INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- IMPD Officer Pete Koe is a non-lethal specialist and squad leader assigned to the department’s SWAT Team Quick Reaction Force, which is ironic because the 28-year veteran was awarded an IPD Medal of Honor in 2005 for taking down a killer in a point-blank gun battle after the fatal wounding of a fellow officer the year before.
More about that later.
Koe was the first officer trained in the first police department in Indiana to deploy stun guns as a less-than-lethal response in 1999 to deal with dangerous offenders who won’t listen to reason or lay their weapons down.
That training, and the cool reserve that has steadied Pete Koe during decades of violent drama on the streets of Indianapolis, saved the life of a toddler and the man who held a knife to the boy’s chest during a walking stand off on the east side last Friday night.
It was a little before 7 p.m. when the police radio crackled with the news that a man acting erratically was walking through the neighborhoods near 34th Street and Keystone Avenue, ignoring pleas from his family and complaining that a mystery assailant was after him.
“That’s when we hear and get a clear idea that you have an individual high on PCP walking around with a knife and a baby,” said Koe, who later suspected from the profuse sweating and nonsensical blubbering that Tyrin Jones had been smoking “wet”, marijuana dipped in PCP.
In Jones’ arms was the little boy who shares his name, snatched from the safety of his grandmother’s house nearby.
“The life of that child becomes the absolute priority at that point and preserving that child whatever that may take,” said Koe. “I saw an individual holding a bowie knife to a baby, that’s what I zeroed in on.”
Koe also saw perhaps a dozen IMPD officers, and a handful of onlookers and family, following Jones on his zig-zag journey along Keystone and Baltimore and Orchard and Brouse and other side streets in a neighborhood where murders and gunfire and wounded citizens and police raids were commonplace this summer.
It’s also the neighborhood where Linda Lee lives and tries to raise her grandchildren.
“Me being a mother and a grandmother, my first thing was, ‘Take him out,’” she said. “But then also being a Christian woman that I am, ‘Save life as much as possible.’
“This gentleman, you could look in his face and tell he was not in his right mind. We didn’t know what he was gonna do or when he was gonna do it.”
Koe didn’t know what Jones was going to do, but he knew what his squad would do.
“I don’t need to talk to my guys for five or ten minutes because they know what to do, even in the chaos of other people they’re going to do their job and each one of us trusts the other one to do that job so I can do my job.
“The QRF just moved in like a fog, a silent fog, and enveloped the subject.”
It was in the 3500 block of Brouse Avenue, when Jones found himself boxed in by two police cars, a neighbor’s fence, several officers and three SWAT team members, that Koe made his move literally within 15 seconds of arriving on the scene.
“He’s using all kinds of expletives; his pants are down so he’s naked, naked in the front, naked in the back.”
Koe gripped his Taser stun gun.
“Instantly I go to my X2, put a probe in his left (back muscle), a probe in his gluteus, the discharging neuromuscular incapacitation causes him to throw the knife, which is a reflexive, then he has a sympathetic response to the initial electricity which causes him to come back and fall and the baby is shielded on him.”
After nearly 20 years of deploying his stun weapon in just the right locations, Koe knew Jones would have no choice but to toss his weapon away and crumple harmlessly and safely to the ground, clutching the child.
Linda Lee had stood back, holding hands and praying with other neighbor ladies, when Jones fell and the toddler was rescued.
“Nobody thought it was going to end good, no one thought it was gonna end good,” she said. “Prayers were answered. We prayed for that baby and that gentleman all the way down the street. Prayers was answered.”
In the summer of 2004 when another madman with a weapon, his name was Kenneth Anderson and he had a high capacity assault-style rifle, opened fire on IPD officers in the dark, Patrolman Jake Laird was killed instantly. Four other officers were wounded and a shootout that sounded like chaos in a south side neighborhood and on the police radio.
It all came to an end when Koe arrived on the scene and walked up the street, brushing debris from shattered overhead police lights from his hair. He wounded Anderson by skipping shots off the pavement and up underneath an SUV in the way and finally finished off the deranged man in a face-to-face gun battle.
For that act of heroism, Koe was awarded the IPD Medal of Honor.
Koe and his partners and fellow patrol officers will likely receive honors next year for their roles in saving the life of Tyrin Jones and his son last Friday night.
“This is the guy we need around, we need more of him around,” said Lee after she heard the Laird shootout story. “We’ve seen so many of our young men being killed but this would have been so justified to save that baby, but the officer went above and beyond to save both lives and that’s the total blessing in all of this.”
Lee lamented the darkened danger zone her neighborhood has become, devoid of street lights, dotted by abandoned houses as she pointed to a spot in the front yard of a vacant house where she held a man dying of multiple gunshot wounds one night more than a year ago.
Many of the IMPD officers who surrounded Jones on his threatening half-hour walk have doubtlessly been on narcotics raids, spurred by community tips, in those same neighborhoods this summer.
“The officers that have been riding up and down the street since then, the people I’ve seen have told ‘em, ‘Good job. Great job,’ cuz there was no lives taken.”
Lee said she has watched other American cities burn when officers there take lives in what are sometimes questionable police action shootings.
She has no doubts about what Officer Pete Koe and his IMPD comrades did on her street just before dusk last Friday night.
“If we could have more of that a lot of this would get calmed down,” said Lee.
After Jones hit the pavement and his son was back in his own grandmother’s arms and the hallucinating paranoid father writhed on the ground in handcuffs moaned, “Jesus. Jesus. Jesus.”
Pete Koe leaned over the prostrate man.
“Jesus sent me here tonight,” he said, “to make sure you’re still alive.”