Advocate: Every month, we have lunch and talk about the things that have happened to officers during regular patrols. We joke about some of these things, but then someone takes a shot at you guys, and it’s not so funny anymore. What is it like living with an officer and hearing these stories about shootings and chases and whatever every night?
Julia: As long as I’ve known Rick, he’s done this kind of work. I’m a pharmacist and I come home with some pretty weird stories, too. But this stuff is fascinating. I wouldn’t want to do it myself, but I love living vicariously.
Rick: I’m glad she doesn’t worry, because it’s a difficult job as it is, and if she worried all of the time, it would be a lot tougher.
Joe: I enjoy the stories and hearing about the different things that go on. I’m concerned about Pam, so I know what’s happening on a day-to-day basis, it makes me feel better about her job.
Advocate: Were you concerned about marrying a policeman, you know, the safety aspects of it?
Julia: It wasn’t a factor. We don’t talk about it regularly. A lot of people ask: ‘Don’t you worry?’ What good would that do? I can’t spend the rest of my life worrying. He’s really cautious, and I know in his heart he really enjoys being out there on a bike and helping people in the community, and I know he does a good job at what he does.
Of course, it’s always in the back of your mind. But we treat each day pretty specially, always trying to leave in the morning or whenever on good terms, because we know what can happen.
Advocate: What did you do, or how did you respond, when you heard about the shooting?
Joe: I was training, and I heard this voice on the radio saying: ‘Is 845 (Joe’s element number) on the air?’ I went to check 10 (a general conversation channel), and I answered. It was Pam, and she asked if I was close to Reiger and Fitzhugh, and if I could stop by. And I couldn’t, because I was training. But after I hung up, I started thinking that something didn’t sound right, so I went to the car and punched up the computer, and there was a service call, but I read it, or misread it, saying that (element number) 1021 (Janich) had been shot by four suspects. I figured that Rick had been shot and that Pam had shot somebody who shot Rick.
Well, I got down there in a big hurry.
Rick (laughing): A real big hurry.
Pam (laughing): Yeah, his car was smoking.
Joe: I guess my face showed it, but I was worried.
Advocate: When you got home that night, did you start going over every element of the shooting and, you know, start getting advice on what you should have done or what you did wrong?
Rick: We didn’t get home that night until 9 p.m. or something like that, because of all of the paperwork you have to fill out for this type of thing. I don’t even remember talking about it that much.
Joe: I don’t know how Pam felt, but when I was shot at, all I saw was the muzzle flash, and there is a feeling of helplessness. You can’t hit the ground fast enough.
Julia: I remember the one thing we talked about was how glad Rick was that he didn’t have to shoot.
Advocate: Julia, what was your response to the shooting?
Rick: When Joe got there, I used his mobile phone to call my wife. And I remember her first words: She said, ‘No kidding?’
Julia: And that is an exact quote.
Rick: I wanted her to get that right information, because you never know what might come out on the radio or TV.
Julia: It took Rick 11 years to get shot at. That’s pretty remarkable, really.
Joe: After Pam came home, she told me more in detail about what happened, but we didn’t really talk about it that much as to what she did.
Pam: Well, that’s not really true, because I did talk about that I made a couple of mistakes. And it’s important to learn from that. Like, I mis-identified where we were (when she radioed for help) – and you need to know where you are when things start happening.
Rick: Fortunately, the mistakes made weren’t life-threatening types of things.
Advocate: How about other family members? (Neither officer has children, and their parents do not live in Dallas.) What do they say about your job?
Rick: The only person who ever really worries about me is my dad. The night of the shooting, just by coincidence, my parents called, and Julia had to tell them about it. I mean, what could she do? Anyway, when I got home, I called them back, and that phone barely rang one time, and my dad answered it. He must have sitting on top of it. ‘Rick,’ he said, ‘are you OK?’
Pam: Joe’s dad thinks I should be sitting on a shelf somewhere, I think. He calls me ‘princess’, and he doesn’t understand why I’m out here.
Joe: That’s all he does is worry.
Pam: My parents, as it happens, called that night, too. They try not to tell me what to do, because they know I’ll do what I want anyway. But they called my grandparents to tell them about the shooting and my grandparents thought I should get another job.
Advocate: It seems unusual to me that parents would be more worried than spouses. It’s hard to believe you guys are so calm about it – my wife wouldn’t be too happy about me becoming a cop.
Julia: We see it every day. We know what happens, and they don’t.
Joe: It sounds corny, but it all starts with love. You have to be strong and understanding about what happens with this job. If you get involved in a shooting, it takes a lot of time, you come home late…someone has to understand the job to stay married, I think.
Rick: There has to be a lot of trust.
Joe: There’s no set lifestyle. You never know what might happen, or when.
Pam: I think stress is a factor. Until you’ve actually seen what we’ve seen, I don’t know how it can be explained.
Julia: I don’t know how they maintain such a positive outlook, having seen what they see. I just don’t see how they do it.
Pam: We all go in this line of work pretty young; I’m 26 now. I’ve had people die in my arms and gone into rooms with brains still dripping off the wall (after a shooting).
One particular thing I remember is a guy shooting himself in the head with a 30-06 (a type of rifle) and blowing his brains everywhere. And then a week later, Joe comes home and says he wants to buy a 30-06, and I just couldn’t say yes. I just didn’t want one in the house. Every time I think of a 30-06, I think of that guy.
The moral of the story is you need to block it out, but it’s not always possible.
Advocate: I know the guys who took a shot at you were arrested. What has happened to them?
Pam: They walked (were released), because the witness couldn’t positively identify which one shot at us, and we couldn’t either. After the arrest, they (police investigators) checked their hands for (gun) powder to see which one did the shooting, and it turned out that every one of the four had been shooting the gun that day.
Rick: My father was all ready to come down for the trial and everything.
Pam: I haven’t even told my mom, yet. I keep telling her the investigation is still going on and stuff like that. I just can’t tell her they walked. She’ll be too upset.
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