On February 20, 2003, Patricia Carruth spoke to her son, Officer Jeremy “Jay” Carruth early that morning to confirm their lunch plans. Officer Carruth, a father of two little girls and recent returned military veteran, planned to finish what was supposed to be a simple job of arresting a man wanted for the possible attack of another police officer, and then call his mother to meet up for lunch. But she never received that call.
Anthony Molette declared war on the Alexandria Police Department officers by planning to execute police officers and members of the S.W.A.T team while safely boarded up in what appeared to be an abandoned house. What the officers did not know is that Molette had enough ammunition to hold off the police for days and had placed high powered weapons at every window and point of entry. When officers arrived and attempted to break down the door, Molette open-fired. Officer Carruth was shot first, twice in the head and died immediately on the porch.
For over an hour, Molette continued to take down officers due to his enormous amount of ammunition and high powered weapons. Officers were issued one, sixteen round handgun with two additional magazines, but were not required to carry the additional ammunition with them. The Alexandria Police Officers’ weapons and amount of ammunition were no match for Molette. As officers were quickly running out of ammunition and not able to receive more due to the location of the shooting, Molette continued to rage.
After receiving a call that the simple mission had turned into a shooting, Carruth headed to her son’s house, where she prayed she would receive confirmation of his safety. Her son lived only six blocks away from the scene, therefore Carruth was able to hear the endless string of gun shots from her son’s front yard. After what seemed like hours to Carruth, the gunfire ended. Molette was finally taken down but only after killing Officer Carruth, Officer David Ezerneck and seriously injuring three more officers.
I remember thinking ‘God, please just let it stop,’” Carruth said. “I just kept thinking ‘I need to get down there to help some mother of one of the fallen officer’ because I knew there was no way it could be my son.”
But it was. Carruth was picked up at her son’s house by Sergeant June Murdock and taken to CHRISTUS St. Frances Cabrini Hospital. It was there around 3:30 p.m. that Carruth’s oldest daughter informed her that her son had been one of the two officers killed. But Carruth only took a few moments to gather herself before she was motivated to pick herself up and take care of what needed to be done.
“You never quit grieving when you lose your child. I am still grieving every day, but you learn to live with it and learn to keep moving,” Carruth said.
In the past eleven years since the day Molette changed many people’s lives, Carruth has also changed many lives but for the better. Because of what happened to her son, Carruth has dedicated her life to helping other families cope with loss and tragedy. Carruth now serves as Vice President for the Louisiana Board of Concerns Of Police Survivors (C.O.P.S), an organization dedicated to rebuilding shattered families of fallen officers. Carruth is also the Regional Coordinator for the South Central region for C.O.P.S. and is a Trustee for the National Board of C.O.P.S. Her work consists of taking care of finances, making sure the families of officers killed in the line of duty receive all benefits, filling out paper work for those families, counseling, managing hundreds of volunteers that assist with 30,000 people at Police Week in Washington D.C. every May, along with many other responsibilities.
“Helping other people has helped me move forward. We have chosen to survive this traumatic event and we choose to use what we have to help others survive their traumatic events,” Carruth said.
Along with her duties on the multiple boards, Carruth was also instrumental in changing several procedures at the Alexandria Police Department, as well as educating the community about law enforcement with the help of Captain Murdock. Murdock has been on the C.O.P.S board as the Liaison for the Alexandria Police Department for nearly 10 years. The woman Carruth met on the worst day of her life has now become her closet friend.
Through contact with the Mayor of Alexandria, Carruth petitioned for a pay raise for Alexandria Police Officers. A year later the officers finally received their pay increase.
“I spoke to the Alexandria Mayor at Jay’s funeral and insisted he give those boys a raise,” Carruth said. “It was one of the last things Jay and I discussed doing before he was killed.”
An increase in the amount of ammunition an officer carries has also changed. Officers used to only carry what they were issued but now officers are allowed to carry an unlimited amount of additional ammunition, long riffles and personal weapons upon certification.
“When we realized how much ammunition he [Molette] had, we went to every nearby pawn shop looking for more guns and ammo to bring to the men out there,” Murdock said. “I really think it would have made a difference if those officers would have had more ammunition.”
Along with ammunition increase, officers are now trained more often and more extensively. Basic officers are required to participate in a week long training, and the higher the ranking officer, the more extensive the training.
“Before the incident, the SWAT Team was lucky to train once a month, but now they have training every week and are better equipped for dangerous situations, similar to the incidence with Molette,” Murdock said.
This horrific incident redefined the Alexandria Police Department, as well as police departments in Louisiana and surrounding states.
“When my husband, Charles, was at a retreat a few years ago, a man from Kansas City, Missouri told him, ‘Your son’s incident changed the way we handle our weapons and how much ammunition we can carry,’” Carruth recalled.
Losing a son, uncle, friend, father and only brother to three sisters has been hard for the Carruth family, especially with family members not coping the same way Carruth did. Molette took her son, but she was not going to let him take the rest of her family.
“I was angry, but I wasn’t carrying his dead body around with me. I had forgiven him [Molette], and I know that bothered a lot of people,” said Carruth.
Carruth believes her faith in God and mission to help others is what kept her going all these years. The past eleven years have been filled with so many emotions for the family, but Carruth says her family has dealt with it and is at peace.
Carruth and Murdock continue to change, train and education individuals through the Alexandria Police Department, the C.O.P.S organization, as well as police departments around the nation. Some of their future work includes an ex-wives group at 2015 Police Week for the ex-wives of fallen officers. Carruth believes those women have never really had a place to be at Police Week, and does not want another person to go through the pain of feeling alone.
“Pat is an inspiration to so many people that go through this. She doesn’t realize it because she is so humble, but she really is such a great role model, a great healer,” Murdock said. “She has this way of reading people, looking into them and moving them in the right direction.”