Local News

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.’”

Lopez agrees.

"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.”

4 Comments

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  • Clayton Bigsby Jul 16, 2015
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    Ahh, yes. Because every story involving an officer must be some sort of conspiracy theory.

    I love how you took the liberty of proclaiming this a non-story when the article clearly says Durham Crime Stoppers is offering an award to help identify the criminals. Did you even read the story? Take your disdain for law enforcement elsewhere.

  • Gen Lee Jul 16, 2015
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    He ran for it. He knew something was up that is why he got out. Then they pulled a gun and started firing at him. That is why he got to the staircase.

  • Russell Chapman Jul 15, 2015
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    "He saw the suspects behind his car.. He investigated.. He dove behind an apartment staircase.." This story doesn't add up. How did he get from said car to said staircase, alone mind you, without him knowing something was up? Not suggesting he had it coming, but the whole story isn't being told to protect the case as I'm sure suspects are identified. Which means..this isn't a story. No news here.

  • Sarcoi Dosis Jul 15, 2015
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    Being shot at is no fun.. In fact, having a gun pointed at you isn't much fun either..