The Cornered Cat
Hold the criminal at gunpoint?

On the video embedded below, you’ll hear a statement from a law enforcement agency about an officer-involved shooting that happened during a traffic stop and you will see the dashcam recording of the events that led up to the shooting. As ordinary citizens, it would be tempting to think that such things could not possibly apply to us, or that there’s no information we could gather here that would be useful for us to know.

That would be incorrect.

First, the video. If you’re in a hurry, you may want to start it playing at around the 2-minute mark.



Now, the food for thought:

  • Have you ever pictured yourself holding someone at gunpoint? (See here for one recent example of how that could happen; see here for another.)
    • If you have never considered this issue before, what is your plan for dealing with a would-be attacker who throws down his weapon, throws his hands up into the air, and starts apologizing?
    • What is your plan for keeping yourself safe during an ambiguous but potentially life-threatening situation, such as protecting your family from a potentially violent home intruder who is mentally disabled or plainly too drunk to realize where he is?
    • It’s tempting to believe that we would never be put in such a situation, or allow ourselves to be there. But that’s not realistic. Nearly all defensive gun uses do not require the defender to fire the weapon in order to defend herself effectively. This means we can and should know what to do about it if the criminal surrenders before we have pulled the trigger. “I’ll just shoot him!” only works if the elements of Ability, Opportunity, and Jeopardy are all present at the exact moment we pull the trigger.
  • Do you know how to produce — and have you practiced producing — a strong and easily understood command voice? Many of us think of it as “Mom voice,” because it’s the same voice we use to stop a 5-year-old in his tracks when he’s about to run into the street. It’s not hard to do, but it is something that must be practiced.
  • Do you know — and have you practiced using — a series of commands that would lessen the danger of an uninjured criminal being able to attack you?
  • How many pre-attack indicators can you spot on the video?
    • Can you see the physical behaviors that led the shooter to believe his life was in immediate danger?
    • Can you explain the physical behaviors you see, and why they are dangerous?

The officer very likely had, in his mind, a very clear decision tree that included a specific distance that would trigger his decision to fire. There’s a clue there, for us.

There’s no doubt that the officer was able to explain his decision in a way that helped the people involved in the legal system understand why he made the choice he did. More than that, when he made his decision to shoot, he almost certainly leaned heavily on the things he learned in his formal training. He may have even been able to bring in testimony from the expert instructors who taught him how to deal with noncompliant people being held at gunpoint, and what specific behaviors to look for that would indicate life-threatening danger.

Probably a lot more potential lessons for all of us on this video. What do you see?

5 Responses to Hold the criminal at gunpoint?

  1. Douglas says:

    at one point, as he is approaching the police car, he is standing facing the road, left side toward the camera, and you can see a bulge in his shirt, what i would take for a concealed firearm at about 4 o’clock on him. video didn’t say if that was the case later on.

    now, as a citizen, not a police officer, my only duty is to myself. if a bad guy decides to go away, my problem is solved. not so for police.

  2. Kathy Jackson says:

    Smart person on my Facebook feed observed that the suspect said to the officer, “Kill me.”

    That’s generally a clue that a non-violent resolution may not be possible.

  3. Steve Parker says:

    I started viewing at the two-minute mark.
    Mr. Villapondo is relatively steady on his feet, suggesting to me that he wasn’t so drunk that he didn’t know what he was doing.
    The officer’s concern for his own safety was justified.

  4. larryarnold says:

    1. The investigation for a LEO took right at 3 months. I doubt one for me will take less.

    2. if a bad guy decides to go away, my problem is solved. not so for police
    This is something I cover in class. LEOs arriving on a scene are trained to take control, disarm everyone except other LEOs, take offenders into custody, and secure evidence. Therefore they usually can’t retreat or let offenders leave. I have no such obligations, so I can do either.
    The LEO has more authority, I have more flexibility.

    3. In a similar situation, without an option to retreat and with no backup on the way, I believe I would have shot after about his second step.
    a. In my case he would have initiated the interaction, as I don’t do traffic stops.
    b. Based on my experience in simulators, if he decides to charge I need to have bullets in him before he starts running to have realistic hope of stopping him before he’s on me.

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