Trending Topics

Preparing for the words “I have a bomb!”

In the past, when officers faced suspects who said, “I have a bomb!” many of those cops would think to themselves, “Yeah, right! Let’s see it.” Those days are over.

You would have to be a hermit to be unaware of the debate about whether captured terrorists should be brought to the United States for trial (as the Attorney General has decided in case of 9/11 “mastermind” Khalid Sheikh Mohammed) or face the justice doled out by a military tribunal. You’d have to be equally uninformed to not know that many passionate Americans continue to deliberate over whether the terms “War on Terror” or “Man Made Disaster” are accurate or even relevant.

While these are important questions, the reality is (as the Christmas Day bombing attempt illustrates), even if America isn’t at war with terrorists, terrorists are at war with America.

As usual, where there are passions and polarization, law enforcement has been placed right in the middle. The ironic thing about this for all American police officers — especially the FBI and the New York Police Department — is that they are very likely to land right on the front lines of the “War on Terror,” trying to prevent a “Man Made Disaster.”

Let’s take a moment to prepare for the future by taking a look back at the past. Here are just a few examples of attacks launched at the homeland.

1942 — Eight German saboteurs came ashore on a beach in Long Island, New York. They were on rafts, launched from a U-boat. These saboteurs were captured by the FBI after two defected. They all spoke fluent English and their orders were to blow-up and destroy infrastructure within the continental United States. The United States Government in 1942 tried these saboteurs in a military tribunal within one month of their capture and six of the eight were sentenced to death for operating as enemy combatants in this country “out of uniform.”

1999 — Ahmed Rassam is arrested at Port Angeles, Washington, when Border Control Agent Diane Dean, noticed he looked “hinky,” and ordered a full search of his vehicle. The trunk was full of explosives, which were to be detonated at LAX International Airport on New Year’s Eve 1999. Lives were saved because of one officer, who refused to ignore her instincts and others, who came to her assistance. Rassam is serving a sentence of 22 years.

2001 — Two passenger jets are flown into the World Trade Center and a third was flown into the Pentagon killing 2,997. A fourth target, believed to be the Capitol Building, was not hit thanks to the heroic effort of the passengers of United 93. One hijacker was captured in advance by FBI investigators and is serving a life sentence. The mastermind — Kahlid Shiekh Mohammed — was later captured in Pakistan and will be tried in the near future in New York City in civilian courts.

2002 — Richard Reid attempts to blow up a plane flying from Paris to Miami by lighting explosives hidden in his shoes. His effort is thwarted by alert flight attendants Hermis Moutardier and Christina Jones. The 6’ 4” terrorist was then subdued by them along with passengers, who came to their assistance. He is serving three consecutive life sentences.

September 2009 — Hosan Maher Husein Smadi is arrested, when he thinks he has detonated a bomb at an office tower in Dallas. His plan was interrupted early on, when the FBI managed to place themselves between the bomber and the target. Lives are saved by great police work.

September 2009 — The FBI arrested Talib Islam (formerly Michael Finton), who intended to blow up a Federal Courthouse in Illinois. Once again, the FBI managed to intercept the plans and take proactive action to prevent a real bomb from being delivered to the suspect. Lives are saved once again by outstanding police work.

November 2009 — Major Nadal Malik Hasan a radical Moslem Jihadist, who had infiltrated the United States Army, opened fire on unarmed soldiers at Fort Hood, killing thirteen. He was engaged in a gun fight by Officer Mark Todd and Sgt. Kimberly Munley and stopped.

December 2009 — Abdul Farouk Abdulmuttallab, a 23-year-old Jihadist from a wealthy family in Nigeria, smuggled explosives past heavy security onto flight 253 and attempted to blow up the plane — with its 290 passengers and crew — while over Detroit. His attempt was thwarted by passengers and crew who restrained him and extinguished the fire started in his panties during his attempt to detonate the bomb.

December 2009 — A double agent claiming to have the ability to give information about the location of Shaykh al-Zahwahiri, is invited onto a base in Afghanistan — without being searched — and subsequently detonated a bomb killing seven CIA officers.

The Future
The bomb is the weapon of choice of the modern terrorist. It has been chosen for its simple technology, brutality and the fact that it can be easily concealed and disguised. This is not always the case, however. In the attack on Fort Hood, Hassan used a firearm to kill soldiers after screaming “Allahu Akbar!”

Police officers in this country train extensively for the active shooter and this should continue. Rarely, however, have cops trained in what to do when facing a bomber. Right now is as good a time as any to prepare for your moment on the front lines in the war on terror.

Are you ready for the words: “I have a bomb!”

Think About This Now, Before It Happens
In the past, when officers faced suspects who said, “I have a bomb!” many of those cops would think to themselves, “Yeah, right! Let’s see it.”

Those days are over.

With the advent of plastic explosives, a bomb can look like anything and be easily concealed on anyone.

Allan Ward is a retired Army Sniper and veteran of three combat tours in Iraq, who is currently continuing to serve his country as a Marion County Sheriff’s Department Deputy in Indianapolis, Indiana. He is a member of their S.T.O.R.M Team. Deputy Ward says, “Current techniques being used by suicide bombers in the Middle East include, explosives placed in latex housing up the rectum and by the use of a variety of detonators, these devices are detonated by the bomber in place.”

Deputy Ward cautions, “In today’s environment when somebody says, ‘I have a bomb,’ you can not assume that they do not.” The former sniper indicated that the only way to instantaneously stop the physical detonation of the bomb by the bomber who presents an imminent threat is a precision shot that “severs the spinal cord.”

It is safe to say someone armed with an explosive device will not have six sticks of dynamite attached to a loudly ticking alarm clock. The modern bomber could have it in a belt, a vest, in a boom box (pardon the pun), his shoes, and yes even his underwear.

Justification for Deadly Force?
A person planning on blowing themselves and others up may hesitate and officers need to be decisive in the midst of a bomber’s indecisiveness.

There is one famous case in Israel where a fifteen year old named Hussam Abdo, while wearing a bomb belt, was stopped at a fortified Israeli check point. When challenged he decided not to blow himself up. The Israeli soldiers were familiar with the device and were at a distance behind their fortifications. They had snipers well positioned and they ordered the teenager to remove the bomb belt himself. He was then directed to disrobe completely, and step toward them and away from the bomb.

He complied and he lived.

The fact is, American police officers most likely will not have fortifications handy or snipers at the ready when they come across a suspicious person on a Terry stop and that suspect says, “I have a bomb and I am going to blow you to hell.” If you are close enough to hear this statement you will most probably be a victim of the bomb when it detonates.

Now is the time to ask the question of your local district attorney: “Does this constitute justification to use deadly force in our jurisdiction?” When it happens, the officer faced with the decision must be decisive. Many lives may depend on it.

Any bomb tech will tell you they will not be able to do anything about the bomb until you defuse the bomber.

The Bomber Exercise
Have a realistic target down range and have someone say, “I have a bomb and I am going to blow you up!”

In this exercise the trainee must draw, aim for the Central Nervous System, and take the shot at the target. They should hit the central nervous system before the sentence is finished.

In the real world if a person has decided to make a final statement they will have a tendency to want to finish it. You do not want the bomber to end his sentence with an exclamation point! You will need to end it with a hollow point if you want to insure you will go home at the end of your shift.

This exercise can also be done with non-lethal training ammunition on a role player with the proper protective equipment.

You are on foot patrol in a mall when you notice a man who looks a little “hinky.” He is in his 20s, overdressed in a long bulky coat, and sweating profusely with a bowed head, eyes closed and whispering. As you walk toward him he suddenly looks up and sees you. He looks aghast and says loudly, “I have a bomb and we are all going to die!”

What could you do? What will you do?


Lt. Dan Marcou is an internationally-recognized police trainer who was a highly-decorated police officer with 33 years of full-time law enforcement experience. Marcou’s awards include Police Officer of the Year, SWAT Officer of the Year, Humanitarian of the Year and Domestic Violence Officer of the Year. Upon retiring, Lt. Marcou began writing. Additional awards Lt. Marcou received were 15 departmental citations (his department’s highest award), two Chief’s Superior Achievement Awards and the Distinguished Service Medal for his response to an active shooter. He is a co-author of “Street Survival II, Tactics for Deadly Encounters,” which is now available. His novels, “The Calling, the Making of a Veteran Cop,” “SWAT, Blue Knights in Black Armor,” “Nobody’s Heroes” and Destiny of Heroes,” as well as his latest non-fiction offering, “Law Dogs, Great Cops in American History,” are all available at Amazon. Dan is a member of the Police1 Editorial Advisory Board.