Shooting to Stop

I’ve read and heard some rather absurd comments about what the policeman who shot the knife-wielding teenager in Columbus should have done. Based on my training and experience (I’m a former soldier and a gunfight survivor), the silliest suggestion is that the officer should have shot the assailant in the leg.

The new video from a security camera across the street show that the shots were taken at a distance of several car lengths. Under slow-fire, target shooting conditions, an above average pistol shooter could probably get an accurate, first shot hit on a stationary target the size of someone’s leg at that range. However, none of those conditions were present. The shot was taken under stress, and both the officer and the assailant were moving. The odds that a leg or arm shot would miss and continue past the target (endangering bystanders) was too great, so the officer aimed for the assailant’s torso, a larger target he was less likely to miss. He continued to fire until he saw the assailant was no longer a threat to the intended victim of the knife attack. Most of us living in the Real World can’t shoot as well as The Lone Ranger did on the radio.

Suppose the assailant had been hit in the leg? Would that have prevented a lunge toward the intended victim? If the femoral artery had been hit, how quickly would the assailant have bled to death? Any shot taken at a human being has the potential of being fatal. That being the case, the safest way of stopping an attack is to fire at the center of mass (for the highest likelihood of a hit without endangering bystanders) and to continue firing until the attack has been stopped.

Was the officer’s performance perfect? Probably not, but it was good enough to save a life.

Other dumb ideas include “warning shots”. A bullet fired in a random direction will strike something eventually. A bullet fired into the air will fall to the ground somewhere. All shots need to be properly aimed. What or who, other than the assailant, should have have been the target of a “warning shot”?

It’s reasonable to ask questions about safe gun handling and proper procedures. It’s counterproductive to offer uninformed advice about life and death situations.

2 thoughts on “Shooting to Stop


  1. ^^^^THIS!

    There is so much mis-information and/or just plain ignorance regarding the use of lethal force in defending one’s self or others, it’s refreshing to hear the unvarnished truth. And unfortunately, the quantity of such mis-information is telling about the current levels of firearm safety and knowledge of proper use in self-defense situations.

    One does not ‘Shoot to distract’, ‘Shoot to incapacitate’, nor ‘Shoot to Kill’, one shoots to stop the attack. It is also of paramount important to be aware of what’s behind and/or in the vicinity of the target (in this case the attacker), so that a mis-aimed shot won’t harm a bystander, even accidentally. That’s a secondary reason that a center of mass shot is preferred initially, and NOT a ‘head shot’.

    I was always taught: two to center of thoracic cavity, and if that doesn’t stop the threat – one to cranial-ocular cavity.

    That being said, I don’t second guess the officer’s actions – as I wasn’t there, and can’t know if changing the target was a riskier move that continuing to shoot for center of mass.

    Loss of life would have occurred if the officer hadn’t shot – it would just have been the unarmed victim, rather than the armed assailant.

    Explain to me how this is a preferred resolution.


  2. Without trying to be a joker or a jerk, I would say that firing 4 times and hitting the target 4 times at thhat distance and under those circumstnaces was damn fine shooting.
    My brother the trooper likes to tell the story of a colleague who stopped a driver who turned off the highway onto a local gravel road (common in rural Illinois.) Th trooper walked up to the car with his clipboard in hand (to clip driver’s license,etc to). The diriver;s side window was rolled down, and as he got close the driver stuck a gun out the window and shot at the trooper. The shot hit the clipboard and was deflected. Lucky for the trooper even though he was wearing a vest.
    The driver then hit the gas and roared off. meanwhile the trooper had drawn his service Beretta and proceeded to empty it at the fleeing car. While the first shot was at probably less than 20 feet the rest were of course much further away. When the guy was eventually caught (they had his license plate and car malemodel and he turned out to be a local) not one shot had hit the car.
    Of course the trooper took a lot of ragging over his shooting “skills”. His response was, “There was a ot of dust in the air.”
    Accurate shooting under stress is very hard, even for the trained.

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