Anything can happen in a 10-foot police pursuit.
Nassau police officers Edward Carlson and Robert Gibbons were reminded of that on a frigid night last December while patrolling in Hicksville.
What started as a routine investigation after the pair smelled marijuana smoke from inside a parked car ended with a brief pursuit on foot and a battle for a loaded handgun outside a Hicksville mall packed with shoppers.
For their efforts, which ended with a man's arrest and the recovery of a handgun, Carlson and Gibbons were recognized with "Cop of the Month" honors Monday by the Nassau County Legislature.
The two officers are members of the department's Bureau of Special Operations, "usually the most active police officers out there making a lot of arrests," said James Carver, president of the Nassau Police Benevolent Association, at the ceremony.
Carver said those in the unit "have this knack for knowing a crime before it even happens . . . These are the elite cops."
The officers were in plainclothes in an unmarked car at the Broadway Mall Dec. 13 when they smelled marijuana smoke coming from a car with a male and female inside. Gibbons said he eventually frisked the man and realized something was out of the ordinary.
"As soon as I felt a handgun in his waistband," Gibbons said, "he tried running away."
Gibbons chased the man about 10 feet before catching him. But the suspect, armed with the handgun on his hip, wrestled with Gibbons, who then grabbed the man's waist and yelled "gun!" That's when Carlson got involved.
"The subject was actually on top of my partner," Carlson said Monday. " . . . I jumped on the subject's back and I was able to pull the weapon out from his back."
Eventually, the officers handcuffed the suspect, who was also in possession of crack cocaine, police said.
"It's a life or death situation, and you just hope that you come out on top," said Gibbons, a 17-year veteran. "You could lose everything."