It was Christmas Eve, 2009, and Langley RCMP Cpl. Joel Glen was working as a road supervisor when he was called out to a domestic dispute.
Sadly, Christmas can bring out the worst in some and domestic disputes keep police busy during the holidays.
On his way to the call, Glen had been briefed that a man had threatened his common-law wife with a knife and was trashing the inside of their apartment.
Other officers joined him at the Langley apartment and when Glen arrived at the unit, the suspect had just bolted from police.
While other officers dealt with the distraught victim, Glen decided to go back down the hallway.
“I started walking back to the front doors of the apartment when I heard a noise, like something dropping,” said Glen. The noise was coming from behind the door of the apartment stairwell.
Glen knew he had to investigate, see if the sound was coming from his suspect.
He opened the emergency stairwell door and came face to face with the man who was holding a large cast iron frying pan to his chest and something behind his back.
The door was spring-loaded and shutting behind Glen so there was little room between him and this very dangerous man. In those seconds, Glen kept thinking about how much damage a cast iron pan could do.
“I normally would never stay that close but it was a confined space. I was very close to him and I had my service pistol out. We squared off, and I was giving him commands to drop the frying pan,” he said. But the crazed man ignored every command Glen yelled.
“It felt like 10 minutes but in all reality, it was probably a minute or two,” he said. What happened next is a moment Glen can relive like it happened yesterday. From behind his back, the suspect drew up his arm and threw a large butcher knife at Glen. The blade hit Glen square in the chest.
“My bullet proof vest stopped it,” he said.
Somehow, as the knife came his way, Glen didn’t shoot the suspect, despite having his gun pointed at the man.
Many would say he would have been justified to shoot. He said the moment happened so fast it was hard for him to even process.
“I remember thinking, holy cow, this guy just threw a butcher knife at me.”
But, as an officer for 15 years, it wasn’t the first time he had confronted someone with a knife or a bat so he made the decision not to pull the trigger, but stand his ground.
“It wasn’t the ideal circumstances in that stairwell but I was worried if I backed off, he would get away and hurt someone else.”
Glen continued yelling commands, his pistol still drawn.
Realizing this man wasn’t going to go down without a fight, Glen holstered his gun and pepper sprayed him.
“It had no effect on him. He didn’t even blink,” said Glen. This situation was growing more dire. But at that moment, the man lifted one hand to wipe his eyes, while still holding the pan in the other. Glen took his chance.
“I rushed him, tackling him to the ground,” he said. Glen managed to handcuff the man and make the arrest.
“The man said he was holding the frying pan to his chest because he thought it would protect him from being shot,” he said.
Glen’s bravery that night, and his composure in safely arresting a man who threw a knife at him, led to him receiving an award of valour on Nov. 23 at B.C.’s 32nd annual Police Honours Night at the Government House in Victoria. Even though he was put in a life-and-death situation, he said he wouldn’t have done anything different that night.
“I truly love my job. I’ve wanted to be a police officer since I was little,” said Glen. He said he’s the kind of guy who wants to be inside the yellow tape, not behind it.
“I like being part of the solution.”
Glen loved his time at the Langley detachment, where he worked from 1997 to 2004, before taking a position with RCMP’s auto crime team IMPACT. He came back to Langley from 2008 to last year.
He has since moved to E Division’s major crimes unit, where he monitors sex offenders being released from prison and making sure they are sticking to their conditions.
“It’s very rewarding work because these are the real bad guys so you want to keep an eye on them. They don’t always know we are watching them too, which can make for some exciting work,” he said. He also works part-time up in the air, as a tactical site officer for the RCMP’s Air One helicopter.
“Like I said, I feel lucky every day to get to do the job I do.”