Training Officer on Shooting of Suspect - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

02/23/06

Training Officer on Shooting of Suspect

Near the corner of Montgomery and Barrington Streets. Near the corner of Montgomery and Barrington Streets.
Lt. Gary Glemboski Lt. Gary Glemboski
A Savannah-Chatham police officer is on administrative leave after shooting a suspect. It happened near the corner of Montgomery and Barrington Street just after 4am this morning.

Police got a call about a suspicious car in the area. Officers followed the vehicle to the end of Barrington Street. That's when police say the suspect, Jerome Hill, pulled a gun on the officer. The officer then pulled his gun and shot Hill in the upper body.

The department placed the officer who fired the shots, Clifford Huggins, on administrative leave. "Internal affairs investigates to see if the officer followed procedure and violent crimes looks into whether there was an assault on the officer," explained SCMPD spokesman Lt. Mike Wilkins.

Hill was taken to a local hospital, where he remains in serious condition tonight. He is facing charges of sexual assault and assault on a police officer.

A confrontation with a suspect that leads to gunfire may be rare, but something officers know could happen at any time. Is there any way for police to prepare for a situation where someone's pointing a gun at them? We spoke with an officer today about that.

Clifford Huggins' life changed forever in the shooting, but it's also something that he has been preparing for his entire career. The culmination of years of training, tests making sure an officer is ready, just in case.

"Is it unfortunate that someone got hurt, absolutely, but in most cases we don't make the choice, someone else is making the choice for us," said Lt. Gary Glemboski, training officer for the Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police Department.

Lt. Glemboski's job is to make sure the 550 officers under his watch make the right choice in the face of danger. "Every situation we go into is potentially an armed confrontation, because we're bringing at least one gun into that situation, so it could turn ugly real fast."

And Glemboski says fast is the key word in a police confrontation. You have no time to think, you just have to react. "We're looking at 3/4 of a second to a second and a half depending on the situation, and a lot of times, if you're moving, that second and a half could be a lifetime, literally a lifetime."

That's why training exercises are so important. Officers are taught how to try to diffuse a situation without force, and if a suspect turns violent, how to make the right decision before opening fire.

"You never get the true feeling of somebody trying to hurt you seriously, but you can get the stress level up, keep everyone thinking and moving a little more dynamically," said Lt. Glemboski.

And that dynamic can hopefully help officers keep the peace, without losing their lives. "I can say we get it right most of the time," said Lt. Glemboski. "Are mistakes made? Yes."

There were only three officer-involved shootings in Savannah all of last year. One ended with a suspect dying. In May of 2005, two officers pulled two people over for racing down Abercorn Street. They put the suspects in the backs of separate cars.

One of the suspects, Mathew Casey, managed to climb into the front of the patrol car and drive off. Officers Robert Caulford and William Knight caught up with Casey 12 hours later. Caulford tried to arrest Casey, but Casey wrestled away the officer's gun and pointed it at Caulford. That's when Knight fired twice, grazing Casey with the first bullet and killing him with the second.

The department put both officers on leave pending an investigation. That investigation showed that the shooting was justified.

Less than ten percent of all officers ever discharge their guns in the line of duty. But Glemboski says officers know that the next call they go out on could be their first time--or last.

Reported by: Andrew Davis, andrewdavis@wtoc.com

 

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