Reality Training: Lunsford incident

The dashcam video of the murder of Constable Darrell Lunsford 30 years ago became an essential officer safety training tool

Editor's Note: The disarming and killing of Constable Lunsford on January 23, 1991, stunned the American law enforcement community. It was one of the first such incidents ever caught on videotape. In 2008, Dave Smith recorded a Reality Training video (shown above) exploring some of the lessons we can learn from this chilling footage. Now, on the 30th anniversary of this tragedy, Dave shares his thoughts on Constable Lunsford’s sacrifice and the video that has been used to train police recruits nationwide. If you viewed the dashcam video as part of your police academy or ongoing training, how did the lessons learned impact your approach to traffic stops? Email editor@police1.com.   

It seems like only yesterday I was reviewing the dashcam of the murder of Constable Darrell Lunsford of Nacogdoches, Texas for the first time and thinking about how violent, sudden and cold-blooded the murder was and how the giant of a lawman had been so quickly overcome and murdered by his own weapon. 

Needless to say, the video became an essential training tool in officer safety training and the tragedy that unfolded that night on U.S. Highway 59 has probably saved hundreds of officers' lives. 

The constable was killed across the street from the store he owned so, no doubt, he was comfortable in his environment. A deputy on patrol drove by but did not stop since the constable was known for not using backup and one look at the disparity between Darrell and his killer’s physical stature is striking. Yet once the assailants had remarked in Spanish what they needed to do the initial attack and the killing took only 13 seconds. 

Thirteen seconds is all the Constable had to save his life yet he never punched or kicked or shot or did any violent action during the multiple assailant assault. Three mules hauling marijuana chose to kill a lawman in an attempt to get away and showed us all how deadly such an attack could be and how seriously we should all take the video of the horror.

Constable Lunsford’s sacrifice reminded us all of the many lessons about officer awareness and safety and, on the 30th anniversary of his killing, it is a good idea to reflect on what we have learned and the terrible cost of that lesson. We thank Darrell Lunsford for his service, suffering and sacrifice and promise to never forget the training gained at such great cost.

NEXT: 'Dinkheller' documentary tells the real story

This article, originally published 09/22/2008, has been updated. 

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