Officer recalls lessons of meth-provoked gunfight

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

It's been three years since Cape Girardeau police Cpl. Keith May and his partner, Sgt. Brad Moore, were shot at the Super 8 Motel taking down a meth lab.

May recounted the details of that night for criminal justice students and students of the police academy at Southeast Missouri State University Tuesday evening.

"I think especially the new officers need to know how fast things can get bad," May said after his presentation. "It helps me too, to be able to talk about it."

Although it's painful for May to go through the events of the incident, he acknowledges that "it will probably always be hard."

The incident on Feb. 10, 2001, started off as a routine follow-up to a tip narcotics officers provided that some kind of drug activity was going on in room 120 at the Super 8 on North Kingshighway. May and Moore didn't know what to expect when they arrived. Once at the threshold of the room, they realized it was a meth lab after getting a whiff of ether.

The occupants of the room, Matthew Marsh and Jenna McDaniel, were uncooperative. Marsh gave the officers a phony name and refused to let them search the room. Then Marsh, who was lying on one of the beds in the room, reached under a pillow, drew out a gun and fired two shots: one hit May in the abdomen, the other hit Moore in the shoulder.

May said he remembers firing at Marsh but thinking none of his bullets reached their target. May fired at Marsh after Marsh shot him; Marsh spun around after that and fired at Moore. May fired at Marsh several times, hitting him four or five times, but not realizing it.

"He continued to function," May said. "It's not like TV."

Thinking he was not hitting Marsh, May aimed for Marsh's face and fired the fatal shot. Not realizing Marsh was down, Moore also returned fire. Nineteen rounds were fired.

"All this seems like slow motion, but it was over in a heartbeat," May said.

May underwent surgery for his wounds and returned to duty in June that year. In October 2001, he had to have more surgery and was out two more months. He has been back on duty ever since.

"I was ready to go back," he said. "I can't explain it."

Police Lt. Roger Fields offered his own explanation.

"We have a hero among us," Fields said. "Keith stepped up to the plate serving his community. They tell you to get back on the horse after you've fallen off. It's not that easy. He has done it and is quite a man for doing that."

May told the group that it's important for them to hear his story and train for this type of situation.

"Train to be a survivor," he said.

Moore is also back on duty and has been for about a year, May said. Moore's injuries were more severe and still cause him some pain. The two work together in the same platoon.

Sava Savage of Chaffee, Mo., a student in the police academy, said she learned more from listening to May than she would have from hearing a lecture from her instructor.

"He has actual evidence, and I could hear the emotion in him," Savage said. "He has been through it."

"It's reality," said Cindy Richards of Cape Girardeau, also a student in the police academy. "When you're out there working, you have to be prepared and be thinking of situations that could possibly happen to you. You have to train to survive."

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