Featured Stories

Other Pamplin Media Group sites


Shoot? Don't shoot? Can I choose none of the above?

There's a reason reporters are armed with pens, not guns -


OUTLOOK PHOTO - Our intrepid reporter isn't really that intrepid. It’s my first day as a police officer, and already I’m walking into trouble.

From the sound of it, there’s a nasty domestic disturbance going on behind the wooden door in front of me.

I try to remember the advice of my trainer, Eric Logue, a corrections deputy who helps teach new officers about firearms, and when to use them.

I remember that if I discharge my weapon, I’ll be asked to prove intent, opportunity and capability to show that my shooting was justified.

In other words, can I prove that the suspect is planning to hurt me or another (intent), that the threat is imminent (opportunity) and that the person actually has the means to follow through (capability).

But as I cross the threshold into the gloomy room, the only thought left in my head is: Don’t screw this up.

The couple in front of me is yelling. The woman clutches a newborn baby to her chest, while the man is screaming something about “who called the cops.”

I try to remember what police officers sound like on “CSI,” but before I can say anything, the man is throwing crumpled-up energy drink cans at me. From his behavior, it looks like he’s been drinking something a lot stronger.

My gun is out, but lowered, pointed at the floor. I know at this point I should give clear and concise verbals, something like “show me your hands” or “get down on the floor.”

The best I can think of is a rather milquetoast. “Let’s all just take a breather now, OK?”

Since I won’t take control of the situation, the man does. He grabs the baby from his partner’s hands, and in one motion throws the child to the floor.

Should I shoot? I don’t know. While I hesitate, the man’s boot comes crashing down on the baby’s head. As skull and foot connect, I squeeze the trigger once. There’s a quiet pop, and the man drops to the ground, groaning and clutching his side. I’ve been inside the house for 90 seconds, maybe.

Did I do the right thing? Should I have acted sooner?

These are hard questions. Thankfully, I don’t have to answer them.

The Glock-like gun in my hands is an imitation, and so am I. I’m not a police officer, but a reporter going through the Multnomah County Sheriff Office’s “Shoot or Don’t Shoot” simulation.

It’s Friday, July 15, and all around kids and families are enjoying the 18th annual Wood Village Nite Out.

The “house” in front of me is really a utility shed. And while the kick to the head was real, the fake newborn’s pink plastic skull doesn’t have a dent on it.

The husband and wife are actually Angela McCafferty and Cory Gillas, both corrections deputies.

They debrief me after the fact.

I did OK, but say I should have done more to keep the child safe.

As Gillas explains, “These things happen really fast. The time and travel from your head to your hand was simultaneous.”

Logue, who observed the entire encounter, reminds me that these scenarios happen every day, to real officers trying to keep everyone alive.

“It’s like Forest Gump,” he says. “Every situation is different, and you never know what you’re going to get.”

Me, I’m just glad to walk away. Maybe next year I’ll try a simulation of the bouncy house.

Zane Sparling is a reporter for The Outlook. He covers Troutdale, Fairview, Wood Village and Corbett.