Monday, August 8, 2011

Why it should never be Departmental policy that high speed vehicle pursuits should be called off if only traffic charges are known and/or involved.

Sunday, in San Diego, another hero died! Not only was Officer Jeremy Henwood, age 36, a four-year veteran of the San Diego Police Department, he was also a Captain in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve. He had already served two combat tours in Iraq, and now he had recently returned home after he completed a year-long deployment in Afghanistan. He had commanded a logistics company. I believe he was assigned to the 4th Marine Logistics Group. Logistics groups are very important and they arrange for the convoys to resupply the front line troops.

Jeremy Henwood originally joined the Marines in the enlisted ranks and he was a sergeant before he became an officer. His initial training was as an infantryman and in 2003 he took part in the assault on Baghdad. Then, in 2004 he participated in the savage fighting at Fallouja. Fallouja was the heart of the notorious Sunni Triangle. How painfully ironic it is that Officer Henwood would survive the violence of the insurgency in Iraq, and the brutality of Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan, only to be assassinated in a senseless murder right here in America.

Officer Henwood was murdered by a 23-year-old male individual. Initial reports, which may not be entirely accurate (they usually aren't), indicated that the subject lived alone in a rented apartment and when he could find work he was a construction worker. He apparently had a minor criminal record that included petty theft and resisting arrest. But, although the murder of Officer Henwood appeared to be the deranged work of some insane madman, the subject apparently had no prior history of mental illness.

Earlier Saturday, before Officer Henwood was murdered, the subject was apparently involved in a shooting at an In-N-Out Burger restaurant, 14 miles away in El Cajon. In this shooting a male individual was sitting with his girlfriend in his vehicle in the parking lot. Suddenly, they were approached by a man who was carrying a shotgun. This man, who apparently was the subject who eventually murdered Officer Henwood, then shot the man in the car in the face, with a single round. Then, he fled the area in a black Audi.

Considering Officer Henwood's Marine Corps service in Iraq it is also a little ironic that the shooting victim from the restaurant was an Iraqi immigrant. And, while he was still in Iraq he even served as a translator for the U.S. military. The man is expected to survive, but with a shotgun round to the face I would imagine he will probably require some extensive plastic surgery. According to initial reports, police investigators had not been able to establish any sort of a relationship between the male shooter and the male victim at the restaurant.

Then, according to media reports, only a few minutes after the shooting at the restaurant an officer spotted the black Audi speeding and gave chase. The officer apparently had no knowledge of the shooting at the restaurant and was only chasing the Audi for traffic. The officer eventually terminated the high speed pursuit of the Audi when their speeds reached 100 m.p.h. The attack on Officer Henwood occurred shortly after this.

The armed subject in the black Audi got behind Officer Henwood's patrol car and flashed his headlights, as if he were trying to get the officer's attention. Then, he pulled up alongside the left side of Officer Henwood's marked unit. As the two cars sat there side by side, either stopped completely, or moving forward very slowly, the individual with the shotgun pointed his weapon out the passenger's window and he shot Officer Henwood in the face. Civilian witnesses tried to help Officer Henwood. One used his police radio to alert the dispatcher that an officer had been shot. They also gave him first aid until paramedics arrived at the scene.

After the unprovoked ambush-like attack on Officer Henwood late Saturday afternoon, the police were able to track down his 23-year old assailant. The police located the suspect and the black Audi at an apartment complex and when they saw a man with a shotgun get into the car, and start to drive away, they moved in. Several marked units blocked the road so the Audi couldn't escape and then the officers moved in to make the arrest. When the suspect reached for the shotgun, the police opened fired. The officers pulled the wounded suspect from his vehicle and called for the paramedics. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

I guess we will never know for sure what this individual was thinking when he savagely attacked Officer Henwood. After all, he had apparently just bought himself a used black Audi sedan, so it would seem that he at least had some positive thoughts of living the good life. Yet, when police investigators eventually searched the subject's apartment they found a two-page rambling suicide note. Although the note suggested that there may have been some financial and mental problems troubling the subject, he did not say how he was going to kill himself, or why.

Officer Henwood died at the hospital, at 1:45 a.m. on Sunday, more than eight hours after he was shot in the face by the subject in the Audi. The police investigation is still ongoing, but as of now the investigators say they have no known motive for the unprovoked and cowardly attack on Officer Henwood. Located outside the downtown police department headquarters there is a granite memorial to all of the San Diego officers who have died in the line of duty. Jeremy Henwood's name will now be added to this memorial, and he becomes the 32nd San Diego officer to die in the line of duty since 1913.

I really hate being a Monday-morning-quarterback, but I have to wonder about that officer who chased the Audi, but then stopped the chase when their speeds reach 100 m.p.h. I wonder, did the officer decide on his own to stop the pursuit, or was he told to stop because their Departmental policy dictated that he should? If he stopped on his own, then I imagine he feels terrible. After all, if he had continued chasing the Audi, and not stopped the pursuit, then Officer Henwood would more than likely not have been shot. But, if he stopped the pursuit because he was told to stop, or Departmental policy indicated he should, then I imagine that officer is probably mad as Hell. I know I would be!

For over twenty-six (26) years I worked at Fort Lauderdale P.D. F.L.P.D. is an excellent agency with good leadership and outstanding officers. Times have changed though, and I know that the F.L.P.D. pursuit policy has changed too. I can almost bet that if the same exact circumstances that happened in San Diego happened in Fort Lauderdale, that the only known reason for the pursuit was a traffic charge (speeding), then I'm certain that a road patrol supervisor WOULD advise the officer to stop chasing the Audi. That's the way it is now at F.L.P.D., and I imagine many other law enforcement agencies too.

Unfortunately, these are the litigation-happy times we live in, and police departments all across America have had to adjust to these new realities. Did this more restrictive sort of a pursuit policy play a hand in getting Officer Henwood shot. God, I hope not!

Officer Jeremy Henwood Family Trust
c/o San Diego Police Officers Association
8388 Vickers Street, San Diego, CA 92111

Gary P. Jones
Law Enforcement Ambassador
National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund

author of: Badge 149 - ''Shots Fired!''