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Learning the hard way. (Handguns in Services).

SUPERVISORY SPECIAL AGENT DAVE KUCHARA LOOKED DOWN AT THE PARTIALLY RETRACTED SLIDE OF HIS GLOCK 17 9MM PISTOL TO ENSURE THAT THERE WAS, IN FACT, A ROUND IN ITS CHAMBER. THEN, WITH A GRUNT OF APPROVAL, HE RELEASED IT AND DROPPED ITS MAGAZINE INTO HIS LEFT HAND, EXAMINED IT CAREFULLY TO VERIFY THAT IT WAS FULLY LOADED WITH FEDERAL HYDRA-SHOK 124-GRAIN JHPS THEN REINSERTED IT. HE RAISED HIS HEAD AND SAID, "OK, LET'S DO IT." NOTING THIS, HIS PARTNER SPECIAL AGENT ALVIN YARROW SHOOK HIS HEAD AND WHISPERED, "WHY DO YOU ALWAYS DO THAT BEFORE WE HIT THE DOOR, DAVE? I'VE BEEN WORKING WITH YOU FOR FIVE YEARS NOW, AND EVERY TIME WE HIT A CRACK HOUSE, YOU ALWAYS CHECK YOUR PIECE BEFORE WE START. I'LL BET YOU'VE CHECKED YOUR GUN FIVE TIMES TODAY ALREADY. WHY?"

Kuchara smiled grimly and whispered back, "Murphy's Law, sonny boy. Better to have and not need than the other way around. When you've been on the Street as long as I have, you'll learn to take no chances. Checking your piece only takes a second, and it just might save your life. It costs nothing and makes you feel better, too, knowing that all is OK, and that alone makes it worth the effort. The guy inside this place is one bad hombre, meaning we'll have our hands full with him no matter what happens. So, having one less thing on my mind is, to me, a good idea."

With a sigh, Yarrow replied, "I guess so, Dave, but it seems like a waste of time to me. I checked my gun when I put it on this morning, so I know it's loaded, ya know? Checking it over and over again throughout my shift seems to me like a lot of unnecessary work."

Kuchara shook his head minutely, as if mildly disgusted. "Do as you like, A1, but someday you'll get it. I just hope you don't have to find out the hard way why it's a good idea to believe in Murphy's Law and avoid assuming anything," he said quietly. "Might even get you killed in the process."

Yarrow was obstinate. "Not me; no way, Jose. Not today... not tomorrow...not ever. I don't make mistakes like forgetting to load my gun in the morning. Now, enough sermons, OK? Can we get on with this and nail this guy?"

Kuchara nodded, "Roger that, ace. Let's do it..."

Their pistols at Ready, the two agents moved quietly down the hallway of the shabby apartment building to a point on the doorknob side or me suspect's door. Yarrow lined himself up behind Kuchara, who slowly checked the knob to see if the door was locked.

Incredibly, it wasn't; a major drug-dealer had forgotten to lock his front door. Kuchara nodded over his shoulder to Yarrow, who affirmed his message in return.

Kuchara nodded again, indicating he was about to begin the moving countdown, and Yarrow again affirmed his understanding. The well-practiced entry protocol was begun.

Six...five... The two men began moving back and forth in unison, synchronizing their movement.

Four ... three ... Kuchara's left hand grasped the doorknob, his Glock 17 held muzzle down in his right. Yarrow's body was angled slightly toward the wall beside the doorframe, his SIG P-226 in both hands, pointed toward the wall.

Two ... one ... Kuchara turned the knob fully, both men taking a deep breath and holding it.

Go! Go! Kuchara thrust the door open, pushing it hard to make certain it swung fully open to the opposite way and wouldn't close on them as they entered.

Inside, sitting at a dining room table covered with white-powder-filled Ziploc bags, were three men. On the table in front of them were three handguns--an old, well-worn Smith & Wesson Model 59 9mm, a Beretta 92 9mm and a vintage GI 1911A1 .45.

As the door banged open loudly, the two agents moved rapidly inside, Kuchara yelling, "Narcotics agents! Get your hands up high!"

He then moved rapidly to his left, while Yarrow button-hooked to the right. The movement was designed to give both men full coverage of the room.

"Damn!" the largest man exclaimed in stunned surprise as he kicked back in the chair, propelling himself rearward and trying to stand. "Who left the door open?"

The other two men sat very still, then began slowly raising their hands as instructed.

"I said get your hands up!" Kuchara bellowed at the largest man. Then added, "Stay away from those guns!"

But Guillermo Rojas wasn't about to obey. He was a two-time convictee of lesser drug-related crimes, and he knew that this one was his Armageddon. If they got him this time, it would be 10 years in the slam; they'd lock him up and throw away the key, and all the lawyers in the world wouldn't be able to save him.

"Mutha f...!" he exclaimed. And with the graphic expletive hissing from his lips, he immediately dove for the cocked-and-locked M1911A1 on the table.

"Stop!" Yarrow screamed frantically, his SIG snapping upward to Point, but Kuchara was already up and being aimed, his Trijicon three-dot sights centering on a spot beneath Rojas' right armpit.

Rojas had his hands on the .45, scrabbling to get control of it. Then, having done so, he turned toward the two agents, his thumb disengaging its thumb safety in the process. The muzzle of the big gun loomed even larger as its muzzle began to rise upward toward them.

"Stop!" Yarrow screamed again, his P-226 now fully up and pointed.

Crack, crack, crack! Kuchara's Glock 17 spoke fast, sending its message across the 10 feet separating the two men. Yarrow would later say that the shots were so fast that they sounded like one continuous roar.

Rojas flinched as three 124-grain Hydra-Shok JHPs slammed into the left side of his chest, then his knees buckled and he stumbled sideways into the table.

Boom! The M1911A1 in his hand fired, sending a 230-grain hardball bullet into the floor. Fragments of linoleum tile flew in all directions as the bullet disintegrated into the concrete beneath. But it was pointed well down and posed no serious hazard to either of the agents.

Rojas dropped to his knees, the chair now to his left spinning away to slam into the wall and overturn. His face registered disbelief, then he began to topple forward, his weapon clattering to the floor in front of him. With a dull thud he struck face-first, his now-empty hand outstretched, and lay still.

"Jesus Christ!" one of the men at the table mumbled in the eerie silence following the gunfire, then he dove for the Smith & Wesson 9mm in front of him.

But Yarrow was on him, the P-226 in his outstretched hands tracking him all the way.

Crack...click! It fired once, then stopped, it's hammer falling on an empty chamber.

Pow, pow, pow, pow! Hit in the abdomen, the man hunched, then with a grimace on his face raised his Smith & Wesson upward and fired wildly at the stunned Yarrow four times.

The first round virtually parted Yarrow's hair, missing the top of his head by less than a half-inch. The second went through the lobe of his right ear, a painful and bloody but not life-threatening wound.

The third missed him entirely, following a path low and to his right, striking the sheetrock wall just above the baseboard.

And the fourth struck the floor four feet to Yarrow's right, sending bullet fragments careening into the wall behind him.

And still Yarrow stood frozen, paralyzed, staring in amazement at the pistol in his upheld hands. His finger worked the trigger three more times, but with each fall of the hammer only dull clicks could be heard.

Crack, crack! To Yarrow's left, Kuchara's Glock snapped up from Ready to Point and spoke again, punching two Hydra-Shoks into the second man's chest. The man staggered, then righted himself momentarily, then tottered over backward, upending the table in a spectacular crash as he fell. Bags of crack cocaine, cash and the Beretta 92 went flying in all directions.

The third man jumped back, pushing his hands high, screaming, "Don't shoot! Please don't shoot," he sobbed in terror.

Kuchara's Glock tracked back onto him. "Hands on your head! Down on your knees! Now!" he commanded.

The man did as he had been told, his eyes pleading.

"Gross your ankles, sit down on them and freeze, you hear?"

Once again, the man obeyed, breathing an audible sigh of relief as he realized that as long as he did what he was told, he wasn't going to die.

The Glock in Kuchara's hand snapped back down to Ready, and his head turned to look at Yarrow, who was now shaking uncontrollably. "You OK, Al?" he said.

"Uh...yeah...I think so," Yarrow stammered. "My gun misfired, Dave. The damn thing misfired!"

Kuchara side-stepped briskly over him, released his left hand from his gun and took Yarrow's pistol from his hands. He briefly examined it, his eyes widening at what he found.

"The magazine is unseated, Dave," he said quietly. "The release button must have somehow gotten pressed when it was still in your holster earlier. That's why you only got one shot. The round in the magazine couldn't feed."

"I..." Yarrow began.

"Listen," Kuchara said sharply. "You damn near got yourself--and maybe me, too--killed by being so stubborn. See why you always figure on Murphy's Law and check your piece before you depend upon it? Do you get it now?"

"Yeah. I'm sorry, Dave, I really am," replied a very contrite and thoroughly shaken Yarrow in a whisper.

"OK, then," Kuchara interrupted, taking a deep breath to dispel some of his tension. "Get your piece squared away and move up to search and cuff this guy, will you? I'll cover you."

"Sure, Dave," Yarrow said humbly as he pressed the magazine of his P-226 fully home and cycled the slide to reload it. Then, noting Kuchara was still watching him, he quickly retracted the slide a bit to ensure that it was indeed loaded.

Kuchara smiled, then added, "Come on, ace. Let's get a move on. Let's get this guy squared away, get the forensics guys up here and get all of this mess taken care of. And when we're done, I'll buy you a beer, OK?"

"Sure, Dave." Yarrow stammered weakly, adding, "and thanks for saving my life."
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Author:Taylor, Chuck
Publication:Handguns
Date:Apr 1, 2003
Words:1739
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