First Kill

by Richard L. Trulson
October 11, 1994

Jacob's latest shot echoed across the gas station's service island. Unlike the previous five, another shot would not silence the echo. It rang in the officer's ears, a siren song luring him into destruction. This time the bullet didn't ricochet off the linoleum floor or strike a glass drink case. Instead, it impacted in the young assailant's chest with a dull thump. Blood spurted from the entrance hole.

A small, garbled cry escaped the youth's mouth as he fell to the ground. His body made a dull thud as it hit the linoleum floor. The gun fell from his hands and skidded across the floor to bump into the service counter. A stack of 6-packs, disturbed by the man's fall, swayed on the verge of tumbling before finally collapsing in a noisy heap. Several punctured cans spewed streams of acrid beer onto the floor. The assailant's blood mixed with the yellowish liquid to form a orange, yellow, and red syrup.

Time moved again as Officer Cain approached the prone man. His gun continued to point at the center of the man's chest. Even though the assailant appeared to be disabled, safety was still his prime concern. "Are you all right?" questioned the officer as he made a quick glance behind the counter at the frightened store clerk.

The teenager replied with a feeble "I think so." Sweat glued his disheveled, brown hair to his forehead. The red zits contrasted against the flushed white skin. The boy held his shoulders with trembling hands as if that would shield him from the chaotic danger that had erupted around him.

"Stay put. I'll help you in a moment." Jacob maneuvered himself between the gun and the fallen assailant. The man didn't appear to be moving. Blood had spread into a foot-wide radius across the left quarter of the man's torso. The light green T-shirt had various stain marks across the front. The entire image formed a grotesque Christmas wreath. With one arm laying across his waist and the other angled the same by his side, the man appeared frozen in mid step of a country line-dance.

Although he was concerned about the man's health, Jacob followed police procedure and cuffed the man before proceeding. Bracing himself on his right knee, he checked the assailant's pulse. Blood and beer soaked into his pant's leg. Jacob removed the CB off his left lapel and said, "331 Dispatch." Static briefly cackled until finally the dispatcher acknowledged. Jacob continued, "Paramedics needed at Kassie's on 13th and Divine. Shots fired; suspect down."

Grabbing his right hand with the left one, Jacob began CPR on the man he just shot. He didn't expect to be trying to save the life of a man who had attempted to kill him. The minutes spent trying to resuccitate the man stretched time into hours. Finally, his hands covered with blood, Jacob gave up. Night sounds, a car horn or the distant rumble of the subway, faded away or became muffled by the pounding of his heart. His body slowly descended off its adrenaline rush. Darkness surrounded David as he leaned back to rest.

* * *

"Tell me what happened again," said the investigative officer questioning Jacob. "Lt. Mike Hicks" was imprinted on the man's name tag. The overhead light smoothed out the lines in the station's processing room. Only the wooden, rectangular table directly under the light had any solid definition to it. Jacob sat at one end of the table with his forearms resting on the smooth, lacquered surface. Lt. Hicks stood at the opposite end with a clipboard resting in the crook of his left arm. Their uniforms appeared dusty in the diffused lighting.

Even though Jacob knew the questioning was standard operating procedure, his anxiety level was up anyway. His mouth needed refreshing after repeating the shooting incident twice all ready. He drank quickly from the small water glass in front of him. Jacob retold his tale for a third time. Occasionally, Hicks would interrupt him with a question.

"Thank-you for your time, Officer Cain," Hicks said. "Until the investigation is complete, you will be relieved of street duty." Before Jacob could say anything, Hicks tucked the clipboard under his arm and walked out of the room.

Only four hours had passed since the shooting. The sun wasn't even up yet. Jacob wasn't sure exactly what to do. He felt almost as if he was the one being punished when all he did was uphold the law. The investigative team had even taken his gun to run ballistics tests on it. Even though the uniform and badge were the official symbols of his authority, the gun gave him the power to back it up if he needed to. He no longer had that extra security and confidence.

When Jacob rose slowly, unused muscles and joints protested at sitting for so long. He stretched and yawned before leaving the station. The pre-dawn air chilled him despite the city's perpetual thermal blanket caused by car exhausts and steam vents. He drove to is apartment in an automated trance.

At times like this, Jacob wished that he had a wife to come home to. He just wanted someone to give him a little hug and kiss and say that he had done a good job. All he had was a Siamese cat that would curl up in his lap and demand to be petted. Jacob's logical side, however, didn't want to put a wife through the torment of not knowing if her husband would come home each night. Exhausted, Jacob went to bed early. Unfortunately, images of the shooting prevented Jacob from sleeping well. The scene replayed each time he dreamed.

The restless night had obvious effects on Jacob in the morning. His eyes, which normally glow a bright blue from within, were bloodshot and had puffiness around them. He rubbed his hand through his short, black hair trying to stimulate himself. His well-defined muscles felt sluggish until he took a shower.

During the free time before work, Jacob tried watching TV to relax. Mindless sitcom reruns did little to distract him from his thoughts. He began to question if his actions were the correct thing to do. At some point while he had been sleeping, Jacob's self-confidence had apparently disappeared.

Jacob replayed the scene in his head. From the moment he first opened the store's door to get some coffee, until the moment the paramedics arrived, Jacob examined his actions at every step. He wondered if he had done the right thing. Despite the warnings he gave, the robber would not give up. When he fired the final, fatal shot, he had aimed at the only clear target available: the man's shoulder that held the gun. Unfortunately, the robber shifted his position as Jacob pulled the trigger and the bullet struck the man just above the left nipple.

Driving to work during the afternoon rush hour did little to calm his nerves. The setting sun swirled with oranges and reds in the haze. The rising humidity made his uniform stick to his skin. Paperwork was the only thing Jacob could do since he was relieved of street duty.

The details of paperwork was enough to distract Jacob from the shooting. Occasionally, however, a co-worker would come up to him and offer support. They were aware that this was the first time Jacob had killed a man. Each officer is affected in a different way. Some withdraw within themselves; others have trouble dealing with the thought that they took another life even if it was in the line of duty. A small few even feel as if they wield God's power to take another life. Jacob just wanted to know if he did the right thing.

Several officers offered Jacob the opportunity to stay with them or to have dinner. He just didn't feel like socializing. Having to make an appointment with the staff psychiatrist didn't help his mood much either. He wasn't crazy. By the end of his shift, half of his paperwork backlog was complete. Unfortunately, since he was unaccustomed to sitting in the precinct chairs for so long, his bottom and back throbbed dully.

Jacob longed to be back on the streets. He wanted to replace these doubts with the feeling of responsibility and pride he got from protecting the people. Even the potential danger was more welcome than sitting behind a desk. At the very least the danger exhilarated him and made life interesting as opposed to boring him.

Leaving exactly when his shift finished was a new experience for Jacob as well. Usually some emergency or responsibility held him several minutes past. Rain fell as he left the precinct. His wet clothes soaked into the car seat. His mood now matched the depressing weather outside. The investigation would probably take three days at the very least. His first day off the street dragged on long enough.

Lightning arched briefly overhead and lit up the building tops. A cross, silhouetted black against the blue-white arc of the lightning, left a faint ghost image in Jacob's eyes. The thought "thou shalt not kill" surfaced in his mind. He had broken one of God's commandments.

Jacob considered this for a moment. During his training, Jacob knew he may eventually have to kill someone even if the possibility was very slim. He wasn't bothered then, so why should he let it bother him now? He had actually taken another life now though. The situation had changed from theory to practice. Although he didn't attend church regularly, he had faith in God. Now Jacob felt like he had broken the trust that God had placed in him.

Shivers shook Jacob as he considered the prospect that he might be damned to Hell for taking another life. His self-torment lasted only a very short time since his methodical nature started to overrule his emotional side. He figured killing has always been a part of the Bible. Holy wars have been fought in the name of God with thousands killed. The suspect had even shot at him first. If Jacob didn't stop the robber, other innocent people may have been hurt.

As he cranked the car, one of Jacob's favorite songs blurted out of the radio. He tapped his hands to the rhythm trying to cheer himself up. The rain danced in mosaic circles under the street lamp spotlights. By the time he got home, Jacob no longer worried that his soul was condemned. He still wasn't sure if alternative actions were available, but at least he was able to sleep peacefully.

The next few days were repeats of the last one. Not only did he get his paperwork finished, but he helped a few others catch up as well. Occasionally he answered more questions about the shooting.

When Jacob visited the psychiatrist, he was nervous. He didn't think he belonged there. When he received the psychiatrists approval, he was relieved. Jacob feared that the psychiatrist would find psychological reasons to prevent him going back to the streets. If that had happened, he decided he would have quit law enforcement entirely. Police work made him feel important and needed. He felt that he made a difference.

Five days after the shooting, Jacob was called into the Chief of Police's office. He inquired, "You wanted to see me, sir?" The Chief motioned Jacob into the room, which was cluttered, but clean. As he closed the door, he noticed Lt. Hicks sitting in the corner of the room. They exchanged nods of acknowledgement as Jacob stood at attention in front of the Chief's oak desk. The Chief was looking through a folder that Jacob recognized was the case folder for his shooting.

"The investigation has come to a close, Mr. Cain," began the chief as he closed the folder. "Given the circumstances, you seem to have done the best you could be expected to do." The chief opened the desk's drawer and removed a revolver inside a plastic bag. He handed it to Jacob and said, "you're to resume your street patrols tomorrow."

Jacob took the gun from the bag with grip almost like an embrace. "Thank-you, sir," said Jacob as he set the gun in its holster. The familiar weight rested against his right thigh.

"Dismissed." Jacob turned to leave. He nodded again at the Lieutenant on the way out. Days before this man made Jacob feel uneasy. Now, he didn't seem as threatening. Jacob had finally been told that what he did was the right thing to do.


Go to:
Top of this page
Richard's Story Page
Richard's Main Page

Converted to HTML on May 23, 1996 by Richard L. Trulson at