The Sniper Incident from Ro’s perspective: Ten

End Game (Part One)

Saturday, March 24, 2007, 4:45 p.m.

“Command,” Ro said into her microphone, “did it work?”

“Affirmative,” Pease said, relaying to her what Locari had just reported.

“Is everyone looking scared and confused?” she asked. It had also been part of the plan the cops and looky-loos on the scene should all appear genuinely surprised by the shooter’s unexpected gunfire.

“They are.”

“Good. I know where his hide is now, but still don’t see him – I have no target. Let’s let him stew for a while about whether he really got me…worry a bit about what’s gonna happen next. Go ahead and set-up phase three, but we’ll wait until closer to sundown to execute.”

Both she and Pease new that was about an hour from now.

“10-04,” Pease acknowledged, then added, “that was a great play, Deputy.”

“We’ll see,” Ro said, knowing there were still a great many “maybes” and “what ifs” yet to unfold.

In her sniper training not quite two years ago they had spent half-a-day explaining the differences between military and law enforcement DMs. For example, ninety-five percent of the time law enforcement snipers engage targets from under three-hundred yards, often much less, while military snipers typically take their shots at twice that range, frequently a good deal longer. Another difference was that a law enforcement sniper is almost never concerned about camouflaging his or her position or diverting the target’s attention, unlike a military shooter.

Which is why early in the encounter, when Ro’s instincts told her she was facing a sniper with military training, she had tried to think like one, tried to make moves that would not be expected from a cop. Thus, the elaborate aspects of phase three, all designed to be unpredictable, to confound the shooter as to what was really happening, so he’d be the one to make a mistake.


Ro spent the hour studying what she now knew to be his position, looking for any telltale sign, a small movement that didn’t seem natural, a shape suggesting a body instead of a tree trunk: Nothing. She’d always assumed he’d be using some form of camouflage, thinking maybe a ghillie suit, but then it clicked…

The tarp! You wrapped the inflatable in a camo tarp, why not yourself? Probably tied down with bungees or paracord… You’d blend right into the tree trunk – no wonder I can’t see you… But that would mean you haven’t moved for what, twelve, thirteen hours? You’ve gotta be really stiff and uncomfortable by now.

Given that, she tried to visualize his specific movements as the multiple steps of phase three were executed, so she could be positioned to take her shot by predicting exactly where and how he would reveal himself.

You’re gonna have to swing that Barrett back and forth to your right and left, she thought, not sure if there’s an assault coming from one or both directions… That’s a heavy weapon and won’t be resting on its bipod – it’ll be unstable… Then you’ll need to twist all the way around and check your six… That’s when I think you’ll give up your position…

So, she positioned the reticles of her scope in the crook of what appeared to be the empty V in the tree… And kept an eye on the fuzzy, slightly out of focus leaves just visible at the top of her vision.

She had spotted them earlier hanging from an overhead branch not far behind and a little above the shooter’s position. She’d figured out if they swayed right, it meant the wind had shifted around to the southeast; if they moved left, it meant the wind was coming from the southwest. If they weren’t visible at all, it meant the wind was straight from the south – right into her face – had picked-up and lifted them up and out of her sightline; it might be rough, but it was the best wind gauge she had.


The swath of brightness that was the sun behind the heavy overcast was just touching the tops of the trees to the west when she said into the wand mic, “Execute.”


Thirty seconds later there was a loud “Whump” from a flash-bang grenade she had ordered detonated by the Makuakeeta sheriff’s people beside the highway off to her right, followed in a moment by a plume of thick black smoke from a pile of oily rags she had said to set afire. Five minutes later, that, in turn, triggered several wailing sirens, as if emergency vehicles were responding. All this was happening behind a smaller island closer to shore, which meant the shooter over on the big island could only see the smoke column and only hear the sound effects.

Do I have your attention yet? she thought.

Not quite ten minutes later she heard the faint beat of a helicopter approaching far to the left, but low, hugging the surface of the river, screened from the shooter’s sight by the trees on the upstream end of “his” island. She had insisted on it being a UH-1 Huey because she knew it was common in military operations and her shooter would recognize its distinctive rotor signature. It had taken numerous phone calls to locate one over near Chicago being used by a private contractor for cross-country pipeline route survey work and to negotiate its “rental” for the day.

What’re you thinking now? I hope it’s that’s there’s a dozen well-armed SWAT commandoes on the way to your island…

A few moments later, just as the helicopter’s thwump-thwump-thwump got very close, there was a series of bright, lightning-like flashes and sharp bangs on the back side of the shooter’s island.

“Regular” flash-bang grenades used by law enforcement are normally tossed into a closed room ahead of an assault team’s entry to temporarily blind and disorient any bad guys inside. But there’s also an aerial version of the flash-bang that can be fired from a handheld launcher over the heads of an unruly mob.

The final ploy in Ro’s diversion had been for two of her SWAT colleagues to quietly sneak up to the island from the main channel side and fire a trio of the aerial grenades over the trees above and behind the shooter’s position. It was supposed to make him worry he had somehow been flanked from the rear and force him to turn around to confront his attackers.

Next: There was no time to twiddle with her scope

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