As law enforcement professionals we are put in extremely difficult situations on a daily basis and no one likes to be critiqued including yours truly. However,if we are to learn from mistakes we have to be honest about them and I appreciate VDMSR for taking the time to do this detailed write up. While I don’t agree with every statement or assessment that he has made below I do see the need for it and I feel the benefits outweigh the negatives. I encourage everyone to utilize the comments in a constructive manner to help us all take the most from this unfortunate tragedy. I also want to give props to the guy with he shotgun for using aggressive action to change the dynamic of the fight.
If you have not yet done so, watch this video. The 911 call is for a person who just robbed someone with a pistol, then getting on a bus, and then being confronted by two police officers. Make some mental notes, otherwise you should go back and reference what I will cover below it.
Once you get through the video, you will undoubtedly see some issues which should be clearly apparent for anyone with any sort of tactical mindset. The point of this article is to be the type of after action report (AAR) which should be done after this type of deadly force situation. The fact is that many large police departments do not have such a process, where each officer involved are sat down in a big room and everyone has a chance to speak their mind on any topic, policy, requirements and restrictions alike, from that new policy or training requirements are developed. This does not happen in a big city department like Baltimore PD. It does not happen in my department, which just like BPD is in the top 10 in the US. This is a serious problem and this article should serve in place of that AAR, but it is my opinion on this situation, gleamed through the lens of street experience and being in similar situations.
In the beginning of the video you see a guy counting money and then at around the 1:17 mark you see a marked patrol vehicle pull in front of the bus to stop it.
At around the 1:45 mark you see the passengers and the backup male office instantly flinch, this is because the male had either made furtive moments or he pulled out a firearm. Then at the 1:57 mark you see the first responding female officer have her pistol out, finger on the trigger pointing her gun at someone off camera (presumably that male in the white). She is on her radio during this time and then you hear a shot, a scream, and the female officer runs out of the bus and away. This action of the female officer not discharging her firearm at that initial moment may either be because of the bystanders or because she was unsure of what she should do, maybe a hesitation of some kind. The backup male officer got off the bus after the initial shot. Not exactly sure why they would allow the obviously hostile and armed male to stay on a bus which was full of innocent people and potential hostage. Once you own space, keep it, especially if you have to cover innocent people, this is how it should work.
At 2:10 you hear someone yell “everyone get off the bus” or something like it and everyone runs out of the bus. This either happened because the bad guy is super stupid or because he was not thinking because he probably would have had better luck with a hostage than being stuck on a bus by himself. But he made that decision. At the moment all the innocent people ran out of the bus the responding officer’s should have taken firing positions directly at the bus doors, shooting through the windows if needed. You see a single officer standing near the bus, I am assuming it is down the door side, not really sure if it is front or back, but that officer should have capitalized on that tactical superiority and pie corner of the bus and let rounds go at the bad guy, keeping him busy until back officers arrive with bigger guns. Letting the bad guy walk around inside the bus unchallenged is not good.
Another officer showed up in front of the bus, in clear view of the bad guy, which prompted the bad guy to start dual wielding pistols which he then began out of the bus’ open doors. At several points you see him stop and look at his gun, at around 4:37 you see the bad guy start to mess with his gun as if there is a jam or failure. If an officer was keeping direct line of sight on this guy either through the front or by an angle at the rear they could have seen this and capitalized on this. This happened around the 4:59 mark when he walked up to the front of the bus, exposing himself and an officer discharged his shotgun at the front of the bus. Then at 5:31 the bad guy runs out of the bus and is no longer contained, exponentially increasing his ability to shoot officers and bystanders being shot through cross/indirect fire.
The below video is of a cell phone video. I’d highly recommend muting it as the language is NSFW and IQ depriving in nature. You get a different angle for a little bit until the person recording realizes he might get shot standing where he was. It starts where the bad guy shoots out the front door and then you see shot-gun rounds being employed.
Back to the original video, fast forward to the 7:00 mark when an officer with a body mounted camera shows up. At that time you see him grab a shotgun out of his trunk and the 7:50ish mark you can hear the radio giving out information about a male on the side of one of the marked vehicles (sounds like she said 73 car’s side) – this prompted the responding officer with the shotgun to move his position slightly. Should he be listening to radio or other officers at that location with eyes on him? Someone sitting a room miles away will not know where this male is unless they have a camera on him, this officer was listening to the same radio transmissions everyone else was. The officers should be communicating to each other at this point and not with radio. This is confirmed when this officer asks over radio “is he still on the bus?” and immediately one of the female officers on scene responds with a “yes, he’s still on the bus.” At that moment the bad guy starts shooting and the officer discharges his shotgun through the front windshield. Then this officer tries to key up and go over radio. Why are they playing leap-frog with this guy? This was the moment these officers should have communicated with each other and taken closer positions, preferably in an L-Shape. The male officer with the shotgun discharges the shotgun completely and to no avail, then dumps it going to pistol. If his first or second shot did not penetrate the windshield substantially then he should have gotten closer with it.
At 9:20 the bad guy makes a run for it to the large white van parked in front of the bus. The fact he was able to get off the bus without getting a heavy amount of fire the moment he got to either of the doors was a tactical mistake by the officers on scene. Then at 9:37 police radio says the male is running under the trees, the officer whose body camera we are watching stands for some reason exposing himself. Why is he still listening to radio? From this moment until 10:07 everyone is listening to the radio, an officer down call comes out and everyone starts trying to find something to do. Why is it that they are focusing on something other than the bad guy with two guns? At that time the bad guy decides he does not like cover and tries to run, he takes fire and falls to the ground. At 10:56 the officer’s gun goes dry and he just, nonchalantly decides to reload, because it’s not like he has a direct view of the bad guy or anything like that. Assuming anything during this type of situation is a no go, that reload should have been as fast as humanely possible while keep an eye on the threat.
At 11:00 this officer finally decides to move and communicate, but he is trying to communicate with radio. After he has tried to do so several times and got the busy tone. There are officers in ear shot, yell at them! 11:10 the yelling begins. 11:16 you see someone moving across the backdrop of the officer’s line of fire, I hope that was not an officer. Then at 11:21 someone decides they saw movement and took a shot at the bad guy, then sympathetic fire kicks in and everyone, including the officer who is wearing the body camera starts shooting. Of course the bad guy who is laying on the ground starts moving, he is getting shot.
At 12:05 you see this officer run up to the female officer who was shot moments earlier, they throw a CAT TQ over her shot right leg, she is screaming her head off. What does this officer do? Take a pocket knife out and try to cut her pants open. 12:17 before the video goes dark you hear “does anyone have scissors?” If by scissors he meant medical shears then great, his head in the right place, except none of the officers prepared for this. That officer survived, by the way, no arterial hit.
First and foremost, the main factor in this situation not being resolved within the first few seconds if not minute is due to a complete lack of training and quick-to-violence escalation by the responding officers. This is trained out of most officers in large departments with the “de-escalation” nonsense and the second-guessing due to the hesitation this brings out. I wrote about the issues of de-escalation in two different articles previously, De-escalation and the worst case scenario and Tactical de-escalation at Work. This type of training mindset is extremely damaging in these types of high stress, high violence situations, to not be able to quickly act when needed may lead to extremely bad circumstances. The officers here lucked out that the bad guy decided to let everyone off the bus and did not want to take hostages. He could have easily held a few of them at gun point or ISIS style put them around him and then what happens? SWAT? Snipers? Hostage negotiators? All because the first two responding officers did not shoot him when they had the chance and owned the space. Once you own the space, never give it up.
Once all the people were off the bus the officers should have put up an L-Shape in the form of one officer at one side of the bus, another behind cover of that large van. L-Shaping the bad guy who is stuck inside a vehicle and covering his possible exit routes is the best possible tactical answer in this scenario. This requires a little bit of training, a little of bit of courage and a lot of communication. No communication was to be had here, no applicable training was done or else the officers would have applied it other than using their marked patrol vehicles as cover (poorly since the female officer was shot while behind a vehicle). Remember something, other than the engine blow, vehicles are not cover. The responding officer who got the shotgun out and shot through the windshield shot through the hardest possible piece on that bus. If he were to have flanked the bus on the non-door side and shot through the sheet metal panel, through the cotton and plastic seats, he would have been able to make positive hits, especially if the bad guy was taking fire from another position forcing him into a corner or area of the bus. Again, lacking communication.
Issue with shotgun application here – he was shooting 00buck it looked like from the way the front windshield got peppered. Why did he not have slugs? Why did he not have additional ammo? Why did he not a rifle? There are a lot of issues here, the biggest is clearly that every single responding officer should had a rifle. Any modern rifle with modern LE duty ammo would have been able to penetrate that bus, its windshield and put effective fire onto that bad guy than the responding officer’s pistols and/or shotgun. Also, there was one shotgun present. Why one? Who knows. Maybe some top brass paper pusher thought one was enough for any situation. He is wrong twice over, first is giving that officer a shotgun without slug and second is not giving every officer a rifle.
Once that bad guy left the confines of the bus it became a crap shoot. That was his tactically superior move, he realized the more officers which show up will keep him boxed in and eventually prohibit him from leaving the bus, so he made the right move. An untrained, uncivilized bad guy, dual wielding two pistols, one of which kept jamming up (probably dude to cheap Korean mags) made the right tactical move over several “highly trained” officers. That is extremely sad.
Once the bad guy got to that van the officers should have instantly L-Shaped him and flanked him at the same time. The officers just hid behind their vehicles. I get it, they do not want to be shot, but for some reason that translated to them to sit behind their cars and let the bad guy control the location of the contact and direction of fire. That is unacceptable.
Responding officers listened to the police radio dispatcher instead of the officers on the location/street. They were within ear shot of each other, the only transmission should have been “tell responding officers to keep their lights/sirens off” so that they could communicate at the scene better. Also several times you hear the busy tone when the officer tried to key up. Clearly it does not work, stop trying, talk to the officers there. Again, complete lack of training for this particular circumstance. This also caused the officer to move from a covered position to a potentially exposed position.
Once the bad guy decided to make a mistake and run from behind the van he got lit up, at that point the officers approached him and made closer contact via unintelligible yelling. One person yells, everyone else covers and moves into a position of tactical superiority. At one point sympathetic fire took over and that is completely within predictable range, this happens sometimes, especially when involving a guy who has already shot an officer and was continuing to shoot at officers. Totally reasonable to do this due to any possible furtive movement by the bad guy may be an attempt to shoot an officer.
After all that was done and over, the officers went to tend to their shot coworker who was screaming. Everyone was issued a NAR CAT Tourniquet, clearly, as everyone pulled one out at the same time. Guess they must have slept through first aid, buddy aid and trauma (gun shot) care. Not one of them made the leap from tourniquet application to medical shears, bandages or anything of that nature. Okay, that is a training issue, one which those officers should have probably understood and made some type of active attempt to learn how to get over effectively. The female officer who was shot did not apply a tourniquet to herself, so self-aid was not drilled into these officers in training. Probably the training went something like “these tourniquets are for you and other officers first, if you have to use it for someone else to save a life, then do it, but they are for you first.” That is it. I have been in these situations, officers shot, people shot, lots of craziness going around. In LE you should be able to handle these situations as well as you should be able to articulate yourself in court. I carry a Ryker Nylon Kit AFAK every single day at work, on top of a separate medical kit and on top of certain items I carry specifically for myself. One AFAK would have instantly helped in that situation, shears, bandages, tourniquet, gloves (just because they are your coworker does not mean you should want to get their blood all over you) and a chest seal just in case a bullet goes through a vest or gets past it on a weird angle.
The #1 issue in this scenario is a lack of training for a real world application of violence and everything which needed to be covered (continuously) in order to allow street officers to effectively overcome these types of situations without them turning into bigger issues. This article was meant to be a very critical breakdown of a situation which we all can (and should) learn from. There are some courageous moves like the officer with the shotgun clearly attempting to change the momentum and put the shooter not he offensive. However, this shows us a lot of solid lessons in what shortcomings occur in a live fire scenario with a lot of variables. Dissect this with your guys if you are LE, think about the what-if’s you are a CCW citizen and consider the skill sets required to win.
What do you think? Voice it up in the comments below.