THIS is Why You Train

Cop prepared ‘my entire life’; Shootout ended with empty gun

It was his final bullet. If this one missed its mark, New Mexico State Police Lt. Don Day would have to reload while still under fire.

Day aimed for the gunman’s head and fired the fifth and last shot from his gun. The man dropped to the pavement. The shooting stopped. The stress in Day’s body “flushed away.” The gunfight was done.

As other officers and medical personnel arrived at the scene, Day was, well, being a police officer – making sure officers were preserving the scene for investigation and sending emergency medical technicians to tend to the downed gunman before allowing medics to treat the two bullet wounds to his own legs.

“In law enforcement, you’ve got to change from an adversarial position to a savior,” according to Day. “You have a duty to serve him (the gunman) even though he just tried to kill you.”

That, friends, is a COP. A man who knows and intimately understands his duties and responsibilities. But there’s more:

The gun that Day carries when working looks a bit different than the service weapons most police officers use these days. Day’s model – an “old-style six-shooter” as he describes it – is from a day gone by, a time from years ago when such guns were the modern weaponry.

Day still uses the model because he likes the look. He likes the nostalgia of it.

This week, though, the old six-shooter – loaded with only five bullets, as it happened – proved to be worth much more than bringing back memories.

The gun – and Day’s skill in shooting it – proved to be a lifesaver for the 18-year New Mexico State Police veteran and perhaps other people who may have been targeted by the gunman that Day shot down Monday morning in the parking lot outside the Raton office of the state Motor Vehicle Division.

“I’ve prepared for this my entire life,” Day said Thursday morning, less than a day after returning home to Raton from an Albuquerque hospital to recover. “Not a day goes by that I don’t think about (what to do if someone pulls a gun and shoots).”

You can bet your ass that he practices with that gun more often than his once- or twice-annual qualifications. He has the mindset, too, as he explains:

On Monday morning, in the Dona Ana shopping plaza on South Second Street, the scenario suddenly became real. Day found himself under fire by a fugitive wanted in three other states. In the gun battle, Day was hit once in each leg. A third bullet headed for his lower stomach but was stopped by Day’s bulletproof vest, leaving a bloody and bruised mark where the skin was ripped by the impact.

“You’ve got to know,” Day said about a police officer’s mindset, “I will not surrender. I will not give up. I will fight.”

The bullets that struck his legs felt only like bugs hitting him, Day said. He was focused on the man who was shooting at him. The fact that he was shot “just didn’t concern me,” Day said.

State police on Wednesday identified the man who engaged Day in Monday’s gun battle as 28-year-old Shane Holmes of Frederickstown, Mo. Holmes had at least 10 aliases and was wanted on criminal felony warrants for fraud and forgery in Texas, Indiana and Missouri. Investigators found equipment in the Jeep that Holmes brought to the Raton MVD office that officials believe he may have used to produce counterfeit bank checks.

Holmes died en route to an Albuquerque hospital about five hours after the shootout.

Day had gone to the MVD office in response to a call from the office after employees there did routine checks and discovered Holmes was sought on the felony warrants. Holmes was trying to register a Jeep.

Although he is the top-ranking officer and commander in the Raton state police office, Day handled the call because the closest other officer was miles away south of Springer.

Day entered the MVD office and went to a back office while Holmes was still at the front counter with an MVD employee. When Holmes and the employee, William Allemand, went out to the parking lot to look at the Jeep, Day took the opportunity to pursue Holmes’ arrest while he was outside the building.

As Day approached Holmes by the Jeep, Holmes was turned sideways to Day. Day told Holmes he was placing him under arrest and Day reached for Holmes’ wrist in order to handcuff him.

From the side of his body facing away from Day, Holmes pulled a 9-mm handgun from his belt area and pointed it at Day at point-blank range.

In an attempt to distract Holmes, Day yelled “No!” and shoved Holmes away from him, then turned and ran in order to put some distance between them. Holmes began firing, and missing, and – much to Day’s surprise – started chasing Day rather than getting into the Jeep to try to make an escape.

“That’s when I knew I was really in danger,” Day said, adding that Holmes was yelling something that ended in “kill you.”

Day drew his six-shooter and fired two shots as he turned toward Holmes. The shots, although missing Holmes, stopped Holmes from coming closer and sent Holmes moving laterally in front of Day. Ten to 15 feet apart, now face to face with no cover between them, the two exchanged a flurry of gunfire.

Among the 13 shots fired by Holmes – who has a gun that holds 15 bullets at a time – one bullet went through Day’s left thigh and another lodged in his right knee. Day didn’t even feel the one that struck his vest above his belt.

After being hit, Day said he felt “calm” as he fired his five shots. He knew from the start, however, that he only had five bullets in his gun.

“You have five rounds,” Day said he thought to himself as Holmes began firing at him. “You’re going to have to make them count.”

One shot hit Holmes in the hand. Day’s final shot struck Holmes near the left temple. Holmes fell.

Day, a husband of 13 years and father of three, said the first thought in his head when Holmes pulled a gun on him was his children. “I didn’t want them to be orphans,” he said. He also feared that his wife, Brenda, who supervises the MVD office, might also become a target if Holmes was given the chance to take revenge on those who had called the police.

“I knew I had to win,” Day said.

Before joining the New Mexico State Police, Day was shot at during an undercover assignment with the Colorado Bureau of Investigation. As a member of the Nebraska State Patrol, Day had to shoot a suspect during a traffic stop that went bad. Unlike Holmes this week, the Nebraska suspect lived.

Day admits that next time he is called to handle a felony warrant situation – even if the crimes are white-collar offenses like Holmes’ – he will use even more caution.

“There is no such thing as a nice felon,” Day said. “This guy was ready to kill.”

And on Monday, Day was forced to be ready to do the same.

My heartfelt thanks to Trooper Day, and my best wishes for his recovery. And I recommend that if he still wishes to carry a revolver, he might consider the eight-shot S&W Model 27. With all eight chambers filled.

But keep the mentality: You MUST WIN and you MUST MAKE YOUR SHOTS COUNT.

“Spray and pray” doesn’t do the job.

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