Warning: NSFW or kids.
Watch this video and then read the comments on Youtube.
Look at how many people are whining about overkill, five shots is too many, should have shot him in the leg, should have retreated, etc. I understand their emotional response but it is misguided, at best.
- Close quarters against a knife is a horrible place to be. The only advantage the officer has is that his weapon is already drawn and aimed. If his weapon had been holstered, his odds of surviving a sudden attack would have been terrible (and he knows it, LEOs train for this situation.) If you don’t believe that, watch the video in this post.
- Even with his weapon aimed, there is still no guarantee that he will be able to stop the guy, should he suddenly charge. There just isn’t enough time at that distance. If five shots seem excessive, consider 21 not being enough to do the job. Granted that is at the far end of the scale, but attackers routinely don’t go down when they are shot. Bullets aren’t magic solutions: they don’t make the problem suddenly disappear…
- As for retreating: if the officer retreats and the guy gets out of the house, the situation become more difficult to control. The guy could start attacking his kid or anybody else who happens to be passing by. Or he could end up killed himself. Don’t believe me? Watch this video:
- Don’t forget that the officer is responsible for each bullet he fires. Inside the house, he has a better shot at hitting the target (the man can’t run around) and avoiding collateral damage (no bystanders, no crossfire, walls and furniture to serve as backstop) at the same time. Outside, anything could happen.
- Notice how the guy is advancing, despite having a gun aimed at him, despite the officer yelling at him to drop the knife. A regular, sane person doesn’t act that way. A normal person would drop to the floor immediately when anybody points a firearm at them and orders them down, let alone a police officer. I think we can agree on that. So if the guy isn’t in a normal mindset to begin with (the kid called the police because he was afraid the guy might “hurt himself with the knife.”, remember?), then it isn’t a stretch to assume he might be willing to attack the officer, right? His refusal to comply to the order of dropping the knife under the threat of lethal force tends to confirm that. Hence the suspicion that this is a “suicide by cop” incident. Of course, we’ll never know for sure now…
- Then the whole “shoot him in the leg” thing. People who say that are just as ignorant about the realities of firearms and their use under stress than those who say “shoot the knife out of his hand.” Certain things only work in the movies and on TV… If you think it’s possible, go to the range and train your ass off until you can consistently make leg shots at a paper target. Then, sign up for a Simunition course and have them put you through their scenarios. Before each one, vow to yourself to only aim for the leg. Let me know how it goes…
- Even if you do manage to get this proficiency at hitting the leg every time, how does that guarantee stopping the attacker at that distance? Just because you shoot him in the leg, doesn’t mean he can’t stab or cut you anymore. Watch the Dan Inosanto video again, see how quickly he closes the distance. Then consider the guy with 21 bullets in him before he went down. Are you sure a bullet to the leg will do the job? If you aren’t, there is no reason why the officer should even try such a thing. It’s his responsibility if the guy goes through him because he refused to use lethal force. Whoever the guy kills afterwards would be on the officer…
I understand how people are shocked by watching such a video. Death is never fun to watch, unless you’re a sociopath. It’s entirely understandable to react with an emotional response. And of course, people are entitled to their opinions. But just because you have an opinion, that doesn’t mean you are right. If being right matters to you, then it behooves you to have an informed opinion. You can only get that by getting experience (slap on a badge and go walk a beat) or asking those who have it (talk to a LEO sometime, it’ll open your eyes). If you don’t want to do that, then your precious little duck feelings are more important to you than being right.
In which case I shake my head and walk away.
Great article that im sure law enforcement will appreciate. It’s alswYs easier said than done specially when confronted with such a mentally strenuous situation.
I think stuff like this is allways verry tricky.
And allways easy to judge from the safety behind your keyboard.
I do not think the cop acted wrong.
However we will never know what had happened if he had firedat his legs or fired a warning shot:
– rushed the cop stabbed him to death and then killed several others.
-dropped the knife.
Situations like these are just fucked up.
And Yes I think you are right and the guy wanted to die.
Since he was approaching the yelling cop wit his firearm.
I also don,t think the cops in the other video acted wrong.
They risked their lives to take him alive.
And wanted to jump him all at once wit riot bats.
If the guy was not so determined they might have succeeded.
Hi Wim, I feel you are very brave in broaching these subjects and bringing understanding in why law enforcement have to do what they do. Even in the comfort of my armchair here I counted only four shots: So if there were five, I would be a lousy witness. I would agree that the officer in the first video had to shoot and was right to do so.
In the second video, they should have shot too and the officer who died could have lived in my opinion.
About the number of shoots fired, I think it depends on when you decide there is no further threat. Please see (Woolwich attack, UK): http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/woolwich-attack-video-watch-shocking-1907772#.Ut2gudLFIdU The cop who fired at the first attacker armed with a blade felt two were enough as the way the attacker fell and posed no further threat to them I guess. I would also back the way the police also dealt with the second attacker. There seems to be two more shots after the four (one from the attacker and three from the police) that put him down. Again, if they felt threatened by the attacker and he was still wriggling and still had a gun to threaten them with, I would back their decision there.
Also, it depends on what type of threat you are dealing with. If you are dealing with suspected suicide bombings then from the Police use of firearms in the UK:
.”Shoot to kill” policy
The national media has criticised the so-called “shoot to kill” policy adopted by police forces. Police firearms training actually teaches the use and discharge of firearms to “remove the threat” rather than to kill. Following the September 11, 2001 attacks new guidelines were developed for identifying, confronting, and dealing forcefully with terrorist suspects. These guidelines were given the code name “Operation Kratos”.
Based in part on advice from the security forces of Israel and Sri Lanka—two countries with experience of suicide bombings—Operation Kratos guidelines allegedly state that the head or lower limbs should be aimed at when a suspected suicide bomber appears to have no intention of surrendering. This is contrary to the usual practice of aiming at the torso, which presents the biggest target, as a hit to the torso may detonate an explosive belt.
Sir Ian Blair appeared on television 24 July 2005 to accept responsibility for the error on the part of the Metropolitan Police in shooting Jean Charles de Menezes, mistakenly identified as a suicide bomber three days prior, and to acknowledge and defend the policy, saying that “There is no point in shooting at someone’s chest because that is where the bomb is likely to be. There is no point in shooting anywhere else if they fall down and detonate it.”
Although this is a gruesome topic, I think it puts what we practice into context, what is art and what is martial and what it takes to use the martial. However, I guess this ugliness can put people off martial arts too: So hopefully a balance can be found.
Thanks Marc. I guess it’s one of the sings of the times that people feel qualified to have a vehement opinion on topics they know absolutely nothing about. Law enforcement seems to be one of those. Lethal force may be an ugly topic and scary to some but it won’t go away, ever. Not as long as humans live.
Gye Greene says
As always, a very thought-provoking article!
Here are my premises:
-When police officers kill in the line of duty, they are not always wrong.
-However, being human beings, police officers are not always right.
-When a professional makes a mistake (or an error in judgement), it is probably the fault of their training (or lack thereof) and departmental policies (or lack thereof) more than the individual. For example, if an officer “freezes up” in a stressful situation, that indicates the need for better personality screening and/or stress-testing.
-Part of a police officer’s job is to deal with dangerous, complicated situations. They should therefore be held to higher standards in assessing and negotiating these situations (because it is part of their job) in the same way as a commercial pilot should be able to execute an emergency maneuver better than a private pilot, who should have higher skills than a non-pilot. (Or: a surgeon should not fall to pieces when a delicate operation goes haywire.) So to use the “Well, YOU try it in this situation if you think it is so easy” argument does not logically follow: a non-professional should not be held to the same standards as a professional.
-A police officer’s job is to deal with physical violence. To this end, they should have training in physical control measures, firearms handling, and etc. And they should maintain reasonably high physical fitness standards — not Olympic-level, but certainly more than the average citizen. A police officer should **not** be fat. A police officer **should** be able to physically subdue an (untrained, not hopped up on PCP) person of their size. A police officer **should** be able to hit a paper plate with four rounds out of five, at five metres, in a stressful situation. Because it’s part of their job. I do realize that they currently aren’t given the time or support to develop or maintain those level of skills: and that is an organizational problem, not an individual’s problem.
-A police officer’s job involves dealing with the public. This can include mentally ill, people who are not native speakers of English, and people who are deaf. An officer needs to be adequately trained to make an informed judgement within the context of those characteristics.
-There is always a balancing act between the officer’s safety, the safety of the public, and the safety of the suspect. Ideally a middle ground can be reached. But it is bad to err too far on the side of pre-emptive force, if other options are available.
> Look at how many people are whining about overkill, five shots is too many,
If the officer has made a decision to kill, then 3-5 shots is correct. Do it, or don’t do it.
> Close quarters against a knife is a horrible place to be. The only advantage
> the officer has is that his weapon is already drawn and aimed.
> If his weapon had been holstered, his odds of surviving a sudden attack
> would have been terrible (and he knows it, LEOs train for this situation.) If
> you don’t believe that, watch the video in this post.
> Even with his weapon aimed, there is still no guarantee that he will be able to
> stop the guy, should he suddenly charge.
The Dan Inosanto video was informative — but it’s not the same situation. In the Inosanto video, the officers were **far** too close — and with guns holstered.
In the video we’re discussing here, the officer **did** slowly back up (good) — but when he finally decided to fire (around 1:55), there is more than a sofa length away — with a gun already drawn and pointed — and with a suspect who is behaving sluggishly and dazed, not amped-up and aggressive. Given that the officer’s gun was already drawn, and that “suddenly charging” would have been an anticipated, rather than surprise, behavior, the officer was premature in firing. A more prudent course of action would have been to continue to maintain distance. (I continue this line of reasoning below.)
> There just isn’t enough time at that distance.
Yes there is. (Yes, I’ve shot guns. Semi-automatics and revolvers.)
> If five shots seem excessive, consider 21 not being enough to do the job.
> Granted that is at the far end of the scale, but attackers routinely don’t go
> down when they are shot. Bullets aren’t magic solutions: they don’t make the
> problem suddenly disappear…
To clarify: you’re saying that if the officer had waited until the suspect actually charged (or at least made a **threatening**, rather than **dazed** move), that five shots to the chest from point-blank range wouldn’t have stopped him? Isn’t that unlikely? Again, the man’s behavior was not indicative of being hopped up on PCP.
And the shots would have penetrated. For example, at 1:50 — the video is a little grainy — but I doubt the suspect is wearing body armor.
> As for retreating: if the officer retreats and the guy gets out of the house,
> the situation become more difficult to control. The guy could start attacking
> his kid or anybody else who happens to be passing by. Or he could end up
> killed himself. Don’t believe me? Watch this video:
Well, that’s an “all or nothing” perspective, and therefore not logically sound.
A middle ground would be to retreat to the base of the steps at the porch. My impression is that the house was cleared — so there’s no-one except the suspect inside. The officer had called for backup (he should have demanded an ETA; more information = a better understanding of the options), so he could have waited the extra minute or two, rather than having to end the encounter right then and there.
Even outside of the house: the guy was clearly sluggish. As long as the officer keeps the suspect between himself and the house (and keeps the bystanders away), he has control of the shot. And he **is** expecting backup. So he needs to be using stalling tactics, not escalation tactics.
As you know, you continually advocate (within a self-defense context) that (1) walk away if you can, and (2) groups have power. (I realize that #1 does not completely apply, as a police officer has a broader responsibility than a civilian.) So if the young officer (his voice makes him sound in his early to mid 20s) had received the training to not force the situation, leave the suspect in the house, and wait for backup — this encounter may have had a very different outcome.
> Don’t forget that the officer is responsible for each bullet he fires. Inside the
> house, he has a better shot at hitting the target (the man can’t run around)
> and avoiding collateral damage (no bystanders, no crossfire, walls and
> furniture to serve as backstop) at the same time. Outside, anything could
This is a good point (or series of points!). However — was the officer **really** thinking this? (“I can’t let him get outside, because then I’ll lose control of the situation.)
> Notice how the guy is advancing, despite having a gun aimed at him,
> despite the officer yelling at him to drop the knife. A regular, sane person
> doesn’t act that way. A normal person would drop to the floor immediately
> when anybody points a firearm at them and orders them down, let alone a
> police officer. I think we can agree on that.
Three points. One is that the suspect **never** increased his rate of advance. He **never** attacked.
Second, is that the officer has already been made aware that the suspect has been in a car accident. He could have a concussion. He could be in shock. So the officer shouldn’t be expecting “normal” behavior. The officer should be expecting “in shock” behavior — and be satisfied with behavior that is “odd and somewhat menacing — but not immediately threatening”.
Third, a regular sane person — who is a speaker of English AND is not hearing-impaired would not act that way. But if an officer yells out to you “Hoza pata! Ilgo naga HEEL paga!!! HEEL PAGA!!! PAGA!!!!!!!!”, I don’t know that a person would automatically drop the knife. So a well-trained officer would not 100% equate “Not obeying spoken commands” with “This person will attack me.”
> So if the guy isn’t in a normal mindset to begin with (the kid called the police
> because he was afraid the guy might “hurt himself with the knife.”,
> remember?), then it isn’t a stretch to assume he might be willing to attack the
> officer, right? His refusal to comply to the order of dropping the knife under
> the threat of lethal force tends to confirm that.
I agree that he was stunned, in shock, maybe on drugs, or mentally ill. But my understanding is that police are trained to take these characteristics into context. As you have pointed out in various blog entries, knives are an up-close weapon: if the officer had maintained distance, then he would have been safe. (Particularly as he was expecting backup.)
> Then the whole “shoot him in the leg” thing. People who say that are just as
> ignorant about the realities of firearms and their use under stress than those
> who say “shoot the knife out of his hand.”
> If you think it’s possible, go to the range and train your ass off until you can
> consistently make leg shots at a paper target. Then, sign up for a Simunition
> course and have them put you through their scenarios. Before each one, vow
> to yourself to only aim for the leg. Let me know how it goes…
Shooting the knife out of his hand is infeasible. A shoulder shot or leg shot — at that distance — by someone properly trained — it completely feasible. (Maybe not every shot: but given decent clustering, one or two out of three shots would have rendered the shoulder inoperable.) I have limited training with firearms — but my limited, civilian training has given me a sense that if it was my **job** to have that level of proficiency, then I could do it. But again, “precision with a firearm under stressful situations” is not one of the requirements of my profession. But, for a police officer, it is.
(Side note: I no longer have conversational access to police officers. But when I used to teach Criminology, I’ve had conversations of this nature with active LEOs. My impression is that they feel that they aren’t given enough time and support to train — but that proficiency of this level is perfectly achievable **if** it was supported by the brass — and that they would **love** to have the opportunity to train to this level.)
> Even if you do manage to get this proficiency at hitting the leg every time,
> how does that guarantee stopping the attacker at that distance? Just
> because you shoot him in the leg, doesn’t mean he can’t stab or cut you
> Watch the Dan Inosanto video again, see how quickly he closes the
That’s a good point. However,Dan Inosanto would not have closed the distance with the same speed if the officer had shot out his knee **prior** to the distance being closed.
The leg shot isn’t necessarily to **stop** the attacker: impeding mobility would be an acceptable “consolation prize”.
In other words, the situation **could have** played out as: shoot him in the **leg** (there was sufficient distance; the suspect is NOT YET attacking); suspect either (a) collapses onto the floor, or (b) charges (at greatly reduced speed) and the officer AT THAT POINT resorts to chest shots.
> It’s his responsibility if the guy goes through him because he refused to use
> lethal force. Whoever the guy kills afterwards would be on the officer…
The issue is not that the officer refused to use lethal force. The issue is that the judgement was premature — particularly since backup was on the way, and other options were available.
SUMMARY: The officer did what he thought best at the time. However, better training and better equipment (they don’t issue Tasers???) would have avoided an unnecessary loss of life. Taking a human life is a big, big deal. Alternatives — without losing one’s own — would be preferred.
Yes, this is an “armchair quarterback” assessment. On the other hand, if a “civillian” can find holes in the scenario within a few hours of thought, then surely those whose job it is to analyze situations such as these would have spotted the same shortcomings in similar situations during their professional lives, noted them, and incorporated them into training.
Additional note: in the video: “Knife attack, one man stabs multiple cops” — The cops were lacking in training. At 7:29 — the cop steps backwards and trips: he has a baton but doesn’t know how to use it; why did he not have baton/Escrima training? At 7:33-7:34, the attacker is all over the downed cop, and the cop’s buddy (to the right hangs back **until** the attacker runs away from him — and **then** follows. A nightstick to the back of the attacker’s head, while the attacker was distracted, would have stunned (or killed?) the attacker. Better yet, **all** the cops rushing the attacker. No one wanted to save their downed comrade? Everyone was frozen in horror? Training, training, training.
Thanks for the feedback. I’ll respond later because I don’t have a lot of time now but before I do, could you answer this for me:
– Are you a LEO?
– Have you ever shot at a human being in self-defense?
Gye Greene says
Heh! Yep, I’ve been busy as well.
Nope, not in law enforcement. Nope, never shot at a human being in self defense — but again, that isn’t my job, so I’ve not received training, participated in scenarios and simulations, nor received information on departmental policies and practice in that regard.
OTOH — I reject the premise that an intelligent, analytic person has **no** insights into a situation involving professionals. Particularly among regular readers of your blog: presumably (by definition) readers of your blog have at least a moderate level of interest in self-defense/martial arts — and therefore body mechanics, distancing, and the like.
What I attempted to do was break down my points into logical, emprically-testable components. For example, someone which ready access to a paintball gun could re-enact that scene, and determine how many shots it would be reasonable to get off if someone of that body mass charged from a standing start. Medical literature would indicate how long a person would reasonably expected to remain conscious with a non-functioning heart (e.g. information on heart attacks?). And a LEO could provide insights as to their department’s policy on stalling versus forcing a situation — particularly when civilians are (presumably) out of the way, and backup is **known** to be on its way (although with no declared ETA, as far as the video showed).
No need to reply, though: I just wanted to put my thoughts out there, adjoining the video clip you posted.
“I reject the premise that an intelligent, analytic person has **no** insights into a situation involving professionals.”
“What I attempted to do was break down my points into logical, emprically-testable components. ”
I’m not saying that you don’t have any insights or that it’s impossible to have any as a layperson. My point is that not being a LEO, there are certain things you can’t know or understand. Same for any profession really. You obviously have the right to your opinion but that doesn’t make it right, nor qualified. Not trashing you here, the same goes for me or anybody else who isn’t a LEO. E.g.: I’m interested in medicine. I read a lot of blogs and do some training but I’m no MD. Who’s word do you value more when your life is at stake: mine or the guy with the MD diploma on his wall? Would you let me perform surgery on you?
The same goes for your second sentence. you claim logic and testable components. Makes sense, but which ones do you pick? How do you know they are the most important ones? Are you sure you aren’t forgetting components? Ones you haven’t even heard about but every experienced officers knows?
Case in point: Civilians go apeshit when they (in certain situations, not always) see a LEO fighting and hitting a guy when he’s already on the ground on his belly and it doesn’t look like he’s resitting. They literally lose their minds and yell “police brutality” at the top of their lungs and *demand* a lawsuit.
The thing they don’t see, and if they do, don’t understand the significance off, is that the person is keeping his hands under his stomach. Getting somebody’s arms behind his back as he does so and locks up his body is *very* difficult. It can easily take two officers to get the job done.
Here’s the thing: statistically, there is a large chance that if the person is hiding a weapon, it is located at the front of his body. If he intends to deploy it against the officer(s), he will be able to kill them if they don’t control him before hand.
Sounds crazy? It isn’t. I just read about a research group that studied this problem. Through experimentation and testing they found that a person in that prone position can turn around and perform a lethal attack with a knife or firearm in *a third of a second*. That time frame means that even if the officer has his firearm drawn and aimed at the brain-stem of the person, with his finger on the trigger, he *still* might be too late to shoot before he is mortally wounded. If he’s all alone (or even with a partner), fighting to get an arm free from under the guy’s belly, he’s dead if there’s a sudden attack.
Most people don’t know this, but all officers do. They only see the officers apparently being rough with the guy on the ground. But they never saw the footage officers get to study at the academy, that of officers failing to follow procedures and being stabbed and shot or beaten to death because of it.
That said: this is one little factoid, one aspect of the cuffing procedure. The cuffing procedure is one of many officers learn and have to perform a certain way. There are hundreds of other tidbits of information you might not know about either. Each and every one of those can totally change the equation of the analysis you want to make. So if you want to use logic and piece together the components, you need to know which ones are important and which aren’t. Unless you are a LEO, I don’t think you can. Just like we can’t do it for a surgery that goes wrong, unless we also have a medical degree.
A sound logical process can still lead to erroneous conclusions if the original elements of the process are either incorrect or incomplete.
I don’t write this to insult you. I just very strongly disagree with what you wrote and try to explain why. What I can offer is this; you wrote: “In other words, the situation **could have** played out as: shoot him in the **leg** (there was sufficient distance; the suspect is NOT YET attacking); suspect either (a) collapses onto the floor, or (b) charges (at greatly reduced speed) and the officer AT THAT POINT resorts to chest shots.”
I would suggest you go talk to a couple officers who have had to use lethal force in their career and show them this video. Then, let them read your comments here and ask for brutal feedback. Ask them if your theory of the leg shot first would be a good tactic here. See what they say.
For the record: I have tons of LEO and military friends. Many of them visit my blog. Some post comments (with or without mentioning their profession), others contact me personally over certain posts. Every now and then, we discuss things privately when they disagree with my conclusions or thought process. It happens, no big deal. I defer to their expertise and knowledge and am glad to have learned something.
Gye Greene says
Good info, good feedback — thanks!
Good point about the “inside tips”.
I am honestly curious about the “escalating the situation” versus “stalling/waiting approach”. Have LEOs only been trained to bring things to a swift conclusion, such that putting a situation on hold until (imminent!) backup arrives doesn’t even occur to them? And on a similar note, if an experienced LEO could view that video and say (at least based on the situation as presented) either “Yes, now that you mention it, just stepping away would have worked well” or “No, stepping away would not have worked.” Again, I’m not blaming the cop — if anything, I’m questioning why his training (apparently) didn’t include breaking engagement and re-grouping.
I’m also curious why he didn’t have a taser, and give that a try first: it would be a trade-off of one-handed shooting, of course. (Although **that** raises the question: do cops train to shoot one-handed, including with their non-dominant hand? And if not, **should** they? If they only practice with two-handed grip, what happens if they’re called upon to fire, but one hand is injured (or one arm is incapacitated)?)
If any of your LEO friends are willing to comment on those specific points, that would be swell. If not (e.g. if replying to ignorant civilians would just annoy them (fair enough!), that’s fine.
re: “not being a doctor”, etc. — that’s a good point — but it’s easier to see what’s **wrong** than to actually do it correctly yourself (of course…). So, for example, even though you’re not a doctor: if your wife is having a C-section; the surgeon sneezes into her open abdominal cavity, scratches his butt, and then sews her up — and she then later she develops a massive infection — anyone with a sense of germ theory would have a sense of what might have caused the infection.
So, to view the video, and say (from the comfort of my own home) “Oh, he should have done ‘X’.” is easy to say. But the bigger issue is (1) **Was** that a legitimate option (even if it wasn’t thought of at the time), and (2) If it **was** an option, should similar situations be included in simulation training — to try out the parameters in non-real settings, and therefore **make** it an option in future, similar encounters?
Again, if it would simply annoy your LEO friends to engage with such ignorance as mine — I totally understand. :)
Two quick points:
1) It’s not up to me. They decide if they engage you or not. That said, officers often refrain from commenting online for a bunch of reasons. I suggest you look up LEOs in your neck of the woods and just talk to them about all this.
2) Re. The MD sneezing. I get your point but I think you’re not getting mine. Eg: I once witnessed a plastic surgeon performing a procedure on a very obese woman. Part of the surgery was removing excess skin/fat and then sowing together the gaping hole. Did he make a clean cut with a scalpel to remove that tissue? No. He made one cut, grabbed the skin and tore it off with his hands. Some people almost fainted when he did that, it looked horrible. Anyone with a sense of logic would think making clean cuts with a scalpel would be a whole lot more precise and less dangerous, right? Turns out it isn’t. Turns out that ripping leaves better edges to sow it all up and leaves less scar tissue. It’s easy to see that as “wrong”, but it isn’t. You just think it is.
My point is that you are not qualified to *always* trust your assumptions on something you have no expertise in. Doesn’t mean you will be wrong per definition, neither does it mean the professional is always right or doesn’t make mistakes. But you seem to be looking for a way to validate your opinion at all cost, regardless the reasons I give not to do so. That is of course your right, I just disagree with the premise. Simply having an opinion doesn’t make it accurate. Nor are all opinions as valid as others. I’ll take Mike Tyson’s opinion on boxing over any karate black belt’s opinion on it. Even though they both punch with closed fists. Similarities vs. differences, as I’ve harped about ad nauseam here.
Gye Greene says
Great example re: the surgeon tearing the skin. (Yep — skin has faultlines.)
Charles James says
The officer impressed me with his control during the entire incident.
Thanks for this post, really interesting points and comments. I have worked with people who enage in crime, might have emotional issues and get angry sometimes. From my persective this footage illustrates why the police arent always the best people to deal with these kinds of situations, even very competent police such as the one dealing with this problem. A better response might have been to have made sure everyone else was out of the house (its not clear if this was the case) and then to have sat back and let the situation cool down. If they feared for the young man’s safety, they could have sent someone in (perhaps we need a new type of personnel) who is used to dealing with emotional people and who wouldnt exacerbate the situation by yelling and pointing a gun. If the situation had cooled down, the young man could have been brought out. If it hadnt cooled down, the police would be outside waiting should the situation escalate of its own accord and could have dealt with it accordingly. Angry emotional people really do not benefit from having guns pointed at them, but a gentle, sympathetic approach can be hugely powerful, and I know many courageous people who would be prepared (and who do) to risk their own life to deal with these situations – including but not just the police.
Just a quick response to some of your points:
– You propose sending in somebody else. If not the police then who else? LEOs have the legal authority to act in these situations, civilians do not. They also have the authority and the training to act when things go wrong. So your new kind of person would need to have the same, or he would be rolling the dice with his life at each intervention. So in effect, there would be little difference between him and a regular LEO.
– You suggest first making sure the house was empty. From what we can see, that was exactly what the officer was doing (amongst other things). but as soon as he came into contact with the guy, there was no safe other alternative but to do what he did.
– You seem to claim that LEOs aren’t used to dealing with emotional people. I would suggest you do a ride along one time and see just how untrue this is. Most of the time when they take a call, the situation involves emotional people. They have both the training and experience to do so. Doesn’t mean they are perfect, nobody is. But to say they don’t know how to handle emotional people is IMHO, barring exceptions, not accurate.
– With hindsight, it’s easy to analyze the situation but at the moment itself, it is not. The officers responding to the call know zip about what’s going on. Whatever the girl says about the guy in the house, the house being empty, etc. they can’t assume she’s correct. Simply stated: people lie and omit facts that are critical to resolve the situation. They do so on purpose or by accident. It happens.
– Another issue is this: until they go inside, they don’t know what’s going on. The girl has called them in. She claims the man *might* hurt himself with a knife. All the LEOs know is that he probably has a knife. But he might also have a firearm. Or he might be holding a shotgun. If the officer would have gone in without his firearm at the ready, he could have been shot as he entered. Or not. Who knows? Which is the whole point. At the time of entering the house, all he knows is that there is probably somebody inside who is armed with a deadly weapon. The intentions of that man are not clear. No matter what the girl says, the officer has no way of knowing if she’s right, lying or simply mistaking. Or if the situation has escalated outside of the girl’s knowledge by the time they got there.
– Angry emotional people react in a wild range of ways. Some you can talk down by placating them, others are merely set off by such behavior. Still others look to be complying and then explode. There’s a buffet of possibilities and no guarantees. Just because they sometimes react well to a gentle approach, doesn’t mean they always will. Pars pro toto. If it’s a case where they won’t, not having his firearm ready could mean the death of the officer. So unless he can predict the future and know exactly how the man will react, the officer is better to have his weapon ready. Unless you think it is better for him to gamble his life on the guess that the guy can be talked down. Which would imply that it’s not OK for a civilian to die but it is OK for a LEO to die.
– As for waiting it out: I don’t know what the procedures and guidelines are in the area where this happened. That said, these exist and determine the course of action the LEOs have to take. IMO, the officer couldn’t have acted otherwise, because the guy forced his hand in the first couple seconds of the officer spotting him. See my next point.
– Another point: the guy started advancing after about 9 seconds from the time of the officer seeing him and ordering to drop the knife. Slowly perhaps, but he was advancing and ignoring the order to drop the weapon. Understand that it is much easier to hide movement with movement than doing so from stillness. Meaning, it is easier for the guy to rush the officer as he’s already advancing than were he to try it from a stationary position. So as soon as he advanced *and* refused to drop the knife, the officer was correct in assuming his life was in danger. Along with everybody else’s if the guy got past him and out the door. Bear in mind that it is not uncommon for people to get shot and not simply drop to the floor. There are numerous cases in which people got shot and still managed to stab/slash and injure/kill the person with the firearm. If you watch the video closely, you’ll see the officer doesn’t move as he spots the guy at first and orders him to drop the knife. This lasts only a few seconds. As soon as the guy advances, the officer starts stepping back to create distance. But at the end, the guy is ignoring the repeated commands to drop the knife, still advancing and (as far as I can see, but it’s a bit hazy) brandishing the knife. At that point, the officer has little choice but to conclude the guy has the intent to use the knife. It’s the officer’s responsibility to stop him from doing so.
I understand your point and in a perfect world, I would agree with you. But alas, our world is anything but perfect. When violence, especially potentially lethal violence, is concerned, there often aren’t any good solutions. Only degrees of bad ones.
Rick Roberts says
What is “overkill” anyway?
The question is not how many rounds were fired, but was the first one justified?
And it is a fact of ballistics that the 9mm carried by policemen has much less momentum than the .38 revolvers they carried. (The .38s to which I am referring are the .38+P loads.)
The military went to the .45 auto because the Filipino counter-insurgents at the time, late 1800’s, were often on drugs and alcohol and the sidearms at the time simply would not stop them.
It is interesting to note that the USMC is about to recall their 9mm and begin issuing a newly updated .45 auto.
The moral of the story is that against a determined suspect, who is likely on drugs, the firearms that most policemen carry can be inadequate.
True. Most people go nuts though, when they see an officer fire multiple shots to stop a threat. They mainly get their firearms information from Hollywood. That’s why I pointed it out.
Gye Greene says
**Somewhere** I was told that as a law-enforcement officer, once you’ve made the decison to shoot to kill, you shoot three (or five? — it’s been a while) rounds in a row, to ensure that you succeed in your objective.
As opposed to “shoot once; wait for the outcome; shoot again;wait…” That just wouldn’t make sense.
I think situations like these are allways hard.
When the cop underestimates the situation people can get killed.
The second video is a sad example of underestimating the situation. And it clearly shows what one dedicated man person wit a knife can inflict.
A few thoughts on the first video:
1 The cop chooses to approach the person all by himself.
Why not wait for backup???
2 The cop approached the person in a tight room without a immediate exit to quickly retreat or flee the scene.
Why did he put himself allone in a possible life or death situation??
3 Despite that the suspect moves slow and confused the cop does not fire a single warning shot, he could have put one in the floor while the guy stood up.
4 Notice that the suspect does not rush him or acts agressive, or anything like Dan Inosanto.
For all we know the guy was suffering from severe side effects of cocain and was bussy cutting out the invisible bugs crawling underneath his skin!!!!!!!!!!
In this state he might have not understood the commands of the officer or just saw him as a blur making sounds. He might have even thought the officer told him to bring the knife to him……… we will never know.
5 There are non lethal ways of taking out a confused man wit a edged weapon.
We clearly see that in this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QtRgweQxXi8
6 Some people mention that the officers are trained to aim for center mass, however SHOULD the officers not also be able to deal wit threatening situations in a non lethal way???
-Shooting in the knees of a slowly walking attacker….. again he does not rush the officer.
-Use a tasser.
-Do a tactical retreat to bring in back up and use a more coordinated (non lethal) group attack on the suspect (like in the video wit the swordsman).
I understand that this can be a verry threatening situation. However if a confused man has a knife that does not automatically mean he wil attack people.
We will never know what was the reason of his behavior, and if he even understood a word of what the officer said to him…….
Take a look at the other comments here, they address several of your questions. Beyond that, I would very much advise you to show this video to a police officer and then ask him those questions. The replies might surprise you…