By Pat Austin
SHREVEPORT — Remember when “Swatting” was all the rage? I think I know now how those victims felt. I wasn’t a victim of Swatting last night, but I was indeed the victim of an over-zealous cop and his team who swarmed my house and came through the door with guns drawn.
As the wife of a retired police officer, I appreciate more than most people the dangers that police officers face on a daily basis. It’s a dangerous job and most people wouldn’t do it.
Scene: Saturday night, about 8:30. My husband and I are sitting in our living room with the World Series on television. Kansas City was leading the Giants 4 – 1. My husband can’t stand listening to Joe Buck so the sound was turned way down. He was working on his computer and I was reading a book on my iPad, and all three dogs were sleeping around us.
We have relatively new neighbors in the house directly behind us and these people have small children. Lately the weather has been cool, turning to fall, and the evenings pleasant so the children are often playing out in the backyard, squealing and screaming as kids will do. Yesterday their father was out there with them doing some home repair because I heard saws going and some hammering. The kids don’t bother me; I’m glad kids play outside and are not stuck in front of video games.
So as we are watching the game, we can hear the kids playing and screaming; hubby asked me if I heard that because cause he wasn’t sure what he was hearing; it could have been on the TV, which as I said, was turned way down. I confirmed that I heard the kids screaming and we went on about our business.
About 15 minutes later, about 8:45, Steve looks up from his computer and says, “Hey, there are police outside, I mean RIGHT outside.” He could see the lights flashing through the blinds. He got up and peeked out the blinds and saw patrol cars, and he saw officers with flashlights running down the driveway that cuts between my house and the neighbor’s house: it’s a wide double driveway that we share.
I stood up from the couch to look and as I crossed my living room I saw officers with flashlights running between my house and the neighbor’s house on the other side. One was shouting “It’s back here, it’s back here!”
I said, “Steve, they’re over here now,” and pointed to the window. About that time there is a fierce pounding on my front door and lights pointed at my house. “Open up! Open up right now!” Pounding, pounding on the door.
Steve tells me to grab the dog (the Lab who is very protective, but not barking) opened the front door and starts to ask what in the world is going on when this cop with his gun drawn and aimed at Steve’s chest starts screaming “Get back! Get back! Who is screaming in this house? Who is screaming!” The cop props one foot on the threshold-step and continues screaming at us.
Steve raises his hands in an open gesture, the way you do when a cop is aiming a gun at you, and said, “What are you talking about? Nobody is screaming in here!”
The cop, with the gun still aimed at Steve, looks at me and yells: “Who else is in this house, who is doing that screaming?!”
I said, “Nobody is screaming in here! It’s those children behind us! We have kids living behind us and they play in their backyard!” And Steve is saying “We’re just sitting here watching the baseball game!” And the dog is standing there, who I’ve never managed to grab because this happened so fast, but he isn’t barking or charging at the cop, thank goodness.
Steve tells him, “I’m a police officer, I’m a retired Bossier City police officer; we are just sitting here watching baseball!”
At that point the cop turns his gun so he’s no longer aiming it at Steve but still has it in a firing grip, he turns to the officers standing behind him and in the driveway, and says “It’s the house behind, on the other street!” and takes off running.
Steve hollers after him, “What’s your name!” and the officer gives it to him.
We closed the door in stunned silence.
We stared at each other, in silence, and then the fear and adrenaline hit me. I started shaking and trembling and could not stop. I sat back down on the couch, got back up, Steve is dumbfounded and then furious. He gets on his cell phone and calls to speak to a supervisor and I walked outside on the back deck to see if I could hear anything.
I saw flashing police lights and the neighbor’s back flood light was still on. I heard a stereo playing, maybe from their house, maybe another house.
I went back inside and Steve was still on the phone demanding to speak to a supervisor. He finally got a lieutenant to come to the house to talk to us; he came within about thirty minutes and he had Mr. Over-Zealous Cop with him. We had the door open, watching through the storm door for the lieutenant to show up and we saw Mr. Over-Zealous walking the supervisor through the run down the driveway and down the other side of the house, explaining what they did. Then Mr. Over-Zealous walks back to the street, crosses his arms, and leans against his patrol car watching us as we speak to the supervisor.
In the end, the whole thing was terrifying. I know it could have been much worse; I kept thinking what if my dog had jumped at the cop? He would have shot him. What if the cop thought Steve was making a threatening move? Would he have shot him? He was definitely drawn down on him. What if my 22-year old son had come out of his room, walked around the corner into this scene – would he have shot him? What if Steve and I had gone out and my son was home alone to face this craziness?
The what-ifs kept me up all night long and haunt me.
Like I said, I know it could have been worse, because no shots were fired in this case, and you certainly read about incidents that have gone wrong all the time.
I blame all this on the over-militarization of the police force. Officers dress like SWAT teams now in all black or in riot gear with cargo pockets all over them. What happened to first assessing the scene before you draw down on a civilian? What happened to knocking on the door and saying, “Hey, we’ve got a noise complaint and just need to be sure everything is OK in here.”
And if he really thought someone was in mortal danger, why just take our word for it before running off to terrorize someone else? When they were running between the houses, we had open windows (actually OPEN windows, as well as open blinds and curtains) and any officer could have looked inside or listened to see what was going on before drawing down on us.
I know police work is dangerous and I know that domestic calls are often the most dangerous. I appreciate the difficulty of their job. But with any job, your first responsibility is to do no harm, to avoid making any situation worse, and to act responsibly.
This could have gone very bad very quickly last night.
Tonight, I’m traumatized and a little unsteady but grateful that nothing worse happened. But I remain convinced that the world is out of whack, the police are pushed and stressed beyond measure, and nobody trusts anybody anymore.