First, the patient grabbed a plastic bottle and pointed the spray nozzle at police officer Moaz Ahmad, threatening to douse his face with a caustic cleaning chemical.
Watching from outside the patient's room at the UC Davis Medical Center, Sgt. John Pike dropped the phone and went flying across the hall. At the same time, the patient dropped the cleaner and picked up a pair of surgical scissors.
The woman's arm went up. Then, just as she started to bring the scissors down toward Ahmad and officer Franci Abraham, who had joined the struggle, the 5-foot-10, 245-pound Pike landed a body block, powering his left shoulder into the patient.
"I hit her hard," the 34-year-old former Marine recalled. So hard that he not only knocked down the patient, but Ahmad and Abraham, too.
"For me it was just a normal day at the office," said Pike, who went to the floor with the suspect as he grabbed her arm, the one holding the scissors. "She posed a threat, and I had to handle it. I didn't want her to hurt either of my partners."
Pike said the woman — who has a history of drug abuse but was sober at the time of this incident — had been attempting to leave the hospital against medical advice the evening of May 10, 2006.
Pike said the patient's mother had summoned police to her daughter's room. He said officers arrived to find the patient "in a very heated verbal altercation with a nurse, telling her, 'Either let me out or I'm going to hurt you.'"
Ahmad and Abraham talked to the patient, trying to "quietly subdue her," Pike said. Then the patient grabbed the spray bottle and the scissors, and in rushed Pike with the body blow. He put the patient in a rear wristlock until she dropped the scissors, and officers took her to the Sacramento County Jail.
Abraham nominated Pike for a Meritorious Service Award from the UC system — without Pike's knowledge — and Abraham's superiors endorsed the honor.
UC Davis forwarded the nomination to the systemwide UC Chiefs Council, and it agreed to bestow the award. UC Davis Police Chief Annette Spicuzza presented it during a ceremony earlier this week at the medical center, on the same day that Pike was promoted to lieutenant.
Said Spicuzza: "Lt. Pike's quick actions prevented other officers from injury as well as to the patient."
Abraham said Pike is humble about his actions that evening, but she wants people to know exactly what went down: "Sgt. Pike without exaggeration saved my life or at the very least saved me from getting very seriously injured. The suspect was just about to stab me with scissors in the face."
Pike has been in law enforcement for nearly 12 years, split about evenly between the Sacramento Police Department and the UC Davis Police Depart-ment. His Meritorious Service Award is his second during his time with UC Davis.
The first resulted from a 2003 chase in which Pike used his patrol car to bump a suspect's vehicle on a Highway 99 ramp — and thereby stopped the man from driving onto the highway, where he would have been going the wrong way.
Pike executed the bump perfectly, just as he had been trained. He matched the suspect vehicle's speed, then maneuvered the right front of the patrol car into the other car's left rear. The other car spun out and stopped. Police apprehended the man after a short foot chase; Pike said the man was drunk.
Pike said the car bump resulted from his split-second decision, knowing that if he did not take action the driver would soon endanger others by going the wrong way on the highway.
His body block in the hospital room stemmed from a split-second decision, too. With the struggle taking place in the close confines of a hospital room, Pike knew he had no other choice but to use brute force to take down the patient.
He decided against using pepper spray, a baton or sidearm, not wanting to hit either of his partners as they struggled with the patient.
"You've got all these tools on your belt," Pike said, "but sometimes they're not the best tools."
Indeed, the best tool that evening was his large stature. "A body block is exactly what it was," he said.
Pike said the patient's mother did not want her daughter to leave the hospital because the mother feared that if she left, she might not show for court — and the mother might lose the money that she had put up for bail.
The patient also had another criminal case going, and for that one the court had issued a no-bail warrant. So, if the patient insisted on leaving the hospital, police planned to take her to jail.
That is where she ended up eventually, but with added felony charges of assault on three officers and assault on two of them with intent to do injury. She pleaded no contest to a single charge of assault on an officer with intent to do injury, and received a sentence of 120 days in jail plus five years of probation.
A fourth officer could easily have been mixed up in the struggle, but he had gone off to pick up dinner before it all started.
He returned to find Pike, Ahmad and Abraham up to their necks in the paperwork dealing with the attack and arrest. Their sushi from Mikuni's had to wait.
Like Pike said, "just a normal day at the office."