My partner and I walk up to the house. It’s a simple one story affair, unattached, with
a small lawn. Fairly well kept considering that it’s located in the middle of Watts.
Watts is in Los Angeles. This occurred before the riots of 1964 which put it on the
map of every mind in America. Considered a ghetto by many people, including the
residents, I find it mostly quaint. It’s better than anywhere I ever lived as a kid, in
Brooklyn, New York. And I wasn’t raised in a “ghetto”.
No tenements here. Just nice little houses; some duplexes, and apartment buildings.
My partner, Mitch, and I are answering a “Family Dispute” call. These are mostly benign
calls which consist of family fights, loud arguments, broken furniture, stuff like that. In
most cases a neighbor calls because their peace is being disrupted by the noise. Perhaps a
scream for help, a gunshot, that kind of thing. But calls would append the family dispute
with that information. Such as “Family Dispute-Woman Screaming For Help” or “Possible Shots Fired.” This call was just a plain Family Dispute.
As we get to the door, I knock, and stand off to the side as a precaution. Mitch is on
the opposite side. After a few seconds, the door is swung open. A very large black man
stands three feet inside the house. “What the fuck do you want, pigs?”
Caution covers me like smoke. One of his hands is visible. The other is hidden behind
his leg, which seems natural, as he’s standing at an angle. Very cautiously, I move in
front of him. “We got a call there was a problem here. Everything okay?” My eyes
scan the inside picking up a lady in the lighted kitchen behind him shaking her head repeatedly, from side to side. A definite-no.
More belligerent, “Everythin’s fine. Go away.” He slams the door shut, but it
bounces off my shoe which is lodged at the sill. It swings open from the natural force. He
turns towards me pointing a gun at my stomach. Reflexively, I close the space between
us, shout “Gun” to Mitch, and simultaneously manage to grab his gun hand.
Heart rate speeds, pounding in my chest. Gun. Gun, my mind screams. Get it aimed
away. Can’t. He’s too strong. I can tell by the position of my hand wrapped around it.
Buried in my stomach. Hair. Grab it. Pull his head back, stench of alcohol, sweat. I’m
going to die, here. I know it. My kids are going to be orphaned. White light sears my
brain. I’m still alive. Stronger. I hate this bastard. My face is tucked into his chest. I see
Mitch behind him trying to get a choke hold around his throat. He can’t. I’m losing
oxygen. I’ve forgotten to breathe. I do. Can’t get him off his feet. I hear Mitch is
pounding him with his baton. This fucker’s resolve stiffens. No effect. I hear a grunt. It’s
me. All my strength, both hands now. Can’t move the gun away. I manage to hear, “If
you don’t want to die, give it up.” I realize it’s me saying it.
He wails, “Soon as I get loose, you’re dead motherfucker.” I manage to push off of him somehow and swing around to his right side. My body now free of the gun, which I
have pointing to the floor. I feel him weaken from the baton blows. Pain has kicked in for
him. I wrench the gun away from him. He’s on his back. On the floor. In a flash, I
straddle him, wailing on his face with his gun butt.
“There. There. You fucker. Kill me, will you? Here … ” Thomp-Thomp.Thomp.
Three more across his face. He’s crying. I’m swinging. “Kill me? You piece of shit.”
Whomp. He’s done. I stop because he can’t feel it anymore. Or is it just fatigue.
Exhausted, I try to get up off of him. I can’t. I’m spent. Sucking in air, my chest
heaving. The silence is broken by this loud ringing in my ears. A one pitch wail like I was
cuffed there when I was a child. Mitch helps me up. We turn him over. Handcuff him
behind his back. Even that’s difficult as his body is wider than the span of his arms.
On my knees still, I look up. The woman and three children are staring at me from the
kitchen, crying; one child hugging each leg; the toddler in her arms. I hear myself say,
“I’m sorry, but he tried to kill me.”
His parole was violated for “Possession of a gun.” All 35 years old, 6′ 3″, 250 pounds of him. That was it. Saved the taxpayers money. My protestations meant nothing. I prevented him from committing murder, on me. But the DA said that regardless, the time he would spend in prison would be identical to a conviction. For Justice, it was a non-event.
The wife made a “Personnel Complaint” for excessive force. An investigation was
adjudicated, weighing the circumstances, as an “Official Reprimand.” It would be the
only black mark that would stay with me for my entire career. I lost no pay.
The length of time elapsed, from the start of the fight until he was handcuffed, was
about fifteen seconds. Under extreme circumstances, seconds seem like eternities.
Finally. The reason that the gun didn’t fire, was because the web of meat between my left
thumb and forefinger lodged between the hammer of the gun and the firing pin when I
first grabbed for it. When he pulled the trigger, with the gun wedged in my belly, the
flesh prevented the hammer from striking the pin. Thus, the gun never went off.
I’ve gone over it a thousand times in my mind. Conclusion: It was a miracle. My God
just didn’t want me to die at that time.
Since that incident, and before, I have not experienced rage.
by Peter Bruno 12/18/2003
Select all writings of Peter Bruno
Select biography of Peter Bruno