End of Watch (2012)
The boredom started, because some ass-wipe thought it would be funny to take his .22 Long Rifle and have a few pot shots at people walking along the street.
They gave me all the details. 10 shot. 4 dead. 3 gravely wounded and the other half going to need therapy and a lot of alcohol to deal with what just happened.
It was a perfect day, no wind, sunny, temperatures reaching a warm 80, just your regular beautiful Tuesday in Austin.
Ideal conditions for a wannabe punk sniper too. 6 minutes was all it took.
He was a lot of things. Tall, dark, handsome, an out of towner, and armed with 2 things … a Remington rimfire rifle, and a 1911 pistol.
What an All-American I remembered thinking during the briefing. No one asked why he did it. All that mattered was he was another name on the list for us to catch.
We followed SOP* …
Put an immediate BOLO** out. Had uniforms searching every street. SWAT teams were smashing down doors of suspected hide-outs. Witnesses, informants … anyone and everyone were interviewed, some … more aggressively than others.
I was one of those aggressors. One of the victims who had been shot, was my niece. She was on her way home from basketball practice, and now she was in hospital, fighting to breathe, after a .22 collapsed a lung.
The punk was good. Despite using the shittiest, smallest and weakest bullets ever designed, he had shot his victims multiple times. The ones who died, went through agony, as the tiny rounds tore them apart, many times over.
It was sadistic.
The only reason why the others, my niece among them, had survived because they had scrambled for cover despite their wounds and the incoming sirens made him run away. He didn’t even bother to hide the fact that he had a rifle slung over his shoulder.
The moment the briefing was over, I went straight to my squad car. I was one of the few uniforms who didn’t need a partner. I had survived enough, shot enough and been shot at enough to warrant my solo status.
I went to every single informant I had and beat them with a nightstick until they gave me everything, truths … lies … names … times … all of it, until I was tired of swinging. I would storm back into my car, head ablaze with information, none of it useful to the current man-hunt.
Then, I would replay back tapes that the FBI had released to us, about the claims from eyewitnesses. 70% of them were horseshit. People loved to bullshit the police. They saw it as their moment of fame or a chance to humiliate us and confuse us. Others had shit memories and no eye for detail. Things we already knew were repeated constantly.
He was a lot of things. Tall, dark, handsome, an out of towner, and armed with 2 things … a Remington rimfire rifle, and a 1911 pistol.
But the 30% of useful information helped us create a towering mountain of evidence.
People reported hearing shots from an abandoned building that was directly perpendicular to the street where the shooting took place. It was old, rickety, soon to be demolished. Any windows had already been smashed, every wall covered in graffiti, and the entire place reeked of decay, cigarettes and weed.
But shell casings were also found, as well as a small groove that the punk had carved out to rest his rifle. Ballistics matched the shell casing and trajectories of the bullets perfectly.
The 30% also gave us a precise description of what happened in those fateful 6 minutes, and enough details to create a computer generated impression of the man for our BOLO.
Everything needed to give him a death sentence was dotted, signed and stamped.
Now all we needed was the punk himself.
Depending on your world view, I had been waiting for a half hour or half a lifetime.
To me it felt like half a lifetime.
I love being productive. Beating up people felt like it was constructive. Driving hard to catch joy-riders was equally dynamic. As was even doing mountains of paperwork. Because you knew every action mattered to keeping people behind bars.
But the waiting was the worse. There are only so many times you can check, recheck and reload your Glock 17. You can’t fiddle with your taser, or tweak your radio’s position on your belt for 2 hours. All you can do is wait and stare.
Usually, you and your partner would talk. Discuss life. Politics. Wives. Plans for weekends. The one time you fell down a flight of stairs and cut open your arm, hence the wicked forearm scar. Or when you snuck out as a teenager to see a porn flick in cinemas.
I didn’t have that luxury. I wanted to run solo. The incredible boredom during any wait is penance for that reward.
It had taken me over 2 days to come to this spot. An informant’s squeal had corroborated with an eyewitness report in the area, that an All American had been seen in the vicinity and no one reported him leaving.
This was my district, an area I knew as well as where I lived and grew up. There could only be 5 potential spots where he could hide.
Uniforms were already posted outside the other 4. I was at the one that I figured was the most likely.
It was picturesque. The perfect place for an All American to hide. White picket fences marched down the streets. Perfectly maintained and manicured red maples stood guard in front, on beautifully mowed lawns. The two story houses were all perfect contrasts of brick, metal, glass and tiled roofs.
Everything screamed Americana. It was the last place anyone would look.
But I knew better. When things looked too good, smelled too nice and acted too kind, there was a strange feeling of decay.
Decay because behind the wide smiles, the perfect blue eyes, the flowing summer dresses and the perfectly pressed polo shirts, everyone was grimacing and straining hard against their true nature.
In all my years on service, places like these gave me the creep, because there was a group mentality behind crimes. People could turn on each other in a heartbeat and hide behind those psycho smiles. Everything looked and behaved like Hollywood.
Fake and perfect.
I despised places like these. Everyone was always acting like you were the alien that ruined their paradise. But even in this fake paradise, there was a blight.
And that was House 194 on this perfect street.
Outwardly, there was nothing wrong with it.
It looked like every other perfect house along this street. A beautifully wide house, with two storeys, square windows and a perfectly triangular roof. It was a mixture of black accents, white walls, brown roof and cedar door. The windows were slightly stained in that neo-gothic style, and the overall impression was handsome, solid and quaint.
But as everyone knew, there was a family murder within the walls, the wife, and 2 new born twins dead, slaughtered by an axe and a stiff drink.
It had been on the market ever since. It was still beautifully maintained. Cleaners went in every month, to air it out, dust it out and mow the lawn, as per the rules of this Americana suburb.
But they had been skipping corners ever so often. No one liked the idea of scrubbing walls that were once stained with blood.
So the windows were slightly opaque from the dust. The door squeaked on its hinges. The vines grew up the walls and tendrils reached into the roof.
Even the For Sale sign out front looked worn down from all its years of trying to sell.
I knew the All American had to be in here. It was clever. A guy like him, acted, behaved and moved cleverly, but he was also arrogant. What kind of sonvuabitch walked around with a rifle on his back in broad daylight?
I also had a feeling that he was looking through one of those windows, with his eye on the scope, staring out on the road.
But I didn’t have proof. I couldn’t just break down the door and storm in. I needed evidence. Some sign of life in there.
So I had to settle in for that half a lifetime wait.
The suburb was shaped like a window. It was a perfect square, with a plus in the middle.
House 194 was near the centre, on the west side of the intersection. I was waiting on the south end, in my not so subtle squad car, No. 86, a deer in headlights with its black and white paint job.
I had my binocs out, staring through them, waiting for a curtain to move, a door to open, a window to creak … any sign of movement.
But I couldn’t stare for hours. No one could. So sometimes I relaxed my neck, I would stretch it. I would give my eyes a rest, away from the tunnel vision and look around. I would fiddle with the duty belt, making minute adjustments on the magazines, the taser, the baton, the pistol and my sunglasses.
I would undo the top button of my dark uniform, letting my skin breathe a little in the heat, and complain to myself about the weight and restriction of my body armour.
All that bitching on 4 hours of stake out duty … nearly made me miss it.
A curtain moving on the top floor. And a barrel coming out and looking directly at my squad car.
I saw it wink.
Then glass shattered …
and held. The squad car saving my life with its anti-ballistic properties.
I immediately reached for my radio as I ducked down, the car shuddering as it took more hits.
Shots fired. Shots fired. Officer 86 in contact. 10-72. I require immediate assistance at my location, corner of Robinhood and Stevenson. 10-78 at Robinhood and Stevenson.
A calm female operator immediately responded.
Copy that Officer 86, 4 10-76 on route. I repeat 4 squads on route to your location now. Hold where you are.
10-4. I breathed heavily, as I reached behind my seat and grabbed the Remington 870 shotgun off the rack. Loading 8 rounds into the shogun’s magazine, I stayed low, stuffing shells in my pocket and the shotgun, waiting for a lull in the shots.
Hearing nothing and feeling nothing in the car, for a good thirty seconds, I kicked open the door and sprinted around to the back of the car.
Rounds hummed past me and I felt my adrenaline kick in. Fear also. Then cold professionalism. I have been under fire before. I knew I had to stay calm and make my shots count.
Crouching behind the car, I peered through the cracked windshield at House 194, and noted that there were trees for cover all the way to the front of the house, and that it was a solid 10 metre run to the front door.
Too far to make it without backup.
But moving forwards to the trees was enough.
Slamming the pump forward, I stayed crouched and leaned to the right of the car and in rapid succession, pumped off 4 shots that blew off the window of the house.
Each round slammed heavily into my shoulder, but the immediate satisfaction of the window shattering, and glass cascading down in clear rainbows of light onto the lawn, caused me to ignore the recoil.
I immediately stood up and dashed to the nearest tree, 5 metres away, my breathing heavy and laboured, as air struggled to get into my lungs, the weight of all my equipment slowing me down as my boots pounded the road.
Then to my shock, I saw a flash from one of the lower windows, of which there were 4, 2 on the right and ditto for the left, and I just managed to dive for the tree, avoiding the round and crawl furiously the last half metre to prop myself against the sturdy tree.
Immediately, bark and splinters started to fly, cutting my exposed forearms, as I held the shotgun up towards my face, trying to minimise my profile. Round after round slammed into the tree, chunks flying away, before I decided to end the stalemate by crouching lower and ducking around the narrow tree and pump the last 4 rounds into the far left window.
The incoming fire slackened, and picking myself up again, I pushed forward to another tree, this one thicker and more stout than the previous one.
Taking a breather, swallowing deep gulps of air, I reached into my pocket and felt my hand shake.
Withdrawing it, I made a fist, ending the shakes and began to thumb another 8 rounds into the magazine, the cold steel of the shotgun, beginning to warm under my hands and the rapid fire.
Looking back at my squad car, I heard all types of voices assault my ear, as radio calls came in thick and heavy. I just kept repeating myself, my voice sounding monotone and robotic, as my mind and body tried to keep the fight or flight response under control.
10-72, Officer 86. 10-72. Requesting 10-78 on my position. 10-72. 10-72. Approach from the east and south. Suspect is barricaded in House 194 of Stevenson Avenue, north side.
I also remembered where I was, and that while I hated this area, civilians were everywhere. Fortunately, there was no sign of life anywhere. This was a late Sunday afternoon. Most people were either retiring early, or drowsy and unwilling to be out on a stroll.
I could also hear sirens approaching. No doubt the other squad cars that I sent to the other locations rushing to my position.
Risking another peek around the tree, I didn’t see any movement in the house, but I could assess the damage. I had blown out 2 windows, and curtain were now moving stiffly in the wind out the front. I briefly entertained the thought whether the murdered family would haunt me for the damage I did to their house.
Then the flashes started again, this time from the top floor.
Snapping my head back, the rounds slammed into the grass beneath me and turn the area black with heat.
Racking my shotgun again, I feinted to the left side of the tree, only to snap around the right and this time I let all the windows of the top floor have it.
The booms of the shotgun reverberated through the neighbourhood and my eardrums, nearly rendering me deaf.
The incoming fire slackened as I pummeled the top right and I took the lull to rush forward to the closest tree to the house. By now, I had fired 16 rounds, and I was down to my last 8.
But back-up was here.
While I was driven by anger, revenge and badly wanted to be the one to blow this sonvuabitch’s head off, I was all too aware of how much trouble I was in.
A bullet was still a bullet. I was only flesh and blood. Being reckless would only put more of my brothers and sisters lives in danger.
So I was glad they were here.
The 4 squad cars saw my position and pulled perfect braking manoeuvres, nose to nose. The driver would brake hard, while the passenger’s door was already open, ready to dive out and scramble around for cover clutching their heavy gun, an M4A1 assault rifle or a 870 shotgun like mine.
Immediately as they pulled up outside the house, the cars began to get pinged by fire, bullets smashing into doors, sirens, windows and tyres.
Even though he was using a bolt action rifle, the bastard could really shoot. He was pulling back the bolt and slamming his finger on the trigger within a second of each shot. It wasn’t easy.
But his fire superiority only lasted for 30 seconds, because then all 8 cops instantly returned fire.
Glocks barked. The M4s chattered. And the 870s roared.
The entire house front was lit up with holes and any damage I did, looked puny and insignificant in comparison to this Fourth of July gun show.
The officers kept up the fire, and I yelled at 2 of them to follow me to the front of the door.
Nodding and keeping their heads down, Officers Taylor and Zavala rushed to my tree, whilst firing their pistols at the house.
OK boys. I got the door. I sweep forward, Taylor you got right, Zavala, you got left. OK?
You got it.
OK. Let’s do it.
The three of us charged forwards, as the cops behind us continued their barrage. Aiming my shotgun at the big door, I blew the hinges and lock off the door with 3 rounds and put my foot through the door, causing it to crash heavily on the inside of the floor.
The three of us charged in, guns sweeping left and right and centre. No sign yet.
Outside, the other cops stopped firing and began moving up to us, as the three of us held the door, like an Charlie’s Angel pose. 4 of them pushed left and right of the house to the backyard of the house, eager to cut off any escape. One stayed with the squad cars, ready to brief the inevitable arrival of the SWAT teams while the last one joined us inside.
As soon as we got confirming hands on our shoulders, we pushed onward. I chose the upstairs, the last place he might have been.
The house was large. It was split into your typical left wing meant dining table, that lead onto the kitchen, the right wing equating to a large living area that turned into laundry, bathroom and study room at the rear. A central staircase bisected both wings, with the upper floor mirroring the bottom, with bedrooms and bathrooms.
As I slowly, cautiously, and almost painfully climbed the stairs, I tried my best to control my breathing. It sounded obnoxiously loud. All I could picture the All American, waiting for me, his 1911 extended, firing constantly, as he ended my life, all because I breathed too loud.
Weirdly too, I saw him sat in a chair, like some lame villain in a movie.
But that fear dissipated as I remembered my niece in hospital. Fighting. Crying. Struggling.
Anger pushed blood through my body and I could sense my breathing even out.
The tiny bead sight of the Remington struggled to pierce through the gloom of the house, furthering my caution.
I waited at the corner of the staircase landing, scanning like a paranoid man, both left and right, unsure which way to proceed.
I spun a coin in my head and chose left.
Waiting at the apex of the corner, I watched my footing, as I slowly swiveled around the corner, the shotgun leading forward and my eyes wide open, my ears straining to hear any noise.
The empty hallway ahead of me sneered at my caution.
2 large bedrooms, one left, one right and a bathroom directly in front of me. I pirouetted suddenly and checked my rear.
Another sneer from the house. But the layout was the same.
Below I could hear my fellow officers kicking open doors and yelling “POLICE!” and then seconds later yelling “ROOM CLEAR!”
But right now, it was just me.
Stacked up on the left door, I kicked it open, and swept my shotgun left and right.
Nothing. Just stained, ugly carpet. No furniture. Nothing of interest. Nowhere for the man to hide.
Moving out, I checked the hallway again.
I move to the room on the right and again, swept left and right. There was nothing in the room either. No furniture. No sign of blood stained walls. Just empty carpet and empty wardrobes.
I start to get more nervous. Which room is this bastard in?
As I prepare to enter the final room at the end of the left hallway, as my leg is raised to kick the door …
A hole appears in the door, near my head.
Then two bullets slam into my back, causing me to crash into the door, and tumble through, onto the hard marble floor.
My shoulders took the brunt of the impact as I let go of the Remington and scrabbled desperately for cover, finding it in the shower stall and unleashing my Glock, I fired blindly through the door.
I struggled to breathe. Huge pain flared across my back as the pressure and heat of the bullets that had slammed into my body armour registered in my mind, cutting through the protective mental layer of adrenaline.
I heard the men below, began yelling my name and throw threats at the man who had fired at me.
Then I heard screaming, as the men ducked for cover and scramble away, as the gunfire increased in intensity at them.
Gritting my teeth, I rounded the corner and aimed the Glock and saw the All American, firing his 1911 down, a manic expression on his face.
I lined up the back sight.
The front sight looked squarely at his chest.
He sensed me.
He spun around.
His silver 1911 catching the light as it aimed at me.
My finger slammed the trigger to the rear, and I didn’t stop.
The first shot tore through his sternum. The second went high and into his throat. The third opened up his cheek. The fourth blew off an ear. The fifth missed.
His body slumped and went lifeless and I walked up and fired three more times.
Kicking the 1911 away, I didn’t bother checking for a pulse. No one could survive that many shots. Nothing could escape that level of punishment.
Blood had been spilled again in this house. Fresh crimson and pink-grey matter speckled the walls.
Clear! I heard myself yell automatically.
Feeling empty, I walked back and picked up my Remington. A justified shooting on the job, is still considered a homicide. And I don’t think I’ve ever felt great after a murder. Even when a sonvuabitch like him deserves it. Blood doesn’t ever seems to come off your hands.
I saw Zavala and Taylor and the third guy, Ramirez, look at me, their faces echoing a grim nihilism that all policemen and women feel after a shooting like this.
We radioed it in.
Followed standard SOP.
Fetched the dead man’s .22 long rifle, and found that it matched the crime of attempted murder of a police officer.
Secured the 1911 that had nearly ended my life.
Slapped my body vest and plucked out the bullets that were embedded in the Kevlar.
Placed a bag over the disfigured face that had nearly taken more lives.
Counted the number of shots we had taken in an effort to stop this man. It bordered on the obscene.
Called the real estate owner, who was currently safeguarding this property.
He was less than thrilled. Promised to send us the bill. We politely deferred.
Filed back to our squad cars, as the forensic team, SWAT team, and a dozen more uniforms turned up to see what had happened and answer their questions.
It was only when I looked at my squad car, I realised just how lucky I was.
The shots that peppered and cracked my windshield showed over 20 rounds had been fired at me. One had even managed to go through, and hit the chair. A dozen more could be counted in the front bonnet.
Ramirez and Taylor came over and stared at my car.
I nodded. That about summed it up.
Mind if I get a ride back to the precinct?
The two men nod and we made our way back, the three of us silent as we processed what just happened.
When you are in combat, you don’t think about things. You react. You hope your training kicks in to take over, so that you don’t have to think too hard. But the moment the shooting stops, suddenly guilt enters your mind, as does the constant questions about mortality.
I was so close today. Had the man been aiming a bit better, my brains would be all over the bathroom floor of House 194.
As I stared out at the city of Austin, I noted the twilight atmosphere slowly crawl across the sky, and ask for a quick course change.
Taylor nodded and spins the wheel in the direction I need and even lights up the sirens for me.
As I walk through the corridors, I do my best to ignore the stares.
Knocking gently, I enter the quiet room and look inside.
The nurse looks at me and back at my niece.
She’s stable at the moment. Just sleeping through it now.
I nod silently, pull up a chair and sit next to her.
Thank you nurse.
She nods and walks out, leaving the two of us alone.
I gently squeeze my niece’s hand and whisper
I got him for you darling. I got him.
Before I feel tears start to well, and run down my cheeks. Then … my head is in my hands as I let everything go, all the fear, stress, and relief.
Probably the longest and admittedly one of the messier stories I’ve written so far. As an Australian … I should have researched more Americanism that I could have put in the story.
House 194 obviously doesn’t exist, nor does my description of the area. But the actual street names are real and it is a window style road layout. It looks very nice via Google maps and no disrespect is meant for that neighbourhood.
I’ve always admired cops and their jobs and this was originally written, because of my intense boredom at work, and me wondering whether cops got equally bored on stake-out duty.
I, of course, ended up getting way too invested in the context and background of that stakeout feeling and hence this story was born and written.
The film, End of Watch (2012) served as a inspiration for a lot of the equipment described in this story.