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,
Gunblog Variety Cast Episode 106
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