Approaching Police During a Potential Active Shooting

| August 17, 2016 | 0 Comments

On August 13, 2016, Raleigh, NC police responded to an active shooting call at a mall food court.

A well-meaning citizen stepped out of his Jeep Wrangler Unlimited with his AR15 and asked a nearby cop if they needed help.

The police officer got behind concealment, drew his service pistol, and confronted the man. The man complied with the officer’s demands, was disarmed, and taken into custody.

Read more about this incident.

As all things go, this went as well as possible: no one was injured, and to my knowledge the citizen is not being charged with any wrongdoing.

If you are reading this post, on this blog, you’ve probably decided to carry a shoulder-fired PDW/SBR on your person.

There are several things to learn from this incident.

Things Done Well

  • The officer was cool under pressure, and managed the unknown contact without shooting an innocent person. He made a series of quick assessments and took action. I’d like to know what the officer’s thought process was, and why he decided to ask questions first, shoot later. You cannot rely on this always happening.
  • The citizen did his part and complied with the officer’s demands.
  • The citizen was there, and had a gun! Good job, dude! So much for the argument that an armed citizenry won’t be present to respond to an active shooter incident.

Things to Consider / Learn

  • The timing was off. This person was not involved in an immediate defensive shooting. Approaching an officer at this point in time, with a long gun in his hands, does not make a lot of sense contextually. The man inserted himself into a situation that did not easily explain why he had a rifle in his hands. I would be more understanding if both men were inside the mall and were responding to a shooting.
  • I don’t know the particulars, but my guess is that this man “went back.” He may have been in the mall, got out when people said there was an active shooter, and then saw the cop. Trying to help, he got out of his vehicle, with rifle in hand, and asked if he could assist.I’ve written about the dangers of “going back,” and why I don’t recommend it. Every time that post gets circulated, some people comment I’m a coward, and that they would go back. The incident on the 13th is an example of the interaction you may expect when returning to the scene of an active shooting / terrorist attack.
  • This gentleman was wearing fatigues of some kind. Do you think this helped or hurt the policeman’s threat assessment? People gave me a ton of shit for having a long beard, “looking like a terrorist,” and how I might be misconstrued as a bad guy. Consider what you wear every day, and how you may or may not appear to cops.
  • The time that the officer spent dealing with this person was wasted. If there was an actual shooting, the cop would be tied up with a good guy instead of doing his job against the bad guys. Let’s not be a drain on LEO.

Things to Think On

Think about what you would have done in this situation. You’ve escaped from the mall, where you think there is an active shooter. You see a police officer. Would you keep driving? If you stopped, what’s the safest way to interact? Do you think rolling down the window, putting up your hands, and screaming “DO. YOU. WANT. HELP??” would be safer than exiting the car with a rifle? Consider your options ahead of time.

We’ve written about coming to the aid of a police officer before. However, this is not without risk. You may be misidentified by police officers during your “request,” and as a safety precaution they may put you in custody anyway.

I think it’s best to surrender immediately if you encounter a law enforcement officer in the middle of an incident. Let them take control of you and your tools, and then ask them if they want help. Negotiating with someone under stress may be very difficult. Go through some force on force scenarios. Try to remember what you say, and what is being said to you in the heat of the moment. Point of contact is not the right time to explain yourself.

For those of us who carry shoulder-fired weapons, understand that we’re going to have to actively work against being misidentified. You may not be successful, and you may be seriously injured or killed by well-meaning police officers or armed civilians. That’s something you need to think about frequently. I also suggest reading our old posts about telling good guys apart from bad guys, and how to avoid looking like a bad guy.

If you decide to offer to help, please don’t have a weapon in your hands.

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About the Author:

Short Barrel Shepherd Short Barrel Shepherd is a regular guy and works to make Web sites and mobile apps easier for people to use. He spends his free time attending fight-focused firearm, knife, and combatives training, motorcycling, writing, and playing games. His daily carry is a Glock 19 pistol and an AR15 .300 Blackout pistol in a backpack.
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