CAMDEN — On Sunday, Dec. 20, Camden Village Police Officer Joe Brown responded to a domestic disturbance call within the village limits. The call appeared to be the average call, but the situation quickly turned worse when one subject returned to the residence with a loaded gun — while Brown was still there.
Brown’s immediate actions in the situation earned the part time officer recognition from Camden Police Chief Matt Spurlock during a Camden Village Council meeting on Thursday, Jan. 7.
An emotional Spurlock said the following of his officer: “I’m certain your acts of courage and bravery saved lives on the evening of 12-20-15. This shall serve as an official letter commending your actions. On behalf of the Village of Camden and its police department, thank you Officer Brown for your service.”
During the council meeting, Spurlock said no physical harm had occurred to either party upon Brown’s arrival. He continued by stating one subject agreed to leave the residence after collecting personal belongings for the night.
According to Spurlock, that subject then returned to the residence with a gun. Present at the residence were six other people, including three children under the age of 18. Spurlock said Officer Brown had remained at the residence finishing the incident report.
The 28-year-old Brown recently sat down for an interview to tell the story from his point of view.
Brown said he arrived at the residence and two small children approached him, informing him of the subject in the house. According to Brown, he spoke to the subject outside and entered the residence to speak to both parties in the dispute.
Brown said he identified the source of the dispute and talked to the parties about the best way to “work out” the disturbance.
Next, according to Brown, one subject who was originally not willing to leave, agreed to leave the residence for the night. Brown said he followed the subject into another room to watch the subject pack their belongings to make sure the subject had no weapons.
“(The subject) filled the bag, was nice and everything, cooperative and then left, that was it,” Brown stated.
“I thought that was it,” he added. “It went smooth. We do a lot of domestic disturbances like that and that’s how it goes. One will leave and everything usually ends peacefully.”
This time however, the call didn’t end there. Brown watched the subject leave the residence and Brown reentered the home to finish his report.
As Brown was completing his report and assisting the other party, a person returned into the room and said “(the subject) is back.”
Then according to Brown, he went to look out the window and saw the subject’s car had been parked abruptly in the road.
“By the time I went to look out the door to see where (the subject) was at, ( the subject) was already inside,” Brown said. “At this point (the subject) was holding the gun in (the subject’s) hand but I didn’t see it. I don’t know why, but I turned to get a better view of the room so I walked backwards so I could see everything. That’s when (the subject) said ‘I’m not leaving’, and then ( the subject) said ‘I have a gun.’
“It was at waist level, at the ready, so (the subject) could easily shoot somebody,” Brown said.
“It wasn’t drawn …. But all (the subject) had to do was flick a wrist and pull the trigger before I could even respond,” he added.
At this point, the officer drew his service weapon.
“I told (the subject) to drop the gun, then (the subject) says the only way ‘I’m leaving is in a body bag’,” Brown said.
“At that point my heart started beating and I thought (the subject) was going to shoot somebody,” he said.
According to Brown, children were in the room behind the subject and other bystanders were standing behind the officer. “It would have been bad if things started flying, that’s the last thing I wanted to happen.”
Brown said two minutes passed before he was able to turn his body camera on and call for backup.
Brown said another minute went by with Brown repeatedly asking the subject to drop the gun and insisting, “you don’t want to do this.” At that point the subject agreed to give up the gun and placed it on the ground.
Brown said he was able to secure the gun after three minutes of having his gun drawn. “It was probably a good three minutes where I had (the subject) at gunpoint and I thought I was going to have to shoot ( the subject). I believe it would have been justified, there was a lot people there, (the subject) came back with a weapon, made threats that (the subject) wasn’t leaving unless it was in a body bag. I kept my calm, a calm as I could be.”
Then Brown said he held the subject at taser point and waited for the Preble County Sheriff’s deputies to arrive in assistance.
“A lot of things could have went wrong,” the officer said.
Brown said the subject held a CCW, and he felt the subject had intentions of using the weapon.
“My finger was on the trigger where I could have shot,” Brown said, explaining it was the first time as an officer he had pulled his weapon in this manner.
“Hopefully I don’t have to do it for a while. There isn’t really any amount of training to help you for that.”
Brown said his time in the Army might have helped him receive more training than typical police officers for the situation. But, he noted, “It’s different when you’re deployed over-seas and when you’re in somebody’s home with innocent bystanders.”
“It just goes to show that everything can be going smooth and all of the sudden, you have to be on your toes, you can’t get complacent — it’s really easy to do, we go to these calls all the time and we are just there to keep them from getting worse. I thought that’s all this was. I never thought (the subject) would come back with a gun,” Brown said.
Brown talked about his mindset during the situation: “I was real calm, I didn’t use curse words, I was calm about it,”he said. “I wasn’t screaming at (the subject) saying ‘I’m going to shoot you, drop the gun,’ I was just extremely calm about it because I didn’t think ( the subject) was in the right state of mind.”
“You just get that mindset, It was the last thing I wanted to do,” Brown stated. “I did everything I could not to, I could have sure, as soon as (the subject) did that I could have probably pulled the trigger. But I was more worried about everyone in the house. Who knows what could have happened.”
Brown said he has not received formal negotiations training but said paying attention in the police academy helped him learn ways to handle situations like this one.
“You have to think before you react,” Brown said. “I was worried about everyone in there. I didn’t know them, I had never dealt with that residence before. That’s why we do this — if we have to put our lives on the line for someone I don’t know that’s what I’ll do. I did it for my country, I’ll do it again as a police officer.”
“I’m glad no one got hurt, even (the subject,)” Brown said. He sat with the subject while the subject under went a medical incident and helped the subject receive medical attention at the hospital.
Prior to joining the Camden Police Department, a force he has spent just under a year-and-a-half serving, Brown spent a year fighting in Iraq and spent two years stationed in South Korea where he became a sergeant in the Army.
Brown currently lives in Southeastern Indiana and drives over an hour each direction for his shifts on the Camden Police Department.
The situation remains an open investigation with Camden Police Department.
Reach Austin Schmidt at 937-683-4062 or on Twitter @aschmidt_RH.