The gloves had to go.
Despite the bitter conditions and bone-chilling drizzle, it was necessary to go barehanded. There was no way to change a camera lens and handle a notebook and ink pen with gloves on.
Standing in the elements on a street corner Wednesday night had not been part of the plan.
Minutes earlier, a different evening was anticipated. After settling onto my basement couch with the dog at my side, a routine discussion about supper plans was interrupted by a telephone call.
That’s when I first heard about a shooting in Radcliff.
About 11 phone calls and a 14-mile drive later, I was pulling on a neon-yellow safety vest over my coat and walking past emergency vehicles toward a roadblock on North Woodland Drive.
Radcliff police had encountered a burglary suspect who fired on officers and was holed up inside his apartment.
Met at the roadblock by Bryce Shumate, Radcliff’s public information officer, I was able to watch the drama unfold toward an unpredictable conclusion. As you might expect, there’s much more to it than a news story will hold.
Here are a few observations For what it’s worth, these are things that never make it into the notebook but may offer some insight about that night.
When you are being escorted by a police officer to an appropriate vantage point, don’t get a step ahead. Shumate applied a body block that would make any hockey player proud. It knocked me off stride but not as much as his warning. “Stay behind me. I don’t know what kind of weapon he might have and if he starts shooting it will hit me, not you.”
As always, there’s a lot of standing and waiting amid these tense situations. Most of the next half-hour was spent talking about the pending marriage of Shumate’s daughter, her college studies and his son’s development into a source of parental pride.
Unexpected things happen when police and emergency crews take over your neighborhood. In this case, all the flashing lights upset a dog that broke free and romped through the area. The owner and a friend stood outside the police perimeter repeatedly shouting the dog’s name.
Radcliff’s police and fire departments have a mutual respect and excellent working relationship. It was demonstrated here as fire trucks blocked streets, diverted traffic and stopped the curious while uniformed officers dealt with the developing situation.
The coordination of multiple police departments was evident. Two Hardin County sheriff’s vehicles quietly preceded me in traffic headed north to Radcliff toward the activity. Because RPD had its on-duty staff all occupied, the deputies temporarily handled other patrol responsibilities in the city while Radcliff called out another shift of officers.
Things move quickly when Kentucky State Police’s special response team arrived. Within minutes, officers were breaking a rear window of the apartment and soon after an all-clear was sounded.
Before KSP’s arrival, other police departments had sent officers to assist. At the heart of the standoff was Vine Grove Police Chief Kenny Mattingly. When the tension subsided and KSP began its investigation, there was a moment of warmth and appreciation as Mattingly and Radcliff Chief Jeff Cross shared a brief shoulder-to-shoulder man hug expressing both thanks and relief that the situation ended.
Finally, if you are looking for a model of leadership and service, I should mention that Mayor J.J. Duvall also was on the scene. He stayed clear and allowed the police decision makers to do their jobs. But when the scene quieted Duvall stepped up to check on everyone’s welfare. When KSP gave the OK to clear the street, Duvall went to work helping move police cars and other official vehicles so officers could concentrate on their duties. Another above and beyond example of service that night.
The situation ended poorly for the apartment resident and burglary suspect who police say fired on three officers. The coroner’s preliminary investigation shows he took his own life.
But thanks to the coordinated effort of many public servants, the situation was stabilized quickly and a shootout controlled effectively. Although one officer was struck in the ankle, they all escaped safely and looked after neighbors in the Seminole Road apartment house and helped other residents get to safety.
Watching it unfold from a chilly sidewalk nearly two blocks away, one thought repeatedly came to mind: Thank the Good Lord for people willing to wear a police officer’s uniform.
Ben Sheroan is editor of The News-Enterprise. He can be reached at (270) 505-1764 or email@example.com.
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