Responding to man with gun call: Incoherent subject
“I ordered the subject to stop and drop the weapon. He continued to walk toward me.”
As part of Police1’s Institutional Knowledge Project, we asked readers to write about calls where they would have been justified to use deadly force but did not do so.
I responded to a call of a man with a gun who was waving it around. There had been more than one caller. No report of shots fired. The location was a poorly lit business district at night, which typically has lots of people hanging out.
How did you handle the situation?
I located the subject and confirmed dispatch info was accurate. Backup was already en route but a ways off. I positioned my vehicle between me and the subject. The subject was walking toward my vehicle (which contained two citizen ride-a-longs!) and another citizen was near the subject trying to talk to him and get him to drop the gun.
The street lighting was poor. The weapon appeared to be a semi-automatic pistol. I identified myself, drew and pointed my service weapon at him, and ordered the subject to stop and drop the weapon. He continued to walk toward me.
He was talking incoherently, did not seem to recognize me or understand my commands. I deduced he was either deaf, in a demented mental state or under the influence. He did stop walking toward me but continued to wave the gun around, and at times, the weapon was pointed in my general direction. I decided that if he pointed it directly at me, I would have to fire mine.
I began to walk toward him, continually ordering him to drop the weapon. As I closed on him, it seemed to me that more and more he “wasn’t there” – he was out of it mentally. At one point, his weapon hand was down and he’d turned away from me. I took that opportunity to holster my weapon and take his weapon away while taking him down and cuffing him. The subject’s weapon was a rusted BB pistol!
Looking back, was there anything would you have done differently?
Although my spotlight was pointed in his direction, I should have turned my vehicle around to illuminate with headlights. AND I should have waited for my backup.
What lesson did you identify from this situation?
I was glad I didn’t shoot the subject! What you think is a weapon may not be. If I had shot him, it may or may not have been justified and my life would have changed forever. It could have ended my career. As it was, all of us, except the subject – me, my two ride-a-longs and the other citizen – got to go home to sleep in our own beds that night.