The Sniper Incident from Ro’s perspective: Five

Operation Copperfield

Saturday, March 24, 2007, 1:05 p.m.

The black oversize SWAT step van arrived a few minutes after noon with Lt. Tom Pease, the SWAT commander, and four more officers. Pease called everyone together behind the van for an update and op briefing. As part of the briefing, Ro shared the outlines of a plan for dealing with the unknown shooter out on the island. Pease agreed it was only prudent to assume he was a trained sniper; to underestimate him could be a serious mistake.

When Pease asked for any questions, one of the SWAT team said, “That’s a lot of moving parts, Delahanty, what if something goes wrong?”

But then another member chimed in, “I think it’s brilliant. The secret to any illusion is to get people to look over there while you’re doing something else over here.”

Ro shrugged, responding to the initial question, “What we always do, improvise.”

Pease said, “The op needs a code name. What should we call it?”

“How about Operation Copperfield after that magician guy on TV,” suggested Makuakeeta deputy Knapp.

Pease looked around and saw nothing but nods. “Operation Copperfield it is,” he announced.

The first step in Operation Copperfield was for the four SWAT officers to move into ready positions among the patrol cars and in the grove of trees, but looking out at the island; to make things look to the sniper – who Ro was sure was watching, because she would be if she was the one out there – as if this was a routine, by-the-book SWAT deployment.


In the meantime, Ro pulled Locari, Ruiz and Knapp over behind the step van.

“I need you guys to go get me all of the leftover ketchup packets in the glove compartments of your patrol cars,” she said.

Knapp and Locari gave her a “How did you know?” smile and Ruiz just nodded. She knew cops and knew grabbing a burger and fries on the run was more often than not their mid-shift default meal option. She also knew there were at least a handful of packets in a tray under the dashboard of the SWAT step van. They returned in a few minutes with two dozen packets between them.

“What’re you up to, Corporal?” Locari asked.

“Come on, I’ll show you.” She led them to the side of the step van opposite the island and retrieved a black SWAT Kevlar tactical helmet and a role of tape from inside. She dumped the nearly three dozen ketchup packets inside the crown of the helmet and taped them in place.

Handing the now “doctored” helmet to Locari, she explained what she eventually wanted him to do with it.

Ruiz grinned, “That is s-o-o wicked.”

“I never knew you had such a devious side,” Locari added, but with a smile of approval.

“You guys get back out there where you’re visible, try to look casual, like everything’s under control,” she said, again wanting to reassure any observer nothing surreptitious was going on.

After the three cops left, Ro climbed into the van and spent the next thirty-five minutes putting together some special props needed for her part of the illusion.

At the same time, it took Lt. Pease almost that long in conversations with Sheriff Dahlgren over the radio and convince him to play his part in the plan.

Operation Copperfield had three phases.

Phase one involved distracting the shooter so Ro could get to her intended position undetected.

Phase two was a ruse designed to confuse the shooter, make him think he had eliminated his adversary, perhaps become overconfident and make a mistake.

Phase three was an elaborate charade designed to confound the shooter, make him think he was under assault from different directions; to get him to reveal his position so Ro could take her shot.

Next: “Saving” the pinned down deputies

From the Ro Delahanty novel Twists and Turns © 2019 Dave Lager