisdiction for a bite to eat. Swinging the steering wheel around, Pasciak never considered that the change in direction would prove to be fateful.
The incident started with the high-pitched squeal of a black Ford pickup's tires heading toward them. The peel-out wasn't that of some felon trying to distance himself from the scene of a crime, but it was enough for the officers to recognize that dinner was officially on hold.
Pasciak effected a traffic stop of the vehicle, which yielded without incident. Pasciak parked the unit and stepped out. Turner paralleled him along the passenger side of the pickup, and Pasciak approached the driver's door, pausing a split second to palm its tailgate.
The driver and sole occupant of the Ford was a bearded white male in his 30s wearing reflective sunglasses and a camouflage vest over his shirt—common enough attire for the area. He was polite and cooperative, surrendering his driver's license and vehicle paperwork to Pasciak, who doubled back to his unit for a wants and warrants check.
The return on their detainee, Mark Gaydos, indicated that he'd been driving on a suspended driver's license.
And so a dilemma. Technically, Gaydos was subject to an arrest. But it wasn't unusual for either of the officers to exercise discretion and the options available to them ran the gamut from writing a ticket, to towing the vehicle, to citing and releasing the driver, to a full custody arrest.
But as they considered their options, the officers' eyes kept gravitating to a couple of bumper stickers adorning the Ford's rear. Both indicated its driver was a proud gun owner; one even carried a caveat: "You can have my gun when you pry it from my cold dead fingers."
Such sentiments were/are hardly unique in a region where many residents proudly and responsibly exercise their Second Amendment rights. But the overall circumstances surrounding Gaydos' detention raised concerns.
Pasciak re-approached the driver. Putting on a disarming smile, he asked good-naturedly, "You don't have any guns, drugs, or bombs in the car, do you?"
The question was typical of the kind of roadside conversation he might make with a motorist, some almost open-ended query that usually garnered a "no," and occasionally a surprise confirmation.
Today, it was the tone of the reply—"There's nothing in the truck that you need to see"—that registered on Pasciak's radar. At once circumspect and vaguely challenging, the man's words were enough to prompt the officer to ask Gaydos to step out of the car.
Gaydos complied in getting out of the truck, but Pasciak's instincts told him that something was not quite right. He went to pat the man down while they were still on the driver's side of the pickup. That was when Gaydos brusquely pulled away.
"No one's going to pat me down," Gaydos said.
And with that, Pasciak knew that his perfectly fine day had just been shot to hell.
Pasciak made a grab at Gaydos; the man pulled away and ran. Pasciak was right on his heels, and within seconds experienced a surprising realization: Hey, I'm catching up to this guy.
In retrospect, he should have taken this as a danger sign. After nine years on the job, Pasciak was not in the business of catching everyone who rabbited on him. And so as he closed the gap to a mere five feet, he found himself experiencing something of an ego boost. That feeling was short lived.
Gaydos reached under his shirt and pulled out a gun.
"GUN!!" Sgt. Turner yelled.
Hearing Turner's warning, Pasciak reflexively drew his own sidearm—a 9mm SIG Sauer—and squeezed off a point shot as Gaydos spun around.
At the same time Gaydos fired a two-round volley. It was on target. The first round slammed squarely into the middle knuckle of Pasciak's right hand, shattering the metacarpal bone and lodging in his wrist. The second tore into his left thigh and burrowed its way straight through his leg, nicking a vein along its path.
Pasciak's next conscious recollection was that he was lying on the ground saturated in his own blood and seeing his gun lying on the ground in front of him. A momentary sense of confusion settled over him, and he wondered how he'd gotten there. His shooting hand was immobilized and there was something seriously wrong with his left leg.
Grabbing for his handheld radio with his left hand, Pasciak called for help.
Silence. Pasciak recalled the information shared in briefing, the information that didn't seem so terribly important at the time: Radio signals were not reaching the farthest ends of the city—which was exactly where they were.
Pasciak's mind began to feel like it was starting to shut down when he heard more gunshots ringing out—a lot of them. Turner had witnessed what happened and continued the foot pursuit of the driver, exchanging gunfire as they ran. Within seconds, the gunfire stopped as the driver darted around a nearby house and disappeared.
Believing the suspect had gotten away, Turner returned to check on Pasciak.
Then more shots rang out. Gaydos had also doubled back and was again shooting at them. Turner returned fire. The gunman collapsed.
Moments later, Pasciak was aware that help had arrived. A couple of Dearborn Heights Police Officers Rod Smith and Bert Wells, scooped Pasciak into the back of their car and raced him to the hospital.
The ride to the hospital was mercifully short. And as it turned out, necessarily so.
Just how close Pasciak had come to dying was something that he would not know of for some time. When it came to the actuality of enduring his harrowing ordeal, he had become a voyeur to it, catching glimpses of disjointed images as he faded in and out of consciousness, seeing images of worried looking doctors instructing nurses to give Pasciak a shot of one thing or another and a parade of familiar faces checking in on him. And then there was a fast forward and Pasciak found himself riding in a helicopter.
He was transported to the University of Michigan trauma center and rushed into an operating room. There, Pasciak felt the sensation of tubes being inserted, and heard a cacophony of faceless people talking. Then, darkness.
The next few days held more of the same—brief moments of awareness, followed by fading back out again. Each time he opened his eyes, though, Pasciak saw the reassuring image of one of his co-workers, in uniform, standing watch over him. The good guys were there. He felt safe.
Mark Gaydos died after transport to the same hospital that initially treated Pasciak. An investigation into his history revealed Gaydos had ties to a local militia with a history of expressed contempt for the government and police. More unsettling was the fact that almost two years to the day before the shooting, Gaydos had triggered a barricade situation at his family home. The Special Response Team was called out with crisis negotiators. After a prolonged standoff with officers, Gaydos was disarmed. No charges were pursued, and no police hazard hit was entered into the department's computer system on Gaydos.
The investigation also revealed that true to the bumper stickers he displayed on the back of his truck, Gaydos had been a very proud gun owner. Behind a false wall in the basement of his home, investigators found numerous handguns and rifles and tens of thousands of rounds of ammunition. They also found materials for a pipe bomb, anti-government propaganda, and—somewhat ironically—a video on how to survive a gunfight.
No one knows why Gaydos chose to make a stand against Pasciak and Turner that fateful day. The explanation died with him at the Garden City Hospital.
A Long Road
Concerns about Gaydos' militia affiliations led to Pasciak's fellow officers taking special precautions while he was in the hospital. "The reason I was seeing my fellow officers in uniform watching over me was because of Gaydos' suspected militia ties and the concern that I was not safe," Pasciak explains.
Pasciak endured a month of surgeries, including a bypass to repair the vein in his left thigh. In order to repair the damage to his right hand, a metatarsal bone was removed from his right foot that required the amputation of a toe.
With three limbs severely affected by the shooting and subsequent surgeries, Pasciak's therapy and recovery were prolonged. But he eventually learned to perform everyday tasks—and eventually learned to shoot his service revolver—with his left hand.
To help him focus on his future and take his mind off of his physical challenges, Pasciak returned to school, eventually earning his bachelor's degree in psychology. He also eventually returned to full patrol duties and was promoted to detective.
After several years back on the job, Pasciak underwent another series of surgeries on his foot—which ironically was not directly affected by the initial shooting. During his lengthy recovery, he entered a master's program in clinical psychology. His foot never fully recovered and he made the decision to take a medical retirement.
Pasciak hopes that officers recognize the importance of the support they can lend one another in the aftermath of such a shooting. While there are those who might debate the merits of initiating transport of an injured officer in lieu of paramedics, the bottom line was that the initiative of the two Dearborn Heights officers helped save Pasciak's life.
Pasciak also hopes that officers will make a habit of discussing what they are going to do on traffic stops, and laments that he and Turner had not done so during the first three hours of their shift.
"We had the opportunity and just didn't take advantage of it," he notes. As a result, he had no idea where Turner was during the early portion of the engagement.
Alongside Turner, Pasciak received Officer of the Year recognition from the Redford Township Police Department along with a Purple Heart. Pasciak has since earned his Ph.D. in clinical psychology and today assists with outpatient therapy in a clinic. He operates a Website for officers involved in a trauma at Woundedbadge.com.
Editor's note: Read other "Shots Fired" articles here.