Local News

Traffic Stops Too Dangerous For One Former Officer

Posted March 15, 1999

— The death of an Enfield police officer has all law enforcement agencies thinking about safety.

Sergeant Tonya Gillikin was gunned down while she and her partner tried to arrest two robbery suspects.

Officers know that every time they leave their car, they are taking a chance, especially when stopping a possible felon.

A former Spring Hope officer understands the possibility of danger very well. Tracy Foster pulled over a suspicious vehicle on patrol about eight years ago, and what ensued prompted him to change professions.

Foster says after pulling the man over, he would not cooperate. "I placed him against the car and got one handcuff on him, and when I did, he turned and hit me in the eye."

Then, the suspect pulled out a gun.

"He pulled it out and stuck it in my face," Foster said. "I just acted on instinct and slapped the gun down."

But the suspect fired one bullet and hit Foster in the side.

Foster said when he heard about what happened to Gillikin, "I just had chill bumps from my head to my toes."

"You don't realize how dangerous this job is until something like that happens," says Sgt. Ken Castelloe, who trains State Troopers on how to conduct traffic stops.

"There is no such thing as a routine traffic stop," Castelloe said.

Castelloe trains troopers to give clear orders to potentially dangerous suspects, such as "Cut off the car. Step out of the car. Walk slowly towards my voice with your hands raised where I can see them."

"When you're dealing with someone that has just committed a violent crime, they are desperate and may do anything to get away," Castelloe said.

Castelloe says there is a 50 percent chance of something going wrong during a felony traffic stop.

A total of 688 officers were killed in the line of duty between 1988 and 1997. More than half of those were in arrest situations and traffic stops.

As for Tracy Foster's new profession, he is a dog trainer.

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