Charles E. Richardson

Waking everyday with your head on a swivel, hoping to survive

wmarshall@macon.com

What is this world coming to? For those of you who think I’m talking about politics, think again. That’s the last thing on my mind. Friday another tragedy hit the Middle Georgia law enforcement community. Deputy Commanderl Patrick Carothers of the U.S. Marshal Service, was shot and killed while serving a warrant on Dontrell Montese Carter at a trailer in Long County near Ludowici.

Carothers and his team, the Southeast Regional Fugitive Task Force, knew Carter was dangerous. Carter was being sought for attempted murder of police officers, domestic violence and unlawfully discharging a weapon in Sumter County, South Carolina. According to a release from the U.S. Marshals Office in Washington, D.C., Carothers was shot with a rifle as they attempted to enter the trailer.

Any loss of life is tragic, but this one come on the heels of the deaths of Peach County deputies Sgt. Patrick Sondron and Daryl Smallwood on Nov. 6. Their funerals were just a little over a week ago. When it rains it pours.

There used to be a time when even hardened criminals wouldn’t shoot at a police officer. They knew that nothing good would come from it. One of three things would happen: They would either catch a very long prison sentence, even if they missed, a death penalty if they didn’t or they would end up dead.

But, today’s criminals don’t seem smart enough to figure out that simple calculation. Maybe they’ve watched too many movies or played too many video games where they can just press a button and voilà, get a new life. Oh how I wish it were so. I know the wives and children of Sondron, Smallwood and now Carothers wish it were so. Carothers has five children.

Sondron and Smallwood lost their lives because of what? The accused, 57-year-old Ralph Stanley Elrod Jr., was upset with people riding four-wheelers on the road by his house. I don’t know the rest of the story. I’m sure there’s more to it. Here’s what I do know: Whatever was going on there was no justification for pulling a gun and shooting the deputies.

In the case of Carothers, Carter obviously wanted to go out in a blaze of what he perceived as glory. Some call it suicide by cop. Not to get all religious on you, but in a blink of an eye, Carothers went in one direction and Carter another. Yes, there is Hell to pay.

These incidents are happening with disturbing regularity. Just last Thursday, Canonsburg (about 20 miles southwest of Pittsburgh), Pennsylvania, police officers Scott Bashioum and Jimmy Saieva answered a domestic dispute at a duplex. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “As Officer Bashioum stepped out of his vehicle, a bullet struck him. He died a short while later. Officer Saieva didn’t even make it out of his patrol car before he was shot and wounded.” When the shooting stopped Officer Bashioum, the suspected shooter, Michael Cwiklinski and his pregnant wife, Dalia Elhefny Sabae, were dead.

On Nov. 2, Urbandale, Iowa, police Officer Justin Martin and Des Moines, Iowa, police Sgt. Anthony “Tony” Beminio were ambushed as they sat in their patrol cars.

One thread seems to run through the recent assaults on law enforcement. The attackers aren’t interested in a fair fight. I know that’s an old-fashioned notion, but when I was a young man as long as it was one-on-one fight, even if it was your best friend, the code of honor said you had to stay out of it until someone from the opposition jumped in. That gave you the green light to jump in, too.

There is no code today for anybody or anything. Law enforcement never knows what kind of situation they’re walking into. Two years ago, the call for help came in Monroe County and Deputy Jeff Wilson and Deputy Michael Norris answered the call. A man, turns out to have been Christopher Keith Calmer, was reported to be attempting to commit suicide. It’s alleged he shot both deputies, killing Norris.

So what do we learn from all of this? There’s an old expression, “Walk a mile in my shoes.” Law enforcement has come under a glaring light in the very recent past. I’m not here to say the criticism is not all undeserved. I am here to say that everyone has to take a deep breath. It’s hard to live with your head on a swivel, knowing that at anytime someone you’ve never seen before could decide that today is your day to die.

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