Officer Jason Lawless, an Oklahoma police sniper, had one chance, one narrow window to save a 2-year-old girl who had been held hostage for hours by an armed man.
The suspect, Salvador Reyes, had barricaded himself inside the Tulsa home of his estranged wife. He was holding a handgun in one hand and the toddler in the other.
Police said the 42-year-old suspect forced his way into the home and started an argument. The woman, her boyfriend and three other children were able to escape while Salvador grabbed his estranged wife’s 2-year-old daughter, prompting a three-hour standoff, Officer Leland Ashley, a spokesman for the Tulsa Police Department, told The Washington Post.
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Ashley said a Spanish-speaking police officer tried several times to persuade Salvador to release the child and come out of the house — to no avail. At one point, Reyes went out on the home’s balcony and pointed his handgun at the officers, and then at the child.
When he came out on the balcony again, still holding the toddler, Lawless fired one shot from his .308 semiautomatic rifle, striking Salvador in the head. He died immediately. The child was not injured.
Lawless, who has been a patrol officer for the police department since 1998, is a precision rifle operator — more commonly known as a sniper — for the agency’s Special Operations Team, which is often called to deal with sensitive hostage situations.
He did not respond to an interview request from The Post. Efforts to reach a supervisor for the Special Operations Team were unsuccessful.
But Shannon Kay, owner and instructor at K&M Shooting Complex, a Tennessee-based sniper training facility, said the incident sounds like a textbook scenario of what officers like Lawless face regularly.
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