Ex-cop faces off with armed gang: ‘I was sh*tting myself’
NSW Police Middle Eastern Organised Crime Squad detective Ryan Jeffcoat recalls the night he and his partner tried to arrest three men associated with a notorious western Sydney gang following a grisly shooting outside a cafe - confronting them without any backup and only one pair of handcuffs between them.
Hardened former detective Ryan Jeffcoat knows what it's like to be seconds away from shooting someone in the head.
The detective - credited with more than 800 arrests in his 14-year career - was following a car carrying some Brothers 4 Life gang members in Sydney's west when a police helicopter helping him had to return to base to refuel.
With the chopper gone, police lost sight of the gangsters in darkened city streets and soon after they were told there had been a shooting outside Bankstown's Chokolatta cafe.
Jeffcoat and his partner had a strong suspicion of who it was and sped to a suburban house with just one pair of handcuffs between them.
As Jeffcoat threw the cuffs to his partner to arrest one suspect, he saw a second hiding in a driveway and a third under a car with something in his hand.
Worried they were both armed and without cuffs, Jeffcoat pinned the first suspect to the ground with the back of his knee and pointed his gun directly at the man under the car.
LISTEN: Just after midnight NSW Police's Ryan Jeffcoat was monitoring two gang members who had just used a shotgun and rifle to gun down three rival gangsters. With no back-up and one pair of handcuffs, Jeffcoat walks The Night Watch through what happened next.
"I was shitting myself," Jeffcoat admits to The Night Watch
"It was very visceral, it was pitch black, my sound went, I got this auditory exclusion and I got a lot of tunnel vision - it was incredible how fast my heart was pumping.
"[The man under the car] wouldn't show me what was in his hands. I knew they had just done a shooting. I was afraid that there was a gun in his hand.
"I remember that my finger was on the trigger - I was about to shoot him."
In a stunning twist of fate, just as Jeffcoat was about to pull the trigger a light flashed from the hand of the man under the car.
"Everything just went to a real slow motion," Jeffcoat said.
"I remember yelling, he wouldn't listen, he wouldn't show me his hands and I remember depressing the first portion of trigger about to discharge my firearm thinking he's got a gun in his hand and right at that moment a light shone from his hand and he got a text message on his phone and I took my finger off the trigger."
Jeffcoat said being so close to shooting someone left him feeling peculiar.
"It was very surreal for me - I was literally moments away from shooting him. And a lot of things go through your mind afterwards," he said.
"You're trained to shoot at the centre of body mass so the biggest target, the problem in that situation was that he was laying down and I had him in the sight of my firearm with his head. So if I had discharged my firearm, I would have shot him in the head."
The Chokolatta cafe shooting happened at a time of intense street violence in Sydney amid a split between the Blacktown and Bankstown chapters of B4L.
The gang - which appealed to disenfranchised Middle Eastern youths - was founded by NSW's most notorious gangster and now prisoner Bassam Hamzy, who was convicted of murder outside the Mr Goodbar nightclub in Sydney's CBD in 1998.
Jeffcoat said the allure for at-risk youths to B4L was an illusion and when the chips were down, members snitched on their so-called brothers to NSW Police's Middle Eastern Organised Crime Squad.
"They can't handle it - they always roll," he said.
"When the penny dropped following their interviews they became emotional and started crying quite heavily with the prospect of going to custody for a long time and really at that time we've got them by the balls and that's the art of policing, that's the art of being a detective.
"You need to know when to squeeze them. If you squeeze them the right way and you squeeze them hard enough and long enough eventually they'll crack and give you what they're after."
In 2007, Jeffcoat was accepted into the Middle Eastern Organised Crime Squad - an elite unit targeting gangs terrorising Sydney.
After seven years with MEOCS, Jeffcoat transferred to Broken Hill. He thought by moving as far away from the mean streets of western Sydney as he could - it would improve his mental health and his Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
It didn't. He still couldn't sleep still in 2010, haunted by the case of a young boy allegedly bashed to death. In 2017, he took a promotion to a sergeant's job in Griffith but medically retired in 2018.
He still remembers the night of the Chokolatta cafe shooting.
"I remember getting home and just pulling a six pack of beers out of the fridge and just sitting down, no TV, nothing, just having a beer and reflecting about how the night was," he said.
"I remember my wife coming downstairs and seeing me … I never told her about the situation at Railway Parade - it's just too much.
"It would have been too much for her to handle, knowing we had been put in that situation."
He now lives interstate and is a published author, writing a children's book called Cranky Pants: A Conversation about PTSD.
Originally published as Ex cop's face-off with armed B4L gang: 'I was sh*tting myself'