One in a million sniper shot prevents suicide


On August 16th, 1993, a distraught Doug Conley sat himself down in a lawn chair in the middle of a suburban Columbus street and began waving a .38 revolver around threatening to kill himself. Not about to let this threat to human life and vehicular traffic patterns go unanswered, the Columbus Police Department rapidly responded by blocking off the street and opening negotiations with Conley by handing him a shaken-up can of soda. Not kidding.

Two hours later, with both tensions and temperatures rising, Conley was still sitting there, weapon in hand. By this point, an alternative solution was needed, and they called in their sniper unit. Organized in 1974, the Columbus Police Sniper Unit had never before fired a shot during a call.

Officer Mike Plumb, a Vietnam veteran, hurried to the scene with his Steyr SSG PII black sniper rifle. Positioning himself in the prone from 82 yards away, Plumb trained his scope on the target. When negotiations finally stalled for good, Lt. Peter Tobin gave permission to fire with one caveat: Plumb wasn’t allowed to injure the target. He had to shoot the small .38 revolver out of Conley’s hand without causing any harm to Conley himself. While Plumb had practiced on ranges shooting dimes from hundreds of meters away, this was a situation he had never prepared himself for.

He pointed his rifle, carefully aiming for the scant few inches of the tiny revolver not tucked in Conley’s hand, and at the right moment when Conley dropped the .38 revolver between his legs, Plumb fired.

The revolver exploded inside Conley’s hands, leaving him completely untouched. Conley stared at it, now in three pieces, on the ground. He only had time to look up and act as if nothing had happened before being tackled to the ground by police. His only comment upon his arrest? “That was a good shot.”