Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Flashbang Story

The Flashbang Story
Mark Williamson
July 2011
732 words

We raided a meth lab one Friday night.

In case you don't know me, I'm a a cop. I used to be a narcotics detective. "Narc" for short. No, it's not considered derogatory, unless by narc you mean "Not A Real Cop."

Anyway, the narcs didn't get to do the entry at the raid, our SWAT team did. SWATTIES like to call themselves "operators." We sometimes call them "SWATZIS." My sergeant, a real gung-ho former Marine, is both a narc -and- on the SWAT team.

After all the fun stuff was done and all the bad guys were wearing bracelets, he asked me to get him a piece gear from his truck. He was stuck in the "hot zone," which means on the other side of yellow tape that reads "Crime Scene."

The piece of gear he sent me to get: A pair of pants.

It seems one of the other SWAT guys (real smart, those "operators") did not wear -any pants- underneath his raid coveralls.

See, when you go into a meth lab, you have to strip off the top layer of clothes to decontaminate because of all the chemicals and OSHA regulations. Since I did not enter, I was tasked with the mundane chores in the "cold zone." Like getting pants.

Exciting work, being a detective. I feel just like Serpico.

Anyway, while retrieving said pair of pants from the rear of his 4Runner, I heard -something- hit the road next to my right foot. It sounded solid, like a flashlight or a radio. Unfortunately, I didn't know what fell out, but, as a natural reaction, I turned around and bent over at the waist to pick up whatever it was. Only to realize it was a live flash-bang grenade.

Because meth labs have all those flammable chemicals about, the SWAT guys don't take the flash-bangs in with them, lest "something bad" happen. My sergeant, being the conscientious SWAT Operator that he is, dutifully took his off.

And put them in the back of his 4Runner.
Under his spare uniform.

In a what I believe (since I am an atheist) to be -An Act Of God-, the "spoon" on the thing broke off when it hit the road. I had just enough time to realize "hey, that ain't right...." and get my hands in front of my face before having what I can only describe as "a unique experience."

In addition to the real bright light, flash-bang grenades also produce a concussion (or so the tactical-medical guy on scene said) of about 5X normal pressure. So, my ears, being about 3 feet from the blast, immediately got overloaded with a sound so loud and intense that I do not remember even hearing it. I am assured I caused several people to pee their pants.

My ears instantly began that high-pitched whine we've all experienced when something loud happens near us.

It should be noted here I did not fall down, nor did I soil myself.

Of course, given my unique perspective and proximity to the damn thing, I was the only one within a mile radius that was aware "something bad" was about to happen. Even if my awareness was only a split-second or so. I'm told "shots heard" calls came into dispatch.

After the hand-shaped soot prints were wiped off my face and my vision returned and the big blobs of color were no longer fogging up my sight, I went to the ER. The doc there checked and said I had no physical damage and the whining "should" go away and my hearing "should" come back in about four or five days.

I hope so. It's getting on my nerves. I went to my personal doctor the following Monday and asked him if I would regain my hearing. In his expert, medical opinion he said, with no irony at all after me telling him just how lucky I am to be the one to be sent to get the pants, "keep your fingers crossed."

In an even more unfortunate circumstance, there was a video crew from the Idaho Meth Project on scene. They assure me they caught the whole thing on tape. I'm expecting to see it on youtube within the week.

I'm glad I like my job.

It could be worse, of course. I could be a lawyer.

And yes, that ringing is still fucking there.


  1. I always learn something after reading your stuff. Like, who the hell is Serpico? (Don't worry, I googled it.)

    I noticed you wrote this in July. Did the ringing ever go away?