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Off-duty officer shrugs off 'heroic' label

He pursued gunman, helped end rampage

Published: Friday, Feb. 16 2007 12:57 p.m. MST

Sarita Hammond, left, called 911 while her husband, officer Ken Hammond, went after the gunman.

Tom Smart, Deseret Morning News

OGDEN — Everything that happened to Ken Hammond at Trolley Square happened for a reason.

He said he and his wife ate dessert at a restaurant there for a reason. His wife took a break after dinner for a reason. He believes he was at the mall for a reason that night.

"We were there for a reason. I had my gun on me for a reason," the Ogden police officer said Tuesday.

Salt Lake City police are praising Hammond for helping to end 18-year-old Sulejman Talovic's shooting rampage on Monday night.

"Undoubtedly, he saved a lot of lives," assistant Salt Lake City Police Chief Terry Fritz said.

Ogden Mayor Matthew Godfrey said Tuesday that Hammond "meets the definition of hero in every sense."

Everybody is calling Hammond a hero, but the Ogden police officer doesn't really feel like one.

"I was there and I did what I needed to do," he said simply.

Dressed in his crisply pressed Ogden police uniform, Hammond recounted to a room full of reporters Tuesday night how his involvement in the encounter played out.

Hammond had offered to pick up an extra duty shift today to fill a shortage of officers, and decided to take his wife to the Rodizio Grill for an early Valentine's Day dinner.

"We finished eating dinner, we decided to walk out and she had to make a stop," he said. "I just was sitting on a bench and began to hear some sort of popping noise."

The officer said he first thought it was construction, never guessing that it could be gunfire. As he and his wife walked toward the mall's main corridor to buy a Valentine's Day gift for their son, he saw the bodies.

"I could tell there was some people that had been seriously injured," he said. "I noticed there was a man with a shotgun walking out of the business where the people were."

He turned to Sarita, who is a police dispatcher, and told her to go back to the restaurant.

"I turned to my wife and I told her, I said, 'You need to leave! Go! Go back to the restaurant, call 911 and lock it down!"'

He drew his .45-caliber handgun and went farther into the mall.

"I went out of romantic date mode into 'I need to protect mode,"' he said.

Meanwhile, Sarita Hammond rushed back into the Rodizio Grill but ran into problems.

"For some reason my cell phone wouldn't get through, so I took a cell phone from a waiter," she said.

Once she got through to 911, she said she struggled to explain to the emergency dispatchers that her husband is a cop in plainclothes and not another gunman.

"I just said 'You just need to listen,"' she said. "That was my main concern to get that clothing description out."

Ken Hammond said he began shouting "Ogden City Police! OPD! Get down! Get down! Get back! Get back!" to people in the mall. He was not in uniform, but dressed in jeans and a long-sleeved shirt. Hammond said he tried to pull his badge out of his wallet, but it was stuck and he didn't want to holster his gun.

Antique-shop owner Barrett Dodds encountered Hammond in the hallway.

"He says 'Ogden City Police Department' so I kind of help him, direct him to where he (the shooter) was," Dodds said.

By that time, the shootout had already begun.

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