An Opinion I’ve Heard Enough Of

Tragic. It’s the only word that can even come close to describing the events surrounding the death of Wetumpka High School Senior, Haley Wingard, last week at the hands of an obviously troubled ex-boyfriend. I have no inclination to delve into why this young man made such a terrible decision or engage in any rumors and/or hearsay. What I would like to address are some of the opinions I’ve heard since that terrible night regarding how law enforcement officers handled the situation.

I am unashamedly pro-law enforcement. I have the utmost respect for the men and women in our area, and everywhere else for that matter, who choose to put on the uniform every day and go to work to help keep our neighborhoods and communities safe. Sometimes that is something as relatively simple as slowing down drivers by stopping them and letting them know they need to slow down. Warning or ticket, usually those of us who tend to have a lead foot are guilty. We usually don’t like when that happens and we might gripe and complain about it but it’s necessary. Sometimes, as I saw two weeks ago, it is responding to the concerns of a local businesswoman who heard someone open the back door of her building when there should have been no one there except her. Sometimes it’s trudging through the woods in the middle of the night or in the rain looking for a missing person. Always, it is dangerous. With every traffic stop or response to a domestic dispute or robbery call or any number of countless other things law enforcement officers are called upon to do for us, the potential exists for that officer to be injured or worse. Such was the case last Thursday night as many of them responded to the hostage situation that was unfolding in Walsboro.

I know virtually none of the details of what transpired that evening, but what I do know is this: Every police officer, deputy, EMT, and first responder’s objective that night was to rescue Haley. Every action they took or didn’t take that night, every decision they made was made with the sole intention of getting her out safely and defusing the situation. Tragically, that didn’t happen. Perhaps, in hindsight, there are some things they would have done differently. Perhaps not. I’m nothing resembling any sort of expert or authority on negotiating hostage situations. I don’t know when negotiating should cease and use of force should commence. The men who were there that night do. They train regularly for situations just as this. Whoever made the call to go in did so based on that training and their own experience. Whoever fired the shots did so based on that training and their experience. If I had to hazard a guess I’d say they are more than a little distraught over the way the situation ended. Who wouldn’t be? They’re human just like you and I, after all. They risk their lives every time they go on duty for a public that seems to have less and less respect for them with every incident that doesn’t end well such as this one. Never mind that this particular team has been faced with at least 207 similar incidents which ended peacefully.

I will leave the discussion, debate, and second-guessing to others who feel the need to do so. Until someone teaches me all the ins and outs of hostage negotiation and rescue and until I’ve been involved in a few myself, I’ll leave it to the professionals. They are good at what they do even though things don’t always go the way they want them to. I’m sure they struggle and hurt and second guess themselves enough when things go wrong. They don’t need anyone to pile on. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to make a split-second decision in the heat of such a stressful, tense, dangerous moment. Most of us will never have to do it because these guys decided they would. For that, what they deserve is respect and thanks from those of us whom they protect. Spare me the armchair quarterbacking. I really don’t want to hear it anymore.

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19 thoughts on “An Opinion I’ve Heard Enough Of

  1. Amen i do think the guys did there best and did there job at there best and are at no fault for that night . on the other hand if they had apprehend "Bean" a Few nights before this might not have happen

  2. Well said!! I had said something very simular in a conversation. It all comes down to making a tough judgement call given the situation and training they have and I respect them for doing what they do. I pray for everyone involved and thank God for those that put their lives on the line for us.

  3. Blessed are the peace makers for they are the children of God. Strap on a gun and a bullet proof vest everyday at age 21 and then talk to me about making decisions that effect your life and the lives you are sworn to protect. The Sheriff's Deputies are one of the most highly trained units, and especially the S.O.U., in the tri-county area. Think about that when you go to sleep tonight and some mother's son is patroling the roads to keep you safe. Tell a cop thanks next time you see them. The life they save may be yours.

  4. Mr. Braxton even if Mr. Bean had of been arrested a few nights before he would have still been able to make bond and get out. Your notion that an arrest on some simple misdemeanor charges would have kept this from happening is without merit.

  5. Excellent statements Thad. While we hope that all situations end differently than this ultimately God is who makes that decision no matter what is done or not done. Thank you to the brave officers of Wetumpka and Elmore County and my condolences to the family.

  6. Thad thank you for this blog. Having lived with Wayne through many situations I know from him being a trained negotiator, when communications stop then there is nothing left to do but try to free the hostage. If a person is set on "suicide by cop" they will do what they have to do to succeed. This was a very tragic situation and my heart goes out to the families involved. My heart also goes out to the officer involved. Now he is questioned as to how he did his job, goes thru the mental anguish of what he had to do and will have to face the grand jury (even if ABI clears him) and his family has to help him come to terms with it all while dealing with public comments about him being trigger happy, wanting to be a hero etc. The public has no idea. Wayne was involved in a shooting behind Winn Dixie and shot a juvenile in the arm when the kid tried to run over him with a stolen car. He was apprehended in Montgomery and when it went to court he was slapped on the hand and told not to steal cars anymore. Shortly after, this kid was killed by an elderly homeowner he was trying to rob. Wayne on the other hand, was investigated to make sure he did things right, had many sleepless nights,the press hounded him, gun was taken away until everything was cleared (back then they used their own)and had to be cleared by a grand jury. I can only imagine what this officer is going through. I truly believe God calls a police officer. Only thru Him can they have the compassion, love and duty to their fellow citizens. They are a special human being to be able to do and see what they do. I want to thank each and every one of them and let them know prayers always go up for their safety.

  7. Thad, I am not in the law enforcement but my heart goes out to the officers who had to make that decision. It breaks my heart as a parent to know that a child was lost, but it also breaks my heart that the officers did what they were trained to do and lives were still lost. I have prayed for all concerned and will continue to pray that Haley's parents, her family, her friends, the officers and other law enforecement involved in the situation and Bean's family have the strength and compassion to forgive and continue following God's plan for their lives.

  8. Well said Betty! I worried every day when Jeremy was on the road, now I still worry about the things he has seen and been involved in at such a young age. But you are correct. For the most part law enforcement is a calling, not a job. You have to have a love for it or you will never survive. They are abused, called every name in the book as are their wives, mothers and children. They sit facing the door when they go to dinner, not with there back to it. It is a lifestyle change to be where they are. But I'll bet very few would change places with you. Please remember the people involved in the events of last week. It will take a long time to heal.

  9. Baboo we pray for Jeremy every day. I know what you mean by what he has seen. I saw him mature much too quickly. I am thankful that God kept Wayne safe until he retired. It didn't take the policeman out of him though…he just gets to rest a little more often and not run out the door during meal times.

  10. As a corrections officer serving with the Elmore County Sheriff's Department let me say this. I go to work each day with a uniform, a pair of handcuffs, a can of mace, and nothing else. We find shanks on an almost regular basis. We know every day that there is a potential risk of injury or worse. To a small percentage who serve it is just a job. However, for most of the corrections staff, deputies, investigators, administration, and dispatchers we go to our jobs each day because we care about our community and choose to accept those risks because we care about our community and those we share it with. People must understand that law enforcement officers have to make decisions in the blink of an eye that can be second-guessed for an eternity.

  11. I have a brother who is a local Police Officer. However, the victim in this case was my niece. While I know that there is proper protocol to follow, your opinion totally changes when a member of your family is the one murdered. My heart goes out to the officer that had to make this split second decision. I couldn't imagine having to make a call that could ultimately cost someone their life. God's will was done that night & I know Haley is with her master. Being said it doesn't make the situation any easier to bare, only time heals wounds like these. I think it's situations like this that the media (newspapers, news stations, etc) need to take a step back & keep the details to themselves. The only people who should know every detail is the family & even then, they find out more from the mass media. Haley was a beautiful, intelligent, kinda, & compassionate young lady…she will be deeply missed!

  12. @The Wingard's…your family has been and will continue to be in our prayers. I can't imagine how difficult this must be for all of you. You sound like you know where your peace and comfort come from and my prayer will be that He will continue to wrap his arms around you and your family. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment.

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