Call of Duty

Officers ride on the running board of an armored vehicle after clearing a house during the search for a shooting suspect in Byng last night.
Officers ride on the running board of an armored vehicle after clearing a house during the search for a shooting suspect in Byng last night.

A long-ago friend of mine once described my job as a news photographer as “glamorous.” Like all jobs that involve elements of chance, risk, and adventure, it is true that mine can be a bit glamorous at time. Last night was one of those times: covering a shooting and subsequent manhunt not far from where Abby and I live in Byng.

This image gives you an idea of the neighborhood: wooded areas surrounding small homes, sheds, and abandoned vehicles.
This image gives you an idea of the neighborhood: wooded areas surrounding small homes, sheds, and abandoned vehicles.

Just as I was preparing to hop on the riding mower and cut some grass, I heard a confused call on the scanner in the garage: attempted suicide, AK-47, shots fired. Early calls about such situations are often muddled and confused, and present contradictory information. But the words “shots fired” always perks up my news ear. It didn’t take long to realize that my night had gone from mowing to working.

With a quick word to Abby about what I was doing, I put on my safety vest and my media credentials and jumped in my car, trying to divine from scanner traffic where this was happening. (I wear the orange safety vest because when people see it, they are more likely to believe I am an official with business on the scene.) After a couple of wrong turns I was able to figure out that deputies had converged on NW 10th Street in Byng, just a mile from our house.

Sheriff John Christian launches his drone to search the woods for a shooting suspect last night in Byng.
Sheriff John Christian launches his drone to search the woods for a shooting suspect last night in Byng.
As you can see, I was able to park and work not far from "ground zero" of the manhunt in Byng last night.
As you can see, I was able to park and work not far from “ground zero” of the manhunt in Byng last night.

I entered the scene unchallenged because police were still in the process of securing it. If I’d gotten there even five minutes later, I would have been stuck with the rest of the media half a mile south at the Dollar General parking lot.

At one point one of the officers, who I have known for years, approached me and told me to “keep your eyes open,” since they had no idea where the suspect was, but he did not ask me to leave the scene.

I called staff writer Carl Lewis, and he arrived within ten minutes to start gathering words.

Police from multiple agencies ready their weapons during early stages of the hunt for a shooting suspect in Byng last night.
Police from multiple agencies ready their weapons during early stages of the hunt for a shooting suspect in Byng last night.

I stayed on the scene until dark, and made some nice images. The whole time I was there I stayed “360,” meaning I was constantly looking in all directions and staying behind hard cover (mostly tree trunks), since they had no idea where the suspect was hiding.

Police officers, including Pontotoc County Sheriff John Christian (green shirt), employ the tools of their trade, including an unmanned aerial vehicle and a military surplus Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle to apprehend a suspect in a shooting last night.
Police officers, including Pontotoc County Sheriff John Christian (green shirt), employ the tools of their trade, including an unmanned aerial vehicle and a military surplus Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle to apprehend a suspect in a shooting last night.

Carl and I headed back to the office to get some content on the newspaper’s web site, since the WiFi hotspots on our phones were unusable. I stopped by the house to check on Abby, who I found was listening to the scanner and had armed herself.

By the time Carl and I finished loading to the web, police had the suspect, retired Ada police officer Steve Godfrey, contained, and, after he threatened to kill police officers and refused to drop his weapon, police were forced to kill him.

Reporter Carl Lewis made this image when KXII reporter Brittany Harlow wanted him to photograph us together.
Reporter Carl Lewis made this image when KXII reporter Brittany Harlow wanted him to photograph us together.
0

8 Comments

  1. Forced to kill one of their own? How tragic. My heart goes out to everyone involved.

    0
  2. Great work, Richard, as usual. The Ada News is very fortunate to have you there. You’re a true photo journalist.

    0
  3. Wouldn’t a gunman be able to see you better since you’re wearing a safety vest? Well?

    0
  4. Yes. Yes he would. The sheriff told us this morning that despite extensive military and police training and experience, and despite firing 16 rounds at police with an AK-47, he didn’t hit anyone, which the sheriff concluded meant he was a “suicide by cop.”

    0
  5. I knew and worked with Steve Godfrey several years. From when he started at Ada Police dept in about 1976 or 1977 until he left we worked together. Sometimes in the same police car. He was not trying to hurt anyone. If he had been officers would have been hurt. He just wanted them to shoot him. I considered Steve a good friend. We were on the Tactical team of Ada Police dept together. It saddens me to no end that he thought he should go out this way.

    0
  6. You’re a freaking magnificent photo journalist. You must write a memoir. What a story!

    0

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.