Acting on a tip in February of 1989, detectives in Oakland, California, staked out a liquor store parking lot. They watched as a suspected drug dealer named Roberto Ramirez conducted a sale. Ramirez was no ordinary dealer. He distributed cocaine from Oakland to Los Angeles. According to former Oakland Police Detective Clint Ojala, word on the street was that Ramirez would do absolutely anything for money:
"He would often deal out of his house. But most often, he'd meet people at different locations. He'd often have his two small children, grammar school age, carry the cocaine in back packs and bring it to the buyers that way."
Days later, after obtaining a search warrant, police converged on the Ramirez home. Oakland and Fairfield officers were in on the raid. No one knew what to expect from Ramirez. Marc Burrell was part of the Oakland police team:
"My assignment was to pry open the iron grate on the front door. The safest entry that we make is a quick entry. It gives the people inside less time to prepare and normally we catch them in surprise mode."
Det. Mark Smith of the Fairfield Police Department:
"My position was to cross in front of the house and I would cover the window and the side of the house to catch anybody trying to flee or any attack coming through the front window."
At 1:42 A.M., the raid came down. As the authorities pried open the iron gate and kicked in the door, Ramirez suddenly appeared at a side window and began shooting. Two officers were hit. Severely injured, Detective Smith was dragged from the line of fire. Officer Burrell took refuge under Ramirez's window. Burrell said that when the shooting stopped, he was helped by other officers to a patrol car:
"I took a physical check of myself. My legs worked. I was thinking clear. My left arm didn't work. My shoulder was numb."
But the other officer wasn't so lucky. Detective Smith was bleeding and had to be quickly evacuated to a waiting ambulance.
Using a bull horn, the police urged Ramirez to surrender. But he stayed put. Reinforcements arrived from eight other police departments until 30 heavily armed officers surrounded the house.
After a two-hour standoff, Ramirez finally came out, hiding behind his wife, who was eight months pregnant, and their children, ages 10 and 6. According to Det. Ojala, it was a tense moment for everyone:
"He had already shot two of our police officers and he had a lot of time to think about what he had done. Anything can happen. You don't know what's going through their mind at that point."
Thankfully, Roberto Ramirez surrendered peacefully. He was arrested on two counts of attempted murder, as well as a laundry list of drug and assault charges. Ramirez was released after posting bail of one million dollars. Six months later, just before his trial, he and his wife packed up their children and disappeared. They're still on the run.
Marc Burrell eventually recovered from the shooting, but not completely:
"I was shot through the upper left arm. It severed the nerves in my left arm and left me with no feeling, although I have strength and muscle flexibility in the arm. I just don't have any feeling in it."
Detective Mark Smith's wounds were more serious:
"I remember muzzle flashes, and then my next memory was that it felt like I'd been hit with a baseball bat in the stomach. I can't remember or pronounce most of the things that it damaged, but it was most of the internal organs in my abdomen. I'm always going to have the scars and the pain. But it would give me some satisfaction if he was caught and was in jail and serving his time and paying for what he's done."