First Responders

The Patrol Officer Who Missed a Deadly Bullet by an Inch

March 16, 2019Justen Charters
A felony suspect, Timothy Fight, engaged in a firefight with police at his mother’s home. Photo courtesy of Richard Preim.

A felony suspect, Timothy Fight, engaged in a firefight with police at his mother’s home. Photo courtesy of Richard Preim.

Patrol Officer Richard Preim could see the sweat dripping down the front of his shoes. It was a hot July night in 1998 on the streets of Beaverton, Oregon. He was on a domestic disturbance call, working the graveyard shift until 6 AM — and the night was just getting started.

A call from another officer came over the radio, advising Preim that suspect Timothy Fight was in a vehicle traveling through Beaverton. Preim knew the suspect well. He was wanted for a felony warrant for violating his parole on an assault charge, and the officer on the radio no longer had eyes on him.

Fight had a history of run-ins with law enforcement. In fact, Priem had already arrested him multiple times: Fight was known to use methamphetamine, scavenge for metal and sell it (or steal it and turn it in), and had even pulled pepper spray and a screwdriver on police. He had recently been released from prison.

Patrol Officer Richard Preim, right, barely avoided a suspect’s bullet during a firefight in 1998. Photo courtesy of Richard Preim.

Several officers were now chasing him through the streets of Beaverton. Fight’s mother lived in the area, and with the police in pursuit, he managed to drive his vehicle onto her lawn, rush inside, and lock the door.

Preim was one of the first to respond to the scene. As he and another officer moved to the door, they could hear Fight having a psychotic episode inside. They knocked and asked to be let in. Fight didn’t cooperate. In response, the other officer — a former Portland State football player — mule kicked the door, enabling both of them to gain entry.

The home was older, built in the 1920s. Inside the door to the left was a dining room with an attached kitchen behind it; to the right was a living room that led to a hallway and a staircase to the second floor.

A portion of the interior of the home shows damage from the door being broken down and the ensuing firefight. Photo courtesy of Richard Preim.

Fight ran into the kitchen. The distance between the threshold of the door to the back of the kitchen was less than 25 feet.

“As he ran back there,” Preim said, “the other officer ran toward the living room, and I went left.”

He then saw Fight reaching into the sink. The house was dimly lit, with a small light in the living room and a second in the dining room; neither provided much visibility. Priem had his duty weapon out, a Smith & Wesson 4566. It was at the low ready, and he was giving Fight commands.

Moments later, Fight turned and revealed a Smith & Wesson .38 Special. Preim saw the muzzle flash and heard the report of the first round, but the bullet missed him, instead hitting a clock on the wall and showering him in glass.

Preim couldn’t hear anything after the first round went off. He fired his pistol in response, striking Fight’s left kneecap.

Fight fired again, his second round going right past Preim’s ear, lodging in the door jamb.

Preim squeezed the trigger on his sidearm once more, this time hitting Fight in the femur, which stopped the suspect from advancing.

Fight wasn’t willing to give up though. He fired a third round; the bullet traveled through an exterior wall of the house, punching a hole in the front quarter panel of Preim’s brand-new Crown Vic cruiser.

The bullet hole in Officer Richard Preim’s then-brand-new Crown Victoria. Photo courtesy of Richard Preim.

Fight then took cover behind a lacquer-and-plaster barrier wall that separated the dining room and kitchen with an open breezeway. Preim started to index, immediately shooting through the wall. As he did, the other officer went around the other side of the dividing wall, shooting Fight several times.

For the duration of the fight, Preim had experienced noise-induced hearing loss. “I heard the first round go off,” he said, “and then I heard nothing else after that. Everything was silent. The first time my hearing came back was when I noticed I had changed magazines as I was indexing. I dropped my magazine — and right as it hit the ground, it brought all my hearing back.”

Fight had sustained multiple gunshot wounds and died on the floor of his mother’s home.

‘The body will only go to where the mind has been before. He didn’t have a mental model for such a situation.’

Shortly after the incident, Preim was able to get a clearer picture of what had happened. Fight was anticipating a firefight with law enforcement because he didn’t want to return to prison. “He had a speedloader of Federal jacketed hollow rounds in his left hand,” Preim said. “He also had a big wad of cash in his fanny pack. He had done a little planning.”

Preim also learned that another officer was at the house with him but had fled the scene when he heard the first gunshot. “An officer came up to me after and said, ‘Hey, Rich, I’m really sorry.’ I asked him what he was sorry about,” Preim recalled. “He said he was right behind me on the porch when the first round went off, that he didn’t know what to do so he jumped off the porch and ran. Never in my career did I think anyone was going to ever shoot at me.”

However, he didn’t attribute the officer’s fleeing to cowardice: “The body will only go to where the mind has been before. He didn’t have a mental model for such a situation.”


Justen Charters
Justen Charters

Justen Charters is a contributing editor for Coffee or Die Magazine. Justen was previously at Independent-Journal Review (IJ Review) for four years, where his articles were responsible for over 150 million page views, serving in various positions from content specialist to viral content editor. He currently resides in Utah with his wife and daughter.

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