What would you have done?

Discussion in 'Strategies, Tactics and Training' started by Jenrick, Mar 23, 2007.

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  1. Jenrick

    Jenrick Member

    Mar 17, 2005
    Austin, TX
    To preface, I'm an LEO. This of course predicates my actions to an extent. What would you have done both as a civilian and an LEO?

    So the wife and I go to see 300 last monday. While standing in line waiting to get seated, wife states she wishes she had some Advil. Lucky her, I have some in the car just in case.

    As I'm getting into my trunk I hear a sharp crack, which to me sounds sorta like glass breaking. I see a young man walking away from the SUV parked to my cars 2 o'clock with something under his arm. The gentleman parked to my cars 3 o'clock starts to walk after him. The young man starts to jog, the gentleman starts to jog, and finally the young guy starts to run followed by the other. I'm following a ways back, figuring I can be a good witness if anything happens, planning to stay out of it.

    As they head towards a pair of parked SUV's the gentleman parked to my 3, annouces that he's an officer with my department (the theater is in our jurisidiction), and orders the young man to stop. The pair rounded the SUV's and I can't see them.

    At this point I break into a sprint to get there.

    I round the SUV and see the young man standing about 6' from the two of us. He's staring at us pretty hard. On the ground about 2' in front of me is a full size Chef's knife (the big sucker in your kitchen knife set). I verbally identify myself as an officer, and lift my shirt to show my badge.

    The young man stares at us a little harder, and reaches into his back pocket and pulls out a screw driver (6" or so, flat head, funny the things you notice) and waves/jabs it us. As soon as he brings it out, I clear kydex and start issueing verbal orders to drop it, keeping my badge in view as well. The young man gets a very confused look on his face, incredulous almost. He backs up sputters something in broken english and turns and runs.

    We kept chase till he bolted across a street in traffic. Gave up there. Turns out the other LEO was on a different shift in my same area, I work with him half the week.

    Now here's where I'm curious what other folks responses to this situation are.

    As a civilian do you try and get into the middle of it, figuring the LEO needs help, or do you figure he can handle himself? As an LEO I'm not going to leave a brother or sister officer on their own. Regardless of how smart/stupid I think being involved in something is, I'm not letting them go it alone. As a civilian I think I have a duty to my family not to do anything stupid, meaning LEO's on their own.

    When the yahoo pulled out the screw driver and I drew down, is the closest I've ever gotten to shooting someone. I had taken an aggravated assualt with a deadly weapon involving a screw driver, less than a month ago. Basically a car owner had caught the guy in his car, chased and caught him, then rolled around on the ground wrestling. The suspect had jabbed him a couple times with the screw driver, including one that just missed his eye and ended up opening his skin from the corner of his eye to past his ear, down to the bone. I train edge weapons, and know exactly how deadly something like that can be. I know the tueller drill's 21' rule. I know that action beats reaction.

    I played it over in my head a thousand plus times since then. I stayed up all night going over it in my head. Why didn't I pull the trigger?

    I think it was because I've delt with a lot of criminals as an LEO. To a certain extent you learn to read body language. In my opinion this guy didn't want to stab or cut anyone, he had the knife to threaten people to leave him alone if they chased him. The screwdriver was his improvised means to keep from being apprehended. He didn't want a fight, he wanted to get away with his loot. Being chased was something he had sorted planned for. Getting chased by cops was not. Getting drawn down on by a cop, was defineately not part of his plan.

    To me he didn't have the mindset to attack me. The screwdriver was an empty threat. That however is just my opinion. If we'd gotten a hold of him, who knows, his desire to flee might have gotten a fight response to create the opportunity.

    What are folks opinions? Did I leave entirely to much up to chance and gut feel? Should I have played it safe, and address the threat as it was presented rather then as I viewed it?

    Thanks in advance,

  2. Bezoar

    Bezoar member

    Apr 9, 2006
    Law Enforcement is supposed to be trained for that, a civilian normally isnt. And thats the main issue about this type of situation.

    Besides, if YOU are subduing an armed suspect, and some guy comes running up out of no where waving a gun around arent YOU going to assume that its an armed criminal coming to kill you to let the guy you want to subdue go free and shoot the person really coming to "help"?
  3. whenindo

    whenindo Member

    Mar 6, 2007
    Interesting question you ask.

    We discussed this in a class I was in.

    You've got three people in plain clothes and two are drawing down on one.

    How do you know who the good guys are? Or, are they all three bad guys?

    I can't answer the plain clothes question. I don't know how I'd react until I was in that situation. .00001 second decision I suppose.

    If it was clearly a uniformed LEO and he needed my help, by law (here) he can give me the command and I am without liability to do whatever I can to help him.

    And I would.

    In my mind anybody that would attack a LEO is exponentially more dangerous to the general public so I'd take the kill shot if put in a corner.
  4. MikeG

    MikeG Member

    Nov 8, 2003
    Pueblo West Colorado
    As a civilian, I'd have continued to hang back. LEOs have no proven method of reading one's intentions and a Good Samaritan can't easily be distinguished from an accomplice. I'd be concerned about being mistaken for a bad guy or getting in the way.

    As a LEO, I'd have done as you did and not fired. I was taught the individual has to have method, opportunity and motive for it to be classed as a threat and justification for self-defense. this individual seems just to have wanted to get away - he lacked the motivation. You must have subconciously 'read' his body language. Now, if he'd started forward even a little decisively, things would have been different.
    I wouldn't sweat it too much. You or your fellow officers will get another chance at him.
  5. alucard0822

    alucard0822 Member

    Jan 3, 2007
    Westminster, MD
    I think that your actions were the best that you could have done in the situation, going with your training and gut. If he would have advanced with the screwdriver then you would have had no choice. I as a civilian would assist an officer upon request without question, I would not however go running into a bad scene not knowing who are the good guys, and more than likely the good guys not knowing who I am.
  6. cngerms

    cngerms member

    Jul 29, 2006
    The Beautiful Shenandoah Valley, VA
    I'm not a LEO. I'm a bit confused about the above quote.

    He drew the screwdriver and waved/jabbed it at 2 guys who had positively identified themselves as LEOs. I'd say he was motivated by not wanting to go to prison. I don't much care for the method-opportunity-motivation rule. Method and opportunity are fairly tangible concepts. Motivation determination is mind-reading. This is a standard I'd NEVER adopt. I'm a former, inner-city paramedic. The one thing I learned in my experience is that you NEVER KNOW what someone is going to do. You can only guess, and I'm not going to bet my life on a guess.

    I despise Monday morning QBing, but given the scenario described minus instinct, especially with him six feet away and waving/jabbing, he would've been put down.

    Following your instinct, you did well. Instincts aren't possible on a discussion forum, however. I'm glad you got to go home with your wife!
  7. shotgunkevin

    shotgunkevin Member

    Sep 20, 2006
    Speaking as a citizen, not an officer, I imagine I'd hang well back, ready to lend assistance or be a witness. I sure don't want to appear as a threat to the officer, nor do I want to be in the way of his gunfire, if it comes to that. Also I don't want to be readily identifiable to the bad guy, unless circumstances force me to act. Nope, I want to remain very detached from the whole thing, yet near enough to see and hear things. Oh, and behind some excellent cover.

    It does seem to me that a lot of your decision to not fire was left up to the suspect. You risked quite a bit on your ability to read his motives. Now I'm not doubting that you're able to do that. Call it sixth sense, discernment, street smarts, whatever, I'm sure that as an officer you're able to read people pretty well. I just don't think I'd want to use that as my sole criteria for a lethal force decision. But I wasn't there, and I can't see his face, so all I can do is opine.

    Did you do the right thing? Absolutely! The bad guy got a stereo or purse, you allowed him to remain whole, and you won't be in court for the next three years. You won. He'll get what he deserves soon enough.
  8. pac-man-10

    pac-man-10 Member

    Jan 2, 2007
    What to do

    I am an LEO, it's likely I would have acted just like you did. I'm not sure what I would have done as a civilian because my training and experiences are completely different from what they may know or be capable of doing. The suspect with the screwdriver is lucky that he wasn't shot. Remembering the 21 foot rule for edged weapons he's lucky that you have the temperament and experience that you have. I think that once the "gentlemen" that identified himself as an LEO and confronted the suspect I would believe I'm obligated to assist. If I found out later another off duty guy sat of his duff, there would be hell to pay.

    Similarly, if a civilian had confronted the suspect and I came to believe that it was a citizen's arrest type of scenario I would also intervene. Otherwise I would likely remain an observer and use my cell phone to dial 911 while following at a safe distance and giving updates. I wouldn't expect a civilian to intervene because I would describe these scenarios as confusing. If for some reason a civilian did intervene that person(s) would really have to make clear that they are helping the police so that an LEO doesn't mistake them to be friends of the suspect. Suspect's friend's intervening or creating a distraction is common. Either way I wouldn't completely trust an unknown citizen who is helping because I really have no way of knowing who they are, what their real intentions are or what they might think is a good course of action. Essentially what I'm saying is just be aware that LEO's in stressful situations likely have adrenaline surging, tunnel vision limiting their sight, auditory exclusion blocking out what other people are saying and may be confused about who is "friendly" and who is "hostile" aside from the original suspect. Anything in plainclothes or off duty is likely to be confusing for an officer with people surrounding him/her.

    That being said on several occasions civilians have helped me out when I've been in uniform and outnumbered in a fight or foot chase a bunch of times. One guy actually swerved his truck and "cut off" a suspect in a foot chase for me. Or the time that a guy stopped to help when when I broke up an argument, only to have 5 or 6 family members fight with me, they lost badly thanks at least partly due to a citizen deciding that he would take on one of the brothers behind me. Able bodied "good old boys" will usually help out the police since they usually have a deep hatred for criminals and outlaws. Hippie types will often stand there, do nothing and later criticize the police for using any type of force regardless of the circumstances.

    Anyway, you did well and made good decisions in confusing circumstances, well done.
    Last edited: Mar 26, 2007
  9. 10-Ring

    10-Ring Member

    Dec 24, 2002
    My dad taught me that it's about doing the right thing & to try & help if you can. As a private civilian, I would stay back, be the best witness I could, but if need be, help the officer out.
  10. Thain

    Thain Member

    Jan 9, 2006
    Lansing, Michigan
    As a private citizen, and not civilian law enforcement, I would remain where I was, and be the best witness I could be. If their was the threat of imminent loss of life to myself, bystanders, or the LEO I would step in.

    And by this I mean, the coup d'grace is about to land, and I am in a postion to do something proactive to prevent the loss of life. That's it. That is wehre I draw the line... and its not a thin blue one.

    Sad to say this, but in today's world I really can not assume that the cop - uniformed or plain clothes - who has his gun pointed at a "gang banger" is in the right. Even if the ganger has a gun pointed back at him. We've all read the stories about fake badges, bad shoots, and corrupt cops.

    Life is rough enough for a civilian in a 100% text-book perfect, by-the-numbers, four-nuns-and-a-rabbi as eye witnesses, self defense shooting... I can not imagine the hell that would result from a civilian gunning down a criminal the police were shooting at.

    Cops get put through the ringer if they kill the perp, even if it was an obviously "good shoot;" They get put through hell and back in a "bad shoot," often losing their job, and hundreds-of-thousands of dollars...

    How does a civilian rushing in to play cops-and-robbers hope to do any better?

    Nope; My gun protects me and mine, Officer Friendly needs to call on the rest of the Thin Blue Line for backup, I'm not interested.
  11. Jenrick

    Jenrick Member

    Mar 17, 2005
    Austin, TX
    cngerms: Motive is normally defined/demonstrated through prior actions/statements. Has he already tried to confront people, is he yelling threats, has he already attacked someone etc. A suspect with a gun by his side that has not expressed/demonstrated any attempts to attack anyone is treated differently then someone who has already fired on folks. I agree a lot of it is instinct/mind reading. I personally believe if I had pulled the trigger it would have been a good shoot, but in the back of my mind I'd have always wondered if he wasn't planning on shanking me.

    Thanks for the response everyone. I was just curious what most felt they would do in the situation, so as an LEO I know how people MIGHT respond.

    Oh and I forgot to mention in my original post, the young man dropped the electronics when he took off the second time.

    Funny thing was after it was all over, the thought that ran through my mind was: "if I'd shot him I'd have missed my movie." Now obviously that wasn't why I didn't shoot him, just some random thought that surfaced later.

  12. ArchAngelCD

    ArchAngelCD Member

    Nov 25, 2006
    Northeast PA, USA
    Well done... I have nothing to add to a very good outcome.
  13. Robert Hairless

    Robert Hairless Member

    Oct 11, 2003
    I have absolute confidence in the ability of law enforcement officers to handle anything. Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Mayor Richard Daley, and the many mayors in their coalition have convinced me that every American should trust law enforcement officers to protect us all.

    In the situation you describe, I would most certainly not interfere with whatever strategy you and your brother officers use in a violent situation. No matter how many bad people would be shooting at you, I would not get in your way while you handle it. I am a good citizen.

    pac-man-10 has nothing to worry about from me. I would never interfere.
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2007
  14. TallPine

    TallPine Member

    Dec 26, 2002
    somewhere in the middle of Montana
    I figure a driver's license does not give me a commission to help apprehend criminals ;)
  15. cassandrasdaddy

    cassandrasdaddy Member

    Jul 1, 2006
    and on the flip side

    what would cops want/expect from non cops? you want help will you holler for it? last thing i want is to get mistaken for a second threat. but i don't wanna stand by and watch someone take a beating
  16. Redhat

    Redhat Member.

    Feb 25, 2003
    1. I would probably call 911 and follow at a distance.

    2. If the officer get's in trouble, I would be sure to communicate my intentions before acting since he doesn't know who I am.

    3. Depending on the local law, I don't think I would stand by and watch the officer get killed, if it came to that.

    4. As to you actions. What are your Dept's Use of Force policies?
    Risk perception, Subject Action, Officer Response, or is Intent, Capability, Opportunity in there too?
  17. JLStorm

    JLStorm Member

    Jun 19, 2004
    Jenrick, let me ask you this: if you were the cop chasing the perp on foot and there was no second leo to back you up, but an armed civilian saw the confrontation, saw the knife on the ground and pulled his gun stating that he is a civilian and is here to help, would you really trust someone you didnt know at your side with a gun and no badge?
  18. Pax Jordana

    Pax Jordana Member

    Jun 11, 2006
    Near Philadelphia.
    I think I would help, given limited circumstances... (I'm not LEO)

    For instance, backing the guy up won't happen unless he asks me too - around here, not likely, you're never far from more cops so long as it's a cop making the request.

    But if I saw an LEO fighting for his life, then it falls solidly into the realm of 'deadly force in defense of another'.

    Though if the guy was running and I could clothesline him like in the movies, maybe I'd do that :D seriously though, helping to end a pursuit sends a pretty clear signal you're not with the BG. In a standoff (off duty cop versus skwoo dwivuh, as OP said) I'd steer clear - the badge is the fastest symbol of recognition among cops, and I don't have one. There's no need to distract him while I show him he can trust me :eek:
  19. rudolf

    rudolf Member

    May 28, 2005
    I yell "Officer, should I help?" and if so "I have a gun".

    Officer sasy "No": I remain witness!

    Officer says "Yes": I draw gun, tell suspect to drop any weapon, and shoot if he attacks. Else I keep gun on him while officer arrests, and hoslter immediatly after I assume officer has control.

    I believe this equates to what you did, identify yourself, and say what you're up to BEFORE doing it.

    BTW, if I see a woman assaulted, :

    If blood is flowing, I intervene.

    If not, I ask woman "do you need help" and if there is no convincing "yes", I keep distance and remain witness.

    I haven't help cops yet, but I intervened when women were attacked. NONE of the filed charges, so any of their attackers could have charged me. I will not intervene again without blood or request.
  20. cgraham

    cgraham Member

    Jun 13, 2006
    S NM
    Jenrick, it is not even clear what the officers were doing: how can a citizen second-guess?

    Was the other officer (originally at 3.00) on duty, and if not was he armed with a handgun?

    Why was he not capable of handling the situation himself if he was armed? The fact the knife was on the ground suggests to me the officer WAS armed. If so, a screwdriver is not much of a threat at 6' in the face of a drawn handgun.

    The only thing a second officer could do in the circumstances was flank the perp, cut off his escape, and take him down physically (because it was not a situation for shooting), and help 'cuff him.

    One thing that strikes me about this scenario is that the perp does not seem greatly afraid of being shot.

    About all Joe CCW could wisely do is be a witness, and be ready to defend the other officer if it comes to that (if he choses to be involved) IMO.
  21. Rattlesnake

    Rattlesnake Member

    Feb 21, 2007
    Santa rosa, Albuquerque, Alamogordo
    Read up on the Tueller Drill. At less than 21 feet a subject with an edged, or contact weapon will screw up your day. Being that close gives up distance and time, time necessary to keep him out of your OODA loop. That close he's already "in" your loop; if he fights, you're going to get stuck. Distance is your friend.

    I had a similar situation that our instructors pulled on us while in rooky school. We (partner and I) were equipped wiht SIMS. We were briefed that myself and another officer were dispatched to a mall parking lot. guy saw somebody breaking into his vehicle and chased him off wiht a knife. We arrived to find that the owner had gotten the burglar to the ground and was probably going to stick him. We had our SIM guns out, gave verbal orders for man to drop the knife. He stood up, gave more orders to drop the knife. He's about 10 yards away, the other guy gets up. First guy charges with the knife. I'm backing up and drop four SIMS in his chest and he's till not stopping, two in the head. Goes down. I do a tac reload, turn other subject has a gun and is attacking my other officer, two to the body, one to the head, he drops. My buddy's SIM gun jammed and he only got one off.

    My instructors asked why I didn't shoot earlier. They told me to remember the Tueller drill.
  22. BullfrogKen

    BullfrogKen Moderator Emeritus

    Jul 28, 2005
    Lewisberry, PA
    Tough call Jenrick.

    Peace Officers have a duty to act. Armed citizens do not. My respect to guys who take the job that puts them into fights with criminals on the behalf of citizens.

    I guess I'd just ask, "How can I help?" and leave it at that. See where it goes from there.
  23. dralarms

    dralarms Member

    Mar 23, 2007
    East Tenn.
    Been there, I would offer assistance. I am not an leo but all of them know who I am so If I "show up" they know whose side I'm on. I would not "draw" unless instructed by the leo unless he was unable to give direction then I would "take command" and do what was necessary.
  24. TargetTerror

    TargetTerror Member

    Feb 12, 2007
    Stalingrad, MA
    As has been stated above, I think the most important factor is how you will be perceived by the officer already pursuing the suspect. If he knows that you are on his side (eg you show your badge and announce you are an officer as in the OP's situation), then I'm sure he would definitely appreciate any backup support.

    However, if you are not an off duty cop with a badge, there really is no easy to way to quickly convince the officer that yes, you are on his side and not an accomplice. The officer is not going to want to look at your CCW license while in pursuit to determine that you probably are on his side.

    If you then try and assist and he cannot figure you out, worst case scenario is he thinks he now has TWO suspects to deal with. That makes the odds worse for him and make him more likely to use force sooner (I know I would in the situation, though I'm not an LEO).
  25. Sidewinder6

    Sidewinder6 Member

    Nov 18, 2006
    I have walked in your shoes many times and I have both been involved in shootings and later investigated them as a commander of criminal investigations. Im away from that business now, and read your post understanding where your heads at. Know this, ANY time you can walk away from discharging your weapon, you have done well. You backed up your colleague and you showed restraint. Your observations and Instinct ( your best friend) told you that you werent about to be attacked.

    You could have smoked the guy no doubt and had a witness, another officer to back up the weapons, but your department would relieve you of duty, you'd be subjected to endless scrutiny by your department, lawyers, the media, and perhaps the general public.

    You did the right thing man, and I commend you for your actions. Just a comment from 'a citizen' who knows.
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