It’s useful to track a Negative Outcome incident from start to finish. In this case, the Negative Outcome was an Unjustifiable Shooting.
A quick summary of the events is:
- Two individuals were on a Michigan man’s property, early in the morning.
- Most likely their intent was to steal. They were on a ‘crime spree.’
- The man heard them and came out on his porch with a .22 semi-automatic rifle.
- He challenged them.
- At least one of them began to run away.
- He shot both of them and killed them.
- An investigation followed.
- Months later, he was arrested and charged with two counts of second degree murder.
- More than two years later, he was convicted and sentenced to a long prison term.
Several Negative Outcomes were brought to my attention this week. One was yet another incident of someone shooting their spouse, thinking it was a burglar. She died as a result of one shot to the chest.
The husband told police it was an accident. He told officers he woke up around 4:15 Saturday morning and heard noises in his house … He told investigators he grabbed his gun and when he saw a light on and someone standing in the distance, he took a shot. He said the person he ended up hitting once in the chest was his wife.
This sad situation bolsters my contention that when we pick up a pistol at home, we have to pick up a flashlight at the same time. That’s why I made flashlight shooting an integral part of The Tactical Professor’s Pistol Practice Program. To get some repetitions in and reinforce the habit for myself, I went to the range this week and shot the entire NRA Defensive Pistol I marksmanship program using a flashlight.
As a curiosity, I also used a timer instead of going by the PAR times in the program. The pistol I used was a Beretta Jaguar in .22 Long Rifle. Many in the industry poo-poo the .22 as a defensive tool but .22s have worked for me. An aspect of .22s I like in the practice context is that shooting several hundred rounds in one session isn’t punishing, either physically or financially. I shot it at my gun club but the way Defensive Pistol I is structured, it can be shot at just about any indoor range. That’s an aspect of the program I really like.
What I did was to have my pistol, my flashlight, and the timer on a stool in front of me. The target was downrange at the specified seven yards.
When the timer went off, I would pick up my pistol and flashlight simultaneously, assume the cheek position, and then shoot the specified string of fire. For the phases requiring loading the pistol on the clock, I picked up the pistol and magazine, loaded it, and then picked up the flashlight. After each string, I recorded my times. The NRA provides a scoresheet but it is set up for Pass/fail scoring, so I made my own scoring matrix.
I checked the target after each string to make sure that I had the required 100 percent hits. At the end of each phase; Pro-Marksman, Marksman, etc., I marked the target with blue dots to cover my hits.
For most of the program, I used the cheek technique.
The Expert phase requires shooting around both sides of the cover. When shooting around the left side, I continued to use the cheek technique. When shooting around the right side, I used the Harries technique.
The Distinguished Expert phase doesn’t specify shooting around both sides of the cover. However, it does requires eight runs instead of four, so I shot four around the right side and four around the left side.
I was able to maintain the 100 percent standard and got a good idea of my times to accomplish each Phase.
Several times, I have been pointed to an article about a cop who decided he needed to carry a lot more ammo on the job. The story is an excellent example of having the answers right in front of you and then ignoring them. While I don’t disagree with the idea of having plenty of ammo, it wasn’t the real solution to the problem in his case.
The nitty gritty of the story is that a cop got into an extended shootout with a determined attacker. The shootout went on for quite a while with a lot of spraying and praying on both sides. Eventually, the cop shot the suspect in the head and the situation was over.
As the incident progressed, he figured out that the answer to his problem was a software solution.
Then I told myself, ‘Hey, I need to slow down and aim better.’
My mother used to frequently comment about life in general, “If you don’t take the time to do it right in the first place, what makes you think you’ll have the time to do it over?” That’s a good commentary about situations like the one the officer encountered.
In retrospect, the officer mentioned that there were also other software solutions available. “ ‘I didn’t have time to think of backing up or even ramming him,’ Gramins said. ‘I see the gun and I engage.’ ” I’ve never put it on a timer but I bet that stepping on the gas pedal is faster than drawing from a security holster while seat belted in a car. Just recently a police officer proved the efficacy of this solution. As Massad Ayoob said many years ago, “What is a car to a pedestrian? A multi-ton high speed battering ram.”
But the officer’s overall conclusion about his experience was a hardware solution, i.e., ‘Be ready to do a bunch of spraying and praying’ by carrying 145 rounds of ammo on his person. His conclusion doesn’t follow from his self-evaluation of the solution to his problem. Perhaps, despite being a “master firearms instructor [I’m not sure what that means] and a sniper on his department’s Tactical Intervention Unit” he needs to learn to shoot a handgun on demand in a way that gets good results.
He did draw one conclusion I agree with, to wit: the mighty .45 ACP isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. The officer switched from carrying a Glock .45 to a Glock 9mm. He’s not the first police officer I know of who has drawn that conclusion after a gunfight.
In one of the incidents my colleague Tom Givens describes in the DVD Lessons from the Street, the citizen came to the conclusion that he needed a larger caliber pistol. My analysis in that case was similar to the solution the author of the story about the police officer’s situation drew, “Practice head shots.”
I often see people draw erroneous conclusions from their experiences. While we think about ‘the fog of war’ as occurring during the battle, it often sets in afterward, too.
I am 62 and not nearly as strong as I once was. So long as he is only shouting, that’s where it will stay. Touch [me], I’m too old to fight. I will shoot.
An Internet Common Tater
Merrill “Mike” Kimball encountered one of the worst Negative Outcomes, being convicted of murder. Leon Kelley experienced the worst of them all, getting killed.
There are a number of items relating to decision-making, both during the confrontation and preceding it, that bear discussion in this case. Decisions are often made based on attitude and feelings, rather than facts. Most gun control arguments are rooted in feelings and we gunowners belittle anti-gunners for that. However, don’t think that the same reliance on fact rather than feeling can’t come back to haunt us in the courtroom.
An aspect of the Kimball shooting that I find interesting is that the ‘disparity of force’ aspect swayed the jury not at all. Leon Kelly was half a foot taller and outweighed Merrill Kimball by over 100 pounds but the jury didn’t care. The above Common Tater has the same attitude Mike Kimball displayed on October 6, 2013. Unfortunately, the jury didn’t see it that as a justification. A fear of serious bodily injury has to be seen as ‘reasonable.’ As a Maine defense attorney wrote on his blog
note the use of the word ‘reasonably’ [in the Maine statute]. Whimsical or irrational beliefs attributed to the defendant do not suffice.
Just because some of us are older (I’m 60) doesn’t mean we can think every assault is cause to respond with deadly force. This is why I tell every Defensive Pistol class I teach:
Failure to have an Intermediate Force option implies that all you are willing to do to protect yourself and your family is kill someone. That’s not a position I care to put myself in, nor should any rational adult.
For now, I’m not going to address the wisdom of even going to the scene of the confrontation, all things considered. However, if Mr. Kimball had carried a can of pepper spray with him, he probably wouldn’t be facing the probability of spending the rest of his life behind bars. I hear many objections to carrying pepper spray. Without exception, they are foolish, yet speciously alluring. As the prosecutor commented about the Kimball case:
People have a right to carry firearms, but the law only provides for use of firearms in defense in very limited and particular circumstances, and this was not one of them.
I would much rather carry a can of pepper spray than a spare magazine or a defensive knife. The chances you will need a spare magazine are infinitesimal. The reasons I hear for carrying a spare magazine tend to be:
- Carrying an extra implies you know what you’re doing.
- That you know that most semi-auto malfunctions are mag-related.
- That you know to top off after the fight.
- That you know that 6 rounds of .380 isn’t that much.
- That there might be another adversary.
The chances you will need a non-lethal response to an ugly situation are much higher than any of those reasons. Being shoved, even repeatedly, is not sufficient legal provocation for a killing. Even if it was, do you want to kill someone in front of your wife and son, as Mr. Kimball did, unless it’s absolutely necessary? But if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.
Ponder the implications the next time you strap on your heater.
A completely irrelevant post on Facebook (a new flamethrower) brought something to mind that I hadn’t thought about in a couple of decades. It relates to the concept of defining the mission, desired outcome, and possible consequences. Those are things integral, yet unstated, to the Orient phase of the OODA process and fundamental to achieving success.
Most discussions about OODA get caught up in the speed aspect, which is actually a tertiary part of the process. It’s not just a simple speed-based looping cycle, as is often depicted.
Years ago, I had a friend who didn’t care for guns but kept a flare pistol for home defense. She mentioned this to me in conversation. Her logic was that she didn’t want to kill someone. My response was “So you don’t want to kill someone but you’re okay with launching something into him that burns at several thousand degrees and might burn your house down?” She said she hadn’t thought about it that way. It certainly would have been possible for her to Act quickly but would it have been a good decision? I don’t think so.
It’s easy to get caught up in a linear process from the starting point without looking far enough down the path to a likely result and consequence. One component of Awareness is to keep your head up and look far down the road, just as you should when driving, rather than being fixated on the bumper in front of you.
It’s important to note that what is considered the most successful recent example of Boyd’s thinking was the planning of the First Gulf War. It took months and involved several different iterations of the strategic plan. In Boyd’s original hand drawn diagram of the OODA process, he actually had three different loops; one depicting planning, one depicting execution, and a third showing an overlay of the previous two. The third version is the popularized full diagram but it obscures the importance of the analysis/synthesis part of the process. There are many inputs necessary, including consequences, before an effective decision can be made. That planning is what makes rapid, effective Action possible.
Keeping in mind the desired outcome has to always be part of our decision-making. ‘Outcome Based Decision-Making’ should be an integral part of our thought process. As they said in DEA:
Focus on the object, not on the obstacle.
Continuing on about the Rangemaster 2015 Tactical Conference held annually in the Memphis area, I would like to cover the high points of some sessions I attended.
John Hearne’s Performance Under Fire presentation was so packed with information that it’s hard to take it all in. He does a fine job of refuting the pseudo-science that pervades the personal protection training community. His research is thorough, up to date, and can document fully what he says. An aspect of his approach I like is the way he tracks the original science to see if it has subsequently been refuted. John is one of the few people in the community besides myself who has any clue about how to do research. Here’s a clue; taking information from a firearms or martial arts trainer at face value is not a valid approach. I found numerous points in his presentation quite useful.
He stated that there are actually 21 documentable ‘flinch responses,’ most of which do not involve throwing one’s hands up in the air. So if there are a variety of responses, how do you know which one you will exhibit and is it going to be the same one every time? Years ago, Ken Hackathorn told me to watch surveillance video of convenience store robberies to see how many people threw their hands up in the air when they were startled. The answer is ‘not many.’
One of my personal pet peeves is the continuing blathering about Hick’s Law in the community. John made the point that Hick’s Law was largely discredited in the scientific community decades ago. For those unfamiliar, Hick’s Law states that the more options you have, the longer it will take to make a decision, by a square of the number of choices. The original study was sort of iffy anyway and subsequent research has shown that it’s only true in the absence of any familiarity with the task and absent any practice on the decision making.
The subsequent power law of practice states that the more practice you have at making the decision, the faster you get at making it. There’s some question as to whether the practice/speed relationship is logarithmic or exponential but there’s no question about the validity of the power law. Think about it in terms of when you are driving. When you see the brake lights of the car in front of you come on, there’s no conscious decision making about whether you’re going to hit the gas or the brake, unless you’re a 15 year old student driver.
An important point John made was about the career time of when law enforcement officers were feloniously assaulted. The average time was about eight years. I believe John referenced this from the 2006 FBI study Violent Encounters, A Study of Felonious Assaults on Our Nation’s Law Enforcement Officers, but I don’t recall for sure. This was important to me because it highlighted the factor of complacency in Negative Outcomes.
Although I lack the rigorous methodology that the FBI used, it’s my feeling this is also a factor in Negative Outcomes by Armed Private Citizens. Complacency can be a killer. We see it every day at gun ranges, gun shops, and shooting clubs. Complacency is why some people have one year of experience 20 times instead of 20 years of experience and is closely related to the “I know it all” syndrome. We have all had to deal with ‘know-it-alls’ and ‘spring-butts’ and never like it. It’s up to us individually to make sure we don’t fall into the trap and challenge others who have.
Just to show that John can put his money where his mouth is, he won the High Lawman and Second Place overall in the shooting contest.
I’ll have more about the Conference next time.
The Rangemaster 2015 Tactical Conference is over and I am processing the things I observed and learned from it. The Conference has a long history, dating back to the early days of IDPA in 1998, when it was a sanctioned IDPA indoor Championship. Over the years, it has evolved into the foremost tactical training conference for private citizens in the United States. It is held annually, early in the year, in the Memphis area. The venue for the 2015 Conference was the Memphis Police Training Academy, a truly fine and modern facility.
This year, three dozen of the top personal protection trainers in the country, many of whom are referred to as “T-Rexes,” came together to present or conduct training blocks of two to six hours over a period of three days. The agenda has grown so large that it’s not possible to take in all the training that is available, since sometimes five blocks are going on simultaneously. Some of the training is classroom lecture, some is hands-on with sterile weapons, and some is livefire. There is also a shooting match, for those who choose to participate.
There were a wide variety of topics, ranging from psychology and communications to contact based skills to firearms manipulation. I was able to attend nine sessions.
- Yes, I Shoot Like a Girl, Would You Like a Lesson?
- Surviving Lethal Encounters
- The Law of Self-Defense
- Practical Small Knife Principles
- Performance Under Fire
- Rehabilitating the Experienced Shooter
- The Training/Reality Mismatch
- Kneeling Positions and Combining Them with the Use of Cover
- Women’s Holsters and Accessories
In addition, I was able to make two classroom presentations.
- Tactical Communications for Couples, with my co-presenter Linda Hoopes, President of the Resilience Alliance.
- Negative Outcomes of Firearms Ownership
Upon my return, several people have asked me what my most significant takeaways were. As usual, I learned a great deal, so it’s difficult to say what were the most significant, but here are a few that stand out in my mind, in no particular order.
- A conversation with a mentor of mine, John Farnam, elicited from both of us the experience that when approached for help in a parking lot, it’s almost always a scam or criminal ambush. Fellow trainer Melody Lauer pointed out that there are a few legitimate exceptions, but John and I both feel they are the exception rather than the rule. This indicates that a default response should be formed to immediately and firmly decline the invitation to be a victim and then rapidly vacate the area. Exceptions to that rule should be based on specific articulable reasons and conscious decision-making, rather than by default.
- The T-Rexes are constantly working along the path to excellence. That path includes attitude, skills development, tactics, and a host of other areas. Recognizing that there is an element of chance in every encounter, we work hard on stacking the deck in our favor. ‘Doing the work’ means training regularly and practicing on a daily basis. ‘Good enough’ is never good enough for us. That’s probably why we’re regarded as T-Rexes.
- There is an enormous amount of erroneous, misapplied, or misinterpreted information floating around in the broad firearms and personal protection community. This is especially true in relation to prioritization, legal issues, and skills development.
- The community has a lot to learn about integrating women into it. There was a record turnout of female attendees and women trainers at the Conference this year, my co-presenter being one. Conversations with them, as well as the presentations, were highly enlightening. Many male paradigms either don’t apply at all or don’t work particularly well when used by women. My own presentation was an eye-opener to me in that regard. The Women’s Holsters and Accessories presentation, which was presented by a woman, gave several good examples. A pet peeve expressed by several T-Rexes is men who have women shoot excessively powerful firearms and then laugh when they fail. Our universal attitude is along the lines of the desire to give such jerks a knee lift in the crotch followed by a crack in the jaw and then laugh when they fall down writhing in pain.
I have several pages of notes but those jump out at me. Undoubtedly, more will occur to me as I reflect on the event. I will have more thoughts on specific topics in the near future. There is a photo gallery of the Conference training blocks available on the Rangemaster website.
The house alarm sounded and the wife shot her husband through a closed bedroom door thinking he was an intruder, according to Fayetteville police.
Obviously, that was a ‘negative outcome.’ Therein lays the problem with simply having a gun without doing any scenario training with it. My research has brought me to the point where I am less concerned with the marksmanship aspects of personal protection than I am with 1) proper gunhandling and 2) appropriate decision-making. Those two items are almost completely absent from most gunowners’ repertoire.
There are a competing set of probabilities we have to consider in a home defense situation. If you have anyone else living in your home, the most likely probability is that the 3 a.m. bump you hear or shadow you see is, in fact, a member of your household. For sake of argument, let’s put that probability at nearly 100%. There is, however, a competing probability that it is an intruder. That probability is much lower, somewhat above 0%, depending on where you live. The Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that the burglary rate in the US was 27.6 victimizations per 1,000 households in 2011, or 2.76%, so let’s round it up to 3%. Assuming it’s an either/or situation, which it’s not, that would make the likelihood of encountering a family member, rounded, at 97%. Graphically, this is what those competing probabilities look like.
Looking at it this way makes a very strong case for why we have to positively identify before we shoot. It is 32 times more likely that the sound or shadow is a member of the household than it is an intruder. Las Vegas would really like those odds. If we’re going to be the slightest bit responsible, we have to look at ALL the possibilities, not just the ones that scare us the most. Shooting through the door without doing any kind of identification is just plain wrong.
Verbalization is so important in personal protection scenarios. And it’s something very few people practice on the range, or any other time, for that matter. I’ve had female clients tell me “I can’t say that.” Well, you better learn to say something. At home, the verbalization doesn’t have to be complicated. “Who’s there?” will probably suffice. You do have to be able to talk with a gun in your hand, though. Once again, hearing “Honey, it’s me” should immediately trigger a stand-down response on our part.
Stand-down is another thing that’s uncommon for people to practice but really important when you look at the probabilities. In a home defense encounter, ‘Stand-down’ should most likely mean immediately physically placing the gun down and moving away from it to avoid unpleasant after-effects of a startle response. Having to do so brings up those proper gunhandling and muzzle direction issues again.
This also bears on the issue of ‘training for the worst possible case.’ A serious definitional issue has now arisen in my mind regarding that concept. Is ‘the worst possible case’ having a dangerous armed intruder in your house or shooting and killing a family member by mistake? I don’t have an answer for that question but it has now become a relevant issue for me, as it should be for you, too.
None of us can imagine the feelings that must occur in the case of a mistaken identity shooting of a family member. We don’t like to talk about this sort of thing in the gun community but it happens on a regular basis. Don’t let it happen to you, on either end.
I’ve written about this before and probably will again. It’s an avoidable tragedy.
It’s a sad fact that people shoot other people unintentionally. I’m not talking about mistaken identity shootings but completely unintentional shootings. Probably the most famous incident was when Vice President Dick Cheney shot his hunting partner. However, that was far from an isolated occurrence. Reading the news reports provides plenty of such incidents.
We absolutely don’t want to shoot someone unintentionally nor let someone get shot unintentionally. A firearm is an instrument of ultimate personal responsibility. It’s not like a car, where sometimes we can blame someone else for negative outcomes. When a firearm we are handling goes off, we have to bear the consequences, period. If we leave it sitting around unsecured and someone else makes it goes off, we have to the bear the consequences, period. Sometimes, the consequences are tragic, in either case.