The Line of Fire

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“The Line of Fire,” Ensign, Oct. 1997, 66–67

The Line of Fire

One evening at about midnight in Seattle, Washington, where I worked as a police officer, my partner and I were on duty. A cold breeze was coming off Puget Sound, and a thick blanket of clouds obscured the moon and stars. When my police radio suddenly crackled, a chill gripped the back of my neck.

“A stickup in progress,” came the voice over the radio.

My partner and cousin, Bob, turned to me. “We are not paid enough at times like this. Let’s go.”

We listened to the information coming over the radio: “Two white males … long hair … orange Volkswagen … armed and dangerous.”

It seemed likely to us that these were two young men who were responsible for a string of recent robberies. Suddenly we spotted the orange Volkswagen parked by a curb, unoccupied. We drove two blocks away, where we waited and watched the car. Around 2:30 A.M. we saw two suspects get into the car and drive off.

“Requesting backup,” I said over the radio. “Suspects traveling north from our location.”

A nearby plainclothes unit responded. As we followed the Volkswagen onto one of the many bridges in Seattle, the backup unit passed us both. Then in midspan it stopped, and two policemen jumped out and leveled weapons at the Volkswagen. We pulled up behind the car and jumped out with our weapons raised. “Watch yourself,” I cautioned Bob.

Suddenly two figures ducked out of sight in the front seat. Tension mounted. Here we go—a fight, I thought. In a loud voice I ordered them, “Step out of the car with your hands on your head.”

As the driver raised up and turned toward me, I could see a glint of steel—a gun! All my police training dictated that I shoot immediately in self-defense. At that instant I heard in my mind a calm but authoritative voice say Don’t shoot! I held my fire despite my fear. Expecting a bullet to slam into me, I stepped back and ducked down.

Then I saw that the steel object was nothing more than the buckle to a seat belt! I stood up and ran to the car and opened the door, only to find two very frightened teenage girls inside.

Sagging with relief and filled with gratitude to Heavenly Father, I talked with the girls. It seems that when they had seen two men in front of them with guns—the plainclothes officers—and two policemen behind them also with guns, they thought they had been caught in a cops-and-robbers shootout, so they ducked down. The girls explained they had loaned the car to their boyfriends, who had just returned it.

Later that morning we obtained warrants and arrested the boyfriends, who were responsible for the crime spree. Bob told me, “Cal, I don’t know why I didn’t shoot. I thought you would be killed.” The other officers had also held their fire for reasons they couldn’t explain.

I am thankful that Father in Heaven watched over us and blessed our lives and the lives of others. Two girls are alive today because of a small voice of warning.

Illustrated by Robert Anderson McKay