I had just received notification from the Department that I was to receive an award for actions taken at the Curries Woods housing projects. An officer there reported shots fired and I could hear automatic weapons fire both over his radio and now from a distance.
I responded, as did several South District cars. Thinking that they would respond to Heckman Drive I proceeded there. Little did I know they were responding to Merritt, the other side of the complex. That put me in the middle of the gun battle alone, except for the officer pinned down. I quickly scooped him up and out of harm’s way as the battle ended.
It turned out to be a busy time in our department and two other officers also received notification of awards for their bravery. They responded to a disturbance call. That call quickly became deadly when the cause of the disturbance attacked the two officers, disabling one and now strangling the other.
In a last minute effort to save their lives the officer was able to reach for his weapon and shoot the assailant. For their actions they both received honors from the Department and various organizations, as did I.
I was meeting with Moon and Coop, the other officers receiving awards just to talk about the ceremonies upcoming, make sure they know where to meet, what they need to wear (class A uniform, white gloves). We were joking around and laughing that three guys, regular working cops, were finally getting recognition instead of the usual ones that seem to get all the recognition.
As we’re sitting in our patrol cars we hear a call on Randolph Avenue of shots fired, automatic weapons used, no one hit, thankfully. We’re figuring drug wars again, dispute over territory or money. They’re probably headed to the projects where they’ll disappear. Thankfully a pretty good description came out about the car.
Next thing we hear is an East Unit following a car of that description and will stop it at the rear of the Montgomery Projects. We weren’t far from there so we took off racing to the scene. We pull up and make our presence known to the two occupants.
The two East officers are on the driver’s side, one asking the driver for credentials, one standing to the rear of the driver. Moon and Coop were to the rear of the vehicle and I took the passenger side.
I don’t know why my eye caught the movement of the driver before everyone else. I saw him reaching between the seats, look down and he’s reaching for an Uzi submachine gun. I don’t have a shot at him without hitting the two East officers.
So I draw my weapon after yelling gun to alert the officers. Next, I stick my gun hard against the head of the passenger, hoping my bluff will work. I yell for the driver to show his hands or I’ll splatter his friend’s brain all over him. Thank God he complied. We took them out of the car and secured the weapon.
This is the nature of our job. Going from a pleasant conversation, excitedly planning festivities over the next few days of awards ceremonies, then suddenly launched from a cannon into a near life and death confrontation facing imminent death.
We were very fortunate that fate didn’t deal us the death card that night.
Never let yourself drop your guard, never get too relaxed or lulled into a false sense of security.
Captain Robert Cubby served for 38-year years with the Jersey City (NJ) Police Department, now retired. A PTSD survivor, he has been involved in PTSD issues with the CISM team. A prolific author, Captain Cubby focuses on writing about his experiences and solving police problems. He is a National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) instructor about police matters and a frequent conference speaker.