Excerpts A Higher Call To Duty Sgt Mike McGrew

Excerpts

Excerpts from A Higher Call to Duty by Santa Barbara Police Officer Mike McGrew

Excerpts Sgt Mike McGrew A Higher Call To Duty

"WHICH ONE OF YOU AM I GOING TO KILL FIRST?"

On one of the last days of my field training, an alert went out about a man breaking windows of businesses in the downtown area. My field training officer, Steve, and I happened to be nearby and were the first to respond. It was a sunny Sunday afternoon and the streets were packed with people.

When we got to the scene we spotted the suspect, a tall and scruffy man in his late 40s, frantically swinging a sword dangerously close to the crowds. Parking our squad car in the street to block oncoming traffic, we called for backup. The sword wielding man was particularly focused on a bicyclist. He repeatedly lunged toward the cyclist who was using the bike to shield himself. I noticed several families nearby and my first thought was, “We have to get this guy away from these people.”  

His attention turned to my partner and I, he screamed, “Which one of you sons-of-bitches am I going to kill first?” He charged toward Steve who stood about five-foot-eight, a stark contrast to my six foot three frame. Steve took a step back tripping over a planter on the sidewalk. He fell and the deranged man took a step toward him raising the sword over his head. 

In that instant it seemed like everything around me stopped, then moved in slow motion. It was up to me to save my partner's life and I had to decide whether or not to shoot in order to do it. I envisioned the consequences of my actions if I pulled the trigger. The headlines would read, “Rookie Cop kills guy in front of downtown crowds,” but, I knew I had to do it.

 

I felt my fingers tighten on my department issued revolver and saw the hammer of the gun cock back, but just before I pulled the trigger sending the bullet to the point of no return, he turned toward me. I released the trigger and my breath - closest I'd ever come to killing someone.

MY SON TT MADE HIS FINAL GOODBYES, SAID HE LOVED ME, LATER OVERDOSED

My son T.T. never got a chance to grow up, go on a date, or just be a normal kid. TT had been through so much by the time he was 18 years old. He was diagnosed with cancer, had his leg amputated, and was constantly undergoing treatment. He endured 13 major operations in six years and nearly died several times from complications stemming from the chemo.

Up to this point, his mom and I had been making all the decisions about T.T.’s treatment, but I felt like it was no longer just up to us. He knew all too well about dealing with cancer. I told him he could make all the decisions. “You're a man now. Whatever happens it's your call. I’m here for you, but you decide. If you don't want to go through another round of chemotherapy, I understand.”

He decided he was done with it all… said he loved me, later overdosed.

NOTHING TOOK THE PAIN AWAY: I WAS SELF-DESTRUCTING

In the years that followed I continued to work my way up the ranks in my department, but things were not going as well at home. I divorced my first wife, and was chasing the things the world has to offer for comfort to escape from the tragedies I dealt with at work. I used alcohol and other unhealthy behaviors to take my mind off my life’s troubles and trials, but nothing I did took away the pain or trauma.

The more I chased alcohol’s relief and fleshly desires, the more destruction I caused to myself and those around me. My own parents divorced when I was 30 and it broke my heart. It crushed me to do the same thing to my kids. My downward spiraling attempts to cope, coupled with my hectic work schedule, started to take a toll on my second attempt at marriage.  

The more time passed, and the more gruesome the crimes I witnessed, the less I wanted to talk about it. I found myself internalizing a lot of the trauma I experienced. It may have been an attempt at self-preservation, but bottling it up only allowed the darkness to eat me up from the inside. I believed all the murders and deaths I had seen cost me my family, and took much of my soul. 

The reality was many of my colleagues suffered from some form of post-traumatic stress injury. It would become part of my life’s mission to help law enforcement officers and veterans who struggled with the darkness they encountered on the job. But I couldn’t save anyone from a life of despair until I was saved myself.

HONEST WITH HIMSELF – MIKE HITS ROCK BOTTOM  

When people talked to me about God, saying He offered peace, I wanted nothing to do with it, and sometimes I got really angry. I believed there was a God, but having watched my son suffer with bone cancer, all I could think was, “Why would He allow this to happen?”

Later on as I battled with alcohol, I became aware of how deeply it affected my family, it was my children’s struggles that forced me to become honest with myself. I needed to admit that the frequency with which I drank impacted my sons. I did not set a very good example. I used alcohol to deal with my trials and what message was that sending my kids? Realizing this was my rock bottom, I stopped drinking all together.

Once sober, I recognized that there were several other areas in my life that needed to change. God continued to soften my heart and I began to open up to the possibility of a real relationship with Him, soon I would no longer be just a cop delivering bad news.

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