Officer Down: The Mark Black Incident - Training -

Officer Down: The Mark Black Incident

Complacency gets rocked into action



Brian McKenna | From the November 2010 Issue Monday, November 15, 2010

Below 100 Initiative
» Wear Your Seatbelt
» Wear Your Vest
» Watch Your Speed
» WIN - What's Important Now?
» Remember: Complacency Kills!



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Officer Down: The Mark Black Incident

Deputy Black saved his own life.
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Ann Dolan loved Eddie, but she couldn’t take it anymore. Like other abused women she lived in constant dread of the man she loved, and now the fear had become so extreme that it took precedence over any affection she felt for her husband. Worn down by Eddie’s increasingly erratic behavior, unpredictable violence and threats of suicide, she had obtained an order of protection earlier in the day, and then changed the locks on all her doors. But now Eddie had started leaving messages on her phone saying he planned to kill himself. Worse, it was well after midnight and the dogs were barking outside, adding an ever-deepening sense of gloom to the warm April night. All her instincts told her Eddie was lurking somewhere out in the darkness.

Ann’s friend Lisa Schmidt had come to the house earlier, and then stayed around to lend her support. But Lisa’s presence would be of little help if Eddie came crashing through the door. With growing fear, the women decided to leave the house and were heading for Ann’s van when Eddie suddenly emerged from the shadows. He was carrying a rifle, coming fast, and shouting curses and threats. As Eddie came closer, Lisa—her instinct for survival suddenly overshadowed by deep concern for her friend—courageously stepped between him and Ann. The enraged man crashed the butt of the rifle into the side of her head, knocking her unconscious. But she had been lucky. She would awaken several minutes later with no serious head injuries and no bullet wounds.

To Eddie, Lisa was nothing more than a passing nuisance. After commenting that he should have shot her, he turned his attention back to the true focus of his attention—Ann. Grabbing her by the hair, he dragged her around to the other side of the van and pushed the muzzle of the rifle into her face. With a fear now bordering on panic, Ann begged for her life. It worked. Eddie’s murderous rage seemed to soften somewhat, and he lowered the rifle.

But then his demeanor changed again, and he jammed the barrel of the gun up under his chin. “I’m gonna blow my brains out, Ann,” he growled, “and it’s somethin’ you’re gonna remember for the rest of your life!”

Ann knew she had to calm down and focus on diffusing Eddie’s anger. Mustering all her willpower, she began to speak in a calm, soft voice as she reasoned with him, using care to avoid any comments that might set him off again. It wasn’t easy, but she kept talking and Eddie eventually started to settle down. More than three hours later, she finally managed to talk him into releasing her by promising to return to the house to meet him again at 2 p.m.

Now satisfied, Eddie kept his side of the bargain and let both women leave. Exhausted and emotionally drained, they drove to the relative safety of Lisa’s house, where they slept for several hours. This short nap helped clear Ann’s mind, and she was now even more convinced that her safety depended upon getting away from her husband. Reluctantly, she decided to report the incident to the sheriff’s department.

The Call
Deputy Mark Black, a 49-year-old, 23-year veteran of police work, was one of three deputies assigned to the case. After discussing the case Black and the other two deputies, Chief Deputy Eric Novack and Deputy Jennifer Owen, agreed that it would be best to approach Eddie Dolan in a low-key manner. Concerned that Dolan might refuse to cooperate if they arrested him right away, they believed they could strengthen their case by initially contacting him under the guise of serving the order of protection. After establishing a rapport with him by showing sympathy for his situation, they would try to get a statement from him by asking if he’d like to tell his side of the story.

The deputies arrived at the Dolan residence at about 3 p.m. It was a modular home resting on top of a basement built into the slope of a hill. Two driveways led onto the property from the roadway, the upper drive leading to the front yard and the lower to one side of the basement. Black and Owen parked their units in the upper drive, while Novack pulled into the lower one behind a parked Ford F-150, which matched the description of Dolan’s truck. Evidently, Dolan was inside the house waiting for his wife. But there was no way to know what he planned to do when she arrived. Considering his actions the night before, the only safe assumption to make was that he posed a grave threat to her safety.

Black and Owen split up with Black approaching the front door while Owen went around back to help Novack watch the basement exits. Although aware of the risks and scanning for danger as he moved cautiously toward the door, Black wasn’t especially concerned for his safety. Like most long-time cops, he’d grown accustomed to handling dangerous situations without suffering dire consequences. These countless “successes” had taken some of the edge off his safety consciousness.

Black stood to one side of the door, knocked and announced his office. There was no response from inside—dead silence. He waited, tried again and still got no response. After several more attempts with the same results, he turned the doorknob and pushed on the door, but nothing budged. He backed away from the door, and checked the windows to see if he could get a good look inside. Most of the shades were draw, the interior was dark, and the sunlight reflecting off the windows made it even harder to see anything worthwhile. Still, there could be little doubt that Dolan was holed up inside.

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Below 100 Initiative
It’s been more than 70 years since the annual number of line-of-duty police deaths was fewer than 100. Law Officer's Below 100 initiative will change that by concentrating on areas that can most effectively save officers' lives. An awareness campaign, combined with a training program, Below 100 will provide a commonsense solution to driving down a number that has remained too high for too long. It begins with five simple tenets:

1. Wear Your Seatbelt | 2. Wear Your Vest | 3. Watch Your Speed
4. WIN-What's Important Now? | 5. Remember: Complacency Kills!


Officer Down: The Mark Black Incident

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Brian McKennaBrian McKenna, a 32-year police veteran, is a retired lieutenant from the Hazelwood (Mo.) Police Department and Law Officer's Officer Down columnist.


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