Posts

Police officers are not trained to shoot to kill, nor do they shoot to wound. Again, officers are not taught to kill. I know, the recent death of George Floyd was extremely disturbing, but the actions of the officers involved are NOT the result of police training. I’m fairly confident that their actions, for whatever reasons, were not taught in any U.S. police academy. Nor were they necessary, proper, or even humane. But more on this in tomorrow’s article.

For now, let’s dive into another topic that, too, is often confusing to some people. And I understand how and why the subject matter is a bit perplexing so I’ll try my best to clarify. The topic … do police officers shoot to kill, or do they shoot to wound?

While we’re at it, we’ll also address the questions and statements we all see time and time again, most typically during the aftermath of police-involved shootings.

“Why didn’t he shoot the gun from the bad guy’s hand?”

“Shoot the bastard in the shoulder. Cain’t shoot anybody when his shoulder’s all shot up.”

Or, “Shoot ’em in the leg. That’ll stop ’em.”

Police officers are trained to stop a threat to human life

U.S. police officers are not soldiers and criminals are not enemy combatants. Contrary to the beliefs of some, U.S. streets are not battlefields where cops shoot first and ask questions later. It cannot and does not work that way. Yes, the current rioting and mob violence (not the peaceful protests), unfortunately requires a heavier than usual approach, but this is not the norm. Still, police are not taught to kill anyone.

In a perfect world there would be no crime and we’d all be safe, all the time. But our world is FAR from perfect; therefore, cops are tasked with arresting those who break the law. They don’t make the laws, just enforce them.

Unfortunately, some bad guys choose to not be arrested and will do whatever it takes to remain free, including trying to kill police officers. They may also choose to seriously harm or kill others during the commission of their crime(s). These two scenarios are the cause of officers having to use deadly force to stop the threat to the lives of others, and to themselves.

Back to the earlier statements—police officers are not taught to kill anyone, nor are they taught to “wound” anyone. Officers do not aim for hands, feet, knees, firearms, knives, etc. Instead, during a deadly force confrontation—when lives are at stake—officers are taught to shoot center mass, meaning the center of their intended target. If all they see is the suspect’s head, then that is their target. If they see the entire body they then aim for its center (center mass).

Center Mass

Why aim for center mass? Common sense answer – because it is the largest available target, which makes it the easiest area to hit when under extreme duress during an incident that sometimes happens within a fraction of a second.

The reason behind not shooting to wound is pretty simple, actually, and here’s why. Most police officers are not skilled award-winning sharpshooters. Not even close. To expect them, or anyone, to hit a fast-moving target, such as an arm or leg, while under duress, is unrealistic. Hands and arms can move across the body as quickly as 12/100th of a second. From hip to shoulder in 18/100th of a second. The time it takes a police officer to pull the trigger on one of the faster reacting trigger pulls, that of the Glock, is a slow 1/4 of a second. And that’s if the officer has already drawn his/her sidearm and has it pointed at the suspect.

It’s nothing short of impossible for an officer to see the threat, react appropriately, unsnap the holster, perform the required series of motions to free her weapon from the security holster (I’ll bet many of you didn’t know there was a combination/series of actions required to remove an officer’s pistol from a security-type holster), think about what she’s doing, decide whether or not the threat is real and, if so, pull the trigger. Oh yeah, she’d also have to take time to aim for the smaller targets—arms, hands, or legs. Impossible. No way. No how. Can’t and won’t happen, not even on her/his best day.

Another point to remember regarding how quickly shooting situations unfold. In many, many instances, there is not a single portion of a second to spare, including enough time to shout, “Drop your weapon!” Or even to yell, “Stop!” 

Here’s a video of an actual shooting scenario that occurred during a traffic stop. Watch how quickly the shooting unfolds.

Then there’s this. Suppose an officer is engaged in an intense shootout, and they are intense, believe me (been there, done that), and while returning fire as bullets zing and zip past, they somehow miraculously hit the suspect’s arm, or hand, or foot? Some people believe that once a person is shot they automatically drop to the ground and surrender. This is NOT always the case.

I’ve seen bad guys continue shooting after being struck by several rounds. Actually, I was in a shooting situation where the bad guy continued to shoot after having been shot in the head once and in the center of his chest four times. Even then he hopped up and ran several yards. I was there. I saw it with my own eyes. In fact, I was the detective who’d shot him. I was also the detective who ran him down and tackled him. So being wounded, even severely wounded, does not necessarily stop a threat to human life.

Besides, a shot to the arm leaves the suspect’s free hand to continue his attempt to kill the officer or other potential targets, such as a wife, husband, a bank teller, a child, and, well, you get the idea. A shot in the leg leaves both hands free to continue firing at officers. Wounding someone, hoping that’ll stop them from killing is stuff you see on TV. It’s just not that way in real life situations.

In addition, a bullet wound to the leg can be just as deadly as one to the chest. A shot that severs a femoral artery could cause the person to bleed death within a matter of a couple of minutes, or less.

Stop the threat. That’s the intended outcome of the use of deadly force.

Now, back to shooting to kill. I’m not aware of any police agency in the U.S. that teaches/trains officers to kill. Not one. Besides, how many sane people would sign on with an agency if they were told they must kill people as part of their daily duties—write speeding ticket, respond to kids playing in traffic, kill the guy standing in front of the Piggly Wiggly, go on lunch break.

During a shooting situation, officers typically do not have time to aim. Instead, they revert to their training—draw, point, and shoot for the center of the target.

Shootings involving police officers most often happen in a matter of seconds or less, and usually at very short distances—a mere few feet. In fact, these close-range situations occur so often that officers train quite a bit at shooting from short distances, without taking aim. They’re taught to draw and point their weapon at the center of the target, or as close as they can get to the center.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Again, even at greater distances, there’s still no time to stop, take a proper stance, draw a weapon, take careful aim, ask the offender to stand still so the officer won’t miss and hit an innocent bystander, and then fire. So officers shoot for center mass, the largest portion of the body they see. That’s it. Nothing more, and nothing less.

Keep this in mind. Rounds that strike center mass could certainly cause the death of the suspect, but death is not the intended outcome. The goal is to stop the threat and to do so the greatest chance of hitting the target is to aim for the largest portion (center of the torso). If a bad guy surrenders the moment he sees that the officer has drawn their weapon and fully intends to use it, the threat is then over and the officer must switch fro ma deadly force situation to one taking the suspect into custody. That’s always the goal, to make the arrest, not to take a life.

Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious

There it is, the word sung by Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke in the movie “Mary Poppins.” Now, say it out loud. Or, if you prefer, say it in reverse – dociousaliexpilisticfragicalirupes. Either way, it takes us somewhere between one and two seconds for it to roll off our tongues, give or take a tenth of a second or two. That’s pretty quick, yes?

I suppose I could stop here and let you go about the remainder of your day with this ear worm digging its way into your brain:

It’s supercalifragilisticexpialidocious

Even though the sound of it is something quite atrocious

If you say it loud enough, you’ll always sound precocious

Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious

Um diddle, diddle diddle, um diddle ay

Um diddle, diddle diddle, um diddle ay

Um diddle, diddle diddle, um diddle ay

Um diddle, diddle diddle, um diddle ay…

But let’s stick with the time it takes to say that word. For me it’s somewhere between 1.01 seconds and 1.22 seconds, depending upon how quickly I start after clicking the button on the stopwatch.

Now, imagine that you’re a police officer who’s responded to a call where a suspect used a baseball bat to beat his spouse and children. You arrive at the scene and hear yelling, screams, and children crying from inside the home. You knock. No answer. Still more screaming. You force open the door and rush inside where you’re immediately faced with a man pointing a handgun at a badly battered woman. He begins to turn toward you. How do you respond to the threat, and how long does it take to do so?

Well, your body and brain must first of all figure out what’s going on (perception). Then the brain instructs the body to stand by while it analyzes the scenario (okay, he has a gun and I think I’m about to be shot). Next, while the body is still on hold, the brain begins to formulate a plan (I’ve got to do something, and I’d better do it asap). Finally, the brain pokes the body and tells it to go for what it was trained to do—draw pistol, point the business end of it at the threat, insert finger into trigger guard, squeeze trigger.

To give you an idea as to how long it takes a trained police officer to accomplish those steps, let’s revisit Mary Poppins and Bert the chimney sweep, and that wacky word supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. Remember, it takes us a little over one second to say the entire word. Try it. You’ll see.

New Picture (3)

To put this scenario into perspective, a police officer’s quickest reaction time (based on a study of 46 trained officers), when they already know the threat is there, AND, with their finger already on the trigger, is 0.365 seconds. That’s far less than half the very brief time it takes Bert to sing that famous word, and certainly not enough time to stop, draw a weapon from its holster, take aim, yell a bunch of commands, check for passersby, look for accomplices, and, well, you get the idea.

So, when confronted with a potential deadly force situation, officers must perceive/identify the threat, evaluate the situation, develop a plan of action, and then set that plan in motion, and they must do so in the time it takes to say “supercali.” Not even the entire word—about the time it takes to blink.

Go ahead, try it. Blink one time and then think about all the cool things you could accomplish during the time it took to quickly close and open your eyes.

Blink.

During a traffic stop in Arkansas, a passenger in a vehicle shot at officers, killing one. The man fired the first round at the face of one officer. That shot occurred in less than supercali. Actually, it was more like, su-BANG!

The suspect then continued to fire at the other officers on scene, shooting several rounds during our imaginary supercalifragilisticexpialidocious timeframe. The officers were not able to return fire.

How about you? Are you able to make extremely complex decisions in less than a second? How about decisions that involve life or death?

Blink. A suspect just fired a round at you.

I dare say that many of us can’t decide what to select from a fast food menu within that scant time frame.

Blink. Round number two. Have you managed to draw your pistol yet?

Sure, it’s super easy to look back at deadly force incidents and offer opinions as to how they should, or should not have been handled. But only the people who were there at the precise moment the trigger was pulled know the real story. They alone know how they perceived and reacted to the threat to them and/or others.

Again, officers often have less than a second to react, and a lifetime to deal with the decision, if the officer survives the encounter.

SU …

Screen Shot 2016-06-22 at 11.34.57 PM


Tomorrow, more about the arrest of former police officer Darek Chauvin. We’ll also discuss the cause(s) of George Floyd’s death, and that a second video confirmed my early predictions.


By the way, our internet is finally back in service. For a solid week, Verizon worked on the lines in front of neighbor’s home. He’d called to report his service was out and they eventually arrived a couple of days later. Once they’d repaired whatever was wrong with the neighbor’s line they packed up and left. Within an hour of the line of five trucks leaving, our internet shut down.

After several calls and online chat sessions with support, rebooting, testing lines and devices, they finally answered my pleas to have someone come out … three days later.

Of course, I’d already told them about the earlier work in the neighborhood, but they dismissed my theory that the crew did something to cause our outage. Instead, they insisted that something was wrong inside our house, and they went through a checklist – kids playing, and breaking the equipment, dogs or cats or mice or hamsters or lions or tigers or bears possibly chewing through a line? Is your power on? Did you unplug the router and forget to plug it back into the receptacle? Etc. I explained to the man that we have no kids living with us. We have no pets. There had been no power outages. Mice understand that to enter our home is to die. So they remain outdoors along with the lions, tigers, and bears.

So a tech showed up Sunday morning at 9 a.m. He checked the equipment mounted to the outside of our house and says to me, “There’s no service coming to your device.” The thought that went through my mind was … Well, duh.

So off he goes out to the street where, from inside his truck, he begins to glance up to the tops of telephone poles, one after the next. He did this for nearly an hour. Then he returns to the pole in front of my neighbor’s house, the place where the crew had perched for a week while working on the lines. The pole that I’d said over and over was most likely where they’d find the trouble. It was self-inflicted, I’d said. Thy caused a problem where no problem existed..

The tech called me to say a part was missing from one of the boxes at the top of that pole. Of course, he didn’t have the part with him, which meant that a different crew member/technician would need to come out to replace the missing do-dad. But he couldn’t do the work that day. Instead, he would come the next afternoon.

Anyway, on the forth day there was internet, and the world was once again whole.

Oh, and a new water heater was installed an hour or so prior to the return of Verizon service. Yep, the old one conked out the morning of the day the Verizon service shut down. It was that kind of weekend.


As always … Please, no politics, religion, gun rights or wrongs, or other hot button topics/comments. This blog is strictly for delivering fact. If, on the rare occasion I decide to offer an opinion I make sure that it’s clearly stated that I’ve done a dumb thing by swerving to the outside edge of where fact meets opinion.

This article is not one of those times. Nor is it any attempt to poke a stick into Joe Biden’s eye for his recent comment about training officers to shoot bad guys in the leg instead of center mass. However, the former vice president’s comment was indeed the prompt for today’s information. I wanted to let you know some of the the reasons why officers are not trained to shoot arms and legs. The simple answer is that doing so could be a death sentence for the officer.

Anyone who’s attended the Writers’ Police Academy’s firearms simulation training knows how quickly deadly situations erupt, and that many times there’s barely time to think or blink before the bad guy fires off a round in your direction. There is no time to take aim, particularly at a moving leg or arm.

Finally, speaking of the Writers’ Police Academy, there’s still time to sign up for a spot at MurderCon!

 

The recent officer-involved shooting of Rayshard Brooks by Atlanta police officer Garrett Rolfe has ignited another flame in the fervent calls against police brutality and reform.

At the heart of the situation is the use of the well-known electric control device (ECD) known as TASER.

It was during the arrest of Mr. Brooks for DUI when he decided to escape custody by struggling with the two officers at the scene, Garrett Rolfe and Devin Brosnan. During Brooks’ violent attempt to flee, he and the two officers fell to the ground where the struggle continued. Brooks was able to overpower the officers and even punched one of the officers in the face.

Brosnan, who was the first officer to respond, attempted to use a TASER on Brooks in an attempt to gain control. This was a justifiable action by Bronson, to use a level of force that was necessary to overcome Brooks’ physical resistance to arrest. But Brooks gained control of Brosnan’s TASER, taking it from him before fleeing on foot.

How much force is reasonable?

Law enforcement officers should use only the amount of force necessary to gain control of an incident, to make an arrest, or protect themselves or others from injury. But they should always use the amount of force necessary to make the arrest. Nothing more and nothing less. In most cases, though, this amounts to nothing more than an officer asking or telling a subject to place their hands behind their back for handcuffing.

The levels of force police use include basic verbal commands, physical restraint which sometimes involve pain compliance techniques/tactics, TASERS, pepper spray, beanbag rounds, pepper spray, batons, etc. And lastly, lethal force when there’s threat of death or serious bodily harm to the officers or others.

Was the Rayshard Brooks incident similar to that of George Floyd?

The Brooks incident was wholly different than what occurred in the George Floyd case. We saw no resistance from Floyd during the time Chauvin and  other officers applied pressure to his body, slowly draining the life from Floyd as the world watched precious seconds tick by.

In the Atlanta case, Brooks absolutely physically resisted a lawful arrest, assaulted an officer, and then forcibly took/stole Bronson’s TASER, and fled. Then, during a brief foot pursuit Brooks turned slightly toward Officer Garrett Rolfe and pointed and fired the stolen TASER at the officer.

A Deadly Weapon?

There’s a debate about whether or not a TASER is a deadly weapon and, if not, was the officer justified in shooting Brooks. On the other hand, if a TASER is indeed a deadly weapon as some are saying, then obviously the use of deadly force against Brooks, or anyone, fits the criteria and is justified.

Earlier this month, Fulton County, Georgia  District Attorney Paul Howard charged six Atlanta police officers with using excessive force in pulling two college students out of a car during a protest. When announcing charges against some of the officers, Howard said a Taser is considered a deadly weapon under Georgia law. Here he is, on video, making the statement during a press conference earlier this month. He made the statement when announcing that he was charging police officers with using excessive force when using  a TASER while arresting college students during a protest.

However, in the Brooks case, just a few days after incident with the college students, DA Howard had apparently decided that a TASER is not a deadly weapon when it is forcibly stolen from a police officer and then deployed against another police officer. He charged Rolfe with felony murder.

By the way, to take something from someone by force or intimidation is considered robbery, a felony.

Either way, there’s a wrinkle in the case and that’s that Officer Rolfe shot Brooks in the back. But there are details that are extremely important. Such as …

The incident was caught on video and we clearly see Rolfe chasing behind Brooks. Each of the two men are clutching a TASER in their right hands. Keep in mind that this all occurred within mere seconds.

While fleeing from the officers, with the stolen TASER in his right hand, Brooks turned/twisted his upper body slightly to his right, looking back over his shoulder toward Rolfe. He aimed the TASER at Rolfe as a portion of his back is visible to Rolfe. His hips and legs still faced forward and he’s still running away from the officers.

Still running away from the officers, with Rolfe in somewhat close pursuit, Brooks fired the TASER at Rolfe. As the weapon was deployed it emitted a brilliant flash of light that’s quite similar to a muzzle flash of a handgun that can be clearly seen, especially so at night. It’s similar to a camera flash that hinders vision for a moment or two. It’s a quick burst of bright light.

 

After discharging the TASER Brooks continued his escape from custody.

 

At the time Brooks fired the TASER setting off the flash of bright light, Rolfe tossed his TASER and drew his service weapon. He then fired three rounds at Brooks.

Many say that shooting someone in the back is illegal. Well, it depends on the circumstances and, in a nutshell, it boils down to whether the officer reasonably believed at the point he pulled the trigger, that the use of deadly force was needed in order to prevent great bodily injury to himself or to others. Not a second before the trigger is pulled, but at that precise moment.

In that precise moment when an officer must make the “blink of an eye” decision as to whether or not someone’s life is in danger, including their own, if they should return fire, are there bystanders, is a dangerous criminal going to escape and go on to harm someone else, is the fleeing subject wanted for a serious offense (why else would they have assaulted two officers and then fled the scene), and, and, what-if, what-if. This, all within the blink of an eye.

Remember, a police officer’s quickest reaction time (based on a study of 46 trained officers), when they already know the threat is there, AND, with their finger already on the trigger, is 0.365 seconds. That’s certainly not enough time to take aim, yell a bunch of commands, check for passersby, look for accomplices, and, well, you get the idea.

To add to the zillion thoughts to process, this is what the officer sees and to what they must react. You tell me, is this fleeing person firing a handgun or a TASER? The flash from either could easily prevent any reasonable person from taking the distinction, especially during a highly stressful situation. It’s even more difficult to process when the incident occurs at night.

And, the image above clearly shows how and why sometimes fleeing criminals wind up with bullet wounds to the back.


For your information, and to help you better understand the charges brought against the former officers involved in the shooting death of Rayshard Brooks, here are a few applicable Georgia criminal code sections.

Actually, I’m not at all certain that Georgia law supports the charges.

Officer Rolfe was charged with felony murder for shooting Brooks. This is a crime where the deliberate intention to kill must be present. Or, if the person is actively involved in the commission of felony when a person is killed, such as when a bank robber accidentally fires a weapon inside the bank and the round strikes a teller and he dies. That’s felony murder. Plotting to kill someone and you do. That’s felony murder. Beating an elderly woman to death because she wouldn’t smile at you. That’s felony murder.

This case doesn’t meet those requirements. The DA may have slightly overcharged. Perhaps he should have waited until the investigation had concluded and perhaps he should have consulted with the state investigators before charging Rolfe and Bronson. That’s typically how it works.

In Georgia, felony murder is:

ARTICLE 1 – HOMICIDE
§ 16-5-1 – Murder; felony murder

O.C.G.A. 16-5-1 (2010)
16-5-1. Murder; felony murder

(a) A person commits the offense of murder when he unlawfully and with malice aforethought, either express or implied, causes the death of another human being.

(b) Express malice is that deliberate intention unlawfully to take the life of another human being which is manifested by external circumstances capable of proof. Malice shall be implied where no considerable provocation appears and where all the circumstances of the killing show an abandoned and malignant heart.

(c) A person also commits the offense of murder when, in the commission of a felony, he causes the death of another human being irrespective of malice.

(d) A person convicted of the offense of murder shall be punished by death, by imprisonment for life without parole, or by imprisonment for life.


Georgia Code Title 16. Crimes and Offenses § 16-10-33

(a) For the purposes of this Code section, the term “firearm” shall include stun guns and tasers. A stun gun or taser is any device that is powered by electrical charging units such as batteries and emits an electrical charge in excess of 20,000 volts or is otherwise capable of incapacitating a person by an electrical charge.

(b) It shall be unlawful for any person knowingly to remove or attempt to remove a firearm, chemical spray, or baton from the possession of another person if:

(1) The other person is lawfully acting within the course and scope of employment;  and

(2) The person has knowledge or reason to know that the other person is employed as:

(A) A peace officer as defined in paragraph (8) of Code Section 35-8-2 ;


Georgia Code Title 16. Crimes and Offenses § 16-11-106

(a) For the purposes of this Code section, the term “firearm” shall include stun guns and tasers. A stun gun or taser is any device that is powered by electrical charging units such as batteries and emits an electrical charge in excess of 20,000 volts or is otherwise capable of incapacitating a person by an electrical charge.

(b) Any person who shall have on or within arm’s reach of his or her person a firearm or a knife having a blade of three or more inches in length during the commission of, or the attempt to commit:

(1) Any crime against or involving the person of another;

(2) The unlawful entry into a building or vehicle;

(3) A theft from a building or theft of a vehicle;

(4) Any crime involving the possession, manufacture, delivery, distribution, dispensing, administering, selling, or possession with intent to distribute any controlled substance or marijuana as provided in Code Section 16-13-30 , any counterfeit substance as defined in Code Section 16-13-21 , or any noncontrolled substance as provided in Code Section 16-13-30.1 ; or

(5) Any crime involving the trafficking of cocaine, marijuana, or illegal drugs as provided in Code Section 16-13-31 ,

and which crime is a felony, commits a felony and, upon conviction thereof, shall be punished by confinement for a period of five years, such sentence to run consecutively to any other sentence which the person has received.

(c) Upon the second or subsequent conviction of a person under this Code section, the person shall be punished by confinement for a period of ten years. Notwithstanding any other law to the contrary, the sentence of any person which is imposed for violating this Code section a second or subsequent time shall not be suspended by the court and probationary sentence imposed in lieu thereof.

(d) The punishment prescribed for the violation of subsections (b) and (c) of this Code section shall not be reducible to misdemeanor punishment as is provided by Code Section 17-10-5 .

(e) Any crime committed in violation of subsections (b) and (c) of this Code section shall be considered a separate offense.


Is a TASER deadly?

In 2019, Reuters reported documenting at least 1,081 U.S. deaths involving TASER use by police. These deaths occurred since police began routinely using the electronics control devices in the early 2000s.

In 2009, these people died as a result of TASER deployment by police. Many had underlying health conditions and/or drug use/abuse that contributed to their deaths.

1. Jan 9, 2009: Derrick Jones, 17

Martinsville, Virginia

Initial complaint – Police were called to Jones’ home because of a loud noise complaint from neighbors. Jones died in his home after being shot with a police Taser.

2. Jan 11, 2009: Rodolfo Lepe, 31

Bakersfield, California

Initial complaint – Family members called police because Rodolfo was exhibiting odd and bizarre behavior. Lepe died at the hospital after being shot with a police Taser.

3. Jan 22, 2009: Roger Redden, 52

Soddy Daisy, Tennessee

Initial complaint – unknown

4. Feb 2, 2009: Garrett Jones, 45

Stockton, California

Initial complaint – unknown

5. Feb 11, 2009: Richard Lua, 28

San Jose, California

Initial complaint – unknown

6. Feb 13, 2009: Rudolph Byrd, 37

Thomasville, Georgia

Initial complaint – Byrd had been in an auto accident and was disoriented. He was also bleeding from several lacerations. The responding police officer found cocaine at the scene and attempted to arrest Byrd, who then became combative. The officer deployed his Taser, attempting to stop the threat. Byrd stopped breathing and was pronounced dead at the hospital.

7. Feb 13, 2009: Michael Jones, 43

Iberia, Louisiana

Unknown

8. Feb 14, 2009: Chenard Kierre Winfield, 32

Los Angeles, California

Unknown

9. Feb 28, 2009: Robert Lee Welch, 40

Conroe, Texas

Unknown

10. Mar 22, 2009: Brett Elder, 15

Bay City, Michigan

Unknown

11. Mar 26, 2009: Marcus D. Moore, 40

Freeport, Illinois

Moore, a wanted fugitive, fought with police when they attempted to apprehend him. Officers deployed their Tasers to help effect the arrest and Moore soon began to complain of shortness of breath. He was pronounced dead upon arrival at the hospital.

12. Apr 1, 2009: John J. Meier Jr., 48

Tamarac, Florida

Unknown

13. Apr 6, 2009: Ricardo Varela, 41

Fresno, California

Unknown

14. Apr 10, 2009: Robert Mitchell, 16

Detroit, Michigan

Mitchell, who weighed 110 pounds and stood 5’2″ tall at the time of arrest, was in custody and undergoing a pat down search by police when a struggle began. The officer deployed his Taser and the boy died. Autopsy results revealed the boy had a heart condition that, when aggravated by the Taser blast, caused the death.

15. Apr 13, 2009: Craig Prescott, 38

Modesto, California

Prescott, a jail inmate, struggled with deputies who deployed Tasers. The coroner ruled that it was the physical exertion from the struggle that killed Prescott, not the Taser.

16. Apr 16, 2009: Gary A. Decker,

Tuscon, Arizona

Initial complaint – loud noise

17. Apr 18, 2009: Michael Jacobs Jr., 24

Fort Worth, Texas

Initial complaint – Parents called police to assist with controlling their mentally impaired son.

18. Apr 30, 2009: Kevin LaDay, 35

Lumberton, Texas

Initial complaint – DUI traffic stop. LaDay ran and was shot with a Taser.

19. May 4, 2009: Gilbert Tafoya, 53

Holbrook, Arizona

Unknown

20. May 17, 2009: Jamaal Valentine, 27

La Marque, Texas

Police found Valentine rolling in a ditch. They deployed their Tasers and the subject died. Autopsy revealed a controlled substance in Valentine’s system.

21. May 23, 2009: Gregory Rold, 37

Salem, Oregon

Initial complaint – trespassing.

22. Jun 9, 2009: Brian Cardall, 32

Hurricane, Utah

Cardell’s wife called 911 asking for help with her husband who was experiencing a psychotic episode. Cardell was being treated and medicated for his condition. Here’s the wife’s 911 call.

This is actual police audio from the scene. It begins with the officer saying, “I’m 23…” That’s short for 10-23, meaning he has arrived on the scene. Listen as he fires his Taser at the man who is clearly distraught. Then you’ll hear the officers begin to notice that the man is not breathing and has no pulse.

23. Jun 13, 2009: Dwight Madison, 48

Bel Air, Maryland

Initial complaint – Homeless man knocking on doors looking for a friend.

24. Jun 20, 2009 Derrek Kairney, 36

South Windsor, Connecticut

Unknown

25. Jun 30, 2009, Shawn Iinuma, 37

Fontana, California

Unknown

26. Jul 2, 2009, Rory McKenzie, 25

Bakersfield, California

Unknown

27. Jul 20, 2009, Charles Anthony Torrence, 35

Simi Valley, California

Unknown

28. Jul 30, 2009, Johnathan Michael Nelson, 27

Riverside County, California

Unknown

29. Aug 9, 2009, Terrace Clifton Smith, 52

Moreno Valley, California

Unknown

30. Aug 12, 2009, Ernest Ridlehuber, 53

Greenville, South Carolina

Initial complaint – Ridlehuber’s family reported him as a missing person.

31. Aug 14, 2009, Hakim Jackson, 31

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Unknown

32. Aug 18, 2009, Ronald Eugene Cobbs, 38

Greensboro, North Carolina

Scuffle with deputies inside the local jail.

33. Aug 20, 2009, Francisco Sesate, 36

Mesa, Arizona

Unknown

34. Aug 22, 2009, T.J. Nance, 37

Arizona City, Arizona

Unknown

35. Aug 26, 2009, Miguel Molina, 27

Los Angeles, California

Unknown

36. Aug 27, 2009, Manuel Dante Dent, 27

Modesto, California

Dent swallowed a bag of methamphetamine to prevent police officers from retrieving it as evidence. An officer then placed a Taser in direct contact with Dent’s skin and fired. Dent died hours later, but autopsy results indicated that the meth he’d ingested was the cause of death, not the Taser blast.

37. Sep 3, 2009, Shane Ledbetter, 38

Aurora, Colorado

38. Sep 16, 2009, Alton Warren Ham, 45

Modesto, California

Initial complaint – Home invasion/robbery. Ham became combative with jailers so they used a Taser to get him under control. He died immediately after being shot. Autopsy results indicated that Ham had an enlarged heart.

39. Sep 19, 2009, Yuceff W. Young II, 21

Brooklyn, Ohio

Unknown

40. Sep 21, 2009, Richard Battistata, 44

Laredo, Texas

Initial complaint – Burglary in progress. Battistata was confronted by police as a burglary suspect. The officer deployed her Taser and the suspect died on the scene. Autopsy results indicated that the suspect died as a result of a cocaine overdose.

41. Sep 28, 2009, Derrick Humbert, 38

Bradenton, Florida

Initial complaint – Officer stopped Humbert for riding a bicycle after dark without a headlight.

42. Oct 2, 2009, Rickey Massey, 38

Panama City, Florida

Initial complaint – Possession of cocaine

43. Oct 12, 2009, Christopher John Belknap, 36

Ukiah, California

Unknown

44. Oct 16, 2009, Frank Cleo Sutphin, 19

San Bernadino, California

Initial complaint – Fight call

45. Oct 27, 2009, Jeffrey Woodward, 33

Gallatin, Tennessee

Unknown

46. Nov 13, 2009, Herman George Knabe, 58

Corpus Christi, Texas

Initial complaint – Man riding a bicycle against the flow of traffic.

47. Nov 14, 2009, Darryl Bain, 43

Coram, New York

Initial Complaint – Bain’s brother called police asking for help because Bain was high on cocaine.

48. Nov 16, 2009, Matthew Bolick, 30

East Grand Rapids, Michigan

Initial complaint – Bolick’s father called police because he was concerned about his son’s odd behavior.


Again, the law is clear. If a police officer reasonably believes that someone is about to use deadly force on him,  the police officer is permitted to use deadly force to protect himself. We, the armchair quarterbacks, are not permitted make the determination of what was on the police officer’s mind at the moment the action took place. Besides, the determination is not based on what a reasonable civilian would do, but what a reasonable police officer would do.

I’ve been writing this blog for nearly eleven years and I have to say, it’s sometimes tough to come up with a new topic each and every day. However, as long as writers continue to write stories about cops and crime, I suppose there’ll always be questions that need answering.

Today, though, I thought I’d put the shoe on a different foot and have you, the blog reader, answer the questions. I want you to see just how much you know about the world of cops and robbers. After all, it’s what you write … right?

So here’s a little self-test. The answers are highlighted. Would you have selected the correct responses?

(By the way, I’ve seen each of these used incorrectly in at least one book, or on someone’s blog)

1. Revolvers eject spent brass with each pull of the trigger. T or F

2. Thermal imagers can “see” through black garbage bags, allowing officers to identify the contents without opening the bag. T or F

3. How many locks are on a pair of handcuffs? One, Two, Four, or Six?

4. Speed Loaders are competition shooters who are extremely skilled at loading their weapons in a very short amount of time. T or F

Read about speed loaders on a past blog post at  https://leelofland.com/dump-pouches-v-speed-loaders/

5. Vehicles almost always explode when hit by gunfire. T or F

6. DNA evidence is used to convict defendants in nearly every case. T or F

7. The FBI can take over any case from local police, at any time. T or F

8. Kevlar vests worn by officers (or similar types) are designed to stop punctures from knives and other sharp objects. T or F

9. Are cops required to advise a suspect of Miranda (you have the right to…etc.) the moment they’re arrested? No, only when suspects are in custody AND prior to questioning. No questioning = no advisement of Miranda. Some departments, however, may have policies that require Miranda advisement at the time of arrest.

10. Are police officers required by law (in every state) to wear seat belts while operating a police car? No. In fact, some state laws also allow certain delivery drivers to skip buckling up (USPS letter carriers, for example).

11. Are all deputy sheriffs sworn police officers? No, normally deputies who work in the jails are not police officers.

12. Some California sheriffs also serve as county coroner. T or F

13. Small town police departments never investigate murder cases. T or F

All police officers are trained to investigate crimes, and small town officers investigate homicides all the time.

14. Robbery and burglary are synonymous. T or F

15. Narcotics dogs are fed small amounts of cocaine at an early age to get them used to the drug. T or F

16. Shotguns and rifles are basically synonymous. T or F

17. It’s fairly easy to knock someone unconscious with a quick blow to the back of the head, or neck. T or F

18. No one has ever escaped from death row. T or F

19. CornerShot is a bendable device that allows officers to shoot around corners. T or F

Read about CornerShot https://leelofland.com/corner-shot-who-says-bullets-dont-bend/

20. Cops are trained to aim for arms, legs, and/or to shoot a knife or gun from a suspect’s hand. T or F

Officers are taught to shoot center mass of their target. It is extremely difficult to hit small, moving targets while under duress. Again, officers DO NOT shoot hands, legs, elbows, or weapons (well, not on purpose).

21. Officers always shoot to kill. T or F

Police officers are NEVER trained to “shoot to kill.” Instead, they’re taught to stop the threat. When the threat no longer exists the shooting stops, if it ever starts. Often, the threat ceases before shots are fired.

22. It would be fantastic if the Writers’ Police Academy could feature a Guest of Honor who’s published in over twenty-five languages, has written over 200 novels, and has a whopping 60 million books in print.2019 event. T or F ?????


Today’s Mystery Shopper’s Corner

Since the holiday season is nearly here, I’ve decided to feature a few fun items for your mystery shopping needs and wants. Hopefully, I’ll post these regularly throughout the remaining weeks of 2018.

So, for day two of MSC, especially for those of you who’re shopping for writer friends who enjoy a bit of research and/or relaxation, here are my picks.

First up, a handy guide book used by police officers in the field. Each recruit in the academy where I taught received a copy during their basic training. It’s full of useful information for writers who write about cops. I purchase a copy each year so I have current laws and regulations at my fingertips …


Of course, like my bony friend at the top of the page, all crime writers should have a copy of Police Procedure and Investigation.


The Choirboys by Joseph Wambaugh, THE cop author, was a police officer with the LAPD for 14 years. His bio states – “the author of more than 20 works of fiction and nonfiction, all written in his gritty, distinctive noir-ish style. He’s won multiple Edgar Awards, and several of his books have been made into feature films and TV movies.”

Wambaugh also wrote The Onion Field and The Blue Knight, among other wildly successful books. He’s been a supporter of the Writers Police Academy since our early days. Do yourself a favor and read a Wambaugh book as soon as you can get your hands on a copy.


One of the first books recommended to me during my police academy train was Street Survival, offered by Calibre Press, the publisher who specializes in cop training books. It’s still widely read and studied by police officers.


On a different note, if romance and suspense are your favorites, then you should crack the covers of Pale as Death by Heather Graham.


Finally, the original police flashlight, the Mag Lite. I carried one (still have the first one I owned) and it was a tool that served me well. I used it, of course, as a flashlight to illuminate the interior of cars during traffic stops, to guide my way side buildings while searching for bad guys, and I’ve even used it as a tool for self defense. It’s a lifesaver in many ways.

Read any news story about a cop who used deadly force against a suspect and you’ll find a long list of mostly negative statements in the following comments section. For example, the person who complained about the  shooting and killing of escaped New York prisoner Richard Matt, who, by the way, was armed with a shotgun at the time he was shot.

The commenter wrote, “In my mind Matt was murdered for the sake of sport.” They were speaking of THE Richard Matt, the murderer who killed his boss and dismembered his body before fleeing to Mexico where he killed another person.

Most people, though, understand that a convicted murderer/prison escapee holding a shotgun is a clear-cut definition of DANGER. So yeah, shooting Matt was a no-brainer (for most people).

But what about Matt’s escapee accomplice, convicted cop-killer David Sweat? When Sgt. Jay Cook encountered Sweat walking down a rural road near the Canadian border, what happened next is apparent. Sweat ran and the sergeant shot him twice in the back. Sweat was clearly unarmed and was running away, meaning there was no immediate physical threat to the trooper, right?

Well, under normal circumstances this would be true, that no threat was present. However, this was not a normal circumstance. First of all, Sweat and Matt were both convicted murderers and were both in prison serving life sentences. Next, and anyone who has followed this blog for a while already knows that officers may shoot a fleeing suspect if he has probable cause to believe the suspect poses a significant threat of death or serious physical injury to the officer or others (more on this in a minute).

Sergeant Cook definitely had reason to believe that Sweat posed a significant threat to others because he’s a known killer, and because he’s an escaped convict on the run who’d likely harm others to remain free, if that’s what it took to avoid capture.

Also, in many areas, including New York, the law allows for deadly force when stopping a dangerous convict from escaping prison.

Think about it for a moment. Those armed guards stationed in towers around the perimeters of prisons aren’t there simply to occupy space. In addition to keeping an eye on things from above, their duty is to stop any prisoner who makes it “across the fence.” That’s why corrections officers often practice their shooting skills on the range while perched in makeshift towers. They are the last line of defense between dangerous convicts and the public.

The same applies to law enforcement officers when searching for prison escapees who made it past the fences and tower officers.

Tennessee v. Garner

The 1986 U.S. Supreme Court case Tennessee v. Garner is the case that supports shooting fleeing suspects who pose a danger to others. Tennessee v. Garner also forbids the act when no threat is present. Clearly, though, an escaped murderer is a significant threat, armed or not.

Leaving Sweat and Matt for a moment, let’s apply this information to the case of the South Carolina officer, Michael Slager, who shot Walter Scott in the back while he, too, ran from a law enforcement officer. Scott was stopped for a minor traffic violation which is definitely not a threat to the officer or others. But Scott ran away. Well, simply running away from an officer does not pose a threat to anyone, including Officer Slager.

Although, maybe having to chase someone would have been a threat to the heart of an out of shape officer, but no real threat, legally speaking.

But shooting escaped killers David Sweat and Richard Matt? Definitely a no-brainer. They had to be stopped by whatever means it took to stop them.

Some have asked if officers would have shot the two escapees had they surrendered peacefully? Easy answer … No. I’ve been on several manhunts for prison escapees, including the escapes of viscous murderers, and not one of those ended with anyone shot, killed, or harmed in any way. A few ended at the electric chair, but that’s a different story.


With that said (above), I’d like to address the recent offer-involved fatal shooting of 17-year-old Antwon Rose.

The Story

Police stopped a vehicle Tuesday in East Pittsburgh, Pa. that matched the description of a one being sought in a failed drive-by shooting. Someone in the car fired several .40 cal. rounds at a subject.

East Pittsburgh officer Michael Rosfeld along with other officers were in the process of detaining the driver when the two passengers fled on foot. Antwon Rose was one of the two young men who fled from the scene.

Officer Rosfeld pursued and then fired the shots that killed the fleeing teen. It’s believed the shots were from behind, in the back. And that’s more than likely the case and a cellphone video appears to solidly support that claim.

Was it lawful for officers to shoot a fleeing suspect?

This scenario is a bit unique in that it occurred in Pennsylvania where the law permits shooting fleeing suspects, for just cause.

The Pennsylvania law does not mandate that the person fleeing from police be armed with a deadly weapon. Instead, it’s quite specific in that it states the officer must only believe that the use of deadly force at that precise moment be to prevent death or serious bodily injury to the officer or such other person.

In this case, Officer Rosfeld must be able to clearly articulate that he believed his use of deadly force was for this reason. Otherwise, the shooting is not just. Honestly, I believe Officer Rosfeld will soon find himself fighting charges of homicide. Remember, though, that the definition of homicide, simply stated, is –  the killing of one human by another. It doesn’t’t have to be an illegal act – (justifiable shootings, state executions, etc.). In this case, though, well, I think the officer has problems and I believe he’ll be charged with a crime. We’ll see.

Speaking from experience (been-there, done-that), I can offer a few thoughts that were most likely going through the officers’ minds at the time of the stop. This, below, is from a Facebook post I wrote yesterday).

What officers knew prior to and during the stop

  • A shooting has just occurred.
  • The vehicle matched the description of the one driven by the shooter(s)
  • Three suspects who could be armed and aren’t afraid to shoot.
  • The possibility of firearms in this car was great.
  • The rear window of the vehicle had been shot out. HUGE clue!
  • While handcuffing the driver, two passengers fled.
  • The danger level was over the top.
  • This all took place in a matter of seconds/a minute or two.When things unfold that quickly, the brain doesn’t have time to calculate every single detail.Therefore, instinct and training kick in, meaning the officer reacts to the threat, instantly. We need to know exactly what occurred leading up to the shooting and at the precise second he pulled the trigger. The officer’s perception of the incident is critical.*Did you know they believed the car they pulled over was involved in the earlier incident because a back window had been shot out? That alone was probable cause to make the stop and to believe the danger level was high. But they also had a description of the car. 1+1 =When an officer receives a transmission about a wanted vehicle, they go on the information received. Then, when the occupants act out, well, every red flag in the book goes up – a driveby shooting, car matches the description, rear window shot out, suspects flee …

    Hmm … sounds pretty reasonable to assume these guys were up to no good, right? And that no good in this instance most likely involved gunfire. It was also pretty safe to assume the men, at least one of them, was armed. Which one? You’d know it wasn’t the guy you just patted down and cuffed/were about to cuff. Therefore, one of the two who ran must be holding the gun used in the driveway. Or both.

    Those are the sorts of things going through your mind at 1,000 mph, while you’re on the side of road, in the dark, while trying to handle three guys who could be attempted murderers. Your hands are busy with handcuffing a guy who could be armed, while trying to keep one eye on the other guys, who also could be armed.

    Again, I’m not defending the officer. But I wanted to attempt to help people understand how something like this happens. Doesn’t mean the officer didn’t act improperly. But, I’m sure he was more than a bit scared due to the number of officers ambushed or shot death recently. For example, the two I posted just today. Those two died after a prisoner overpowered one of them and used their service weapon to kill both. And these are just two of the officers shot recently, They were the two out of several shot who died.

    I agree, a terrible tragedy, for both the victim of the shooting, his family, and for the officer and his family. He’ll live with this for the rest of his life, second-guessing every single second of it, just as I have since 1995 when I shot and killed someone.

    I think about it every single day of my life, wondering what I could have done differently. There was nothing of course, but it doesn’t stop my heart from aching like its being squeezed by a thousand hands every time I do. The scenario often creeps into my thoughts the moment my head hits the pillow. It’s horrible, and my family has suffered because of it. I’m not the same person I was even moments prior to sending that first bullet in the direction of the bank robber.

Here’s the Pa. code section detailing the use of deadly force.

Pennsylvania General Assembly – Title 18

 

§ 508.  Use of force in law enforcement.

(a)  Peace officer’s use of force in making arrest.–

(1)  A peace officer, or any person whom he has summoned or directed to assist him, need not retreat or desist from efforts to make a lawful arrest because of resistance or threatened resistance to the arrest. He is justified in the use of any force which he believes to be necessary to effect the arrest and of any force which he believes to be necessary to defend himself or another from bodily harm while making the arrest. However, he is justified in using deadly force only when he believes that such force is necessary to prevent death or serious bodily injury to himself or such other person, or when he believes both that:

(i)  such force is necessary to prevent the arrest from being defeated by resistance or escape; and

(ii)  the person to be arrested has committed or attempted a forcible felony or is attempting to escape and possesses a deadly weapon, or otherwise indicates that he will endanger human life or inflict serious bodily injury unless arrested without delay.

(2)  A peace officer making an arrest pursuant to an invalid warrant is justified in the use of any force which he would be justified in using if the warrant were valid, unless he knows that the warrant is invalid.

(b)  Private person’s use of force in making arrest.–

(1)  A private person who makes, or assists another private person in making a lawful arrest is justified in the use of any force which he would be justified in using if he were summoned or directed by a peace officer to make such arrest, except that he is justified in the use of deadly force only when he believes that such force is necessary to prevent death or serious bodily injury to himself or another.

(2)  A private person who is summoned or directed by a peace officer to assist in making an arrest which is unlawful, is justified in the use of any force which he would be justified in using if the arrest were lawful, unless he knows that the arrest is unlawful.

(3)  A private person who assists another private person in effecting an unlawful arrest, or who, not being summoned, assists a peace officer in effecting an unlawful arrest, is justified in using any force which he would be justified in using if the arrest were lawful, if:

(i)  he believes the arrest is lawful; and

(ii)  the arrest would be lawful if the facts were as he believes them to be.

(c)  Use of force regarding escape.–

(1)  A peace officer, corrections officer or other person who has an arrested or convicted person in his custody is justified in the use of such force to prevent the escape of the person from custody as the officer or other person would be justified in using under subsection (a) if the officer or other person were arresting the person.

(2)  A peace officer or corrections officer is justified in the use of such force, including deadly force, which the officer believes to be necessary to prevent the escape from a correctional institution of a person whom the officer believes to be lawfully detained in such institution under sentence for an offense or awaiting trial or commitment for an offense.

(3)  A corrections officer is justified in the use of such force, which the officer believes to be necessary to defend himself or another from bodily harm during the pursuit of the escaped person. However, the officer is justified in using deadly force only when the officer believes that such force is necessary to prevent death or serious bodily injury to himself or another or when the officer believes that:

(i)  such force is necessary to prevent the apprehension from being defeated by resistance; and

(ii)  the escaped person has been convicted of committing or attempting to commit a forcible felony, possesses a deadly weapon or otherwise indicates that he will endanger human life or inflict serious bodily injury unless apprehended without delay.

(d)  Use of force to prevent suicide or the commission of crime.–

(1)  The use of force upon or toward the person of another is justifiable when the actor believes that such force is immediately necessary to prevent such other person from committing suicide, inflicting serious bodily injury upon himself, committing or consummating the commission of a crime involving or threatening bodily injury, damage to or loss of property or a breach of the peace, except that:

(i)  Any limitations imposed by the other provisions of this chapter on the justifiable use of force in self-protection, for the protection of others, the protection of property, the effectuation of an arrest or the prevention of an escape from custody shall apply notwithstanding the criminality of the conduct against which such force is used.

(ii)  The use of deadly force is not in any event justifiable under this subsection unless:

(A)  the actor believes that there is a substantial risk that the person whom he seeks to prevent from committing a crime will cause death or serious bodily injury to another unless the commission or the consummation of the crime is prevented and that the use of such force presents no substantial risk of injury to innocent persons; or

(B)  the actor believes that the use of such force is necessary to suppress a riot or mutiny after the rioters or mutineers have been ordered to disperse and warned, in any particular manner that the law may require, that such force will be used if they do not obey.

(2)  The justification afforded by this subsection extends to the use of confinement as preventive force only if the actor takes all reasonable measures to terminate the confinement as soon as he knows that he safely can, unless the person confined has been arrested on a charge of crime.

(July 17, 2007, P.L.139, No.41, eff. 60 days)

 

2007 Amendment.  Act 41 amended subsec. (c).

Cross References.  Section 508 is referred to in section 8340.2 of Title 42 (Judiciary and Judicial Procedure).


From Tennessee v. Garner

“The use of deadly force is not justifiable . . . unless (i) the arrest is for a felony; and (ii) the person effecting the arrest is authorized to act as a peace officer or is assisting a person whom he believes to be authorized to act as a peace officer; and (iii) the actor believes that the force employed creates no substantial risk of injury to innocent persons; and (iv) the actor believes that (1) the crime for which the arrest is made involved conduct including the use or threatened use of deadly force; or (2) there is a substantial risk that the person to be arrested will cause death or serious bodily harm if his apprehension is delayed.”


The Supreme Court said in the Graham v. Connor decision, “The reasonableness of a particular use of force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, rather than with the 20/20 vision of hindsight.”


Finally – Please DO NOT rely on news and social media as a basis for rendering judgement on this incident or other). Those reports are all over the place, and most are extremely inaccurate. They’re uneducated speculations, wishes, dreams, etc. of “reporters” hoping to get the first scoop.


I.B “Fake News” Lion

I’ll say this one more time – This is not a political statement, nor is it a defense of the officer’s actions. I was not there so it would be impossible for me to know exact details, and I will never know what was going through the officer’s mind and/or the state of his emotions and perception at the time of the shooting. Remember, the law says we’re not allowed to play Monday morning armchair quarterback. Instead, we must base our decisions on the reasonableness of a particular use of force from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene. Not the opinion of @I.B. Lion, the guy in his mom’s basement who pumps out dozens of false media reports on social media sites.

Police officers do not shoot to kill, nor do they shoot to wound. That, my friends, is the answer to the question.

Already confused? I thought so. Here’s how it works.

Police officers are taught/trained to stop a threat to human life. U.S. police officers are not soldiers and criminals are not enemy combatants. Contrary to the belief of some people, U.S. streets are not battlefields where cops shoot first and ask questions later. It cannot and does not work that way. Instead, a police officer’s job is to enforce the law and protect property and life.

In a perfect world there would be no crime and we’d all be safe, all the time. But our world is FAR from perfect, therefore, cops are tasked with arresting those who break the law. Unfortunately, some bad guys choose to not be arrested and will do what it takes to remain free, including trying to kill police officers. And, they may also choose to seriously harm or kill others during the commission of their crime(s). These two scenarios force officers to resort to deadly force to stop the threat to the lives of others, and to themselves.

Police officers are not taught to kill

Back to the earlier statements—police officers are not taught to kill anyone, nor are they taught to “wound” anyone. Officers do not aim for hands, feet, firearms, etc. Instead, during a deadly force confrontation—when lives are at stake, officers are taught to shoot center mass, meaning the center of their target. If all they see is the suspect’s head, then that is their target. If they see the entire body they then aim for its center.

The reason behind not shooting to wound is pretty simple, actually, and here’s why. Most police officers are not sharpshooters. Not even close. To expect them to hit a fast-moving target, such as an arm or leg, while under duress, is unrealistic. Hands and arms can move across the body as quickly as 12/100th of a second. From hip to shoulder in 18/100th of a second. The time it takes a police officer to pull the trigger on one of the faster reacting trigger pulls, that of the Glock, is a slow 1/4 of a second. And that’s if the officer has already drawn his/her sidearm and has it pointed at the suspect.

“Drawing” a service weapon

It’s nothing short of impossible for an officer to see the threat, react appropriately, unsnap the holster, perform the required series of motions to free her weapon from the security holster, think about what she’s doing, decide whether or not the threat is real, and, if so, pull the trigger (I’ll bet you didn’t know there are a combination/series of actions required to remove an officer’s pistol from a security-type holster).

Oh yeah, she’d also have to take time to aim for the arm, hand, or leg. Impossible. No way. No how. Can’t and won’t happen, not even on her/his best day.

To Kill or To Wound, That Is The Question

Then there’s this. Suppose the officer somehow managed to hit the suspect’s arm, or hand, or foot? Well, that leaves the suspect’s free hand to continue his attempt to kill the officer or other potential target, such as a wife, a bank teller, a child, and, well, you get the idea. Wounding someone, hoping that’ll stop them from killing is stuff you see on TV. It’s just not that way in real life situations.

I’ve seen bad guys continue shooting after being struck by several rounds. Actually, I was in a shooting situation where the bad guy continued to shoot after being shot in the head once, and in the center of his chest four times, and he still got up and ran several yards. I was there. I saw it with my own eyes. In fact, I was the detective who shot him. I was also the detective who ran him down and tackled him. Five wounds.

Does it matter when the suspect holding the gun is a woman?

Therefore, being wounded, even severely wounded, does not necessarily stop a threat to human life.

Now, back to “shooting to kill.” Can you imagine the liability involved, not to mention public outcry, if police officers were trained to kill people? I’m not aware of any police agency in the U.S. that teaches/trains officers to kill, by the way. There may be one, but I wouldn’t want to work for them. Deadly force, yes.

But to respond to a threat by intentionally planning to kill someone, well, in my book that’s murder. Not many people would sign on with an agency if they were told they must kill people as part of their daily duties—write speeding ticket, respond to kids playing in traffic, kill the guy standing in front of the Piggly Wiggly, go on lunch break.

Revert to Training

In a shootout officers typically do not have time to aim.

Sight picture – downrange

Instead, they revert to their training—draw, point, and shoot for the center of the target. Shootings involving police officers most often happen in a matter of seconds, and usually at very short distances—a mere few feet. In fact, these close-range situations occur so often that officers train quite a bit at shooting from short distances, without taking aim. They’re taught to draw and point their weapon at the center of the target, or as close as they can get to the center.

Again, even at greater distances, there’s still no time to stop, take a proper stance, draw a weapon, take careful aim, ask the offender to stand still so the officer won’t miss and hit an innocent bystander, and then fire. So officers shoot for center mass, the largest portion of the body they see. That’s it. Nothing more, and nothing less.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Question – Take another peek at the photo above, the one where the woman and officer are in a standoff in the alley. If the officer fired his weapon at the woman, would he be justified in doing so? Suppose he killed her? Should he then be charged with murder? Think carefully, and then please post your answers in the comments below.


Officer-involved shooting in Minneapolis

This bit of information brings us to the recent officer-involved shooting in Minneapolis, where Officer Mohamed Noor fatally shot Justine Damond, an Australian woman who’d called to report what she thought might have been a crime-in-progress.

Officer Noor is the first Somali police officer to be stationed in his precinct. The area he patrolled has a large immigrant population. It was believed by Minneapolis officials that Officer Noor could help bridge the gap between immigrants and the police.

Ironically, a day before the shooting, a lawsuit was filed accusing Officer Noor and two of his fellow officers of misconduct—violating a woman’s rights by illegally taking her into custody. The woman, like the Australian woman shot by Noor, had also called police for help. Officer Noor was one of the responding officers.

Noor is accused of taking the woman’s cellphone and then pinning her arms in a manner that immobilized her, which, by the way, sounds like a typical arrest or other scenario where officers are placed in situations where they must restrain someone, even temporally for their safety, the safety of the suspect, and the safety of people nearby.

But the lawsuit, for now, is apart from the current situation. Was the shooting of Justine Damond a justified shooting? We’ll discuss this case tomorrow here on The Graveyard Shift. You might be surprised to “hear” what I have to say.

*Remember, the idea is to stop the immediate threat. If the bad guy surrenders, then the threat to life is over and the officer switches to an attempt to restrain and arrest.