It was a muggy August evening, the kind where the humidity sticks to you like a bad habit. I was working as field supervisor on the PM watch, with patrolman Bob Rhamey as my partner. We had pulled our two cruisers into the empty parking lot of Lackland Insurance just to shoot the breeze for a few minutes and eyeball traffic on Broadway.
Bob always exhibited a certain curiosity about (what he called) my "religious views" and often queried me on matters of faith in relation to police work. Sometimes, it was hard to tell if he was really that interested in my beliefs, or if he was just trying to be an obliging conversationalist, but my heart always led me to seize every opportunity to speak to him of my faith in Christ, and leave it to God to orchestrate it's impact on his life.
"Tell me Sarge,…." He inquired, as we conversed across through our drivers' windows. "…..do you really believe God has protected you in any miraculous way since you've been on the job?"
"Oh, I'm sure of it." I answered honestly.
"I mean,…." He strained for specificity. "….can you actually recall a time when He worked a miracle to keep you safe on duty?"
"Well,……" I carefully pondered over my twelve years of police experience, wanting to be both as honest and precise as possible. "……off hand I can't point to an exact walk on water kind of miracle, but I do know in my heart that He's watching over me."
"See,….that's what I mean!…." He insisted. "….that whole faith thing.
I'd have to see a real miracle before I could say that I thought somebody up there….." He pointed skyward. "…..was protecting us."
"That's one of the distinguishing lines between Christians and non-believers….." I replied. "……as a Christian, I'm instructed to live by faith and not trust in my own understanding or worldly influences."
"I hope you're right about God, Sarge. It would really be nice to believe that somebody upstairs has got His hand on us."
At that moment we were interrupted by a transmission over our police radio: "P.D. to 69-14…"
I keyed my microphone and replied. "Fourteen,….go ahead headquarters."
"Respond to 108 West Valley street on a 10-10 domestic…. Use caution,…..possible firearms present."
"Fourteen and nineteen are 10-4 and responding."
We rushed through traffic under cover of red lights and soon arrived at the all-to-familiar location. It was a dumpy apartment complex with a communal atmosphere, a congregating place for hard-core bikers and drug users. On it's own it represented one of the most hostile locations in our town for law enforcement officers, but the added prospect of firearms present heightened the danger and caused our adrenalin to flow.
"Fourteen and nineteen will be out on WT at scene." I radioed, acknowledging our arrival.
"Ten-four,…fourteen." Came the reply.
Several choppers were parked around the apartments, and ten to twelve rough, biker-type individuals lingered in various areas of the yard drinking beer. Loud music blared from inside the building, accompanied by yelling and the occasional crash of furnishings.
As we exited our patrol units, two women ran screaming toward us, I recognized one as the wife of a well-known outlaw, Frank Brassy. She had a badly bloodied nose and was highly agitated, sobbing as she spoke.
"He tried to kill me….." She cried, pointing backwards toward the
"Who tried to kill you?." I inquired as the pair reached my location.
"Frank,….that's who, and I want him arrested".
Frank Brassy was a long-time drug dealer, drunk and abuser. I had personally arrested him some ten times over the past two years and he always resisted arrest. "Does Frank have a gun with him?" I asked, as I surveyed the movements and mood of the bikers swarming on the lawn.
"I think he's got some kind of a pistol somewhere inside…." She responded. "…Bill Messmen is in there too, and they're both up…" ("up" meaning on a drug high) "…. and really drunk!"
"What are they on?" Officer Rhamey asked the women.
"Crack,…." The other woman replied. "……they got a hold of some Crack and they're going crazy."
Now, Frank Brassy by himself was a handful, but when you added the viciousness of his friend, Bill Messmen plus the explosive mood enhancement of a drug to the mix, you could almost sense death in the wings awaiting cue.
"Do you need medical help?" I asked the injured woman.
"No!" She quickly replied. "I just want him arrested, so I can go back in and get my baby."
Bob and I both looked at each other, knowing that the presence of a child in the apartment definitely magnified the need for caution in this
"Okay lady,…..you let us in your apartment, then take your baby outside while we deal with Frank and Bill."
The two women led us into the yard, through the jeering, threatening crowd of bikers, to the front door of the apartment. From outside we could hear the two men yelling and smashing furnishings.
"They're breaking my things!…." The woman complained as she reached for the doorknob. "…..I wanna press charges,….you gotta get them out of here!" She opened the door for us, we stepped in front of them and entered cautiously.
Once inside, we could tell that the commotion was coming from the kitchen. I asked the woman where her baby was, she indicated a bedroom off to our left. We then accompanied her to retrieve the infant from it's crib, and escorted both women back out the door with the baby.
When we entered the kitchen, we found the two men standing by the table. The floor was covered with broken glass, beer spills, assorted wreckage and empty cans. It was obvious they were in a very destructive and violent frame of mind. We tried speaking to them, but the loud music from the boom box made conversation completely impossible, so officer Rhamey reached over and unplugged it from the outlet.
The wild and intoxicated pair then began to lash out at us with curses and obscenities. They paced back and forth like angry lions, refusing to dialogue or listen to anything we tried to say.
Completely unexpectedly, the two women re-entered the apartment and began to argue with the men, so Bob Rhamey turned to quiet them and keep them out of the kitchen. At that very instant, Frank Brassy snatched up a full six pack of beer off the table and swung it at me striking me in the side of the face, he then lunged forward, in an attempt to grab my pistol from it's holster. Bill Messmen picked up a baseball bat from a corner of the room and swung it at the back of Bob's head. Miraculously, a closet door abruptly swung open from the corner, coming between the bat and back of Bob's head, absorbing the blow intended for him.
From that point on it was a brawl. One of the women managed to get to the telephone and called 911 for additional help. Officer Rhamey fought with Bill Messmen near the back door of the apartment, and I, again, found myself locked in combat with Frank Brassy.
We went over the table and onto the floor, through the doorway and into the living area. We crashed into the coffee table, lamps and various pieces of furniture, then rolled back again into the kitchen. For what seemed like forever we struggled, all the while Frank fought like a man possessed. The combination of substances had made him nearly impervious to pain and as strong as any man I had wrestled in years. He was wild-eyed, vicious and completely determined to avoid arrest, and with his hand still on my servic weapon I knew this was no mild scuffle, but a battle for my life with a drug-crazed animal.
Meanwhile, Bill Messmen managed to break free from Bob's hold and retrieve a .45 handgun from a shelf near the back door. He jacked a round into the weapon, pointed it at Bob's head and squeezed the trigger, but the weapon failed to fire. Bob then tackled him, and together they crashed through the back door into the yard.
I finally managed to pull Frank's hand off of my weapon and with a strength I never knew I had, snatched him up by the shirt and hurled him bodily into the kitchen sink.
Now, every police officer knows that the kitchen is a dangerous place to have any physical confrontation, because it is filled with numerous utensils that can be converted to deadly devices in an instant; but, in law enforcement, you can seldom choose your field of battle and just have to go with the cards you're dealt.
As I came after Frank and reached up for him, he retrieved a steak knife from the sink. Before I even had time to react, I saw his hand come down shoving the blade in my chest just below my throat and about one inch above the Kevlar of my protective vest. I remember seeing the handle go downward, and the blade disappear inside my shirt, yet I felt no pain. With all my strength and fearing that I might soon die, I struck Frank Brassy full in the center of the face with my fist. I saw his eyes calm and felt his body go limp. While he was semi-conscious, I threw him hard to the floor and put my knee in the center of his back. I handcuffed him, lifted him to his feet and walked him out through the back door.
Outside I found Bob leaning against the porch and breathing heavily. Bill was lying face down at his feet, handcuffed and subdued. Four sheriff deputies and two state troopers had responded to our need for assistance, helped Bob with his arrest and now had the biker crowd at bay with pointed shotguns.
As for me, I was oblivious to the knife handle protruding from my upper chest, and aside from my exhaustion, I seemed to be suffering no ill effects from the lengthy confrontation. Bob and the two troopers rushed toward me, throwing Frank to the ground. In wide-eyed urgency, they ripped open my shirt to check me for injury. To a man we stood astonished when we observed that the knife blade had bent at a 45-degree angle at the handle as it ripped through the very top of my vest cover and T-shirt. It had not at all penetrated my skin, but left only a large, dark red abrasion where there should have been a fatal stab wound.
Days later when Bob and I got together to compare notes regarding that incident and most notably the "oddities" involved in that dangerous confrontation. We talked about the closet door strangely opening, at that precise moment and wondrously protecting him from a potentially fatal blow to the back of his head. We checked the misfire from the loaded .45 handgun and we pondered over the bend in the steak knife that spared my life. With all these elements visible to examination I couldn't help but ask him…. "Well Bob, what do you make of all this?"
He smiled and said, "I think maybe I'll come visit your church next Sunday,…." then lifting his eyes toward heaven he added, "…. now I'm convinced,…. somebody up there really does like us!"
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