The Fatal Vortex

by Ingrid Dean

It seems like only yesterday when I was sent to a house alarm call that could have resulted in fatalities. Typically most calls are false alarms. Whether the wind blows open a shutter or a resident accidentally sets off the alarm—usually house alarms are harmless. I believe that only by Divine grace am I alive today to share this story . . .

I pull into the driveway at the same time the key holder arrives. The key holder is the person an alarm company calls when a house alarm goes off. In this case, it is the homeowner’s thirty-year-old son.

I tell the man to stay by his car until I secure the area. He says, “I know my mother is home and everything’s cool, but I don’t know what is going on.”

I check the doors, windows, and garage entranceway for any possible forced entry, but everything looks secure. I say, “Go ahead and open the garage door.” I remind him to stay by his car
while I check the inside of the house.

I enter the dimly lit garage and walk to the door that leads into the house. I knock on the door and announce, “State Police!” and push open the door.

At that moment, a white-haired elderly woman steps out of nowhere and slowly points a .20 gauge shotgun directly in my face!

Even though I have turned on the garage light, she doesn’t seem to notice I am a uniformed trooper. In my attempt to escape the “fatal vortex” and un-holster my weapon, I stumble backward but do not fall. The fatal vortex is that hypothetical space we’re taught about in school; that space shaped like a funnel that you never want to be caught in.

I was definitely at the tip of that funnel. I had no safety zone and no spatial advantage.

As I try not to lose my balance, I hear CLICK. The old lady has actually pulled the trigger! Not only does this sound signify my life may instantly be over, but it also means she means to shoot!

Somehow I know this woman is the resident and not an intruder. I wonder why I didn’t draw my weapon before I stepped into the garage, which is what we are taught to do as a precaution. I am grateful I didn’t because I might have shot her if my gun had been in my hand. I yell at her repeatedly, “I’m a police officer! I’m a police officer! Don’t shoot! Look at my uniform! I’m a police officer!”

The woman’s son starts yelling at her, too. Who knows what this woman is thinking? How can she not see my uniform? It takes both of us to convince her I am the police and not there to hurt her. It is a miracle she does not kill me.

After I settled her down, I asked, “What were you thinking? Didn’t you hear me knocking at the door? Didn’t you hear me say ‘state police’? Why didn’t you call 911? They would have told you who was knocking! When you press the panic button for the alarm, police are supposed to come and help you, right?” (According to the alarm company, she had pressed the panic button.)

As I’m scolding her and trying to regain my composure, I open the double-barrel action to make the weapon safe. Out pops a shotgun shell! I can see that shell moving in slow motion . . . jumping out of the chamber into the air . . . spiraling . . . twirling . . . dancing . . . and then finally hitting the floor with a THUNK and rolling to its final resting place between my two feet. I didn’t have to pick it up to know it was a heavy unspent round and that by the grace of God the gun hadn’t fired.

It humbled me to realize how close I had come to death. And, to make matters worse, I found out she was the widow of a state trooper. I could have killed a fellow trooper’s wife!

I shot the gun outdoors. There was nothing wrong with it! The woman pulled the trigger—I should have been killed.

There are some things that have happened to me in this job that I just don’t talk about. This is one of them. I don’t know why I didn’t shoot that woman, especially after she pulled the trigger. How did I know she was really a “good guy?” Whatever you want to call it—intuition, a sixth sense, or an angel—I depended on it—and we are both alive.

More like this and some of Ingrid’s other work can be found at www.spiritofthebadge.com.

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