Sunday, August 26, 2012

Video Surveillance Of Empire State Building Shootout

Now that I have seen actual video footage of the Empire State Building shootout, I am more convinced that the two officers involved made some big mistakes. I am not saying they were not justified in the use of deadly force. I am saying, in my opinion, they did not properly assess the situation because had they done so they would not have alerted the subject to their presence (which I am guessing they did by issuing commands, this is a guess because their is no audio, but it is based at least in part on the subject turning to face them as they come up from behind him) before getting behind cover which was readily available to them. Had they been behind cover, they could have shot from a supported position, would have been less likely to fire in a possible reactionary panic when the bad guy aimed and fired at them, and in all probability would have had a bit more time, even if only a split second more, to asses and think it through to take what I think would have been appropriate actions than I think they took. Again, that is merely my opinion but it is now based less on guesswork, than before, now that I have seen the surveillance video.

In the situation in which they placed themselves, they had to fire from a standing and moving position thus making it much harder for them to keep on target what with the immense stress they were under with this guy shooting at them. Had they first gotten behind cover, drawn a bead on the suspect and then ordered him "Police - DON'T MOVE", he probably would have turned, not immediately seen them, or only seen what he could see of them around the cover of those concrete planters, been momentarily confused instead of instantly ready, while they already would have taken aim and had a much more controlled shooting platform from which to take a more accurate set of shots at him. Doing it that way may have also given bystanders a split second more to realize what was going on and to get out of the line of fire.  Instead, I am of the opinion, they  took a much less tactically sound position when cover was readily available. I believe that had they gotten behind cover before alerting him, the outcome would possibly, even likely, have been much different - the police maybe firing many fewer shots to stop him and thus the potential for harm to bystanders going down markedly.

Of course, it is really easy to Monday morning quarterback but I believe you safely can bet your bottom dollar that the video will be used as a training video by law enforcement firearms instructors for years to come and one of the things their training probably will emphasize is that neither of the two officers properly and fully assessed the situation nor made use of available cover. I am not calling the officers bad guys, not saying they are guilty of a crime, not even saying most of their decisions were wrong. I do think they used somewhat poor judgment, at a critical moment, in a situation in which they had to think and act fast. I also believe that their judgment may have made the situation worse than it otherwise would have been had they opted to take cover. The split second more it would have taken to get behind cover, get sighted in on the suspect from a strong supported shooting stance, and then give their commands, possibly could have made a huge difference. It would have certainly only been a split second more, they were only a couple to few steps away from it before the bad guy was apparently alerted to their presence.

It is a shame, in their obvious willingness to face danger, while doing their duty to stop the guy, they did not take cover first or even after the bad guy knew the police were after him. That is especially so since it appears they could have done so even after the bad guy drew his weapon. I truly believe the outcome would have been much better had they done so immediately before the bad guy was alerted. Thus they might have made it a one or two shot stop of the bad guy with no bystanders injured. Instead one cop has the other cop in, what appears to me to be, a near or actual crossfire situation for a moment. Both are firing while moving trying to avoid being shot. The cop, to our left in the video, while apparently using a two hand, is seemingly left handed and ultimately winds up moving to his off side, making it a more difficult to aim at the suspect. The officer, to our right in the video, is also moving to his off side, he probably realized he had the other cop in, or close to being in, a crossfire and thus making it harder to aim his shots toward his strong side where the bad guy was located. He also seems to be holding his pistol in only his right hand while probably using his left for balance or to avoid running into something as he moves and keeps his eyes on the suspect. The bad guy was indeed stopped after a total of 16 shots were fired by the officers, but 9 bystanders were injured, (corrected to remove that I thought 1 bystander had been killed) and it is suspected that police bullets or bullet fragments hit all 9 of the bystanders and were responsible for their injuries. I think the officers taking cover would have made a world of difference.

That is all just my opinion of the shootout and how things may have turned out differently had, what I think would have been, a sounder tactical assessment been applied. Bear in mind, this is only my opinion and that may change if and when more information and evidence is released for public review. For now, I can only base my opinion on what I have seen and heard reported to date and on my experience and training.

All the best,
Glenn B.

Discussion About Deer Management Permits - I Did Something Right When Raising My Son

I sent a text message to my son a couple of nights ago to ask him in which wildlife management unit he wanted to apply for deer management permits, that way I could apply for other areas as I like to have a lot of possibilities open to us. He told me in the unit where his girlfriend's parents had a house in upstate NY, in the NW Catskills. The rest of our back and forth, relative to my having asked where the house was located, follows:

Son: In the town of --------. (He named the village.)

Son: I'll just shoot them without a permit anyway. So it doesn't matter.

Me: No you won't. Say no more.

Son: Haaha, if I got the AK I can't miss! Lol, just kidding, I'd never poach.

Me: There is a low chance of getting a DMP there as first choice only and you can also choose another place as second choice.

Son: ...honestly I'll just go without a permit and keep everything up there.

Me: Stop sending messages like that. All your text messages are kept by phone comp 4ever just like emails. (I really do not know if the phone company keeps texts like emails but suspect they do.)

Son: I'm just kidding. I'm not going to poach animals. Shit is fucked up, if I can get a permit I will hunt there, if not then I will not hunt there. I was not taught about hunting by an asshole.

Me: Good to know whoever taught u bout huntn is not an a-hole.

Son: Haha, well sometimes he is, but on average he isn't ;)

The text messaging went on a little bit longer but all the important stuff, for this post, was over and done with. Sure made me feel good to know that I did at least a few things right in his upbringing, such as what I taught him about hunting, and to know that he does not consider me to be an asshole. Well - at least not for most of the time!

All the best,
Glenn B

Some Thoughts On The Police Shooting of 9 Bystanders In NYC

So, it has been reported that NYPD Police Commissioner Ray Kelly has stated that all 9 bystanders, who were injured by gunfire, near the Empire State Building during a police shoot out with an armed man, were injured by police bullets or bullet fragments. (Source: just heard it on Fox News as I was writing this and have read it in various online news agency articles and blogs). These are just some of my thoughts on it all (bear in mind I do not know all of the facts and I am surmising on some of this based upon what I do know about the incident and about law enforcement firearms training):

It has been reported that 9 bystanders were wounded by police gunfire, none by shots from the bad guy. Many other bloggers and folks are saying that the officers missed with 9 shots. They probably did not miss nine times if I got the math right. They reportedly fired a total of 16 shots. The bad guy was reportedly hit 10 times. That means they likely missed with 6 shots. 

Working on those reported facts, either the facts are wrong or these things happened:

A bullet or bullets (or bullet fragment[s]) passed through the perpetrator and hit bystander(s).

Likewise a bullet or bullets could have grazed or gone through one bystander and hit another.

A bullet or bullets hit something and ricocheted, maybe fragmenting, and hit bystander(s).

Other bullets may have also hit bystanders directly. (I removed statement that one bystander was deceased, brain fart on my part to have said so).

The police should indeed have drawn their weapons, there is no doubt about it.

A law enforcement officer does not respond to an armed felon who just reportedly shot another man in cold blood with his her pistol holstered unless the officers are the hands on officers with ample back-up who have their weapons drawn at the ready.

The two police officers, involved in the shooting, quite possibly did not act properly once first informed of the info about the bad guy.

Given the location, the time, the crowds, I believe they should have assessed, drawn their weapons and immediately taken cover while ordering bad guy to comply with their first command to not move. Of course that depends on whether or not cover was available. For all I know, maybe they did do that but it does not sound as if they took cover, I believe I read they approached the suspect.

As to whether or not the police or any LEO should ever shoot when there is a possibility of injuring an innocent, the police would likely not be able to shoot in about 90% of the shooting situations in which they may find themselves; that is especially so in a crowded urban area like NYC. Please do not quote the 4 rules of Jeff Cooper, especially the one about knowing your target and what is beyond, if you reply. In many cases, there virtually is no way to know what is beyond your target, within range of a bullet you fire, within the confines of Manhattan - yet, shooting at a bad guy is often appropriate in those instances. The absolute rules, as given by Cooper, are for absolutists and in real life the only absolute we know, of with absoluteness, is death.

In addition, sometimes police will be faced with the decision 'Is it better to take a shot or shots, even when bystander safety is at high risk, from law enforcement fire, or not take the shot(s)'. Sometimes the answer could be yes, it is better to take the shot(s) but I do not believe this was the case here, at least not for all of the shots they took. If you can not imagine when, then you ought to give it some long and serious thought because sometimes the risk to bystanders from LE bullets is outweighed by other risks to the bystanders. Such could be immediate risks posed by bad guy randomly shooting into a crowd or the imminent risk of a bad guy chewing off another man's face. Should they take a shot, if it poses a risk to a bystander but less of a risk than that caused by the bad guy? Maybe yes, under some circumstances. (I don't believe it the case here but it may have been so as I am unaware of all the facts.)

There are a lot of factors that could have caused the officers to miss that many times. Six out of 16 shots is a high percentage of misses and I am making no excuses for the misses just giving reasons as to why they may have been misses (note I said may have

Through all of this though, it was up to the officers to shoot or not shoot. The decision was theirs for each and every shot they fired. They are responsible for each shot they took. Those statements are based on 32 years of firearms training I received as a LEO and on 14 years of instructing other LEO in firearms training. Yet, to anyone who says they sprayed and prayed, while it may well have been the case, I am not all that sure such was the case. It seems that it took 10 rounds to stop the bad guy. There were many possible reasons for their missing with 6 shots. We do not know which shots missed. They could have been the first 6. The officers' assessment, that more shots needed to be fired, could well have been correct or it could have been a case of spray and pray. I think it less likely a case of spray and pray because neither officer likely fired all the rounds in his pistol. They most probably were carrying semi-automatic pistols with at least a 15 round capacity and possibly were carrying MP-5 submachine

The officers, in my estimation, or at least one of the officers made a poor assessment of when it was okay to shoot and one or both were ill prepared mentally (at least at the moment) to face such a situation. (Bear in mind, one of them may have hit the bad guy with every shot he fired and the other may have missed almost every time he fired - one fired 9 shots the other 7 shots, thus the reason I say ' officers or at least one of them.) Being somewhat ill prepared mentally, to face a life threatening situation, in which you may have to take some one's life in order to survive, is not a fault of the officers. In fact, it is probably a sign of their morality. No matter how much we think we would be able to do it if called upon, it goes against the grain of us to do so (unless we are psychos or unless we have been taught, since childhood, that killing is very acceptable). There is no way to train yourself as to absolutely prepare you to be fully ready for such a situation, to train you how you will react and then act in such a situation. Of course, training does help prepare you, it is just not an absolute guarantee of how you will act. These officers probably had a lot of tactical training, at least they should have had such training being assigned, as they were, to an anti-terrorist detail. Again, these are not excuses, just being objective based on my training and my limited knowledge of the facts as presented to the public on this incident.

As I said above, I believe the officers were, or at least one of the officers was, at fault for hitting civilians because I do not think they approached handling the situation from the best way it could have been handled from the beginning. I do not think they assessed the situation properly. I think there were other ways to have handled it that would have been much less likely to have resulted in injury to bystanders by gunshots. Then again, I do not know all the facts and it is easy to criticize when not wearing the shoes of the person being criticized. I would love to be able to review all the reports, witness statements, ballistic evidence reports, possible video of the shooting (it may be out there, lot of people make videos at the Empire State Building) and so on. Then I could make a truly informed decision. So, when it comes right down to it, as I have done in the past for LEOs as well as for accused dirtbags and everyone in between, I will not condemn them without much of  or all of the evidence before me (if you know me at all, from this blog or from firearms forums, you know that despite being a retired LEO, I will readily condemn law enforcement when I have become convinced they have screwed up badly and that is not necessarily an uncommon thing for me to do). For now though, I will leave that to the investigators and to the courts because you can bet your bottom dollar this will wind up investigated to the max and will wind up at least in civil courts. These officers are almost sure to face tort claims filed by the wounded bystanders and may face criminal and or will face departmental charges too before all is said and done. They may also be praised as heroes. 

I will go as far as to express my opinion, for what it is worth or not, based on my training and experience, on what evidence I have seen or heard reported, and will say that my guess is that these two officers, or at least one of them, screwed up pretty badly at least with regard to 9 non-life threatening to the bystanders. Although, as I have pointed out, there could have been some reasons for the stray bullets that might vindicate the officers of any wrong doing.

I hope you understand, what I just tried to do was give an objective outlook of the incident as opposed to an emotional or biased one. If you are going to leave a comment, please be respectful, be objective, don't get all sorts of emotional or show any obvious bias.

All the best,
Glenn  B
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