Welcome to Christine Braswell’s sanctuary. She's in the dirt, with one eye open, and an Accuracy International sniper rifle in her hands that she painted herself.
“I enjoy the sniper aspect. Just being able to lay down and calm everything and just…everything is still behind me. Doesn’t matter what’s going on. It doesn’t matter if shots are being fired,” Braswell said on Tuesday, April 4, from the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office gun range in western Palm Beach County.
That was supposed to be day one of a multiple day shoot with Braswell. I was working on a profile of the only female sniper in Palm Beach County. A WPTV news crew was going to follow her to a CrossFit workout, a woman’s self-defense class she taught, and ride along with her during field training of up and coming officers. We won’t be able to do those things now. She was killed in a car accident in the Keys on Saturday.
Braswell joined Delray Beach Police almost 12 years ago but started shooting long before then.
“I was probably about 6 or 7-years-old with my father. He gave me a little 22 long rifle, a little Remington Model 6,” she says.
Her dad, a retired West Palm Beach police officer, had her compete in turkey shoots.
“I did okay,” she says,
She’s being humble.
She doesn’t miss.
She showed us the targets she’ll be aiming at through her scope. An 8.5” by 11” sheet of white paper, with printed hostage and suspect drama. No margin for error.
“We’re aiming for right in here,” she says, pointing to the suspect’s head, right behind the ear.
“Why there?” I asked.
“Because I said so,” she says laughing. Fair enough.
From 100 yards away, she’s perfect.
“Woooooo!” she yells in excitement, piercing each target where she says she would.
We walk the football field back to the targets. “These were the shots behind the ear. These were my headshots,” she says, showing them to us. Indeed.
Braswell’s not married and doesn’t have kids. But she has family. She’s trained basically every Delray Beach Police Department officer.
“Take a deep breath in. Nice and easy. At the pause in your breath. Easy squeeze…BANG!” the shot rings out from a training officer.
“It’s strict but gets to the point (Braswell’s teaching style). Like you know it’s serious,” says Robert Hutchins, a training officer, who served in the Army for six years. “Fun, fun,” he says.
Officer Bernenda Marc shakes her head in agreement, “You never go hungry. Chick-fil-A is her favorite.”
Marc was injured in the same crash that took Braswell's life.
“As soon as we walk in, we never had to order. They already know it,” Hutchins says.
“Just passing off the knowledge that I have you know? I was fortunate to grow up around guns and to be able to shoot all my life. Everything from shotguns to handguns to rifles, to whatever you have,” Braswell tells us.
A markswoman like her is rare in police ranks.
“In my 23.5 years maybe known of maybe three or four female snipers all over the country,” says Sgt. Richard Jacobson. He has known Braswell since she was hired. He is a fellow SWAT member.
“I don’t consider myself special in any way. I can shoot and I’m good with a gun so I can do the job just as anybody else could with any amount of training,” she says. “It’s a privilege, to be honest. I mean the guys have all accepted me for just being a member of the team which is really nice.”
“Seeing how hard she’s worked for it. Her continuance on training, it inspires me actually to do more, especially with this department,” Marc says.
“Little girls will definitely look up to her and be like, ‘I can do that.’ She’s showing everybody that I can do that,” Hutchins says.
The role of a sniper is to watch over her team. That hasn’t changed.
“They’re our cover. They’re the ones observing everything,” Jacobson says.
“We always train for the ‘what if.’ We never know what we’re going to be faced with until we actually get there,” Braswell says.
She was 40-years-old, survived by her family, friends, and the department.