LEO Near Miss: Quick, decisive action can keep officers safe
“I could see the grip of a pistol in his waistband and saw he was reaching for it with his right hand while backing away from us.”
Law Enforcement Officer (LEO) Near Miss is a voluntary, non-disciplinary officer safety initiative that allows law enforcement personnel to read about and anonymously share stories of close calls or “near misses,” which provide lessons learned that can protect fellow officers in similar situations.
At approximately 2030 hours, I arrived at a call for a report that a male was out of control at a residence, breaking and throwing items. I have had prior contact with the male and know he is diagnosed with schizophrenia. He often thinks people are breaking into the house, and he is very unpredictable. Dispatch advised his mother was the caller and advised he was refusing to take his medication. Dispatch also advised there was an officer safety flag for the involved male and mentioned that he had possessed a shotgun in the past.
Two officers and I made contact at the apartment. The mother came out and spoke with the district officer while I waited at the door while it was open. I then saw the male sitting on a couch in a dark corner at the back of the living room.
The male saw me, stood up, and walked toward the door. He said something about a person 67 years older than him and called us “a**holes.” The male was wearing a T-shirt, jacket with an open zipper and jeans. I was able to see a bulge in the front/middle on his waistline under his T-shirt, but I couldn’t tell what the bulge was.
The male walked to within 1-2 feet of me and the other cover officer. The male then asked us to wait a second and lifted his T-shirt with his left hand. At this point, I could see the grip of a pistol in his waistband and saw he was reaching for it with his right hand while backing away from us. I was afraid the male was going to pull the pistol out and shoot one of the officers on scene or his mother, who was standing with us.
To prevent the male from grabbing the firearm, I lunged toward him and grabbed his hands. I kept pushing into him, rapidly moving him inside the apartment. I pushed him against the wall, and his hands ended up near his head with his arms up. With the male facing me and his shirt still up, I saw the pistol was still in his waistband. The other cover officer had moved in and had his service pistol drawn for a close-quarters shot. He saw I had the male’s hands, and I told the cover officer to get the gun.
The cover officer was able to remove the pistol and a holster from the subject’s waistband. The male was then guided outside and placed in handcuffs, which I checked for proper fit and double locked.
The male continued to yell at us, calling us child molesters and other names. I checked the male for weapons and means of escape and found multiple knives on his person and an MMA-style fighting glove in the right and left pockets of his jacket.
The district officer placed him into custody for a law enforcement hold and transported him to the hospital. I collected the pistol, which was found to be a Colt pellet gun.
- I have been the lead defensive tactics/Krav Maga instructor for our department for eight years. This incident escalated very quickly, which required me and other officers to act out of instinct and rely on our training without hesitation. Looking back on the incident, this could have justifiably ended in an officer-involved shooting. Although it can go against some people’s reaction, my continued training in Krav Maga has instilled in me an important fact: there are situations where threats are so close and spontaneous that advancing to the threat and addressing it as quickly as possible can be more effective in protecting those involved than retreating. In training, be sure to discuss a situation like this and when it may be best to go hands-on with an armed individual in close proximity to you to prevent the individual from drawing the weapon.
- The officers involved made good use of the information from dispatch and prior call history to plan a safe approach. When time allows, make sure you get as much information from dispatch as possible prior to your arrival at a scene.
- As demonstrated here, make sure you have backup officers with you, if time allows, before engaging an agitated subject with known officer safety risks and mental health issues.
- Constantly scan for indicators of weapon concealment.
- Pursue additional defensive tactics training beyond the minimum required by your agency.
- Good communication between officers is essential. In this incident, the officer who had the subject’s hands immediately directed a backup officer to reach in and secure the firearm while the subject’s hands were being contained by the primary officer.
HOW TO SUBMIT YOUR NEAR MISS
Support this critical officer safety initiative by reading and sharing the near-miss stories and lessons learned that your fellow officers have shared, and consider sharing your own near-miss experiences at LEOnearmiss.org.