It’s been a wild couple of weeks for me on social media. As you know if you read this blog or follow me on Twitter or Facebook, I’m an advocate of police reform. Be it right or wrong, having been in law enforcement at the local and federal levels, sometimes my words carry a little bit of weight. Well, several days ago I decided to recount an incident on Twitter. I’m posting it below as one continuous narrative:
I was trained to shoot a Suicide bomber in the head. In 2002 or early 2003, I was a Secret Service agent working in D.C. protecting a “high value” protectee from the Middle East. That was the day the “bomber” approached.” I didn’t shoot.
Keep in mind this is happening months after the 9/11 attacks. We are at war and everyone is waiting for that next domestic hit. My protectee was visiting his U.S. ambassador on Mass Ave. (Embassy Row) & the motorcade was in front of the residence.
I was working Protective Intelligence, so I didn’t need to go inside the residence, but rather I remained standing with the motorcade while the protectee was inside. It wasn’t long until I saw the problem coming down the sidewalk.
Months earlier, I’d been through specialized Suicide Bomber training. There were certain indicators to look for, not one of which was proof, but a combination of could mean disaster. If I recall correctly, these were some:
Glassy eyes (signs of sedation to calm the nerves), disheveled appearance or layering of clothes (suicide vest), backpack, wires visible, evades law enforcement if possible.
The trainers (a private entity including lawyers) told us to shoot for the head (you don’t want to hit the vest) and that if we saw all, or most of, those indicators, took action, and got criminally charged we would be fine and they would defend us.
Several of us in the class gave sideways glances to each other during these last remarks, understanding that if one killed a person and was wrong based on “indicators” you were screwed. Aside from that… YOU JUST KILLED A PERSON. Several of us spoke up but were dismissed.
Back to Embassy Row: The man came down the sidewalk and was stumbling a bit. He had layers of clothes, including a flannel shirt that was only on one arm. The rest of the shirt hung behind him. I didn’t shoot. He had a backpack. I didn’t shoot.
I approached him as he came closer to the motorcade and asked if I could help him. He froze and looked up with glassy eyes. I didn’t shoot. I was on high alert at this point. I took a step forward, said, “Police”, and told him to stop. He didn’t.
Instead, he turned and started running TOWARD the ambassador’s residence. I didn’t shoot. Around that time I saw wires sticking out of his backpack and I had my weapon out. I ran and cut him off. I didn’t shoot.
This is the point where I tell you suicide bombers often detonate when stopped by police or military so they can at least take out as many of the enemy as possible, so I figured I was toast. However, he didn’t detonate. Instead, he ran to the side and sprinted into Mass Ave.
Law enforcement is a crazy job, so I chased him. Here I was chasing a suicide bomber, his flannel shirt flapping behind him in the wind, through traffic in DC. One of our surveillance units coming down the street, seeing they guy’s shirt dangling, called it out on the radio:
“Hensley is chasing some guy down the street with… a cape!”
An agent a block over who couldn’t see the action was understandably confused: “Why… why is Hensley wearing a cape?”
Seriously, law enforcement is a weird job.
Other agents and Secret Service Uniform Division officers joined the short foot pursuit. The guy bounced off the hood of a car and into the sidewalk. His backpack lay open. I didn’t shoot.
In his backpack was a video game system. He was a college student. Drunk. A little high. Really paranoid. Coming back from an all-nighter with his friends. He had been walking down the sidewalk, saw “cops” and panicked. For that he could have gotten a bullet in the head.
If those who are in law enforcement don’t have the utmost restraint when it comes to using deadly force, tragedies occur. Is there a risk to hesitating? Absolutely. It’s a dangerous endeavor.
But what is the damage done if we don’t sometimes take a step back from a culture that tells us, “It’s you or them. And if you’re wrong, don’t worry – we’ve got your back (wink, wink)? #PoliceReform
I sent this out as a thread on Twitter to my 3,000 or so followers and didn’t think much about it. I later posted it on my Facebook page as well. No big deal.
Except it was a big deal. The tweet got retweeted quite a few times in the U.S. Then Nigeria. Then Kenya. Then the U.K. and so on. A White House correspondent was one of many who retweeted it out with a comment that people should read the story. This was on the heels of another one of my tweets that had picked up some steam when website called Upworthy turned it into a story.
The recounting regarding the “suicide bomber” that I had posted on Facebook was shared widely as well. A radio station in L.A. contacted me for an interview and countless people reached out to me with comments and questions about policing and the use of deadly force. It’s the internet, so of course there were some antagonists who wanted to do nothing else but argue and belittle, but there were hundreds of people who had questions — REAL questions. Many people wanted to know why TASERS were not used on possible suicide bombers (FYI – sending electrical current into potential explosive devices is a real bad thing). A lot of questions were based off of partial information or complete misinformation. Some were formulated from bad Hollywood scripts. The point is – a vast majority of people were open to having a dialogue and were receptive to logical, evidence-based feedback. And this is on social media, where people aren’t known for being level-headed and rational!
At the time of this post, first tweet I’d sent out, which had gained some traction, was retweeted over 3,500 times. The second one was retweeted over 29,000 times. When combing through the hundreds, if not thousands, of comments that spiraled off of those tweets (and I tried to respond to as many of those as I could), it became clear there is a strong desire out there to learn. People do want to understand policy and procedure. They do want to understand the reasoning that goes into use of force decision. They do want to understand why a gun is used instead of a baton or pepper spray. They do want to know why police shoot center mass instead of aiming for an arm or a leg.
And here’s the thing… most of the time, when a logical explanation is given, people are accepting. But there has to be a dialogue, which means there has to be outreach. Law enforcement agencies and advocates cannot respond back to criticism (no matter how angry or irrational it may seem) with “Back the Blue” memes and accusations of being unpatriotic. Information has to be forthcoming. Training methods have to be transparent. Are there some who will never listen to reason? Sure. But, there are far more who will. Besides, what choice do we have? When the talking ends, force is all that is left.
J.J. Hensley is the author of RESOLVE, a Thriller Award finalist which is set against the backdrop of the Pittsburgh Marathon, Measure Twice, Chalk’s Outline, Bolt Action Remedy, Record Scratch, Forgiveness Dies and other works. Hensley is a former police officer and former Special Agent with the U.S. Secret Service.
It’s 9:10 PM in the Chatham County Communications Center. The dispatchers stare at each other, afraid to move, afraid to breathe. One minute to go. Will tonight be the night? The clock on the wall changes. 9:11. A phone rings. The screens indicate the 9-1-1 call is coming from a blocked number. The dispatchers hope and pray it’s a coincidental call for service. Perhaps a car break-in or a bar fight. With all eyes on her, one dispatcher presses a button, puts the call on speaker for everyone to hear.
“Chatham 9-1-1. What’s your emergency?”
The distorted voice comes across the speaker. He gives the address. There will be a body at that location. That’s for certain. The killer dares the police to catch him and then, like before…he’s gone.
Former Pittsburgh narcotics detective Trevor Galloway and new P.I. Bethany Nolan are enlisted to look into the case of the 9-1-1 Killer and the investigation takes an unexpected turn when Galloway suggests the murderer may be a first responder. Galloway is pushed to the limit as he wonders if his hallucinations are returning and if members of a drug gang that want him dead have tracked him to Savannah, Georgia.
Galloway soon discovers he doesn’t trust the police. He doesn’t trust his client. He doesn’t even trust himself.
Praise for THE BETTER OF THE BAD:
“J.J. Hensley has pulled off an incredible feat: The Better of the Bad is a real rush with a gripping mystery at its heart. The Trevor Galloway series gets bigger, badder, and more energetic with every book.” —Nick Kolakowski, author of Boise Longpig Hunting Club and Maxine Unleashes Doomsdaydf
Upon being released after three years of incarceration in a psychiatric facility, former narcotics detective and unlicensed PI Trevor Galloway has no idea how to begin picking up the pieces of his shattered life. Having lost the woman he loved and exacting revenge upon those responsible, he is irreparably broken, heavily medicated, and unemployable.
When former Secret Service agent Nick Van Metre knocks on Trevor Galloway’s door, the last thing he expected was a job offer. However when the head of Metal Security hands Galloway a stack of photos and asks for his assistance with investigating a series of threats against a controversial presidential candidate, the former detective is stunned.
Galloway initially takes the case, but eventually has to question his own sanity after he reports an encounter with intruders who seem to have left no trace in his home. When Nick Van Metre turns up dead and an attack is carried out against Dennis Hackney, the former detective with a history of extreme violence becomes the focal point of multiple investigations.
Galloway pulls clues from photos and searches for answers while dodging bullets in Pittsburgh and Savannah.
Get set for a mystery told at a breakneck pace, with each of the chapters being linked to photograph in roll of film.
Look for the hints. Watch for the signs. Trevor Galloway doesn’t trust himself. Can you trust him?
The answers won’t be revealed until the final photo is flipped.
Praise for FORGIVENESS DIES:
“Is someone setting Trevor Galloway up, or is his own mind deceiving him? Forgiveness Dies puts a uniquely fascinating protagonist–a detective who can’t trust his own perceptions–into a complex political thriller, and the result is propulsive. Hensley starts with a punch, and accelerates from there.” –Joseph Finder, New York Times bestselling author of Judgment and The Switch
“Inventive storytelling meets propulsive action in this wild thrill ride from J.J. Hensley, who brings real-life experiences to the page and delivers an authentic tale of double-crosses and dirty dealings. Don’t worry if you haven’t stepped into Trevor Galloway’s shadowy world yet…start right here, and you’ll soon want to read them all!” –Daniel Palmer, USA Today bestselling author of Stolen and Saving Meghan
“A snapshot of humanity in perfect focus. Edgy, furiously paced, raw. From the whip-smart dialogue to the deeply flawed characters, Hensley has a voice that will stay with you long after the final exposure.” –K.J. Howe, author of The Freedom Broker and Skyjack
“Forgiveness Dies is a non-stop, gut churning thriller that you’ll read in one sitting. Hensley has conceived a brilliant but almost fatally flawed protagonist in Trevor Galloway, a man so tormented by his past that in the battle for truth and justice he’s forced to fight enemies that are dangerously real, and some that only real to him. J.J. Hensley is one of the best thriller writers out there, and he sits at the top of my must-read list.” –Mark Pryor, author of the Hugo Marston series
“With Trevor Galloway, the tortured, likable protagonist of J.J. Hensley’s Forgiveness Dies, Hensley has created a character destined to remain with the reader long after the last page is turned. Not only that, but readers will find themselves inextricably pulled into a tight plot that bears a brutally close, and necessary, resemblance to today’s America. Read this book, and you’ll want to read everything else Hensley has written.” –E.A. Aymar, author of The Unrepentant
“There are two types of men you must fear in this world: Men who have everything to lose—and men like me.”
It’s a case Trevor Galloway doesn’t want. It’s certainly a case he doesn’t need. The client—the sister of a murdered musician—seems a bit off. She expects Galloway to not only solve her brother’s homicide, but recover a vinyl record she believes could ruin his reputation. Galloway knows he should walk away. He should simply reach over the desk, give back the envelope of cash that he admittedly needs, and walk away. However, when the client closes the meeting by putting a gun under her chin and pulling the trigger, his sense of obligation drags him down a path he may not be ready to travel.
A story divided into twelve songs from Jimmy Spartan’s final album.
Praise for RECORD SCRATCH:
“Record Scratch shocks you out of your ordinary groove. Sometimes witty, other times haunting, but when the needle jumps the track, the body count screams.” —Marc E. Fitch, author of Paradise Burns and Dirty Water
“In Record Scratch, Hensley, a former secret service agent, gifts us with a bounty of goods: a solid mystery, a damaged but relatable main character—one you root for, and swift plotting that weaves a compelling, compulsive tale of music and death and the demons carried by those in law enforcement. Bring me more Trevor!” —Shannon Kirk, international bestselling author of Method 15/33
“J.J. Hensley’s Record Scratch is a tersely written and tightly plotted gem, featuring one of the most unique protagonists around, Trevor Galloway, a man who has a way of getting himself into and out of trouble at an alarming rate. The book is action-packed with a dash of mordant wit, and I can’t wait to read more in this intense, engaging series.” —David Bell, USA Today bestselling author of Somebody’s Daughter
“J.J. Hensley’s tale of a stoic PI investigating the murder of a has-been rock star is equal parts classic whodunnit and gritty noir, peppered with high-octane action scenes that will leave you breathless. Record Scratch is like a throat punch: powerful, shocking, and unapologetic, but the surprising poignant ending will stay with you a long after you’ve finished the book. This is a thriller that crackles from the first page to the last.” —Jennifer Hillier, author of Jar of Hearts
BOLT ACTION REMEDY
Former Pittsburgh narcotics detective Trevor Galloway has been hired to look into the year-old homicide of a prominent businessman who was gunned down on his estate in Central Pennsylvania. When Galloway arrives, he determines the murder could have only been committed by someone extremely skilled in two areas: Skiing and shooting. He believes the assailant should not be too difficult to identify given the great amount of skill and athleticism needed to pull off the attack. When he discovers the victim’s property is next door to a biathlon training camp, the situation becomes significantly more complicated.
Galloway makes plenty of enemies as he sifts through stories about lucrative land deals, possible drug connections, and uncovers evidence suggesting the homicide may have been elaborate suicide. As he attempts to navigate through an unfamiliar rural landscape, he does his best not to succumb to an old drug addiction, or become confused by one of his occasional hallucinations. Oh, and a Pittsburgh drug gang enforcer known as The Lithuanian—if he’s even real—is tracking Galloway and wants to take his eyes. Galloway would rather keep those.
In Bolt Action Remedy, the typically quiet streets of Washaway Township, Pennsylvania become the epicenter of a mystery involving elite athletes and old grudges. For Galloway, the problems keep piling up and somebody out there believes problems should be dealt with by employing the most permanent of remedies.
Cyprus Keller wants a future.
Jackson Channing has a past.
Robert Chalk has a rifle and a mission. Kill Cyprus Keller and anyone who gets in his way.
An addict is killing Pittsburgh city officials, but Homicide Detective Jackson Channing has his own addiction.
In the Pittsburgh Marathon, more than 18,000 people will participate. 4,500 people will attempt to cover the full 26.2 miles. Over 200 of the participants will quit, realizing it just wasn’t their day. More than 100 will get injured and require medical treatment. One man is going to be murdered. When Dr. Cyprus Keller lines up to start the race, he knows a man is going to die for one simple reason. He’s going to kill him.