On Watch: The Hazards of the Job

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Let me begin by saying it has been a busy two weeks, for both the HPD in general and myself  in particular. So here goes. In the last two weeks, I’ve been assaulted three times while on duty. I also was promoted to Senior Officer.

The first assault was on Wednesday, June 22.  I was arresting a woman for narcotics  when she resisted. She got a wrist away from me and pulled a small folding knife. She tried stabbing me in the leg. I was lucky, she didn’t get any major arteries or nerves. I ended up spraying her with pepper spray. I was on desk duty for a good two days after that.

A few days later we were busy with a nasty fight at Slim Goodies Diner.That was a huge mess, the suspect was in bad shape, having tried to rob someone at knife point and instead got a knife himself. Less than 18 hours later on July 1,  we had a stabbing at the Poison Apple Tattoo Parlor. I was there, first supervisor on scene. The suspect was cornered by two new officers in an alley, and then assaulted one of them with a chain. They managed to subdue him.

Officer Strazytski where he was Stunned

A few hours Later, by the Twister, I was arresting a suspect for possession of a knife when her friend- a male in drag- pulled out a stun gun and stunned me. I have to admit I made a tactical error- I turned my back on someone, but at the same time, I didn’t expect the man to do something like that. I ended up on the ground, taking the NLSD ride.  They both ran off while I was down. I was lucky there. While I was “riding” the fifty-thousand volts of electricity, I  was pretty much helpless. It took me a few seconds after it ended to get up again.

The third assault was on the night of July 3. I was attempting to restrain an injured victim, per the order of Sergeant, for my safety while getting her to the hospital. The victim, who shall remain nameless, threw a mixture of sand and black pepper in my face- a kind of poor man’s pepper spray. I recall hearing that she was known for a pathological hatred of Law Enforcement in general, and HPD officers in particular.

One of the many things they tell you about becoming a police officer is that it is hazardous. I can attest to that. I was assaulted several times when I was working out of Toledo’s Central District Station. I was also shot in the line of duty back there, back in 2003. The story on that was we had a shooting maybe thirty minutes earlier and the Tactical Services Section- my unit- had been called in to help search the area. TPD was having a busy night on that particular day- this was not the only shooting , nor was it the only major incident that evening . The shooter had run off towards the Brand Whitlock Homes Housing Project- the Whitlock Homes was the oldest housing project in Toledo, built in the 1930s.

Toledo Housing Project
The Brand Whitlock Homes, showing the building behind which Officer Strazytski was shot.

It was after dark, and he was known to be  a shooter, so we put on plate carrier vests and  we went in searching for him on foot. I’d separated from my partner during the search- we had to move between the buildings seeking this guy. We didn’t know if he lived there or had just decided to hide in the sprawling project. We were working our way slowly through the area, gun in one hand, flashlight in the other. I was coming around a corner when he spotted me just before I spotted him. He fired a right as I ordered him to drop his weapon. He  had a Mossberg .410 Shotgun that had been sawed off- illegally I might add. His first round, a 1/5th Ounce lead slug impacted on my vest. It knocked me down hard. His second round, a load of 1/2 Oz of #9  birdshot hit me in the left shoulder, some of it on the upper strap of my vest, the rest hit my flesh. I returned fire two handed despite the pain of the bird shot in my shoulder- he’d fired at a range of 15 yards or so- he fired another 2 rounds of birdshot, both of which were well aimed, but impacted on my vest.  I fired all six of the rounds I had my Colt Python .357- TPD had and forthat matter has a liberal policy on Service weapons, so I was allowed to carry the Python on duty. Of the six rounds I fired, 4 hit him, 2 in the chest, 1 in the shoulder, and 1 in this abdomen. the two that missed, impacted into a wall of the building behind him.  He went down hard and started screaming. It was probably less than thirty seconds later, my partner arrived. He called for a supervisor, the Detectives and an Ambulance crew. We were both taken to St. Vincent’s ER. My wounds were relatively minor. They hurt pretty bad, but were not life threatening. His were another matter. My rounds had inflicted serious wounds on him. I don’t recall how many hours they had him on the table in the OR, but it was a while. I ended up going before the shooting review board. They found that it was on policy and fully justified.

In another column, I’ll explain what it is like to go through a shooting or use of force review.

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