Force Science News #13:

“Blood Lessons” From Officers Involved in Fatal Off-Duty Shootout in

Crowded McDonald’s

IN THIS ISSUE:

 

I. What FS News Readers Had To Say About Off-Duty/Retired Concealed Carry

 

II. “Blood Lessons” From Officers Involved in Fatal Off-Duty Shootout in Crowded McDonald’s

 

III. Caught Without a Gun, A Bluff Works…This Time

 

IV. A Quote to Remember

 

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I. WE ASKED, YOU ANSWERED: HOW YOUR OPINIONS STACK UP

REGARDING OFF-DUTY/RETIRED CONCEALED CARRY

 

When we asked for your opinions about off-duty and retired LEOs carrying concealed weapons when traveling, as now allowed by federal law, you sent ‘em-in spades!

 

We’ve been flooded with feedback to Force Science News #12, and the contents reflect the broad diversity of FSN’s worldwide membership.

 

Some members saw the controversy in starkly simple terms: Better judged by 12 if problems arise than carried by 6. Others misinterpreted our mission, concluding that we opposed concealed carry and the legislation that permits it rather than understanding that we intended only to raise questions that should reasonably be considered in making what ultimately is a very personal decision. Some offered insightful arguments for or against going armed. Others suggested tactics to make concealed carry when out of uniform safer and more effective. Some described vivid and memorable personal experiences.

 

 

We did not pose a formal survey as part of Transmission #12, but in reviewing and assessing your responses at the Force Science Research Center at Minnesota State University-Mankato some conclusions can be drawn.

 

Commitment to carry in state:

 

–49.06% of you clearly stated a commitment to carry a concealed firearm within your state of residence when off duty or retired.

 

–Another 45.28% implied such a commitment.

 

–The remaining 5.66% were inconclusive.

 

Commitment to carry out of state:

 

–20.75% of you stated a clear commitment to carry when traveling out of state.

 

–30.18% implied such a commitment.

 

–7.54% of you stated or implied that you would never carry out of state.

 

–The rest were inconclusive

 

Firearm use:

 

–24.52% stated or implied that you would use a firearm carried off duty or when retired only to defend yourself or your immediate family.

 

–35.84% stated or implied that you’d likely use it to prevent other criminal acts as well as to defend the lives of yourself or family members.

 

–The remaining 39.64% were inconclusive on this subject.

 

“The sophistication shown in responses from Force Science News readers regarding the legal, interpersonal and psychological consequences of using lethal force is very impressive,” says Dr. Bill Lewinski, FSRC’s executive director.

 

“Most officers, of course, understand that when they consider using lethal force it’s in truly righteous situations where the person they’re shooting literally needs to be shot. But the number of officers we’ve seen charged with homicide or manslaughter after what they believed was an appropriate shooting and the impact they’ve suffered on their personal finances, family relationships, career and lifestyle is sobering.

 

“Often it’s difficult even to convincingly re-create the circumstances you faced in reaching a deadly force decision. If a threatening suspect ends up inadvertently shot in the back, for example, it may be hard for you to justify without the use of extensive research and resources. And if you are all by yourself in this challenge without the resources of your agency, your union or your federation to count on, the toll can be enormous.

 

“The issue can be far more than just ‘being judged by 12′ in today’s environment. That’s why pre-event planning, discipline and conservative decision-making under stress are so important when carrying off-duty or when retired.”

 

The Force Science News staff is currently in the process of posting a cross section of responses on the Force Science News Web site. As soon as that effort is completed, we’ll let you know.

 

Meanwhile, we are printing 2 particularly memorable emails below.

 

One is from an LEO whose lethal confrontation in civilian clothes happened to erupt in home territory rather than out of state, although the circumstances and the haunting afterburn certainly could easily arise when traveling. (Because of the impact on his family, this officer requested anonymity.)

 

The other comes from an officer who was caught in a threatening situation in a “foreign” locale without a weapon, but through fast-thinking and the right demeanor escaped unscathed.

 

What happened gave both officers second thoughts about what they would do differently the next time around…

 

II. “BLOOD LESSONS” FROM OFFICER INVOLVED IN FATAL OFF-DUTY SHOOTOUT IN CROWDED McDONALD’S

 

I had taken my family to a McDonald’s Restaurant on our way to a pool party. I was off-duty, in civilian clothes, and armed.

 

I was standing in line and oblivious (like all the other patrons) to the fact that an armed suspect had taken the manager hostage and was forcing her to open the safe in the restaurant’s office. One of the cashiers had seen this and I overheard her telling another employee that the business was being robbed.

 

At that time, I had approximately 15 years of experience and was a SWAT team member and use-of-force/firearms instructor. I had talked to my wife about such an occurrence and we had a preplanned response. When I told her to take the children and leave the building, she did not hesitate. I began quietly telling employees and patrons to leave. My thinking was to remove as many innocent bystanders as possible and then leave myself.

 

I thought that because I did not see the suspect enter he must have come in from a side door or employee entrance and I assumed (wrongly) that he would go out the same way. As I was standing near the front counter trying to get some of the kitchen help to get out, the suspect came from the office area and began running in my direction.

 

I immediately noted the large semi-automatic pistol in his hand. The distance was about 15 to 20 yards. I drew my weapon, announced myself and took a kneeling position behind the counter. Unfortunately, the suspect raised his weapon at me and the gunfight erupted. The suspect fired a total of 2 rounds in my direction. I fired 11, striking him 10 times.

 

My weapon was now empty and I ran from the line of fire to reload my spare magazine. I then approached the downed suspect and could tell that he was seriously wounded. It was right then that I considered that there might be more than one “bad guy” (the thought had not crossed my mind before this) and I began to scan the 360 to check.

 

I immediately noticed a small child lying behind me. I saw blood pooling under her head and knew at a glance she was dead. One of the bullets fired at me had struck this child. Unbeknownst to me, my family had tried to exit out the fire door, which was locked. My wife was still trying to get out when the shooting started and she pushed my kids under a table where they all witnessed the gunfight.

 

The end result was that the suspect died, I survived, but a 9-year-old girl did not.

 

I tell you this story because I think that this topic is of utmost importance. It is largely ignored in mainstream police training. I want to tell you some of the lessons I learned from this incident.

 

1. If you are going to carry a firearm off-duty, you should carry extra ammo. Security camera video of this incident revealed that I fired all 11 rounds from my Glock 26 in about 2 seconds. My extra mag held 17 rounds. Words cannot describe the emotion I felt when I slammed that mag into my weapon and was able to still be in the fight.

 

Mostly because of circumstances (distance) and my training, my rounds were on target. It could have happened differently and the reality is that most of us miss more than we hit when involved in a gun battle.

 

2. You cannot have the typical police mind-set in an off-duty situation. I ended up in this incident without a radio, without backup, without body armor, handcuffs, other force options and without taking the time to think it through. I was truly most frightened when the gunfight was over and I was standing there covering the suspect with my weapon in my T-shirt and shorts. I was really worried that one of my own guys might not recognize me. I was worried too that there might be some other off-duty copper around who would think I was the bad guy.

 

The smartest, most responsible thing I could have done would have been to take care of my family first. I should have seen personally to their safety. If I had grabbed them and gone outside, I would have spared them this entire experience and that little girl would probably still be alive today.

 

Again, words cannot describe the emotions that we all went through after this incident. I recognized afterward that it could have been one of my children lying dead because of my actions. When you are off-duty your first responsibility is to your family. You should never forget this.

 

3. I survived this incident. Partly due to my training and tactics. Partly due to God’s grace and blind luck. But the other side of the coin is that I got into this incident because of my training. I switched immediately into “cop” mode without stopping to consider that I was at a great tactical disadvantage. Most of us are driven and dedicated to the point of self destruction and I think good cops die because we are taught to place our personal safety second when others are in danger.

 

Because I had never trained realistically for a situation like this, I was unprepared. Most of the guys I worked with then and now carry off-duty weapons. But few of them, if any, have really taken the time to engage in realistic training and preparation for how to handle an off-duty incident.

 

Training can be as simple as discussing these types of situations with your coworkers. Since this shooting, I have devoted at least one quarterly range session with my students to off-duty encounters and the associated considerations.

 

4. The responsibility of carrying a firearm is huge. I had devoted countless hours to training for the fight, but was not fully prepared for the aftermath. None of the training scenarios, books, films, etc. that I learned from touched upon the fact that when you take that gun out and decide to take action, 9-year-old kids can get killed. Even if you do everything by the book, use good tactics, and are within policy and the law, the outcome can still be negative.

 

You have to remember that the suspect does not go to the range and he does not practice rules of weapons safety. He does not care about what’s in his line of fire. If it’s you or him, you gotta do what you gotta do, but whether you’re on-duty or off-duty we need to train to look at the totality of the incident. Letting the bad guy go because doing otherwise would place innocent people in grave danger needs to be more “socially acceptable” amongst our ranks. I think we’re starting to see more of this in the pursuit policies of most agencies and I have tried to carry this message over into my training and teaching.

 

I guess the bottom line here is that it’s good to be on “auto pilot” when it comes to tactics in these situations, but we can’t go on auto pilot in our assessment and examination of the environment and circumstances leading up to and during the event. On-duty mind-set and off-duty mind-set need to be strongly separated and the boundaries clear.

 

A California Sergeant

 

III. CAUGHT WITHOUT A GUN, A BLUFF WORKS…THIS TIME

 

My partner and I had attended the day’s festivities during National Police Memorial Week in Washington D.C., a few years ago, and were walking back to our hotel across town at about 11:45 pm. I was then an officer with the Chicago Housing Authority PD. Neither of us was armed, having left our guns at the hotel. We were in civilian dress.

 

As we approached an intersection, we noticed groups of males standing on all 4 corners. As we got closer, they all left their positions and approached (surrounded) us. There were about 9 of them.

 

Knowing what was potentially going to take place, and having nothing else to rely on but my training and God, I merely reached my hand under my jacket at my side, pretended to make a weapon adjustment, and brought my hands to waist level in the fashion one would when making a field contact. I then, in my best field-contact voice said, “Good evening, gentlemen. Is there something we can help you with?”

 

Immediately the looks in their faces changed. The predatory looks in their eyes turned to looks of uncertainty and fear. They began parting, and walking away. One of the group, I’m guessing the leader, said, “Uh, no sir… OFFICER.”

 

As we resumed walking, my partner and I acknowledged that this had been a close one. Sighs of relief followed. What we couldn’t believe is that here we were, in the nation’s capital with tens of thousands of police officers, and we had almost been robbed, assaulted, or worse.

 

I’ve looked back on that situation several times, and I’ve come to this conclusion:

 

My partner and I must have initially appeared to be your average tourists in the DC area. Easy prey. It’s hard not to have this appearance when in an unfamiliar place. What saved us was the ability to get back into “police mode”–bladed stance, hands up, donning the attitude of being calmly in charge (even though we clearly were not).

 

My hand gesture inside of my jacket gave the impression that I was armed, but ultimately, what made these thugs decide to move on to easier pickings was the fact that they realized they were about to confront 2 law enforcement officers. They knew there was a fair chance we’d fight back, and possibly kill one or more of them in the process.

 

Since then, I’ve vowed not to travel anywhere unarmed. Church, to the grocery store, anywhere. Period. Unless you’ve come face to face with that feeling of helplessness, being seriously outnumbered by those who mean you harm, you won’t understand the comfort a firearm can bring from the knowledge that, if ALL ELSE FAILS, you stand a fair chance of seeing your family again, after the confrontation.

 

The question becomes: Would we have done anything differently that night had we been armed?

 

Truthfully, I don’t know. I can only guess that I would have acted the same way, but would have definitely pulled and used my weapon had my actions failed to get a favorable response.

 

Det. Troy Price

Vancouver (WA) PD

 

We’ll have more compelling feedback to share soon, so stay tuned…

 

IV. QUOTE TO REMEMBER

 

“Policing isn’t pretty. I’m sorry. If people would just give up, throw their hands up, it would be great. But they run, they shoot us, they fight us, bite us and it’s not pretty.”

 

That’s Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton talking. He’s quoted in a recent article in the Los Angeles Daily News, which reports that “With an occurrence unparalleled in LAPD history, officers have been repeatedly attacked while on routine patrol this year, although there has been little media attention or community activism on this issue.”

 

“Despite the increasing danger to officers,” the story claims that “political correctness” is preventing LA’s street personnel from being equipped with the force options they need to fight back most effectively.

 

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(c) 2005: Force Science Research Center, www.forcescience.org. Reprints allowed by request. For reprint clearance, please e-mail: sb@forcesciencenews.com. FORCE SCIENCE is a registered trademark of The Force Science Research Center, a non-profit organization based at Minnesota State University, Mankato.

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Written by Force Science Institute

February 25th, 2005 at 3:47 pm

Posted in Force Science News

 

© 2017 Force Science Institute Ltd.