Seizing an Opportunity

January 17, 2012  •  Leave a Comment
"f/8 and be there." Well, at the very least I was there. Today should have started like any other day, but I was awakened around 4:40 by a loudspeaker outside my house. When I looked out to investigate I saw a police cruiser down the street, with a deputy repeating over and over, "This is the Orange County Sheriff's Office. Come out of the residence with your hands raised." But it was just one vehicle, and whoever was in the house was not coming out, so I didn't pay too much attention. This went on for about ninety minutes. I took one shot because that's what I do and went about my morning routine.
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The Orange County Sheriff's Office. I know because she told me roughly 173 times.
Around 6:15 a second police vehicle arrived, but with no movement I still didn't pay too much attention. We turned on the radio and heard a report that someone may be barricaded in the house. OK, "may" be barricaded, still no big deal. But just after 7:00 my wife told me there was a man walking through our yard with a gun, and I suddenly became VERY interested in what was going on. He must have been sweeping the area; by the time I looked out he had taken a position next to the first officer and was intently focused on the house.
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Things are getting serious.
I realized at this point that I was finally in a "right place, right time" moment, and things were going to start happening fast. I was also going to have to deal with rapidly changing lighting conditions due to sunrise, and since I couldn't be concerned with spinning dials to adjust shutter speed or aperture before shooting, I did a bad thing. I put the camera in P mode to let it make most of the decisions. But my motives were pure, I assure you.

I started patrolling inside my house, looking out all the windows and doors to see what would happen next. Around 7:30 a black van pulled up on a side street and two men in camouflage jumped out. I cracked the front door to get a picture of them as they walked past my neighbor's house, just in time to catch them taking the shortcut:
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These walls mean nothing to us.
Right through my yard. By this time we had learned that the adult son of our neighbor had taken his family hostage inside the house, and we weren't getting out to go to work. Like I would have gone even if the road had been open. These guys were carrying some serious firepower:
And they were setting up camp right in front of my dining room windows. I got a little confused when I saw one officer bring two recycling bins into the driveway. I thought maybe they were going to go MacGyver on me and storm the house using orange plastic but the results were a little more mundane.
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We're going to be here a while.
Any of you with experience in SWAT/military type actions know the rule that camo never travels alone. And sure enough, just after 8:00 the bus came rolling in.
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Fourteen more dudes with automatic weapons and body armor. Now it's a party.
Hot on the heels of the bus came a machine the likes of which I've never personally seen, which seems specifically designed to turn any door or gate into scrap.

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I hope this thing has a ferocious nickname.
All the while these men and machines are piling onto my formerly quiet and peaceful street, the negotiators are on their loudspeakers telling the man inside to pick up the phone, it's VERY IMPORTANT that they talk. And there continues to be no response from inside the house.

It's funny that I never feared for my safety during all of this, even while I was standing on a chair in my front bedroom with the camera lens pressed against the window, until I saw the last guys to arrive.
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End Of Days, if you're the bad guy.
E. O. D. Explosive. Ordnance. Disposal. OK...the bomb guys are here. This isn't as much fun as it was an hour ago. I see some movement in the line, and as about fifteen officers start to converge on the house, as I start to think I'm watching something that looks like an Xbox commercial and this is going to get VERY NASTY very quickly I hear the loudspeaker utter the words I had been hoping to hear all morning.

"Hands up! Walk to your left! Slowly! SLOWLY!"
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It's over, praise God.
A peaceful surrender was in order today. The suspect and the hostages were taken away and the roads re-opened at about 9:00. No shots fired, no injuries.

As a little aside, I didn't see anyone else on the street with a camera, and the media had been cordoned off about a half mile away, so I think I have the only photos in existence of the surrender. Which is really a dream come true for any photographer.

My hat today is off to the Orange County Sheriff's Office and especially the SWAT guys. This could easily have been a total disaster and instead we got the best ending possible.
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Thanks guys.
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And thank you too.



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