PRYOR, OK —
Sometimes news coverage in general gives a false sense of reality that there is not much good going on in the world.
Sometimes news coverage is happy and gives hope that maybe there is something good after all. There are good stories that ended bad and bad ones that ended well.
Amid the stories, are untold stories. There are stories of risk, selfless acts, pride, celebration and bravery – the stuff that strengthens families and communities... and sometimes, unfortunately, can destroy families and communities. These can create the stories of sacrifice, loss of life, grief, reactive choices made (whether good or bad), and most without any warning.
Escalation and or impulsivity can change lives in a matter of three seconds. That is what it did to Officer Dale Tillotson of the Salina Police Department and for the families affected by a decision that had to be made quickly.
Tillotson was off duty when he went on a ride-along with a Mayes County Deputy who responded to a traffic stop that led into further investigation which revealed additional criminal activity and ultimately resulted in a death.
Tillotson and the deputy were arresting a drug suspect at the Days Inn motel in Pryor when the man pulled a gun and shot at Tillotson.
“Obviously, the intent was to arrest and transport. It turned into a shot fired at me and I returned fire. My life could have ended that night as well as the deputy’s. In three seconds, it was over. Replaying that moment, there was nothing that I could have done differently. Of course I feel bad I took a life. “
Tillotson was recognized for his criminal interdiction efforts by the National Criminal Enforcement Association with an Award of Valor. “I am no different than anyone else. Anytime you go on a call, you always wonder if this will be your last call. You never know. I do not just look for one thing on a call or contact, I look for everything.”
An officer practicing criminal interdiction does not look for just one thing; they look for every probable cause that can lead to an arrest or citation. These kinds of officers have made incredible arrests. We have heard the stories.
“Being proactive on the job helps prevent incidences from occurring, which then warrants a reactive approach. If we observe behaviors, we have to anticipate outcomes. Walking up to a car at night is an example. If people have tinted windows, the windows will be darker at night. It helps officers when approaching vehicles if all windows are rolled down. No need to be reaching for a driver’s license or insurance card before we approach. We do not know what anyone is reaching for. It is best to just wait until officer approaches and asks for the information,” Tillotson said.
Although Tillotson accepts the acknowledgement, he knows families hurt when they lose someone. “I understand what the award means. I understand I did my job. But at the end of every shift, you hope you have your life and no one put you or anyone else in a life-threatening situation where you had to take theirs. There is nothing happy about it.”
Tillotson said sometimes when the public tries to help, it has the opposite effect. “Alerting drivers when a police car is parked beside the road is a bad idea. It allows a potential kidnapper, thief, murderer, drug dealer, and other criminals to turn around and take a different route. What they have done is help someone escape justice. It makes it hard to police the community. We all can play a part in crime prevention without getting involved. At the end of the shift, it is one day down and you hope everyone will get to see another.”