Editor’s Note: The following is a post from Sammy Reese, a former Marine Corps Artillery Officer and retired police officer from California. He is a part-time range master for the police department he retired from as well as a life-long martial artist and combatives coach.
Check out the last five episodes in this series:
- Ep. 19 Should I Shoot? Software Upgrade
- Ep. 20 Should I Shoot? Why You Must Learn to Use As Many Firearms As Possible
- Ep. 21 Should I Shoot? To Kill or Not To Kill A Dog
- Ep. 22 Should I Shoot? Do You Draw While Engaged in a Physical Altercation?
- Ep. 23 Should I Shoot? Are You as Prepared as You Can Be?
Recently, a police officer was fired for not shooting a man who had a gun in his hand and was telling the officer to shoot him. The officer was working on talking the man down and had been for several minutes before responding officers arrived on the scene. Before any communication took place between the arriving officer and the next arriving officer, the officer who just arrived saw the weapon pointed towards him and shot and killed the man.
The shoot was ruled in policy and in self-defense. Why was the first officer fired then for not shooting? I’m not privy to the internal investigation, so I can’t comment on the why, but the case did bring up the question of, “Just because I can legally use deadly force, do I have to?” The legal ground for when you can defend yourself has been a huge part of this column. What we haven’t touched on is whether you have to shoot.
Early on in my police career, I was faced with an incident where I had probable cause to use deadly force and didn’t. A crazy transient guy had a huge chunk of concrete in both hands over his head walking toward me like Frankenstein telling me he was going to smash me into the ground. I had my pistol pointed at the man while using my police car to create reactionary space. I’m sure someone watching from a distance thought I was going to get crushed. I knew I would have reactionary time since it was a 50-pound chunk of concrete, but I also had my line in the sand where I would shoot to defend myself.
It ended with one of my beat partners sneaking up on the man and knocking him out of his shoes. The end result was a trip to the hospital psych ward for the guy who was off his meds and no shooting review board for me.
Post incident, I started to second-guess myself. I wondered if I was getting too big for my boots and needed to remember Rule No. 1 of doing everything to get home safe at the end of the shift. I talked with some veteran officers who reminded me that just because you can shoot doesn’t mean you have to. They were glad I was confident in my ability to end it peacefully and that I had a plan to use deadly force if I needed to.
I’m not telling anyone what to do, nor will I ever. What I am doing is adding one more thing to the personal defense toolbox. Add it to your “what if?” questions and training. Be as prepared as possible for as many different situations as possible. You might end up not having to deal with the aftermath of pulling the trigger when you might not have had to.
For more critical information on the use of deadly force and other firearms and self-defense topics, visit www.uscca.com/GunsAmerica.