This Police Sniper and Vietnam Veteran Made an Amazing Shot to Save a Life


On Aug. 16, 1993, Doug Conley was in a tense standoff with the Columbus, Ohio, Police Department. Depressed and holding a .38 revolver, he kept the cops at bay with threats against his own life.

The temperature was over 90 degrees as Conley sat in a white plastic chair in the middle of a residential street, brandishing his gun and threatening to kill himself.

Columbus police officers and Ohio State troopers took him at his word, keeping a healthy distance. After two long, hot hours, they called in help: police sniper Mike Plumb.

He was an expert marksman who grew up shooting and hunting with his father. When it came time to serve in Vietnam, he joined the Marine Corps. He didn't serve as a sniper, but maybe he should have.

By the time Plumb arrived on the scene, Conley was ignoring police demands to see his girlfriend and getting more and more irrational as the heat of the day wore on him.

The on-scene SWAT commander gave Plumb the green light to shoot. His target was not the suicidal man, but rather the gun in his hand. Specifically, Plumb was instructed to shoot in a way that kept Conley from killing himself.

The snub-nosed .38 Conley was holding was barely larger than a human hand. He also had a vice-like grip on the weapon, which made Plumb's job a lot harder, giving him less of a target to hit. Luckily, this is the kind of shooting he had trained for -- small targets, long distance.

Plumb waited for the best opportunity.

After taking a drink from a soda offered by police negotiators, Conley sat up in the plastic lawn chair, put his left hand on his knee and, still holding the gun, dropped his right hand between his legs.

From 82 yards away, Plumb fired his Steyr SSG PII sniper rifle, the first shot ever taken by a Columbus Police SWAT sniper.

The bullet tore through the .38 pistol, shattering it into three big pieces. As policemen tackled a stunned, now-disarmed Conley, the suicidal man remarked: "That was a great shot."

Conley was charged with inciting a panic, a misdemeanor, to which he pled guilty and served two years' probation.

Plumb retired from the Columbus Police Department in 2000, still its only sniper to fire a shot in the line of duty.

The rifle Plumb used is affixed on a plaque at the Columbus SWAT headquarters, along with the remains of Conley's .38 revolver.

The plaque reads "The Shot Seen 'Round the World."

You can see it, too:

-- Blake Stilwell can be reached at He can also be found on Twitter @blakestilwell or on Facebook.

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