Incident analysis: Tactical decision-making during a rapidly evolving officer-involved shooting
The actions of Officer Michael Tschida serve as a valuable case study for officers to learn from and adapt their response strategies in similar high-risk situations
On December 5, 2023, the St. Paul (Minn.) Police Department received a report of a man in a car, later identified as Brandon Keys, 24, who was following a woman in her car who had an order for protection against him. As the call progressed, she reported that he had rammed her car several times, smashed her windows and that he was armed with a pistol.
Officer Michael Tschida responded to the location of the call to find the man standing at the broken driver’s side window with the woman still inside the vehicle. The suspect’s vehicle was parked in the roadway ahead of the woman’s vehicle with its driver’s door open.
Tschida stopped his squad a distance away from the vehicles to provide him with cover and a reactionary gap from the suspect.
As he exited his squad with his gun drawn, the suspect turned and started to walk toward the officer, as the woman started to drive her vehicle forward. Officer Tschida responded by ordering the man to the ground as he moved forward.
Shoot, move, communicate
The suspect ducked down behind his vehicle in an apparent attempt to take cover. Tschida responded by immediately moving laterally to his right to either create movement to confuse the suspect, to get a better a view of the suspect’s position or both.
As he did so, the suspect opened fire and Tschida responded by firing his pistol as he continued his movement. The suspect went down.
Tschida radioed dispatch that shots had been fired and he had been hit.
At the same time, the woman drove her vehicle toward Tschida. Tschida moved back to his left toward the cover of his squad car.
Shootings are unpredictable
The victim continued to drive, doing a U-turn into the gas station directly across the street, parked her vehicle and then rushed toward the downed, armed suspect, who had just threatened her with a gun. Tschida requested an ambulance and told dispatch that the scene was not safe and that he was wounded.
At the same time a bystander started to walk toward the chaotic scene.
Deal with the threat, then deal with your wounds
Officer Tschida had been struck in the ankle by gunfire. Despite that he stayed in the fight knowing that everyone at the gas station, traveling on the street and in the immediate area could still be in danger from the armed suspect.
He ordered to the woman to get out of the way, but she failed to comply despite his repeated requests. She continued to scream for someone to help the suspect. Tschida sliced the pie on the suspect’s vehicle until he could see the downed suspect and then moved forward toward the suspect as a responding squad car arrived on scene.
Tschida secured the suspect’s weapon by moving it away from the suspect and he knelt by the weapon. He notified responding officers that he had the weapon secured and then ordered the other officers to move up to his position.
The suspect was shot in the head and died the next day. Officer Tschida is recovering from his wounds.
Questions to ask
Every officer-involved shooting has lessons for officers to learn. As you watch the video below, ask yourself if you have trained to respond in the same manner.
Click on the image below to watch the video:
1. When responding to calls are you taking up a tactical position and maintaining an appropriate distance based on what you know about the threat level of the call?
2. Are you trained to move laterally when confronted by an armed threat?
3. Are you practicing shooting on the move on a regular basis to maintain that level of skill?
4. Are you practicing shooting from a downed position and officer wounded shooting drills?
5. Do your practice sessions include you communicating with dispatch and other officers, clearly stating what the situation is in a calm, professional manner?
6. Do your scenarios include waiting for sufficient backup before approaching a downed suspect?
7. Do your scenarios include safely taking a suspect’s weapon into custody and/or handcuffing the suspect?
8. Does your training include transitioning into medic mode and taking whatever lifesaving measures are needed after a shooting?
9. Do your scenarios include bystanders who interfere, start to take cellphone footage, or scream and shout in an agitated manner?
10. Does your training include dealing with a situation after you have been wounded?
11. Do you practice medical self-care? Have you ever practiced putting a tourniquet on yourself? Do you carry a tourniquet?
If your training doesn’t include all these areas then you aren’t training to respond in a manner to handle the high-stress, rapidly evolving events of an officer involved shooting. If your department isn’t providing that type of training, seek it out.
At the very least use this, and any other officer involved shooting video, to mentally rehearse the proper responses and tactics that you will need to successfully deal with a situation like Officer Tschida.