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American Handgunner May/June 2010 - Page 68
COPTALK Massad Ayoob OPINION AND FACTS FROM THE MEAN STREETS MORE LESSONS FROM OKALOOSA COUNTY When cops die in the line of duty, their martyrdom is wasted if those they left behind don’t learn survival lessons from their deaths. T his month’s Ayoob Files covered both a double cop-killing and the takedown of the cop-killer, so two shootouts that had to be described instead of the usual one in that space. Moreover, the press and the Internet had built up an unusual number of false impressions of the incident, which took more space to dispel. Let’s look a little deeper into some of the lessons from that tragic occurrence. It might help to read the Ayoob Files segment first, for details. Cop-killer (arrow) lies dead beside his truck as WCSO deputies move in. Photo taken by passing motorist, from WCSO case file. I devoted this column to the same incident shortly after it occured. We talked about the importance of the Contact and Cover principle, developed years ago in San Diego under our own John Morrison and others. It turns out that Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office does teach that, and the two deputies were using it at the outset of the encounter with the killer, with Skip York in the Cover role and Burt Lopez as Contact. When it came time to subdue him, however, Lopez activated the TASER, and TASER training assigns the second officer to handcuffing. Witnesses saw York with hand variously on pistol and handcuffs. This created a crossover effect, which may have left Lopez holding the TASER and York reaching for handcuffs when the prostrate suspect unexpectedly drew his concealed pistol and put them both behind the curve. This is an issue that may be worthy of further consideration between TASER instructors, tactics instructors, and policy-makers. Conflicts Of Multi-Tasking importance oF Backup Guns i n the opening moments of the gunfight, bullets wrecked both of York’s arms and one of Lopez’s. This left York unable to deploy his only gun, the duty pistol, and some investigators believe the severe arm injury caused him to drop the gun at that point. Lopez was seen by the witnesses firing two-handed despite a serious wound of the non-dominantside shoulder. Might the wounded arm have been in spasm from the injury, negatively affecting his hit potential? We’ll never know. Lopez apparently managed to wound the killer, but didn’t neutralize him. Would one-handed shooting with the uninjured arm have worked better? We’ll never know that, either. We do know at the moment he was killed, he was helpless, trying to reload the only gun he had, the empty duty pistol. It was found beside his body at slide-lock, the empty mag already ejected, the fresh mag apparently out of his pouch and in hand as he attempted a “wounded officer reload.” OKSO deputies had been shown how to do that, but under the best of circumstances, it’s slower one-handed than simply snatching a second loaded gun. OKSO authorized backup, but neither deputy was carrying a second gun that day. It’s a lesson their peer deputies have already internalized. There are a lot more little Glock 27 backup guns discreetly concealed among the working deputies there now. he ran, they couldn’t shoot him — and if he ran only a few steps and then turned, shooters on the firing line at the range where it happened would have been in their line of fire. The approach the two slain deputies took was, under the circumstances, the most logical alternative open to them at the moment. It afforded the best opportunity for containment. Two good, brave men died that day. They will live in the hearts and the memories of their families, and law enforcement officers everywhere. May their memories live in the teaching of officer safety and survival tactics, as well. Distance Favors Good Guys I n the first confrontation, the Okaloosa County deputies were away from cover, so close to the suspect the distance might as well have been measured in inches. They had to be that close, to take him into physical custody. By the time of the second confrontation, the deputies in adjacent Walton County knew exactly what they were dealing with, and were able to maintain distances up to 15 yards, tactically keeping the hard cover of two wrecked vehicles between themselves and the suspect. He shot at them about a dozen times, and missed; they shot him a dozen or more times through openings in the overturned truck he was ensconced behind. Time, distance, and cover had worked to the advantage of the second crew. None of that had been available to the first, the way the situation went down. Could the first two OCSO deputies have taken cover, drawn their guns and held the ostensibly unarmed man at gunpoint until more backup arrived, instead of getting close? Sure . but if * 68 WWW.AMERICANHANDGUNNER.COM • MAY/JUNE2010