My only regret was that I was unable to stop the killing. I knew about William Randolph’s threats against stem cell researchers since the FBI placed him on the domestic terrorism watch list eighteen months before he committed any crime. The point of the watch list was to focus surveillance resources on known international and domestic terrorist threats.
In his case, the FBI had access to William Randolph’s phone records, driving records, state and federal tax information, utility and water use (to track whether he was harboring like-minded potential terrorists or criminals at his residence), website traffic, point of sale transactions and even his general whereabouts. The FBI considered him enough of a threat to place a satellite tracking device on his vehicle to monitor his location (or at least the location of his vehicle).
Despite the green light to conduct surveillance on him, I was never convinced that the FBI was doing an adequate job in actually tracking Mr. Randolph or truly understanding his intentions with enough specificity to stop him from doing anything illegal. His home address happened to be within ten miles of where I lived and I spent more than a few weekends staking out his house and following him around.
I wasn’t formally trained for this type of work but couldn’t stomach letting a known domestic threat have the run of the country while lurking in plain sight among the sea of law abiding Americans. I figured it wouldn’t be too difficult to do my part since the FBI only had about 14,000 Special Agents and nearly a million names on its terrorist watch list.
Even with my extra vigilance I was unable to stop what Mr. Randolph had planned. Of all the weekends, Mr. Randolph chose the one when I happened to be out of town at a friend’s wedding to launch what amounted to a brutal and well-thought out plan.
While I was taking down double rum and Cokes from the open bar and watched the mother of the bride do the chicken dance on the dance floor, Mr. Randolph donned a backpack and pedaled his mountain bike to his target. He had packed two hand guns, a disassembled assault rifle and several magazines of ammunition for each weapon into his pack and rode five miles to an office park that housed a bio-tech company known for its stem cell research.
He leaned his bike on a shady tree in the parking lot, assembled his assault rifle, pulled on a tactical load bearing vest to hold his magazines and two pistols and calmly walk into an office and killed people he didn’t know as punishment for a perceived moral slight in his delusional mind.
Although the quick call to 911 from the bio-tech receptionist before she was mortally wounded and the excellent reaction time from local authorities helped limit casualties, the real hero was a janitor with a concealed carry permit who got off three shots and landed two of them with his Kel-Tec P-3AT .380 caliber handgun before Mr. Randolph returned fire and killed him. The janitor managed to get Mr. Randolph in the right arm and the right leg which slowed him down long enough to allow the police to respond. Police officers found Mr. Randolph behind a desk, bleeding profusely, trying to reload one of his two pistols with one hand.
* * *
William Randolph’s trial lasted for a little over a year as prosecutors argued for the death penalty for taking three innocent lives as payment for being involved in what their defendant said was “usurping the privilege of creation reserved solely for God.” When the verdict was publicized, only one dissenter pushed the vote toward life in prison without the possibility of parole. One person was all it took. A death penalty vote must be unanimous.
I was pulling into my reserved parking spot at work when I heard the verdict reported on the radio. I turned off the engine and made a decision at that moment that my tax money would not be used to pay for the 24/7 supervision for this individual’s feeding, housing, clothing, medical care and recreation for the remainder of his life. Whether he ended up living for one year or fifty, it would be too long.
I had mentally and physically prepared for this eventuality over a few weeks prior to the verdict. I resolved to follow through with my plan immediately. My heart raced as I came to the realization that today was the day. I would have to act immediately or lose the opportunity. The clock was ticking.
* * *
Sheriff’s deputies would have to transfer Mr. Randolph from the courthouse to a waiting armored van to transfer him to a Federal penitentiary. The challenge for them was the twenty yard open area he would need to cross where he’d be fully exposed. This brief exposure was my only chance to make right what the jury obviously got wrong. The Sheriff’s only possible precautions to keep their newly convicted inmate safe were a bulletproof vest and speed. Fortunately for me, both could be negated with a bit of planning. And I had planned appropriately.
The only way to negate a bulletproof vest is to get close with armor piercing rounds or land one or more head shots. Getting close was not an option so I prepared for a head shot or two which took about a month. I told my colleagues I was diligently working to improve my golf game with the goal of achieving bragging rights over my asshole brother-in-law. This tactic allowed me to set up a consistent time block a few times per week to hone my marksmanship skill well enough to keep a three round group no bigger than two inches at three hundred yards.
Negating the speed of transfer would be taken care of by hand and leg shackles connected at the waist. This system ensured the prisoner could not remove either their hand or leg shackles independently or move quickly while properly shackled, a must for the successful execution of my mission.
* * *
The layout of the open area, a small fenced in parking lot behind the courthouse, could only be covered from two possible locations with adequate distance and cover for my purposes. The first option was impossible. It was a building under construction with contractors swarming all over it, including the roof, from early morning until sunset. That left only one other possibility, the roof of the FBI building across from the courthouse. This too had its challenges, but wouldn’t be impossible.
* * *
At the FBI building, I put on my golf gloves to eliminate fingerprints as I pried open the roof door with a crow bar while the roving guard was in the bathroom on the ground floor. Danny, the day guard, complained to me himself one day, in the designated smoking area outside, that the building manager lost the key for the access door to the roof. He was told to coordinate a replacement with a locksmith so the HVAC people could do some maintenance on the roof units, but he hadn’t gotten around to it yet. He said he used to go up there to smoke but he hadn’t been up there since they’d lost the key.
Some days, Danny and I chatted at the gazebo around the shady side of the office building just before his lunch break ended. I made sure I was there to shoot the shit on execution day. We exchanged polite conversation for a bit before he mashed his cigarette out in the sand-filled ash tray and went inside as I lit up another smoke. Once he was gone I pulled his cigarette butt from the ash tray and pocketed it.
I had printed out a sign on a generic piece of printer paper at a local hotel business center outside of town on my long way home one night in preparation for the main event. After the fact, there’d be an exhaustive investigation to find out what exactly happened and how. If I expected to be successful I couldn’t risk having local paper or printer ink traced to me or my office or printers. I hung my sanitized sign on the inside of the door and went to work on the door lock with my crowbar. The sign read: NO ROOF ACCESS – LOCKSMITH HAS BEEN NOTIFIED TO COMPLETE REPAIRS.
The door finally gave way after prying on the lock for a few tense moments. If anyone would have come to investigate the noise and caught me in the act, I’m not sure I could have offered a logical explanation. The fact that I was prying open the roof access door with a crowbar while I carried a golf bag was weird enough activity to make any normal person suspicious let alone a building full of Feds. But the justice-loving gods smiled on me and I managed to get the door open, made sure my sign would stay put, ensured the damaged door would still allow me an escape route, and then stepped out onto the roof. I couldn’t help but smile at the perfect mission conditions: warm afternoon sunshine and a cloudless blue sky. I walked to the twin HVAC units and squeezed into the shaded shoulder-width space between them.
There were surveillance cameras mounted on the roof at each corner of the building but they were all pointing out and down toward the street. There were no cameras covering the roof area.
I’m sure they’ll correct that after today.
I sucked in a deep, soothing breath, exhaled and got to work. I pulled a two-by-four inch piece of wood from my golf bag and fished out four ten penny nails and a hammer that were hanging out amongst the golf balls and golf tees in my golf bag’s cavernous pocket. I hammered two nails per side through the wood and into the sheet metal sides of the HVAC units. It wasn’t perfect but was solid enough to take the weight of my rifle’s bipod.
I then pulled my two sections of my broken down M-16A4 from the golf bag, assembled it, extended the bipod and rested it on the two-by-four that now spanned the gap between the two HVAC units. I had a semi-concealed, steady, standing firing position with an unobstructed view of my kill zone. The position had to be standing because I needed to be set back and a little higher than the four foot wall that ringed the roof to maintain cover and have a clear shot.
With my gloved hands, I grabbed my single magazine with three rounds and loaded the rifle. I verified the distance to the kill zone with my laser range finder: 296 meters. Perfect range for my sights and almost the exact distance I’d been practicing for. All there was left to do was wait. Luckily, it wouldn’t be long. A little bird told me that they were planning on transferring the prisoner at four o’clock sharp. Good intel was essential.
After about fifteen minutes, I saw the media vans roll up followed by local news jockeys milling around checking their equipment and doing sound checks in front of their cameras. Then, the dark blue armored van that was scheduled to transport my target arrived and parked in front of the stairs where Mr. Randolph would have to descend in leg cuffs. Six minutes after the van arrived, I saw Mr. Randolph appear in a florescent orange jump suit with a Sheriff flanking each side holding his arms as he walked through the double doors and down the concrete stairs to the parking lot.
His slow waddle was perfect. I could see through my rifle’s scope that the speed of his choppy steps and the distance he had to cover would give me about five or six seconds to get two or hopefully three rounds off. No problem.
I began the mantra I’d been using for weeks as I practiced my marksmanship for this very moment: One, Inhale, exhale half a breath, hold it.
A few thoughts also creeped in behind my mantra threatening to waste my opportunity, Should I really do this? Have I thought of everything?
I saw the red dot on my scope bounce on his left cheek as it matched the quick rhythm of my heartbeat.
Now or never.
The rifle butt kicked my shoulder and I began the mantra for the second shot: Two, exhale, inhale, exhale half, hold it, reacquire the target.
I saw that the target was on one knee as one of the officers was trying to pull him up to his feet. The officer’s head blocked my target for a second, but then he cleared. The red dot rested on the target’s left ear.
I never looked through the scope after the third shot. I hoped they connected.
Time to go.
Read Part Two here...
Todd Tavolazzi is a full-time Naval Officer stationed in Norfolk, Virginia and a part-time writer. He usually writes on his porch with a drink and a smoke. He is a frequent contributor to Potluck.