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Reality Training: Lunsford incident

The dashcam video of the murder of Constable Darrell Lunsford 33 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 33rd 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

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.

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

Dave Smith is an internationally known motivational speaker, writer and law enforcement trainer who has been an integral part of the Calibre Press family for over 20 years. As a career police officer, Dave held positions in patrol, training, narcotics, SWAT, and management. In 1980 he developed the popular “Buck Savage” survival series videos and was the lead instructor for the Calibre Press “Street Survival” seminar from 1983 to 1985. He was a contributor to Calibre’'s popular “Tactical Edge” handbook and helped pave the way for what “Street Survival” is today. Dave joined the Law Enforcement Training Network in 1989 and was the general manager of Calibre Press until January of 2002. Now president of Dave Smith & Associates, a law enforcement & management consulting company based in Illinois, Dave has developed hundreds of programs across the spectrum of police & security training needs.

Dave is now a Calibre-Press Street Survival instructor and his experiences as officer, trainer, manager, and police spouse lend a unique perspective to the “Street Survival” experience.