Neal Beckman, a 35-year-old ex-con.
Beckman attacks and severely wounds Young.
Beckman attempts to retrieve long guns from patrol car but is shot by Young.
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Editor's Note: This is an expanded version of the article that appeared in the June 2008 issue of Law Officer magazine, adding Brian McKenna's analysis of the incident.
The first thing Sergeant Marcus Young noticed about the man coming toward him was the intensity of his features, but then he saw the man's hands shoved into his jacket pockets. Young, 40 years old and an 18-year veteran of the police department, quickly sat his prisoner down into the back seat of his patrol car and closed the door as he turned to give the fast-approaching man a closer look. Believing the man to be high on drugs, he planned to arrest him. But instead, he was just moments away from the fight of his life, with the lives of several others hanging in the balance.
The incident had started with a call for a shoplifter at a discount store. Young, who had a 17-year-old cadet named Julian Covella riding with him, took the call. Young was enthusiastic about helping the cadets learn as much as possible, and he knew a shoplifting arrest would give Covella some easy exposure to the arrest process.
After contacting Security Officer Tony Unger, 27, in the loss-prevention office, Young learned that Unger had taken an 18-year-old shoplifter named Monica Winnie into custody after she tried to use a forged receipt to obtain a refund. Unger also mentioned that Winnie s boyfriend had been in the store earlier, but had left shortly after her arrest. He mentioned that the boyfriend had what looked like jailhouse tattoos on his neck, leading Young to suspect that he was a parolee, and probably a doper as well.
Winnie seemed rather hostile, but offered no resistance as Young cuffed her and escorted her outside, accompanied by Covella and Unger. As they walked, Young, who was not one to go blindly into any situation, asked Winnie, Does your boyfriend have any weapons?
No, she answered.
Do I have to be concerned for my safety?
Again, Winnie said no, but her voice hinted of insincerity. Young kept his senses on alert as they stepped out into the chilly night air.
Although unseen, Winnie s boyfriend, a 35-year-old ex-con named Neal Beckman, was waiting outside on the dimly lit parking lot. He waited in the shadows until he saw the group moving toward Young s patrol car, and then headed toward them. A member of a violent white supremecist gang who had spent most of his adult life in prison, Beckman already had two strikes against him and had bragged that he would never go back to prison. He had already murdered once when, as a teenager, he had brutally stabbed an elderly man to death during a robbery. Now on parole, he was also wanted for home invasion and was probably about to commit another robbery, or worse in his car parked nearby were five homemade bombs.
Note: The incident recounted here is true, but some of the names were changed to ensure the privacy of those personally involved. Likewise, in order to preserve confidentiality and clarity, some facts have been altered slightly, but the essential elements of the story remain unchanged.
Young knew none of this, of course, but his instincts told him he would have his hands full. He moved off to his right, away from the others, and immediately addressed his greatest concern.
Take your hands out of your pockets! he commanded.
Beckman ignored him and kept coming, Why is she in there? he demanded as he glanced toward Winnie in the back seat.
I said, Take your hands out of your pockets! Young repeated.
Why? Beckman snapped.
Because I m concerned for my safety. What do you have in your pockets?
I have a knife.
The man was now just two or three steps away, his forward advance accented by an alarming movement of his left hand. Young saw no weapon, but it was clear Beckman was drawing something from his pocket.
Young, his reactions fine-tuned from years of martial arts and defensive-tactics training, sprang forward. He grabbed Beckman s left wrist and trapped it inside the pocket, but only briefly. Beckman was fighting hard to complete the draw, and Young knew he had to control him soon. He pulled hard as he stepped to his right, cranked the arm straight out at a right angle away from Beckman s body, and twisted hard until he felt the crunch and snap of cracking bone and tearing tendons.
This should have done the trick, but Beckman was uncontrollable. A glint of bright metal flashed across his chest. It was a snub-nose .38, coming straight for Young s face. Then, before the startled sergeant could do more than flinch, there was a flash and scorching lead tore into his left cheek.
Stunned by the blow but not one to surrender, Young held on and slammed Beckman into the hood of a parked car. The next moments were a blur of vicious hand-to-hand combat. More shots rang out and the valiant officer felt more bullets smash into his body. The exact sequence of shots was never determined, but two of them punched into Young s body armor, where, had it not been for the Kevlar, they might well have inflicted mortal wounds. But the other two hollow points struck hard, one drilling through Young s right arm and the other slamming into his left side.