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      DEA Hostage Rescue

      Overcoming The Jackal's Jinx
      Bob Pilgrim

    Even though Frank White's shootings involving the notorious Miranda brothers were ruled justified the "Jackal" continued to harass him in the media in an attempt to divert attention from her role in permitting the biggest mass murderer in the Sunshine State's history to prowl South Florida's streets with impunity. Fully restored to duty, Frank was moved north to run DEA's enforcement group in Fort Lauderdale. The resident agency had two fabulous and hard charging street agents attached to it. Not only were Gene and Vinnie extremely competent, both of them enjoyed great reputations with the local police officers. Shortly after Frank took over the team, "V" and "G" had put together a slam-dunk case against one of the most significant Quaalude dealers in Broward County. The arrest would occur as the dealer delivered his "product" to an undercover agent.

    In due course the dealer arriver with his two "heavies" and the arrest signal was given. Almost as per script, Frank found himself head to head with the dealer between two parked cars. "Police, don't move." The standard admonition was announced loud and clear as simultaneously Frank aimed his 1911 A1 at the Quaalude King. In spite of his commands, big bore muzzle intimidation and the display of his raid jacket emblazoned with "Police," the dealer, apparently pre programmed to fight, did the unexpected and went for it. In slow motion, Frank stood there and watched the start of another shootout.

    The dealer clawed at his shirt and produced a pistol. As he leveled it, Frank repeatedly yelled, "Police." Frank continued to hesitate and for some reason he was psychologically unable to shoot him and stood there transfixed. Frank knew that the dealer's action would beat his reaction and the dealer would fire first. His big mistake was tunneling in on the bad guy's gun and like a weaving Cobra it became hypnotic. Instead, he should have shifted his focus to his front sight and taken the head shot. Fully expecting to momentarily feel the searing pain of his opponent's bullet, his only hope of living was that it would slam into his body armor or be hit in a non-vital area. However, the dealer also hesitated and after staring at Frank and his pistol for what seemed like an eternity, blinked and let his gun fall to the pavement.

    After all the Vietnam firefights and state-side shootouts he had been in, he knew he had "choked," something that had never happened before. Leaving the team with 150,000 Qualludes and the prisoners, Frank aimlessly drove off. Strangely, despite the torrid temperature and thick humidity he was severely chilled and had to roll up the windows and turn on his "G" ride's heater. Crossing over the inter coastal waterway he parked near the beach and walked along the water's edge trying to figure out why he "froze" at the proverbial moment of truth. Deep in thought and personal introspection he harkened back to his conversation with partner Frankie T after he could not bring himself to shoot their assailant. Less than a year later Frankie was killed by drug dealers in a buy bust operation. As Frank sought the cloak of privacy that darkness and the rhythm of the waves provided him, he thought of all the brave men he had known and the phenomenal acts of courage they had performed. As! a leader, he was supposed to give inspiration and strength to his men, but tonight the roles had reversed themselves. A while back Vinnie had taken two point blank .357 Magnum slugs to his stomach and not only survived, but was tough enough to pull himself back together and return to the dangerous task of putting dope peddlers in jail. He reasoned if Vinnie could shake off the mental monsters of pain, fear and self-doubt, so could he. Frank's former Vietnam battalion commander, Colonel Fear paid him a subliminal visit and he heard his sage and life saving advice echo again through his mind. "No matter how bad you are hurt you have to get yourself back into the fight." At the time, Frank interpreted this to encompass physical injuries, but now realized it applied to psychological trauma as well. Colonel Fear also followed this admonition with a verbal boot in the butt, "Now get out there and lead."

    Frank's problem was not that he might no longer be capable of dropping the hammer on his assailant, but emanated from the lack of support from his agency's Suits and the tense and distracting atmosphere created by the Jackal's constant attacks on him in the press. Sub consciously he was second-guessing himself and this led to his almost fatal hesitation. He picked up the pace as he strode across the beach, determined that neither the Jackal nor the office political hacks with their vindictiveness would ever extinguish his fighting spirit. Getting back into his G-Ride he was determined to get back on his feet and lead as before-from the front. He was hot again.

    Two weeks later, Frank received a frantic Saturday telephone call from the wife of one of their informants. While they were in a restaurant parking lot, two gunmen abducted her husband and she was terrified that they were going to kill him. Frank immediately called Gene and told him to meet him at the informant's house. While at the house trying to identify his abductors, the source called and told his wife that he was being held for ransom and would call back in an hour. During the second contact he instructed her to take $250,000 to the Brickyard Restaurant in Fort Lauderdale where she would be met by one of the gunmen and described the make and color of the car she was to go to. With a great display of presence of mind and initiative, Gene grabbed the phone and asked the informant a rapid series of yes-no questions, while his abductors thought he was talking to his wife. One question hit the jackpot and Gene was able to pin point the location where he was being held. Arme! d with that information, Frank and Gene raced over to the restaurant.

    The money car was easy to spot as two gunmen checked out the lot and area. When they drove off, the two agents tailed them back to the seedy hotel previously identified by the abducted informant. The gunmen took the elevator up to the fourth floor. Gene had gone into the building just after them, streaked up the flights of stairs and entered the hallway from the emergency exit door. Luckily, he was able to observe the gunmen enter a room further down the corridor. Frank joined him and went back to confirm the room number. Their plan was to keep an eyeball on the room and radio for police assistance. However, every plan and planner has to be flexible. Moving as stealthfully as possible, tense and ready for a gun battle, they silently approached the target room's door. However, Murphy showed up and unexpectedly, one of the gunmen opened the door and stuck his head out.

    Gene had played college football and must have been real quick off the snap. Capitalizing on the momentary element of surprise, he blasted bodily through the suspect and the door with Frank a close step behind. Across the room was the informant completely stripped and tied to a chair. He was hooded with a pillow-case and one of the gunmen had his Beretta 92 pistol pressed against his head. As they plowed into the room Frank noticed two armed men to his left as he tripped over another naked hostage on the floor. Quickly recovering and with the gunmen still in a state of shock, Frank focused on the left side of the room after the "executioner" dropped his pistol and dove onto the bed, lying there without further movement. Gene covered the beddy by gunman, but the other two, who were wearing shoulder holsters, made solid eye contact with Frank and he knew if given the opportunity to make a decision they would be willing to get it on. Frank aimed his Colt at the nearest suspect'! s head and growled, "I'll Kill You!" Complete silence reigned for a fraction of a second and the bad guys froze. Although the suspect's personal weapons were liberated numerous other firearms lay on the furniture. The second hostage writhed around on the floor as he whimpered in pain. His was to be a slow and tortuous death as blood flowed from numerous knife cuts and his battered face. The chaired hostage was also fairly pulped and with all the blood the $25 carpet had definitely seen better days. Gene and Frank had, with only seconds to spare, frustrated at least one and possibly two murders. Surprise, followed by Speed and Violence of Action prevented a hell of a gun battle, but they were still outnumbered and unable to safely cuff all the gunmen. They did not have the luxury of time and once the shock diminished there could be trouble. They immediately called for police reinforcements and the solid relationship they had with the locals paid off. Within seconds Gene and ! Frank heard the most beautiful music coming their way as numerous sire ns chorused that help was on the way. Like the cavalry's bugle, the sound of massed sirens appeared to take the fight out of the gunmen and they offered no further resistance.

    During the confrontation, Frank had experienced tachypsychia. Every aggressive action seemed to be executed in slow motion.

    As the police arrived and things settled down the informant told Frank that the gunman who opened the door was checking to see if anyone was about that could hear the shot. When Gene crashed through the door, he thought the room had blown up and forgot about the gun barrel digging into his skull. When he realized whom it was and what happened he held his breath until he almost passed out.

    Frank had shaken off his albatross and was fully prepared to erase two more criminals if his life had been jeopardized. He had regained his fighting spirit and hesitation was now just a word again.

    LESSONS LEARNED:

  • Physical fitness. Sprinting up several flights of stairs and if necessary, able to fight requires a higher level of physical fitness.

  • A good sports background can pay off in many ways. It can be a basic ingredient for survival. Training in violence is essential.

  • Moral and legal obligations to informants. Many of them are the scum of the earth, but as LEOs we have the same obligations to them as any citizen.

  • Familiarize yourself with the terrain and establishments inhabited by the outlaws and learn how to use it to your advantage.

  • All levels of law enforcement should respect each other's contributions to law and order. On every level, solid relations are essential for sustained success.

  • Officers must have thick skins and a good support system. If you become prominent because of your police actions, be prepared to cope with criticism and attacks in the press whether legitimate or not. Remember, you were the one who was there.

  • Understand the principles of "SSV" (Speed, Surprise & Violence of Action) and employ them when appropriate. They are often force multipliers and can prevent a situation from escalating.

  • Unsecured hostages can also be a threat even when partially disabled. Don't let them distract you from the primary threats. If possible and in light of their injuries reasonably secure them as well. If not, do not let them move and cover them until assistance arrives. If tactically and situationally possible, render first aid to all the injured.


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