Where do you want to be if the bad guy suddenly regains consciousness with a gun in his hand?

Thursday, January 23rd, 2020

Greg Ellifritz looks at the Texas church attack and discusses post-shooting procedures:

Given the fact that you have at least five people on the volunteer security team, how would you optimally deploy those individuals after the threat is neutralized?  Seriously.  Stop right now and think about it.  Before reading further, think about what the security team’s priorities should be after the immediate threat is no longer active.

The security staff member who took the shot approached the bad guy, kicked his gun away from him and covered the lifeless body. This is a very common reaction, especially in police shootings. I would argue that approaching the down bad guy and kicking his gun away isn’t the best course of action.

The bad guy may be playing dead. He may also be momentarily unconscious, but not out of the fight When people fall to the ground, it’s easier to get blood circulating to the brain. The person you assumed was dead may suddenly regain consciousness on the ground. Low blood pressure from hypovolemic shock reduces blood flow to the brain. When the body falls, the circulatory system doesn’t have to fight gravity any more and many times people will spontaneously “wake up.”

Where do you want to be if the bad guy suddenly regains consciousness with a gun in his hand?

I would argue that standing over the now animate armed bad guy is a poor place to be.

There’s no need to separate him from the weapon if you have enough people to cover him with a lethal force threat option. Approaching the down bad guy is dangerous. Don’t do it.

Instead, move forward only far enough that there are no innocent parties between you and the downed criminal. Get behind whatever cover you can find (the church pews would work pretty well in this case). From that position of cover, keep your gun trained on the bad guy until police arrive.

Who should do this job if you have more than one security staff member available?

I would argue that the shooter may not be the best person to perform this role. After the shooting, adrenaline will start affecting the guy who took the shot faster than the other people on the team. His hands will likely start shaking. Sometimes those folks will also get nauseous or light-headed. Do you really want the shaky-handed guy who is about to throw up covering down on the bad guy until the police arrive?

If I had five armed security staff members in a shooting like this, I would assign a different person to cover the bad guy and move the shooter to a someplace quiet and non-threatening until the cops arrive.


  1. R. says:

    I guess the Russian approach to making sure seemingly dead people stay dead, putting in an extra round into the head isn’t sanctioned by law ?

    Once the guy is down, there’s no need to make sure he stays down ?

  2. Graham says:

    Laws being what they are, I’m now actually curious whether or not many jurisdictions would permit a security man putting another round in the wounded and downed shooter even if the latter starts to get up.

    There could be a post-facto legal debate about whether or not the original shooter was just performing a normal human instinct to try to recover his feet, or a conscious effort to again use his weapon or take a threatening posture.

    I’d need to hear from some criminal lawyers from various jurisdictions to get any real sense of whether that argument would fly.

  3. Freddo says:

    Shooting the body after things have settled (somewhat) down seems like an excellent way of setting yourself up for a world of hurt by a politically motivated DA, hostile media or a vindictive family lawyer.

    The one thing I missed in the post-shooting procedures was being prepared for a second assailant.

  4. Cletus says:

    1) Use a caliber sufficient to produce in capacitation (tough to do with handguns, but there were reports that in this instance the responder shot the criminal in the head; no idea what caliber or gun was used, but I suspect either a minor caliber (380 Auto), a short barreled pistol which reduced velocity or ammunition less than suitable for the task at hand).

    2) RE: Coup de grace – “I hit him with the first shot, he went down but he didn’t let go of the gun and he kept moving” which would explain the extra holes. According to reports, after being shot the criminal, indeed, retained the gun and was moving; whether that was uncontrolled autonomous nervous system response to major and fatal brain damage I do not know, but any survey conducted to find out is best conducted with projectiles from a distance.

    Ellifritz’s recommendations, however, are spot on – the video indicates a quite uncoordinated response by other security personnel due to severe lack of planning and lack of training; had there been a second shooter (or third, fourth, etc.) they would have had a field day. The video has a narrow field of view, so there may have been other security personnel establishing a solid perimeter and managing crowd activity outside the camera’s view, but I’d guess we’d have heard something about it by now if that were the case.

    There’s no substitute for planning and practice.

  5. Isegoria says:

    I believe the good guy used a .357 Sig — which is a .40 necked down to 9 mm. That is not an underpowered pistol round. As Ellifritz himself has pointed out, stopping power varies little between pistol calibers: “What matters even more than caliber is shot placement.”

  6. Kirk says:

    Self-defense in these sadly diminished times has a significant component of legal BS that goes with it.

    You get caught doing what the military calls an “anchor shot”, and you’re going to suffer severe legal consequences. Even if you’re justified in doing so, you’re screwed. The problem comes in with unrealistic expectations conferred by the media and popular culture. The public sees you put a bullet into the head of a criminal after they’ve gone down, and then you’re asked “Why did you do that…?”, you had better be able to articulate a good reason, or you’re going to jail.

    Frankly, I think that if you have a good reason to shoot the sumbitch once, you’ve got plenty of reason to do whatever else you need to in order to ensure a kill, given the lax nature of criminal prosecution these days–You shoot the guy, stop him, let him live, and he’s unlikely to do significant time in prison, so you need to worry about him coming after you again. Thank the do-gooders for that, and a part of your calculus thus has to become stopping that criminal from coming after you again, because the “justice system” sure as hell won’t. Unintended consequences, and all that. Or, maybe they intend them… Who knows? All I know is that they’re creating a perverse incentive for us to place that anchor shot or cover that head with a plastic bag.

    TL;DR–Legal matters are a bigger component of self-defense than they really should be. Learn the law, and don’t incriminate yourself by doing stupid things like telling the cops you shot the guy in the head at point-blank range as an “anchor shot”. Have, and articulate another legally-valid reason, should you do something like that, and make damn sure you talk to your lawyer first. Most people who go to jail after a self-defense “thing” do that because they talked themselves into that court of law. Have a lawyer, use one, and be prepared for the consequences, which could well be that you’ve saved your life only to spend it behind bars. The law is not your friend; its primary clients are criminals, lawyers, and cops. You kill a criminal, you’re a threat to the system’s continued existence, and it will punish you for having the temerity to take care of yourself. That’s the practical effect of it all, and be prepared for it. The system does not like you, and cares little for you or yours.

  7. TRX says:

    Funny, “shoot until it’s empty” seems to be SOP for police nowadays, why not for citizens?

    I’ve seen many reports of people the cops shot more than a dozen times… who lived to make it to trial. Mostly, that tells me those officers need serious remedial range time.

  8. Kirk says:

    What’s good for a cop is not good enough for a citizen. That’s already well-established case law, although nobody will admit to it.

    Law enforcement needs to fix itself, or the public will do it for them. I keep telling the idiot “thin blue line” types that the reality is that they only police with the consent of the policed, and when they lose that consent…? It won’t be pretty. One day, you’ll go to work and it will have been the same as it always was, the night before. That morning, though? You’re gonna drive by a burning police cruiser in a formerly “nice” law-abiding neighborhood, and the local inhabitants are going to be dancing around the fire, watching the officers in that cruiser burn to death.

    Consent. Lose it, and you’re gonna get a quick and painful lesson in math, to wit that there are a lot fewer cops than there are citizens.

  9. CVLR says:

    Kirk, your concerns have been duly noted. Your name will now float to the top of the comprehensive database of anti-government extremists. Thank you for your feedback. To learn more about this national initiative to secure national security, please direct written correspondence to the offices of [REDACTED], mailing address [REDACTED], Virginia, U.S. [REDACTED].

  10. Alistair says:

    This was a good tactical discussion. The fight ain’t over when the bad guy goes down. Point taken.

    Though if there is no nearby good cover to the perp, might advance-to-disarm (with perimeter) still be the better idea?

    Though I’m really thinking about how to make the anchor shot justifiable….

  11. Kirk says:

    “Though I’m really thinking about how to make the anchor shot justifiable….”

    First, don’t ever think of it or articulate it as an “anchor shot”. That’s right out, and even having that in your vocabulary is something that could incriminate you, should it come out in the aftermath. You have to plan for your own irrationality in the course of things, and even then, if you’re what they cops and prosecutors think of as preternaturally calm, cool, and collected? You’re going to come off as some kind of sociopathic loon, in most of their minds. The law enforcement community is not used to dealing with rational killers, and will commonly identify such as automatically being the “bad guy”.

    Also, you don’t want to even think of it as an “anchor shot” sort of situation: Think of it, and always articulate it as being carefully considered action taken to eliminate a threat to yourself and others. “Don’t move–I’m going to kick away your gun, and get you help… BANG! Damn it, I told you not to move towards your gun…”.

    Remember, you need to be concerned about what others are going to see and report–”I heard him tell the guy not to move, and then he shot again, and yelled at the guy for making him have to shoot…”.

    Always act within the law, and be able to articulate what you were doing to do so. The other thing is, don’t be a cold, impersonal sort of person–You need to come off as someone who acted reluctantly and against your own desires. Either an eagerness to kill, or an indifference to having done so is going to attract the attention of the authorities, for obvious reasons.

    The whole of it bears strongly on your articulated perceptions of the moment. You might be able to “get away” with an “anchor shot” under certain circumstances, like “I thought there were more of them, and I couldn’t take the chance that “Gunman A” was going to do something if I turned my back on him…”. I would hate to be trying that defense, though–I have a feeling that there would be some hefty legal bills entailed.

    Smartest thing to do under the post-shooting circumstance is say “Officer, I just had to take someone’s life… I’m in shock at that, I can’t think clearly, and I need to have some time to process this all. Also, a lawyer…”. Then, get a good lawyer and put yourself in his hands. It won’t be cheap, but then again, if you want “cheap”, just let the bad guy kill you.

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