PRECINCT 444 Podcast

A Podcast of The National Law Enforcement Museum

Lifeline | Tom Weitzel: Surviving and Thriving After an Armed Encounter


On today’s episode of Lifeline, we welcomed retired chief of police Tom Weitzel into the studio to share his law enforcement story. His passion for the field led him down a career path of more than 30 years. In 1987 Tom was awarded the Kevlar/DuPont Survivor’s Club Award for having survived an armed encounter. He returned to work and with the support of his wife had a thriving career. He would rise through the ranks and attain the position of Chief of Police for Riverside, Illinois, a position he would hold for thirteen years before retiring in 2020. He spent some his time pushing for laws that would invoke positive change in not only his community but throughout the country.

Tom has graciously provided the original dispatch recording the night of that fateful incident, which has never before been released to the public. Read a little about that incident below:

Officer Tom Weitzel had just three years on with the Riverside Police Department, and by some standards could still be considered a rookie. At 3 AM that morning he found himself riding in a “single” patrol car. While patrolling the 2 square mile community Tom noticed a vehicle parked along the curb outside a residential home. Pulling behind the vehicle, he used his spotlight to light the inside of the car. The tinted windows were so dark, he recalls, that the spotlight could not penetrate the car’s interior. Stepping from his police car, Tom was unaware that a decision made three years earlier was about to save his life.

He had made it as far as his front bumper when a figure, in the backseat of the car, rolled out the door. Two popped up from the bushes. Tom heard the unmistakable sound of a shotgun round being chambered.

Listen to this week’s episode, hosted by Matt Garcia, Project Manager for the Officer Safety and Wellness department at the NLEOMF, for the full harrowing experience and what kind of support was and still is, absolutely necessary following a critical incident in law enforcement.

Tom Weitzel is a proud member of the Ambassador Program, which is a year-round commitment to serving as a local NLEOMF liaison to law enforcement agencies by providing training and technical assistance to officers as well as attending events as a representative of the organization.

All active and retired law enforcement officers are encouraged to apply. Learn more about the program and register here.

The National Law Enforcement Officers Ambassador Program would not be possible without the generous support of MissionSquare Retirement.