“Is ‘shoot to kill’ a silent law enforcement tactic?”
– Phil Fullerton, retired attorney.
This was the title to a guest opinion piece in the local paper (Fresno Bee “Valley Voices”, 6 August 2016).
In his essay Mr. Fullerton tells how, as a shooting hobbiest, he would often see law enforcement officers at the range honing their shooting skills. And he then recounts a couple of examples in the news where a cop stopped, shot and killed someone.
He asked the questions, “If shooting was necessary, why weren’t these victims wounded? Why not shoot them in their gun arm? In the leg? Why are all of them dead, and why are so many shots fired when the person is often unarmed?”
Fair questions in light of all the officer-involved deaths locally and across the country of late.
I wonder if the honorable attorney, though a gun range experienced shooter himself, has ever shot at a moving target, especially one moving quickly with apparent hostle intent towards him at extremely close range?
Probably not. Neither have I.
But I once knew a guy who did. He told me one time he was bird hunting over on the coast range and came face-to-face with a wild boar – they saw each other at the same time at about fifty feet or so apart – and, instintively knowing his birdshot-filled shotgun was worthless, he drew his .357 with hollow points as the animal charged with a loud squeal. He said all he saw were two long, wicked-looking tusks coming to disembowl him. Time stood still for a moment until he smelled gunpowder and saw that he had emptied his pistol, all five rounds. He didn’t even remember firing and didn’t remember seeing the pig falling, barely ten feet in front of him.
He said he didn’t have the time to think about aiming, or thinking maybe he could just flesh-wound and thus scare off the damn thing. He only felt his health, maybe his life, was in danger and instinctively shot to end the threat. Fortunately, three rounds did it. He was glad, ’cause just two might not have been enough. Who knows where the other two went. From start to finish maybe thirty seconds had passed.
Thirty seconds of terror, he told me.
Even though they undergo extensive training to control their fear and other emotions, even though they must regularly prove their marksmanship, you can’t tell me that a cop doesn’t experience fear when an assailant – obviously armed or not, strung out on drugs or not – refuses to obey the order to halt and get down, but rather comes at the cop instead or otherwise makes a threatening move.
Maybe the cop has the time to clear-headedly think and the time to use his taser or other less-than-lethal defense. Maybe he doesn’t and his firearm is the only thing that’ll stop the threat to his health or life.
But the cop wouldn’t have to use anything if the other person would just do as he’s told – freeze, show his hands, get down.
If that person and all the others like him who wound up shot, maybe dead, just did as ordered, the good barrister wouldn’t need to ask all those questions.
Is “Shoot to kill” a silent law enforcement tactic? I doubt it.
Is “Shoot to stop the threat” a reasonable tactic? I think so.