On Alert
February 2004

“On Alert,” Liahona, Feb. 2004, 42–43

On Alert

While sitting in my police car watching for speeders one afternoon in June 1996, I heard on my radio a report of an argument between a convenience store clerk and some customers. Two junior officers were being sent to the store. I wasn’t seeing many speeders, so I decided to drive to the store to offer help. I felt impressed to drive along a seldom-used road.

Before long I heard on the radio that the first officer to arrive on the scene was Ben. I was concerned because he was a newly hired officer with little experience.

As I continued on the back road, I heard the dispatcher report that the customers at the store were drunk and becoming combative. I was somewhat relieved when I heard that the second officer, Rocky, who was a little more experienced, had arrived at the scene.

Then came a report that the customers, four of them, had just left in a blue compact car. Still driving toward the scene, I heard another police jurisdiction broadcast a description of the car and its occupants and request officers to look for it. Rocky’s voice came on the radio, giving the direction the car was last seen traveling.

Moments later, I saw the car speeding toward me. My heart sank when I heard someone advise that an officer had been assaulted. I guessed that Ben, the rookie officer who was first on the scene, had been attacked.

I quickly turned around and began to follow the car, which then pulled over and stopped as if waiting for me to pass. Believing that the people in the car had just assaulted a police officer, I followed different tactics than I might have otherwise, and all my senses were on alert. I turned on my emergency lights and stopped my car some distance behind the vehicle. After informing the dispatcher that I had the car stopped, I drew my gun and waited for backup. About a minute later Rocky arrived to assist me.

We began to call each person out of the car at gunpoint, one at a time. Rocky interviewed each person. In the meantime our sergeant arrived with an off-duty officer who, it turned out, had been assaulted only verbally by two of the men in the blue car. Ben was uninjured and was still at the store interviewing witnesses.

The four men were arrested. Inside their car was a semiautomatic assault rifle and several boxes of ammunition. Later we discovered that the rifle had been modified to function like a machine gun. We also learned that one of the men arrested was a gang member with a long history of violence, especially against the police.

After our police reports were finished, we conducted a debriefing, during which I recounted the events as I remembered them. I told the others I had heard that the people in the blue car had assaulted a police officer. The room grew quiet for a moment, and then the sergeant said that no one on any of the radio frequencies had said anything about a police officer being assaulted. I looked around the room, and all agreed that no one had said anything about an officer being assaulted. I told them I had definitely heard someone report it.

Ultimately I concluded that the Holy Ghost had spoken to me in such a way that I would listen at a critical time. Had I not heard that an officer had been assaulted, I might have been less cautious—and I might even have lost my life.

I am deeply grateful for the voice of inspiration that put me on alert that day.

  • Joel Fairfield is a member of the Stevensville First Ward, Stevensville Montana Stake.