"Marion County officer says he feared for his life
May 8, 2001 7:53 AM   Subscribe

"Marion County officer says he feared for his life as he faced a knife-wielding man at arm's length." Man breaks into own home after losing keys, neighbors call the police because of the noise, police investigate, man attacks them. Man gets shot dead.
posted by pnevares (10 comments total)
Are police supposed to shoot to kill when they're threatened? I think a wingshot would have neutralized this guy.

Anybody know anything about police training? This does seem excessive.
posted by luser at 7:57 AM on May 8, 2001

I thought this is why cops used pepper spray - to prevent this very sort of thing.

It's sad though. The poor guy did the right thing by giving up his keys so he wouldn't drive while drunk, setting off the whole chain of events.
posted by mikel at 8:01 AM on May 8, 2001

Given the point blank range and the darkness factor it was probably a center mass situation, point and shoot.
Pepper spray would have been a lot more appropriate, but he probably instinctively reached for his sidearm once he identified a weapon being reached for.
Very unfortunate for all involved.
posted by a3matrix at 8:19 AM on May 8, 2001

Muscular at 5 feet 11 inches and 165 pounds, he'd once earned the nickname "Moose."

So now we know the officer must have felt threatened by this huge, raging animal brandishing a knife.

Sorry, 5'11" 165 lbs is skinny.
posted by xiffix at 8:31 AM on May 8, 2001

Something about this doesn't seem right. A guy so drunk that he takes a cab home and lays comatose while police loudly announce themselves and search the apartment. He then awakes due to radio noise, jumps up and wields a knife he just happened to be sleeping with? I'd be curious to see if the knife can absolutely be connected to Leaf knowing that knifes are the preferred choice for throw-down weapons.
posted by sexymofo at 8:37 AM on May 8, 2001

I find it a little suspect, too. Also, I don't give a damn what his instincts tell him, if he used his gun when pepper spray would have worked, that is, by definition, excessive force.
posted by jpoulos at 8:47 AM on May 8, 2001

Also, luser, my understanding is that police are trained to shoot to kill, except in very unusual cases. I'm not a cop, and maybe I've watched too much TV, but that's my understanding.
posted by jpoulos at 8:48 AM on May 8, 2001

shooting to wound leads to suspects that can shoot back or sue. Shooting at someone isn't a casual thing...the purpose behind it regardless of the weapon or the number of shots fired is to kill.
posted by th3ph17 at 9:18 AM on May 8, 2001

Police are trained to shoot to stop the threat. This officer only fired three rounds, which is reasonable - most cops who shoot in self-defense situations empty their weapons.

A 12-inch hunting knife - I'm assuming this includes the handle! - is not a likely throwdown. That'd be a switchblade or locking folding knife.

And if this guy attacked a cop with a knife, then pepper spray was not appropriate. You can't spray an armed person coming at you inside - you're very likely to get blinded yourself and still have to fight the guy.

Credibly threaten a cop's life, and you are what law-enforcement officers call "Dead Right There". There's no other way to do the job.

(IANACop - but my best friends are.)
posted by nicwolff at 11:48 AM on May 8, 2001

Police are trained to shoot center of mass (upper middle chest, more or less), to neutralize the threat. This has been the core in all self-defense or police type firearms instruction I'm familiar with. "Shoot to kill" is not the intent, stopping the threat is. Unfortunately, force that will reliably stop a person also has a good chance of causing death or great bodily injury.

"Wingshots," as somebody mentioned above, are in almost all cases a bad idea.

First, they won't reliably neutralize a threat; on TV, somebody shot in the arm gives up peaceably, in the real world the bad guys will keep coming until they are physically incapable of continuing. Sure, some people will go into "I've been shot ohmygod I'm gonnadie" mode and give up, but not everybody.

Second, in a gunfight, in which the officer is probably moving, the target is moving, there is little time, (in this case, according to the story) dim lighting, plus the adrenaline/stress response affecting the officer's fine motor skills (read: aim), a shot to center of mass is already a difficult target, and a moving hand or whatever is going to be a very, very hard shot. And, as a bonus, a police officer is legally liable for every round he or she fires; if the officer misses, that round is going somewhere, and it could very well be somewhere bad. This isn't standing at the range taking your time to shoot bullseyes at 3 yards.

Pepper spray is nice, but one thing about it is that it doesn't act instantly, and it doesn't affect all people (it's possible to "fight through it," and drug use or intoxication affect response to pepper spray, and some people are just not affected). Also, if you spray pepper in a confined area (say, a small bedroom), everybody in the room (including the officers) will be affected by the pepper. Pepper spray is also not an appropriate counter to deadly force (a knife at contact range).

For deadly force, think in terms of this criteria:

Ability - does the person have the ability to inflict great bodily injury or death? (Yes, a big knife)

Opportunity - is the situation such that the person can utilize the ability? (Yes, the individual is close enough to close the distance within 1 to 1.5 seconds)

Jeopardy - is the demeanor of the person such that the shooter feels in immediate and otherwise unavoidable jeopardy? (Yes, the knife weilder is charging)
posted by doorsnake at 1:03 PM on May 9, 2001

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