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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Goodness, I am so glad you are both safe!
Forced to kill one of their own? How tragic. My heart goes out to everyone involved.
A fantastic account. Great photos. Thanks.
Great work, Richard, as usual. The Ada News is very fortunate to have you there. You’re a true photo journalist.
Wouldn’t a gunman be able to see you better since you’re wearing a safety vest? Well?
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.”
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.
You’re a freaking magnificent photo journalist. You must write a memoir. What a story!