(This article was published in Florida Today newspaper this date, Sept. 14, 2020.)
Police shootings often occur suddenly, becoming life-changing events. When the face of death suddenly bursts out of nowhere, there’s no time for studying the handbook.
In 30 years as a police detective, I investigated or supervised numerous deadly situations, some ending up with my fellow officers lying naked on a steel autopsy tray. There’s no redoing that. I was one of the lucky ones who survived violence, mayhem and deadly showdowns, though I did have one close call in December 1965. In fact, I hold the distinction of being the only cop in the history of Miami-Dade who was shot by a woman.
Nobody forgets such moments. My partner, Robert Lamont, and I got a tip that a fugitive from New York, wanted for auto theft, was hiding out in a second-story apartment in Miami. We checked it out. It was true. The subject was a white male age 22, with a past prison record. His background indicated non-violence.
We arrived and knocked on the apartment door. When a little blonde woman, age 35, cracked the door open, we showed our ID. She suddenly panicked and tried to slam the door. When we bullied our way inside, she backed off screaming, “Get out!” A frightened little kid was holding on to her leg, crying. I first looked behind the door and then a nearby closet, while Lamont ran down the hallway to see if the subject was hiding. Our guns were not drawn because we knew a 3-year-old kid was inside.
As I turned around, I heard a loud “crack!” The blonde lady was waving a rifle at me from across the room, screaming incoherently, “Get out, Get out!” I froze. I figured my life was over. The world changed for all of us in a split second. I extended my hands, ordering her, “Put your gun down!”
A strange feeling from the gunshot wound wracked my left thigh. With my hands extended, I pleaded with her not to shoot again. A million thoughts swirled through my head as she waved the rifle left and right, hysterically. My world was about to end, leaving my wife, my child, my mom, my police partners, that little kid, the hysterical woman, and my job if I did anything wrong. How could I neutralize this woman before anyone got killed? I quickly lunged back out the entrance door, following her order to “Get out!”
There was no time to ponder.
My partner had located the subject hiding on a balcony. He then disarmed the woman in a matter of seconds as I re-entered the partment, gun drawn. The baby was screaming. The woman was hysterical. Our lives were likely spared because her rifle stored only one bullet, which my partner snatched with his free hand. My left leg collapsed from the bullet wound.
I spent four days in the hospital with time to reflect and cogitate. It was time for hindsight.
One, I should never have served that warrant without my gun drawn. Two, I had been too concerned about the child, worrying about a stray bullet. Three, my world — and my family’s world — might have changed in a matter of seconds. Four: Luckily, the woman was a firearm novice, or my life would have ended at age 26. Five: Thank goodness the wanted fugitive was passive. And last, I was fortunate to have a great partner in Bob Lamont.
Eunice Molter, the woman who shot me, sent me a letter from prison, begging my forgiveness. She served two years.
And, yes, I forgave her. Why? Because I could.
Marshall Frank is a retired police captain from Miami-Dade County, author and frequent contributor. Visit marshallfrank.com.