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 shows 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.