The Enemy From Behind the Blue Line

Saturday May 7, 2016. The shift was exceptionally slow. We did not have any major calls nor stops all night. At about 2230 hours, I decided I was hungry, so I got my “fat kid” on. I sat in my squad car, eating McDonalds, as I texted a friend about seeing a movie after work.

Of course, at 2245 hours, 15 minutes before the end of my shift, my beat partner decides to make his first traffic stop of the night. He radios he is “code-4” and quickly says he does not need any help. I think nothing of it, this happens daily. I finished my McDonalds and headed back toward post for shift change.

Ten Minutes Before Shift Change

Ten minutes before shift change, I am driving west toward post. A vehicle turns east, from the south, onto my road. I see it has no headlights illuminated. I do a U-turn and try to catch the vehicle. Before I can catch it, it turns south onto a side-street, and parks in a driveway.

I think to myself, no harm, no foul, I want to get out of here as soon as possible. I decide not to make a stop on the vehicle and simply let the driver know of the traffic violation. However, I stop my squad car just south of the drive and I roll my window down. I hear, “F*** you Scharlow!”

The Fight Is On

At once, I unbuckle my seatbelt and begin scanning for the source of the s**t-talking. I see a white male running at me. As a result, I exit my squad car and put my hand up just in time to stop the advance of my attacker. He punches me multiple times in the head and neck. I try to get closer to minimize the effects of his blows.

Blocking punches with one arm, I use the other to radio for help. Nothing! Caught between the open door, my vehicle, and my attacker, I deploy my Taser, hitting him in the chest. Nothing! I push the Taser into his chest. Finally, I am able to push him off me.

I raise my left arm yelling, “STOP” as I grab for my weapon with my right hand.

Getting Shot

I see him stop and pull something from his pocket.

I do not hear anything. All I see is his black silhouette backlit by the streetlights. I see a flash. Who the f*** just hit me with a sledgehammer?

My right arm burns. My hand tingles and I feel fluid drip down my arm.

I look. It is blood.

Returning Fire

Still grasping the weapon in my injured arm, I return fire, although I do not know how many rounds. The slide locks back. I see my attacker get up off the ground. He runs into the house. I take a knee, reload and begin looking for cover.

Next, I run to my squad car. I get an overwhelming feeling that this is a bad idea. Instead, I take cover behind the building directly across from the residence. I position myself to see the entrance of the house. I again try to use my radio.

‘Shots Fired, I’m Hit’

“METCAD, 6G22, shots fired, I’m hit.” There is no Response. “METCAD, 6G22, shots fired, I’m hit.”

This time, METCAD acknowledges.

My attacker exits the house he took refuge within, armed with and AK47. He opens fire, shooting into the driver’s side of my squad car.

Luckily my training took over and I was able to fight through this attack. Although my attacker fired many more rounds, he only struck me once, in the right forearm with a Ruger LCP.

Sister-in-Blue

My sister-in-blue (from the midnight shift), transported me to a local fire department so paramedics could begin care. I later learned I had struck my attacker with two of my rounds. Once in the neck and once in the thigh (I thought it was a pretty good grouping considering the circumstances).

About a week after the incident, I had completed my interviews with the investigators, and was shown my shot-up squad car.

blue line

This was a picture of my police unit from the crime scene. (Photo source: Jeremy Scharlow)

The Enemy From Behind the Blue Line

Members of my own department started the “Monday-morning quarterbacking” game, explaining in great details everything they thought I did wrong.

The news hounded me for interviews and articles began popping up all over, detailing my incident. I was the center of attention. Although, I had done nothing but defended my life, cop-bashers were out in force.

Mental Anguish

It began with nightmares. These nightmares were like none other. They seemed real. I could smell gun powder and feel the burn in my arm. These nightmares became so frequent, I could not sleep more than 20 minutes at a time. I became extremely sleep deprived. Anxiety and depression followed. I did not want to leave the house and was positive everyone wanted to kill me.

Personal Trauma

Over the next two years, I would be fired from my department, sent to five different shrinks and a shrink-let (psychologist), have multiple anxiety attacks, and I planned my own suicide.

My divorce was completed the same month I was injured. Furthermore, I was unable to pay bills due to the firing, my credit destroyed, and I was unsure if I’d be able to save my house from foreclosure.

I felt trapped. Like everything was stuck on pause. My life, my plans, my livelihood, and my identity stripped from me. I felt isolated, unable to function, unable to focus, and abandoned. I felt I had offered my life to protect the community, what must I have done to deserve such penitence?

To Serve and Protect

We all swore an oath. We offer our life, to protect our neighbors, strangers, brothers, sisters, wives and daughters. As a result, we are all quick to offer aid in the hour of emergency; yet we do not pick up the phone to call a downed brother/sister two months later. We are quick to offer criticism of another officer, instead of offering a hand. We each, be it due to our own vanity or fear, downplay what the downed brother/sister may be dealing with.

Uniting the Thin Blue Line

I would venture to guess none of us got into police work to cause harm. I would argue we all entered this career path to help our fellow Americans and to make our communities better for our families.

There is enough negativity coming from the outside. We risk our lives daily.

Regularly, our command staff throws us under the bus, the media depicts us all as racist idiots who simply want to kill, the politicians use us as fodder to push their own agendas, and a large contention of the population wants nothing more than to do us harm.

With all of this stacked against us, why must we harm one another in the fashion we do? We must stop fighting amongst ourselves. We need to remember, that even after the smoke clears, the flesh heals, the investigations are complete, and the badge is gone, there is a person who remains.

Jeremy Scharlow currently lives in Illinois. He obtained his bachelor’s in business administration and is currently completing work in completion of his Master of Arts in legal studies, both at the University of Illinois at Springfield. He is medically retired from the Mahomet Police Department where he served as a patrol officer for 10.5 years and as a METRO SWAT member for 9 of those years. After his line-of-duty injury, he began advocating for PTSD awareness in the law enforcement community.

Editor’s Note: The bad guy escaped after hitting Jeremy’s squad car with his truck. As a result, there was a manhunt for him. The FBI found the fugitive about a week later. Consequently, the suspect shot one of the FBI SWAT agents, but was subsequently killed in the exchange of gunfire.