by Deputy Chris Smithcom
I have served as a deputy sheriff at the Calcasieu Parish Sheriff's Office for almost 10 years. On October 1, 1997 I was working night patrol and was handled a missing persons report that involved a mother and daughter, so I was pursuing a bit more vigorously than usual. While I was doing this an off duty deputy, and close personal friend of mine Deputy Bill McIntosh, called into dispatch that he was going to investigate a disturbance at a residence (It was in my area.) I started to go, but another unit responded that he would back Bill up. I didn't realize at the time the back-up unit was much further away than I was. So I called dispatch and told them I was heading to the office to file my missing person report and get it into the computer as soon as possible. It was at this point I heard Bill say that he had arrived at the location. A few seconds later dispatch advised that a 911 call had been received that shots had been fired at that location and someone was down. The back-up unit was arriving and a vehicle pursuit began. Several vehicles respond including myself. About a minute later I find myself in the lead chasing a subject on a motorcycle. The pursuit lasts for about 10 minutes and several miles later. The subject and I get into a short foot pursuit into a residence. The subject then arms himself with a rifle and we exchange shots both being injured. We are then transported to the hospital. I am treated for my injuries and I then find out that Bill was killed by the subject at the original location. I had just assumed that he was with us in the vehicle pursuit and I hadn't seen him due to everything happening so fast. Also killed in this tragedy was the subject's wife.
I was completely devastated. I felt that I has shirked my duty and let Bill respond to MY call. He had paid my price. I was miserable for a long time. Finely I healed from my physical wounds, but not my mental ones. It ate at me every day. My department honored me. His family comforted me and each day I sunk lower and lower. But no one would help. I retreated into my own horror and misery. I had reinjured my leg and used it as an excuse to push everyone away. FINALLY I saw what I was doing to myself and my family, and I sought help. It has been a year and a half of hard work and forgiving and realizing that I didn't pull that trigger the subject did. I still seek counseling, but my department and fellow deputies never saw what I had become, or they didn't WANT to see.
ALL departments should have some sort of intervention process that doesn't blacklist the officer with his department or fellow officers.
In my situation the department has assisted in my return and I now work in dispatch. Here I feel that I can help keep the "guys" safe. I also have noticed that I am not treated any differently than I was before.© 2000 Deputy Chris Smithcom