Some things just can’t be unseen.
Police officer days are filled with such moments, but for 27-year-old patrol officer and Iraq war veteran Mo Eguires, one on-the-job sight resonates as the worst.
Working a traffic accident on a highway one night, he arrived to a scene where a drunk driver had traveled down the wrong side of the divided roadway and struck a vehicle head-on. As he approached the wreckage, he saw a baby bottle lying on the ground beside one of the vehicles.
“That’s when I knew it was going to be bad,” Eguires said, choking back emotions as he recalled the scene.
The drunk driver lived, he said. The family of five in the other vehicle died. Eguires said that has been his worst experience wearing blue.
While it sticks with him, he said he doesn’t let it or any other experience keep him from coming back.
“You go home and relax,” he said. “You leave work at work, and you leave home at home … people need us. It’s not about the money or about people saying ‘Thank You.’ I feel like I’m doing something for the greater good.”
A Chicago native, Eguires worked a short stint with the Walls Police Department in DeSoto County before joining the Columbus Police Department in the fall.
He said he became interested in becoming a police officer at age 10, when an officer tracked down and returned his stolen dog.
“After that is when I started playing cops and robbers with my buddies,” he said.
En route to his goal of becoming a police officer, he served six years with the Marine Corps.
Much of what he learned as a Marine, he said, crossed over naturally into his daily routine as a patrol officer. Mainly, he said it helped him learn how to stay aware and calm in any situation.
“The job we’re in, we’re always in a heightened sense of awareness, and if you remain situationally aware, you’ll be just fine,” he said. “It’s important for us to remember as cops that when people call us, they are dealing with a bad situation, possibly the worst situation they’ve faced. We have to remain calm and diligent in what we do because if people see that we are not calm, they lose the hope they had that somebody is coming to fix it.”
His combined time in the Marines and as a police officer, though, also makes him see ostensibly common situations differently. Something as simple as someone stopping to shake his hand in public, he said, causes him pause.
“Most people you see throughout the day want to give you a handshake, but you have to careful,” Eguires said. “You think things like, ‘What if the person grabs your hand and holds onto it, and they get access to your service weapon before you can break free?'”
Eguires wants to be a police officer for the rest of his working days, because he believes the positives far outweigh the negatives, and a day of “doing the right thing” always outweighs the inherent dangers of working in law enforcement.
“There’s a feeling when you get when you get drugs off the street, or you get dangerous felons off the street,” he said. “You just get that feeling that you’ve done something.”
He’s even had an opportunity to pay forward the very thing that inspired him to become an officer in the first place.
A few years back, he said, when he still worked in Walls, he worked alongside the Memphis Police Department to locate a stolen pit bull, effectively rescuing it from landing in a dog fighting ring.
He said he personally returned the dog to its young owner.
For Columbus police officer Chris Ware, everything in life is a choice.
Since he was young, he said he’s chosen to help others, and that’s why he ultimately chose to be a police officer.
“I came from a long line of preachers,” Ware said. “(When I became an adult) I wasn’t quite ready to be a preacher. So I figured being a police officer was the next best thing.”
Ware, 41, spent much of his 18-year career as a police officer with the Okolona and Chickasaw County departments before joining Columbus Police Department last June.
His affable nature translates well to the position, he said, because he easily relates to people and can usually stay calm — and keep others calm — in tough situations.
“This is a calling for me, like a ministry,” he said. “We all have at least one thing that we know we’re meant to do … as long as what I’m doing makes an impact, I want to continue to do it. When I’m no longer effective at what I’m doing, it’s time to get out.”
A “calling” to help others, however, doesn’t always work out the way people hope, and that’s a lesson Ware learned the hard way.
While in Okolona, he said he befriended a 13-year-old boy who squarely fit into the “at-risk youth” category. He played basketball with the boy. He took him fishing.
Ware said he was on vacation when he found out the boy had drowned while trespassing at a private residence to use the swimming pool. Ware cut his vacation short so he could sing and serve as a pallbearer at the boy’s funeral.
“He was making it,” Ware said. “He never quite had the chance to get all the way out. Ever since then, I try not to get that close to the people I help.”
That adjustment hasn’t changed his goal, he said, and he’ll take on even the most seemingly hopeless opportunities to positively impact someone’s life.
Once, he said he had the “privilege” of driving a convicted man he had actually arrested to the state penitentiary in Parchman. On the way, the man began talking about his plans to skip town and start over when he got out of prison — presumably with a similar lifestyle that had earned the man his ride with Ware.
“I just told him that it’s about choices,” Ware said. “I told him that anywhere he went, there would be drug dealers and other negative influences, and if he wanted things to change, he had to choose to change. We talked all the way there.”
Months later, Ware said the man sent him a letter from Parchman. In it, the inmate thanked Ware for his words, and he told the officer he was working on his GED and an early “good behavior” release. Ware said the inmate also promised to come see him after he got out.
“Sure enough, he did it,” Ware said. “When he got out, he looked me up. He even introduced me to his fiancee. That’s a situation where I did my job, I did it right, and in the process, I changed someone’s life for the better. That’s what it’s about.”
In today’s environment, though, Ware said citizens’ distrust of police stood as one of the biggest obstacles to the law enforcement profession. He said it “gets under his skin” when he sees kids taught to fear or revile police officers.
Whether it’s walking through a grocery store and hearing a parent tell their child, “Be good, or that man will take you to jail,” or seeing a child running away from the very sight of a person in uniform, he said he sees a dangerous mindset forming that needs to be reversed.
“I hate the fact parents are teaching their kids to fear law enforcement,” he said. “Cops used to be people kids ran up to. Now cops are people they run from … it needs to change, but it takes time. It’s not going to happen overnight. I don’t know how long it will take for people to trust police like they used to.”
Zack Plair is the managing editor for The Dispatch.