I was a rookie officer working night shift for a small town when I was dispatched to check two juveniles who had tried to crash a party. The caller stated that one of the juveniles had what looked like a pistol tucked into his pants.

An officer from a neighboring town, who was a good friend, located the suspects first. When I arrived, he had the two 12-year-old boys standing with their hands on the hood of his patrol car. As I exited my patrol car, he started to search the one on the left. I was approaching from behind them and saw the officer remove a pistol from under the kid’s shirt. The second juvenile then reached under his shirt with his left hand, drew a Beretta 92F and pointed it directly at the officer’s head, who was totally unaware of this action! In that second I was absolutely certain I was about to see my friend die, but I had to try to prevent it!

I had recently achieved my black belt in Tae kwon do and was very aware of my physical capabilities. In that same split second I was able to decide it would be faster and more effective for me to use an empty-hand technique than to draw and fire my revolver.

I was about six feet behind the juvenile when he drew the pistol, so I jumped forward, knocked the gun off target (up) with my left hand and shoved his face into the hood of the car with my right. My attack knocked the pistol out of his hand and you can imagine my surprise when I heard the sound of cheap plastic breaking on the pavement.

The other kid’s gun was also a realistic-looking black plastic water pistol. To reconstruct this near disaster, when my kid saw the officer take the watergun from his friend, he thought he should show the officer he had one, also. He never stopped to think how it would look to someone else. If the gun had been real and the suspect’s intent deadly, there is no way I could have drawn and fired fast enough to save my buddy. Probably even my empty-hand technique would have failed. Yet, the chance of success was far greater. In the actual event, it prevented a tragedy. If I had been a few feet further away, or had not had the necessary skills, I would have made a different decision and this story would have had a tragic ending.

When I became the department Defensive Tactics Instructor, I used this experience in my training of all new officers. I feel that it is important to stress the advantages of developing a high level of skill in the non-lethal use of force. I’ve found that empty-hand techniques are frequently the fastest and most effective option in the use of force. If deadly force is ever required of me, I can and will use it. I pray that I will retire having never reached that end of my options.      —RSU, TX

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