Durham officer recalls night he was ambushed, shot at
Posted July 15, 2015
Durham police Officer Jacob West is familiar with the city’s streets.
He was parked in his patrol car on Lakeland Street last Christmas night, filling out a report, when he quickly realized something was terribly wrong.
“I looked in the rearview mirror, and I saw the two suspects walk behind my vehicle,” West said in an exclusive interview with WRAL News.
The 27-year-old officer had two choices: drive off or get out and investigate.
West got out of the car, and that’s when he saw one of the men pull out a gun and start firing.
“I heard gunfire. It was loud, it was bright. I could smell it,” he recalled. “I was able to get my weapon out. I returned a few shots towards the suspects.”
Training and experience kicked in for West, who has been with the department for three years.
“I wasn’t even thinking at that point,” he said. “I just said, ‘Find cover.’”
West dove behind a staircase at a vacant apartment building at 1414 Lakeland St. All six shots fired at him missed. He managed to get off two shots, but the suspects got away. Crime Stoppers is offering a reward of up to $1,200 for any tip that leads to an arrest.
"This case is not closed, and we are hopeful that the community can help bring us the persons responsible (to justice)" Durham Police Chief Jose Lopez said.
The shooting came a week after two New York City police officers had been gunned down in an ambush-style attack.
“Everything going on nationwide – the anti-police sentiment – really came home to us,” he said. “It came home to our department, our city.”
Asked about that anti-police sentiment, West recounted a conversation he later had with someone living in the neighborhood where he was shot at.
“He told me, ‘Look, an attack on a police officer is an attack on the safety and security of this entire community.’”
"I think we are looking at a higher propensity for officers to be ambushed and shot," he said. "I am very grateful that Officer West is well. Incidents like this put an added focus on our officers to be mindful of their safety."
According to the FBI, 51 officers were killed in the line of duty last year. West knows he came dangerously close be becoming a statistic.
But he said law enforcement is a job he loves despite the risks. He was recently honored for saving two lives.
“You don't know if you're going to make it home at the end of your shift,” West said. “But when you do, it's that much sweeter.”