JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. --
“In 2008, I was robbed at gun point at a car wash. I was off duty just minding my own business and right when I was finishing up, a guy with a skeleton mask and gun—pointed right at me —came from around the corner and said ‘give me all your money,’” said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Eli Kendrick.
At the time, Kendrick was a police officer and a member of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve. While the initial shock settled in, he decided that giving the gunman what he wanted was the best option. However, as he walked toward the man, Kendrick’s mind raced with what to do and he resorted back to his training from the Marine Corps and police academy.
“As we struggled over the gun, I got the gun out of his hand during which it fired a shot, but didn’t strike anyone,” said Kendrick. “He took off and ran around the corner where there was a second guy.”
Kendrick tried to ensure the weapon was cleared and ready to shoot if need be, but in the heat of the moment could not figure out why it wasn’t working. He used his military and police academy training to tap, rack and evaluate to clear the weapon, but it didn’t work.
“I couldn’t stop and look at the gun because they were right in front of me,” said Kendrick. “At this time, I thought I could turn around and run away, but obviously they must have (another) gun too or they wouldn’t turn around to face me.”
From his Marine Corps training, Kendrick knew he couldn’t turn back. He was faced with an ambush and had to assault through it.
“So I pretended the gun worked, but they didn’t run away. It was odd, he threw my stuff down and said give me my gun back, and I didn’t agree with that. I told him to get down so I could get to my cell phone, but they started to separate and surround me,” said Kendrick. “I had no choice but to fight again. I pistol whipped one guy upside the head and knocked him out and fought the other guy and knocked him down. He went to go help the other guy up and I got to my phone and called 911. ”
Once additional police officers showed up, one guy was arrested on scene and the other was found and arrested later that night.
As one of the most significant events in his life, the biggest aspect of the day Kendrick remembers is how the police officers on duty came to his aid.
Six years after the robbery, Kendrick transitioned from the Marine Corps Reserves to the Air Force Reserves, while maintaining his full-time police officer job.
In 2017, Kendrick was recognized for his outstanding work with the Top Cop award for the Virginia Beach and Hampton area. The Top Cop award is meant to pay tribute to law enforcement officers in federal, state, county, tribal and local agencies from across the country for actions above and beyond the call of duty. Winning Top Cop was not an individual award for Kendrick. He credits his entire ready response team with getting him there.
“There were a lot of cases that not only myself worked on, but my team,” said Kendrick. “It definitely wasn’t just me.”
Under Kendrick’s leadership, the ready response team solved and deescalated a variety of high threat cases and situations.
“We had a massage parlor that was robbed three times at gun point. The robbery detectives were busy with other cases and asked us to help with the case,” said Kendrick. “Everybody on our team that day contributed one way or another in tracking down who this individual was, how they were committing their crimes, finding out who was involved, advising other officers and locating an accomplice. Our entire team worked together to find both suspects, which resulted in a search warrant for a home, which resulted in finding a dead body in the truck of a car.”
Kendrick’s need to serve and help others blossomed in high school with the concepts of teamwork and camaraderie in sports. Today it remains a major motivator in serving his community and country.
“I do believe it is a service,” said Kendrick of his military and police duties. “That means you go out there and work, you may not be getting all the benefits in the end, but you’re serving and that’s what I like. You do sacrifice .There are injuries, and times you wish you were somewhere else and the same goes for the Police Department, but you do what you do because you enjoy serving and providing that benefit to your family and the public. It’s just something I do enjoy.”
Through hard work and dedication to his military service, police work and his teammates in both uniforms, Kendrick stood out and earned the Top Cop award for the Virginia Beach Police Department.