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I had previously posted some of my observations on CCW and self defense drawn from a decade in my younger days as a police reporter for a daily newspaper. In scanning archives here I note a lot of threads about "what if I ever have to pull the trigger?" but no real personal experience accounts.

As a reporter I felt it my responsibility to know how cops do their jobs; hence I probably logged several thousand hours in ride-alongs and also responded directly to many hundreds of potentially explosive situations, such as barricaded suspects, hostage cases, etc. I was thus present on about a dozen occasions where officers fired their weapons, and probably on a thousand or more where they unholstered their guns.

One fact that was driven home quite early was that police officers, at least in an urban environment where crime is fairly prevalent, DO NOT fire in the vast majority of cases where they could be legally justified in doing so. I bet I was present on several hundred occasions where one or more officers could have pulled the trigger under existing laws and chose not to do so. So the myth of the "trigger happy cops" is simply bogus.

So what is it like to shoot someone? I knew several dozen officers who had to fire in the line of duty. I can say there is no one way to react. Some were somber and depressed in the immediate aftermath. Others were nervous. A few were still feeling the adrenaline high and were almost manic.

I also learned that the typical scenario of a law enforcement shooting is very like what CCW holders are most likely to encounter -- a sudden threat, lightning response, shooting at close range without aiming. I also learned that most officers have hazy recollections of the actual shooting; they go into tunnel vision/hearing mode from the natural adrenaline dump.

Here is an example. One night a little after 11 the dispatcher assigned a patrol car to a convenience store where the clerk had called about a suspicious male who had been lurking around outside in the parking lot. The night detective unit assigned to robberies responded and asked that the patrol car not be sent, said they were close and that they would set up on the store and watch. I was fairly close as well so shortly after they pulled into an observation spot about 50 yards up the street from the store I pulled in with headlights off facing them about the same distance away. I blinked my flashlight at them to tell them I was there and they blinked back and pressed the microphone key twice as an acknowledgement. We could all three see the white male suspect standing at the edge of the building looking into the store.

A few minutes later a car pulled in and a police officer who had just finished duty on the 3-11 shift, still in uniform, got out and walked into the store. He had gone off duty before the initial call was dispatched and had no idea what had been reported or that we were just up the street watching. The store clerk saw his uniform and naturally assumed he had been dispatched in response to his initial call. When he mentioned this the officer said he was not the one assigned but that he would go check the guy. We watched as he came back out and walked toward the suspect.

As he drew within a few feet the suspect yanked a revolver from his waistband and brought it up into firing position. The officer shoved him back with his left hand and drew with his right. It was summer and my car windows were down and I heard one POP followed immediately by a much louder BANG, and my assumption was that both guns had fired. I gunned my engine right behind the robbery car and we were there in perhaps ten seconds. The suspect was on his back and officer was slumped against the building wall with his .357 magnum in his hand. He was white as a sheet and hyperventilating. I grabbed him as he looked as if he was about to fall and the detectives kicked the suspect's gun away, rolled and cuffed him.

I asked the officer (he was a friend; we had been out to dinner with our wives just a few weeks before) if he was hit and he said "I don't know. How many times did I fire?" I said once I think. I opened his uniform shirt because I could not see how the robber had missed at such close range. He was in fact unhurt.

The robber died within a couple of minutes from a wound just below the heart. It turned out that was the POP, muffled by his body, while the BANG was the officer's second instinctive shot, fired as the robber fell backwards and his muzzle was no longer shielded by the robber's body. We later guessed that the second shot had gone right over the hood of my car a half-block away.

I was a witness so we spent most of the night in the homicide office, where the officer recounted the event as best he could recall it. He had reacted on instinct but I imagine to this day he has minimal recall. The irony was that when the detectives unloaded the robber's revolver they found a single round chambered in a position where he would have had to pull the trigger five times before it rotated into firing position.

So the bottom line on shootings is you never know, nor will you ever likely know exactly what happened.
 

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While I'm mentally prepared to shoot if necessary I have no illusions about any Rambo-esque response on my part. I hope my training and practice pays off but I suspect I'll be no different than most folks when it's over: scared, unsure what happened and shaking like a leaf from the adrenaline dump.
 

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I hate the idea of having to shoot someone, but if me or mine were in a position of serious trouble, no problem...I will shoot at them.

I have never had to shoot anyone, I have only had to bayonet a guy (On guard duty in the Marines). He lived, but damn was there a lot of bleeding! Later on, after having to report all to the SOG and to our guard OIC, I was chewed out as to why I did not shoot the guy! I guess the armory is not a place where one screws around with the bayonet as a replacement for a bullet.

I hope I never have to shoot someone, but in defense of myself I will...in defense of my family, I will with extreme prejudice.
 
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This is a scenario we, as armed citizens, play over and over in our heads. On the one hand, praying it never happens. On the other, what we'll do, (or hope to), if it does. You'll perform to the level of your training and experience. Will that be enough? Sadly, there's only one way to find out.
 

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Fortunately, I've never had to shoot somebody in the US. The only thing I can contribute is to say that unless you are a complete sociopath, taking a life will have a profound affect on you. It may not ruin your life, but it will change it.

Consequently, my suggestion is that you make darn sure that you don't put yourself in a position where you have to shoot someone under "questionable" circumstances - for example, where you've started an argument or are acting out of anger rather than fear. Not only will that put you in a bad position with the law, it will weigh heavily on your conscience.

The greatest salve for my soul was knowing that I didn't have a choice - that it was "him or me" - and that I was completely justified. That didn't make it "all better", but it helped a lot.



Jim
 
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What bothers me the most in thinking about that eventuality -actually having to shoot someone- is that it's like the phone call that a relative has died: it's never when you expect it, or under the circumstances that you expect. We can read and play a thousand scenarios over in our minds, and it's never going to be—that. We spend so much of our lives as creatures of habits and routines, and never letting our minds wander too far into the unknown, that I've decided, on the never to be wished for day that it does happen, it will be something completely unexpected.

{Digression by way of anecdote follows}

I went to our monthly shoot yesterday morning, and they had set up a shoot / don't shoot drill with bad guys & hostages. The range stations are a series of overhead doors, and the relevant ones are open, but standing in the range house on one end, the shooter cannot see what's outside the door until they walk up on it. In one sense, the targets were all unexpected, but I was wondering what would have happened if one door had simply opened out onto.....nothing. We were still expecting to see something within a fairly narrow range of scenarios, and it would have been interesting to see the reactions of the various shooters to an empty door.
 
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MBOK - Thanks for posting that. Makes a lot of sense.

I've thought a few times about the very few times I've gotten in a serious argument as an adult. These were always completely unexpected, out of the blue as far as circumstances, always despite my attempts to cool the situation off, and always involved a #@*$ drunk. I'm a very laid back kind of guy and you have to really push me. But when actually pushed that far the magnitude of the adrenaline dump always surprises me. And I'm sure in a sudden real life or death situation it would just be worse.

I can see the tunnel vision and the lack of memory.

(Just an aside - the two times my wife was there and she saw my simmer going to a boil, the only thing she said was "You can't hit him first." I love that woman.)
 

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Thanks for sharing that experience with us MBOK.
 

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I have fired in combat in Vietnam bont know if I connected or not but I do know that when hunting I never hear the shot or notice recoil.
 

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I found this post and thread to be helpful and enlightening, and a little scary... makes me wonder if I could ever defend myself without a good lead time to see the problem coming.
 
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