Friday, July 30, 1999
as the bullets slammed into the officer, there was
By DAVID EPPS
Michael Weinman had high hopes when he left the United States Air Force after seven years of service to his country. For most of those seven years he had served in the military police, so it came as no surprise when the young veteran joined the police department in Columbus, Ohio.
He completed the rigorous training at the police academy and then was assigned to patrol under the watchful eye of a field training officer. For several weeks the two rode together in the mean streets of Columbus while Officer Weinman learned the ins and outs of policing in the civilian world. Finally, he received the approval of the field training officer, and was released to patrol on his own.
Before he hit the road by himself, however, there was something he had to take care of first. Michael Weinman got married. A wonderful honeymoon followed the ceremony and then Michael began his new career as a Columbus Police Officer.
One month after he returned from his honeymoon, Officer Michael Weinman performed a routine traffic stop on William Joseph Washington. Washington acted strangely when pulled over and, after exiting his vehicle, began to walk away. He returned to the car when requested to do so by Weinman.
With backup on the way, Officer Weinman performed a pat-down search on Washington to assure himself that no weapons were present. When ordered to put his hands behind his back, Washington complied. Weinman had been given no reason to believe that Washington intended to resist the arrest.
Suddenly, Washington spun around. Officer Weinman saw one flash, then another. After that, the world began to come apart. As the bullets slammed into his body, he strangely felt no pain. Time seemed to slow down and nearly stop as the crazed motorist continued to pull the trigger again and again. Weinman hit the ground with a thud as Washington, screaming madly, advanced on the fallen officer.
As Washington jammed his pistol into the officer's temple, he screamed, Die! Die, you (expletive deleted)! An inexplicable peace washed over Officer Michael Weinman. As the gunman pulled the trigger, the pistol jammed.
Swearing, Washington grabbed for the stricken officer's weapon, still lodged in his holster. Now time sped up again. A fierce struggle ensued as Weinman, who strangely couldn't move his legs or his right arm, fought grimly, with his left hand, to keep the weapon in his holster. Somewhere behind him a woman began to scream. Washington panicked and began to run away.
Groggy now with the loss of blood, the young officer slumped back and watch his attacker run down the road. Then, incredibly, Washington stopped, turned, and glared at Weinman. Fear gripped the Columbus officer as he realized that his attacker was returning to finish the job. He struggled to find his firearm, knowing that, this time, he would die. His body refused to obey his commands and Washington stalked closer.
Then, out of nowhere, another voice was heard from behind the officer. A female officer was screaming commands at Washington as she drew her weapon. Washington quickly jumped into Weinman's patrol car and made his escape. Two calls went out over the radio, one alerting all officers about the escapee, the other for an ambulance.
Now the pain the searing, indescribable pain began. Although Weinman was shot several times, one bullet was particularly devastating. Missing his vest, the bullet tore through the strap near Weinman's right shoulder, entered his body, and apparently bounced around doing terrible damage.
Michael Weinman awoke to find himself in the hospital, tubes coming in and going out of his body, his arms strapped down and immobilized. Finally he was told the terrible news: He was paralyzed from the chest down.
His new wife never strayed from his side and a steady stream of Columbus officers paraded through the hospital. William Joseph Washington was apprehended and was sentenced to the maximum of 23 years. Even if he serves the maximum, which everyone knows he will not, Officer Michael Weinman will still be a young man when Washington is released. He will still be in a wheelchair when Washington walks out of jail a free man.
I met Officer Michael Weinman last week and heard his story. He is a young man with incredible courage and a positive outlook on the rest of his life. As he told his story, his young wife, married only a few months now, stood by with glistening eyes and a trembling chin. She, too, has had her life changed forever because of this vicious and evil man.
Although Michael confesses that he wasn't a particularly religious man for much of his life, he believes that God was with him on the road that night. That is the only way that he can explain the peace that overwhelmed him as Washington rammed a gun into his head, screamed obscenities, and pulled the trigger.
He has some use of his right arm, but the prognosis, barring a miracle, is not good. Every year, 65,000 police officers are assaulted by citizens. Every year, some 150 to 200 of those officers die. Every year, too many others wind up, like Michael Weinman, maimed and crippled.
The only time that Michael's voice betrayed his emotions and pain is when he made a request of those gathered to meet him. With a trembling voice, Michael asked us to pray for him and to pray for his wife.
We don't know how we are going to get through this, he said. We need your prayers. Quietly, through my own tears, I vowed to pray for Officer and Mrs. Michael Weinman. I also vowed to pray for all those officers who serve our community and keep us safe.
Almost 15,000 police officers have been killed in the line of duty as they have stood, forming a thin blue line, between us and the predators who afflict society. Only God knows how many Michael Weinmans there are among us. After the high price that Michael and others like him have paid, the least I can do the very, very least I can do is honor his request for prayer. I owe them that.[Father David Epps is rector of Christ the King Church and is a law enforcement chaplain. He has attended too many funerals of officers who have died in the line of duty. He may be contacted at P. O. Box 2192, Peachtree City, GA 30269, or online at CTKCEC@aol.com.