Roll Call: The Kitchen Knife and the 5150

By Mikey, Retired LAPD 

Dispatcher Charleston PDRampart Division, 1992, shortly after the riots things were settling down, different, but settling down. Just as this 19-year veteran of the LAPD thinks he has all figured out, reality back-hands you, square on the face. It was a PM patrol watch, business as usual, when a 5150 WIC (5150 Welfare and Institutional Code describing a mentally ill individual), is broadcast on a street in the south end of the division, boarding South West Division. The information we received was that the teenage son had torn the inside of his house apart, threatened his family with a 15” butcher knife and had fled the home with the knife. 

I responded along with several units and the inside of the house looked exactly as dispatch described. The mother and sister of the suspect were there. They were very afraid and the mother warned us that her son was out of control and they feared for their lives. Several minutes after we had arrived, a South West unit reported that it was following a stolen vehicle, armed and dangerous with four occupants, north bound toward Rampart and they needed back-up. The procession was headed in our direction and would be passing us in a matter of a few minutes. I told my officers that I would stay with the family and they should back the South West unit. 

Things were going well for about ten minutes when at the far end of the street, just east of the house I heard a gut-curdling scream. At the corner standing illuminated by a street light, was the teenage son, knife over his head clutched in his right and pointing in our direction. Mom and sister were standing behind me screaming at the teenager to put the knife down.

silhouette-of-hand-with-knifeWell, I joined the chant as well, as I unholstered my 9mm and told him to drop the knife. I broadcasted a “Help” call, “man with a knife.” The standoff lasted 30 seconds before the teen charged us, knife raised, in a full sprint. I yelled to him that I would shoot if he did not stop. From behind, me I heard the women yell, “don’t shoot him.”

Then it happened. One of the bravest, selfless acts of love I have ever seen. Both women ran toward the man, wrapped their arms around him put their heads down and waited to be brutally knifed or for me to take the shot. I’ll never forget that scene as they held him back from moving any closer to me. At that moment officers arrived and surrounded the trio, but I still had the shot. This is where it all came together for me, 19-years on the department, a tactics, self-defense instructor, Vietnam vet and now this reality.

I heard an officer yell, “Don’t shoot Sarge. He’s holding a twig.” The 15” knife went from a blade to a twig just as fast as the words came out of the officer’s mouth.

The women were pulled away from the man and he was taken into custody. What would the headlines have read and the evening television news described? In my mind’s eye, he WAS holding a 15” knife but in reality, it was a 9” twig. Even with the experience I possessed, the “power of suggestion” had me spring-loaded to the deadly force position.

I included the incident in subsequent tactics classes along with a 15” butcher knife and a 9” twig, the same one the teen used that night. 

cops talkingAnother sergeant was there as the man was taken into custody. The sergeant was a Vietnam veteran as well. He came up behind me and whispered into my ear, “Heard the pounding of the elephant, didn’t you, Mikey?” 

“Did I sound like it?” 

“Yes, you did Mikey. Yes, you did.”

Back on August 10, 2016, Ed Meckle wrote a post about the origin and meaning of this significant phrase. It’s worth your time to click on the link.

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