Use of Deadly Force

This topic, I guess for lack of a better term, is complicated. Friday night, in a small town close to home, there was an officer involved shooting. It’s still early so there are few details; however, as you can imagine, this day in age, there are plenty of people on social media taking sides. Why? Ignorance, mostly.

The laws surrounding self-preservation, or protecting the lives of others are very vague and complicated. In my humble opinion, I believe every case is unique. Every single case has its own story that should make us pause to evaluate before throwing our opinion online for the world to see.

“Shooting, in theory, is simple…it’s just not easy.”

I’ve carried a firearm in my personal or professional life for 11.5 years. I have been privileged enough to be trained by some incredible instructors; former SWAT officers, retired police officers, operators turned competition shooters…all equally amazing. Through their training I have found a passion for the sport of shooting. One of my mentors always says, “Shooting, in theory, is simple…it’s just not easy.” I remember hearing him say this for the first time; it blew my mind. In an attempt to make this sound easy, shooting is pulling the trigger while holding the sights steady on target. That’s it. Simple as that. You know what makes shooting incredibly hard? The bang. In the chamber of whatever weapon system you’re operating, you are triggering, pardon the pun, an explosion. BOOM!! You hear it and feel it in the sensation of recoil. After the first shot, you anticipate this, and there in lies the problem. If you can get over this, and find the balance of relaxation and pressure, you’ve figured it out.

  • “Here’s an idea, don’t break the law”
  • “The full report has yet to be released, people. We don’t yet know what caused the officer to discharge his weapon.”
  • “Shooting to kill was not the best or only option they had”
  • “I think it’s wrong that the officers that are supposed to protect us are all getting away with murder”

These quotes are taken from the comments section of our local media’s online post concerning the officer involved shooting. As you can imagine, there are more…a lot more. However, if you were to go through all 243 comments, you could classify them into the 4 categories above. There is a full spectrum of understanding on the use of force, from informed, patient, and understanding to oblivious and ignorant.

Did the attacker have the ability? Did the attacker have the opportunity? Did the attacker show jeopardy? Ability can be anything from bare fists or a rock, to a powerful rifle, or even more. Ability is the tool the attacker uses to cause harm. Was the attacker close enough to use that tool? That is opportunity. If an attacker is 100 yards away from you, he’ll have a hard time doing damage with a kitchen knife; however, give that same 100 yard attacker a rifle, we may need to reassess the situation. Jeopardy is the hard one. Jeopardy is the reading, or assembling of the individuals verbal and body cues. If someone is carrying a concealed firearm in public, at the local Walmart, does that person have the ability and opportunity to harm people. Yes. We’re missing the jeopardy, or intent though. Now, if a person walked into Subway screaming, making threats, and looked enraged while the sandwich artists are crafting your favorite sandwich, would you believe his threats? This person is showing jeopardy and is within the working distance of many weapons, opportunity. Where is the ability? Do we know if this person is carrying a knife or firearm? Can we be sure? Action beats reaction so situation awareness and distance in this scenario are both important.

For reference, from concealment, at 3 yards the fastest I’ve been able to draw and put a round on target is .99 seconds. At 50 yards, the fastest I’ve been able to draw from concealment and put a round on target is 1.61 seconds. So, from 0-50 yards, in less than 2 seconds, you, as a police officer or a law-abiding citizen must be able to accurately process information and make a decision to shoot or not. If you’re wrong or inaccurate, you pay with your life, in prison or a grave. You must be accurate with your decision and your shot placement. The decision you make in less time it takes you to read this sentence will be analyzed from the comfort of office chairs and couches for years to come. Ability, Opportunity, and Jeopardy help you make and explain that decision.

It’s scary, huh. This topic has no room for macho bullshit. Making the decision to carry a firearm professionally or personally shouldn’t be driven by inadequacy or compensation. Your ability to manipulate your firearm should be practiced over and over so, should you need it, your focus is on the processing of external information not working through your basic fundamentals.

I hope I never have to make this decision. I hope none of you have to either. If we do, I hope we’re right, accurate, and we’re able to protect ourselves, our loved ones, or someone in the most desperate of need. My thoughts go out to the police officer and his family, the individual who lost his life, and the individual’s loved ones whose lives were forever changed Friday night.

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