" Think About it..."
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True Police Stories
"Courage is the ability to move;
when all around you are frozen in fear
My Name is Wesley Scott Tipton
"The last thing I remember before I was shot
This is a story of 7 Shots.
Before I start my story, its only fair I give the reader some of my background. I am an Arizona native. Not counting the time I spent out of the country for my mission to Hong Kong and teaching English in Taiwan for 3 years, I have lived in Arizona for 30 years. I have a testimony of Jesus Christ and have personally experienced His love and concern for me. I also know the Book of Mormon is true through fervent prayer and study. I know The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is the true church, and one will get closer to Father in Heaven and Jesus Christ by living and applying its teaching to one's life.
Soon after returning from Taiwan, I became interested in Law Enforcement as a career. I was excited when I was hired by my hometown police department, the Tempe Police Department. I started in 1998, and was soon out of the academy and on my own. The work was exciting! I gained a lot of satisfaction from putting criminals in jail. Soon, after 2 years on the streets, it was time for me to make a career decision on a "special assignment", such as detective, bike squad, etc.
I decided I wanted to be on the S.W.A.T. Team.
The day of the test came, and even though I had prepared for months by jogging, lifting weights, and practicing daily with my firearm, I did not pass the test. I was disappointed, but looked forward to next year's S.W.A.T. test. I was also getting ready for my tenth wedding anniversary. I had bought my wife, Jamie, an anniversary ring, and was going to surprise her on our anniversary. Even though I had to work that day, I had a big night planned. That day was July 14, 2000.
It’s been 3 years ago
On that day, I prepared to go to work a little early. I put on my ballistic vest under my uniform like I did every time I prepared for work. Toward the end of my shift, I was dispatched to a reckless driving call out of my beat. It seemed I was the only available officer. As I read the dispatchers comments concerning the call on my computer, I was a little puzzled as to why it was labeled a reckless driving call. I learned from the details on the computer the victim was being followed in her car by her ex-boyfriend. I radioed dispatch and had them tell the victim to stop in a nearby grocery store parking lot and I would contact her when I arrived. Upon arrival, I found the suspect and victim were no longer in the grocery store parking lot. I had dispatch contact the victim and tell her to return to the parking lot. Around this time, a “hot tone” was sounded in my back-up’s beat. He pre-empted himself from my call to respond to the traffic in his beat. Another officer was dispatched to back me up.
The victim returned to the parking lot, and I spoke with her briefly about the incident. She told me she was trying to break up with her boyfriend, he had assaulted her, and she left with a friend. The victim showed me several bruises on her arms and shoulder from the assault. Soon after she left her now ex-boyfriend, she noticed he was following her vehicle in his own car. She was scared and called the police. I asked her where her ex-boyfriend was at that time, and she pointed to a white car across the parking lot. The suspect was sitting in the car watching us as we conversed. I asked the victim if her ex-boyfriend had a gun and she said he didn’t. My back-up had still not arrived. I decided since the suspect could leave the scene at any moment, I should contact him before he left. Hoping my new back-up would arrive soon, I started over to the suspect's vehicle.
As I approached the suspect’s vehicle from the driver’s side, I noticed he had a notebook open in his lap. In the notebook was a copy of The Declaration Of Independence. From this I thought I might be contacting someone who had anti-government sentiments.. I scanned the inside of the vehicle for weapons, and did not see any. The driver’s side window was down, and I asked the suspect to exit the vehicle I wanted to be able to see his hands. The suspect replied he did not have to exit his vehicle, and I could speak with him as he sat in his car. I asked him again to get out of his car, and he said I had no right to get him out of his car. At that point I imagined this call could lead to a complaint, and turned on a small cassette recorder on my duty belt to record the incident. This would prove vital in the reconstruction of the following critical incident. I opened the suspect’s car door and asked him to exit his vehicle. The suspect reached for his door to close it, and I got a hold of his arm to pull him out of his car. A tug-of-war ensued, and the suspect was able to pull away from me. I took out my pepper spray, and told the suspect I would spray him if he did not get out of the car. The suspect said he had done nothing wrong, and was just sitting in his car. The suspect refused to get out of his car, so I sprayed him with pepper spray.
I took a step away from the door, and told him to get out of his car. The suspect cursed and sat in his car, rubbing his eyes. I extended my collapsible baton, and radioed dispatch to send the fire department to treat the suspect for pepper spray exposure. I also radioed dispatch to send another back-up unit as my back-up had still not arrived. I asked the suspect to exit the vehicle 2 more times, but he still did not comply.
The last thing I remember before I was shot was reaching for my radio mic.
Suddenly I was seeing stars, as if I had gotten hit in the head I didn’t know where I was or what I was doing. As things slowly started to come into focus, I remembered it was my anniversary, I was working, I had been talking to an uncooperative subject, and suddenly I saw him in front of me, his head surrounded by smoke. Off in the distance I heard “Pop! pop! pop!”. Something that felt like a sledgehammer was hitting me in the chest.
I then realized the uncooperative subject I had been talking to
Time slowed down. I realized I needed to get some distance between me and the suspect. I turned or was spun around and tried to get away, but my right leg didn’t work for some reason, and I fell flat on my face in the store parking lot. As I lay there looking at the asphalt 2 inches from my face, I was puzzled as to why my leg didn’t work. I was in great shape, I could run for miles! In what seemed like an eternity to me, but what was in fact a second or two, thoughts raced through my head. Was I hit? Did any rounds make it past the ballistic vest?
Was I going to die? Was I prepared to die?
What would my wife and 2 young daughters do without me? I didn’t want to die on my anniversary. Where was the suspect? Was he still there? The last question was answered by the sound of the suspect’s footsteps approaching from behind. As the suspect’s shadow fell over me, I realized he had not fled the scene, was intent on killing me, and I was going to find out what it was like to die.
I felt a strange sense of calm,
The suspect fired, and I saw the bullet splatter on the pavement 2 inches to the right of my head. Then, nothing. I was still alive! I still did not feel any pain. I learned later the suspects handgun, a Sig-Sauer model P220, had jammed with 2 bullets in it. According to the witnesses at the scene, the suspect was standing over me pulling the trigger frantically, but nothing happened. At this point, the adrenaline started to flow, and I got mad. I was just doing my job, and this guy was trying to kill me! He wasn’t going to shoot me and get away with it. Without realizing it or knowing how I did it, I found myself turned over on my back, gun out of my holster, sighting the suspect in as he was walking back to his car. The suspect still had a black handgun in his right hand. Then, it was as if a switch had been turned on in my brain, and I went on autopilot. I could hear the words of my firearms trainer in my head: "Sight alignment, squeeze the trigger, don’t jerk it. Recover the trigger… align your sights…" I fired six times and counted every one of the shots. I saw the suspect’s right leg break between the knee and ankle and twist outward at a weird angle. The suspect went down.
I keyed up my mic, took a deep breath,
I looked back over at the suspect, and found him crawling toward his car. I didn’t know where his gun was, I didn’t know if he was able to get up and do me or anyone else any harm. I knew I had injured the suspect, but I was injured and was still fighting, and figured he could still fight as well. I was trained to shoot to stop, and the suspect had not stopped. I fired three more times, and the suspect jerked and lay still after the last shot. I lay in the parking lot with my gun trained on the suspect. I later learned the suspect had 300 more rounds of ammunition for his handgun in his car, as well as a fully loaded shotgun.
After the shooting had stopped, witnesses approached and asked me if they could help. I started to feel the pain then, especially in my chest and right leg. I noticed my right leg was bent at a weird angle, and I knew it was broken. I remember thinking to myself, ”This hurts almost as much as the pepper spray in the academy”.
I remember thinking the whole incident was a nightmare
The only reason I know what happened next is because the tape recorder I had on my duty belt recorded everything. I passed out, and 2 officers arrived on the scene. One handcuffed the suspect and the other assessed my condition. My skin was gray, my eyes were glazed, and I didn’t have a pulse. The officers then started CPR, which they did for about 2 minutes. Paramedics arrived and took over treatment.
During this time, I was either unconscious or dead. I did not see any bright light and did not have any scenes of my life pass before my eyes. I am not saying I did not have an "out of body" experience. If I did, I don't remember it. After a couple minutes of CPR, I regained consciousness, and started feeling all sorts of pain. I opened my eyes and saw the paramedics. The worried look in their eyes told me I was in bad shape. I asked them to give me something for the pain, but they wouldn’t answer me. The paramedics decided it would be faster to drive me to the hospital.
As they were loading me
into the ambulance, they paused for a second.
I nodded, and he laid his hands on my head and gave me a blessing. I don't remember what he said, but I do remember it was lame. When he was done, he looked at me, and could tell by the look in my eyes I wanted another blessing. He laid his hands on my head to give me a second blessing, and all the chaotic sounds in that parking lot faded into the background. I heard Brand's voice, but it was different somehow. It was piercing, and shook my frame and penetrated my bones. Brand told me I would make it to the hospital where I would get the treatment I needed to survive.
When he was done, I knew I was going to live.
Soon I was on my way to the hospital behind a police escort. In the ambulance, I was in and out of consciousness. However, my blood pressure and heart rate stabilized. I was able to tell the paramedics my blood type and to call my wife to tell her I might not make our date for that evening. I also asked the paramedics if the Fire Department was hiring, as I found my present occupation to be too hazardous. I rationalized that if I was able to talk, I wasn’t dead, and if I was going to die, I would do it laughing and not screaming.
I arrived at Maricopa County Medical Center 14 minutes later, and was rushed into the emergency room. Doctors and nurses were rushing every which way, asking me questions and yelling to each other. I thought I was in another exciting episode of NBC’s ER. When the doctors asked the ambulance driver why I wasn’t medivaced by helicopter to the hospital, the ambulance driver replied, “We don’t fly the dead.” When the doctors looked me over the first time, I was given a 10% chance of living. I was asked if I was having a hard time breathing. I said I was, and the doctor said he was going to give me something to help me breathe. Thinking I was finally going to get some pain meds, I relaxed. Instead, I got a chest tube inserted into my chest without any anesthesia. It helped relieve the pressure in my chest, but that was almost as bad as getting shot. The doctors said they were going to put me under and operate on me, and I thought to myself, “finally I’m going to get some relief from this pain.” Everything faded as the anesthesia took effect.
At the scene of the shooting, the cavalry had arrived. Patrol officers, detectives, bike officers, administrators, commanders and the chief were all poking around the scene. Speculation was that I was dead, that even if I were to live initially, I would definitely die later that night. One of the officers who had been my field training officer was dispatched to give my wife the bad news. On the way to my house, he contemplated telling her I was dead, but decided against it, instead waiting to hear confirmation from the hospital.
The suspect had been taken by ambulance to a local hospital with a severely broken leg, and looked as if he was not injured severely. Upon examination at the hospital, however, a gunshot wound was found in his lower back, and he was flown to a level one trauma center for treatment.
At home, my wife, Jamie was in the middle of changing my youngest daughters diaper when she heard a breaking story on the TV. The news anchor related a police officer injured in a shooting, and gave the location. Since the location was out of my beat area, Jamie was not worried but curious to know if I knew the officer who was injured.
Suddenly, there was a knock at the door.
Jamie said, “It isn’t Scott.” My trainer told her I had indeed been shot, and my condition was unknown to him at that time. Jamie took my 2 daughters to the neighbors and raced off to the hospital with my former FTO. On the way to the hospital, Jamie called my 2 older brothers, My mother, and my 3 younger sisters to tell them the situation. My father was in China on a summer school tour with students and couldn’t be reached for 2 more days. Soon, the hospital waiting room was filled with family members, friends, church members, and cops from all over the Phoenix valley. Everyone waited to see if I would live or die.
Upon examination, the doctors found the following: In all, I was hit 7 times: The first bullet struck me in the handcuffs, which stopped the bullet completely. The second one hit me in the abdomen and was stopped by the body armor. The third bullet went through-and-through my left forearm, severing a nerve, and continued on, hitting me in the left side of the chest and was stopped by the body armor. The fourth bullet just missed my body armor, entering my chest under my right armpit, piercing my liver, diaphragm and 3 lobes of my right lung before exiting my sternum, where it was stopped by the back side of the front body armor panel. The fifth bullet hit me in the right buttock, shattering my femur into pieces. As I was falling, I was hit a sixth time in the right shoulder, and because of the angle, the bullet ricocheted off my body armor. On top of being shot, while police and paramedics were performing CPR on me, my arms suffered third degree burns from the hot asphalt.
Treating my most life threatening injury first, the doctors opened up my chest and attempted to repair the damage to my lung and other organs. To their relief, the bullet had “rolled” across my heart before exiting my sternum, leaving my heart undamaged. Operating on my injured lung was an ordeal.
Before the doctors closed my chest,
The doctors noted, that my overall physical fitness helped me pull through the operation. I was now in critical but stable condition. I was put into a drug-induced coma for the next three days, and only vaguely remember the details. I remember coming to long enough to tell my wife, using hand signals, that I loved her. There was a frantic search for the ring I was going to give Jamie for our anniversary. The ring was found, and I was able to give it to Jamie 2 days after our anniversary. I was put on a ventilator and could not talk. I had a second operation to repair my shattered right femur. A 16 inch plate was put on my right femur and into my thigh socket, then attached with several screws.
During this time, I had a feeding tube in my nose. It was very irritating, and when I could stand it no longer, I asked my dad, who had returned from China, to come into the hospital room. My faith in the priesthood and Jesus Christ was at an all time high. I had just been rescued from the brink of death!
I believed anything I asked in the name of Jesus Christ
I told my dad that I needed a priesthood blessing to get the feeding tube out of my nose or to give me patience so I could endure it. As I was talking to him, the doctor came into the room, and I asked him if I could get the feeding tube removed. the doctor replied I was not yet well enough, and the feeding tube would have to stay in a couple of more days. The doctor then left the room. My father placed his hands on my head to give me a priesthood blessing, and I could feel the power of Jesus Christ's love move through me.
When my father spoke, it was his voice, but not his voice.
It sounded to me like rushing water or a loud waterfall. When my dad spoke, I could feel his voice in my chest, like someone had turned up the bass on a loud stereo. My dad blessed me, and told me the feeding tube would be removed. By the time he was done with the blessing, both my dad and I were in tears. A nurse came in, looked at both of us, then said, "Well, I think it's about time we took that feeding tube out of your nose." I knew I had just witnessed a miracle. As the feeding tube was pulled out, the doctor came back in and angrily asked the nurse what she was doing! She replied she was only taking the feeding tube out.
I was going on and on like a televangelist, saying,
After the second operation on my leg, I wasn't improving. I was constantly nauseous and had a high white blood cell count. I had an MRI, and it was discovered a sponge from the first operation was sewn up inside me, hindering my recovery. The doctor operated once more and removed the sponge. Before I recovered from that operation, I had a fourth operation to take skin grafts off my thigh and place them on my burned arms.
Although the doctors and nurses in the hospital were great, I suffered a lot while in the hospital I cannot now recall the exact feeling of pain, as the memory of it fortunately fades with time. I had a chest tube, I.V. catheter and drainage tube coming out of the right side if my chest. My right leg was swollen to twice its original size. I had an incision in front from the base of my neck to below my belt. My arms were wrapped up, and the dead skin had to be scraped off once a day. I had to wear pressure sleeves on my legs to keep the blood in my torso. The gun shot wound in my right buttock had turned into a bed sore 4 inches in diameter and 1 inch deep. I felt nauseous most of the time and could not eat. I lost 25 pounds in 3 weeks. I could barely walk with a walker, and my physical therapist would come to my room and force me to get out of bed.
I got pneumonia, and needed breathing treatments. I could actually smell the odor of the drugs and medicine I was taking coming out of the pores in my skin. I couldn't sleep because of the shock and anxiety of my whole experience. Even though I knew I was going to live, my subconscious would not let me sleep. I thought if I went to sleep I would not wake up. I would nod off to sleep, thinking I had been asleep for hours, and would discover I had only been asleep for a few minutes. I grew to hate the clock on the wall. It was especially bad at night, when there was no one to visit with and I was alone with my thoughts. I felt so alone! I was anxious about the future. Would I be able to return to the job I loved? What would I do if I couldn't return to work? I prayed for comfort during those long nights.
I felt at times
as though I were buoyed up by the love of Jesus Christ.
People would come by and visit with me during the day. There was always a guard posted outside my hospital room and I often called in whoever was out there to visit with me. The police officer who performed CPR on me came to visit me and said because of this experience, he now believes in God. The firefighters who were there that day also came to visit me, as well as relatives and friends I had not seen in a long time. The community was praying for me and I sincerely believe it helped in my recovery. I was touched by how many people wrote letters expressing sympathy or telling me I was a hero. I didn't feel like a hero.
Through the tests, x-rays, MRIs, and operations, the nurses took great care of me. However, there was one nurse I looked forward to seeing on the midnight shift. Her name was Sandy. She was about 55 with wild red hair and wore a new age crystal around her neck. She was very gregarious and enthusiastic and it was contagious. Sandy would have to change my bandages every night before I was supposed to sleep. I would groan and complain but she would offer me a deal I couldn't refuse. Sandy said if I endured the bandage changing ritual without complaint, she would rub my back after she was done. Sandy had the magic touch when it came to back rubs and so I would endure the painful procedure without complaint to get one of those great back rubs!
I would often talk to Sandy during the night when I couldn't sleep. Sandy was not a member of the LDS church but she was a great listener. The thing that bothered me about my situation was, "Why me?" I did not understand why I had been spared when people I considered better than me or greater than me had died. Why was I so special? I felt there had been some divine intervention on my behalf, but I felt guilty and unworthy to have received it! I would often talk about this with Sandy. One night she gave me something I will never forget. Sandy told me she had been shopping, had seen a card and thought of me. Sandy handed me the card. On one side of the card is a picture of Jesus Christ on the cross floating above the world.
On the reverse of this card it reads,
Never before had I recognized the love our Savior has for us with such depth and feeling! I realized that I did not have to be a great leader, a spiritual giant, or destined to do great incredible things for Jesus Christ to be concerned about me! He loves each of us individually, as his brothers and sisters, and it doesn't matter who we are! As this realization dawned on me, I cried like a baby. I think Sandy was inspired to bring me that card. I still have it, and carry it with me always. Whenever I feel the need for a spiritual connection, I take it out of my wallet and try to recapture the feelings I had that night.
What happened to the suspect, you might ask?
He slipped into a coma right there in the grocery store parking lot,
He died about three days after the incident. I was told while I was in the hospital and had mixed feelings about the whole thing. I am thankful I do not have to go to trial and re-live this whole nightmare but I feel for him and his family. I do not apologize for what I did but I wish it would have turned out different. I wish he would have lived. I have forgiven him and wish I could have met him under different circumstances. It is a big responsibility to shoot someone and it is something I will carry with me for the rest of my life. That is all I will say about that.
Soon after my last operation, I got my appetite back and started to feel much better. I was able to get up on crutches and walk around the ICU several times a day. The chest tube and other machines that surrounded me were soon gone and I felt 100% better. After 20 days in the hospital, I was able to return home. The first thing I smelled when I was wheeled out of the hospital was fresh cut grass. It was the best thing I had smelled in the world! When I got home, I ordered a big Wendy's hamburger. The food even tasted better! I felt as if I had gotten a new lease on life.
I had one more surgery to take a nerve from my leg and graft it into my forearm. The surgery itself is hit and miss and I got about half the feeling back in my left hand. I went to physical therapy and worked hard to improve myself physically. However, it soon became apparent I was not improving enough. None of my doctors would approve my request to return to work. My doctors told me any one of the injuries would not keep me from returning but the combination of them all would keep me from going back. Again, I felt picked on and asked Father in Heaven, "Why me?" After much prayer and contemplation, I received and answer to my prayers.
I was told that my family and I would be all right
It has been over three years now and it hasn't been a picnic. I still have pain in my right leg and my left hand doesn't work right. Jamie and I have gone to a psychologist to help us through the whole ordeal. There are times when I wonder if things would have been better if I had died that day. I have learned so many things since then. I know that Jesus Christ loves each and every one of us and knows what is best for us. I know that each of us have a certain role or mission to fulfill while on this earth and we won't be called home a moment before our time.
I know everything happens for a reason
I have a testimony that God lives and that His Son Jesus Christ atoned for our sins. After going through the trials and ordeals and having learned all that I have, I can say it was definitely worth the pain and suffering I endured.
These things I write in the name of Jesus Christ,
Former Police Officer,
Seldom are incidents like this
caught on tape
Because Officer Tipton was afraid of a citizen complaint and had therefore turned on his pocket recorder prior to the shooting, this incident was captured on cassette. His squad put some of the crime scene photos together with his real life experience.
If you are or were a police officer,
or use the link on the front page of this site at
Thank you and God bless,
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