Bob Owens

The saddest truth in politics is that people get the leaders they deserve

Decisions

Written By: Bob - May• 19•13

Glenn Reynolds jarred a memory free this morning.

I still remember the events and decisions made vividly all these years later, even if the dates and names have long ago faded from memory.

I was in graduate school at East Carolina University in Greenville, NC, and was out with a group of friends and my girlfriend in the downtown bar district. We’d stopped in a BW3’s and had gone to grab a table in the upstairs loft area when I saw That Guy. There was a single guy, occupying a table by himself, and there was something in his eyes that I just did not like. He simply set off my radar. Something was wrong with him. I told my friends that we needed to get out of there, now, and that I’d explain why after we left. They saw the seriousness in my eyes, and we left.

We went to another bar (there is always another bar) and ten minutes later, I didn’t think much more of it. When 2:00 AM rolled around the bars closed, the streets filled, and we began walking back to my girlfriend’s apartment two blocks away up 5th street. We passed my youngest brother and our “fourth brother,” his best friend. I also saw That Guy again, and we hurried on our way, as much as the streets packed from a dozen bars letting out all at once allowed.

Just after we got inside and shut the apartment door we heard what sounded like four or five gun shots, a brief pause, and then several more. We listened in alarm, but didn’t hear anything more.

In what seemed like just seconds later, there was a pounding at the door, and I opened only to be grasped in a bear hug by my brothers.  It was several minutes before we got them calmed down enough to explain what had them so worked up.

We’d last seen my brother just before we’d seen That Guy, and That Guy, we learned later through the news, had called a cab. He was waiting on it and tried to enter it when another guy pushed by and took it. That Guy pulled a 1911 pistol and blew the guy away who tried to take his cab.

A relatively young cop—my age, height and build, with my hair color and cut— just happened to be within feet of That Guy when he murdered the man in the cab and then spun around to point his gun at the cop.

I cannot imagine what was going through that young officer’s mind, but as I recall the story, he had his gun out, had That Guy in his sights, and refused to fire because of the dozens of college students in the street that might have been hit if he fired.

That officer kept his finger off the trigger as That Guy emptied his gun into his chest. Other cops tackled That Guy as his slide locked back on empty chamber, and the officer went down.

Minutes later, through a maze legs and bodies of those attending to the wounded, my brother saw a tall blond guy on the ground, with my hair color and cut, where he’d last seen me less than five minutes before. He was understandably freaked until he made it to the apartment to confirm I was okay.

The officer ended up surviving. Most or all of That Guy’s shots went into the officer’s bulletproof vest. That Guy went to prison, and his victim went to the morgue.

That officer’s decision not to shoot was one of the bravest things decisions I’ve ever heard of in my entire life.

I wonder what might have happened if this NY cop had made the same split-second decision:

A New York college student being held in a headlock at gunpoint by an intruder was accidentally shot and killed by a police officer who had responded to a report of the home invasion at an off-campus home, police said Saturday.

Andrea Rebello was shot once in the head Friday morning by an officer who opened fire after the masked intruder pointed a gun at the officer while holding the 21-year-old Hofstra University student in a headlock, Nassau County homicide squad Lt. John Azzata said.

In a tense confrontation with the officer, gunman Dalton Smith “menaces our police officer, points his gun at the police officer,” Azzata said. The officer opened fire, killing Smith and his hostage.

Azzata said the Nassau County police officer fired eight shots at Smith, who police described as having an “extensive” criminal background. Smith was hit seven times and died. Rebello was shot once in the head.

“He kept saying, ‘I’m going to kill her,’ and then he pointed the gun at the police officer,” Azzata said.

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If the officer did not shoot, he might have ended up dead along with the girl, and the bad guy might have gotten away. He had no good choices. It sounds like his only option to take down the bad guy was a high-risk head shot, and he failed somewhere in the eight shots he fired.

Ideally, one would hope that officers receive the training to make this sort of shot with one bullet, or two bullets, tops. Sadly, firing eight times suggests to me that the officer did not get the sort of training to develop the level of competence than many civilian shooters acquire on their own, practicing on targets similar to the one above. Perhaps it is arrogance or ignorance for me to say this, but I have to wonder if an average IDPA shooter wouldn’t have done better.

Police forces tend to train their cops to a minimal level of competence, just enough so that they think a jury won’t find them negligent in cases like this.

Is that enough?

At this point, I’m pretty sure the Rebello family doesn’t think so.

We need cops to be better trained with their firearms. I’m growing tired of all the “accidental” killings they commit. When your profession requires you to carry a weapon, you need to be an expert with it, not just minimally competent.

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10 Comments

  1. john says:

    How many times do we have to be reminded? At least the cop “went home safely”…. THAT is all that really matters nowadays right?…. Right?….

  2. Bill C says:

    Bob, your story reminded me of Gavin de Becker”s book, “The Gift of Fear” and trusting your instincts. You trusted yours that day and it may have saved your life.

  3. dad29 says:

    firing eight times suggests to me that the officer did not get the sort of training to develop the level of competence than many civilian shooters acquire on their own, practicing on targets similar to the one above

    Actually, “spray and pray” IS police training. A pal of mine, retired cop from a Big City Department, told me that about 15 years ago after a controversial local police incident.

  4. mytralmann says:

    I have mixed feeling about this post. I once opened the chest of an officer shot at close range (no vest) with a 9mm hollow point. His heart was split into 6 pieces. This it occured after a struggle for his own gun and the perp actually got bail. ( this was in lib manic LA in the 60’s). He was not as fortunate as the officer in the post.
    Here in New York bad guys are not loved and their deaths are secretly celebrated even by politicians who weep in public. The death of this poor girl will probably lead to a window dressing review, and some thing may come of it, but the citizenry will not be too upset.( Her parents may sue and collect big time) No cop here is ever going to take a bullet for the city . As for Bloomberg I was thinking today the only good thing to anticipate this year is his retirement following an illegal third term. Except perhaps for his smoking ban in cigar clubs where young waitresses were subjected to lethal doses of carcinogenic chemicals( I saw this first hand), in my opinion he is an insensitive man who has done zero for New York except poison it with his whims. But he will then be free to use his billions as a weapon to wound and lacerate the US electoral process at will. If the people outside NY allow this, they will more than deserve their fate.

    • rd says:

      I do not want a policeman to “take a bullet for the city.”

      I hope he would take a bullet for a fellow civilian. He has body armor, training and the job.

      That said, I feel sorry for the family of the young woman, and for officer too. This tragic death will haunt them all.

  5. But at least he got home safe, right?

  6. Sulaco says:

    The average IDPA shooter is not shooting for his/her life and there in lies the difference. Some thing arm chair combat shooters will never get. You get too much of your shooting info from old Manax TV shows. Too often in REAL life there are no good answers and good people die, get used to it. Such things will continue until madness no longer exists in the world.

  7. bloodyspartan says:

    The Officer probably shot her first in the Head and then dropped the Bad guy.
    As I have told you in NY they do not need to practice and they are covered when they shoot us.

    Where did all the other 7 shots go

  8. Tomas says:

    Officer safety is of paramount importance. Mundane killed while officer is protecting himself? Too bad, at least law enforcement officer went home safe.

    Time to wake up and think people. Were the people safer with a law enforcer who is primarily concerned with his safety, involved? Why, if officer safety is paramount, did he even respond? Seems paradoxical, don’t it? I mean, if al, you care about is your own skin, just stay home! If you cannot sacrifice a bit, then don’t bother. Protect and serve has been replace with come home in one piece. Perhaps this is why all the cops on traffic enforcement/revenue collection duty, rather than foot patrolling the hood.

    Used to be a time, I suppose, where police earned respect. Now you are supposed to respect their “sacrifice”, even if they don’t sacrifice anything but you. Their priorities have changed, and you ain’t their priority. So, makes sense to take responsibility for your own, and your families’ safety don’t it? Ironic if you did what this copper did, you’d be on trial, but he is fine professionally for being a coward, and incompetent. In other words, he will be the perfect dos trooper.

  9. thebronze says:

    I agree 100% with everything you said, Bob.