The Good Guy with the Shotgun

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From the book, “Stories of Pensacola’s Finest,” available on Amazon.

By Mike Simmons

January 16, 1991

            “My daddy’s going to kill my brother!” He has a shotgun and said he’s going to kill him. Daddy said that Charles Jr. has been sleeping with that whore and it’s disrespectful.” Cliff Lyster and Steve Rankin had answered a call about a family disturbance, and they were talking to the daughter.

“So, your father is going to kill his son because he slept with a prostitute?”

“Sleeping with her wasn’t the problem. It was WHERE he did it…in Daddy’s bed!” she explained. “He defiled it! Y’all have to stop him!”

            “Okay…were they driving?”


            “What kind of ca…”

            “There they go!” she shouted, pointing over their shoulders. “Stop them!”

Officer Cliff Lyster

            The officers turned and saw two vehicles, a small blue car, and a white Cadillac, racing erratically east on Belmont Street. Without a word between them, both men jumped into their cruisers and gave chase. The parade sped through the residential neighborhood, running stop signs and ignoring speed limits. Five blocks later, the blue car turned north on 11th Avenue and suddenly stopped. Lyster, directly behind the Cadillac, slammed on his brakes and, as policemen are trained to do, immediately exited his cruiser.

Officer Steve Rankin

            Charles Robinson (not his real name) was a fifty-eight-year-old man who had raised his entire family in Pensacola. He was a likable guy. He always had a kind word to say to police officers whenever their paths crossed.

            But on this evening, Charles seemed oblivious that officers were even present. He got out of the Cadillac looking at the other car and had a shotgun in his hands! When he took steps toward the blue car, Cliff yelled at him to stop. He completely ignored the officer.

            “At least there is some protection from the shotgun blast inside the car,” Cliff thought to himself. He couldn’t help but wonder why the car didn’t just leave – drive away!

Officer Lyster’s cruiser on the scene

            Not only did it not leave, but to Cliff’s surprise, the driver, a younger man, got out and started walking boldly toward Charles. For a split-second, Cliff thought this was going to be a re-creation of an old western shootout. Then he saw that the younger man wasn’t even armed! Was he crazy? He brought his chest to a shotgun fight!

            Again, Cliff yelled orders for Charles to stop and drop the shotgun, and again Charles ignored him. Cliff, a crack shot at the range, fired two rounds from his Heckler and Koch 9mm pistol at Charles. Didn’t even flinch. Cliff repeated the process – no good.

            Steve, who had parked beside Cliff on his left, yelled at him as he approached the firefight. With both men hollering orders, Charles looked at them briefly, taking care not to aim his gun at them. Then he turned his gaze back toward his first target and took aim.

Two Pensacola Police cruisers on the scene

            Both officers responded in the only way possible. Steve fired two rounds from his Smith & Wesson Model 10 .38 caliber pistol and Cliff fired two more rounds.

            It wasn’t supposed to be like this. Both officers were expert shooters, and they were only about 20 feet away. Charles didn’t even wince as they do in the movies when they get a flesh wound. Maybe they missed him, but they both couldn’t be THAT bad! Cliff thought to himself “I know an officer doesn’t shoot as well under pressure as he does at the shooting range, but I must be a terrible shot!”

And if they had hit him good, he would have fallen back ten feet. They had both seen Clint Eastwood and Mel Gibson movies, and they knew how a man reacted when he got shot. This was wrong.

            In desperation, both officers fired again. This time, Steve shot three times and Cliff shot three more for a total of 14 rounds. Charles seemed to be slowing now. He dropped the gun and fell. Cliff and Steve called for an ambulance, a supervisor, and a Crime Scene unit. They immediately moved the shotgun out of the way and began administering life-saving measures to Charles.

            Cliff and Steve’s sergeant, Cliff Frances, was on the scene within a matter of minutes. Sgt. Frances was one of those old cops that was no stranger to scrapes. He handled the scene like the professional he was.

            “Fourteen rounds in all, huh?” Sgt. Frances asked.

The crime scene identifying the shell casings

            “Sorry, Sarge,” Cliff said. “I thought I was a better shot than that.”

            “But we had to have hit him at least once!” Steve protested. “After all, he eventually went down!”

            “Once?” Cliff asked as if it was a rhetorical question. “Y’all hit him eight times!” It turned out that he was hit five times with a 9mm and three times with a .38. Pretty good shooting under stress. 

Charles was taken to Sacred Heart Hospital where he underwent surgery for his wounds. When he had recovered enough to be discharged from the hospital, he was placed under arrest for Aggravated Assault.

On January 25, 1992, both officers were recognized for their dedication to duty when they were awarded the Pensacola Police Department’s Bronze Cross at the 13th annual Fraternal Order of Police Awards banquet and ceremony held at the Pensacola Hilton Hotel.

Cliff’s report said it all “I fired because I thought the younger man’s life was in danger.” Good job.


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