Many cops share two common nightmares. One is related to their sidearm; the gun is stuck in their holster, the trigger won’t respond no matter how hard the officer pulls and/or the bullets just fall out of the gun.
The other is shooting someone who’s bearing down on them, intent to kill, and their rounds have no effect.
This video is a real-life example of that second nightmare.
Watch this clip and then we’ll discuss:
First, it’s important to make very clear we are NOT judging this deputy. Absolutely not. He was put in a horrific situation and forced to make decisions no officer wants to make in a confusing, rapidly unfolding encounter under great stress and bodily threat.
We cull lessons from his experience in an effort to keep other officers safe but most importantly, we’re thankful that this brave officer is alive.
With that in mind, here are some things to consider:
Immediately after the suspect grabs the large stick—more like a staff—the deputy begins backing up with his gun drawn and pointed. During the encounter, the deputy backs up for 20 seconds straight. That’s a long time, particularly under extreme stress.
Why did he back up? Because he absolutely did not want to shoot the crazed attacker. Backing up is a form of attempted deescalation, but the man continued his attack.
Consider the practical aspect of walking backward with your gun drawn on a human being. Regardless of whether you decide to back-step or you’re forced to, are you practicing that movement to decrease the odds you’ll stumble if you walk backward?
15 seconds later, the suspect takes his first swing at the deputy and breaks the stick in half over his forearm. A second later he beats him again with the remaining half of the stick.
— At what point was the deputy justified to fire?
— At what point should he have begun firing?
— Are you prepared to fire when you need to—without hesitation—to cease the threat and potentially save your life? Today’s climate is causing officers to hesitate dangerously long when forced to make a deadly force decision. Are you clear on case law that dictates when you’re justified to shoot and prepared to make that decision quickly when you have to?
During the attack, the deputy keeps his gun in his right hand (presumably his strong side) and uses his left arm to shield himself. The blows to that left forearm are strong. Very strong. You can see that the suspect, who’s considerably bigger than the deputy and in good shape, puts full force into his swings.
That kind of impact to a forearm or a hand could be crippling. Thankfully, the deputy was able to blade himself and protect his gun hand from the blows.
But what if he couldn’t? What if his right hand or forearm was incapacitated?
— With that in mind, are you consistently practicing weak-hand shooting? Are you able to effectively manipulate your gun with your off hand and fire accurately?
After 20 seconds of pursuing the retreating deputy, the suspect takes one last swing with the stick and the deputy begins to fire.
Here’s where the real nightmare begins.
The suspect is within inches of the deputy when he begins to absorb rounds. Absorb is the perfect description. Within 6 seconds, the deputy fires 12 rounds directly into the suspect’s chest at point-blank range. Right up until the last round, the suspect is grinning defiantly and marching forward unflinchingly.
If you didn’t hear the pops of the rounds on the video, you wouldn’t even know the suspect is being shot.
— What would you do in a situation like that?
— A suspect has taken multiple point-blank rounds and he’s not even phased. Next move? Go to the head? Are you practicing head shots? Are you ready to take one? Or more? Do you think the head is out of bounds?
— Are you constantly alert to the fact that there are people out there who, for whatever reason, just may not go down? Do you have a plan for responding to that or are you more likely to be stunned into confusion and potential panic?
After the deputy fires his 12th shot the suspect falls, conscious and gasping for air with his eyes open and left hand twitching. The man has taken a dozen point-blank rounds to the chest and finally fallen. He’s got to be out of the game, right?
Maybe not! Wisely, the deputy realizes that and stays drawn on the downed suspect after backing away.
— Remember, a suspect who is down is not necessarily a suspect who is out.
— Are you training to keep your tactical edge when handling a downed suspect? Are you reviewing tactics for approaching someone you’ve shot? NEVER underestimate a downed suspect’s ability to suddenly—even shockingly—get back into play long enough to injure or kill others.
One last thing to think about:
Look at the suspect’s face as he marches by the car window, taking round after round to the chest. Imagine being that deputy and seeing that deranged, demonic face coming at you.
That deputy is staring straight into the eyes of someone with evil intent. Try to imagine his heartbeat…his thoughts…his shock.
Imagine what he is processing in the moment. Officers in similar situations have virtually all said they were asking themselves the same troubling question: “How can I be missing this guy??” Primed to believe that direct hits will result in immediate physical reactions, including falling to the ground and ceasing the attack.
On TV and in movies, what happens when someone is hit? Blood spurts from the wound and the bad guy flies backwards, sometimes after being knocked off his feet.
Real life? Well, that’s completely different.
Are you ready for that?