Consultant for writers on crime, police, & court procedures.

Saturday, December 7, 2013


I hear that nearly every time a law enforcement officer has to shoot someone in an armed confrontation.  Why couldn't the cop shoot him in the arm or the leg?  Why did he have to kill the guy? they ask.

That the question is even asked shows a misconception of the use of deadly force by the police.  Pulling the trigger is such a grave undertaking that most officers go their entire careers without doing it.  In 36 years on the job, I've done it once--shooting at the tire of an armed robber who ran over one of our officers.  I missed.  Police officers are not trained to "shoot to kill" nor to "shoot to wound."  We shoot to stop the threat, a threat we believe will imminently result in the loss of life or serious bodily injury if not stopped. 
Evidence of an rampaging attack that killed three officers and
 one civilian and wounded three other officers.
There is no place on the body that a gunshot does not have the potential of causing immediate death.  I've seen guys shot in the leg bleed out and die in less than a minute. I recall a South Carolina state trooper who was shot on a traffic stop.  The bullet hit him in
the elbow, struck a bone and traveled straight to his heart, killing him within seconds.  Any gunshot is potentially fatal but every wound does not automatically stop the threat. It's not "Bang! Bang! You're dead!"

You can't stand still in a gunfight or any kind of confrontation and aim carefully.  Usually both parties are on the move and firing several times hoping to hit their targets.  Even the most accurate police officers hit their target in a high-stress confrontation about 40% of the time.  That's why officers are trained to shoot at 'center mass--the torso of the body.  That's the biggest target.  Being able to hit someone in the arm or leg would be sheer luck.

So why do officers need high-capacity pistols and numerous magazines of extra ammo? Sometimes the bad guy just won't go down as Sergeant Timothy Gramins found out after putting seenteen .45 slugs into his attacker.  Wilder than any novel:

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