Chad McGary was in a very bad spot.
A young man was allegedly pointing a .45-caliber handgun at the 28-year-old Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife enforcement officer and demanding he give up his sidearm.
The gun had come from the man’s back pocket just a moment before.
McGary had heard clanking and thought the noise was a marijuana pipe, but when he asked to see the source, the man had shoved him and pulled the gun out.
Thinking quickly, McGary reminded the man there was another officer nearby.
“I think this is what saved his life,” says WDFW Deputy Chief Mike Cenci.
The other officer was Capt. Chris Anderson. The duo had been on their way to check on after-hours sturgeon anglers elsewhere that July evening when they saw cars gathered at the mouth of Crab Creek along Highway 243 and decided to run routine license checks on anglers fishing there. For years, fishermen have complained about poaching in this area of western Grant County.
The man had told Anderson that he’d left his fishing license in his wallet at home, and as the captain went to check other anglers, McGary escorted him to his Ford F-150 patrol truck to run his name through WDFW’s database, and that’s when the gun was allegedly drawn.
Cenci says that the man, 18-year-old Jose J. Garcia-Meraze, then called his father, named as Nicholas Garcia-Godinez, age 60, who allegedly came running up with a 5-inch fillet knife.
“‘Are you going to kill me?’” McGary asked the young man, Cenci says.
He instead demanded his .40-caliber Glock, twice, which McGary refused to give up.
Then the man held the firearm to the officer’s head, Cenci alleges.
“So (McGary) removed his service gun and threw it in the bush,” Cenci says.
WDFW also says McGary also told Garcia-Meraze to leave the area, which he did in a car.
Meanwhile, weaponless, McGary backed away from the father, who allegedly was holding the knife in the “thrusting position,” says Cenci, and retrieved his Glock from the brush. He then took the father down and placed him under arrest.
For his quick wits and bravery, McGary was named “Officer of the Year” by the Washington Council of Police & Sheriffs.
He received the award yesterday at a ceremony attended by Gov. Chris Gregoire, WDFW Director Phil Anderson, and other law enforcement officers.
“I just had a feeling that it would be all over if I gave up my gun,” said McGary in a press release sent out late this morning.
After a long car chase that included shots exchanged, Garcia-Meraz was arrested. He was charged with attempted murder, and is scheduled to appear in Grant County Superior Court next week, according to WDFW.
His father. Garcia-Godinez, pleaded no contest to a charge of second-degree assault, and was sentenced to five months in jail, according to WDFW.
Both men were in the country illegally. Garcia-Godinez has since been deported.
“Officer McGary kept his wits about him and succeeded in turning a bad situation around,” said Bruce Bjork, WDFW Chief of Enforcement, who nominated him for the award. “Intelligence and courage are qualities we look for in all of our officers.”
The Washington Council of Police & Sheriffs is a statewide organization that represents 5,000 law enforcement professionals.
WDFW officers are general authority police, who regularly enforce all state laws while protecting Washington natural resources.
McGary lives in Othello with his wife, Jande, and their three children.