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Thread: Active Shooter Response - Thought Experiment

  1. #1
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    Active Shooter Response - Thought Experiment

    Was listening to a reporter and a few interviewees pontificate on NPR today concerning the open carrying of firearms now being allowed in Texas, and how some law enforcement official somewhere (may not have even been from Texas) has come out encouraging civilians who carry firearms - concealed or openly - to engage an active shooter if they were in a position to do so when faced with that scenario. One of the interviewees pointed out how this could result in the situation being much more complicated to unravel for LEO's arriving on the scene, and how it could put those same concealed/open-carriers' lives at risk from taking incoming fire from LEO's thinking they were the active shooter themselves.

    This got me thinking about what I understand (limited, admittedly) to be the most common discrimination criteria exercised by LEO in room- and building-clearing CQB situations; namely, that the hands (and their contents) are used as a quick way to indicate the nature of the person they belong to - innocent or threat.

    1) Do, in fact, the contents of one's hands automatically decide his fate when facing LEO in an active-shooter situation? Or, is there a much more complex set of criteria that are applied to assist an arriving officer in sorting out friend from foe in an active shooter scenario?

    It has always struck me as more than a little philosophically inconsistent to have LEO determine the outcome of a "shoot/no-shoot" decision based on whether or not the potential assailant simply possesses a weapon, in a country such as the US, where citizens are lawfully justified in defending their own lives (and the lives of others) with deadly weapons. Being that, as far as I've read, the pedigree of the techniques used in high-speed CQB scenarios is of a military lineage, it would seem that these would be generally ill-suited for direct application in an area where the people are permitted to arm themselves; not all of the techniques, of course, but specifically the one highlighted that is dependent upon simple possession (if that is in fact ever used as one of the criteria for determining shoot/no-shoot).

    In general, I'd like to see more discussion of exactly how a civilian (or, under what circumstances) might safely involve themselves in the defense of their own self and others from an active-shooter type of attack (by using their firearm). If an armed citizen were to respond to any sort of scenario in which deadly force were justified, the very large onus would rightly be upon them to ensure that they are correctly perceiving the situation and targeting the proper individual before they acted with deadly force. It seems like a similar set of criterion that such a civilian would use to assess and act in that situation would be useful - and, rightly, ought to be applied - by law enforcement to ensure that he doesn't shoot an innocent.

    Agree/disagree?

    The scenario I've heard over and over is that you're very likely to be engaged by arriving LEO in an active shooter situation if you have a firearm (the assumption is that it's visible by law enforcement - otherwise, I wouldn't think you'd be likely to be perceived as a threat). What will be said to that is that if they are "perceived" by LEO to be a threat, then they'll be engaged, correct? However, can't a non-LEO civilian be held liable for the damage they cause if they do not correctly perceive a situation and wrongly kill an innocent? That being said, "dead" is "dead", and no one, even if in the right, wants to end up being killed by the responding officers, so the nature of this post and the questions in it are more supposed to be centered on 1) if there is or should be better criteria for LEO to evaluate a situation on (specifically, in an active shooter event) which would provide more protection for non-LEO civilians to defend themselves with firearms.

    The 'gotcha' to all this is that if the criteria for determining shoot/no-shoot for LEO is made more complex, then that puts their lives more at risk. But I think it's potentially one of those 'there's no free lunch' types of issues - if in providing a 'safer' space for non-LEO to more effectively exercise their lawful right to protect their own lives and the lives of others in the immediate vicinity of an active-shooter event, and this makes it more risky for responding LEO's, then 'it is what it is', as they say. I.e., that's the price of allowing people to protect themselves using deadly force.

    Of course, I respect the daily sacrifice that LEO and their families make on behalf of the communities they work in, and the intent isn't to increase the risk incurred during that activity. I'm simply asking if there's a way that the same amount and type of risk shouldered by non-LEO in using deadly force in an active shooter situation could/should be assumed by responding LEO, if it's not already (i.e., if the criterion that makes engaging an active shooter by a non-LEO such a risky proposition should be shared by both LEO and non-LEO, so as to prevent a non-LEO from being wrongly killed, or to try and make that outcome much less likely).

    ***I used the term "civilian" in a few places to contrast with "LEO", but tried to correct myself towards the end to saying "non-LEO" vs. "LEO", as LEO's are civilians. Sorry for the confusion.

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    I do not think it is possible to give you a solid answer.

    I can tell you what I would expect to happen - if there is an active shooter situation going down and you are seen in the vicinity of potential victims aiming a gun at anyone you would likely be shot. So don't do that.

    1) Do, in fact, the contents of one's hands automatically decide his fate when facing LEO in an active-shooter situation? Or, is there a much more complex set of criteria that are applied to assist an arriving officer in sorting out friend from foe in an active shooter scenario?

    It has always struck me as more than a little philosophically inconsistent to have LEO determine the outcome of a "shoot/no-shoot" decision based on whether or not the potential assailant simply possesses a weapon, in a country such as the US, where citizens are lawfully justified in defending their own lives (and the lives of others) with deadly weapons.


    First of all we need to keep in mind that you are talking about a situation that is going to be highly charged - any non-leo with a weapon in their hand under those circumstances would be at increased risk.

    The sole criteria for an appropriately trained officer is not going to be merely that you have a weapon in your hands, it is what you are doing with the weapon. Are you pointing it toward a group of people? There is a likelihood you will be shot. If the weapon is pointed toward the ground, I would like to say that if you comply with commands, you'll be okay, but there are no guarantees. If you are startled by the officer's command and begin to turn toward the officer, once again there is likelihood you will be shot.

    The officer's decision point is - do I have probable cause (actually reasonably belief) that this person poses an immediate direct threat to anyone.

    The rules for the use of force set out in the law and court decisions don't charge simply because it is an active shooter situation.

    I'd suggest you do some research on actual case law and maybe some model use-of-force policies. Tennessee v. Garner - https://supreme.justia.com/cases/fed...71/1/case.html Model Policy - http://www.cops.usdoj.gov/pdf/Use-of-Force.pdf (first seven pages)

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    Thank you very much for the information, 26.

    I can tell you what I would expect to happen - if there is an active shooter situation going down and you are seen in the vicinity of potential victims aiming a gun at anyone you would likely be shot. So don't do that.

    Practically, the way things are, that of course doesn't shock me that the outcome would be such, and is exactly what I'd expect. But I think anyone can see the inherent wrongness of someone other than the active shooter being shot, correct? A non-LEO in that situation would be 100% in the right to engage the active shooter himself in an attempt to stop the attack, defend others, defend himself, etc., etc. My post was supposed to focus on if this expected outcome you just described (that is, an armed non-LEO lawfully applying lethal force to the active shooter) can be changed. More pointedly, can we change anything - be it law, policy, procedure, tactics, etc., etc. - on the part of LE to help ensure that the good guys with guns are not shot.


    The officer's decision point is - do I have probable cause (actually reasonably belief) that this person poses an immediate direct threat to anyone.

    Ah, this gets more at the guts of things: would the same standard you just described for evaluating the shoot/no-shoot question be appropriate for a non-LEO to apply in the same scenario? I'm really expecting you (or anyone else) to say 'no', but I could be very wrong about that. In other words, would an LEO and non-LEO alike be legally justified (and, moreover, be provided some sort of limited shielding/protection from prosecution) in applying deadly force if "[he had] probable cause ([actual reasonable] belief) that this person poses an immediate direct threat to anyone"?? Or, alternatively, would the stated standard for shoot/no-shoot action be appropriate for LEO and inappropriate for non-LEO, or vice versa?

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    I would recommend not making any generalizations about how responding officers may or may not act.

    When it comes to off duty/civilian action my thought process boils down to always trying to pay attention to my surroundings, evaluating the situation, and being incredibly practical. If a bad guy starts shooting right in front of me I should know if there is an on duty officer immediately nearby and if I am safe to engage. On the other end of the spectrum, if for some (hopefully good) reason I gotta go hunting for a bad guy off duty I better have a plan to look innocent or official and realize there could be multiple bad guys as well who will know I am a target regardless.

    You aren't going to understand the exact mindset or training of any possible responding officer or even be sure how many bad guys there could be, so as far as I'm concerned you have to accept the fact that you are alone in a space with multiple threats and respond accordingly.

    Dennis.
    Last edited by Dennis; 01-02-16 at 04:00.

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    Perhaps I should clarify a little...

    How can we reduce the amount of risk involved for a non-LEO when he/she engages an active shooter with a firearm? This is a wide open question - solution can be legislation, TTP modifications for LEO, best practices for non-LEO to follow, etc.

    "I can tell you what I would expect to happen - if there is an active shooter situation going down and you are seen in the vicinity of potential victims aiming a gun at anyone you would likely be shot."

    How would this situation play out if the person doing the shooting and the person being shot were reversed - that is, if a non-LEO was trying to engage an active shooter with deadly force and shot a responding LEO, or, more likely, shot another non-LEO (or plain clothes LEO, or off-duty LEO) who was attempting to the engage the active shooter the same as he? Asked another way, would the LEO who shot a civilian who was assisting in the situation described above be held liable? Or would this be one of those things that's just unfortunate for everyone and that's where it ends? How would a non-LEO who shot a plain-clothes LEO, off-duty LEO, or even on-duty LEO (whom he misidentified as a threat, the same as the LEO misidentifying the non-LEO as a threat in 26 Inf's example) be treated afterwards? Would his treatment be the same as that of the LEO in 26's example?

    If the non-LEO and LEO would be treated differently when faced with the same situation, as described in the preceding paragraph, why, exactly? Why is the criteria that the LEO would use to reach the decision of shooting the innocent non-LEO (that he/she is in the vicinity of potential victims and aiming a gun at anyone) appropriate for the LEO to use, but inappropriate for the non-LEO to use?

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    I see your point and would say that this sort of thing works it's way through the legal system already in various incarnations. It would be nice to codify and train some sort of standardization but given the fact that there is no uniformity across 50 state Police training or CCW requirements currently this is unlikely.

    Any shooting will be judged on its merits by the local prosecutors as various complicated shootings already are today. I doubt anyone legally carrying a weapon with reasonable intentions to help and barring gross negligence would end up charged with a crime in an active shooter/terrorist event.

    However noble your goal, I believe there are much more salient points to ponder if you ever intend on getting involved in any type of lethal force incident.

    Dennis.

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    I think this issue is way overblown. Historically in DGU's, the action is over long before the "first responders" intervene.

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    Active Shooter Response - Thought Experiment

    Quote Originally Posted by stahljaeger View Post
    I think this issue is way overblown. Historically in DGU's, the action is over long before the "first responders" intervene.
    This what i was going to say.
    If you as a ccw holder fibd it necessary to engage an active shooter cause you are trapped or see no way out, tgis exchange of gun fire is over in seconds. You either won the battle or not. If you won, you have plenty of time to reholster and look innocent before any leo show up. If you loose, well...
    You also are likely limited to only one or two mags worth of ammo, not enough for a prolonged shoot out. If you havent won in the first seconds of your engagement, you are likely to absolutely loose your life anyways. The active shooter has likely come better armed and supplied. I think the discussion of what to do when the law shows up is mute. You're there with your hands up or down to the sides looking very submissive and stunned, or your dead, or you're hiding.

    I am in no way thinking i would always win. Way too many disadvantages for us citizens caught in an active shooter event. I would always try to reduce number of disadvantages by like sitting at restaurant near back facing door, back of movie theater etc. but when a shooter comes in, you still can be one of first shot. If not, hope that you have an out, or have a good shot if that is going to be your only options. But i would at least want my gun and have a chance instead of hoping for life.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    Last edited by jbdesigns; 01-03-16 at 12:34.

  10. #10
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    twadsw01 - I have been doing the active shooter training thing since Columbine (1999) the most commonly used number for ongoing active shooter incidents resolved by LEO not already on-scene is six. The AVERAGE timeline of violence in these situations is generally short, around three minutes, most often the active shooter has suicided by the time LEO's get near his location. Once again those are general stats that are commonly used.

    There is no way to positively answer your questions regarding litigation, either criminal, or civil, because each cause is different. Some people will say that law enforcement officers get a pass because the courts have long recognized that the incidents in which officers are called to get involved in often involve split second decisions. The case that most directly points that out is the case of Graham v. Connor. In that case the Supreme Court specifically states that because of these split second decisions, officers are not to be held to the standard of 20/20 hindsight, but must be judged from the aspect of a reasonable officer at the scene and their actions must be objectively reasonable when viewed in that context.

    The situations which you describe are what the Court was thinking when they rendered that decision: tense, rapidly evolving situations, often involving split-second decisions. So, easy answer, in most cases the officers will be given the benefit of the doubt.

    As someone earlier mentioned, even though all officers are held, by the law, and the courts, to the same standard, the depth and breadth of use-of-force training is not consistent across the nation. As am example, I work at an Academy that serves a population of, at maximun, 7,000 officers. We have a curriculum requiring 14 weeks of training. Our state requires officers formally demonstrate competency in making use-of-force decisions before they are certified. As a result we have four use-of-force simulators and every officer we train is evaluated on multiple use-of-force scenarios on those systems as well as participating in reality-based force-on-force training. By contrast, I recently visited an academy in another state that is responsible for an officer population of nearly 12,000. Their curriculum requires, IIRC, 21 weeks of training. They have one use-of-force simulator and most of their students do not get exposed to training on the simulator.

    As I said training varies, but ultimately, the law, is the law.

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