by Officer Cody Bamek
I had been on the force a little over three months when my fateful day happened. As a kid, I always dreamed of the moment. My father was a police officer and would always tell how it was as if everything in his life had led up to that moment when he faced down one of the many unarmed blacks that wander in our neighborhoods unchecked. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t looking forward to it. How could I not?
It was a Thursday afternoon like any other. My partner, Officer Lou Martino, and I were in our patrol car when we got the call about a complaint of an unarmed black male lurking in the streets. When we pulled up, I quickly observed the suspect, and I just knew this was it. This was going to be my first shooting.
Lou and I exited the vehicle. Lou started asking him where he was headed, what he was doing, and for an ID. The suspect handed Lou his ID and Lou instructed him to put his hands above his head. At this point, I was so filled with excitement that everything began to blur together.
The suspect did just as Lou instructed and raised his hands above his head. He stood there, arms stretched as far as they could go toward the sky, completely helpless. It was a tense moment.
He began making demands. “Don’t shoot!” he barked. “Don’t make my wife a widow!” he commanded.
He shouted disrespectful taunts like “I have children.”
This is when my training took over. I took out my gun and quickly unloaded all fifteen rounds into the subject, dropping him to the ground. I stood there for what felt like hours, but was in reality mere seconds. Lou came over to me to make sure I was okay. I assured him I was. I thanked him for all he did. If it weren’t for his heroic efforts to subdue this potentially dangerous individual, it would have been hours—if not days—before I had another chance to live this experience.
In a way, this Black life did matter.
My wonderful supervisor, Dennis Rakondry, arrived at the scene to make sure nothing had happened to me. He is a great man and I could not ask for a better Sergeant. After he saw that I was fine, he took my weapon and gave me a pat on the shoulder. He knew it was a big day for me.
I went back to the department and wrote my statement. I’ll be honest, I was so filled with excitement and pride that I probably didn’t make much sense. I was glad to go on the mandatory administrative leave. I had always heard that it was a nice little vacation and I had a lot of movies and TV shows in my Netflix queue, so I was happy to finally have some time to catch up.
Now that I am at the end of the trial, I can admit that having to go back and forth from my house to the court was a bit grueling, but nothing I couldn’t handle. The hardest part, in all honesty, is the aggressive and downright unfair assault on my character by the lawyer representing the suspect’s family members. That is a terrible thing to have to go through, but the tremendous amount of support I have seen has more than helped me get through it. I knew my fellow officers, the justice system, and the majority of White Americans had my back, but to see it in action was, well, it was just so humbling.
After the trial, I look forward to getting back to work. There is a lot I want to accomplish in this honorable public-service career I’ve chosen. While the aftermath of my first unarmed Black shooting has been, at times, a burden, it has really hammered home the justice that we often take for granted in America. It has really shown me, the country, and the world, just what we, as Americans, care about and who we are as a people.
I will soon be back on the streets, doing what law enforcement has always done since the founding of this nation, and it will be my privilege to serve.