Comment(s)

An ambush, by definition, is a surprise attack. The opponent is trying to catch you off guard. And, with the deck stacked in his favor, even your superior skills and weaponry may not save you. By the same definition, constantly being on guard is the most logical defense.

For Case One, we turn to Arkansas in 2011. A police officer ordered a man out of a car during a traffic stop and reportedly had his flashlight in his gun hand when the suspect shoved a small-caliber pistol toward the officer and shot him in the face. The officer fell back. The suspect screamed at him mockingly as the officer begged for his life, and shot him again and again and again, killing him. The cop-killer has been tried, convicted and sentenced to die.

There are a few lessons to learn from Case One. Never drop your guard, even if other officers are present, as occurred in this case. Do not have your hands encumbered when the situation is not yet secured. Dash-cam video in this shooting shows that the subject drew his gun rather slowly and hesitated before aiming for the lawman’s face and taking the first, decisive shot.

Now let’s contrast this tragic outcome with what happened in Case Two, which occurred in late 2013 in Florida. A highway patrolman was in a foot pursuit when, without warning, the suspect whipped out a .25-caliber semi-auto and shot the trooper in the face. The trooper’s response was swift and decisive: Before the perp could shoot him again, the trooper’s sidearm was up and blazing.

His aim was true. This would-be cop-killer died in the hail of return fire from the Florida Highway Patrol-issued Glock 37 service pistol with 200-grain Speer .45 GAP ammunition. As of this writing, the patrolman is recovering from his injuries.

Case Two can teach us a few things. Understand that the situation can go from routine to “deadly meltdown” in a fraction of a second. Know beforehand that if you’re alive enough to realize you’ve been shot, you’re alive enough to activate your training, neutralize the threat and be able to survive your injury—but only if you are prepared to respond that swiftly and that decisively.

Never lower your guard. Until the situation is secure, you should be ready to act immediately.
Never lower your guard. Until the situation is secure, you should be ready to act immediately.

Case Three took place in California. Two plainclothes detectives in an unmarked car are on a surveillance assignment. Having planned for the worst but hoping for the best, both officers ae well armed. In addition to the service pistols on their belts, they have staged a second pistol readily accessible on the front seat between them as well as a patrol rifle in the backseat.

The suspects, apparently given a tip on the surveillance, set up an ambush in an attempt to murder the two detectives. One stages to the side, and the other approaches the unmarked unit from the front. The latter suddenly pulls a gun and opens fire on the two officers.

“It was, by any standard, an acceptable resolution to a murderous ambush that could have turned out much, much worse…”

The cops respond instantly with well-directed lethal force. The detective in the passenger seat engages the attacker and empties the “staged” pistol in his direction, putting him down. When the pistol goes to slide-lock, that detective drops it on the floorboard of the unmarked unit and draws his service sidearm from its belt holster to continue returning fire.

As this is happening, the detective in the driver’s seat exits the vehicle, and he and his partner both come under fire from the second suspect on their right. The passenger-side officer engages him as the driver calls for backup. The second attacker flees, and the first attacker who has fallen rises and follows his criminal partner from the scene. The detectives now come under fire from a third ambusher. The passenger-side detective, his second handgun now empty, snatches the patrol rifle from the back of the unmarked unit and unleashes five shots at the third gunman, who flees.

Finally, it’s over. Neither officer has been injured. The heavy return fire from the police has broken the ambush and prevented a double cop killing. Case Three has quite a few learning points. If you served in the military, you were probably taught that aggressing toward the ambush is at least sometimes the best way to break that ambush. It certainly worked that way in this case. One of those officers fired 33 rounds. No cops, and no innocents, were harmed. It was, by any standard, an acceptable resolution to a murderous ambush that could have turned out much, much worse.

Case Four went down in Florida. A young patrolman is grappling with a misdemeanor suspect when the punk whips out a .45 and shoots him in the face with a 230-grain hardball slug. The officer goes down, and the suspect pumps several more bullets into him. His vest stops the bullets on course for his heart, though he sustains several more wounds in other parts of his body. The officer whips his Glock 22 out of his security holster and, strong hand only, returns fire. Seconds later, the ambusher is down and dead from seven .40 caliber Winchester Ranger 180-grain hollow points. The hero cop will recover from his multiple gunshot wounds and return to full duty. He has been saved by his body armor, his training and his indomitable will to survive.

Reactive Mindset

Most important is mindset. Have a strong mental plan: Given Stimulus A, you will instantaneously perform Response A.
Most important is mindset. Have a strong mental plan: Given Stimulus A, you will instantaneously perform Response A.

As an identifiable law enforcement officer, you are the very embodiment of society and its power when seen through the eyes of anti-social criminals and lunatics. The badge is something of a bullseye target. Conduct yourself accordingly. Remain alert at all times. Remember that cop-killers don’t necessarily “fit the profile” of the stereotypes in action movies. Stay sharp with your skill sets, with emphasis on your reactive shooting abilities.

Most important is mindset. Have a strong mental plan: Given Stimulus A, you will instantaneously perform Response A. Think out scenario after scenario while there’s time beforehand. You might call it the “what-if game.” When the computer between your ears looks for a program to handle a crisis, you don’t want it to come up with “no file found.”

Up Next

Making the Cut: Training Responsibilities

Qualifcations and training can make the difference between life and death!