Lloyd Prescott knows what it feels like to be called a hero and if he could give Ogden police officer Ken Hammond a little advice, it would be to "smile" amid all the attention and to "feel glad" he was able to help protect the public.
"I'm assuming he's bouncing off the walls right now, emotionally," Prescott said over the phone Wednesday about Hammond.
And being called a hero, Prescott added, could be at once "awkward" for Hammond but also good for the image of law enforcement.
Prescott was a Salt Lake County sheriff's lieutenant in 1994 when he shot and killed Clifford Lynn Draper after a 5 1/2-hour standoff in the Salt Lake City Library on March 5, 1994. Draper was armed with a gun and a bomb and had taken 18 hostages.
Prescott, who was in plain clothes and technically off duty, allowed himself to be taken hostage while concealing his own weapon, a Glock .40-caliber handgun. When it looked like Draper was about to take the life of one hostage, Prescott felt he had to act by opening fire on Draper. None of the hostages died.
"It still flashes through my mind occasionally not like it used to," Prescott said about that day in March. "Time is a great healer."
Hammond, of course, was the off-duty Ogden officer who on Monday night was the first law enforcement officer to engage in gunfire 18-year-old Sulejman Talovic as he roamed Trolley Square killing people. Hammond, who was out to dinner with his wife at the time, is credited with preventing Talovic from killing more than the five who perished that evening.
The shooting has cast Hammond into the local and national spotlight, which included a press conference Tuesday and an appearance Wednesday on the "Today Show."
Prescott remembers that kind of attention. He recalled being on the America's Most Wanted television show and meeting President Bill Clinton. Prescott was also honored with the Police Officer of the Year and Deputy Sheriff of the Year national awards.
"I didn't consider myself heroic," Prescott said. "You go to help people, and that's what I did."
Prescott, 58, of West Jordan, reached the rank of captain with the Salt Lake County Sheriff's Department before he retired almost six years ago. Now he teaches defensive tactics and off-duty response training at the Peace Officer Standards and Training Academy in Sandy.
As soon as Prescott retired, he applied for and received a concealed weapons permit and he "routinely" carries a weapon wherever he goes. If faced with the same situation as Hammond (who is allowed to carry his weapon while off duty), Prescott said he hopes he would do the "right thing," which for Prescott means acting on a "moral habit" of protecting people.
"If I saw someone being injured, I would step up to the plate," Prescott said. "Here's a man who stepped up to the plate.
"He honored law enforcement with his actions," Prescott said. "That's where he has an obligation to let people know who police officers really are."
At the same time, Prescott said Hammond may need to look out for his own well being, perhaps with some counseling. When Prescott took down Draper, he had been in law enforcement about 20 years, having pulled his gun on people before. Although Prescott, a self-described private person, reluctantly went to only one session with a counselor in 1994, he said, "I think it's good to talk things out. ... When you're forced to take a life, that's very hard, emotionally."
But the attention Hammond is getting could help offset stories that surface about law enforcement officers caught up in scandal, theft and dishonesty, according to Prescott. "I think this is his chance to help law enforcement by letting people know that law enforcement officers are primarily good people."
Prescott warned that the recognition could get "overwhelming" for Hammond. "You're never trained on how to handle all that attention," he said.
In the end, Prescott thinks of Hammond's actions as heroic.
"He didn't have to do that," Prescott said. "I think that shows moral character, heroism."He went there with one handgun and eight bullets, facing an unknown threat," Prescott added. "When his peers single him out and applaud him for his bravery, that in itself is overwhelming. I suspect, like all officers who do (what Hammond did), that they feel like it's their duty to do it, that they just did their duty."
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