Retired officers recall impact of Petersburg gun battle

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PETERSBURG, Va. – Thirty years have passed since one of the biggest gun battles in Petersburg Police history, but many involved still gather to remember how their lives changed May 20th, 1987.

"I can remember this incident just like it happened yesterday,” said Bubby Bish, Southside Virginia Emergency Crew.

"He was firing at us, from the attic through the ceiling."

Courtney Griffin, a Chesterfield Officer was inside the home on 44 Corling Street.

"I didn't tell them I'd been hit, I said we're taking fire and need a green light."

Those who lived nearby still remember the shootout.

Many officers said their lives changed May 20th, 1987.

"He started shooting, they started shooting and there was a lot of gunfire,” said Raymond Mason.

"No you don't forget nothing like that, too real to forget,” said Patrice Haskins.

Petersburg officer Greg Seidel was wounded; he was inside the house with another officer and both were shot.

"This is point zero and he's maybe 100 feet [away] concealed in the attack,” said Seidel.

“I was hit in the cheek and came out the back of my neck and then once in the chest,” Seidel said.  "Gordon took one through his neck and through his arm."

Greg Seidel was able to fire off a couple of rounds from his shotgun so he and the other officer could escape.

Seidel was able to fire off a couple of rounds from his shotgun so he and the other officer could escape.

Then the six-hour standoff started.

Greg Ozmar was a Sergeant and the founder of the Petersburg SWAT Team.

Three Petersburg and three Chesterfield Officers went in after the suspect.

"We were exchanging some rounds and I stepped back to balance myself and get a better position, I felt the impact,” Ozmar said.

A Kevlar helmet saved Ozmar's life, a Kevlar vest saved Courtney Griffin – and a Kevlar shield took several rounds.

"In one shoot out, all three of those things helped save injury and lives,” said Seidel.

Many officers said their lives changed May 20th, 1987.

When the day ended, it was estimated more than 70 shots were fired in the aftermath.

SWAT Teams across the state received more funding for Kevlar, and more time dedicated to training for such situations.

The suspect was wanted for robbing two Chesterfield County Post offices and attempting to rob another.

After the shooting, police discovered that the gun he had used while in the attic was linked to a murder.

Almost all the police officers involved that day are now retired but they all said the shootout changed the way many departments looked at SWAT teams, and how trained EMS providers can aid police when tactical teams are called out.

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