Want to see how incredibly fast someone can go from being completely turned away from you, walking away, to pivoting and charging right at you? Watch this video!
One afternoon about a month ago, two Albuquerque officers spotted a man walking down the middle lane of a three-lane street openly carrying a knife. In the footage posted below, you’ll see that his back is squarely turned away from the first officer tailing him as he walks at a moderate, unhurried pace. Within feet of them, traffic continues to flow on the left.
As a second officer, who is wearing the body cam that captured the footage we see, pulls up and exits his unit, it’s clear that the initial responding officer is walking behind the subject at a distance of about 15-20 feet, judging from the camera angle we’re given.
One of the passing vehicles honks loudly at the suspect and he doesn’t flinch. He’s obviously focused. As they continue walking, the suspect maintains a steady pace but the initial tailing officer appears to speed up, thus closing the distance.
After 40 seconds of walking, numerous ignored orders to get out of the road and two TASER warnings, the man stops and pivots toward the officers. At this point, the initial tailing officer is no more than 10 feet away from the suspect.
This is the first time you see the speed at which the suspect can go from a square-back position to facing the officers. In this instance, that happened in about 2 seconds and the man stands still, staring at the officers. He doesn’t attack. Stand by, though. It gets faster and more furious.
After a 5-second stare down, the man turns away from the officers again and resumes walking. As the officers tail him and dispatch requests that additional responding units “step it up,” the suspect suddenly—with lightning-fast speed—pivots and begins a full charge at the first tailing officer.
This literally happens in the blink of an eye. In no more than 1 second, the suspect goes from completely turned away, walking in the opposite direction of the officers to sprinting directly at the first tailing officer, knife in hand.
The officer under attack turns and runs away, angling toward the sidewalk, with the suspect in hot pursuit. As the first officer gains distance from the attacker, the suspect turns and focuses his attention on the second officer who has his gun pointed at him. The suspect throws his knife at that officer who then fires 6 rounds, downing the suspect.
Watch the footage, then let’s ask a few questions:
Before we begin, I want to remind everyone that Calibre Press does NOT create these incident analysis training articles to be judgmental or to second guess any officer. Absolutely not. These are created in the spirit of learning and improving officer safety. 100%.
THINGS TO CONSIDER
First Consideration: Science.
More than 35 years ago, law enforcement trainers–most notably Dennis Tueller–began to seriously focus on the speed at which a subject armed with a knife can close specific distances between them and an officer. The “studies” used to determine that information were basic at the time, but enlightening.
Since then, more intricate studies, conducted with rigid oversight and within strict scientific parameters, have been conducted that looked more intensely at issues of time, distance, position and motion.
These studies posed questions like: How quickly can a subject pivot from a position of having their back squarely to you to a position facing you? How quickly can that same person charge you? How quickly can they reach you? How much distance can be covered in what period of time? Can you reliably draw your weapon after that charge has been launched?
If you aren’t constantly considering these kinds of questions, DO! And if you don’t know the answers, they’re out there. Find them! At the end of the day, the basic themes are these: Assaults can happen very, very quickly. Positions can shift within seconds. Distance and time are critical to officer safety and survival…and always expect the unexpected and take every measure possible to ensure that your high level of educated tactical awareness puts you in a position of advantage.
Next Consideration: Tactics.
Again, these are considerations, NOT judgements. Things to think about and to discuss in training.
• Distance: Was the distance the officers maintained between them and the armed suspect sufficient? If you chose to pursue on foot, what approach would you have taken relative to distancing? Keep this in mind: The first tailing officer repeatedly warned the suspect that he would be Tasered if he didn’t comply with their commands. Effectively deploying a TASER requires some degree of proximity. The fact that they were even considering using less lethal force on this individual seems to reflect an earnest interest in not using deadly force if at all possible…even at their own potential peril.
• Pursuit: Was it advisable for the officers to be tailing this suspect on foot without any barrier between them? Was there a better approach? What would that be?
• Passing traffic: As the armed suspect walked with the officers in tow, numerous vehicles passed within feet of them on the left. What safety issues might be considered here…for the officers, for the passengers in the passing vehicles, for the suspect? Would you have considered passing traffic to be an issue to think about? Would you have handled it differently?
• The attack: When the suspect charges the first tailing officer, it appears possible that had the firing officer shot while the suspect was closing in on his partner, he could have run the risk of hitting his partner had his accuracy been less than perfect. At that point, the situation was what it was, but what would have happened if the fleeing officer had not successfully gained distance from the attacking suspect? If you were his partner, would you have fired? How’s your accuracy. Are you training for that shot?
• Backdrop: Go to 1:29 in the clip. What’s directly behind the suspect literally milliseconds before the officer shoots? An approaching car. Back to accuracy. What if that officer’s rounds missed the suspect? Where might errant rounds have landed? In the windshield of that vehicle. Could anything be done to prevent an accidental shooting of an innocent civilian in this instance?
• Random note: As the suspect lays sprawled on his back with his arms splayed, the firing officer orders, “Turn on your back!” then almost immediately says, “Turn on your stomach!” Misspeaking like that is relatively common and completely understandable. But remember that and if you—and potentially other officers—are yelling commands, try to listen to what you’re saying. Are your commands making sense? Is what you’re asking a suspect to do really what you want him to do? If multiple officers are yelling commands, are they syncing?
Thoughts? E-mail us at: firstname.lastname@example.org