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Armed Citizens And Police Officers

Friday, July 16, 1999

It was way back in 1932 that the American Rifleman, official journal of the National Rifle Association of America, began publishing abridged newspaper accounts of law-abiding citizens who had used firearms to defend themselves and others and to protect property. The accounts were condensed from clippings sent in by NRA members and, of course, the magazine could cite only a tiny fraction of the "armed citizen" cases that occur each year in America. Indeed, award-winning criminologist Gary Kleck in his survey research places the number as high as 2.5 million.

There is an important--but sometimes overlooked--subset of these cases. Namely, those incidents in which civilians with firearms have come to the aid of law enforcement officers attempting to perform their often dangerous duties. As the following accounts from the American Rifleman illustrate, the armed citizen is the law officer`s best friend.

Things had turned ugly for Oklahoma Highway Patrol Officer Rick Wallace. He had found marijuana on a speeder, but was overpowered by the man before he could cuff him. Passerby Adolph Krejsek witnessed the altercation and came to the rescue, using his own firearm to help the trooper control the suspect. After helping subdue the assailant, Krejsek used the injured trooper`s radio to call for help.
(The Review Courier, Alva, OK, 1/8/95) (AR 6/95)

"It`s more than fighting fires. If somebody is in trouble, we`re going to show up," said Sipsey Valley volunteer firefighter James "Buddy" O`Hanlon. O`Hanlon was one of about 30 armed volunteer firefighters who responded within minutes to an emergency call from their chief, L.A. Marlowe, who had just been robbed and shot at outside of his Buhl, Ala., store. One suspect was spotted before he made it 100 yds. and was cornered in the woods by the army of firefighters, who apprehended him. Sheriff`s deputies quickly arrested another robber who had been identified by the firefighters. A third suspect was later apprehended.
(The News, Tuscaloosa, AL, 1/12/95) (AR 4/95)

In the finest tradition of armed citizens who take on crime in their communities, Texan Travis Neel helped save a wounded Harris County deputy sheriff`s life. Witnessing the shooting by one of a trio of Houston gang members after a traffic stop just west of Houston, Neel--who was on his way to his pistol range--pulled his gun and fired, driving the officer`s assailants away. An off-duty sheriff`s deputy also came on the scene and joined Neel in covering the deputy, whose life was saved by his body armor. The trio was captured after a manhunt.
(The Post, Houston, TX, 1/22/94) (AR 4/94)

While the situation ended without incident, armed citizen Michael Acree stood ready to lend a hand when a police officer stopped a carload of unruly teenagers outside his Salem, Connecticut, home. Noticing the youths scuffling with the officer, Acree retrieved his pistol and went out onto his lawn. When the youths saw Acree and his handgun, they calmed down and the situation ended peaceably. Acree earned the appreciation both of town officials and the officer.
(The Bulletin, Norwich, CT, 5/22/93) (AR 9/93)

Vincent McCarthy wasn`t afraid to lend a hand when he noticed a police officer struggling with a man and woman at the side of the road. He tried to help subdue the man who was kicking the officer in the face. Despite McCarthy`s warnings, the man pressed his assault, and the tour boat captain shot him once in the leg with a pistol he is licensed to carry and stopped the attack. Neither the officer nor McCarthy were seriously injured.
(The Daily Commercial, Leesburg, FL, 4/10/92) (AR 6/92)

Citizens of Ivor, Va., turned out in force when two men robbed the local bank. After their car crashed while fleeing from police, the duo fled into a wooded area. Local residents immediately armed themselves and, along with police, surrounded the woods. The pair surrendered to a volunteer and an officer the next morning. Said one local resident, "Here, the feeling is `Hey, you`ve got my money.`"
(The Virginian-Pilot, Norfolk, VA, 10/20/91)(AR 3/92)

A North Myrtle Beach, N.C., citizen was credited by the city`s public safety director with possibly saving the life of Police Officer Richard Jernick. Jernick had pulled over a suspected bank robber`s car after a chase, when the suspect charged the cruiser and pointed a gun at the officer, who was still behind the wheel. At that point authorities said, the robbery suspect saw that James Beach, a semi-retired electrician who had joined the pursuit, had a pistol pointed at him. Startled, the robber ran for his car, and Officer Jernick was able to shoot and wound him.
(The Observer, Charlotte, NC, 7/4/91) (AR 9/91)

When Eric Stewart of Oxford, Iowa, heard that an Iowa state trooper had been killed in a plane crash while participating in the manhunt for a robbery suspect, he got his revolver, jumped in his car and joined the search. He passed a man on foot he thought might be the suspect. Stewart stopped at a local farm, and while he was talking to the owners, the man attempted to force his way into the home. Stewart captured and held him at gunpoint until police arrived.
(The Press-Citizen, Iowa City, IA, 10/15/90) (AR 1/91)

During a drug arrest in Webster Parish, La., a sheriff`s deputy and a state trooper found themselves struggling with their two suspects. But four citizens observed the battle and, armed with shotguns, they came to the officers` aid, enabling them to make the arrests.
(The Press-Herald, Minden, LA, 5/23/89) (AR 11/89)

Dave Storton, a San Jose, Calif., police officer, was doing off-duty security work at an apartment complex when two burglars knocked him down and attempted to grab his revolver. During the struggle, one of the assailants bit off part of Storton`s ear, but the two attackers were run off by an apartment resident who came to the rescue, armed with a shotgun.
(The Chronicle, San Francisco, CA, 5/12/88) (AR 10/88)

Miami, Okla., motel owner Oba Edwards witnessed two policemen struggling with a man they were attempting to arrest and saw the man wrest away one officer`s revolver, shoot and kill him. Edwards armed himself and fired a shot that allowed the remaining officer to recover his partner`s revolver and fatally wound the attacker. The dead man was on probation for assault of a Texas police officer.
(The Daily Oklahoman, Oklahoma City, OK, 6/7/88) (AR 9/88)

After a string of burglaries, a group of four Beaumont, Tex., neighbors, armed with shotguns, handguns and bats, pursued a burglary suspect to an overgrown field. Police and residents then joined forces to capture the suspect, who had set some dry grass on fire to elude pursuit. A police detective later commented, "In the rush, we didn`t have time to get their names, but we really appreciated it."
(The Enterprise, Beaumont, TX, 11/12/87) (AR 3/88)

The robber made a clean getaway and had pulled into the Pelham, Ala., service station. He found the service rather rude, however, as manager Ed Milstead used a 12-ga. shotgun to hold him for police. Milstead had learned of the robbery from a police scanner.
(The News, Birmingham, AL, 2/1/86) (AR 5/86)

A teller in a bank in Indianapolis, Ind., called out to Joseph Ernst when a man claiming to have a pistol and a bomb was about to get away with a bagful of stolen money. Ernst, a uniformed sheriff`s deputy, tackled the man. As they grappled on the floor, the robber tried to get to Ernst`s sidearm. But Samuel Hatcher, who`d worked with the deputy years before, halted the struggle by drawing a licensed handgun and holding it to the robber`s head.
(The Star, Indianapolis, IN) (AR 1/83)

A sheriff`s deputy pursued an armed robbery suspect to a Salem, Oreg., supermarket and fired on the man after nearly being run down in the parking lot. From his adjacent residence, James Hicks was alerted to the disturbance and armed himself. When the fleeing suspect forced his way into the home, Hicks ordered him to drop his gun. Instead, he pointed it at the homeowner, but was shot and killed when Hicks fired first.
(The Statesman Journal, Salem, OR, 1/11/83) (AR 5/83)

Police officer Chris Haldeman entered a Chambersburg, Pa., gold and silver exchange to arrest a suspect in a stolen property case, but the man resisted and a struggle ensued. The 220-lb. suspect had Haldeman pinned to the ground and was choking him when storekeeper Ken Cummings pulled his pistol and shot the officer`s attacker in the leg. The man, a known felon, managed to escape, and Det. Haldeman was treated at a local hospital and released.
(The Morning Herald, Hagerstown, MD, 10/27/83) (AR 1/84)

When a pair of youthful armed robbers hit a convenience store in tiny Carlotta, Calif., the residents formed a posse and gave chase. They called ahead to another nearby town, Swain`s Flat, and asked for help. The Swain`s Flat citizens called another town, Bridgeville, and alerted Loretta Scott and Gloria Falor. Scott and Falor raised a posse which waited at their end of Bridgeville Bridge. When the robbers` getaway car was halfway across the span, the Bridgeville citizens blocked their end with cars and trucks. Meanwhile, the pursuing Carlotta contingent blocked the other end. Several citizens armed themselves, but no gunfire was needed. Sheriff`s deputies appeared and arrested the stranded criminals.
(The Times-Standard, Eureka, CA, 4/15/82) (AR 7/82)

Joseph Dean of Winchester, Calif., and Wendell Knighton of McGill, Nev., were stopped at a rest area near Jackpot, Nev., when they saw a man shoot a sheriff`s deputy. As the criminal advanced on his car, Dean grabbed a pistol, rolled under the vehicle and exchanged shots with him. Knighton, sitting in his own car, opened up, too. In the fusillade, the criminal was killed with no injury to bystanders. Meanwhile, Knighton`s wife and sister-in-law gave first aid to the fallen deputy, probably saving his life.
(The Daily Free Press, Elko, NV, 7/30/82) (AR 9/82)

When James Hill saw police and helicopters searching the area around his Norco, Calif., home, he suspected that there might have been an escape from the nearby California Rehabilitation Center. So he reached for a .357 Mag. revolver and a 12-ga. shotgun, summoned his dog and began to search his own property. His vigilance was soon rewarded as the dog located an escapee in a tack room behind the Hill home. Hill held the prisoner for sheriff`s deputies.
(The Press-Enterprise, Riverside, CA, 3/13/82) (AR 8/82)

A stolen car bearing three escaped convicts was stopped on a Kansas highway by a state trooper. When the officer ordered the men from the vehicle, they sped away. With the trooper in pursuit, the escapees crashed in the town of Gorham; two were captured as they crawled free of the wreckage. The third convict attempted to flee on foot, only to be collared by several onlookers who had secured rifles from their pickups at the trooper`s call for assistance.
(The Morning News, Dallas, TX, 12/5/82) (AR 3/83)

Four young hoodlums were beating off-duty Chicago policeman Russell Ryan in a parking lot when his wife, Carol, came to the rescue. Retrieving her husband`s revolver from her purse, she fired warning shots which scattered the assailants.
(The Sun-Times, Chicago, IL, 1/26/81) (AR 4/81)

George Rayburn and his son were listening to a police scanner radio in their River Rouge, Mich., home when they heard that officers were chasing a trio of muggers toward their address. Rayburn grabbed a .357 Mag. revolver and leveled it at one of the lawbreakers, who was attempting to scale a wall into the Rayburn backyard. Only after police arrived and arrested the mugger, did Rayburn, a Marine combat veteran, reveal that he is almost blind.
(The News, Detroit, MI, 1/6/81) (AR 3/81)

Corbin, Ky., motel operator Ray Miracle came upon state trooper James Phelps attempting to subdue two drunken occupants of a stopped auto and, carrying his revolver, went to the officer`s aid. At that point, another car stopped and one of two men inside leveled a gun on Trooper Phelps. Seeing Miracle`s drawn gun, however, they hastily drove off. Kentucky State Police rewarded Miracle with their highest civilian honor.
(The Times-Tribune, Corbin, KY) (AR 10/80)

When trooper Bill Brashears stopped a motorist for a traffic violation near Altus, Ark., the man pulled a gun and shot him in the jaw. Before falling, Brashears returned fire, wounding the gunman in the arm, but the assailant then jumped on Brashears and began choking him. A passing female motorist saw the struggle, stopped, and held the assailant at gunpoint until others arrived to summon police. She then rushed Brashears to a local hospital.
(The Arkansas Gazette, Little Rock, AR, 1/2/80) (AR 3/80)

DeKalb, Ga., policeman Tom Whittington was investigating a car accident when two men jumped him and began beating him. Several neighbors were unsuccessful in stopping the bloody assault until a man emerged from the crowd, fired several rifle shots over the heads of the attackers, and then shot one in the leg. Police arrived shortly and arrested the assailants.
(The Journal, Atlanta, GA, 10/12/80) (AR 12/80)

Bus driver Robert McCort was driving from Miami to Detroit when he saw two men and a woman holding a gun on a state trooper near Jacksonville, Fla. McCort stopped his bus and started running toward the scene. Several tractor-trailer trucks had stopped, too, and a woman in one of them handed McCort a .38 cal. revolver as he ran past. Fired upon, McCort, a member of the Jacksonville Police Reserve, responded with a volley of shots which drove the gun-wielding criminal away. The trooper was freed unharmed and the two accomplices arrested.
(The Florida Times-Union, (Jacksonville, FL, 12/15/80) (AR 4/81)

Timothy Willard, a 22-year-old policeman in South Paris, Maine, was shot to death by a man inside a car parked in the lot of O.D.V. Inc. After gunning down the rookie policeman, the man fired wildly at company president, Robert Carroll. Carroll, an NRA Life member, drew his own gun and killed the man.
(The Sunday Telegram, Portland, ME) (AR 3/79)*

Hearing the description of a robber`s getaway car on the Houston, Tex., police radio, several wrecker drivers chased down the culprit and surrounded him in a service station. Driver Jim Penry leaped from his wrecker with a loaded shotgun in hand and held the bandit at gun point until the police arrived.
(The Reporter News, Abilene, TX) (AR 10/78)

An unidentified NRA member became famous throughout Texas as "The Hunter" when he and his son heard a distress call on their CB radio. Two college coeds saw a Waco man shoot Sammy Long, a Texas Department of Public Safety officer, and called for help. The hunter arrived on the scene too late to save Long`s life, but killed the thug with a 6mm rifle. Upton County District Atty. Aubrey Edwards said the coeds and the hunter requested their names not be made public and said the hunter "deserved a medal" for his action.
(The Times, San Angelo, TX)(AR 2/77)

Ralph Festavan watched as a heroin peddler attacked a Shreveport, La., policeman and grabbed the officer`s gun. Festavan ran to the patrol car parked nearby and got a shotgun with which he shot and killed the pusher.
(The Post, Houston, TX) (AR 11/77)

Cecil Collier, 15, was working with his father in a Wildwood, Fla., vegetable field when a state trooper rushed up and asked them to join a posse searching for three Ohio criminals. The trio had broken through a tollgate and evaded a roadblock formed by CB radio operators. Collier was given a 20-ga. shotgun, and he headed into a nearby thicket. There he found the hoodlums, ordered them to drop their guns, and held them for the rest of the posse.
(The Tribune, Tampa, FL) (AR 9/77)

Dennis Koch was putting storm windows on his fiancee`s house when he observed a youth run into nearby woods. He passed the information on to a police officer who stopped by minutes later and told Koch he was searching for a burglary suspect. He gave Koch permission to assist him. Carrying his pistol, for which he has a permit, Koch found the youth hiding and held him in custody until the officer could place him under arrest.
(The Times-Union, Rochester, NY) (AR 1/76)

A Missouri state trooper had been shot three times by two armed robbery suspects when armed citizen Robert Riley of Tiptonville, Tenn., rushed to his aid. Riley fired a small caliber pistol at the assailants until they surrendered. The law officer was then rushed to a hospital.
(The Memphis Press-Scimitar, Memphis, TN) (AR 11/75)

Driving into Huntsville, Tex., after sighting-in a deer rifle in the country, Tony Taylor and Jack Dwenger saw a police car swerve into a ditch. They parked and ran over to the vehicle where they subdued a man who was being transported to prison by a deputy sheriff. The deputy, who had been stabbed twice, credited the pair with saving his life.
(The Huntsville Item, Huntsville, TX) (AR 6/75)

Seeing a state trooper shot to death while checking occupants of a car near Crystal City, Fla., hunters Ralph Morris and Richard Starling jumped from their pickup truck with guns in hand and ordered the two occupants of the car to "freeze." Instead, one opened fire with a .22 handgun while the other stepped on the gas. Starling with a shotgun blast flattened a tire on the car. When one suspect ran, Morris with his semi-automatic rifle hit him in both feet. Starling then covered the men while Morris summoned police. Both men were charged with first-degree murder.
(The Tampa Tribune, Tampa, FL) (AR 5/74)

Wounded in a gun battle with a robber, a Texas policeman lay in the street attempting to reload his revolver. As the robber prepared to fire at him again, L.B. Jackson, Oak Cliff, Tex., covered the robber with a shotgun and forced him to surrender.
(The Dallas Morning News, Dallas, TX) (AR 2/72)

Ronald Royce, a pharmacist in Elgin, Ill., called police when he recognized in his store a man who previously had used a forged prescription to obtain drugs. When a policeman came, the suspect drew a gun and pointed it at the officer`s head. Grabbing a gun from behind the counter, Royce fired and wounded the gunman. As the man ran, the policeman wounded him again and arrested him.
(The Daily Courier-News, Elgin, IL) (AR 1/72)

When Frank Carter, a Carnegie, Okla., farmer, saw three men beating a town marshal who had stopped them for drunk driving, he grabbed a rifle from his truck and ordered them to back off. The thugs fled, but were later captured in a state-patrol roadblock.
(The Daily Oklahoman, Oklahoma City, OK) (AR 7/71)

Hearing noises in his store, grocer Lyle Smith of Orillia, Iowa, called police and his son-in-law, Larry Adkins. Both Adkins and police arrived about the same time. Adkins, armed with a shotgun, stopped two intruders attempting to flee from the officers.
(The Tribune, Des Moines, IA) (AR 7/70)

Three men from Montrose, Colo., were on their way home from a hunting trip when they surprised four youths beating a state patrolman with rocks. The patrolman had stopped the youths for a traffic violation, and the four boys had jumped him. The hunters stopped the scuffle and held three of the youths at gunpoint: the other young man and a juvenile girl who was in the car escaped but were captured shortly afterward.
(The Post, Denver, CO) (AR 4/70)

A prisoner who escaped from the Federal Reformatory at Chillicothe, Ohio, while serving a stolen car sentence, was recaptured without firing a shot because, Deputy Sheriff Dwight Beery reports, farmer Wendell Bryant, who lives near Frankfort, Ohio, got his shotgun out and backed up the lone deputy who answered Bryant`s call and helped to trace the prisoner. Deputy Earl Kuhn reported to Deputy Sheriff Dwight Beery, that the prisoner appeared ready to make a break at one point but did not do so "because of Mr. Bryant standing in an advantageous position. I couldn`t have asked for better assistance." The Ross County Law Enforcement Officers Ass`n honored Bryant at a special meeting.
(The Gazette, Chillicothe, OH) (AR 3/67)

As Fred Boulter approached a Malden, Mass., A&P store, he noticed a police cruiser pulled up and two policemen entering the store. Boulter drew abreast of the store window and saw one policeman lying on the floor and another staggering out of the front door. When three gunmen rushed out of the front door and fired shot after shot at the staggering policeman, Boulter pulled out a cal. .32 automatic and fired at the three men who were trying to get in a car parked across the street. One of the thugs took a bullet in the leg from Boulter`s gun and fled with another bandit as Boulter crossed the street and kept a bead on the remaining man until police arrived.
(The Globe, Boston, MA) (AR 2/64)

In Indianapolis, Gerald Watson, 17, stood near a policeman who questioned a robbery suspect when the suspect`s accomplice appeared on the scene and shot the officer down. Watson, who had taught marksmanship at the YMCA, grabbed the fallen policeman`s service revolver and shot the felon dead.
(Associated Press) (AR 5/61)

In Saraland, Ala., the berserk husband of a woman charged with possession of illegal whisky killed one police officer and wounded another but, as he tried to make his escape, was shot dead by Carlos McDonald, the proprietor of a nearby shop.
(United Press Int`l) (AR 2/60)

A gas station bandit fired five shots at a pursuing motorcycle officer in a wild chase through Tampa streets, ran his getaway car in a ditch, and fled on foot. J.R. Vause, working on his house, saw the shooting and the motorcycle as it sped past. He ran inside for his shotgun, and set off in pursuit of the bandit. When the officer returned, the gunman, peppered with Vause`s shotgun pellets, meekly surrendered.
(The Tribune, Tampa, FL) (AR 9/59)

Two gunmen kidnapped an Eclectic, Ala., town policeman and used him to get enter the home of banker Carl Ray Barker late at night. One gunman took Barker into town to open the bank`s vault, while the other held Baker*s wife, child and the policeman hostage. When the time-vault resisted opening, the gunman returned Barker to his house to await a second crack at the vault. While they waited, Barker put water on the stove to make coffee. Barker threw the scalding water into one gunman*s face, subdue him, then was able to get a shotgun, fire and kill the other would-be bank robber.
(United Press Int`l) (AR 11/59)

* The American Rifleman did not begin listing date of original publication until the June 1979 issue.

Survey research indicates that firearms are used in the United States as frequently as 2.5 million times a year for personal protection, and that the presence of a firearm, without a shot being fired, prevents crime in many instances. Shooting usually can be justified only where crime constitutes an immediate, imminent threat to life, limb, or in some cases, property.

This is the electronic version of the "Armed Citizens and Police Officers: Partners in Fighting Crime" brochure distributed by NRA-ILA. To order additional copies of this brochure, please contact NRA Grassroots at 800/392-8683.

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Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the "lobbying" arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.