On February 1, 2013 at 0200 hours, a horrific set of circumstance unfolded that would change my life forever. These events had a negative impact as well as a positive impact not only on my life, but the lives of my team members. Let me explain.
On that particular night I was assigned to the LVMPD/CAT team, (CAT is an acronym for the Criminal Apprehension Team). This federal task force is comprised of seven LVMPD detectives: Detective Troy Radke; Detective Craig Lilienthal; Detective Linda Theobald; Detective Thomas Faller; Detective Eric Collins; Detective Richard Hart; me, Detective Greg Theobald; Sergeant Dave Stansbury; Henderson Police Detective Dave Rowlett; and FBI Special Agents Scott Hendricks, Chris McInnes and Dan Coxon.
We had just finished a 24-hour, no-sleep caper where we had located and captured a murder suspect, and I was about to crawl in bed when the BlackBerry Push to Talk sounded off. I wanted to throw it out the window but I didn’t. It was Sergeant Stansbury advising the entire team that we were being called out on a murder suspect, Jason Baires, who had just murdered his mother’s boyfriend a few hours prior.
The team arrived in the area of Jones and Lake Mead at approximately 0045 hours. It wasn’t long after that the FBI guys had a possible location of Baires’ whereabouts. Special Agent McInnes advised the team that the subject was in a vehicle with a female and was hinked up and driving away.
Somehow I fell in right behind the suspect vehicle and it was obvious they were tail checking. We conducted a pinch maneuver on the suspect vehicle and Baires bailed on foot. I was positioned directly in front of their vehicle and saw Baires turn back toward the other detectives with a gun in his hand. He didn’t shoot and began running. I gave chase with Detective Rowlett and Special Agent Coxon not far behind. Detective Faller noticed that Baires had pointed the gun at us again, so he struck the suspect with his unmarked truck at Michael Way and Carmen, pinning Baires’ arm under the front right tire.
I thought, “There is no way he still has the gun after that hit.” I was about to find out how wrong I was. I was merely feet from Baires as he cussed a couple of times and I approached cautiously with my firearm at the low ready. Baires turned immediately and all I could see was the gun and his teeth gritting with white foam coming from his mouth. It was so fast, I heard the shot as I was bringing my gun up and I returned fire almost at the same time. I felt pain on my left side just above the belt line. Baires curled up after I shot him, but he came right back up with that same look and I knew it was coming again. I took a step back and that was when I realized that I was shot because I had no frame under me. I collapsed like a rag doll.
I was now lying on the ground merely five feet away and face to face with Baires. He lifted his firearm again and shot at my face. I knew all I could do was defend myself and I wasn’t going to let him just kill me without taking him with me. I began shooting and screaming at the same time.
Detective Rowlett did exactly as he was trained and climbed over the top of me knowing that I was shot and down. He and I both began to engage Baires with our firearms. I soon ran out of ammo and I felt doomed. I was thankful Detective Rowlett was there for me. Detective Faller knew he had the drop on Baires and came from behind and shot Baires twice through the back of his skull, the shots exiting his neck. The assault was now over.
Reality set in; I now had a clear understanding of a different type of battle I was facing. I was actually shot, and it wasn’t just a graze. I couldn’t understand why this was happening to me. Shock set in and I was shaking uncontrollably. Special Agents Hendricks and McInnes immediately came to my aid. We train a lot and this type of incident is something we take very seriously. They checked me for exit wounds and I was yelling at McInnes to get his finger out of my wound all the time knowing exactly what he was doing, stuffing gauze in an attempt to slow the bleeding.
This was the time that I realized I might possibly die. I was having chest pains, I was in shock and I was bleeding badly. They threw me in a patrol unit and started for University Medical Center. While the officer driving that patrol car drove with everything he had, Special Agents Hendricks and McInnes asked me if I wanted a prayer. All I could think about was how I let my children down. I always promised them, “Don’t worry, Daddy will always come home to you.” That’s when I told Hendricks and McInnes that I would like the prayer. After Hendricks said a blessing for me, I felt this calmness come over me. I can’t explain it, but I was at peace now and strangely enough, I was okay with dying if it came to that.
Well, obviously I didn’t die, but Jason Baires did leave me a little souvenir that is still lodged just below my pelvic bone next to my spine, with several fragments around the sciatic nerve. He left me something to always remember him by: nerve damage that will be there the rest of my life. I get reminded of him every morning when I get up, numerous times throughout the day on surveillance, walking, sitting and after working out. The bullet can’t be removed and will always be there. The fragments, however, can work themselves out over a time frame of six to seven years.
I was out for approximately six months. Five of those months I worked my tail off learning to walk properly again.
In March 2013 I was notified by Detective Rory Neslund, a former CAT member and now with the PPA, that all the CAT members and I were nominated for the TOP COP awards in Washington, D.C., for the Baires shooting. The entire team played a crucial role in that event and in my wellbeing. I will never forget getting mad at Craig Lilienthal and Linda because they refused to leave my side when I was in the hospital. So many people came to visit me and finally Craig and Linda closed the door to the room, knowing that I needed time to figure out what the hell had just happened to me. Not to mention that I hadn’t had sleep for 30-something hours. For that matter, neither had they. Every CAT member played an important role that night and I appreciate each and every one of them.
On or around May 9, the entire Criminal Apprehension Team arrived in Washington, D.C., for a full weekend of events. The first appointment was the White House to meet the President of United States of America. When we passed through the Secret Service checkpoints and entered the White House, I had to stop and take it all in. I couldn’t believe that we were in the White House. They gave us a special tour, to places that they don’t usually let people go. Everything, from the pictures on the wall of past presidents to the grounds outside, was beautiful.
We eventually found ourselves in the dining room, awaiting the President’s arrival. We mingled with the other TOP COP awardees from all around the nation while we waited. I was reminded of the brotherhood and the camaraderie that still exists between cops. These cops were the most humble, down-to-earth cops I have ever met. When President Obama arrived, he took the time to say some encouraging words to us and went around the room while each of us introduced ourselves to him and told him where we were from.
The media presentation was to take place in the famous Rose Garden on the grounds of the White House but the weather didn’t want to cooperate. The President elected to hold the event inside. We were brought into a room that was filled with our families, friends, special guests P# 8869 and cameras from all the major news networks. The President gave a heartfelt speech and took photos with us. The entire team was elated and humbled by the opportunity we had just experienced.
The next day we were invited to meet with Senator Harry Reid at the Capitol building. He spoke with us, taking the time to congratulate us and take photos. We were invited to meet with Senator Joe Heck, also at the Capitol building, where he had some encouraging words and offered a thorough tour of the Capitol. Next we were off to see all the sights that Washington, D.C., had to offer. We went to Arlington, taking in as much as we could, especially the changing of the guard. We then made sure to get into the Holocaust Museum, Lincoln Memorial, Smithsonian Museums and numerous other attractions in D.C.
Finally, the next day the TOP COPS ceremony was to take place at the Omni Shoreham Hotel, where we were all put up by NAPO (National Association of Police Organizations), which is the force behind the TOP COPS ceremony each year. As we arrived we were greeted by numerous fellow TOP COPS and their family members and friends. There were several of our union members and a representative from our Department as well. There were hundreds of people in attendance for the evening event.
When the doors were opened to the ballroom I immediately noticed the enormous stage with two huge video monitors on each side. NAPO spared no expense for this event. Each table was elegant and the food was great. Shortly after dinner and dessert, the ceremony began. The various speakers were television actors and famous athletes.
This is when I realized the type of cops we were categorized with. As the speakers began giving a brief synopsis of each TOP COP incident, at times showing videos of their stories, I heard horrific reenactments of their events and I realized that we were in a room with true heroes. Some of these guys lived through some deadly, violent assaults that I couldn’t even fathom. I almost felt embarrassed stepping on the stage to receive a TOP COPS award. When it came time for our story, they showed a video which had been put together by the LVMPD‘s Public Information Office, which I had no clue was going to be shown. It was an interview of me recalling the events of that dreadful night. After the video, the crowd was on their feet as the speaker called us to the stage and we were each presented a TOP COP trophy and various gifts. We had numerous pictures taken and then we were back at our seats.
As I was sitting at the table, it started to sink in just how lucky we were to be chosen for this prestigious event. I was approached by many ranking personnel from other jurisdictions, as well as other cops who congratulated me and told me they were glad that we were nominated and that I lived through the ordeal.
I have to say thanks to the Las Vegas Police Protective Association, Chris Collins, Rory Neslund and all others involved for nominating the Criminal Apprehension task force for this prestigious award. I got shot that night, but the team worked in unison, stayed calm and took care of business. I owe my life to Detective Rowlett for the selfless act of positioning himself in harm’s way to protect a downed officer. We were literally five feet from Baires’ gunfire when he executed this heroic act. I have to thank Detective Faller for finally ending the gun battle by placing his shots in a manner that stopped the threat immediately. The lifesaving tactics performed by Special Agents Scott Hendricks and Chris McInnes that night undoubtedly saved my life. The three of us will always share a special bond due to what occurred. Thank you again, Scott and Chris.
Lastly, I would like to say thanks to the entire NAPO organization. They pulled out all the stops for this one and we were treated like royalty. Thanks for a lifetime of memories. On behalf of my squad and myself, I would like to say thank you again for the humbling experience and the TOP COPS award.
I’ve been asked by several people if I would like to be nominated for another TOP COPS award and I had to reply “NO” — because if you have been nominated as a TOP COP awardee, you were probably fighting for your life at some point.
– Greg Theobald