My Life Changing Event

This was originally published at The Bang Switch in 2013, and then appeared on the blog at Full 30 in 2016.  However, since I recently wrote about my “Paid Vacation” some folks asked about this piece because they could not find it.  I am republishing it here on my website so it does not disappear again should something happen to Full 30.

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There have been a few mentions in other articles here (on The Bang Switch) about my having been involved in a shooting. During my career, I have been involved directly in two, and indirectly in quite a few more. The more recent one in which I was directly involved was a much different event that has caused me to make many changes in the way I do things, both at work and at home. As the two year anniversary approaches, naturally I find myself contemplating it. I find writing this out to be somewhat therapeutic, but this is a long one so, if you choose to read it, please hang in there.

Also, as this is my story, some of my personal views may come out. Take those for what they’re worth, but please don’t try and lecture me about my opinions if they happen to differ with yours.

I have been a Deputy Sheriff for just over 17 years. I work in a very wide spread, mostly urban, metropolitan area that includes six incorporated cities, plus the unincorporated part of the county. The unincorporated parts of the county vary greatly, from tightly packed residential neighborhoods with lots of low income housing complexes, to large rural areas that are sparsely populated. My department provides service to the unincorporated parts of the county, in which about 560,000 people live.

The last 15 years of my career have been (were) spent working patrol on swing shift (3pm-1am). I love swings, both because of the volume and variety of calls, but because the hours best fit my life outside of work. My department utilizes a computer aided dispatch (CAD) system and we all have computers in our cars. The cars are also equipped with a GPS locator system that is tied into the CAD, which has a mapping system that allows us to zoom in all the way to specific addresses, including the corresponding lot lines (similar to Google maps, but not as pretty).

It was a hot 100 degree early July night two years ago. That particular night, I was working our north central area, which is mostly residential housing, commercial properties and lots of low income apartments. It is a very small but diverse district, which routinely has the highest volume of calls for any of the patrol districts. It was almost 9pm and I had just finished dinner when I got sent to an incomplete 911 phone call at a local Motel 6. The caller said nothing and hung up. I told the dispatcher that I would handle the call solo because it sounded rather innocuous. While driving to that call, I got an update that on callback, the handicapped female in the room was asking for the fire department to assist her in getting dressed. The fire department advised us that deputies were not needed.

I began exchanging silly comments about that call with my dispatcher via the CAD messaging system. I have known my dispatcher for about 15 years and we have always been friendly. A few moments later, she dispatched me to another incomplete 911 call. This one said that a disturbance could be heard in the background and that someone had hung up. As a rule, when a disturbance is heard, the call takers will not call back. Initially when I was dispatched, I was sent by myself because no other units were available.

One of our canine units offered to cover me. He has a similar number or years of service with our department, but he and I had only recently begun working the same area and prior to this call, I think I had only been on maybe one or two other calls with him. Since as a canine unit, he covers the entire north part of the county, I had no idea where he was coming from. As I drove to the call, which was located in a fairly nice residential neighborhood, I continued to joke with the dispatcher about my previous call, asking how I could request a fire truck loaded with hot women to come get me dressed. She had similar concerns, but was instead looking for the calendar model type firemen instead. As I got within about a mile or two of my call, I decided to look at the CAD map and see about how far off my cover unit was. He appeared to about the same distance from the call as I was, perhaps a little further away. Since I had the map pulled up at this point, I zoomed it in to see where on the street the house I was going to was located.

As I got close to the call, I pulled to the side of the road around the corner from the call location to await my cover unit. That placed me a little more than two houses from the call location. I blacked my lights out and I cracked both windows a few inches so I would be able to hear if anything was going on. I advised my cover unit where I was waiting for him and then I closed my computer lid to avoid illuminating myself inside my dark car.

As I sat waiting for cover, I heard a male voice yelling and it sounded like it was coming from the area of my call. I could hear the yelling, but could not make out what was being said. My car was positioned so I could just see the corner of the front yard of the target house. It was fairly dark and there were no street lights near the house, but there was a light on at the front porch. In that dim light, I thought I saw some movement so I decided I needed to approach to see what was going on. I figured my cover had to be pretty close by now.

(Very similar setup to our cars, but this is not one of my department’s vehicles.)

I put the car in drive, turned the corner onto the street, crossed the street and drove south against the left sidewalk (wrong side of the street). As I slowly approached the house, I saw a male walking from the north corner of the garage, down the short driveway, and south away from me on the sidewalk. It was poor lighting, but he appeared to be carrying a rifle. It looked to me like a rifle with a wood stock and what appeared to be a white sling. As previously mentioned, I am a gun nut, and the first thing that came to my mind was a presentation or parade type rifle, like an ‘03 Springfield or a Garand with a white patent leather sling.

When I saw him holding the rifle, I decided that it would not be prudent for me to go to a rifle fight with my pistol, so I hit the lock on my rifle rack and pulled my personal 14.7” LWRC M6A1-S from the rack. I charged it and put the forward vertical grip in my left hand. Since he was walking toward a parked car, I decided I would wait to see if he was just going to place his rifles in the trunk of the car. He did not. In fact he walked past the car and then started across the street heading deeper into the neighborhood and towards a very dark, unlit area. Open carry is not legal in my state, and we were responding to an unknown disturbance call in which this man was likely involved, so I could not let him just wander off into the darkness toting a rifle. I decided I would hit my lights and using my PA, tell him to put the gun down. I rested my rifle’s forend on the steering wheel, I hit the high beam switch first, then turned the lights on with my left hand and using my right hand, grabbed my PA mic and told him to put the rifle down and turn around with his hands up. At this time, he was approximately 40 yards from the front of my car.

Apparently, this man I had never once met, had other plans. As soon as I told him to drop his gun, he turned around, shouldered the rifle and fired a shot. I saw the muzzle flash, heard the report, saw sparks near the front of my car and heard the round impact my car. Still seated in my car, I shouldered my rifle and brought it up. I immediately noticed that in the stress of the moment, I had neglected to turn on my EOTech (why I switched to the Aimpoint PRO), but since my rifle has a fixed front sight, I decided to use the EOTech as a very large rear sight aperture. Of course, that whole thought process took about 1/8th of a second. I dropped the safety and clicked off several rounds directly through my windshield. I looked up and he was still standing and had the rifle still shouldered. Not knowing if the windshield was affecting my shots, or if the lack of having my EOTech on was causing me to miss, I decided I needed to move (another ½ second thought process).

I stuck the car in reverse and began backing out. This is the point that my in-car camera begins recording. In watching the video, this man can be seen firing two more rounds at me as I back my car out onto the adjacent street. Since the street I had been parked on previously is a four lane street that often has heavy traffic, I checked the oncoming lanes as I backed into the intersection. I cranked the wheel and backed across the road at an angle getting myself out of the direct line of fire. I activated my light bar, which is what activated my in car camera system, and the 30 second buffer is what captured the shots fired as I am backing. I grabbed my radio mic and voiced that I had exchanged gunfire, that the suspect was still armed and that I needed additional units.

I placed the mic back in the holder and exited my car with my rifle. It was at this point that I turned my EOTech on. I stayed on the driver side of my car, near the driver door, keeping the hood, and subsequently the engine, between me and the suspect. About 5-10 seconds later, my cover unit pulled up and stopped on my right and just slightly back from me placing his front bumper at about my front doors. He exited his car with his department issued 16” barreled Colt AR-15, equipped with nothing but iron sights. He saw the rather large hole in my windshield and asked if I was ok. I told him I was fine, I gave him a brief suspect description and pointed to the direction in which I last saw him.

About 2 seconds after the canine handler arrived, one of our CSI units pulled up to the left of my patrol car. Our CSI units are sworn deputies who have completed patrol training. Additionally, the one who showed up has several years patrol experience in one of our contract cities. He exited his truck and had to dig his rifle out of the back of the extended cab.

The CSI officer had just got his rifle out when we saw the suspect approaching us, only now he was armed with a handgun. He was walking at a very rapid pace. I looked past him and saw another male, who appeared to be wearing a black tank top and a pair of dark colored shorts, standing directly in our line of fire. I yelled at him to go back in his home, and thankfully he listened. I redirected my attention back to the suspect. At this time, he was about 40 yards from me and was holding the handgun down at his right side. He was still walking directly at us at a very brisk pace.

Both the canine officer and I began directing him to drop the gun and stop where he was. He repeatedly said “That’s not going to happen”. He kept approaching us at the same brisk pace, holding the gun down at his side. I recall having drawn an imaginary line on the street in the back of my head, and he was not going to come past that line because that would put him within range to easily hit us with his handgun. When he got to that line, I fired, as did the canine officer.

I remember thinking this as it happened, it was the weirdest thing. It was like my brain was controlling two guns. The canine officer and I both fired the same number of times, and almost in perfect unison. Thankfully, the CSI officer used his better judgment and did not fire. He was behind and between the canine officer and me, and if he had fired, he could very well have struck either of us.

Upon being shot, the suspect dropped immediately and began bleeding out very rapidly. I walked past my car with my gun still on him. As I arced around him, to get a better view of his hands, I could see that he was no longer holding the gun. I advised the other officers his hands were clear and then I got on the radio and requested the fire department for medical aid. The canine officer began looking for the handgun and the CSI officer was helping him.

About this time, a motor unit arrived. Since we had not yet contacted the house from which the 911 call had come, that was still a possible threat or a location with other possible victims. I grabbed the motor officer and we covered the front of that home until other units arrived and one of my coworkers relieved me at my position.

Through the investigation, it was found that I initially fired four rounds through my windshield and six rounds in the second engagement. The canine officer also fired six rounds during the second engagement. The investigators determined that one of my first four rounds struck the suspect in his right side causing a large laceration, but not hitting anything vital. They told me they were able to determine that because there was windshield safety glass embedded in his shirt at the location of that wound.

It was also found that what precipitated this event was that the 44 year old suspect, a man who had battled bi-polar disorder and schizophrenia his entire life, had just gotten into an argument with his elderly parents, with whom he lived. He told them he was going to kill himself which was why they called 911. When he heard that 911 had been called, he told them he was going to go out in a shootout with the cops.

I firmly believe, and after mentioning this theory to the canine officer, so does he, that the suspect was walking away from his home to set up an ambush for us, and that my early arrival may have very well saved our lives. The suspect was leaving the home with a loaded Mosin Nagant M44 bolt action rifle (coincidentally, I own the identical rifle), for which he was carrying spare ammo. What I saw that I thought was a white patent leather sling was actually a section of white rope he was using for a sling. He was crossing the street and heading to the darkest area on the street, which has an excellent view of his front doorstep providing him an excellent place from which to ambush us.

(Not the actual gun)

When I began replaying the incident in my head that night, something stood out in my mind as not adding up. When he fired his first shot at me, I remembered seeing sparks at about the same time as I heard the impact, but jacketed lead bullets don’t spark when they hit a plastic front bumper cover or plastic grill. I began examining the front of my car and was not able to find any holes, which further stumped me, until I heard what type of gun he was using. An examination of the ammo he had revealed it was steel core Russian surplus. What had happened was his elevation was off significantly. His first shot hit the street about eight feet in front of my car, causing the sparks when the steel hit the asphalt. That round ricocheted up and struck a frame member directly under my driver seat, leaving a ½” deep dent in the steel frame.

Some of the work related things this incident taught me consist of:

1) Had I relied on my department to issue me my gear, I would have been carrying a department rifle instead of my personal gun, and this incident would have played out very differently. At the time, our department issued 40 year old military surplus M16A1 rifles, with iron sights. It is not because they don’t care, but the budget is just not there to purchase 300 new rifles for every patrol deputy. The guns we got were free, and any long gun is better than no long gun. Since my shooting, I have tried to shoulder that full length rifle in my patrol car, and even with the seat back all the way (which is where I have it anyway since I am 6’3” tall), it would not have been possible to return fire from inside my car. My LWRC is significantly shorter in overall length and was easy to maneuver inside the cramped confines of my patrol car.

2) I am thankful that I have always taken range training serious, and that I have always practiced as if it were a real gunfight. I will continue to do so, and will make every effort to ensure others take their range time seriously as well.

3) I made some changes to what I carry on my gun belt, and I added a way to carry a spare AR magazine at all times (Blade-Tech Double Pistol & Rifle Combo Mag Pouch). I always had multiple spare mags in the trunk, but in case of a rapid deployment, like this incident was, I want to have a spare on me just in the off chance that it could turn into a prolonged firefight.

4) I retired my beloved, personally owned, blinged out Sig P220, and got a department issued P226 in 9mm. With the purchase of three 18 round flush fitting Mec-Gar mags, and with one of the issued 15 round Sig mags, I more than doubled the amount of pistol ammo I am carrying (from 25 to 70). Plus, I have the other two issued 15 round Sig mags as spares in my tac vest, along with my other 6 spare AR mags. Taking fire really made me paranoid about the possibility of running out of ammo. I do not plan on ever letting that happen.

5) I have played multiplayer first person shooter video games for many years (much to the amusement of my beat partners), but have always tried to play with a realistic mindset. I honestly think that the 80,000+/- simulated firefights I have been in on the computer helped me think very quickly when the real one happened. I never froze or stopped to think once during the incident. Firing through the windshield, backing the car out to get to a better place to engage him, staying behind cover, etc. All of that came naturally since those are things that I do when I play video games. Granted, video games don’t help with all the physical aspects of shooting a gun, but I feel they can definitely play a role in training your mind to react quicker when you are confronted with a real world gunfight, plus their just plain fun.

I made some changes in my personal life after this incident also:

1) I make sure my wife and kids know that I do not take them for granted. I make sure I tell them how much I love them every day, usually several times a day, and especially every day before leaving for work. As much as having coworkers killed in the line of duty over the years (7 on my agency during my career, 1 was a personal friend) has made me reflect on this, nothing drives it home like being involved in your own incident firsthand.

2) I used to be reserved when it came to sharing my opinion on matters of politics, but no more. I have become much more involved in the entire political process because one thing my career has taught me, is that the liberal policies that rule the state in which I live and work have bred an entire population of people for whom I spend 40 hours a week acting as their parent or babysitter. We need a society that promotes self-sufficiency, not dependency, and I am doing everything I can to spread that message. If you disagree with that assessment, you are entitled to your opinion, but I challenge you to spend a few shifts on a ride-along with a law enforcement agency in a large metropolitan city and experience the fruits of those policies firsthand. It was this unwillingness to be quiet that lead me to writing political commentary, which landed me a writing gig for Joe The Plumber, which in turn lead me to writing here, at The Bang Switch!

Three other cops were killed in the line of duty that very same night across the country. Two were killed in car accidents (one of which was a pursuit), and the third was shot to death. As the anniversary of this incident nears, I find myself thinking about them and how I could have easily been number four. The fact that I was not added to that list makes me very grateful for everything I have, and makes me appreciate even the smaller things much more.

Thanks for bearing with me during this very long account. Remember to take some time each day to appreciate the little things in your life, and lets all stay safe out there!
Matt


To address some things brought up in past discussions:
– No, I did not get a 72 hour “calming” period before talking to investigators. I was interviewed by the Homicide investigators that night, about 90 minutes after the shooting, after they finished their initial walk through at the crime scene. Prior to them, I had to tell my story to the deputy handling the main portion of the report and to several different supervisors each time a new one arrived.

– Yes, I had an attorney there but she only asked a couple of clarifying questions after the interview was over. As a cop, I cannot plead the fifth and must cooperate with the investigation if I hope to keep my job. Coincidentally, that is exactly what I would do anyway since I had nothing to hide.

– Yes, I was automatically put on paid administrative leave for the next five days, which was most definitely not a vacation like everyone seems to think. I finally fell asleep at about 5pm the next day after the adrenaline dump finally wore off, the following day I had to go to the range to get a loaner rifle since mine was now residing in the crime lab (shooting at a target of a man pointing a gun at you takes on a whole new meaning), the next day I got to go sit down with a shrink (oooh, yay!), the next day I had to go to the critical incident stress debriefing and talk about how the incident made me feel (because you know, cops really like sharing their feelings with their coworkers), and on the fifth day, I finally got to sit down with my wife and kids and try, very unsuccessfully to forget about the whole thing.

Media Ignoring Facts They Reported To Make Cops Look Bad

Fox40

On February 25, 2017, three police officers from the small city of Rocklin, CA shot and killed a man in an absolutely justified shooting.  The district attorney just officially confirmed the same when they announced that no charges will be filed on the officers because the shooting was justified.  And that is where the story should end.

BUT the anti-cop media and Black Lies Matter will not let it go as they seem to be contending that the cops shot Lorenzo Cruz for no reason, and then are covering it up.  After all, look at the poor young man in the tuxedo, he would not do anything wrong… (seriously, I searched via google and the ONLY pictures I can find of Lorenzo Cruz are this one, in the tux)

Rocklin police officers who shot and killed a man after a February confrontation have been cleared of any criminal wrongdoing.

The Placer County District’s Attorney’s office announced their decision not to pursue any charges against the officers Thursday.

However, the matter is far from resolved, according to activists who showed up at the Rocklin Police Department with a list of demands.”  

Those are the first three lines from that story about the outcome of the shooting.  To those who have been following this shooting, this was the expected outcome because it was a textbook case of a justified shooting.  However, to the media and their favorite trouble makers, Black Lives Matter (henceforth referred to as Black Lies Matter), it is far from over.

”‘He’s a compassionate person, he’s never stolen anything, never been in trouble with the law, it doesn’t make since that he’d go from not doing anything wrong to breaking into someone’s house at 10 in the morning,’ said Faison.”

Let’s just take a quick look at that pile of horse shit being shoveled by Faison, the Black Lies Matter representative.  I will refute her statement with information that has long been available to the public, via the media, and none of it has been denied.

“Police first encountered Cruz when they attempted to stop his vehicle for expired registration, according to the District Attorney’s letter. Cruz drove off at high speed. (Expired Registration – I, Evading Police – M/F) Officers determined a pursuit would cause too much risk to motorists and other people in the area, but they obtained a description of the vehicle and the license plate number.” –Sacramento Bee

Having personal knowledge of Rocklin PD’s pursuit policy, it would have been a clear violation of their policy to pursue Cruz in this situation.  That said, it can very well be argued that had they pursued him and apprehended him, NONE of the things that occurred later in the day, culminating in Cruz being shot, may not have ever occurred.  I would argue that the very restrictive pursuit policies, like Rocklin’s, those very policies that are pushed by liberal, anti-cop politicians, are the very reason more people are victims of crime, like the people who were victimized by Cruz later that day.

Continuing on with Cruz’s crime spree that day…

“Police later received a 911 call from a resident reporting that the same man was behaving in a bizarre manner and had rammed his vehicle into a gate in a residential neighborhood. (Felony Vandalism – F, Hit & Run crash – M) Witnesses reported that they were confronted by the man, and described him as angry and aggressive.

One witness reported that Cruz first attempted to enter his home through a sliding glass door, then broke a glass laundry room door and entered the home. Cruz reportedly retreated when the homeowner confronted him with a weapon. (Burglary – F)

Cruz then got into a neighbor’s vehicle and attempted to flee (Attempted Vehicle Theft – F), but was confronted by the three Rocklin police officers.”

Thus far, at a minimum we have documented one infraction, two misdemeanors (one which could possibly have been a felony), and three felonies.  But yeah, I can see how if I was a Black Lies Matter person, that could totally be seen as “not doing anything wrong.”  But hey, we aren’t done yet.

“When officers located Cruz and ordered him to surrender, he failed to comply and officers saw he had what appeared to be a firearm. Cruz was shot when he pointed the weapon at one of the officers. (Brandishing a Weapon – M)

Police later determined that the gun was a replica firearm that had been painted silver to look like a real gun, according to police.”

So, we can add two more crimes, a misdemeanor for brandishing a weapon and one which resulted in his being shot, felony stupid (the act of doing something so stupid it gets you killed – not a real crime).

Now that the DA has made their announcement, Black Lies Matter stepped in and presented a list of utterly moronic demands.  Personally, I am sick and tired of these juvenile, petulant idiots who completely ignore the culpability a person has in their own demise in order to put ALL the fault on the cops.

“Thursday, Black Lives Matter presented a list of demands to the Rocklin Police Department including: release of the police report and all video of the incident, charges brought against the officers involved, a community investigation, monetary compensation for Cruz’s family, and an apology from city officials.”

The proper response to those requests is “pound sand,” but in the politically correct world in which we live, where elected officials more often than not bend to the will of those who scream the loudest, I suspect we will see some capitulation.

Look, I feel for the family and friends of Cruz.  Sometimes we really don’t know the people we think we know.  I’ve been in those shoes.  A man I spent months working with, in the same car, a man I’d known 20 years, a man I called a friend, was arrested on very serious charges.  I get being upset, I get being blindsided.  I get being confused and angry.  I really do.

BUT, don’t blame the cops; blame the person who did the acts, blame the person who deceived you.

In the case of Cruz, friends, family and Black Lies Matter would have you believe that not only are the rotten, evil police lying to cover up their shooting of “another innocent POC” (person of color), but the cops also successfully convinced numerous private citizens to aid them by manufacturing all the incidents that lead up to Cruz’s shooting.  Oh yeah, the cops also apparently mastered time travel and successfully went back in time to create the original failed contact / pursuit in an attempt to bolster their story.

Seriously, what version of this makes more sense?  That friends and family of Cruz either did not know about his criminal behavior, or that they are ignoring it OR  that the cops shot Cruz and are covering it up?

It is long past time for the public to start demanding honesty from our “news” sources.  They have all turned into tabloids, running whatever story will get the most traffic.  They push known lies for the sake of the story and they give a voice to people who are blatantly lying because doing so makes them money.  None of that is acceptable.

America’s Rosetta Stone


I read through the news today after a recent terrorist attack upon Police Officers in Dallas. Men and women serving their country and communities were attacked because of the clothes they wore and the color of their skin. Alternatively it is reported almost everywhere these attacks were in response to “two innocent black men being gunned down by police” yet the facts are not yet fully known. To respond violently based upon initial emotion is to discredit the American process and disregards civility entirely.

When historians look back upon the last several years what will our defining moments be? I often consider this point of view because as a student of history I realize the human condition is cyclical. Consider our greatest accomplishments and triumphs where Americans had a common goal, pulled together and achieved wondrous results. These American achievements need not be stated they are so powerful.

trosej

I use the Rosetta Stone as my example of ancient human achievement. The rock was found in 1799 by French soldiers and now resides in the British Museum. Written upon the enormous rock is a series of accomplishments and instructions for Egyptian priests. It is written in two languages and three scripts. It is amazing to me how multiple cultures collided in an era of little technology to create something this long lasting. (You can read more about this fascinating topic at: http://www.ancientegypt.co.uk/writing/rosetta.html)

What do the words of the Rosetta stone say? What do they mean? We live in a culture now where it doesn’t matter. Facts are considered  boring while violent emotions are considered exciting and relevant. Idols fuel emotionalism as a movement and as role models to America’s youth. A popular musician of our time, Jay Z has released a new song which he addresses the problem. Here is an example of one lyric: “Got my hands in the air in despair/don’t shoot/I just wanna do good.”Young-Thug-JAY-Z

Perhaps the music is moving, maybe the lyrics are meaningful but they are not responsible. The words themselves are perpetuated by lies and drive further emotion instead of logic. That emotion is endorsed by powerful leaders of the state and the message becomes misconstrued. Violence is the result and ignorance is the tool.

Music, Television and Movies are not seen as entertainment in our time, they are words and actions to live by. Fantasy is our hero and I still wonder what America’s common goal is. We are divided on all things in regards to morality and justice and I cannot fathom what stamp of human achievement our generation has left upon history. If our Rosetta Stone is chaos, lawlessness and anarchy I wish to distance myself from it as far as possible.

I have children though, so I cannot wallow in despair and would like to leave them something to cling to. We spend so much time trying to convince the emotionally misguided that our own children often become neglected from the truth. More and more I disconnect myself from popular media, social media and even news networks. I teach my children how to think for themselves and encourage them to try and leave the Sandcastle-2world a better place when they leave it. More than anything I tell them to suppress emotion and use logic to respond. This is how we build a lasting monument to our prosperity as a nation. A nation not divided but as one people and as unified Americans.

A monument to our civilization needs not be represented by division and destruction. Through our common children we must build something greater than we have now. Utilizing morality and logic we must build a culture which welcomes all as Americans and respects the tenements of our rich history. A foundation which shrugs off its mistakes and moves swiftly and accurately to correct them. A foundation which withstands the decaying sands of time and utilizes a profound goal as opposed to destruction with no purpose.

The Helicopter FTO?

Helicopter-Parent1

Some of the reader comments, both here and on our Facebook page, regarding the recent officer involved shooting in Arlington, TX have tried to place an undue amount of blame on the Field Training Officer (FTO), Cpl. Wiggins, who was training Officer Miller.  I don’t know how long the training program is for Arlington PD, or when Officer Miller started it, but all accounts say that Officer Miller had been hired in September 2014 and was nearing the end of his field training.

I was an FTO for a number of years, and I still fill in that role from time to time when FTO’s take time off and their trainees need someone to ride with, so I do have a little personal knowledge on the subject matter.

Here are a few things to consider when we are talking about this subject.  By the time a trainee reaches field training, they have met certain requirements.

  1. They are over the age of 18 (21 in some states) and are legally an adult
  2. They have completed a full police academy and are, legally speaking, a full peace officer
  3. They have passed the background check and are presumably not a convicted criminal
  4. They have passed a psychological exam and are presumably not a psychotic nut job
  5. They found the station, their locker, the briefing room and their FTO, so they can apparently follow simple instructions

Considering all of the above, it is reasonable to assume that a person in training, even a fresh trainee right out of the academy, can follow simple directions.  As trainees continue through the program, and especially as they near the end of their training, it becomes reasonable to assume that they can handle more complex tasks without immediate supervision.  To remotely suggest that an FTO has to keep their trainee under constant supervision, and is responsible for their every action, is insane.

Here are some examples of common tasks given to trainees on a daily basis, which are often times completed without any supervision whatsoever.

  • “Go over there and take that person’s statement.”
  • “Go stuff this bad guy in the back seat.”
  • “Book this evidence.”
  • “Snatch that guy up and cuff him.”
  • “Fill out the booking paperwork for the arrest.”
  • “Go over to that side of the building and establish a perimeter spot.”

Some of the comments, some even made my people purporting to be field training officers (FTO) themselves, saying that the FTO was at fault because he allowed his trainee to leave his side, or that he screwed up because he was not constantly monitoring his trainee, made me remember a term about parents that don’t give their kids any room to make mistakes, to learn on their own:  Helicopter Parents

Their comments make me want to coin a new term: the Helicopter FTO

I thank God that I did not have any Helicopter FTOs as I went through the training program, although to be honest, I can think of a few I have known over the years.  Not surprisingly, they were the FTO the trainees did not want to get.  Trainees cannot learn when they are under constant, microscopic supervision.  No one can.  That is not how adults learn, and a patrol trainee is an adult.

So, unless the FTO gave the trainee bad instructions, such as “go over to that open door, enter by yourself and go snatch dude up,” or unless he sat there watching his trainee going into the building solo, and decided to watch and see how it would play out (which we know by the account of the incident, that is not remotely what happened since he ran to catch up and was there with his Taser out when the shooting occurred), then the FTO is not responsible for the actions of the trainee.

Please don’t take this as me bashing Officer Miller.  That is not my intent, not remotely.  Trainees make mistakes, hell, FTO’s make mistakes.  We all do.  That is part of being human.  But, to try and assign blame to the FTO for a series of mistakes his trainee made in a matter of a minutes, if not seconds, is the same thing as say, blaming a cop for shooting a bad guy who is beating him to near unconsciousness and trying to take his gun.  It is blame shifting, and it has absolutely no place in society, let alone in law enforcement.


On a related side note, during my time as an FTO, I had a number of trainees who seemed to have the ability to magically disappear at a moments notice.  I know many other FTOs have encountered the same thing, because a number of us have jokingly discussed putting a cow bell on our trainees so that we could keep track of them.  So, in addition the the Helicopter FTO, we can have the Cowbell Trainee.  

My Educated Guess Was Wrong – Officer Miller Terminated

A couple days ago, I wrote an article in which I discussed the current state of the investigation taking place in Arlington, TX where a burglary suspect had been shot by the cops.  At the end of that article, I laid out what I clearly stated was my guess as to what might have occurred inside the dealership, out of the view of the surveillance video.

As much as I hate being wrong, I have to admit my educated guess was Entirely Incorrect.  What I surmised might have happened, was far from what actually occurred.

With that said, please take the time to watch this press conference given by Chief Will Johnson of the Arlington Police.  It is long, but it is absolutely worth the 28 minutes.  He discusses all the details that they can release at this point, and surprisingly they released quite a bit of information.  But he goes beyond that and describes how the case is examined on a number of levels, and he describes how both the reasonableness and legality of an officer involved shooting is measured.

For those of you reading this whom are not on the job; for those who enjoy analyzing and scrutinizing the actions of cops from the safety of your couch or desk, please pay special attention to Chief Johnson’s explanation of Graham v Connor (begins at 1:55 mark), which is the supreme court case that establishes the standard by which all deadly force uses by law enforcement are measured.  His explanation is outstanding!

The Facts That Were Revealed
During the press conference, Chief Johnson ran through the series of events.  I am going to summarize them here in bullet points, and am not including everything. Please watch the video for more details.

  • Officers were dispatched to a burglary in progress
  • A total of 6 officers in 5 cars were sent
  • Officers saw a single suspect inside the building
  • One officer verbally engaged suspect through a closed, locked glass door
  • Same officer noted a large bulge in the suspect’s pants pocket (others also saw it as noted later)
  • The suspect showed the initial contact officer keys to a car and said he was going to steal it
  • The officer ordered the suspect to get on the ground, but the suspect refused to comply
  • Corporal Wiggins (training officer) and Officer Miller (trainee) began to pass the officer who was speaking to the suspect
  • Wiggins stopped to talk to officer who was engaging the suspect, but Miller continued to the open/broken doors
  • Miller entered the building by himself, with his gun drawn
  • Miller verbally engaged the suspect who fled to the rear of business and tried to break through a glass door
  • Miller, still solo, chased the suspect to the back and verbally engaged him again
  • Suspect again refused to comply and began to charge Miller
  • Wiggins entered the building attempted to catch up to his trainee
  • Wiggins got to within approximately 4′ of Miller and Wiggins drew his Taser
  • As the suspect charged Miller, Miller fired one shot but the suspect continued advancing
  • Wiggins fired his Taser but the suspect continued advancing
  • Miller firesd three more shots
  • Shots fired broadcast on radio, emergency medical requested
  • At no point did the suspect physically engage any of the officers

Investigation Results Thus Far
Chief Johnson was clear to point out at the onset of his press conference that there are two investigations that are going on simultaneously in any officer involved shooting.  There is an administrative investigation and a criminal investigation.  This is true no matter the jurisdiction, and the results of the two investigations are independent of one another.

  • Administrative Investigation – Officer Miller screwed up, badly, a number of times.  His screw ups ultimately lead to the confrontation that occurred.  His mistakes were both officer safety in nature as well as tactical errors.  Not only did his mistakes put both he and the suspect in danger, but they put all the other officers in danger too.  Officer Miller has been fired (released from his probationary employment) as a result of those grievous errors.
  • Criminal Investigation – Still proceeding.  Results will be given to the District Attorney and will then be presented to the Grand Jury to determine if charges will be filed.  If I were a betting man, based on the facts that were revealed in this press conference, I would put money that this case will be going to trial.

Stupid Media Questions, and Outright Bias
As is the case at nearly every law enforcement press conference for a high profile incident, especially those involving officers using deadly force, there were a number of stupid questions.  However, beyond that, there was a couple that really display a bias by the media.  I’m going to summarize a few of those below (not verbatim, unless in quotes).

  •  21:38 mark –  Did the first shot fired strike the suspect?
    • How on earth would we know that?  Bullets aren’t numbered.  We have no way of identifying which slug was from which casing and in what order they were fired.
  • 24:28 mark – Did Officer Miller explain why he continued to shoot after the Taser was deployed?
    • Chief Johnson handled this much better than I would have.  Does this guy think that this was some long, drawn out thing?  From the first shot until the last shot was only seconds.
  • 23:52 mark – Did Corporal Wiggins ever try to question Officer Miller, or intervene and ask him what he was doing?
    • OMG, seriously?  Is this person for realsies?
    • Let me see, my trainee has disappeared on me, where did he go?  Holy crap!  There he is, he went inside by himself and is engaging the suspect.  (runs to catch up) Trainee has suspect, who is now charging him, at gunpoint and suspect if failing to follow all verbal commands.  This is where we call “TIME OUT” – okay trainee, why are you doing what you are doing?
    • The utter lack of a grasp on reality displayed by some reporters is sometimes quite amazing
  • 24:21 mark – BIAS ALERT – Do you think the outcome of this investigation would have have been different two years ago?
    • In other words, did this outcome only happen because of all the scrutiny law enforcement is under right now?
    • Chief:  “No sir, I do not”
    • Let us just say even if he did, which none of us who know what really happens in these investigations would ever think, but even if he did think that, does this reporter think he would say it would have been different?  This is a BS, gotcha question asked so that they can say the “Chief denies investigation would have had different outcome without public outcry.”
  • 25:30 mark – BIAS ALERT – Does Corporal Wiggins face and punishment for “allowing” his trainee to be separated from him?
    • Chief: “Absolutely not”
    • Follow up question: “Why did he allow him to go in there by himself?”
    • When I heard this question, I actually yelled at my computer screen.  What an arrogant ass. The Chief explains it politely, I won’t.

Because, mister “reporter,” here on planet earth, grown adults have not only free will, but we also have limited abilities.  As a training officer at an in progress crime scene, like this was, he is not only trying to do his job as a training officer, but he is also doing his job as a cop, which involves not only trying to keep track of the suspect and his trainee, but also all the other officers at the scene.  Additionally, as a mere mortal human being, I highly suspect he was unable to freaking read the mind of his trainee and know what the trainee was planning on doing…

He and his trainee were supposed to be moving to the open area to establish a perimeter position, in order to contain the suspect.  When he stopped to talk  with the other officer (I can only presume to discuss their plan of action) , the trainee continued.  The trainee upon reaching their perimeter position, screwed up and took it upon himself to enter the building, solo, which goes against all officer safety and tactical training he would have received to that point.  Apparently, the training officer’s superpowers were not working, and his assuming the trainee, who was nearing the end of his field training, would have followed basic protocols is the same thing as “allowing” him to do something.

Training officers and trainees are all only human.  Sometimes humans make mistakes.  This question, in the way it is worded, blatantly tries to assign blame on the training officer, and thus the department.  This “reporter” should be forced to attend force on force and shoot/no-shoot training before being allowed to attend another law enforcement press conference.

  • 27:11 mark – Have you spoke to the former officer in person, and how was that interaction?
    • Chief Johnson: “Difficult”
    • Followed by a long pause, after which he goes into a little more depth after politely shushing a reporter who was trying to interrupt.

Summary
Based on all the facts known at this point, this appears to be a bad shoot.  The officer involved has had his probationary employment terminated.  The criminal investigation is still ongoing.  Once that criminal investigation is complete, the case will be given to the District Attorney who will present it to the Grand Jury.  They will determine whether or not the case goes to criminal trial.  As I said already, I suspect it will.

Thus far, everything about this investigation is functioning Exactly As It Should, and just like it does in every case, with or without the media breathing down law enforcement’s neck.

It really sucks that this young man was killed, just as it would have sucked even if it were a justifiable shooting.  I wish the death of a child upon no parent.  No parent should have to outlive their child.

But, while the shooting is horribly regrettable, one must not dismiss the suspect’s role in his own demise.

Two people made very bad mistakes that early morning.  One of those people who made mistakes instigated the entire event, and made it worse by making yet more mistakes along the way.  The other person was a man working a very tough job, trying to make his community a safer place, who was put on the spot and forced to make a split second decision, and he made several mistakes as well.

The question that now remains is, did that second man’s mistakes rise to the level of a criminal offense?  I suspect we will have to wait to see what a jury says about that.

As for how the Arlington, TX Police Department is handling this investigation, I have nothing but respect for them.  They are quickly handling a very difficult investigation under the public microscope.  Additionally, the sincerity and emotion in both Chief Johnson’s words and body language in this press conference tell it all.  This is a man who not only cares about his department and the employees, but also cares about his community.  He appears to me to be a man of honor and integrity.  Chief Johnson appears to be a man I would be proud to work for.