Home Life Fighting the Good Fight: Second Shooting

Fighting the Good Fight: Second Shooting

I woke up for work on December 18th, about three months after being at the Roode’s house, with the start of what seemed to be the flu. Not being the type to take a day off for minor ails, I started getting ready for work. I was sweating, so I decided not to wear my bulletproof vest. I had a couple of slices of toast and a quick coffee before saying goodbye to Marianne. We had plans later that evening to attend my wife’s staff Christmas party over at Jeannie Riordan’s, her intern’s house. We were looking forward to the party, and I was hoping this bit of a bug I’d picked up would be out of my system by the end of my shift.

It was a beautiful sunny day, the kind of December day that is bright but frigid. It was near minus eighteen degrees Celsius outside. It’s the type of weather where your skin freezes on contact, and you feel like your fingers and toes might fall off. As I did most days, I spent the day in my patrol car. It was a peaceful and uneventful day as I drove around the county. The ill-feeling I had in the morning had gone away, and I was glad I had decided to come to work. It was almost four o’clock, and I was getting ready to head home. I knew Marianne would have clothes ready for me, and I figured we’d have a quick drink together before heading out to the party. I started back towards the station when I received a radio call from Wayne Morrison, a plainclothes detective from our division. He was requesting my assistant on a complaint that he had just received. He said he’d meet me at the detachment and fill me in. Even though my shift was pretty well over, I readily accepted to help him.  He had specifically requested me, so there was no way I was going to decline.

When I met Cst. Morrison at the detachment, he told me that he had received a request to seize firearms at Darren Roode’s home. As soon as he said this, I had a sinking feeling in my gut. Cst. Morrison knew I was the one that had been at the house just three months earlier, so it made sense for him to reach out. I knew the layout of the house, and I knew Darren. I was logically the right person to assist him. The image of Darren sitting in his room with a gun pointed at his chin immediately flashed through my mind.

“Another thing, Patrick, Darren’s been released from the Dartmouth hospital.”

“What the fuck!” I exclaimed. Up until that point, I had thought he was still getting treatment.

“Darren’s doctor called the detachment,” Morrison said. “Darren and his father were at the doctor’s office, but he said they would be leaving soon to head back to their house in Crowes Mills.”

“Jesus Christ,” I interjected.

“I know. I know. The doctor said he was concerned,” Morrison added

The doctor knew about Darren’s previous run-in with the law, and he said that Darren was still mentally unstable, but even more concerning, he had been told that Darren’s father still had guns in the house. I immediately regretted my decision to let Darren’s father keep any firearms.

On my first visit with the Roode family, I assessed that there were limits to the family’s ability to comprehend the more complex nuances of life. Mrs. Roode was a timid and nervous woman, and Mr. Roode appeared to be a bit coarse and dim-witted, but I had mistakenly thought he was sensible enough to understand that it was pertinent to keep guns out of the way of his son. They say parents are often blind to their children’s ways, but this was a bit much.

Cst. Morrison had already received a search warrant from a judge, so after filling me in, we headed out to the Roode house to seize the firearms.

I called Marianne. “Hi, honey. Listen, go ahead to the party, and I’ll catch up with you shortly.”

“Everything okay?” she asked.

“Ya, ya. I’m just heading over to the Roode house with Cst. Morrison to collect some firearms. I’ll be fifteen, twenty minutes tops,” I assured her.

“I love you,” Marianne said. I could detect a hint of concern in her voice. She knew the story of Darren Roode.

“I love you too, and I’ll see you soon,” I said and hung up.  I jumped in Cst. Morrison’s car. We were riding in an unmarked police vehicle and Cst. Morrison had brought along the Bushmaster twelve-gauge shotgun as a backup just in case.  We were also both wearing our Smith and Wesson nine-millimetre service sidearms. Also, and to be extra cautious, we requested backup. I didn’t think we needed it, but Cst. Eric Caughey and Corporal Don Porter answered the call and said they were on their way to assist us. I was still hopeful we would get in, get the guns, and get out, and I would be with Marianne in an hour.

Cst. Morrison and I arrived at the house first. The Roode’s lived on a dirt road, with cars coming in from the east or the west. As soon as we arrived, we realized the doctor hadn’t told us if Darren and his dad were travelling back home together or in separate vehicles. We wanted to be able to see all incoming traffic, so Cst. Morrison backed the car up in a neighbour’s driveway across the road from the Roode house. This gave us a clear view of all incoming traffic. Since I was familiar with the place from the previous shooting, I hopped out of the car and darted across the road to check on the house. Once across the street, it was evident to me that there was nobody home.

The house had two entrances, one off to the side that led into the kitchen and one in the front of the house facing the road. The last time I was there, Darren’s father had met me at the side door. This door was well worn, and it was obvious that it was the entrance everyone used. I checked the side door, and it was locked. I didn’t bother checking the front door as I assumed it would be locked since it wasn’t used, and I headed back to the car to wait with Cst. Morrison.

We waited for what felt like ages. We cracked the windows so we wouldn’t fog up the car. I could hear the snow creaking on the trees as the cold air filtered in and sent a shiver through me. Occasionally a car would pass, then finally, we saw a half-ton truck coming up the road, and as it got closer, we could see the marked police car with Caughey and Porter following right up behind. Mr. Roode was driving, and Darren was sitting in the passenger seat. As they pulled into the driveway and before the truck had come to a stop, Darren flung open the passenger door and bolted towards the front door. The marked police vehicle had pulled in behind, and Caughey and Porter hopped out. Morrison cranked the car into drive, and we pulled in behind Caughey and Porter. I sprang from the car and yelled to Porter and Caughey to grab Darren, and it was at that moment I realized my error. The front door was unlocked.

Fuck! 

Darren ran inside. I immediately started chewing myself out for not having checked the damn door, but I had to push the thought away. There was no time for self-reprimanding; I had to focus. Reprimanding could come later.

I knew Darren was running to get his gun. Everybody was barrelling after him: Cpl. Porter, Cst. Caughey, Darren’s father, me and finally Cst. Morrison. Darren made it to his bedroom and grabbed a long-barrel shotgun. I heard the click of the firearm caulking.…

OH, SHIT….

We were all crammed in the living room, exposed, and in that instant, it felt like there was nothing we could do about it.  Nothing. No matter how much they train you, no matter how many hours you spend on the firing range, you know that if somebody wants you, they will have you. Every cell in my body was turned on and firing. I was on high alert, and as I felt the adrenaline surge through me, I felt determined that I, and everyone around me, was coming out alive. I also immediately knew that this was different from the last time that I had been there. Last time Darren had been babbling nonsense, and the gun had been pointed at his chin. Now he had emerged from his room and was pointing the gun at us.

“Back the fuck out,” I yelled to my fellow officers and Darren’s dad.  There was commotion everywhere.

Darren’s father was yelling at Darren, “Put the fucking gun down!”

Darren was yelling at us.

It was a surreal moment. Space and time melded together, and on the one hand, it felt thick and sluggish while at the same time, it felt like a freight train was running straight at me, full speed. Then a steely reserve of calm came over me. I grabbed Darren’s dad, who was in front of me by his waist belt, to jar his attention, and to my surprise, I calmly told him and everybody else to back out of the house, and as we did, Darren retreated to his bedroom.

Once we were outside, I got to thinking that perhaps I could talk Darren out of this; since he hadn’t shot at us, and that was a promising sign. With Darren in his bedroom, Cst. Caughey and I went around to the side door.

When you come in the side door, you walk into the kitchen. There is a door immediately to the left that leads to the basement; to the right was the living room, and across the kitchen, slightly to the right, was the hallway entrance. I knew from previous experience that Darren’s room was across from and slightly to the right of the hallway entrance. The bathroom was kitty-corner to Darren’s room and shared a wall with the living room, and the other two rooms were left down the hallway.

Wayne Morrison had gone back through the front door and had ducked into the living room with the Bushmaster. With Morrison in place, Eric and I made a dash from the side door to the first room to the left of Darren’s and hid behind the door jam. We were running straight into the line of fire, but at that point, Darren was still barricaded in his room. Then Eric and I crept further down the hall to Darren’s parent’s room at the end of the hallway. This put a room between Darren and us giving us more security. Cst. Morrison stayed in the living room, staked out and ready with the police shotgun. We were all aware that we were in a severely high-risk situation. The space was small, and it felt as if the walls were shrinking around us.

Cst. Caughey and I had just taken our positions in the parent’s room when suddenly, I heard a deafening BANG! Then I listened to the thud of a shotgun hitting the floor. I had no idea who had fired.

Then Cst. Morrison let out a howling and horrifying scream from the top of his lungs, “AAAAHHHHHHHHHHH, I’m hit, I’m hit. AAAAHHHHHHHHH”

Every cell in my body turned on as if some crazy electrical current had just short-circuited. It was as if I was momentarily standing outside of myself, watching the scene play out. Morrison kept screaming, and Cst. Caughey and I didn’t have eyes on Wayne. My thoughts started racing.

Holy shit! Fuck. We’re trapped. If Darren comes down this hallway, there’s no fucking way out. Caughey and I are stuck. 

Then I realized I had no goddamn vest on!

My thoughts quickly jumped back to Morrison. I had no idea what was going on with him. I didn’t know if he was bleeding out or if he was going to live or die. It is an unexplainable feeling when a fellow officer is down, and you don’t know what the hell is going on. Panic floods through your entire being, but you have to keep it at bay somehow. Survival depends on it.

Cst. Caughey turned to me at this point and said, let’s rush him.

“No…no…no.  We need more visibility,” I said.

I was acutely aware of how vulnerable I was because I didn’t have my vest on. Rushing Darren could be fatal. It could mean one of us might end up dead, and one of us might already be bleeding out. I couldn’t chance it. I remember thinking at that moment, What the hell are the chances of me choosing not to wear my vest on this day of all days. I can’t even remember another day in my entire career that I opted not to wear my vest.

From where we were now crouched, I whispered to Cst. Caughey, “We have to take a chance and dart back across the corridor to the open kitchen area.”

Again, this put us in the line of fire if Darren decided to come out of his room. Still, I thought it would be a better position for keeping him in his bedroom, and it would also provide an escape route out the side door if we needed to retreat. We made a run for it, Caughey first and me coming up second. Thankfully we made it to the side door.

Eric immediately went outside to the police car to call for backup. I was hoping to hell he wouldn’t get ‘Stand-by-Pat.’ Stand-by-Pat was a nickname I’d penned for one of our dispatchers who always seemed to say, stand-by, whenever we called in for back-up.

Eric was talking to anybody who was listening, telling them we needed help. Now! It came back over the radio that the RCMP Emergency Response team was on standby at the Halifax International airport. I’m thinking to myself, Why the hell are they on standby. Get Over here! Where is the cavalry?

Everything was happening at warp speed, and I was amazed at how many scenarios I could contemplate in my head in a single moment. Thoughts were zipping through my mind like a Rolodex on speed dial. I was working on how we were all going to get out alive.

I had no idea how this incident would end. All I knew was that this time Darren Roode was violent and aggressive. He was not delusional like he was in the first incident. He was in this reality with all of us, and it seemed to me that he knew damn well what he was doing. The thoughts continued to flash through my mind: Would this end up with Cst. Caughey or I injured or killed? Was Wayne dying? I started to feel certain that if I didn’t get this resolved ASAP, I would die. It was a very eerie and unsettling feeling, like a distant, cold fog rolling over the inside of my being. If someone tells you that they are not afraid in these situations, stay away from them because they are lying or crazy. Writing about it now makes my heart pound and my hands sweat. It’s like a churning unease that starts in the low centre of my stomach and makes its way all up to the top of my throat. I feel like I’m right back in that house, as if I have tentacles attached to every thought and emotion that pulsated through me on that day. I remember at one point wishing somebody else had gone there other than me, but there’s no turning back once you’re engaged in a firefight.

Once by the side door, I stayed crouched at the entrance, partially hidden behind the kitchen door jam. I soon learned that Cst. Wayne Morrison had been shot in the hand. Darren didn’t have a clear view of Cst. Morrison from his bedroom when he unloaded his weapon. Instead, he had impulsively shot through the bathroom wall and into the living room, totally taking Morrison by surprise.

Wayne was out of the house at this point. However, he’d left his shotgun lying on the living room floor.  Later I heard that once he was outside, he immediately jumped in his car and headed to the hospital, within a few minutes of him leaving Cpl. Rick Mosher (the dog master) encountered Cst. Morrison. Mosher had been heading to the scene but instead pulled over to the side of the road, helped Wayne over to his vehicle, turned on the sirens, and headed straight to the hospital.

Meanwhile, I was still jammed up by the wide opened kitchen side door, and it was still minus eighteen degrees Celsius (- 0.4 Fahrenheit ) outside.  Any Canadian will tell you that is cold as fuck. I was freezing my ass off! Also, with the kitchen door open, the furnace kept clicking on and off. I started getting super aggravated as I couldn’t hear shit. I had no idea if Darren was moving around in his room or coming out. Without eyes, you at least want ears, and because of that furnace, I had neither. At that point, Corporal Don Porter came up behind me.

I said, “Porter, I need you to squeeze in behind me, go down to the basement and turn the damn furnace off. I can’t hear shit.”

Porter immediately headed downstairs. He’d just switched off the furnace when Darren yelled, “I’m coming out. And I’m gonna start shooting!”

Porter was heading back up the stairs at that point, and I was still in the doorway. I turned to look at Porter on the basement steps, and his eyes were the size of a couple of saucers. He was stuck in the basement with no escape route. I could tell he was beyond terrified, and all he had was his service pistol. I’ve never seen fear like that in a man’s eyes before. He was staring at me with a kind of numbed horror—pure unadulterated fear. If Darren came out, he was trapped.

I turned back to Darren, and I started saying anything that came into my head. Anything. I’m telling him I’ve got kids at home; I didn’t have kids at home. I’m telling him to put his weapon down so that he and I can chat, and meanwhile, I’m motioning to Porter to get the hell out of the basement. As I kept talking, Porter made a dash and got safely outside.

Darren still wasn’t putting his weapon down. “Come on, Darren, let’s have a beer and talk about this. Put the gun down,” I pleaded.

I talked about my imaginary kids again. I was trying anything and everything to end this without any more bloodshed.  At one point, my mind wandered to Marianne and the office party that I was supposed to be attending. There’s no way I was going to make it, and I obviously couldn’t call her. Weird things pop into your head, even in the most dangerous situations.

Suddenly, Darren shouted, “Did I get him?” He was referring to Morrison.

“Darren, you know you shot him,” I hollered back.

“Pretty good shot, eh?”

At that point, rage surged through me. I went cold and calm. It was almost like a physical click. “Enough. Put down your weapon. Now!” I demanded.

I glanced over at Morrison’s shotgun lying on the living room floor when Cst. Al Mann came up behind me.

“Do you think you can get to the living room and grab the rifle Morrison dropped?” I asked in a hushed tone. “I’ll cover you,” I added.

“Absolutely,” he said without hesitation and bolted around the outside of the house to the wide-open front door.  Mann dropped to the floor, crawled in on his stomach to the middle of the living room, grabbed the shotgun and shimmied back out. He ran back around the house and handed me the shotgun.  It was a courageous move on his part to crawl into a scene where moments before, another officer had been shot. Thanks to his heroics, my chances of surviving a shootout were much better now that I had this shotgun in my hand rather than my service pistol.

Then Darren started yelling, “That’s it. I’m coming out, I’m coming out, and I’m shooting”.

I started thinking, oh, fuck here, here we go, it’s him or me. One of us is definitely not going to survive. I was determined that it wasn’t going to be me that was going down.  My stomach contracted. I didn’t want it to end this way. I really didn’t want it to end this way. I was so shit scared I could taste metal in my mouth, and it felt as if time had stopped. For a moment, there was silence, and all I could hear was myself breathing.

I dropped to one knee in what’s called a shooting stance, and I could see the long barrel of Darren’s gun poking around the hallway entrance and waving from left to right. His head was still behind the door jam, but the gun was pointing right at me. I just keep thinking, oh shit, here we go. I kept looking at the end of that gun. There was no way I was going to take my eyes off the end of that gun, but I was thinking, okay, I’m not going to do anything until I see his eyes. But as soon as that bastard shows his face, he’ll know exactly where I am, and the gunfight will be on, and I need to be ready, and I sure as hell wanted to make sure I squeezed the trigger first.

Then I saw Darren peak around the corner, and I let loose with the Bushmaster.

BOOM!

As soon as I pulled the trigger, I heard the loud deafening bang, and I thought my eardrums had exploded. All I could hear was ringing. There was smoke around my head, and I was sniffing the grey flint of gunpowder. I instinctively turned sideways to reduce my surface area in case Darren shot back. I had the shotgun lifted above my head, and I loaded another cartridge, and I fired again.

BOOM!

The ringing. The smoke. The flint. This all happened in a matter of seconds. Then I heard Darren shrieking. He was screaming in pain. I heard his gun fall to the floor, but a second later, I heard a loud gunshot from his bedroom, and this time Darren started screaming for help.

I shouted out to him. “What’s going on?”

“I shot myself.” He was pleading for help and wailing in pain.

I yelled at him to throw his gun out his bedroom window.

“Throw the damn gun out, Darren,” I repeated.

Next, I heard the widow break, and I got on my radio and asked the officers surrounding the outside of the house to confirm that Darren had thrown out his gun. They sent confirmation back. Staff Sergeant Batt was now on the scene, and he, myself, and Cst. Mann slowly advanced to Darren’s bedroom. I peeked my head in and saw Darren on the ground. He’d shot himself in the stomach. There was blood everywhere. I ran in, dropped to my knees, dropped my weapon, and put my hands over his stomach. I was now trying to save the guy I had just shot, the same guy that had shot my partner. The guy that had been pointing a gun at me.

It turned out I had hit him in the hand, and after that, he’d crawled back in the bedroom, grabbed his gun, and shot himself in the stomach before throwing the gun out the window.  There was so much blood it was insane. I finally heard the siren of the ambulance. The attendants ran in, and I was finally able to lift my hands from his stomach. I stood up, covered in his blood.  Darren was lifted out and taken to the hospital.

He survived, and again, he was taken to Mount Hope Hospital in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. The asylum for the insane. The first time I met Darren, he was completely delusional. He was barely tethered to this reality. The second time, this time, he seemed rational. He seemed aware of what he was doing. He just seemed to be hell-bent on shooting a cop.

It’s hard, I think, to understand the layers of mental illness. To realize that it doesn’t always manifest as delusions or thoughts of the devil possessing someone. I learned that sometimes crazy doesn’t seem crazy, but that day was crazy, and all I cared about was surviving.

That night after the shooting, the boys back at the detachment took me out for beers. Then I went home, told my wife, slept a couple of hours, and was back out on the job at 8:00 am, but I wasn’t the same man. Something had shifted off-centre, and I became recklessly unconcerned about my own safety. On the job, I wouldn’t hesitate to kick a door down even if I knew there were armed assailants behind it. On different occasions, I would walk right up to a man with a gun and wrestle it from his hands. Then I’d come home and have a drink and another and often another. I was shutting down. Finally, I phoned my brother, Leo.

“Hey Patrick, how are you doing?” he said when he picked up the phone.

“Leo, something is wrong with me.”  I cried.

Leo was gobsmacked that I hadn’t been debriefed. There were policies in place at the RCMP, but they had not been enacted for some reason.

After that phone call with my brother, I reached out to HR and was given an appointment with a company psychologist.  It took six months for that appointment to come through.

Meanwhile, I was still on the job, and one day, I had to go to Mount Hope to interview a young girl who had been a victim of a sexual assault. As I drove into the institution’s long driveway, I saw Darren Roode walking down the road unescorted. I felt like I wanted to throw up. I couldn’t fucking believe it. I felt like everything I had been through; my colleagues had been through, was being dismissed. As if the justice system was flipping us off. I was so damn angry.  I thought this is quite a system we have if someone like him can be free to walk off the institution’s property anytime he wants after doing what he had done. As an RCMP officer, it is my job to catch the bad guys. After that, I must leave it in the justice department’s hands to do as they see fit. Sometimes, as was the case here, it just doesn’t seem to line up, as if there is no justice in justice.

My appointment with the psychologist finally arrived. I was given a test that was usually administered to agents that had returned from undercover drug operations. I was given another test administered to RCMP officers in 1985 who had been involved in the clean-up of human carnage from Arrow Air Flight 1285 that had crashed in Gander, Newfoundland killing all two hundred forty-eight passengers and eight crew members. There were no tests for officers who had been involved in a shoot-out where their partner was shot and where they had shot the assailant. I remember the doctor collected the tests, left the room, and returned an hour later to tell me I was very stressed. Hell, I knew that. That’s why I was there in the first place. He then referred me to a psychologist in Halifax. A man by the name of Jason Roth. It took another three weeks for that appointment.

At my first appointment with Mr. Jason Roth, he asked why I was there. I was shocked that this information had not been communicated, and when I told him about the shoot-out, he was furious that I had been left to lag without resources. I spent years with Jason Roth and other psychologists attempting to unravel the trauma and PTSD I suffered from my encounter with Darren Roode. Writing this memoir is another attempt to exorcise the emotional tentacles still attached to that moment in time.  I really wish Alzheimer’s would take these memories rather than my immediate ones. It seems gravely unfair.

A few years after this incident with Roode, it couldn’t have been more than three; I was lying in bed fast asleep when I received a phone call from Cst. Joe Hollett at about two a.m. I immediately thought that I was getting called out for a serious incident. This was not uncommon for me. What was uncommon this time was the nature of the call. Joe said that he felt he needed to tell me that he was at the scene of an accident.

“Darren Roode has killed himself,” he said.

“What?” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.

“Darren drove his car at about a hundred miles an hour. We figure down this road here.” He started explaining. “We figured he knew the road, and it ended at a wall, and he drove right into the wall.”

“Holy shit,” I said.

“There were no brake marks.”

“I gotta say I’m not surprised he’s dead. Thanks for letting me know.”  I hung up and told Marianne the news.

I’ve had a hard time reconciling these experiences. For years all my anger was directed at Darren, and I think some of it still is. I was supposed to be at my wife’s work Christmas party that night having a good time, and instead, I was holed up in that house with that arsehole fighting for my life. It’s been a hard road trying to sort through the clusterfuck of that whole experience.  From that first encounter with Darren Roode, where the gun was pointed at his chin, and the devil was in all the details, to three months later when I was called back, and Darren Roode had the gun on us.  A cop was bleeding in the living room; I was freezing my ass off and lying my face off to try and get that fucking guy to put down his weapon. I’m not sure if he was hoping I would kill him or what. And then again, when he was let out of the psych hospital only to barrel down the road and kill himself. I have to admit I am grateful he’s not alive to harm anyone else, but I still struggle to lay down my anger with him and the system, with it all.

In this life, I believe we need to forgive others and ourselves and any of those we can’t reconcile with forgiveness, we need to leave accountable to God. It’s not about excusing the action. It’s not about not holding people responsible, but it’s about separating the deed or action from the person. There’s a bit of space in that separation where we come to the understanding that some people’s behaviour is often a result of a lineage of damage done. I primarily learned this lesson through my relationship with my father. He’d had a lean and hard existence growing up and turning to drink was not uncommon for him. It was what I had done after dealing with Darren Roode to numb the pain and panic I had experienced. Fortunately, I lived in a time where getting help was acceptable—limited but acceptable. I knew my father loved all his children. He showed us through his hard work and sacrifice and through his determination to see us succeed, but he had his demons, and as a young boy, I witnessed those.

However, when you work in law enforcement, there’s no time for philosophical musings on forgiveness or the nature of man. It’s often a situation of getting the fucker before he gets you or harms anyone else. As a cop, you are thrust into the depravity of humanity. If you are lucky, when it comes time to tally up your journey, hopefully, you are one of those who feel that they have succeeded in committing themselves to the service of others. That you have done some good, righted some wrongs, and you trust that out of the chaos, you have helped give a feeling of peace and security to your community and have restored a little bit of order in the lives of others.  You never get over circumstances like this. There’s a hole in your heart that doesn’t heal.  I am also very aware that I could have easily been an officer killed in the line of duty, but I survived, and I believe I survived for a reason. I still had work to do!

You can read the First Shooting story here.

Ghostwriter: Bev Hotchkiss is an accomplished and comprehensive freelance writer with over ten years of experience. As ghostwriter/editor for Patrick’s memoir, she helped Patrick express and  reconcile some of his most traumatic and difficult emotions. Together they navigated the sensitive world of PTSD and Alzheimer’s to create an engaging and poignant story with the hopes of helping others understand themselves or their loved ones.