FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – The two officer-involved shootings last week have raised questions about how officers handle the experience of killing a person.
FWPD Sargent Bradley Schultz has been in two officer-involved shootings. The first one was in 1998 at an armed robbery at the South Gate Plaza branch of Fort Wayne record store the Wooden Nickel.
“As it transpired, I confronted the subject as they came out,” he said. “I yelled for him to stop. He didn’t. He pointed a firearm at me. Unfortunately, I had to engage lethal force and the subject was unfortunately deceased due to the injuries, the gunshots.”
He said afterwards many people asked him if he was hurt.
“It’s not just physical survival,” he said. “There’s also the psychological and mental side of that.”
Thankfully, Schultz had a strong support system. He said his wife, friends and fellow officers pulled him through. He wasn’t sure how society was going to view him.
“[We know how fellow officers are going to see it], but those people who are not familiar with what we do or maybe didn’t serve in the military or been involved in any type of similar circumstance may not understand what goes behind it and [what it’s like] dealing with that,” he said.
Schultz was also concerned about how people at his church would feel about him.
“So, I did meet with my pastor later in the week and he assured me that God put people in authority for law and to protect other people and that everything was completely fine with what I did,” he said.
A year later, FWPD officers were pursuing a suspect who was fleeing the police after breaking the law. When he was cornered, he pointed a gun at the officers and gunfire was exchanged. Schultz said he’s thankful the suspect did not die.
He hopes he never has to go through these types of experiences again.
“If I do, I’m going to do the right thing,” he said. “I’m going to come home to my family. I will protect myself and coworkers, and the citizens of Fort Wayne.”
Fort Wayne police chief Steve Reed said officers regularly discuss use of force and receive extensive training for physical encounters. It starts when they are in the police academy and continues throughout their entire career.
Reed said the FWPD thought process of using lethal force is straight forward: If an officer fears serious bodily injury or death to themselves or any person, they are allowed to use their weapon.
“Normally, the decision to use lethal force happens within a fraction of a second,” Reed explained. “An officer has to live with that decision for the rest of their life. So, it can weigh on them quite heavily. Just in general, almost any use of force encounter, the actions of a suspect will determine the level of force that the officer’s use. So, if they’re going to come at the officer with a deadly weapon or try to use deadly force against another person, the officer will match that force.”
Reed said FWPD averages about three officer-involved shootings a year. Since his team is becoming more active in fighting crime in the city, these type of situations are more likely to occur.