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Neal McCoy Walks the Beat with the Nashville SWAT Team (1995)

Originally published in the March 28, 1995 issue of Country Weekly magazine. 

As Metro Nashville Police SWAT team members lowered their face shields and raised their high‑powered rifles, Atlantic recording artist Neal McCoy watched the action from the front row.

“That’s a bad lookin’ dude,” said McCoy, staring at a task force member dressed in full-body armor.

Neal has credentials to judge. He doesn’t carry a badge, but his friend, Metro Nashville police officer Mickey Milam, does. The two met at the offices of Neal’s label, Atlantic Records, where the officer moonlights as a security guard. Since then, the Texas-born singing star has regularly gone along to learn more about his friend’s work.

“It’s a lot of fun, but scary,” Neal said during his latest nighttime episode with one of Nasvhille’s cops. “I think it’s much scarier at night because you can’t see what’s happening, you can’t see behind the trees. You never know what’s going to get you.”

The evening Country Weekly went along, gritty reality intruded in the form of a nationally wanted murder suspect, who was surrounded and captured after a tense five-hour standoff.

On this call, the first of the evening, McCoy’s road manager Les Martines and officer Milam joined Neal at the yellow plastic “Crime Scene‑Do Not Cross” tape to watch the drama unfold. 

The tape separated the onlookers from police who were surrounding a Michigan man wanted for two counts of first‑degree murder. Alfred Earl Owens, 28, had been profiled the week before on the Fox Network’s weekly crime documentary, America’s Most Wanted, and a neighbor recognized him and tipped off Metro police. The agency’s officers, its SWAT team and the FBI surrounded the suspect’s apartment building.

Fearing the man was armed and had taken hostages, police evacuated nearby apartments and began negotiations.

As the intensity from the standoff began to wear off, jokes became prevalent.

“Let’s get out of here and find some real action, pull over a traffic violator or something,” Neal said with a laugh as he returned to the front seat of the cruiser.

FBI negotiators were able to persuade Owens to give himself up.

“They were just before hitting the door when the guy gave up,” said officer Milam.

The night was still young for the officer, who works the 10:30 p.m. to 7 a.m. shift in the Metropolitan Police Department’s south sector. He also puts in days as a security guard for Atlantic Records’ Nashville office, where he met McCoy.

“I met Mickey at the label and I just thought he was really cool, so I asked him if I could go out riding with him someday,” Neal explained. “His superiors OK’d it and we’ve been out a few times since,” he said.

After the chilling SWAT team action, officer Milam headed toward Nashville International Airport so Neal could check out the awesome machines that arrive first on the scene of airline crashes, fires and other airport incidents.

Neal was amazed at the demonstration: A monstrous machine weighing more than 60,000 pounds and carrying 3,000 gallons of water pulled out of its garage, aimed and fired a stream of water high into the air.  

“Thanks a lot,” Neal said. “It’s good to know you guys are here, but hopefully I’ll never be in a situation to need you.” 

Back in the police car, Neal sang softly as officer Milam monitored the radio for the next assignment. “I sing everywhere but in the shower,” Neal joked.

They arrived at a burglary-in-progress call just behind a K-9 officer, who was already inside with his female partner, a German shepherd.

They emerged unscathed. “Look at the teeth on that son of a gun,” Neal said over the still-wailing alarm. “I don’t see how you guys go out alone, it would scare me to death,” he said to officer Milam. 

“It’s just part of the job,” Milam responded.

The officer made the dispatch center his next stop. The core of Nashville’s emergency system, the center’s staff send emergency personnel to answer pleas for help on 911.

Neal was greeted at the door by a narcotics officer wearing a Garth Brooks T‑shirt. Recognizing Neal immediately, he said, “I saw your live show a few years ago and it is still the best darn show I’ve ever seen.” Neal smiled warmly. “Man, we need to take you on the road with us,” he said.

After a tour and a chance to watch the center’s well-trained crew handle 911 calls, it was time for a break from life-or-death drama. The star and his police escort stopped by a convenience store, where Neal washed down the evening’s excitement with a Yoo-Hoo, his favorite beverage. 

It was past 2 a.m. and Neal had seen enough for an evening. Officer Milam would drop off his guests and then continue his duty until 7 a.m.  

On the way back to the station, Neal talked about his new album, You Gotta Love That!, and its current hit single, “For a Change.”

“I love it. There’s good and bad about having a hit album,” he explained, referring to his breakthrough smash of 1994. “No Doubt About It did real well for us, but then the next project you come out with is kind of scary because you know people are going to be looking at you a little closer. That’s OK because I think this new album really measures up. We’ve got some really terrific stuff on it. There’s some real fun, funky, upbeat songs, a couple of driving songs and the killer ballads. It’s just a well‑rounded album. The people at Atlantic say I’m singing better than ever, so it just must be that I’m more relaxed and in tune with what’s happening,” he said grinning. 

Currently on tour with Alabama, McCoy’s least favorite part about road life is being away from his wife and family. This summer Neal will lease a family bus so his wife Melinda, daughter Miki and infant son Christian Swayde can join him on the road.

As far as police life goes, Neal plans to have many more evenings like this one, driving shotgun in the front seat of a cruiser.

“I just hang back when the action starts,” he said. “A couple of times I’ve been recognized, but I just cool out and let them wonder what I’m doing there.”

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