August 05th, 2012, Officers Murphy and Lenda engaged in the fight for their lives against an alleged highly trained neo-Nazi, Wade Michael Page (former soldier, U.S. Army). Wade Michael Page entered a Sikh temple and proceeded to go on a shooting rampage, killing six. Lt. Murphy responded to a disturbance call and upon arrival, was shot by the offender in his chin and neck. Lt. Murphy moved to cover, while the trained offender flanked him, coming out from behind and shooting him in the hand, knocking Lt. Murphy’s handgun out of his hand. Officer Lenda arrived shortly after his partner was shot and after some issues that caused delay and placed him in the line of fire, engaged the offender with his patrol rifle, shooting him once, knocking him to the ground where the offender turned his gun on himself.
Lt. Murphy described the first shot saying that it “felt like a solid punch”, and described getting “pissed off” because he “got outflanked” as well as describing how he low crawled on his elbows to cover. In the end, Lt. Murphy was shot 17 times with a 9mm handgun. He fought through it all, moved to cover, remained calm, conducted combat breathing willing himself to stay alive. Lt. Murphy in his closing message at the debrief is described as saying, regardless of how bad things appear to be, “Never give up!” Officer Lenda (a SWAT officer and instructor), is described as raising the issue that he had never effectively practiced “dismounting into an ambush”. Which included unlocking the weapon rack (which in this case had a “three second delay”), having to untangle the rifle sling that had become tangled in the mobile computer (all the while under fire from the suspect). Then taking a position between the “V” of the door, aiming, squeezing the trigger and then “CLICK” discovering that he had not loaded the rifle (the weapon was not loaded due to its being carried cruiser safe). He then had to charge the weapon to put a round in the chamber and finally was able to shoot the suspect.
Whether it is your handgun, patrol rifle or shotgun, you have to practice the effective and efficient deployment of these tools in a deadly force situation. It all begins with recognizing a need to act (you or a third party are in danger of serious bodily injury or death from a lethal threat), deciding to act, selecting the appropriate tool (handgun, shotgun, rifle), then engaging/ taking action. In the case of a long gun, in order to put it into action you have to engage the weapons rack release button, remove the weapon clamp, remove it from the mount, load the rifle, mount and use the weapon. CRUISER SAFE Cruiser Safe is how my and most agencies dictate that a patrol rifle or shotgun be carried. That is, bolt forward on an EMPTY CHAMBER, safety on, tube loaded (shotgun) or magazine inserted (patrol rifle). So, when these weapons are needed for deployment in a lethal encounter, you will have to load a round into the chamber either by:
1) Engaging the shotguns slide release, racking your shotgun slide, and going off safe or,
2) Pulling and releasing the patrol rifle’s charging handle, and going off safe on your patrol rifle. Being thrust into a deadly force situation stresses the body and your ability to effectively respond. This means, that you need to practice doing this under stress and prior to an actual incident so as to make your movements second nature and to avoid having an empty weapon in a lethal force encounter.
RIFLE AND SHOTGUN SLINGS
The rifle and shotgun sling is a necessary tool for the line officer. They offer you an advantage and aiding you when shooting and also free your hands if you have to go hands-on with an offender. One disadvantage to them is that if you have not properly prepped your sling, like in this incident, it can get snagged on your vehicles computer or other equipment. So, you need to prep your sling to allow for not only ease of weapon removal from your vehicle, but also for ease of sling deployment. There are a few methods that you can use to do so and which do not cost much other than a little time. One is the rubber band method; the other is the thin bungee cord/elastic ponytail tie method. The key here is to make sure that you:
1) Pack your sling so that it allows for rapid deployment
2) Make sure that it does not interfere with the charging handle and,
3) Practice deploying the sling.
Be aware that sling buckles can catch on the bands, so leave the buckles on the outside of the band, in the direction you will pull the sling to deploy. If you should have to deploy your shotgun or patrol rifle, understand that the priority is returning fire and stopping the threat before deployment of the sling. You can shoot the weapon while the sling is prepped and in the retention device. Address the lethal threat first, and then release your sling. The way to release the sling is to pull it towards you and up around youur head.
Training for and to counter Ambush is not something new and has been in place as far back as the late 60’s early 70’s when agencies found themselves under attack both at their stations and in the field from militant groups (moving into, driving through, deployment from vehicle drills etc.). We have practiced anti-sniper drills for field force as well as counter-ambush while in the vehicle drills in my agency and I am sure that other agencies have also done so. However, like anything else, if we don’t continue to run these drills, the skills are perishable. So, we as instructors should remember to run drills annually (at a minimum) in order to assure that we all know what and how to do it.
INDIVIDUAL PRACTICE-DEPLOYING THE SLING AND RIFLE
1) Smooth and efficient retrieval of the rifle or shotgun from the weapon rack (engage the weapon rack lock, remove the clamp, pull the rifle over and across your chest)
2) Efficient and safe loading of the weapon (racking-shotgun slide or pulling and releasing of the charging handle on the patrol rifle)
3) Safely bringing the weapon up and on target and engaging the lethal threat
4) Deploying your sling (remembering to do so only after addressing any lethal threat first)
INSTRUCTORS AND SUPERVISORS
How about you run some of these drills on your next training day and check to see if your officers’ equipment is properly prepped for deployment
1) Smooth and efficient retrieval of the rifle or shotgun from the weapons rack (practice with both weapons– rifle and shotgun, have them drive up, park, engage the release button, remove the retention clamp and remove the rifle from the rack, etc.)
2) Efficient and safe loading of the weapon
3) Shooting from the Vehicle
4) Deploying from the Vehicle with weapon
5) Deploying the Sling
6) Moving to Contact
7) Effective round placement on a target (while the sling is prepped and still in the retention device). This is to reinforce that in an emergency situation a given weapon can still be effectively fired while the sling is prepped and in the retention device.
Remember, the priority is firing on and ending the threat and that deployment of the sling is secondary, accomplished only when safe to do so.
About the Author
Lawrence Lujan is a decorated field operations and training sergeant with 23-plus years of service to the El Paso, Texas Police Department. A longtime member of the EPPD SWAT team, he was a key player as team leader, operator, firearms instructor and tactics instructor of that Unit. Operationally, he has participated in high-risk warrant execution, raid planning, barricaded suspects and incident command. He presents passionate instruction and has international teaching experience. Lawrence brings a very unique set of leadership, firearms and operational skills to the law enforcement arena.by