APRIL 15, 2014

Editor's Notebook: No, Not Taxes

After the shots are fired and the attacker is down, doing the competition-based "unload and show clear," racing up to render aid to the fallen or standing pat to call in on radio or cell phone are all non-starters. Consider that the fight may be far from over.
In spite of the date - Income Tax Day - a pair of issues from a few weeks ago combine to make a point that should be examined. Mike Seeklander noted and pointed out 'training scars' - a behavior ingrained through repetition on the range that runs against that which is appropriate on the street. His piece had to do with observations he'd made during training events he taught in which he had students participate in a shoot-off. Like most of us, he feels that competition can be helpful in driving up the appropriate type of stress and to harden the retention of lessons learned in the class. He specifically orders all student to holster a loaded sidearm (in my opinion, always a good idea) because the competition goes through several iterations. He then watches and identify those who regularly compete. At the end of their student-vs.-student exercise, the regular competitor reflexively removes the magazine and empties the chamber to "show clear." After seeing it, he reminds them And watches, as shooter after shooter plays "unload, show clear" after each string. A habit, once fire-formed in competition, is agonizingly tough to break. Nearly simultaneously, noted gunfight researcher Claude Werner pointed out the after-action shooting report in a post-pursuit situation in Los Angeles - the shooting having occurred a couple of years ago. In relevant section, the report noted, "In this instance, following the OIS, Sergeant A conducted a tactical reload. After determining the situation had de-escalated and there was no longer a threat, Sergeant A should have maintained his service pistol in its current condition in order to preserve evidence. Officers are trained to leave weapons systems in the current condition following an OIS, unless circumstances surrounding the incident render it unsafe to do so. Therefore, conducting a tactical reload by Sergeant A at this point was not necessary and will be a topic of discussion at the Tactical Debrief." All of this brings us around to preparing for a street shooting. I recommend a regular post-shooting procedure. To execute it after each and every string of fire could be a bit much. To walk through the process mentally after each string and actually performing parts of it as part of every non-competition range trip is helpful. In any event, I pause until the "unload and show clear" command is given in competition and then do so only reluctantly - considering what I should be doing. What's the problem with the review board's statement? Frankly, it's nonsense. If you're a chair-borne window-licker whose idea of excitement is the printer running out of toner, it makes a lot of sense. If you're one of those for whom the only barrier between you and an armed criminal offender is air, not so much. To get toward a safe and appropriate post-shooting procedure, start from the event. What just happened? That person attempted to murder you - or someone you had a duty to protect. Unlike the movies, participants often don't see their bullets actually strike their attackers. He fell? Perhaps he lost balance. Maybe he went prone to get a stable shooting position. It could be time for his OSHA-mandated break. In keeping with those potential outcomes, do not approach fallen suspects immediately. Likewise, don't stand out in the open talking on a radio or cellphone. The fight may not be over. Remember what happened to SC State Trooper Mark Coates some years back - he shot his attacker who fell. Backing up a few steps, he called in on the radio. The downed offender shot a .22 rimfire round that went between the panels of his armor and clipped the aorta. The patrol car video sees his response - he puts a round center on the downed offender, then runs around the front of the offender's car. You can hear his voice as he realizes his life is ending and he can't stop it. The last sounds he made on this earth you hear in that video. To call it haunting is an understatement. So his sacrifice is not wasted, do something different. If there have been shots fired and the attacker appears to be down, practice the plan. Take a cover position, if you haven't already done so. Look around for other lethal threats - just because you chased one in a vehicle pursuit doesn't mean there aren't others at the crash site. Reload as necessary and check the condition of your firearm. Ensure it's ready to fight. The Los Angeles Police Sergeant did the right thing - fill that pistol back up before you act as "cover" for the arrest team. Finally, do a 'leak check.' People have been hit without immediately realizing it. Then we can worry about engaging in conversation - having a trusted person at the scene call 911 or you doing it. It's a handy time to know that, with a cell phone, it's "9-1-1 Send." (Those of us with landlines have to keep that in mind.) Don't forget that, even if your attacker has fallen, he may not be out of the fight. That "tac load" wasn't a training scar; it was an appropriate response to a "rapidly evolving uncertain situation." - Rich Grassi