THE WATCHTOWER: UNCONVENTIONAL AND ASYMMETRICAL WARFARE
BY PETER DANIELS | APRIL 22, 2020
Law enforcement agencies usually have superior resources and tactics that allow them to gain the upper hand even when outnumbered or outgunned. A very good example is the Vinewood Shootout, where Los Santos Police Department officers faced off against two heavily armed bank robbers, they managed to not lose a single man thanks to their training and weaponry.
In the the manhunt for Elias Duran, however, law enforcement could not rely on their usual maneuvers, nor on the power of their guns. Elias Duran was nothing like they had ever faced before. Elias Duran had been one of their own. And he had been preparing his roaring rampage of revenge for months.
It had been a long day for the deputy. He was parked on the side of Mirea Road, looking to hand out a couple more tickets to unruly motorists before his shift was over. Glad that a light breeze had begun to blow from the west, alleviating the heat he felt because of the heavy ballistic vest he was wearing, the deputy had almost forgotten the county-wide tactical alert that had been issued by the Sheriff's Department earlier that day.
He was still relishing in the cool wind when he heard a car pulling up behind him. Thinking it was perhaps a clueless tourist in need of directions, the deputy looked up at the rear mirror, immediately realizing that something was off. There was a silver-colored pick-up parked right behind the patrol car, and the man at the wheel did not look like a tourist at all. He was a twenty-something Hispanic male, and wore military fatigues, a ballistic helmet and a bulletproof vest. The deputy considered the warning he had been given just a few hours before and went to grab the radio on his cruiser's dashboard.
He hadn't reached it yet when the man stepped out of the car. The deputy looked back, catching a glimpse of the assault rifle the stranger was holding in his hands. He barely had the time to duck behind the wheel and stomp the accelerator before he heard the shots behind him.
The man with the assault rifle opened fire.
UNPREDICTABLE, UNFORGIVING, MERCILESS
Four hours before, the man with the assault rifle had given one last look to the document on the screen in front of him. To him, it was a no-holds-barred statement of the ineptitude of local, county and State agencies of San Andreas, a testament to a life of sacrifice and dedication derailed by the indifference of others, a promise of justice. A single push of a button would've made it plain for everyone to see.
The man hit submit.
A few moments later, the document showed up on various websites. It wasn't long before it began to circulate among law enforcement officers as well. To them, the man's profanity-loaded statement was nothing like he intended. It was a chilling declaration of war against the Sheriff's Department, a hit list containing the names of twenty-three people and the ramblings of a madman who had clearly lost it.
The intended recipient of the document was "the world". The sender's name was Elias Jesus Duran.
He had been a Marine and, after that, a deputy sheriff. His career came to an abrupt halt when he was terminated after being found under the influence of alcohol and narcotics by Internal Affairs investigators. Duran did not deny the charges: in his statement, he plainly admitted having become addicted to a large variety of illegal drugs, but blamed the Department itself, along with various hospitals, for their failure in providing him with pain relief after he had been involved in a shooting on duty. It wasn't the only grievance Duran ascribed to the law enforcement agency he was once part of.
In his almost 3,000 words long essay, Duran went on to list a large number of incidents that, in his own words, had turned him into a "vicious animal". Expressed in detail were several allegations of mismanagement at all levels of the Department, along with accusations of institutionalized racism and of deputy cliques whose sole aim was to prevent others from advancing through the ranks or accessing more elite positions. Duran admitted to having been involved in cases of police brutality as well, justifying his actions as either necessary for his own survival or dictated by his need to obtain information, and accused the Internal Affairs investigators who investigated these cases of being disloyal for having disciplined him.
Duran's manifesto included a list of designated victims that ranged from Sheriff deputies that had scorned him by rejecting his application to join certain units to the Department's brass, including retired Sheriff Brady Russ and then-Sheriff Nicky Rogers. Along with Sheriff's personnel were the names of then-Chief of the Los Santos Police Department Michael Houston, Los Santos Mayor Frank Vaughn, Attorney General Anthony Guidone and Governor Matthew Reynolds, all of whom, according to Duran, were guilty of assisting a corrupt system.
In the following paragraphs Duran boasted of the weaponry he had amassed since his termination and of his knowledge of law enforcement tactics, warning his readers not to approach him since he would bring "unconventional and asymmetrical warfare" to the Sheriff's Department and other agencies. He announced that his level of violence would be high and that, as a "walking exigent circumstance", he wasn't scared of dying. He would be "unpredictable, unforgiving, merciless".
ON THE RUN
It didn't take long for the telephones on the third floor of the Sheriff's Headquarters to become hot from numerous calls. Within minutes of law enforcement discovering what would become known as "Elias Duran's manifesto", most police agencies in the State of San Andreas had put their officers on tactical alert. Heavily armed teams were sent to the residences of those Duran had defined "high value targets", such as Mayor Vaughn and Attorney General Guidone. Some, like Police Chief Houston and Sheriff Rogers and other deputies in Duran's hit list, stood their ground and continued to carry out their duties.
Duran's picture from his time with the Sheriff's Department quickly became the one thing every cop in San Andreas had on their dashboard or tucked in their cruiser's sun visors. But deep down every man and woman in uniform knew this time they didn't have the upper hand. As Duran himself had put it, they were, by nature, a reactive force. He would get the first shot. He was prepared to die and determined to carry out his self-imposed mission. And he had had months to stage his revenge.
His termination wasn't the only result of the latest of a long series of Internal Affairs investigations on him. Immediately after being removed from the Sheriff's Department, Duran had been charged with corruption of public duty pursuant to an affidavit signed by Sheriff Brady Russ himself. A warrant for his arrest was signed, but by the time it became effective, Duran was nowhere to be found. Just like that, he was gone.
According to his manifesto, he used his time on the run to collect intelligence on his targets and to amass weapons. He claimed to have compiled a comprehensive list of unmarked and undercover vehicles used by the Sheriff's Department. He alleged to have obtained copies of department manuals, memos, contingency and tertiary plans. He stated he had access to what he called "an armory", including high-powered sniper rifles and shoulder-mounted rocket launchers.
And it was one of the pieces of his armory, an AK-47 assault rifle, that Duran was holding when he crept up behind the unsuspecting traffic deputy in Dillimore.
He had warned them.
In his manifesto, Duran had written that marked units would become "red bullseyes" for him to make target practice. That certainly was the deputy's impression when he heard the rear window of his cruiser exploding and felt two rounds hitting him in the ballistic vest as he raced for his life away from the scene. Barely able to see the road so low behind the wheel, he reached again for the radio. And this time, he managed to grab it.
Meanwhile, Elias Duran had already went back to his truck. As he had stated in the document that functioned as statement, hit list and suicide note, if he was to fail in his first attacks, he would modify his plans accordingly and attack again until his objectives were met. That probably was what he planned to do. He would never get there.
Nearby Sheriff's Departments units, alerted by the deputy's request for help, swarmed the scene within moments. Duran attempted to flee on his pick-up, leading law enforcement on a short pursuit across the lush forest surrounding Dillimore. When he realized that he was being cornered and that more backup was on the way, Duran tried to lose his pursuers by driving into a nearby body of water. Refusing to go down without a fight, Duran held on his assault rifle as he emerged from the sinking truck.
With no cover in sight, Duran was at the mercy of a large group of cops that had him encircled on all sides, armed with assault rifles as powerful as his. Just a few minutes earlier, those same deputies had been his targets. Now the tables had turned.
From behind the cover of their patrol vehicles and their ballistic shields, deputies gave Duran a chance to end it peacefully: "You are surrounded", they said, "give up".
But Duran had no intention of giving up. He had made it clear that it had never been in his plans and there was no reason to change it now. He ignored the orders and the pleas. He lifted his weapon and took aim, then shot the nearest sheriff's cruiser. The deputies returned fire. He never stood a chance.
Seconds after Duran had fallen in the grass, a group of deputies moved in to secure him and his weapon. As they approached, some of them recognized him. They had been his squadmates, his patrol partners, his superiors.
It was Elias Duran. The hunt was over.
Elias Duran immediately became a divisive figure, a deranged aspirant cop killer in certain circles, a folk hero in others.
To some, who borrowed the definition from Duran's manifesto itself, he was a product of his own environment, a honest man who had been corrupted by drugs and outside influence until he had lost the ability to distinguish between right and wrong. To others he was a signal of the Sheriff's Department's dysfunctional dynamics, the first to speak out about the so-called deputy gangs that some allege are still active today. To others yet, he was just a disturbed individual who should've never been given access to a law enforcement position in the first place and who turned into a cold-blooded killer after his inadequacies came to light.
Sheriff Nicky Rogers, who oversaw the manhunt for Duran and one of his potential victims, was later replaced by Claudia Martinez, herself one of Duran's designated targets.
Mayor Frank Vaughn was arrested by the Los Santos Police shortly after the events when he joined the port workers' union during a strike. He fought the charges in court and was ultimately pardoned by Governor Jesse Styles. He did not seek re-election. His arresting officer, Los Santos Police Chief Michael Houston, was not reappointed after the end of his term.
Attorney General Anthony Guidone retired at the end of his mandate and declined to run for another term. The Department of Justice Building in Los Santos would be later named after him.
Like Guidone, Governor Matthew Reynolds left office without seeking re-election. Governor Jesse Styles won the following elections.
One of Duran's marks, former Sheriff's Lieutenant Gibbs Brown, who had supervised several internal Affairs investigations on the rogue deputy and had approved their outcome, would later occupy Houston's position as Los Santos Police Chief.
In their official statement, the Sheriff's Department implied Duran was a lone wolf who had acted alone, although doubts remained as to how could he last so long on the run and how could he have obtained the weapons he claimed to have without assistance. If there ever was an investigation about any potential accomplices, the Sheriff's Department never released its results.
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