Into the Kill Zone - David Klinger - E-Book

Into the Kill Zone E-Book

David Klinger

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What's it like to have the legal sanction to shoot and kill? This compelling and often startling book answers this, and many other questions about the oft-times violent world inhabited by our nation's police officers. Written by a cop-turned university professor who interviewed scores of officers who have shot people in the course of their duties, Into the Kill Zone presents firsthand accounts of the role that deadly force plays in American police work. This brilliantly written book tells how novice officers are trained to think about and use the power they have over life and death, explains how cops live with the awesome responsibility that comes from the barrels of their guns, reports how officers often hold their fire when they clearly could have shot, presents hair-raising accounts of what it's like to be involved in shoot-outs, and details how shooting someone affects officers who pull the trigger. From academy training to post-shooting reactions, this book tells the compelling story of the role that extreme violence plays in the lives of America's cops.

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Chapter One: Choosing the Badge and Gun

Chapter Two: Basic Training

Chapter Three: Holding Fire

Chapter Four: Pulling the Trigger

Chapter Five: When the Smoke Clears



About the Author

Praise forInto the Kill Zone

“Into the Kill Zone is unlike anything else in print. It is a must-read for anyone interested in the ofttimes violent world of law enforcement.”

—Robert D. Keppel, Ph.D., author, The Riverman and Signature Killers

“Written by a former police officer turned criminologist—himself once involved in a fatal shooting—Into the Kill Zone offers unique insights into the experiences of officers who have had to make split-second decisions about whether or not to use deadly force in the line of duty. Drawing on scores of firsthand accounts told by police officers, some of them still struggling to deal with the aftermath of shootings in which they have been involved, this gripping book will be of interest to a wide range of readers—from criminologists, social psychologists, and law-enforcement officers to sociolinguists, story analysts, and other humanists concerned with narrative as a basic sense-making strategy.”

—David Herman, professor of English, North Carolina State University

“Into the Kill Zone is one compelling book. It takes the reader inside the hearts and minds of America’s police officers as they face danger and grapple with the awesome power they possess to take human life.”

—Gil Kerlikowske, chief of police, Seattle Police Department

“This is a very special book. No one should presume to discuss police violence until they have read it and thought deeply about what it has to teach those of us who have been fortunate enough not to have faced the decision to use deadly force.”

—Rodney Stark, professor of sociology, University of Washington

“Nobody has ever before done what Klinger has accomplished in Into the Kill Zone. By presenting the most detailed and private thoughts of officers who have shot citizens, he has made a unique and major contribution to the literature on policing.”

—James J. Fyfe, Ph.D., deputy commissioner of training, New York Police Department

Copyright © 2004 by David Klinger. All rights reserved.

Published by Jossey-Bass

A Wiley Imprint

989 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94103-1741

No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, scanning, or otherwise, except as permitted under Section 107 or 108 of the 1976 United States Copyright Act, without either the prior written permission of the Publisher, or authorization through payment of the appropriate per-copy fee to the Copyright Clearance Center, Inc., 222 Rosewood Drive, Danvers, MA 01923, 978-750-8400, fax 978-646-8600, or on the Web at Requests to the Publisher for permission should be addressed to the Permissions Department, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 111 River Street, Hoboken, NJ 07030, 201-748-6011, fax 201-748-6008, e-mail: [email protected].

Jossey-Bass books and products are available through most bookstores. To contact Jossey-Bass directly call our Customer Care Department within the U.S. at 800-956-7739, outside the U.S. at 317-572-3986, or fax 317-572-4002.

Jossey-Bass also publishes its books in a variety of electronic formats. Some content that appears in print may not be available in electronic books.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Klinger, David, date.

Into the kill zone : a cop’s eye view of deadly force / David

Klinger.— 1st ed.

p. cm.

Includes bibliographical references.

ISBN-13 978-0-7879-7375-9 (alk. paper)

ISBN-10 0-7879-7375-0 (alk. paper)

ISBN-13 978-0-7879-8603-2 (paperback)

ISBN-10 0-7879-8603-8 (paperback)

1. Police shootings—United States. 2. Police—United

States—Interviews. I. Title.

HV8138.K56 2004




For my beloved cousin Barry, Who never made it back to tell his story.

For my beautiful bride, Sonia, Whose loving-kindness helped me make peace with my visit.

And for our precious daughter, Carly. May she never have to go there.


This book is the culmination of a journey that began many years ago when, as a young police officer in Los Angeles, I killed a man to save my partner’s life. The journey would not have been successful without the help of numerous people over the years, so I take this space to thank them for their assistance.

My initial load of thanks goes to Bobby Hyde, John Spencer, Lyle Prideaux, and John Shaughnessy, my first two sets of training officers at the 77th Street Division of the LAPD. They put up with my naïveté, showed me the ropes, provided worthy counsel about many things, and most important, they gave me the skills to prevail on that warm night in July 1981 and in several other precarious situations during my tenure as a cop. Other senior officers who played key roles in my early police education include Billy Douglass, Steve Gross, Bob Rysdon, Ed Lindsey, and Nick MacArthur. I also had the pleasure of working for some top-notch supervisors: Joe Ramm, Howard Silverstein, Tim Anderson, and Jack Davenport chief among them. I thank all of these men, plus many other members of the LAPD—most notably, Frank Lipus, John Ix, Elmer Pelligrino, Ernie Haleck, and Ken Wiseman—for their kind support and for putting up with my rough edges in the wake of my visit to the kill zone. In a similar vein, thanks are in order to Steve Harris, Chuck Krieble, Ken Koenig, and the rest of the guys and gals I worked with at the Redmond PD as I wrestled with my experiences in the City of Angels.

I am quite grateful that I had many friends outside law enforcement who also provided support and encouragement in my time of need. Special thanks here go to Lauren Hanna, Andrea Merriman, Susan Bergstrom, Laurie Harris, Tommy Bartholomew, Marcel Moore, Greg Crum, Randy Kyte, Al George, Rob Wall, Casey Roberts, Pat and Al Robinson, Tom and Jane Falkenborg, Lu and Kim Gray, Bruce Wotherspoon, Kelly McAllister, the Shaw Family, Kathy Craig, Jeff Towery, Susan McWilliams, Rick Pearl, and Greg Mattingly.

Dick Bennett, Sandy Baxter, Jim Fyfe, and Ron Weiner at American University helped me shift gears from police work to academe. All four were wonderful teachers, friends, mentors, and advisers and have remained a presence in my professional and personal lives. A special thanks to Ron for suggesting the five-step interview process that I used in the study that led to this book. A special thanks to Jim for showing me how to bring an academic eye to the study of deadly force and for his friendship over the years.

George Bridges, Herb Costner, and Judy Howard at the University of Washington played especially large roles in getting me to the final step in my formal education. They taught me how to think like a sociologist, convinced me to broaden my research horizons, and helped me see how to develop the project that led to this book.

Jackie Hagan and Jan Chafetz at the University of Houston helped me turn my ofttimes turgid prose into readable text and thereby allowed me to secure the tenure I needed to undertake the project that resulted in this book. I also thank Nicky Parham and Alan Stoler, two students at U of H, for the assistance they provided as the project moved forward.

At the University of Missouri-St. Louis, I thank Jennifer Bursik for her input early on in the writing process and Richard Wright for his steadfast support throughout. It’s always good to have quality people in one’s corner. I also thank Laurie Mitchell and Jenna St. Cyr for the great job they did transcribing the hundreds of hours of tapes that I developed during the interviews I conducted.

A double thanks to Jenna for her input regarding the selection of some of the stories that appear in the book and for reading early drafts of material as I produced it. In this connection, I also thank Theresa Wall for reading the stories as I put them together and Cyn Morris, Callie Rennison, and Melody Martin for their suggestions on early drafts.

And last, but certainly not least where crafting this book is concerned, I thank Scott Hoffman, my agent at PMA Literary and Film Management, and Alan Rinzler, my editor at Jossey-Bass, for their diligent work in bringing it to print.

Thanks are also in order for Sam McQuade of the Rochester Institute of Technology and Robert Kaminski of the University of South Carolina. They both worked at the National Institute of Justice at the time I conducted the research that led to this book. I simply could not have conducted the research or written this book without their assistance. In this connection, I am obliged to point out that the research was funded as award number 97-IJ-CX-0029 from the Office of Justice Programs, National Institute of Justice, Department of Justice, and that the points of view in this book do not necessarily represent the official position of the U.S. Department of Justice.

Thanks also to the several men and women who helped me identify the initial group of officers that I interviewed to set the research in motion. Identifying them might compromise the identity of some of the officers I interviewed, so they will remain anonymous. You know who you are and I thank you profusely.

Profuse thanks also to each of the officers who so graciously gave their time and trust to me during the course of the research. This book quite literally could not have been written without you. So thanks from the bottom of my heart.

Finally, I thank my family for their unwavering support over the years: My big sister, Debbie, for being there when I needed her. My little sister, Judy, for never doubting I could do it. My mom, for innumerable acts of generosity and for never letting me know how worried she was until long after I left law enforcement. My dad, for letting me vent when I needed to. And most especially, my wife and daughter.

Sonia has been my partner for nearly two decades, encouraging me every step of the way, putting up with my foibles, and sustaining me through thick and thin. Carly has been the apple of my eye since she came into this world a dozen years ago, bringing joy to my heart every day and always reminding me what’s important in life.

I thank you both for everything you’ve done to make this book possible.


Edward Randolph was twenty-six years old when I killed him. I was twenty-three.

I first laid eyes on him less than a minute before I shot him, so I didn’t know his name, how old he was, or anything else about him before I ended his life. I didn’t even get a good look at his face before I pulled the trigger, and he died a few minutes after that. I was about fifteen feet away when his heart stopped, watching the paramedics tending to the wounds that I had inflicted moments before. They had all come from a single bullet that slammed into his left side just below his armpit, bored a hole through his left lung, nicked his aorta, and tunneled through his right lung before coming to a stop just under the flesh on the right side of his chest. He died on his back, naked, the paramedics having cut off his clothes to check his body for additional wounds. There were a few scrapes and contusions that he had suffered as my partner, four other officers, and I wrestled from him the butcher’s knife that he frantically grasped in his right hand, rolled him onto his stomach, and handcuffed him. And there were a few more that he got when two of the other officers dragged him from the sidewalk where I had shot him to the shadow of a car that was parked nearby. But his only serious injuries came from the bullet that I had pumped into his chest. As I watched the paramedics fighting a losing battle to save him from these wounds, his bladder released its acrid contents, sending an arc of urine toward his head. I knew that people often void their bladders upon death, so when I saw the stream tail off a few seconds later, I knew that Edward Randolph was dead. And that I had killed him.

When I first saw the man I was about to kill, he was standing across the street from me, by himself, seventy-five feet or so away. It was a few minutes after 10:30 P.M. on July 25, 1981, just four months after I had graduated from the Los Angeles Police Academy. My partner, Dennis Azevedo, and I were on the north side of Vernon Avenue, crouched behind a parked car, our pistols trained on a house where just minutes earlier an armed burglar had shot at the home owner.

That was where we’d deployed after responding to a call for assistance from the officers who’d been assigned the call. We’d been directed to meet a sergeant one block west of the house in question, and when we screeched to a halt there, he told us that the shooter was still inside, that other officers had already taken up positions on the east side of the house, and that we needed to secure its west side to keep the gunman from escaping into the night. He also told us that we needed to clear the south side of Vernon Avenue of the dozens of citizens who had gathered to watch yet another midsummer’s night drama involving the cops and the crooks on the mean streets of South Central Los Angeles. As Dennis and I ran toward the house along the north side of Vernon, we shouted and motioned for the throng on the south side to clear the area, lest they get shot by the gunman whose escape we sought to prevent. As we ran east, the crowd ran west, and when they hit the first corner, they took a quick left out of the danger zone—all but the man who was about to die, that is. He never took a step.

As soon as the citizens started running, I turned my attention to the house that contained the gunman—I just assumed that all the spectators would flee once they understood the danger in the house across from them—so I didn’t notice that one of them hadn’t budged as Dennis and I moved along. We stopped in front of the house next to the one that contained the gunman, ducking down on the safe side of a white Cadillac that was parked in the driveway. After a few seconds, I caught a glimpse of a lone figure across the street in the corner of my right eye. I quickly glanced over my right shoulder. That’s when I first saw him—just standing there, staring in our direction, with a gym bag hanging from his left shoulder. I yelled for him to leave the area. Then Dennis did. Then we both yelled some more. But the man didn’t budge. He just stood there, staring at us.

We didn’t know who he was or why he was standing there. Maybe he didn’t speak English, I thought, so he couldn’t understand what we wanted him to do. Maybe he couldn’t hear what we were saying over the din of the police helicopter orbiting overhead. Or maybe he was deaf. All we knew for sure was that whoever he was, he was in grave danger, standing in the open directly across the street from a house that contained a man who had already tried to kill one citizen. Because the man was in danger, Dennis told me he was going to run across the street, get the guy out of there, then come back to join me. He holstered his weapon and took off.

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!