In every encounter, there is an element of chance.
–John Hall, head of the FBI Firearms Training Unit during the Miami Massacre timeframe.
A friend of mine had an encounter with some apparent criminals a few days ago. Fortunately, he was able to escape the initial encounter. However, he then made the all too common mistake of initiating a pursuit of said criminals ‘until the police arrived.’ In fact, he pulled in right behind their car in the parking lot after the initial incident had concluded and the criminal had walked away from him. Then the criminals began their withdrawal by driving away and he followed them. Fortunately, the police eventually arrived and placed the criminals under arrest. It all worked out OK; this time.
However, I think the incident bears some analysis. The format used by the LAPD Board of Police Commissioners is a good model for our purposes here.
In every case, the BOPC makes specific findings in three areas: [A] Tactics of the involved officer(s); [B] Drawing/Exhibiting of a firearm by any involved officer(s); and the [C] Use of Force by any involved officer(s).
The initial incident was resolved without any Use of Force by my friend so [C] does not apply. During the initial encounter, he was approached by the criminal with an impact weapon, to wit: a tire iron. In response, my friend drew a J frame revolver that he kept below the line of sight of the criminal. I think that was a perfectly appropriate [B] response.
Let’s look at [A] Tactics.
Pulling in right behind them means he turned the initiative over to them voluntarily. I.e., he placed himself into the reactive phase (Observe, Orient, Decide) of their OODA cycle rather than them being in the reactive phase of his OODA cycle as was the case during the initial encounter. That’s BAD tactics.
We can use this situation as an example of the difference between brainstorming and wargaming. Brainstorming means my friend developed a rudimentary Course of Action. He stated: “If I roll down this window, I’m going to have to shoot him.” Eventually, he chose to move his vehicle as an alternative. In other words, he considered what two of his options were and that’s about all. That’s brainstorming.
Wargaming the incident means we include the adversary’s options, your response to their options, and the possible consequences.
Some of the options available to the criminals upon my friend pulling up behind them were:
- Withdraw, which is what they chose
- Fight, either using deadly force or a lesser force level
Let’s wargame those criminal options:
If they had chosen Flight, meaning at high speed, does one then continue the Pursuit? You wouldn’t think so but there is an instinctive reaction to pursue upon an adversary’s Flight. I have observed this many times and the pursuers denied they did it until shown the video. If that happens unconsciously, then you also become a lawbreaker; speeding, reckless driving, etc.
The criminals chose to Withdraw, which then resulted in a low level pursuit, entailing no legal violations. I think this illustrates the point I made about Flight, we may choose the Pursuit option unconsciously.
What about Confront? Up to this point of the pursuit, the criminals had not committed any chargeable offense that would stand up at trial. There was enough reason for the police to initiate a Probable Cause stop, which then resulted in arrests for unrelated offenses. Prior to the arrival of the police, the criminals stopped several times and my friend stopped behind them at some distance. What if the criminals had chosen to Confront my friend about following them? Say one of them had gotten out of the car and walked purposefully toward my friend’s vehicle.
At that point, he would have had to make a decision about how to react. He could have driven away, remained in place, drawn and displayed his weapon, or perhaps used deadly force. All of those possible reactions have possible unpleasant consequences. Let’s say he tried to drive away and the individual got in front of his vehicle. That’s a potential vehicular homicide and would be very hard to defend. Say he draws his weapon and the criminal calls the police for Man With A Gun threatening me. Aggravated Assault is a felony charge. Even if you beat it, it’s unpleasant, lengthy, and expensive. You don’t get to carry a gun during the entire course of the legal proceedings and may have to surrender all your firearms until the conclusion.
Shooting the individual could easily turn into a total mess.
- “Why did you shoot the man?”
- “He did something suspicious in a parking lot a distance away, so I followed him.”
- “But why did you shoot him?”
- “Well, he stopped his car, so I stopped my car behind him. Then he got out and walked purposefully up to my car window. I felt threatened at that point, so I shot him.”
Let’s say the criminals chose to Fight, using lethal force. My friend assumes these people were ‘gangbangers.’ Worst case scenario is that both of them pile out of their car with AK rifles and start hosing down his car. A Springfield .45 pistol and J frame revolver aren’t going to be terribly useful in that situation. And he would have been in the reactive phase of the OODA cycle, so there would probably be a lag about even moving the car to Escape. Even during the Escape, the car would have to pass by, at close distance, two individuals shooting at it with autoloading rifles. The potential for becoming a casualty, along with the friend who was in the car with him, in such a situation is very high.
So that is the difference between brainstorming and wargaming. As you can see, the wargaming process can be quite involved. It’s easier to do it ahead of time based on the experiences of others. Then if you have to do some wargaming on the spot, you already have some models to choose from rather than develop them on the ground at the time.
My feeling about the situation he encountered is rather different than his. My reaction to the initial encounter probably would have been similar to his. However, once I have escaped from a criminal, I am not reinserting myself into the situation. If I do choose to keep an eye on the situation, it will most certainly not be within the effective range of gunfire.