Tag Archives: Incident Analysis

Situational Awareness and Positioning (part V)

In every encounter, there is an element of chance.

–John Hall, former head of the FBI Firearms Training Unit

In previous parts of this series (I-IV), the concept discussed was physical awareness and positioning in relation to an adversary or situation. A recent incident captured on video relates to a different but similar concept: emotional awareness and positioning.

In the incident, a veteran observed a bum aka ‘homeless person’ wearing a mixed service uniform while panhandling. He was justifiably incensed, as would be most veterans. “I was angry. I was frustrated. I was sad” he said. I don’t blame him. However, what resulted from his feelings was neither smart nor legally justifiable.

The veteran aggressively challenged the bum from a distance, then closed with him, pursued him across several lanes of traffic, and continued to pursue him on the other side of the boulevard. As the incident unfolds, the bum tries to disengage, is verbally apologetic, and changes direction several times attempting to escape. The entire time the veteran is loudly shouting, verbally forces the bum to remove part of his clothing, and then blocks the bum’s escape path. The incident went on for several minutes.

While I sympathize with the veteran’s frustration, the simple fact of the matter is that he let his emotions get away from him. A couple of relevant declarations made at this year’s Rangemaster Tactical Conference come to mind.

  • John Hearne, in his presentation Performance Under Fire, made the statement “You’ve got to keep your emotions under control.”
  • My colleague Nick Hughes mentioned to me in conversation a question he poses in his book, How To Be Your Own Bodyguard. “Are you doing this because you have to or because you want to?” He then related a personal anecdote where a person had to remind him of his own question.

When the veteran/bum video was posted on Facebook, I had two responses.

  1. Good way to get stabbed.
  2. Regardless of what I was doing, if someone acted toward me the way the veteran did toward the bum, I would have painted him orange in a New York second. And the police would have then told me to have a nice day. It was aggressive challenging behavior that anyone would be justified in feeling threatened by (although not sufficiently to employ lethal force, which is why I advocate always carrying pepper spray).

If we go looking for trouble, we had better be prepared to find it. Make no mistake: verbally challenging someone, shouting at them, chasing them, forcing them to remove their clothing, and then blocking their escape route is looking for trouble. Such a situation always has branching possibilities (if, then, else) that people don’t generally consider before jumping over the edge of the cliff.

  • If the bum had pulled out a knife, then what would have been an appropriate, or even possible, response at that point? I make the assumption that all itinerants I encounter are armed with some kind of weapon.
  • What if the bum had run out in front of a car and been struck and killed?
  • What if a car had hit the vet while he was chasing the bum across the street?
  • What if they had gotten into a physical conflict and ended up rolling around in traffic?

There are other possibilities also, but those are good examples of possible Negative Outcomes well within the realm of possibility. In any of those cases, the situation would have gone downhill for the vet like an avalanche.

So, let’s go back to Nick’s question: was the vet doing this because he had to or because he wanted to? That answer is quite clear, he wanted to. He felt the need to defend the honor of his service and the service of his fellow veterans.

Unfortunately, it’s very hard to provide a legal, or even moral, justification for using force to defend honor. Even if no legal repercussions arise, moral ones can. If the bum had run into traffic and been struck and killed, how do you think the veteran would have felt for the rest of his life, even if no charges were filed against him?

John Farnam’s saying “Avoid stupid people, stupid places, and stupid things” is definitely apropos in this situation. All three of those elements were broken. Jeff Cooper alluded many years ago to the fact that the more ‘rules’ we break simultaneously, the more possibility we will incur a problem. When we lose control of our emotions, that’s when we start unconsciously breaking rules, whether they are legal rules or just rules of good judgment and conduct.

With every decision we make, we are setting ourselves up either for success or failure. Keeping a check on our emotions helps set ourselves up for success. Letting our emotions get out of control is good way to set ourselves up for failure.

success failure

What is the value of training?

Firearms instructors are periodically asked the question “Why should I take training?” The answer often comes in the form of a list of skills that are taught or the reasoning behind using a certain technique. However, these do not address the underlying fundamental reasons for taking firearms training at all.

  1. You don’t know what you don’t know.
  2. Much of what you know is wrong.
  3. It’s good to have some of the answers to the test before taking it.

These issues relate to both technical competency with using a firearm (gun safety and marksmanship) and the ability to use the firearm correctly in a personal protection situation (legal and tactical).

You don’t know what you don’t know.

Shooters who only take their gun to an indoor range once a year “to sight it in” generally have a highly ‘cocooned’ knowledge of firearms. They know how to operate a firearm in a very restricted set of conditions. As soon as they leave that set of conditions, the stage is set for bad things to happen. Although ‘bad things’ can include unintentional and negligent gunshot wounds, it doesn’t have to be anything that newsworthy. A fellow NRA Instructor was once asked by a long time shooter why the shooter should take the NRA Basic Pistol course. The Instructor responded “Do you wear safety glasses when you’re cleaning your firearms? You do know, of course, that most cleaning fluids can irritate or even damage your eyes, don’t you?” The longtime shooter decided to take the class, after all.

Much of what you know is wrong.

Training can mitigate the Dunning–Kruger effect, which is rampant among the shooting community.

The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which unskilled individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly rating their ability much higher than average. This bias is attributed to a metacognitive inability of the unskilled to recognize their mistakes.

–Wikipedia

Almost every firearms instructor has had numerous students who think they are “good” with a firearm but are not. Among these misinformed shooters are most police officers and, even many SWAT units. Typical longtime gunowners are too. When subjected to a standardized skills evaluation, most of these “good” shooters receive a rude awakening.

We’re the best shooters in our department, by far. That’s why we’re the firearms instructors. Then we come here and find out that we suck.

— A police officer attending the elite Rogers Shooting School

Many of these skills evaluations are not even particularly difficult. In one class I taught, the test was to shoot, starting from a ready position, five shots into a 12 inch circle at seven yards in 15 seconds four times in a row. Only one student out of ten was able to do it. And none of those shooters were beginners; most of them were longtime shooters. This test is the baseline level of the NRA Defensive Pistol I Marksmanship Qualification Program.

More advanced, yet still not terribly difficult, competency standards are beyond the ability of 99 percent of self trained shooters, in my experience., For example, the ability to shoot five shots into a five inch circle in five seconds at five yards five times in a row, a drill I call 5^5.

When a friendly competition was held on a local gun forum for the 5^5 drill, no one was able to do it. Several dozen people thought this test would be easy but even after multiple, in some cases, attempts they found out otherwise.

Every round that doesn’t hit is heading straight for a busload of nuns and orphans being followed by a limousine full of personal injury lawyers on a conference call with the District Attorney. At least, that’s the assumption I make and teach. It’s the reason I make my students account for every round they fire in my classes. And I point out the misses as seen in the cover photo of my blog.

It’s good to have some of the answers to the test before taking it.

Any decent class on the legalities of using deadly force will counsel students about things to do and not to do. An example of things not to do would include chasing a fleeing intruder down an alley and shooting at him while he is running away. In that particular incident, the shooter was lucky to only receive 60 days in jail.

The most significant value of training is that it places someone else, the instructor, in control of the flow of events, either physically or mentally. A criminal encounter will not be initiated in the time sequence desired by the would-be victim, which would be NONE. Nor will the skills required to solve the incident be dictated by the defender. However, by definition, self trained individuals control the flow of their actions when they practice, assuming they practice. This is exactly the opposite of criminal encounters. That’s not how it happens in real life. Good instruction will provoke thinking and questions beyond the student’s own expectations and experience. This helps prepare students to make decisions that can and will affect them for the rest of their lives, either positively or negatively.

The conscious mind does not function particularly well under stress. It tends to revert to subconscious background information and patterns, some of which are primeval. Many of these patterns are counterproductive in personal protection situations and require re-programming. Training helps replace them with background knowledge and patterns that are appropriate. Having appropriate knowledge helps avoid negative outcomes.

You don’t fire guns at people’s houses,” [Judge] Ludy said. “You kept saying you really didn’t know what was going on. If that’s the truth, why in the world would you fire a gun? … It really doesn’t matter if it was (at) Mr. Bailey or the mayor of Dunkirk. You just can’t do that.

Judge Max Ludy Jr.

Shockingly, some people thought this case should not have come to trial. I know I wouldn’t have been too happy had I been the homeowner down the alley who had bullets launched in my direction. “Judge Max Ludy said he found McLaughlin’s firing of a gunshot in the direction of a neighbor’s home especially reprehensible.”

Instructors, as a group, are constantly looking for examples of situations and incidents that went both right and wrong. And other students in the class ask questions about situations that concern them. Inevitably these discussions become class material, either formally or as side conversations. Because training is our vocation, we tend to analyze those incidents in greater detail than does the average gunowner. Our analysis may not necessarily be what the student wants to hear, or even correct, but relating the analysis provides food for thought that merely reading about an incident in the news will not.

The value of training is to make you think and perform outside of the cocoon that most gunowners are in, the same way real life frequently does. It’s not so much that we instructors have all the answers, because we don’t. However, most of us have a good idea of the questions to ask and that’s a strong start.

Negative Outcomes: Self-Inflicted Gunshot Wounds (Part I)

This is the second installment of my Negative Outcomes series. I’ve already been taken to task for commenting about imprecise language and I understand where he’s coming from. The fact of the matter is, however, that we, in the instructional community, take a lot of our subject matter knowledge for granted.

Frequently, I hear comments to the effect that NRA courses go too much into depth about things like the individual components of ammunition, etc. I disagree with that completely. The influx of new gunowners requires that we educate them thoroughly. Many of the new owners have never operated any hand held device more complicated than an electric toothbrush.

As I commented to a student last night, I previously had a student in a class who was using a Sig pistol. He had owned and been shooting it regularly for almost two years. When I told him to ‘decock,’ he looked at me and said “What does that mean?” He had never used the decocking lever before and didn’t understand what its function was. He was actually a good shot, too. But elements of the pistol’s manual of arms had never been explained to him.

When dealing with deadly weapons, we can leave nothing to chance, including our vocabulary and students’ understanding thereof.

http://www.thetacticalwire.com/features/229283

Situational Awareness and Positioning (part IV)

There are so many times in a day when you have to let people into your space. I think we have to accept it. My tolerance changes radically when I’m in transitional areas like parking lots etc.

–DTOM

It’s important to take context into account when speaking about SAP. There’s been some commentary about my post that I must not live in a big city or ever take the subway. Since I grew up in Chicargo and live in Atlanta, that’s not true. I ride public transportation quite often, even when I don’t have to.

The comment about transitional areas is on point. Rarely are we concerned about being robbed or beaten up in line at Starbucks. The video of the dude getting mugged in NOLA recently is more our concern and representative of the positioning I’m getting at.

NOLA robbery 2 crop

While public places, e.g., the coffee shop in Lakewood WA, and crowds are not totally risk free, I think my colleague William Aprill would say our risk profile for violent crime is lower there than in transitional areas or when we are alone. The criminal incidents that I personally have had to deal with all fell in those two categories. Either positioning or awareness, along with will, allowed me to control those situations. Controlling the situations allowed them to conclude without anyone getting shot or stabbed, which is my desired outcome.

In fact, one of my encounters took place at a MARTA train station in Atlanta at 9 a.m. I was alone and midway through the station on my way to work, so both criteria (alone and in transition) were met. It was what I call an “opportunistic meeting engagement.” Three individuals coming from another direction apparently liked the fact I was on crutches and in a boot from a recent surgery. It was the first time in my life I experienced Clint Smith’s saying “Predators look at you like you’re food.” But I saw their look, change of demeanor, and change of direction from the full width of the upper platform while they were still about 15 yards away. That immediately put me into Condition Orange and I initiated my reaction. Because I had seen them so far away, I had time to react on my terms, rather than theirs. There was no escape for me since I could barely hobble on my crutches. So I faced them, put my hand in my overcoat pocket on my snub revolver and said to myself “Guys, this isn’t going to turn out the way you think it is.” I don’t believe I said it out loud and no words were exchanged between us. At the moment I thought it though, the Marine Corps Drill Team could not have done a better Right Flank, March than those guys did, in unison. Clearly, this was not their first rodeo.

What happened was that they targeted me in an obvious fashion. When a sketchy character, or three of them, changes direction and begins to close with you, it’s an indicator that an incident is developing. As a police officer friend says “Nothing good is coming of that.” However, I failed to act in the way I was supposed to. In John Farnam’s vernacular, I ‘failed the interview.’ Most criminal predations on the street begin with an evaluation by the predator as to whether it has the potential for being a successful victimization, as opposed to turning into a fight. Economic predators are not generally interested in a fight. They know all too well that there is an element of chance in every violent encounter. That is not to say they won’t fight, but rather given the choice between a victimization and a fight, they will pick the victimization.

So our object is to see them early enough and understand what is happening such that we can set ourselves up to fail the interview. The criminal then moves on to find another victim. I would prefer that they pick an undercover police officer and then get dealt with.

However, what happens afterward is not my problem. I am not a police officer; my weapons and tactics are for protecting me and mine, not society at large. That’s the way our legal system is structured; I understand it and abide by it.

Situational Awareness and Positioning (part III)

When he got within 5 or 6 feet… Lawler leveled the Glock and fired once, hitting DeCosta in the groin.

Man pulls 13-inch knife during fight, gets shot

A previous post discussed The Tueller Principle, or as Dennis put it originally “How Close Is Too Close?” In light of the above incident, The Tueller Principle and two related concepts bear further clarification and quantification.

A concept that is seldom discussed in the personal protection community, among either instructors or practitioners, is proxemics. The term proxemics was originated by a cultural anthropologist, Edward Hall, in his book The Hidden Dimension.  Its meaning is how we, as humans, interpret and manage the physical space around us. This should be an integral part of planning for personal protection, but usually is not.

Professor Hall’s work breaks out several spatial zones that we perceive around us. Most important to us regarding the realm of personal protection is that we make instinctive judgments about whom we allow into these zones and what our reactions are to those who enter, or try to enter, the zones.

  • Intimate Space – where we only allow loved ones to be.
  • Personal Space – the area in which we are comfortable having people we know and trust.
  • Social Space – the zone where we communicate and/or interact with others generally.
  • Public Space – an area where we accept that people in general can be, regardless of whether we know them or are interacting with them.
Diagram by WebHamster

Diagram by WebHamster

It is also important to note that Hall’s work was preceded and partially inspired by the work of a Swiss zoologist, Dr. Heini Hediger. After extensive study of animals in the wild, Dr Hediger, in his book Wild Animals in Captivity, introduced several concepts about predator-prey behavior that are particularly relevant to the personal protection community.

  • Flight distance – the distance at which prey will seek to escape the approach of a predator.
  • Defense distance – the point at which pursued prey, which is being overtaken by a predator, will have a ‘defense reaction,’ in the words of Dr. Hediger.
  • Critical distance – the boundary at which prey that is cornered, or feels it is, will initiate a counter-attack on the predator. I.e., the prey has lost its ability to maneuver or escape (decisively engaged) and then reacts in an emergency mode.

Dr. Hediger states that these distances “are specific, within certain limits, and may be accurately measured, often within inches.” p20 When he says inches, he is referring to very small animals; larger animals will generally be measured at intervals of feet or yards/meters. The larger the animal, the greater each distance will be, generally speaking.

The questions that then arise are: 1) what is the overlap between the works of Tueller, Hall, and Hediger and 2) why is that overlap important? Hall theorized that Hediger’s concepts of flight, defense, and critical distance are no longer applicable to humans. However, I do not believe that is true. Human behavior during a criminal predation tends to follow Dr. Hediger’s concept quite closely.

The incident described in the first paragraph is an excellent example of a phenomenon I observed in my long term study of The Armed Citizen and other reports of armed self-defense by private citizens. My impression after the study of thousands of incidents was that people tended to allow human predators to encroach not quite to arm’s length before shooting. When I say encroach, I do not mean actually shoot at, as in a gunfight, but rather attempt to close the distance, whether armed or unarmed.

Encroaching is actually more dangerous than a full throttle attack. If an armed predator runs at us at full speed, it’s obvious what his intent is and our decision becomes fairly simple. On the other hand, an encroachment induces uncertainty into the encounter, in the form of the question “How Close Is Too Close?” Of course, if gunfire is being exchanged, then typical spatial boundaries and zones no longer apply.

Shooting a human predator, especially when he is encroaching, is a communication and social transaction. It is the strongest form of communicating “Stop, don’t come any closer!” Dr. Hediger would term this the critical reaction that occurs at ‘Critical Distance.’ My impression is that it will most likely occur in what Hall termed the ‘near phase of Social Space.’ For North Americans, this zone is between four and seven feet. In other words, our Critical Distance lies within that zone. We will do what we need to do to prevent a predator from crossing the boundary between Social Space and our Personal Space.

How does this relate to The Tueller Principle? The minimum safe boundary established by Tueller is 21 feet. However, the boundary that Hall theorized between public space and social space is only 12 feet. What this means is that we will have an inherent tendency to allow people, and specifically predators, to approach us well with the boundary of safety established by Tueller. That 12 foot boundary for Social Space may be the maximum boundary of our Flight Distance, even with a sketchy character. If our Critical Distance is only 4-7 feet, that could represent a major problem when dealing with a predator.

My late colleague Paul Gomez periodically quizzically commented that “people don’t shoot criminals far enough away.” The relationship between the concepts of Tueller, Hall, and Hediger may be the reason why. It’s something we in the training community need to do a better job of explaining and training.

Situational awareness is not just about seeing what’s going on; it’s also about interpreting that information and what to do about it.

At least a half-dozen times, I ordered him to stop.

Another of my colleagues commented to me “We only say ‘Drop the gun’ once around here.”

Things I learned from the Masters

Reflecting on Shunryu Suzuki’s comment  – “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few,” some frequently ignored or overlooked fundamentals taught by people who have been at this a long time come to mind. My research on ‘bad shootings’ has reinforced some things to me.

 
Jeff Cooper – The Four Rules

1.    ALL GUNS ARE ALWAYS LOADED.
2.    NEVER LET THE MUZZLE COVER ANYTHING YOU ARE NOT PREPARED TO DESTROY.
3.    KEEP YOUR FINGER OFF THE TRIGGER UNTIL YOUR SIGHTS ARE ON THE TARGET.
4.    BE SURE OF YOUR TARGET AND WHAT IS BEYOND IT.

John Farnam

The person most likely to shoot you is YOU. Why? Because you’re always there.

Bill Rogers

•    Muzzle direction is the primary safety; always has been and always will be.
•    Identify your target at night, preferably with a flashlight, before you shoot it.

The Most Dangerous Man

•    Shooting isn’t always the optimal solution.
•    Holding someone at gunpoint isn’t as easy as it seems.

Ken Hackathorn –

It’s a downrange world

Massad Ayoob

Avoiding the problem (implied task) is a lot easier than fixing the problem, either at the moment or in the legal system later.

Wargaming v. brainstorming

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.

642 2

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.

929px-OODA.Boyd.svg

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:

  • Flight
  • Withdraw, which is what they chose
  • Confront
  • 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.”

That’s going to be a very expensive and lengthy trial. I think the prospect of doing time would be high but I’ll let legal experts such as Andrew Branca or Marty Hayes chime in, if they want to.

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.

Tactical Decision Making (Part II)

There are numerous definitions of Wargaming. Most of them are too elaborate for our use. The definition I am using now is: The process of evaluating your options in light of your situation and the circumstances. Wargaming is a way determining if:

  1. Your tactics work.
  2. The tactics employed contribute to your strategic end goal.
  3. There are significant possible negative outcomes

Wargaming has the following characteristics:

  • Evaluates a possible Course of Action against opposing adversary.
  • It is an iterative process of action, reaction, and counteraction.
  • At a minimum, it should start if you go to Condition Orange. When you’re on the ground, in a pre-contact situation, the wargaming will not be very in depth. But the better your grasp of your end goals, possible options, and negative outcomes, the quicker and simpler it will be.

First, you have to decide what your end goal is. This should be done before you walk out the door of your home each day. Deciding your end goal does not mean saying “I would do this.” That is just one step of the process and not the first.

In my previous post about Tactical Decision Making, I listed some end goals and some possible negative outcomes. Both of those lists, and any additions you may have to them, are worth reviewing from time to time.

It’s extremely important to take into consideration the possible negative outcomes. Failure to consider consequences is a huge gap in most people’s analysis of the situation. Some of the consequences are legal but not all of them are.

Some concrete examples of negative outcomes are:

There are three areas you must consider as part of your wargaming. They are your situation, your options, and the circumstances; i.e., your surroundings and the event. We’ll discuss these in the next installment.

Tactics Against Active Shooters

Gila Hayes of the Armed Citizens’ Legal Defense Network asked to interview me more in depth about last June’s Las Vegas murders. Many Network members have been wondering about tactics in such a situation and I am pleased that she came to me for some input.

Without judging a person who died trying to save others, it behooves us to learn what we can from incidents in which an armed citizen intervenes, and so the death of Joseph Wilcox, the man who died trying to stop the June 9th Las Vegas Walmart attack offers multiple lessons. Many armed citizens only get so far as to say, “I hope I would make better tactical decisions if faced with a similar situation.” Still, without guidance, the need to plan better responses to interdict an active shooter in a crowded, public venue never gets beyond recognizing that we are unprepared to deal with such a complex armed defense problem.

That’s why we were so pleased to find Claude Werner’s Internet blog at Tactical Professor, in which he addresses specifics like “proactive positioning,” “cover” and “obstacles,” after he made scouting runs into a CiCi’s chain restaurant and a Walmart to round out his observations. Werner graciously agreed to answer questions about better tactics to survive an active shooter attack of the type perpetrated in Las Vegas.

She is a talented interviewer and I enjoyed our conversation.

It’s fairly long so I am not going to reproduce it. The entire interview can be found on the August 2014 Network Journal.

Lessons for the Armed Citizen from the Dorner Incidents

A defensive gun use (DGU) by an Armed Citizen is a balance of doing the right things, doing things right, and not doing the wrong things.

Christopher Dorner was a former LAPD Officer who went crazy in February 2013, murdered several people, and eventually committed suicide when surrounded by the authorities. During the manhunt for Dorner, two mistaken identity shootings by police occurred in the Los Angeles area. One shooting, by Torrance Police Officers, occurred near a checkpoint and the other in the vicinity of a LAPD Captain’s home. The home was being protected by a detail of LAPD Officers because the Captain may have been a specific target of Dorner’s.

A recent settlement for the Torrance Police shooting has revived commentary about the ‘trigger happy police,’ etc. I will be the first to admit I wouldn’t want to be downrange during such an episode but there are also lessons to be learned from the mistaken identity shootings. And those lessons don’t just apply to the law enforcement community.

First of all, note that both shootings occurred during periods of limited visibility, i.e., early morning. Humans have a natural apprehension of the dark. Couple this natural fear with the possibility of dealing with a dangerous criminal and our emotional trigger mechanisms can get stretched pretty tight. In the case of the LAPD shooting, the Officers had been on station for several hours already. They had also been recently informed that Dorner had engaged two police officers nearby and murdered one of them.

How does this apply to the Armed Citizen? Think about how you might feel if you hear a crash in your home in the middle of the night. Likely, you will have been awakened from sleep, you will not know what the situation is, and very probably your spouse will be providing you with a sense of urgency to determine and fix the problem. If you are like most people, your interior lights are not on, so you are operating in conditions of limited visibility. Now throw in the possibility of a heightened sense of danger, for instance, having a daughter who has recently obtained a Protection Order staying with you for safety reasons. The possibility is high that you will not have the same sense of ease and self-control you do when you go to the indoor range and casually prepare to practice shooting some rounds at a bullseye target.

Second, the Police do not train very much to work in groups larger than two. This point was made very succinctly by my Battalion Commander when we were practicing riot control in the National Guard. Watch any multi-officer takedown of a criminal and it’s obvious they do not operate with a sense of military coordination. Police Officers spent almost all of their time working independently, not as part of a team. Only SWAT units generally are trained to work in groups larger than two.

What does the lack of teamwork have to do with the Armed Citizen? Just as the Police don’t spend much time practicing teamwork with each other; neither do Armed Citizens tend to spend much time practicing teamwork with their families and friends. The probability that your spouse and/or children are not going to do what you want them to or what you tell them to do is high. So don’t be surprised if an incident involving more than one potential victim turns out to be a complicated problem to solve.

Third, communications among the Officers left something to be desired. In the case of the Torrance Police shooting, the victim had been identified as a non-threat just a few seconds before. Unfortunately, this had evidently not been communicated to Officers right down the street. When I conduct training for couples, one of the main concerns they express is their ability to communicate during a criminal encounter. The couples I work with tend to already be ‘switched on’ so this is an area that deserves considerable emphasis in our personal practice.

All this is not to defend or justify the mistaken identity shootings. The LAPD Board of Police Commissioners found the LAPD Officers’ actions ‘out of policy’ and rightly so. Rather, it is to point out that a defensive gun use (DGU) by an Armed Citizen, just as by a Law Enforcement Officer, is a balance of doing the right things, doing things right, and not doing the wrong things.

When we take a gun into our hands for defensive purposes, we have a goal in mind, that being to avoid death or serious bodily injury. At the same time, there’s a good possibility we are threading our way through a series of physical and emotional obstacles while trying to reach that goal. Just as soldiers whose objective is on the far side of a minefield must work their way through the minefield carefully, we, as Armed Citizens, must be cautious of our paths and moves, as well.

Not-Dorner

The full report of the Los Angeles Police Department Board Of Police Commissioners is available here.