"PROFILE IN COURAGE"
reprinted with permission from "Soldier of Fortune", October 1990
"Whereas it is realized that the great bulk of police work is done routinely by good police officers, let it be known that the officer named herein displayed initiative and alertness decidedly in excess of the norm in this particular instance...Technician Ron Relf's heroic act while under fire demonstrates true professionalism on his part and reflects credit to all members of the Denver Police Department."
When Ron Relf saved a woman and her baby while he
was under direct fire, he credited both his SWAT and
"Every time we do a no-knock warrant, we're
going into a combat zone," says Ron, a Denver, Colorado, SWAT team member
Just after on
"I figured it was a closet or stairwell," he says now.
Instead, it opened into a tiny, pitch-black bedroom where a man waited with his 9-shot .22 revolver. When Ron entered the room, a round whizzed by him, narrowly missing his head. At the same time, the dark form of a woman with a baby came running directly into the line of fire.
"My first thought was to protect the baby," he says. "You get innocents caught in a gunfight, what do you do? Get them out of the way so you can continue."
His assailant cracked off another round, and Ron felt it whiz by his cheek. But even under attack, he held his fire for fear of harming the baby.
"I realized then that I was silhouetted in the doorway," Ron says. "I knew I had to go for it. If I backed out, we'd have a barricade situation with hostages.
With his left hand, he pushed the woman and baby out of harm's way, dropping his flashlight in the process. Then, he lifted his 9mm SIG-Sauer P226 and shot where he had seen the dim light of a muzzle flash. In the muzzle flash of his own gun, he could make out the shape of a man kneeling on the bed firing at him. The man fired a third and possibly a fourth time before his gun dropped.
Ron quit shooting and retrieved his flashlight. In its yellow light, he could see the bleeding man's defeated look. He stepped forward and brushed the revolver out of his reach. Then, Ron's cover and other team members stepped in and took care of business: cuffing the man and moving the woman and baby to the living room. A search of the house revealed $8,000, half an ounce of cocaine, and a shotgun and high-powered rifle under the bed.
"I was worried about the woman and baby," Ron said. "They were screaming, but I checked them over, and there was no blood. So I went outside and sat on the step."
Outside in the frigid night air, Ron
thought about his days as a
"Some nights, I felt like packing it in, but I always figured I'd wait till morning," he recalls.
By morning, he always figured he could make it
one more day. Of the 1 14 who started training, Ron was one of II who finished.
He received the Navy commendation medal when he helped rescue 16 hostages on
20-22 December 1977, during a bank robbery at Subic Bay Naval Station in the
"What I liked was the closeness of the team and our ability to work together without egos," he says.
"You can't function daily as a policeman thinking like
you did as a soldier," he says. "But
When Ron's supervisor arrived at the scene, Ron traded his SIG-Sauer for a replacement and made a statement to the District Attorney. Then he went home to bed.
"I thought, 'Well, the taxpayers got their money's worth tonight. I earned my pay," he told me.
The Denver Police Department believed he deserved more: Ron received its Medal of Honor - and is the Colorado Police Protective Association's Police Officer of the Year.
"Because of his superb training, prior experience and professionalism, he was able to act quickly to neutralize the suspect while preventing injury to others," wrote Denver D.A. Norman S. Early, Jr. and Assistant D.A. Chuck Lepley after their investigation of the incident. "This sound judgment, courage and quick action allowed Relf, while under direct fire, to push the woman and young child to safety and return fire."
Ron shrugs and quotes the acronym "FIDO" - Forget It, Drive On. He says he was just doing his job, that any of his team members could have done it.
"It's the Blue Knight syndrome," he says. "For eight hours, you protect the world.
"Besides," he adds, "every night you have a call out and you go home afterward, you've won some kind of award."