Many of you have chosen to carry responsibly and for all of the best reasons, and I applaud you for that. As you continue to prepare by training and running “what if’s” through your head, you need to consider what will happen after the suspect(s) have been neutralized and the gunfire has ceased. If you took CCW1 with us you will remember our last range exercise was in preparing for the arrival of the police; this will happen. So let’s get knee-deep into this subject and call it out, because there is some really bad information out there that sets good people up to fail or fear doing what is their legal right to do – protect and defend.
This New Year, 2018, marks my 35th year as a police officer and trainer of police officers. I still have much to learn and my way is surely not the only way. I have had the benefit of many life experiences that help me better understand how to make informed decisions under duress. Something that disturbs me greatly is the bias, even open contempt toward good citizens, descendants of those who founded and died for this country, when we choose to exercise our Second Amendment rights. Some of the speculations and embellished anecdotes spread by the media include:
Speculation 1: You don’t need a “black assault rifle with a 30 round clip” for defense. Well, it’s not called the “bill of needs,” it’s called the “Bill of Rights” and that ammo-holder-thingy you call a “clip” is called a “magazine.” Ask Carl Chinn, one of two members of the New Life Church in Colorado Springs (2007) who confronted an attacker who had just shot 2 people with an AR15 rifle, how he felt with only a KeI Tec 32 auto in his hand. Please see the Faith Based Security Network http://www.carlchinn.com/home.html for more information. You should be training with a rifle as well as a pistol.
Speculation 2: Don’t try to fight off an attacker; you will only make things worse. You can raise your kids to be victims or self-empowering leaders of others. When David slew Goliath, he was NOT the underdog! David practiced and trained, and confidently stepped up when it was his time. He even taunted the Philistine before he dropped him with a stone and then cut off his head with his own sword. Goliath was dead when he got out of bed that morning!
Speculation 3: Our community is prepared with the best police, fire, and EMS first responders anywhere. They are the ones who should be taking care of the emergencies. Your local team may be the best second responders in the world, but it will be YOUR emergency first. It is your choice to prepare or to remain in denial in the face of facts. The average law enforcement response remains longer than the entire duration of an active murderer’s attack. Note that when a citizen stops an active murderer, the average number of people killed is between 2 and 3. When the police arrive to stop an active murderer, the average number killed is 14. I like citizens math a lot better!
Speculation 4: Engaging a criminal in a crowded public venue is very risky and dangerous. Most people don’t have the skills to do it. Innocent people could be killed. Um, yes it is certainly dangerous. Does that mean we shouldn’t even try to stop the murdering? This does reinforce that while I advocate for our right to carry, we also have an obligation to get quality training and know what our abilities and limitations are. There is much more to this than buying a gun and wearing it. And while you are lamenting your inability to stop the killing…get out of my way!
Speculation 5: If you carry a firearm and intervene in a life-threatening encounter, you may be shot by the police when they arrive! And here is the impetus behind my article. This mindset is fear-mongering based upon absolutely no empirical information or case studies, just what-if and fear.
So let’s be clear. I am not saying this has never happened. I AM SAYING that I am not aware of a single event where a citizen has stopped a criminal life threat with a firearm and subsequently been mistaken for the criminal then shot by police. There is a lot of conjecture about what could happen, so let’s approach this in a logical fashion. Let’s talk about what you can do if you choose to be a responsible protector and what to do AFTER your shots have been fired and the suspect is down. What can we do to stop, or at least minimize additional harm to you and everyone else? Here are some considerations for the person who chooses to prepare and do the best they can as opposed to the person who chooses to live a fear-based life. There are a lot of things to chew on here, but in the 5-25 minutes you will wait for emergency responders you can accomplish a lot of constructive things that can make a difference and prevent additional harm.
Confirm the suspect(s) cannot hurt anyone else. Did the attacker drop their gun or is it still in their hands. BE VERY CAREFUL WHEN APPROACHING A SUSPECT DOWN, particularly if you cannot see their hands! There is a powerful force that will try to pull you in close, especially if you lose control of your emotions through screaming and yelling – BREATHE! Purposeful movement can be an advantage but stay 8-12 feet away and out of their reach or lunge area. Announce to others, “My name is John and I have a permit to carry. Let’s help each other get through this. YOU – don’t reach for the gun, stay on the ground, put your hands above your head.” (They may not be able to due to their injuries.) Announcing that you have a permit may seem silly but understand that many folks may be in shock and in need of direction. They have not made the preparations you have. Like Todd Beamer on Flight 93, “Let’s roll!” put everyone on the same page and their teamwork did the rest. Remember – panic may be contagious, but so is calm!
Scan for additional attackers and threats. Often there is more than one bad guy. Even if they are not displaying a firearm, there may be someone else involved. The armed attacks that we are now dealing with increasingly involve more than one bad guy.
Actively work to calm and control yourself. The “shooting” may be over but your nervous system will be in overdrive! Some senses will be hypervigilant, others may be subdued or even distorted. Time stands still. Your perceptions may change. But even if your hands are shaking and your voice is cracking, you will prevail and lead others to a successful resolution. Who you are, and how you behave, will speak very loudly. This is the final exam and a culmination of your training up until now. Be confident but not arrogant. C’mon, you got this!
Secure the scene; solicit help from others who seem capable. Communicate openly with the group and be assertive and clear; try not to yell. Ask if there is anyone else who is licensed to carry. They don’t necessarily need to get their gun out, but you just identified another person similar to you who has gone out of their way to prepare. Trust your gut; use your instinct and observational skills. If you can secure or isolate the suspect(s) by turning them on their stomach and holding their arms and legs down, or by using zip ties, duct tape, computer cables or cord to tie their arms behind their back, do this before attempting ANY first aid. The suspect may be a bloody, sticky mess. Securing the suspect(s) is not essential but we are trying to set up a “safer” scene where your pistol can be in the holster again before the police arrive.
Take note of a Las Vegas police officer applying a tourniquet to a suspect they were just forced to shoot. The officers control before they cuff, and they cuff before they search or render aid. This is standard practice. The officer saved the criminal’s life with a CAT tourniquet many officers carry today to save themselves. (Note: the video is both graphic and vulgar, but an excellent example of a capability we should all have and that we will teach in Crisis Casualty Care on February 3rd in Hallsville: [CLICK HERE FOR DETAILS on CRISIS CASUALTY CARE COURSE]
[CLICK HERE FOR TOURNIQUET VIDEO LVMPD]
Have someone call 911 and keep the line open. This way you can give real-time information to responders. The dispatcher will have lots of questions, many of which they will ask more than once. You want to convey that “x” number of attackers are down and “good guys” are holding the scene until help arrives. If you choose not to approach a suspect, or there is a need for someone to keep their pistol pointed at the criminal, that needs to be conveyed to the dispatcher. “John Smith is wearing a blue shirt and green shorts, he is covering the attacker, he is NOT a criminal. Again, John Smith, blue shirt, green shorts, GOOD GUY.”
Be prepared for the arrival of excited responders. Demonstrate a universal posture for communication and assistance – your hand high in the air! A brightly colored reflective ribbon known as a DSM or “don’t shoot me” is in widespread use with many civilian security teams. It is carried in a pocket or pouch and can be deployed with one hand (after practice) in an emergency. Some believe that carrying a badge signifying your status as a CCW holder is a good idea – I think this is foolish and dangerous! You are not the police and you should not try to behave as such. When the police arrive and have to sort the whole mess out, you don’t need any additional scrutiny because of your behavior. (Ribbons yes, badges NO!) View the “Don’t Shoot Me” at http://www.dsmsafety.com/
Assess how many are seriously hurt and require immediate aid. If you identify that 5 people have gunshot wounds, you can relay this to the 911 dispatcher so they can send additional resources. In any multiple casualty incident, protocol dictates that the first arriving emergency responder survey and assess to determine what additional resources should be sent.
Give directions and suggestions to bystanders on providing medical and supportive care to others who are injured or in distress. If no first aid gear is present (check break rooms, kitchens, locker rooms) improvise using materials at hand. People will catch on quickly, just offer them the opportunity.
Avoid any phrases using the word GUN. As responders arrive, especially police, avoid using the term GUN. Say “armed” if necessary. The word “GUN,” particularly in an elevated tone, tends to send police officers to an escalated level.
Continue to assess the scene, secure doors, and post spotters to watch for the arrival of responders or other problems or threats trying to get in from the outside. FD or EMS may arrive first. Whether or not they enter the scene before the police depends upon their policies or the supervisor on duty. This varies greatly from one jurisdiction to the next and you may be forced to wait for medical help until after the first police officer arrives and declares the scene “stable.”
Encourage people to stay together. There is strength in numbers, physical and emotional support will be better, and if multiple people are hurt we have already begun the setting up of a “casualty collection point” where resources will be directed, the physical location can be defended, and ambulances will be staged or routed to for evacuation.
Be careful what you say to the police when questioned. Be cooperative without giving a descriptive statement. YOU ARE A SUSPECT! The police may be respectful and considerate to you but that does not mean they are not documenting everything. Remember…anything you say CAN and WILL BE used against you. Just because you have not been given a Miranda warning does not mean you are not on record. In many cases the officer’s body camera will be recording you. It is reasonable for you to say, “He came in with a gun and attacked us. I defended myself. I want to cooperate with you and I am a little upset right now. I need to check in with my family.” Under duress and right after an incident most people don’t have good recall or their “facts” are simply wrong. Consider today’s standard practice for a police officer who has been involved in a shooting. The officer is:
- Immediately escorted from the area and accompanied by friends;
- Protected and isolated from the media;
- Relieved of their service pistol as evidence and then provided a replacement;
- Given immediate access to family, clergy, their police union representative, and an attorney;
- Offered a meal with family;
- Given the opportunity for a full night’s rest before beginning their report. Correctly so, police departments have learned how to advocate for their officers who have been forced to defend life with deadly force. Who is going to advocate for you?
When you are in a safe/quiet place, write down everything you can remember. What first drew your attention to danger and caused you to act, what did the suspect say, what did they do, where were you coming from/headed to, how many witnesses were there, what did other people say/do. Write down details you remember, they can be organized later.
Establish a relationship with an attorney or decide who you would call BEFORE an incident happens. While we want to believe “happily ever after” will be the outcome, you must prepare for what could happen otherwise. It is a good idea to speak with an attorney the day after the incident with the notes you made. You may not be arrested at the scene, but it is still possible to be charged later. Other witnesses may be unreliable and suspects LIE. Here is where your constructive actions after the suspect was stopped can work to your advantage. Your behavior will be recalled as controlled and helpful in stark contrast to what the criminal may claim
Take care of yourself and let your close circle of friends shield and protect you. Lean on your friends, family, faith, and know you did the right thing. You prepared for this. Stay out of sight, avoid the media and advise your family not to talk to them either. The less the media has the sooner they will move on to another story. Ease yourself back into your routine. An event like this will be on your mind for a long time.
There is a lot to think about here, and lots to practice. Make yourself an index card with these prompts and practice them. If it were easy, not only would more people be doing it, but there would be a lot less arguing and controversy, right? Life today is dangerous and you don’t get to choose the final exam. The final exam chooses you. Study well and study often!