After the shooting.
NINE MONTHS after being shot in the chest during a SWAT call, Eugene police Sgt. Jay Shadwick stood on a steel catwalk above a bulletproof practice building, tight-lipped as he evaluated SWAT team hopefuls during a tryout.
He flinched at the pop-pop-pop of simulated ammunition. A slight limp appeared, then became more pronounced as he grew tired. His black police-issue sweater hung a bit loosely on his thin torso.
For Shadwick and his colleagues, it has been a long haul since Feb. 22.
Early that morning, officer Ted Williams, a SWAT team sniper, mistook Shadwick for an armed suspect and shot him in the fog outside a Saginaw area mobile home.
Investigations by the Lane County district attorney's office and Eugene police found the shooting understandable and justified in the circumstances, but the reports also pointed out some failings in communication among team members.
Robbie Leon Harris, the suspect who started the incident by shooting his cousin in the leg at a family gathering, turned himself in the next day. He was convicted of unlawful use of a weapon against another and sentenced to 27 months in prison.
Shadwick - who is undergoing counseling and physical therapy - said he isn't ready to talk in detail about his ordeal. He returned to work part time in September and on Nov. 19, for the first time since he was shot, rejoined fellow SWAT team members at the Goshen range to help grade the tryouts.
"I have good days and bad days, and I'm hoping for more good days," he said.
As Shadwick has focused on his recovery, so has the department focused on turning his shooting into the ultimate teachable moment for the SWAT team, finding ways to improve communication and ensure a higher level of safety - even in adverse conditions.
To that end, the department has studied its hand gestures and voice commands, bought new binoculars and night vision glasses to aid in darkness and fog, and implemented a closed-circuit radio system as backup to its normal radio system, said the team commander, Eugene Lt. Tom Turner.
In case the backup fails, the department also bought a satellite phone system that works in even the most remote locations, and a portable repeater that boosts the range of the team's radios, Turner said.
"It's never been that crucial because the radios have always worked," Turner said. "Now we have a nice portable system that will enable us to talk to anyone."
But the most dramatic changes are in the team's lineup. Four new people joined the 26-member team - a police officer and a sheriff's deputy who are trained trauma medics signed on in May and two tactical dispatchers from the county's 911 Center started in September.
The two medics work as a pair whenever the team is called out. Both dispatchers go out with the team to monitor radio traffic and coordinate communications, but stay behind the line of fire. All four have been out with the team about a half-dozen times.
"This works pretty nicely. I've got two fully trained medics on the team and two highly trained medics with the fire department in their trucks," Turner said. Although fire trucks with medics on board have always stood by during SWAT team responses, those medics also must stay out of the line of fire. The new SWAT medics can stay with the team.
"Victims, suspects, police officers - now, they're all covered," Turner said. "It's a tremendous asset."
Medical care decision
It was a challenge to get past the political and financial barriers to add the four members, Turner said.
The SWAT members have other enforcement duties and don't get extra pay for SWAT calls unless they work overtime, but Turner needed money to train, equip and insure the new members.
The team had only its annual $20,000 budget to work with, so each agency involved - Eugene police, the Lane County sheriff's office and the county 911 center - had to stretch resources.
To make ends meet, each agreed to more aggressively seek community grants and reimbursement from individuals and businesses for police costs, Turner said.
The specifics have yet to be worked out, but all three agencies will share the cost for the tactical dispatchers. Eugene police and the sheriff's office will cover the costs of the medics.
"We're just continuing to burst at the seams for every dollar we have," Turner said.
Before Shadwick's shooting in the rural area near Creswell, far from a hospital emergency room, the department had never had a member seriously injured on a call, he said.
So far this year, the team has responded to 18 calls. In 2000, the team answered a record-setting 25 calls - nearly three times the calls from the previous year and more than four times the calls in 1998.
"If you take (the shooting) in conjunction with the fact that we'd never had such an increase in calls, it showed we needed to expand," Turner said. "Some things you can't scrimp on. These things are just far too important."
Deputy Rob Rosales, one of the new SWAT members, originally proposed adding medics to the team in 1999, but politics and a lack of money intervened.
"I'd always been interested in law enforcement and one of my goals was to be a medic with the SWAT team," said Rosales, a three-year veteran of the sheriff's office with 11 years of experience as an emergency medical technician.
There are strong opinions on whether it's better to arm trained medics with the fire department, or train police officers to be medics for SWAT duty, Turner said.
"That's a philosophical issue across the country," he said. "We've chosen to arm them and we've chosen cops. The shooting allowed us to get past all that. I think people just saw the need. Saginaw was the perfect example. We needed medics in the field."
Trauma medics are often an integral part of tactical teams in larger cities. Some police departments have even trained doctors to be armed members of a team.
"Basically, I planted the seed," Rosales said. "It took about a year and half. I'd never let it die."
Rosales and Eugene officer Tony Peterman became partners. The two attended a nationally organized one-week tactical emergency medicine training in May at Camp Rilea near Warrenton on the coast.
"Being a medic with the team, I can get in there even under fire and begin treatment right away," Rosales said. "It's important."
No shortage of volunteers
Shadwick's shooting, the added medics and dispatchers, even the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks highlight the obvious: Danger is an integral part of any police position, especially in a SWAT team. But officers still line up to earn a spot on the elite team.
Two weeks ago, 11 men vying for one spot ran an obstacle course, played roles in three SWAT scenarios and went through an interview with a panel of police officials.
"We're just looking at the raw product; we need something moldable and malleable," Turner said.
Team members need to be physically fit, quick thinkers. The tryouts test a candidate's strength, agility, perseverance and ability to think in hostile and dangerous situations.
Candidates begin with a short sprint, hop over a 6-foot wall, crawl through a cement cylinder then swing across some monkey bars.
From there, they climb through a window, then through a hole in the lower section of the door, drag a 150-pound sled, jump over a 4-foot wall and climb a 10-foot chain-link fence before running again - only to double back and go through the course a second time.
The clock is running and those who pass must finish in 7 minutes or less.
"We've had people walk off and say, `No, it's not for me,' and that's what we want," Turner said. "And we've had others give it all they've got, and that's what we're looking for. It takes some grit to get them through."
Officer Randy Smith, a former SWAT member who left the team before Shadwick's shooting after having three knee surgeries in three years, said he missed the work and wanted to return. He was at the tryout to prove to himself and the graders that he was again physically capable of the work.
"I miss the teamwork," he said. "I miss the training. When the public needs help they call the police, when the police need help they call SWAT, and it ends with SWAT."
Before leaving the team, Smith had been assigned to the entry team - the group that goes through a suspect's door first - for five or six years. Had he been out on the call in Saginaw, he probably would have been right alongside Shadwick, he said.
"I can't say that incident makes me want to come back, but I think I have something to offer," Smith said.
Sept. 11 also had a profound effect on everyone, he said.
"I think it will make the team think about a lot of things it hadn't before - like bioterrorism," Smith said. "I believe in what they stand for and the work they do."
Officer Dan Long, 39, a member of Eugene's Rapid Deployment Unit, won the open spot on the team, but Smith was picked for a position that will open next year when a SWAT member retires.
"Officer down" drill
During the tryout, one of three scenarios that Shadwick monitored was an "officer down" drill.
As the story went, an officer responding to an alarm spotted an armed suspect running into a building. The officer called for backup, but before it arrived, he followed the suspect and was barely inside the door when he was shot. The wounded officer couldn't move and didn't know where the suspect was.
The SWAT candidate played the role of a responding officer who arrived with his partner just in time to see the first officer run into the building, then he and his partner heard shots and realized their colleague was hit.
Torn between the urge to chase the suspect and the need to rescue a fellow officer, each candidate had to decide on the correct procedure.
Some ran after the suspect after checking on the wounded officer's condition. Others stopped, dropped to one knee in front of the wounded officer and radioed for an ambulance. These candidates shielded the officer down from being shot again, then dragged to him safety.
Which is exactly what happened to Shadwick in real life.
As Shadwick and two members of a perimeter team - those who scout the edges around a suspect's presumed location - approached the back of a house to get a better view of the porch, they split up to go around a parked pickup truck.
Shadwick had walked between the house and a truck when the sniper and his partner indicated over the radio that the suspect was in sight. The SWAT sniper fired a single shot and Shadwick fell to the ground. The rest of the team thought the suspect had fired.
Immediately, fellow team member Ken Simpson, a county sheriff's sergeant, stepped from behind the truck, positioned himself in front of Shadwick - as he had been trained to do - until a third team member could help Simpson drag Shadwick to safety.
After watching the officer-down drill, Shadwick, 41, said it's not unusual that a training drill should seem so close to a real-life experience, because preparing for the real dangers of SWAT work is the point of the training.
"All of the scenarios are similar to scenarios we've practiced with patrol officers," he said. "The intention is that the officer has to react right away. They don't have the luxury of waiting for other officers as backup.
"There's not a right way or a wrong way, but there are ways that we think are safer."
Who: The Eugene-Lane County Special Weapons and Tactics Team is made up of one police captain, one lieutenant and two sergeants - all from Eugene; 16 Eugene police officers; one Lane County sergeant; five Lane County deputies; two trauma medics - one from Eugene and one from Lane County; two tactical dispatchers; and six crisis negotiators.
What: A specialized team that responds to high-risk calls throughout the county such as hostage situations, large drug busts and armed suspects.
The costs: $25,000 in start-up costs in 1975, mostly for weapons that are still in use. The team's $20,000 annual budget for equipment and training is part of the Eugene Police Department's $3.4 million special operations division budget that covers several teams including SWAT, Rapid Deployment Unit, the traffic team and the Interagency Narcotics Enforcement Team.
New equipment costs: This year's budget also covered several key purchases, including a satellite phone system ($900 for two phones, $18 per month for service and about $1.75 per minute when in use); and closed circuit radio ($1,000).
Call-outs: So far in 2001, the team has responded to 18 calls, compared with a record-setting 25 calls in 2000.
Sgt. Jay Shadwick observes an applicant for an opening on the SWAT team during a training scenario. The scenario here - officer down - is all too familiar to Shadwick. Nine months ago, he was mistakenly shot in the chest by a SWAT team sniper while searching for a suspect near Creswell. BRIAN DAVIES / The Register-Guard After being shot in March, SWAT team Sgt. Jay Shadwick returned to field work for the first time in November. "I have good days and bad days, and I'm hoping for more good days." - SGT. JAY SHADWICK , Eugene police officer shot in SWAT incident
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|Title Annotation:||SWAT team adds medics, dispatchers in the wake of friendly fire accident; Accidents|
|Publication:||The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)|
|Date:||Dec 2, 2001|
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