The Armed Citizen® | Off-Duty Law Enforcement Officers

posted on October 12, 2016

America’s law enforcement officers are sworn to serve and protect. While these men and women in blue may take weekends and vacation time like everyone else, their desire to enforce the laws of the land and to defend the common good never takes a holiday. Following are 13 stories of law-enforcement officers who used a firearm to protect themselves and others from criminals while off the clock.

Off-duty sheriff's deputy James Charles Strickland was removing presents from the trunk of his car on Christmas Eve when two masked men walked up behind him and began beating him with their pistols. They then broke down the door of Strickland's Fayetteville, N.C., home and knocked down his wife, who witnessed the attack. Making his way inside to his gun, Strickland shot and killed one of the attackers, who police later said had an extensive criminal record including drug charges and assaulting a police officer. The accomplice was apprehended the following day. (Observer-Times, Fayetteville, N.C., 12/27/1994) 

While off-duty Portland, Ore., policewoman Gloria Lewis was using the ladies’ room in a highway rest area early one morning, a man entered and snatched her purse. He started to leave, and then approached her. Lewis warned that she had a gun, and the man fled to the parking lot, where he and a second man tried to run down the pursuing officer. Lewis fired one shot, and later that morning a wounded suspect turned up at an area hospital. He was held on earlier warrants and suspicion in other crimes. (The Oregonian, Portland, Ore., 1/1/90)

An armed robber in Chicago, Ill., picked the wrong prey when he pressed a gun against the back of an off-duty state trooper who was returning from grocery shopping on the city's West Side. When the ski-masked man announced the robbery, the trooper dropped his groceries, turned and opened fire on the man, killing him. (The Sun-Times, Chicago, Ill., 12/29/89) 

Dave Storton, a San Jose, Calif., police officer, was doing off-duty security work at an apartment complex when two burglars knocked the officer down and attempted to grab his revolver. During the struggle, one of the assailants bit off part of Storton's ear, but the two attackers were run off by an apartment resident who came to the rescue, armed with a shotgun. (The Chronicle, San Francisco, Calif., 5/12/88) 

Hearing his dog barking, off-duty police officer Dennis Nielsen of Rockford, Ill., went to his kitchen in time to confront three intruders who had just kicked in the back door. Firing his gun in self-defense at the three men, the 12-year law-enforcement veteran wounded one burglar. All three suspects were later arrested at a local hospital and charged with residential burglary. (The Register Star, Rockford, Ill., 9/25/87)

Off-duty Detroit, Mich., policeman Robert Winbourn was attacked by three would-be robbers, one of whom was armed with a gun. Winbourn drew his service revolver, exchanged fire with the gunman and wounded him. The other two men escaped. (The News, Detroit, Mich., 8/18/86) 

Investigating a late-night disturbance outside his home, off-duty policeman Martin Hofmann of Hamilton Township, N.J., discovered an armed man who had a woman pinned to the ground. Hofmann identified himself as an officer and ordered the criminal to get up. When the suspect pointed his gun at the officer and threatened to kill him, Hofmann fired his .38-cal. service revolver, fatally wounding him. (The Trentonian, Trenton, N.J., 11/7/84)

Alerted by early-morning noises in his Oklahoma City, Okla., residence, off-duty policeman Steve Pistole got his .357 Mag. service revolver and checked his daughter's bedroom. He found a man clad only in a shirt and socks on the 9-year-old girl's bed. Firing several times, Pistole killed the intruder. The officer's daughter was treated for bruises to the head suffered during the attack. (The Times, Oklahoma City, Okla., 11/1/1994) 

Detroit, Mich., police Lt. Robert Phipps was entering his apartment when a man armed with a gun and a knife attempted to hold him up. He began frisking the officer, but the off-duty policeman fought the man off and, despite being stabbed on both arms, managed to draw his revolver and fire three shots. The assailant ran but was arrested later when he sought treatment for a gunshot wound. (The Free Press, Detroit, Mich., 7/25/84) 

Off-duty policeman John Maher of Staten Island, N.Y., was in a local tavern when he brushed against a patron who had been drinking heavily. The man hit Maher in the face, pulled a revolver, and opened fire. Maher, though wounded in the shoulder, managed to pull his service revolver and return fire, fatally wounding the assailant. (The Herald-Journal, Syracuse, N.Y., 4/9/84) 

An armed robber pointed a pistol at Phillip Hackwith, an off-duty San Diego police officer, and demanded his wallet. Saying he kept his wallet in his sock, Hackwith bent over, drew his .38 cal. service revolver and shot the man in the neck and shoulder. (The Tribune, San Diego, Calif., 2/1/1984)

An armed man barged into a Virginia Beach, Va., country club as a bingo game sponsored by the Norfolk [Va.] Fraternal Order of Police was breaking up. Announcing a robbery, he pointed a gun at off-duty policeman Robert Wheaton. When they subsequently exchanged shots, fellow officers Joseph Monaghan and Roger Pederson also returned fire, wounding the gunman. (The Ledger-Star, Norfolk, Va., 12/1/1982) 

Demanding money at gunpoint on a Brooklyn, N.Y., street and threatening, “Don't move or this is going to be a homicide,” a mugger was lucky to receive only wounds from the service revolver of his intended victim, off-duty police officer Juan Rivera. The youth was arrested and charged with attempted murder and criminal possession of a dangerous weapon. (The Daily News, New York, N.Y., 8/30/1982)


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