In his nonfiction debut, Rangel, a Los Angeles-area police veteran, shines light on the many factors that go into a cop’s use of deadly force.
What’s it like to have to shoot someone to defend oneself or others? The author combines his own firsthand experience with testimonies of other colleagues who found themselves embroiled in gun battles. While on duty in an unmarked car in the early 1990s, Rangel became the victim of an attempted carjacking as gang members opened fire on him and his partner. A shootout followed and Rangel was shot; he was later taken to the hospital in the same ambulance as his assailant. The incident made the author interested to hear about similar experiences from fellow members of the titular “Red Dot Club” of wounded officers. He relates the tale of Frank, a cop who had an off-duty encounter with some gangsters who shot him and his infant son in retaliation for a prior drug arrest Frank had made. In another story, Stacy Lim, a clean-cut Asian-American cop, had a gun battle with a young man after arriving in her own driveway; she managed to kill the shooter before passing out from her injuries. Another story tells of a robbery-in-progress in which perpetrators used assault rifles and hand grenades; eight deputies and highway patrolmen were wounded. Rangel’s voice is engaging and his discussion of physiological responses to life-threatening situations is fascinating. However, these stories of deadly police force often involve armed suspects who were practically baying for cops’ blood, so the author’s general claims of widespread media distortion and misplaced sympathy for victims of police violence seem less than convincing. For example, he supposes that if the media reported on his own shootout, the perpetrator would have been presented as just “a 12 year-old-boy on a bicycle,” which seems simplistic and disingenuous—especially in an era of dashboard cams and iPhone footage.
A vivid, gripping account of police fight or flight that highlights genuine heroism but fails to effectively address murkier issues.