Friday, July 16, 2010

Black Powder Man

As young cop I was working the first watch, midnight to 8 AM shift, with Tuesday -Wednesday off for my weekend. On many of my days off I would have to testify in court between 9AM and 5PM and then I would try to get a couple of hours of sleep prior to going to work. Prior to going to work on Wednesday evening about 11:30 PM I had been trying to live a normal life on my weekend while testifying in court. I was tired and my wing man (the officer working an adjoining district that usually covered me on calls for service and vice versa) was also a young cop and was exhibiting fatigue with behavior that sometimes was lacking good judgment because of lack of sleep.

As I left role call it was a cool night, the tree leaves were turning bright colors, and the night air had a crispness that invigorated my lungs. I went to my patrol car as it was lightly raining and there was a heavy mist in the air. I tested all the emergency lights on the patrol car and the mist in the air would catch the bright lights filling the night with patriotic red, white, and blue flashes like fireworks in the night sky. My body charged with adrenalin as I locked my loaded shotgun into its rack and pinned my badge onto my outer jacket.

About 1:00 AM I got a call regarding a fight in a bar. This tavern had a reputation for attracting a rough crowd. My wing man and another adjoining district car were dispatched to cover me. The third officer was always welcome cover. His nick name was no-neck. He had played football in college and was as big around in the chest as he was tall, with no neck; it was all muscle.

As we arrived we could hear the brawl inside with shouts of, “He’s got a gun and they have a knives.” There were dozens of bodies to plow through so no-neck ducked his head and drove himself forward like a wedge into the center of the commotion. We were right behind him when we heard a gunshot and the room immediately filled with thick black powder smoke. Several friends of each combatant were trying to keep them from shooting and stabbing each other. Their friends had pulled the arm of the man with the gun downward causing the black powder pistol to discharge. I took down and arrested the man holding the pistol and handcuffed him. My wing man and no-neck arrested two other men brandishing large Buck knives.

We each took one of the subjects to our patrol car and obtained their statement then whisked them off to jail knowing they would never testify against each other and that this event was just another peace keeping exercise. The tavern owner would not file a complaint either because he didn’t want to lose his liquor license or be ticketed for serving drunken patrons.

After booking these thugs into jail I drove to no-neck’s district to meet with him and get his report to attach to mine. I next met with my wing man and while visiting with each other we positioned our squad cars side by side, facing opposite directions, so the drivers’ windows were together. As I collected his report and the knives (so I could put them into evidence) he requested to see the black powder pistol my subject had discharged. I suggested we not handle the pistol because it had been hand loaded too long ago with black powder and may have been loaded with too much black powder. The back powder was deteriorating and beginning to weep from the chambers. Also the percussion caps were split and looked unstable. He persisted until I relented and handed him the pistol advising him to keep it pointed away from me.

My wing man then began manipulating the weapon when all of a sudden I heard a thundering blast. I quickly looked towards his car window and all I could see was black powder smoke boiling out of his window like a volcano bellowing smoke. I yelled at him twice asking if he was OK but there was no response. I was now concerned he had shot himself, so I pulled my car forward so I could open my door and find out what had happened. As the smoke was clearing I again inquired if he was OK. He responded, now with tears rolling down both cheeks, that he was OK but that he had wet his pants. His face and hands were covered with black powder soot. I then saw that the windshield had been blown completely out of the car and was lying on the hood.

I called our sergeant who had the patrol car towed to the repair shop for a new windshield and I took my wing man back to the precinct for a change of clothing. Wing man now had a new role call name; Black Powder Man. For the next few months he would answer; Yeah, yeah, I’m here, when his new nick name was called amid snickering in the background.

Lack of sleep, fatigue, and poor judgment caused a near fatal accident. Black Powder Man learned what he should have already known; you don’t play with loaded guns. Sometimes we make mistakes and some of those mistakes have eternal consequences. However, when we are truly sorry for our mistakes Jesus Christ will forgive us through His atonement. Then we must try our best to not repeat the mistake, keep His commandments (laws) and serve Him all the days of our lives.

It’s a wonderful blessing to know we can move forward and improve each day of our lives as we call upon our Savior for forgiveness. His has paid the price for our mistakes and wants us to accept Him as our Savior. To learn more about Christ’s atonement visit or

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