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Deputy Carl Beier, on a domestic dispute call, stopped a gunman last September by taking cover behind a tree and returning fire.


By Christine Byers
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch

HILLSBORO, Mo. - Goose bumps still rise on Deputy Carl Beier's arms when he looks at the tree where 11 bullets from an AK-47 rifle landed, just inches from where he had taken cover.
And just feet from where the alleged gunman, Jeffrey Place, fell after several pellets from Beier's shotgun hit him in the head almost a year ago.
"Neighbors said he regularly practiced firing his weapons, so he was a good shot," Beier said of Place, who made a full recovery and is in jail facing a variety of charges. "Good thing I do, too."
On Thursday, Beier was one of four officers to receive the first statewide Medal of Valor. The other recipients were from outside the metro area.
Jefferson County Sheriff Oliver "Glenn" Boyer said Beier's actions that day saved the lives of other officers, Place's wife and neighbors.
"To stand his ground while someone is pumping rounds at him took some considerable courage," Boyer said.
Beier was nearing the end of his shift around 5 p.m. Sept. 8 when a call came in about a domestic dispute. The address was in unincorporated Jefferson County near Hillsboro. Beier was closest.
He pulled into the couple's long gravel driveway and saw a woman break away from Place and run toward his cruiser. She told him her husband had a gun.
"It's normal for people to come up to you when you get to a scene, but when they continue to run by you, that's bad," Beier said. "We call that a clue."
Beier then looked toward the house, saw Place grab a rifle and start walking toward him, firing.
"He told me he was going to kill me," he said.
Beier jumped out of his car, hit the trunk release on his keys and grabbed his shotgun. He looked for a tree.
He chose a 2 ½-foot wide oak and radioed dispatchers about Place's location to keep other officers out of the line of fire. Bullets whizzed past his head. Others hit the tree.
"It sounded like bees flying past my head," Beier said.
Place sprayed Beier's cruiser with bullets. Behind Place were houses. Behind Beier was woods. Beier feared shots from his gun could strike an innocent person; he also worried Place would try to walk behind his tree.
He felt he had no choice. He returned fire.
"Who do you think you are, Superman?" Place shouted. "I'm the one with the automatic weapon."
Beier said he could see Place getting closer every time he peeked around the tree.
"I thought about my family, my wife, my children, and I knew I was going to be going home to them that night," Beier said. "If you think you're going to die, you're going to die."
He yelled at neighbors to take cover. Then he fired.
And the shots stopped.
Beier waited behind the tree for 16 minutes, unsure of the gunman's status until other officers arrived at the scene. He heard the wheels of another deputy's cruiser squeal above his siren. And he heard the man's wife wailing as she ran through the woods.
Other officers told Beier the gunman was lying behind Beier's cruiser. He came out from behind the tree and checked Place's pulse.
In all, officers found evidence that Place had fired 27 times.
Dozens of officers arrived. Some were on duty. Some weren't. He remembers watching Lt. Dave Marshak run toward him wearing a T-shirt and shorts, with his gun belt in his hand.
"It meant a lot to me," Beier said.
He called his wife, Paula, to tell her he wouldn't be at dinner.
"His voice was really shaky, but I knew he was OK," she said.
When he came home, he was "as white as a sheet," his wife said.
Two weeks later, Beier returned to work. His first call was for a man threatening to shoot people.
But perhaps the toughest moment he has had since the incident, his wife said, came in the neighborhood of the shooting.
"He called me because he saw the man's little boy sitting on the front porch," she said. "Being a father himself, he feels like he took someone's father away."
The house now is vacant. A "For Sale" sign sits in the drive. Three chunks are missing from the trunk of a nearby oak tree.
"That's where my head was peeking out," Beier said, pointing at the tree Thursday as Sgt. Perry Tindall looked on.
"You're getting goose bumps again," Tindall said.
"Yeah," Beier said. "I know."

Wire Service
 
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