EX-DETROIT COP TELLS HIS STORY
This article is by former Detroit Police Officer Emery Esse. Emery serves with Mission Mobilization, traveling the world training police offices and sharing his faith.
I had been a Detroit cop for several years when the department started a “Special Response Team” in 1987. The “team” was a highly trained anti-terrorist unit. This was my dream! To me that was the “Marine Corp” of the Detroit police department. ( I had been a Marine before joining the police department). The physical requirements were tough, as well as all the other requirements, but I passed and got on the team. Over a thousand cops had tried out for this position. We spent the next fourteen months in training. We were even certified by the state of Michigan in policing terrorist incidents.
Our first operation was October 17, 1988. The call came out: a mentally disturbed man pouring gasoline around an apartment building. The police responded and went to the apartment and knocked on the door of the suspect. The door opened just a little, and one of the officers could see the suspect, walking around in circles, carrying a rifle. The officer backed off and called his supervisor, who responded and observed the suspect walking around with the rifle. The supervisor then declared the situation a “barricaded gunman.” Instead of calling the Special Response Team, the Tactical Service Section (TSS) was summoned to the scene. The TSS got set up and the negations began.
A Lieutenant and friend of mine went into the hallway. Unfortunately he was not wearing body armor. He tried to kick the door open. The gunman told him not to do that. The Lieutenant was ordered out and told to put on a vest. Instead, he kicked the door again. When he kicked it this time the gunman fired through the door, striking the lieutenant in the chest. The Lieutenant was declared “dead upon arrival” at the hospital.
We, the “Special Response Team”, were finally notified and told to come to the scene. My team, “Alpha Team”, was to be the primary entry team, with “Bravo Team” the support and “Charlie Team” would handle the armored vehicle.
We all met at the scene. When we got there, an executive deputy chief learned we were there and ordered us back to our base. A lot of us were disappointed but an hour later we were summoned back to the scene. We were not given the chance to rehearse. We were briefed and then we drove to the back of the building. We had the power cut off to the building.
We were carrying not only pistols, but MP5’s. The news media had been permitted to enter the area and because of their presence and for fear of what they would think of our MP5’s a superior officer ordered us to put our MP5’s in our trunks. We had to enter with our pistols only.
We began to move in and set up in the hallway. All teams were soon in place. My partner in “Alpha One”, Frank Walls, took a position in front of the door with his bunker shield in front of him, and I was behind him. As we drew closer, one of the ranking officers had his radio on full blast. The gunman heard the radio and knowing we were there he began to shoot through the walls at us! He missed all of us. Our superior officers discussed among themselves if we should be pulled out because of the gunfire. The decision was made to leave us there. So there we were being shot at through the walls. The armored vehicle pulled to the front of the building and began to fire tear gas into the apartment. The ranking officer did not wait long enough to let the gas take affect. He then ordered us to ram the door. However we had left our ram behind and wanted to send a team member to get it but the ranking officer refused to let us get it. We were then told to ram the door with the bunker shield. So my partner, Frank Wells, ran into the door with the shield and after the third time the door caved in. We were ordered to make a “crisis entry”.
Anyone who knows anything about SWAT knows that you DON’T do a “crisis entry” on a barricaded gunman when there is not a hostage. But we were ordered to make the “crisis entry”. When the door caved in all we heard was somebody holler, “Move, move, move”. One of the Sergeants from the “Charlie Team” outside the building threw a stun grenade through the kitchen window as a diversion. Frank and I made our entry right after the stun grenade went off. The last spotting of the suspect was made by a TSS sniper who said he observed a man in the NW corner of the room.
The gunman had moved and the sniper didn’t know it. When Frank made his “crisis entry” he ran for that corner. As he entered, a shot was fired hitting Frank in the back just three inches below the armored plate that was in his second chance command jacket. Frank turned around, looked at me and said, “I’m hit”. He fell down dropping his bunker shield and gun to the floor.