A Kansas pilot assisting sheriff’s deputies in apprehending a suspect took a bullet to the head, but was still able to land the aircraft.
Pilot Mike Spicer and passenger Arnie Knoettgen launched on April 29 from Clay Center Municipal Airport (CYW) in Spicer’s Cessna 150 at the request of law enforcement authorities. Spicer, who has operated Spicer Aircraft Inc. for 34 years with his wife Pam, said he wasn’t surprised to get the call from the sheriff since Clay Center is a small, close-knit community. In addition to being an FBO owner and pilot with more than 15,000 hours, he is a county commissioner. Knoettgen is a reserve deputy and an emergency medical technician.
“The sheriff knew approximately where the suspect was,” Spicer recalled. “I was flying the airplane and Arnie’s job was to look for him and radio his position to the deputies on the ground with the police radio.”
They located the suspect’s vehicle in a ravine near the airport and spotted the suspect lying face down in a field. Sheriff’s vehicles pulled up to the field and were about to enter the brush. Spicer, realizing the officers could not see the suspect’s position because of the thick brush, banked to point a wing tip at the suspect.
“We were a few hundred feet over the ground at this point,” he said.
As Knoettgen radioed the sheriff that they had located the suspect, Spicer heard a “crack.”
“I thought the Plexiglas window popped out, but didn’t hear the sound of rushing air,” he recalled. “The bullet came in through the right window and just missed Arnie by inches. It grazed my forehead and went out the left window, but it missed the aircraft structure. I started bleeding, but it didn’t hurt, which scared me. I also had a pretty good cut on my chin and above my right eyebrow from the Plexiglas and I couldn’t see because of the blood on my face.”
Spicer, 55, added throttle and Knoettgen pulled back on the yoke to get them away from the ground. Although he is not a pilot, Knoettgen was able to keep the wings level while Spicer pushed his hooded sweatshirt against the 3-inch gash in his head to stem the heavy flow of blood.
Knoettgen, following Spicer’s instructions, flew the airplane back to the airport. Spicer also radioed his wife, who was at the airport, instructing her to call an ambulance.
As they neared the airport, Spicer tightened his shoulder harness to make sure he didn’t slump forward and block the controls should he pass out.
“I was able to land the airplane,” he said. “I was concerned about passing out, but I had to get Arnie back on the ground.”
After they landed, Spicer was taken to the hospital. His injuries were not serious. The bullet did not enter his skull, but merely grazed him.
“It wasn’t my time yet,” he said.
Law enforcement officials captured the suspect, identified as 28-year-old Michael Michaud. He was booked into the Clay County Jail and faces charges of attempted murder, criminal discharge of a weapon at an occupied vehicle resulting in bodily harm, criminal possession of a firearm and attempting to elude an officer. Drug charges also are pending against him in an unrelated case.
Spicer noted the airplane has two small holes in the windows but, other than that, is not damaged.