Would You Have Pulled Your Gun?

June 11, 2015

McKinney, Texas, police Corporal Eric Casebolt is at the center of another firestorm focused on law enforcement. Many say an “international” firestorm, but of course everything is “international” these days as there are no borders when it comes to social media. But I digress …

“It’s of his making!” one interviewed uninvolved citizen said to someone holding a microphone in front of his face.

“He needs to be drug tested, then fired!” was a comment from an irate and even less informed citizen.

“He needs to go to prison, anything less than that will not satisfy us!” bellowed yet another person who for some unknown reason was asked a question by one of the army of reporters descending on this scene.

And yesterday, the ten-year police veteran resigned.

“I feel safe now,” a young man told a journalist.

Really? You were in fear of this McKinney police officer prior to hearing he quit?

From the perspective of someone who was in law enforcement for more than 30 years and who understood the nuances and necessity of legal elements and the realities of human behavior under massive stress, I find the above quotes and belief systems as fascinating as they are ridiculous.

It’s almost forgivable though, because when asked for an opinion, people will give them—even if they have no idea what they are talking about. The lack of facts matters not. If asked, opinions will be espoused.

Those Who Should Know Better
But, the other night on Bill O’Reilly’s “No Spin Zone” two police officers were asked, essentially, “Would you have pulled your gun in that situation?”

Their individual answers bothered me, as they both should have known better. They said, “No.”

I often get critical emails and comments from people (most of whom are not police officers) who claim I constantly excuse whatever police behavior is the hysteria of the day. But let me be clear: I will only support officers when I think the behavior in question is both tactically acceptable and legally defensible.

And my refusal to condemn an officer’s actions, in no way suggests that I endorse those particular actions. When a police officer is a criminal, we must own it. In our Street Survival Seminar we spend an entire hour highlighting abusive and illegal behavior by police officers.

When Ferguson happened I was interviewed several times by both print and electronic media. The constant question (before the grand jury decision and facts were released) was whether I thought Officer Wilson acted appropriately. My answer was always the same: “I have no idea as I don’t know what the facts are yet.”

I would then add: “I wasn’t there. I didn’t have the perspective of Officer Wilson. I don’t know what he saw, thought he saw, felt and/or believed at the moment he made his dozens of decisions all within seconds under massive stress.”

Back to O’Reilly.

What those two veteran officers should have said was:

“I don’t know. I wasn’t there. It depends on what the officer’s perspective was during the incident. This is why the investigation needs to be completed. What did he see from the only perspective he had? His. What did he feel and believe at the time he pulled the gun. Was he afraid that the two males who approached him from the rear, one who appeared to have his left hand behind his back, were going to attack or had a weapon? What were the males saying as they charged the officer?”

You see facts—all the facts, in their splendid totality—are what matter. And quite frankly outside of that opinion, everybody should shut up until the facts are in place. That’s how the law works.

But, not today. Not when there are thousands of news organizations and millions upon millions of social websites begging for juicy stories to send 24/7 around the globe. There can’t be dead air out there! Let’s speculate, get opinions, and draw conclusions immediately dammit!! The public demands it!

But what about waiting for those bothersome facts?


Since vilifying law enforcement is the current sport and national pastime there appear to be no rules; it’s a feeding frenzy! Spewing negative opinions and spinning normal everyday activities of law enforcement into an “international crisis” is in vogue.

Finally, and this is important: Everybody thinks they know everything there is to know about law enforcement. They’re all experts!


CSI. NCIS. Law and Order, hell even T.J. Hooker reruns make everyone believe they understand the profession and therefore are in a position to contribute competent assessments. At least that’s what they think.

Skewed Reality
I’m on a plane as I write this. Just finished watching Taken 3 on my tablet. What a great movie! Loved it! Just like I loved the first two.

Taken 3 is as fantastic as it is incredibly stupid, like every movie is once held up to the light of reality. Think about the stupidity of what we see, believe is real and then interpret as fact in the real world.

Knocking people out with one punch: Liam Neeson punches about 40 different guys throughout the 90 minutes. Almost all of them wind up being knocked out. Often with one simple punch to random parts of their heads and necks.

As in every movie, these guys just went limp on the floor. And coincidentally stay passed out for the length of time necessary for the hero to make his way through buildings, parking lots, houses and tunnels.

When these punched people go down the viewer doesn’t see any muscle contractions or partial paralysis behaviors. Their fists don’t clench up nor do their extremities stiffen (like in real life). No they just drop and lay there, apparently just taking a snooze.

Gunfights: When people get shot in a movie there is immediate overt evidence that the bullet struck its target. Ninety-nine per cent of those shot do one, or all of the following:

  • instantly drop;
  • fly backwards through the air as though they were kicked by a mule of prehistoric proportions; and/or
  • experience a violent blood spurt emanating from hole where the bullet struck the body

Empty-hand magic: Liam, Steven, Chuck, Jackie and Jean-Claude all have the ability to grab some guy’s little finger and throw him off the ship, over a cliff, through a pain of glass, etc., with little to no effort or serious resistance.

Dodging bullets: Liam, in the movie, was being shot at by the final bad guy. I would describe the gun used by Mr. Baddie as combination cannon, bazooka, shotgun, sling-shot and cross-bow with an enormous rolling magazine. This thing managed to shoot through cement, metal, steel, and really thick wood doors. But somehow was unable to penetrate the ¼-inch drywall that our hero found himself standing behind.

Immaculate-perception: Liam, like all movie heroes, has eyes not only in the back of his head, but in other rooms. He saw things before they happened. He anticipated the behavior and thought processes of people he never met. Liam even violated the irrefutable laws of physics as he saw everybody, everywhere, no matter what the obstructions.

Back to Reality
My point? Being exposed to this incredibly entertaining nonsense affects the paradigm of reality for those watching.  They actually believe this stuff!

I read once that the average 21-year-old has seen over 15,000 people shot in his/her lifetime. True or not, they see a lot: TV, movies, video games.

So, everyone believes they understand law enforcement practices, criminal statutes, and what is the real use of force.

But, they don’t.

Corporal Casebolt (Officer of the Year, by the way) was in the middle of an incredibly chaotic and very real situation. He was experiencing perceptual narrowing, hearing the threats, encountering the profanity, dealing with physical resistance and the possibility of injury. He was in the midst of dozens of people who, unlike Liam, he couldn’t keep track of.

His senses were on massive overload.

Did he overreact? Maybe.

But, anyone who has never experienced this (which is literally 99% of the population) or who hasn’t learned all of the facts yet, should quite frankly, shut the hell up!

It looks easy on TV. It isn’t. Especially for Eric who had already handled two suicides on that very shift. All you Monday-morning-quarterbacks out there: Try doing that!

What’s easy is popping opinions when there are no consequences associated with them. But, people who know better, should have waited. This is definitely a rush to judgement, but who cares? It’s OK, he’s only a cop.

A cop who no longer has a career, a career at which he appeared to be exceptionally good.

If the world was really fair, the citizens of McKinney, the police union, the politicians, the police administration and all the people that Eric Casebolt helped in his ten years on the job should throw that resignation in the garbage and ask him to come back.

An eight-second mistake, where no one was injured, shouldn’t end this man’s career. And McKinney shouldn’t lose a dedicated law enforcement officer. They’re hard to come by.

Unfortunately, especially now, life ain’t fair.

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