Officer’s Fight for Life   9 Crucial Survival Lessons P 2
copyright ccijax 2006

Charles Remsberg

First she caught up with him on a parkway along the street and shoved him to his hands and knees. She had hold of his coat but before she could get a body grip, he pushed up, easily pulled out of the jacket and took off again. "That's why gangbangers never wear their coats closed," she told PoliceOne. "And they tend to wear a couple, so if they wiggle out of one they still have an outer garment."

The foot chase continued down an "extremely dark" gangway between two bungalows. Milovich-Fitzsimmons caught the driver again in an alley behind some garages and pushed him against a wrought-iron fence. "Get down on the ground!" she yelled.

Instead, "he whips around and starts fighting." During the tussle, her shoulder mike popped off, swinging around her legs out of reach for calling for help. Milovich-Fitzsimmons felt no panic. Through a decade's experience, the 39-year-old, trim, blond officer with a tough-but-fair reputation was accustomed to scrapping with suspects and had never encountered a situation she couldn't control. "I was thinking very clearly, giving basic commands to myself to stay in the fight," she recalls. "I couldn't understand why he was so violent, though." Unaware of the kidnapping, she thought she was dealing just with a run-of-the-mill hot car.

At a point when Milovich-Fitzsimmons grabbed her adversary by the shirt, he tripped and fell to the ground. "Stay down!" she yelled. He raised his hands for a moment, "teetering on his ass" and looking beyond her, evidently checking for her partner. Then he lunged toward her, grabbed the butt of her holstered S&W 9mm and used it as leverage to pull himself up.

"I could feel the top strap unsnap and the holster open," Milovich-Fitzsimmons says. "It was the first time my weapon had ever been threatened. I thought, 'I'm in big trouble here.'"

What she calls "Neanderthal thoughts" guided her-Reach here! Do this! "Very loud, very basic, like someone yelling at me in my head." She fought to keep her gun in her Level II holster while the 'banger continued to yank at it with one hand while trying to smash her in the face with his other.

Finally she managed to break away from him and pull her gun. "Get on the ground!" she screamed. He lunged for her again. She squeezed the trigger and fired a round, "the first time I'd ever shot my weapon on duty. As soon as I pulled the trigger, I knew it was a good shoot."

Yes and no. The round went through the suspect's left hand and through his sleeve-then, incredibly, ricocheted off his forehead and ended up in the doorframe of a nearby garage.