Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Yesterday In History (What Can I Say, I Forgot About Yesterday)

Yesterday, August 1, 2016 was the 50th anniversary of the University of Texas, Austin, Tower Shootings. The gunman, Charles Whitman, shot 49 people and killed 16 of them. He already had also killed his mother and his wife earlier that morning. After his death, an autopsy (that he had requested in his writings) revealed a necrotic tumor in his brain but it was never concluded if the tumor led to rampage. Prior to the shootings, Whitman had suffered from apparent mental health issues for some time and had fits of violent rage. He sought medical and psychiatric help evidently to no avail.

While I remember a lot of the general story from my youth, I was 10 at the time this happened, I did not recall the details. I found an interesting detailed piece on it over at Wikipedia. Read more about him there. There are many interesting points in his story but I found one of the most so to be the amount of preparation he put into carrying out his killing spree. Hasty as were those preparations, they were extensive nonetheless. It is evident that he had plannedto be shooting for a long time if he could. If he had better fortified his position to prevent access to the police, he may have been up there for days before they stopped him. Luckily, he was killed by a shotgun wielding officer after another officer had gotten the jump on him and fired all six shots out of his revolver at Whitman but missed with all of them from about 50 feet away. (I swear my last post was written before I even became aware of this stuff; yet, the officer getting him with the shotgun and the other officer missing with all 6 shots from his revolver, support what I said in that other post regarding a shotgun versus a pistol.)

A hat tip to Dom Di who had a post about the shooting up on his FB page.

All the best,
Glenn B

1970s Era Shotgun Tactical Training Video

I had to watch his twice to believe what I was hearing and seeing. I began my career in law enforcement at the tail end, right at the end of the tail, of the 70s. In the 1980's I took on collateral duties as a firearms instructor for handgun, rifle and shotgun and later for the MP-5 submachine gun. One of my preferred weapons throughout that time all the way through today has been the Remington 870 shotgun.

While some good points are made in this video about the spread of buckshot and other types of shot and the dangers caused by that to innocent bystanders, I find a lot of what is said in this training piece to be off target. My personally preferred round in my 870 shotguns has usually been 1 ounce slugs although I also carry buckshot in case a situation calls for it. As to me usually loading with slugs, there are no "spread" problems when it comes to slugs. Had the officer who shot the bad guy, in the first scenario of this video, been firing slugs, chances are he would have hit the bad guy and no one else. On the other hand, when the training officer claims that the officer would have put down the bad guy with a single shot from his revolver, that is doubtful to me. Would the officer have hit him with a revolver shot, under stress of incoming fire, in a standing unsupported position, at a distance of 50 yards (which was the distance that was attributed to that shooting)? It would have had to have been one heck of a great shot. A shotgun, shooting slugs, is a very effective weapon at a distance of 50 yards yet the training officer only mentions that slugs are a good choice when deep penetration is required. The truth is though that the likelihood of hitting the bad guy with one shot from the shotgun generally would have increased an officer's chances of hitting the bad guy several fold over his being able to do so with a revolver. As for this particular department, apparently the Pasadena PD in California, it could have been that the department in question only allowed officers to utilize buckshot when on routine patrols. If that was the case, I think they should have switched to slugs or at least have given the officers that option.

Some other things that I found less than acceptable in that video were: the officer firing with other people in the line of fire regardless of the weapon or type of ammo he was firing. That problem persists today throughout police departments and law enforcement agencies within the United States. You can read about police shooting an innocent bystander either directly or by way of a ricochet just about every few weeks or so. In some situations it may be impossible to avoid such a threat to bystander but still be necessary to shoot the bad guy to prevent a greater threat to the public than would be caused by your shot should it go astray. At other times though, and I think this is in most instances, you may have to withhold fire when innocents are in the line of fire. In that regard, the training officer made a very important note, you may not even see the bystanders. Remember to assess as each and every situation unfolds.

Then there was the training officer standing there displaying his revolver with finger on the trigger. Even as the 70s came to an end we were trained to keep the booger picker off of the trigger until ready to shoot. It may have been different in other agencies or departments but safety was a high priority in my agency. We had one guy, on my first LE job, who refused to pay attention to that and he wound up shooting himself in his thigh while drawing with his finger on the trigger and the thumb snap still closed. The gun did not come out of the holster immediately and he tugged harder, finger still on trigger and still forgetting to hit the thumb snap.  It went bang and he went to the ER. So, it was something I paid attention to and faithfully have practiced since then.

Of course, there were also the potentially problematic and dangerous use of police commands used on at least one stop. Did you pay attention to the commands used by the officer who stopped the vehicle with three suspects in it. He sad: "Freeze, stay in your car and put your hands on your heads". Do you see the problem with that, it too is a problem that persists today and I do not mean using the word 'freeze'. What I am referring to is the use of contradictory commands. How can someone who has complied with a command to freeze then also move to put his hands on his head. Commands like that not only confuse suspects but can also confuse officers during such a stressful situation. Another officer may have heard the command freeze, say as he drove by the first officer to turn around his vehicle, and either not heard or not paid attention to the first officer then saying put your hands on your head. That second officer seeing the suspects raise their hands might then perceive a threat that simply is not there because the suspects would in fact be complying with the first officer's commands. That could lead to a suspect being shot though not posing a threat.

If you are going to stop a suspect and tell him not to move, give him the chance to stay motionless for at least a couple to few seconds as you assess the situation. It may be prudent to assure that you do not see any weapons within his reach over his head, in a hat band, or otherwise nearby before you tell him to put his hands up or on his head. You may also want to preface the second command, the one to put his hands on his head, with the word "now" so it is obvious that you have a new command starting at this moment. Also, why have all three suspects move at once. It usually is easier, at least for me, to watch one guy move while the other two remain motionless than to observe all three moving at once. Tell one of them to do it, then the next and then the next as the others remain motionless while the one is moving.

If you are in law enforcement in an armed encounter, or a homeowner protecting his family, paying attention to stuff like this may save your life, prevent you from shooting a bystander and may also help keep you out of jail for a wrongful shooting.

All the best,
Glenn B