Fort Worth officer shot as a robber


Double Naught Spy
January 3, 2003, 11:32 PM

A female Fort Worth cop that was shot on 2 January was shot by the store owner's son as three cops rushed into the store to catch a drug buyer who had entered the store. The three cops entered the store wearing concealment masks and had their guns drawn. Fearing a robbery, the store owner's son first on the first person which was the female cop. She was not wearing a vest and wasn't in uniform.

No charges were filed against the kid, and they should not have been filed. The kid acted in a prudent and reasonable manner given how the situation took place.

It was very lucky for the kid that the cops did not return fire at him.

Simply amazing how such fundamental mistakes get made, not by the owner's son, but by the cops. They probably never gave it a second thought that running into the store with guns drawn and faces concealed that they might be confused for bad guys.

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Greg L
January 3, 2003, 11:37 PM
No kidding, he's very lucky that he didn't get blown away.

If you are planning a sting, at least let the owners know what is going on.


January 4, 2003, 12:14 AM
Notice how the police department changes their story. First her face is unconcealed, then they admit it was covered. Next I suppose they'll admit she wasn't wearing the "raid jacket" - who would wear one to make a drug buy?

It's a long standing American tradition to shoot masked men (today women too) waving guns as they enter your property.

Luckily no SWAT team was involved, they'd surely have killed everyone in the store (tragic accident for the dead civilians, of course).

4v50 Gary
January 4, 2003, 12:22 AM
Job hazard of off duty officers or plain clothes officers. In the recent years, they have been teaching officers methods of avoiding unintentional shooting because of mistaken identity.

Double Naught Spy
January 4, 2003, 02:12 AM
I am not sure what to make of the whole change of story problem. The department's claim was that the original wrong information was just a product of trying to get information to the press quickly, but the information was not verified.

I would still like to know how the sequence of events unfolded as the officers entered the store. Why did the kid only fire one shot and only at one officer? Why didn't the officers return fire?

Given our current weather conditions, it might be possible for customers to be wearing balaclavas (sp?) if they were on motorcycles or any sort of winter cap to cover the tops of their heads and ears, but it was not cold enough to otherwise have their faces covered. So, it would have looked odd to the kid to see three folks entering his store and having their faces covered. Of course, the most reasonable explanation why those same people would have guns out while entering a store at night would be to rob the place. I bet it never dawned on the kid that the 'robbers' were undercover cops trying to effect an arrest.

I know it sounds terrible, but I really think the kid acted in the correct manner given the circumstances. He apparently shot the first one through the door and only shot that person once, so there was nothing malicious on his behalf.

The only place where the kid screwed up was when officers asked who shot the downed cop and he raised his hand. Volunteering that you are the shooter of a cop probably is not a good thing in most cases.

By the way, part of the reason why the cop survived the incident was that the shooting took place only about a mile from a hospital. It was a very short trip after the paramedics arrived and she got the attention she needed very quickly.

January 4, 2003, 05:26 AM
(Story changed or not.)

To the family of the Officer who died in the line of duty.

(Mistake or not!)

My heart go's out to you!!

RIP Officer!

Double Naught Spy
January 4, 2003, 06:46 AM
Um, Don? Unless things went terribly south for the officer over night since I posted, then she is still very much alive. In fact, her condition had been upgraded from critical to serious when I posted.

January 4, 2003, 07:44 AM
I am a police officer, but I'll have to side with the owner's son here.

Now, before anyone thinks me crazy, let me asure you that I feel for the officer. I wish no one had to harmed just for doing their job, cop or not. I wasn't there and don't want to second guess those that were. Sad as it makes me to say it, sounds like the cops made their own bad luck that night. Appears that having someone in the store mistake them for bad guys, when running in wearing plain clothes, masks, and with guns drawn never crossed their minds. Well, dog gone it, they get paid for it to cross their minds. The job is tough enough, we don't need to be our own worst enemy.

Cops sometimes have to take risks, we knew that when we took the job and that's part of what we get paid for. I have no complaints about that, got a long list of others, but not that one. These cops should have known, that doing this the way they did, would place everyone in danger. I understand how undercover narcotic buys work and it isn't an easy job. But, no uniform, no vest, wearing a mask, gun drawn, and running into a type of place that gets held up often and most likely yelling something like (I'm guessing here) "Freeze! Don't move!" or "Hands up!", is just asking for trouble. Unfortunately, sound like it found them.

As I said, I can't blame the son here. Seems he did what most of us (self included) would have done. I'm sorry for all the flack he may take on this. The DA could, with urging of SOME cops, make this hard for him, good shoot or not. Hope that doesn't happen. Sounds like he did what he thought he should. With what little I read I have to agree.

Also, I wouldn't read to much into the fact that the first story the police gave out was wrong. I've been involved in these type of things (shootings) myself, and I can you from experience that the facts are flying fast and few during the first hour or so. Most likely someone gave out info that they weren't sure of, or were given wrong facts by someone else who didn't know either. The fact that they corrected the story shows, I believe, that they were not trying to "cover up" anything. Cops make mistakes too, just like everyone else.

I want to make it clear. I'm not bashing other cops, I wasn't there. I'm just giving my opinion based on the story I read. The last thing a cop, or anyone else for that matter, who has been involved in a shooting needs is for folks that weren't there to start with the "would have", "could have", and "should have" second guessing.

The above thoughts are just my own opinion, and we all know what that is wroth.

January 4, 2003, 07:46 AM
They should have been yelling that they where the police when they entered the bussiness,Of coarse if the guy behind the counter doesnt speak english that wouldnt matter.

Navy joe
January 4, 2003, 08:29 AM
A favorite tactic of agressive robbers is to bust in a place yelling "Police, get down!". You can buy raid jackets online all day long. How does that make it official? That's why there is things like uniforms, badges(that you can inspect), Police IDs, and oh yeah, warrants! Better tactics probably to let the undercover make the buy and if arrest, or in this case pursuit, is needed let the marked units in the area move in and handle it.

Not registering at the Dallas News site, how much drugs were involved? Seems like bad risk management to risk deadly force over a few dime bags unless there was a weapon involved on the criminal's part. I know about fleeing a felony and deadly force usually authorized in those cases, but most places have pursuit laws for traffic pursuits due to the high human costs, maybe re-assess where to draw guns and go chasing. Question #1 Does the suspect present a danger to the public/officers at large if he gets away? As part of pre-raid planning it might reduce problems if officers know how dangerous the suspect is, how far they need to go.

Lucky no one was killed, officer #1 unfortunately learned several hard lessons.
-Wear your #@$% vest!
-Identify yourself!
-Ordinary folks will exercise their right to defend themselves just as quickly as the police.

Hope she passes some on so others can learn at a little lower cost.

El Tejon
January 4, 2003, 08:57 AM

Can't say I blame the shooter. A just shoot. Why do the po-po insist on these silly masks? Everyone wants to be the mall ninja.:rolleyes:

January 4, 2003, 09:39 AM
Why is everyone blaming the mask? Would you shoot a clown who walked into a store you were in? The problem is someone going into a store with a handgun out. Does a mask represent enough danger to justify threat of lethal force? Perhaps I know too many crazy people who might wear a mask on occassion to be silly.

My condolences to the officer and her family, but what do you expect walking into a convenience store with a gun out?

The arrest was over a $20 drug sale. I hope it was worth it. (for those who don't want to register with the DMN)

January 4, 2003, 10:36 AM
People need to ask themselves a far more serious question:

Why are tax dollars and lives being cast away in the name of drug prohibition?

When was the last time you wrote your local, state, and federal represenatives to state that drug use should be decriminalized and the "peace dividend" either returned to the citizens or redirected towards community improvements?

If drugs were decriminalized, at least 60% of the violent crime in this country would evaporate. The profit motive driving criminal gangs to fight and kill over drugs would be gone, and I can see no other product that would enable similar profit margins. Robberies may go up as a result, but that's why we all have the right to keep and bear arms in self-defense. Over time, the gangs would extinguish themselves - either by entering legitimate enterprise, or dying on the bayonets of law-abiding citizens.

The police department leadership in question should be LYNCHED if, as stated, three cops in masks went charging into a store - guns drawn - over a $20 drug purchase!!!!

Okay, lynched is too strong a word. "Forced to walk naked down Main Street at 11am with brown bags over their heads" would be more appropriate.

El Tejon
January 4, 2003, 10:47 AM
tyme, it's the totality of the circumstances, not the mask alone. For example, here in the harsh, gritty, Industrial Nort, it gets cold once and a while. Someone walks into my office with a ski mask on. Am I scareed (a little Tejas lingo)? No, it's the middle of January and God is busy killing bugs and disease.

If that same person runs into my office (like the po-po did), waving a pistol around (like the po-po did), and wearing a mask (like the po-po did), I will be in fear of my life or serious bodily injury. As well, if I see a person in the bank with a ski mask in the middle of August, I will be scareed. If I see a mall ninja with an HK50 or 54 pointed at me wearing a mask at a roadblock in Virginny, I will be scareed.

If she had not had her mask on, she may not have been shot. However, with the mask she stated that she had something to hide and gave rise of a reasonable belief of the owner's son under the circumstances of fear of death or serious bodily injury.

Anywho, masks on the large majority of po-po are a terrible idea. Masks are getting them hurt and undermining the confidence in them of the jury pool. IMHO, of course.

January 4, 2003, 11:00 AM
Beren: you got it right on.

January 4, 2003, 11:11 AM
The police department seems to be handling the aftermath quite well by announcing the newly found facts as they come out.

What bothers me about this sad incident (I'm glad the officer will be OK) is a more basic point.

I'm getting older every day and I neither see nor hear as well as I did 30 years ago. The police Command set this up with the idea that wearing a dark jacket with a small badge on the front and a patch on the shoulder (even if present, the words "police" in 3 inch letters on the back wouldn't help the civilian make an ID here) would be sufficient to overcome the dramatic visual message sent by the circumstances. What civilians would see is an excited person running down the street (or into a store, home, etc.) with their face covered, waving a gun, and shouting something (in a high octive and fast) in a high crime area. It is likely the verbal message was garbled by tension and the civilian had auditory exclusion from the moment he saw the gun. If she had her gun held properly (two-handed weaver) in front of her, her arms and the gun would have obscured the embroidered badge completely. How could they expect anyone to know who she was ?

I just returned from a trip to England. There, the police are wearing conspicuous, lime green jackets with reflective tape. At first you think it's silly. But you can see them 2 blocks away (extending their "presence"?). It's an 'arresting" image (pun intended).

My point is that, in many high tension circumstances, ninja suits, navy blue raid jackets, and even many blue uniforms DON'T instantly convey the message that the wearer is a police officer and not a threat. Perhaps part of the commanders job should be to "visualize" the incident from the bystanders side and consider how to minimize the threat that others may, rightfully, perceive arising from the situation the cops create.

I think the usual raid jacket exemplifies the problem. It's dark blue, and the front is often unmarked or contains a small badge shaped patch which will be obscured if the officer uses his arms. It doesn't instantly identify the wearer from the 1000's of others wearing similiar jackets every day. In fact, I've been told it was originally designed as much to keep the FBI agent's business suits from soil as to identify them to each other. Adding a shoulder patch that is out of the usual line of vision and hard to read sideways doesn't help the person approached make a proper instant identification. The big yellow letters "police," "FBI," or whatever on the back are for the fellow officers behind the wearer as they are invisible to the person approached.

January 4, 2003, 11:54 AM
Someone walking into a store, with a gun out, is more than likely going to cause me to go for cover, mask or not. I'd be more scared about armed "customers" whose body language indicates a crime if they're not wearing a mask, since they'd then have to shoot me to eliminate a witness.

The "drug dealer" wasn't even fleeing when he went into the store. He was buying some chips, probably with the $20 he just made. That definitely sounds like a hard-core drug dealer. It sounds like amateur night except for the owner's son, who managed to hit what was probably a moving target with his first shot, while under stress.

January 4, 2003, 04:22 PM
I`ve responded in uniform to many situations where plainclothes officers, even the feebs, needed an official "presence". This was to insure the person being arrested didn`t have an excuse to resist.

Things like this are going to happen. The police are trained to recognize each other, not an exact science, but citizens aren`t privy to the secret handshake. Not their fault. I can`t find fault with what the man did, and it could have been a lot worse. Let`s hope she has a speedy recovery and a new lesson plan comes of it.

Double Naught Spy
January 4, 2003, 06:05 PM
The masks really are critical here in this case because one of the first things you see as a person working in the store are people's heads. Most counters are designed so that you can see the head and shoulders of adult-sized people so that you can keep track of people being in your store.

Another way to look at it is like this. If there were two elements that would lead you believe you were about to be robbed, masks and guns out are at the top of that list.

As for whether or not the cops were yelling "Police!" when they entered, apparently they were not and as noted, so what if they were. Why would you expect the police to run into your place of business wearing masks and having their guns out, no uniforms, but yelling POLICE? You would not expect that.

As for whether or not the owner's son spoke English, he speaks fine English, at least conversational English. There was no language barrier.

I liked dinosaurs notation that Police learn to recognize each other and your basic citiizens don't recognize the secret handshake. I grew up working in a pawn shop in old East Dallas in a bad part of town. My father was a retired cop and we often had his police buddies dropping by to say hello and to buy things. It was funny to see how quickly people would exit the shop when an off duty copy in street clothes came in the store. Apparently, it is the cops and the many of the bad guys who can spot the secret handshakes and demeanor quite well.

January 5, 2003, 12:57 AM
It seems to me that if you see people running into your store, hiding thier identity, and waving guns about you should feel you are in danger.
Sad to say, the only thing the kid did wrong was not double tapping.

January 5, 2003, 01:22 AM
What Dave and Navy joe said.

The police made their own bad luck and :cuss: , why don't the police ALL wear their vests. Five very lucky Texas cops in 2 days shot and still alive. Vests would have helped all of them a lot....

January 5, 2003, 04:53 AM
Thanks for the correction. I am happy the officer is ok.

All too often it seems that mistakes are taken as "they got what they deserved".

I could be wrong again but the officer was acting in good faith and had no ill intentions to the shop, staff or owners. I have to say that I feel for that officer and family.

I missed it earlier too, that my heart go's out to the defender of his llife. The shop owners son. Shootings are very nasty affairs to say the least. Even if your not the one shot!

The Police Department is responsible for the entire incident. Training is critical!

another okie
January 5, 2003, 11:12 AM
In a democracy the police shouldn't be wearing masks. If they are enforcing some law that is so unpopular that they have to conceal their identity to enforce it, maybe the law needs to be examined.

January 5, 2003, 02:39 PM
The police made their own bad luck and <snip>, why don't the police ALL wear their vests. Five very lucky Texas cops in 2 days shot and still alive. Vests would have helped all of them a lot....Couldn’t agree more. Unfortunately, vests aren’t comfortable and familiarity (with the mundane, routine parts of their jobs) breeds complacency. There’s no excuse for laziness.

January 6, 2003, 07:27 PM
Clerk mistook officer for robber
By Deanna Boyd and Melody Mcdonald
Star-Telegram Staff Writers

FORT WORTH - Police acknowledged Friday that an undercover officer was masked and brandishing a gun when she was shot by a store clerk who believed that he was about to be robbed.

Officials initially disputed witness accounts about the mask, a knit ski-type mask called a balaclava, and said the officer was shot Thursday evening as she and other police went into the E-Z Food Store to arrest a man suspected of selling drugs.

They also revised their account to say that, contrary to their original statement, the officer was not wearing a bullet-resistant vest when she was shot under the left armpit.

The 40-year-old officer, who is not being identified because of her undercover assignment, was upgraded from critical to serious condition at John Peter Smith Hospital on Friday afternoon.

Bao Nguyen, son of the store owner, said the masked officer never identified herself as a police officer as she entered the business at 968 Elmwood Ave. He also said he did not see any police insignia on the officer's raid jacket -- only a "dark figure" with a gun -- when he pulled his .380-caliber handgun and fired once.

"In my mind, I knew if I didn't shoot this person, they're going to shoot me first and then my dad," Nguyen, 28, said.

Police said they are investigating whether the officer followed proper procedure when she walked into the store wearing a mask and carrying a gun, instead of waiting for the suspect to exit.

"I don't know why they went into the store to make an arrest," said Lt. Jesse Hernandez, a police spokesman. "If you are going to go make an arrest of someone who just sold drugs, you might want to draw your gun.

"This is still early; we are still looking at everything. I don't have answers to all your questions yet."

Police Chief Ralph Mendoza did not return calls to his pager late Friday afternoon. Hernandez said neither he nor the chief would comment on department policies until an internal review is complete.

City Manager Gary Jackson said Mendoza had told him that circumstances surrounding the use of the mask and entering a business to make an arrest would be evaluated. He also said departmental policy does not require officers to wear bulletproof vests.

"It is a routine matter in serious incidents like this to do an incident evaluation," he said.

Hernandez said he provided inaccurate information about the mask and bulletproof vest Thursday night because of the chaos that occurred immediately after the shooting.

"I gave you the best information I had at the time," he said. "Some of it came from officers who got there after the fact. They weren't real sure."

Hernandez said undercover officers typically wear pull-on masks "to conceal their identity because they may be a 'buy' officer one day and they don't want to be recognized."

He said no decision has been made on possible charges against Nguyen, who was questioned and released Thursday night.

"We'll collect the facts and, if warranted, he may face a grand jury referral," Hernandez said. "It may very well turn out to be a tragic accident."

On Friday morning, the store's owner and his wife reopened the business.

They were joined later in the afternoon by Bao Nguyen, who said he felt sick after the shooting and had difficulty sleeping.

He arrived, visibly shaken, to a swarm of reporters seeking his account of events.

Nguyen and his father, who asked not to be identified, said they did not own a gun when they bought the store in May 2000. They said they later purchased two, one for each to carry while working, on the advice of Fort Worth police.

"We have a good relationship with police," the owner said, adding that officers typically frequent his store, giving advice and keeping an eye on the business.

Nguyen said he had no clue that he had shot an officer until his father called 911 and dispatchers indicated that police were already there.

"In my mind, I'm thinking, 'How can this be?' " Nguyen said. "I heard from outside a voice saying, 'Officer down.' That's when I realized it."

Soon after, officers stormed into the store.

"They were yelling and cussing," the owner said. "I just put my hands up. I tell my son, 'You put your hands up and do whatever they say.' "

Nguyen said he quickly acknowledged responsibility for the shooting.

"They asked, 'Anybody else in the building?' I said no. They asked, 'Who fired the shot?' I raised my hands up and said, 'I did.' "

Nguyen, his father and the customer whom police were attempting to arrest when the shooting occurred, were ordered on the floor and were handcuffed.

James Crenshaw, 27, admitted selling a $20 rock of crack cocaine to the undercover officers and was booked into Mansfield Jail, where he remained Friday, police said. Police said he faces a charge of delivery of a controlled substance less than one gram, a state jail felony.

The father and son were taken to police headquarters for questioning until almost midnight, when they were driven back to the store and released.

Nguyen and his father said they believe that the shooting could have been avoided if the officer had identified herself.

"It happened too fast," Nguyen said. "I just concentrated on the mask and the gun [she was] holding."

Sam Walker, a professor of criminal justice at the University of Nebraska at Omaha who specializes in police accountability, said the shooting might have been avoided if officers had waited for the suspect to leave the store or used a uniformed officer to make the arrest.

"I think they are creating a very high-risk situation, entering a commercial establishment with a gun and a mask and a hood," Walker said.

"I think the average person would not assume someone with a hood on is a police officer. ... I haven't actually heard of many cases like this. I think it would certainly be an occasion for this department and others to clarify their policies."

Hernandez said a review is under way.

"Anytime something like this happens, obviously, we will go back and review our policies, our procedures, our practices, and see if there is something we need to do differently and make those adjustments as we need to," Hernandez said. "If we make mistakes, then we will correct those."

The wounded officer, a single mother of a young daughter, has been with the department since 1995. Sources said the woman has worked in narcotics enforcement for much of her career, including work at another police agency and as a member of drug task forces before coming to Fort Worth.

"That's her main interest," one officer said. "That's all she ever really tried to work. That's where she has put her efforts. She definitely is experienced beyond her tenure with our department in narcotics."

Nguyen said he feels remorse over the shooting and would like to one day meet the officer and apologize to her and her family.

"To the one I shot, I'm really sorry," Nguyen said. "I pray for her."

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