It was unusual. That neighborhood – off Scenic Highway – was normally very quiet. But not on that day 23 years ago. On August 1, 1999, at 9:04 PM, a call was dispatched about shots being fired there.
Kenny Willis, Stew Melton, E. J. Caddell, Kristen Brown and Leon Martin headed that way. Most such calls prove to be something other than a dreaded one. Accidental discharge, target practice, car backfire – many solutions are more likely than a dangerous one. But not today. A despondent man was contemplating taking his life. He fired his handgun at least once, but not at himself. Maybe he was firing a test-shot, which is often done. The neighbors, suspicious, called the police.
The officers created a perimeter around the house to contain any harm to neighbors. After their negotiations failed to convince the man to put down the gun, Sgt. Rodney Eagerton called out the SWAT team.
When the team members arrived, Lieutenant Chip Simmons, the SWAT commander, decided on the plan. He, Sgt. Mike McVicker, Sgt. Greg Sievers, and Officer Leon Martin would be the entry team. Sgt. McVicker had the bullet-proof shield. Sgt. Sievers had the beanbag shotgun. Lt. Simmons carried the 12-gauge shotgun as a last resort. Officer Martin had the rear in case of possible ambush.
The team’s objective was to end the standoff without injury. They entered through the front door, followed the hallway through the house and stopped at the back door. Repeated attempts at trying to get the man to put down the gun failed, so action was required.
Chip gave the command for Sgt. Sievers to fire the Bean Bag gun, which he did. Being struck by two bean bag rounds at 300 feet per second will take the wind out of anyone. The man dropped the gun and fell backwards. Sgt. McVicker then rammed him with the shield. Chip grabbed the gun while the man was subdued. Mission successful.
On January 21, 2000, the Pensacola Police Department and the Fraternal Order of Police hosted the annual awards banquet. Chip Simmons, Mike McVicker and Greg Sievers were presented with the department’s highest award, the Gold Medal of Valor. They were also presented medals from the Police and Fireman’s Insurance Association for heroism on August 31, 2000.
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