406 Officer Down!....406 Officer Down!
If you are or have been a cop in San Francisco, then you know that this is the most gut-wrenching, heart-dropping call that you will ever hear on the radio. In some ways it is hard to explain. On one hand, it seems like time stands still and everything stops. On the other hand, every cop drops what they are doing and leaps into action. Response is Code-3 to the incident without hesitation, even while a thousand things are going through your mind — mostly about the condition of your brother or sister officer.
That call went out on the evening of October 14, 2016 when Taraval Officer Kevin Downs and his partner encountered a mentally disturbed person with a gun at Lakeshore Plaza. A mentally disturbed individual not taking his medication and armed with a gun. This is and always has been a recipe for disaster.
Well it proved to be that again as it did almost one year ago to the very date. On October 15, 2015 Tenderloin Sergeant Joe McCloskey encountered a mentally deranged individual who was not on his medication and not being cared for by his family or by city services when he disarmed Sgt. McCloskey. Joe was then facing the barrel of his own gun. Joe survived due to his strong will to survive and to the quick action of his partner, Sgt. Mike Koniaris, who took appropriate action and ended the conflict.
Neither Officer Downs, his partner, or the responding officers to the eventual 406 call, had any idea of the circumstances that would take place on that shift which would have such a dramatic effect on their lives.
The calls for service came in that day of a mentally disturbed person in the shopping mall. Officer Downs and his partner located this individual on a street next to the mall and approached him on foot. Suddenly, the suspect turned on the officers with a gun in his hand and began firing.
Officer Downs was shot in the head and he went down. 406 Officer Down...406 Officer Down call went out over all radio channels. Due to the quick action of Officer Downs’ partner, not only did Officer Downs survive but the suspect was taken into custody a short time later.
On-duty officers throughout the city responded to the scene and did what they do best. Officer Downs was being treated by his partner until the ambulance arrived, the ambulance, with Officer Downs on board, was escorted code 3 to SFGH by members of the Traffic Company, the suspect was pursued on foot by additional officers, perimeters were established to contain the suspect, while other officers ensured that the public shelter in place for their safety until the gun wielding suspect was taken into custody.
Even though the suspect was located and contained in a nearby park, he decided to shoot it out with the uniform officers who located him. The threat was neutralized by SFPD, the suspect was taken into custody, and his gun was recovered.
Officer Downs was rushed to the Emergency Room at SFGH where he was treated by the doctors and nurses from the trauma team. The ER team at SFGH are the best in the country, and they treated Officer Downs wonderfully.
Officer Downs’ head wound was serious and the shooting caused partial paralysis on the right side of his body. Officer Downs was later transferred to ICU where he continued to make progress in his recovery. Officer Downs is now at a rehabilitation facility where he has a full schedule of daily physical therapy sessions to regain his strength and mobility.
Since the tragic events of October 14th, I have been fortunate to get to know Officer Kevin Downs, his wife Corey, and his family on a more personal level. In short, I am amazed and in awe of this young man, his resilience, his strength, his faith, his accomplishments, and his commitment to his fellow man. It is beyond inspirational. Kevin is a true hero both on and off duty.
Kevin is the son of SFPD Sgt. Phil Downs (ret.) and Debra Downs. Kevin, his siblings, and their parents have a strong family bond which was clearly evident during this family crisis.
While attending Saint Ignatius College Preparatory, Kevin worked to raise awareness of the sacrifices made by military personnel returning from service in Iraq and Afghanistan. Kevin’s passion surrounding this issue began after hearing stories from his brother, Captain Philip Downs, Jr. (R) USMC. Captain Downs served in combat in Iraq in 2005 and 2006. Kevin became aware of the struggles and lack of employment opportunities that veterans faced as they transitioned back into civilian life.
Kevin’s passion for veteran issues carried over into his college years when he worked summers at a ranch in the west Marin town of Tomales. It was there that the idea of Ranchin’ Vets came to Kevin. An organization to assist in the reintegration of veterans into civilian life through a variety of programs offered within the ranching and agricultural industry.
Kevin and his wife Corey co-founded Ranchin’ Vets as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit www.ranchinvets.org. They hope that their organization can help in reversing the unemployment problem among veterans, and provide a mentorship program to foster relationships with fellow vets and guide them in accessing their due VA benefits. Ranchin’ Vets serves those who have served us.
Officer Kevin Downs’ heroism on duty and his, and Corey’s, dedication and commitment to veterans off-duty exemplifies all that is good with those who serve in the SFPD. It also demonstrates that service to your fellow man is not limited to your tour of duty. We should all strive to be so unselfish and giving.