Current / History / Warfare

Please Tell Me It Isn’t Too Late

I’ll give this one more try. The events of the last month have been sickening to me—there has to be a way to reduce (hopefully eliminate) the belligerence that is pervading America’s society, to prevent horrors such as this from recurring:

There is also some question as to whether Kody Roach, 23, was in possession of a gun when police officer Eduard Sanguino opened fire on him with nine shots at about 12:45 am. At least five of those bullets hit Roach, who was later hospitalized in critical conditon. One of the shots ricocheted and struck Sanguino’s fellow officers, Lt. Frank Nunez, in the leg.

But another bullet went astray and hit Godinez, who was inside the bar enjoying a night out with friends, in the shoulder. The young woman, who grew up in Cocoa, Florida, after emigrating from Guatelmala as a small child, collapsed and later died at a nearby hospital.

Gun culture has fully taken over the richest and most powerful nation on Earth, a culture that has extremely toxic side effects. Besides a police cadet shooting his ex-girlfriend, her mother and killing a family friend, another officer murdered a woman he met on Craigslist while three officers committed suicide and another officer killed his estranged wife and her boyfriend before shooting himself—all occurring in the past month. If that wasn’t disturbing enough…

Shannon Kepler, 54, was charged in the Aug. 5 death of 19-year-old Jeremey Lake. Kepler, a 24-year veteran of the Tulsa police force, also was charged with one count of shooting with intent to kill because prosecutors say he shot at his 18-year-old daughter during the alleged confrontation in which Lake was killed.

Kepler’s wife and fellow officer, 48-year-old Gina Kepler, was not charged Monday because prosecutors said there wasn’t evidence to support it. She’d been arrested along with her husband on a complaint of being an accessory after the fact of murder.

…gun culture doesn’t necessarily generate first-rate parents.

So, how many more must die needlessly? I asked that question at the end to my preceding posting on this subject. Right now, that answer is lots. In the month of August 2014, American police officers have killed on every day of the month except the 15th, 21st, and 30th (and the day is still young). All were killed by gunfire other than a smattering of taser-induced deaths and a death whose cause is unknown. Might American police be a bit trigger-happy?

In 2012, according to data compiled by the FBI, 410 Americans were “justifiably” killed by police—409 with guns. That figure may well be an underestimate. Not only is it limited to the number of people who were shot while committing a crime, but also, amazingly, reporting the data is voluntary.

Last year, in total, British police officers actually fired their weapons three times. The number of people fatally shot was zero. In 2012 the figure was just one. Even after adjusting for the smaller size of Britain’s population, British citizens are around 100 times less likely to be shot by a police officer than Americans. Between 2010 and 2014 the police force of one small American city, Albuquerque in New Mexico, shot and killed 23 civilians; seven times more than the number of Brits killed by all of England and Wales’s 43 forces during the same period.

Do the British know something the Americans don’t?

Nothing that American law enforcement didn’t already know when Salt Lake City PD Sergeant Dennis Tueller created his famous drill in 1983.  In the intervening 31 years, American police departments have forgotten far more than Tueller’s advice.

Reevaluating “Tueller’s” 21 Foot Rule

A remarkable number of subjects killed this month by American police gunfire were armed with melee weapons or nothing at all. The ten-yard kill-or-be-killed zone is alive and well in American police circles:

“In reality, the 21-Foot Rule–by itself–may not provide officers with an adequate margin of protection,” says Dr. Bill Lewinski, FSRC’s executive director. “It’s easily possible for suspects in some circumstances to launch a successful fatal attack from a distance greater than 21 feet.”

Among other police instructors, John Delgado, retired training officer for the Miami-Dade (FL) PD, has extended the 21-Foot Rule to 30 feet. “Twenty-one feet doesn’t really give many officers time to get their gun out and fire accurately,” he says. “Higher-security holsters complicate the situation, for one thing. Some manufacturers recommend 3,000 pulls to develop proficiency with a holster. Most cops don’t do that, so it takes them longer to get their gun out than what’s ideal. Also shooting proficiency tends to deteriorate under stress. Their initial rounds may not even hit.”

Oh, so with training police will blast at everything within 21 feet rather than 30 feet. How reassuring. Perhaps this bears repeating:

“Unfortunately, some officers and apparently some trainers as well have ‘streamlined’ the 21-Foot Rule in a way that gravely distorts its meaning and exposes them to highly undesirable legal consequences,” Lewinski says. Namely, they have come to believe that the Rule means that a subject brandishing an edged weapon when positioned at any distance less than 21 feet from an officer can justifiably be shot.

For example, an article on the 21-Foot Rule in a highly respected LE magazine states in its opening sentence that “a suspect armed with an edged weapon and within twenty-one feet of a police officer presents a deadly threat.” The “common knowledge” that “deadly force against him is justified” has long been “accepted in police and court circles,” the article continues.

Statements like that, Lewinski says, “have led officers to believe that no matter what position they’re in, even with their gun on target and their finger on the trigger, they are in extreme danger at 21 feet. They believe they don’t have a chance of surviving unless they preempt the suspect by shooting.

“However widespread that contaminated interpretation may be, it is NOT accurate. A suspect with a knife within 21 feet of an officer is POTENTIALLY a deadly threat. He does warrant getting your gun out and ready. But he cannot be considered an actual threat justifying deadly force until he takes the first overt action in furtherance of intention–like starting to rush or lunge toward the officer with intent to do harm. Even then there may be factors besides distance that influence a force decision.

“So long as a subject is stationary or moving around but not advancing or giving any indication he’s about to charge, it clearly is not legally justified to use lethal force against him. Officers who do shoot in those circumstances may find themselves subject to disciplinary action, civil suits or even criminal charges.”

I wonder if American police departments understand how deadly the distortions and misconceptions concerning the Tueller drill are. The “21 foot rule” has spread far beyond law enforcement, leading to justifications such as this from an angry, sanctimonious gun-rights defender:

In the recent Powell shooting in St. Louis (video below), Powell circled left to isolate the officer on the passenger side of the vehicle. Once Powell flanked the officer on the passenger side of the vehicle, he had essentially pinned him against the police car with no practical avenue of retreat. If the officer moved forward he would cross his partner’s line of fire, and he could not easily retreat backward without turning and exposing his back to Powell.

Is Bob Owens seriously arguing Powell used infantry tactics here? I haven’t seen any reports he was an Army or Marine Corps veteran…

Powell closed to within 8-9 feet before officers finally engaged him, far inside the 21-foot danger zone established by the Tueller drill for a knife armed opponent. Some experts argue than once someone with a knife closes to this distance that a knife is actually more dangerous than a firearm, as it can be in constant contact with the target, never runs out of ammunition, never jams, and can create a wider, numerous wound channels.

This incident also shows how ingrained the “21 foot rule” has become, which is policy for St. Louis police:

[St. Louis Police Chief] Dotson said Tasers would not have been an option because they are not always accurate, and Powell was wearing a jacket that could have deflected the probes. He said that by policy, St. Louis police may use deadly force if an attacker with a knife is within 21 feet.

To be fair, Dotson and Owens apparently know nothing other than the “21 foot rule.” Dennis Tueller never advocated anything that resembled the circumstances on that St. Louis street:

Having analyzed the problem, the following suggestions come to mind: First, develop and maintain a healthy level of tactical alertness. If you spot the danger signs early enough, you can probably avoid the confrontation altogether. A tactical withdrawal (I hesitate to use the word “retreat”) may be your best bet, unless you’re anxious to get involved in a shooting and the consequent legal hassles which are sure to follow.

Next, if your “Early Warning System” tells you that a possible lethal confrontation is imminent, you want to place yourself in the best tactical position available. You should move to cover (if there is any close at hand), draw your weapon, and start to plan your next move.

Why use cover, you may wonder, if your attacker is using only a knife? Because you want to make it hard for him to get to you. Anything between you and your attacker (trash cans, vehicles, furniture, etc.) that slows him down buys you more time to make the appropriate decisions, and, if it becomes necessary, more time to place your shots.

According to Bob Owens, the passenger-side officer became “pinned” against his own vehicle; I don’t believe Sgt. Tueller would have approved. I can also be reasonably certain Tueller would disprove of expanding seven yards to ten in accommodate under-training on new holsters:

Sometime, of course, despite your best efforts, you could find you are suddenly, at close quarters, the intended victim of some lunatic slasher. If you are an expert in one of the many martial arts, you may opt to go at it hand-to-hand, and if you are in this category you do not need advice from me on how to do it. So, we’ll get back to the use of the handgun for solving the problem. What it all comes down to now is your ability to smoothly and quickly draw your pistol and hit your adversary, and do it all reflexively. And the only way to develop these reflexes is through consistent, repetitive practice, practice, practice.

Practice so the right move comes automatically.

One thing you should practice, with this kind of encounter in mind, is the step-back technique in which you take a long step to the rear as you draw. This puts another three to four feet between you and your attacker, which may be just enough to make the difference.

Remember, the greater your skill with your weapon, the smaller your Danger Zone will be, but only if that skill is coupled with good mental conditioning, tactical planning and alertness, because no amount of skill will do you any good unless you know that you’re in trouble.

Skill at arms and proper mental attitude. that’s the combination that will make you the winner in a “Close Encounter of the Cutting Kind”.

I have a bone to pick with Tueller here.  Seven yards misses the fact that a widely-available yet underutilized ancient defensive weapon is a far better choice than a pistol in close-quarters melee-only combat; the “21 foot rule” presumes this defensive weapon is either unavailable or unused. It is disheartening to read that the knife essentially is seen as the ultimate weapon (recall Bob Owens’ “constant contact with the target, never runs out of ammunition, never jams”). Fans of physics might point out knifes are also prone to cracking, dulling or outright breaking the blade. Especially when faced with the ultimate defense.

Pick Up Your Damned Shield!

Blades have been staples in battle for over 5,000 years. Don’t take my word for it; let R. Lee Ermey shout it at you:

Machine guns have only been available in the last 130 years; “just a tick on the clock” as America’s favorite gunnery sergeant lectures his viewers. Bronze swords date from 3,300 BCE. More recently, swords have been supplanted by firearms, but cavalry sabers succeeded the Japanese katana and survived into the twentieth century and the bayonet continues to soldier on. Yet police periodicals seem to describe knifes as being a new, evolving threat:

There’s little doubt that the knife culture and related attacks on officers are dangerously flourishing.

“Knife culture?” What do they mean by that?

Edged-weapon assaults are a staple of the news reports of police incidents from across the U.S. and Canada on the website of FSRC’s strategic partner, Recently an officer in New York City was slashed in the face during a fight that broke out. On a man-with-a-gun call, in Ohio, a state trooper fatally shot a berserk motorist who charged him with a hatchet. And another offender, who called 911 in Pennsylvania to report he was having a heart attack, ended up shot 13 times and killed after commands and OC failed to stop him from lunging at a trooper with a chain saw. In Calgary (Canada) a blood-soaked man waved a bloody butcher knife over his head and charged at constables who responded to a domestic dispute. A suspected rapist attacked a Chicago detective with a screwdriver after luring him into an interrogation room by asking for a cigarette. In the reception area of a California prison, an inmate serving time for trying to kill a cop stabbed a correctional officer to death with a shank. In Idaho, an out-of-control teenager punched holes in the walls of his house with a 15-inch bayonet, then turned on a responding officer with the blade and sliced his uniform before the cop shot him.

Let me get this straight–when the danger to police officers drops to a level not seen in five decades but officer-involved shootings haven’t dropped accordingly (and the NYPD fires much greater barrages) the reason is…blades. Got it.

Ignoring Tueller’s advice and instead simply remembering “21 feet” has truly rotted modern police officers’ brains. American police departments are making an argument that they are having trouble dealing with a weapon that was first fielded over five millennia ago? Do departments understand how stupid this sounds—they expect the public to automatically accept that shooting a melee-weapon wielder is the only physical option available considering that Ancient Babylonian, Egyptian and Greek soldiers faced the same threats long before Christ walked the Earth? Speaking of which, how exactly might Roman centurions have dealt with a thief armed with a dagger?

Hint hint…

…this is how soldiers, vigiles and police officers globally have been dealing with machetes (or any other melee weapon wielders) since times immemorial. Holster your sidearm, take out your baton, and pick up your damned shield!

Advocate/Devil’s Advocate

This series of postings was obviously triggered by Ferguson, but I believe I’ve managed to avoid demonizing police officers unnecessarily (and avoided the issues with race, which I believe is secondary to the far more pressing issues with extremely excessive violence). I’ll also take the opportunity to defend police where their actions are defensible:

This is a BearCat, or more appropriately B.E.A.R.C.A.T. (Ballistic Engineered Armored Response Counter Attack Truck). These vehicles are designed to fulfil a role that would have come in handy in 1997:

Campbell received a bravery award from Los Angeles Dist. Atty. Gil Garcetti shortly after the nationally televised Feb. 28, 1997, gun battle in which two men in body armor sprayed thousands of bullets from automatic weapons and held throngs of police at bay while trying to rob a Bank of America branch on Laurel Canyon Boulevard.

During the shootout, police asked Campbell and his Armored Transport partner, Hector Quevedo, if they could use the truck as a cover. Instead of surrendering the truck, the two men drove it into the middle of the gunfire, providing police officers a shield.

Campbell was arrested in September 1999 for participating in an armored car heist (against his own armored transport), the same year the BearCat was designed. While the LAPD hasn’t required the use of BearCats to evacuate injuries since the North Hollywood Shootout, the vehicle has served its purpose in other municipalities:

In 2010 in Athens, Texas an armed offender fired more than 35 rounds from a semi-automatic AK-74 rifle at tactical police. Not one round penetrated the Bearcat.[20] In June 2012 a BearCat, belonging to the Central Bucks Emergency Response Team, took 28 rounds from a ‘high powered rifle’ during a siege with no rounds penetrating the vehicle.[21]

That being said, the BearCat is often mistaken for the MRAP (Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected), a much larger and newer (2007) vehicle. Designed to survive anything Iraqi insurgents or the Taliban could throw at U.S. forces, the U.S. military has been unloading these vehicles since 2012:

Question—do MRAPs perform functions that BearCats are unable/unsuited to do? MRAPs have much lower fuel economy amongst other hidden hazards. Though I guess nothing beats free…

What aren’t freeing are 5.56 x 45mm wounds. For the love of God, don’t train weapons that fire intermediate or full-power rifle cartridges at any other human being unless you are prepared to inflict these kinds of wounds:

Why you dont want to get shot with 5.56mm ( Warning GRAPHIC )Why you dont want to get shot with 5.56mm ( Warning GRAPHIC )Why you dont want to get shot with 5.56mm ( Warning GRAPHIC )Why you dont want to get shot with 5.56mm ( Warning GRAPHIC )

I’ll also suggest American police officers compare and contrast with their fellow armed officers:

I see a lot of good procedures that American police could adopt and/or emulate from their UK counterparts.

To be perfectly honest, I would hope the law enforcement community has learned from Ferguson to avoid deploying like this in any city and demanding answers for this; though I’m not holding my breath.

Final Thoughts

I have no illusions that my diatribe will change anything (which requires someone to read my blog—a tall order there). Even if this posting gained widespread notice, human beings are highly resistant to change and prone to ignoring advice or worse (especially when the source is from the UK). That being said, smacking a charging subject with a shield rather than firing 10 rounds is likely far less dangerous for both police and the public and a helluva less fatal for the subject. Save your pistols for suspects that are actually armed with firearms, and for God’s Sake aim more carefully:

Police say COPS crew member Bryce Dion, 38, was wearing a protective vest when he followed police into the restaurant to film.

Somehow, he became trapped in a vestibule and in the line of fire, which amounted to more than 30 rounds.

“When Mr. Washington started exiting and pointing his weapon on the way out, it forced the officers to continue their gunfire. I can tell you that nobody wanted Bryce to get hurt. Nobody wanted anyone to get hurt,” said Omaha Police Chief Todd Schmaderer.

When asked if he thought 30 rounds was necessary, the chief said he had reviewed the video and talked to officers and believes the three police officers responded correctly.


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