Legacy of Lakewood: Analysis & Discussion, Part 3 - Training - LawOfficer.com

Legacy of Lakewood: Analysis & Discussion, Part 3

Lesson 3: Extreme close-quarters armed attacks

Brian McKenna | Monday, November 28, 2011

Editor's note: Below is an in-depth analysis of the Lakewood shootings. It's advised that you read Brian McKenna's Officer Down: Legacy of Lakewood before you continue.

Extreme Close-Quarters Armed Attacks
This case highlights the dangers associated with extreme close-quarters armed attacks. Although it's unlikely that Sgt. Renninger or Officer Griswold would have had time to employ any ECQ techniques, it appears that Officer Owens would have significantly improved his chances if he'd used a lethal ECQ technique to stop Clemmons. It's also clear that other officers are dying in wholly unacceptable numbers from ECQ armed attacks. Over 50 percent of the police officers murdered with firearms over the past 20 years were within five feet of their assailants, and nearly 20 percent more were killed at a range of 6-10 feet.10, 11

This isn't surprising when we consider the obstacles to defending against this threat. A large part of the problem is that using a firearm in extreme close quarters is a great deal different than shooting at a distance. In reality, this kind of gun fighting is more like a street brawl than a gunfight. Marksmanship has little to do with winning, and speed is far more important than pinpoint accuracy. In addition, there's considerably more risk of being disarmed and/or shot in the head. These are extremely brutal, fast-moving attacks that often come with little or no warning, and the skills leaned in most police firearms training do little to help defend against them. So again, we must ask why this gravely serious threat appears to have been largely neglected in police training.

Since these attacks are fast moving, ferocious and fraught with unpredictable variables, the countermeasures for responding to them must be immediate, fierce and flexible. To accomplish this, any effective technique should be based upon five core principles that can best be remembered via the acronym REACT:

  • Readiness. No countermeasure, no matter how effective it may otherwise be, will do you much good if you are not ready to use it when needed. Considering the speed at which ECQ attacks occur, you must be mentally prepared to react immediately whenever you approach anyone on the street. Learn a technique that works well for you, practice it thoroughly and often, and then make it a habit to plan to use it if necessary on every street contact, whether you suspect the subject of being dangerous or not.
  • Evade the Weapon. Since you can’t outdraw someone who is already in the process of drawing his weapon, don’t try. Instead, immediately dodge to one side. As long as you move quickly enough, this will move you out of his line of fire before he can pull the trigger (experimentation has shown that, although his eyes will follow you, his gun will remain where it is for an instant). (In some cases, you may find it necessary to deflect your assailant’s muzzle away from you. If so, focus on his weapon only for as long as it takes to deflect it, and then keep going. It is tempting to become fixated on his gun, but this can lead to a dangerous tug-of-war over it while also increasing your vulnerability to a disarming. Instead, it's better to quickly deal with the immediate threat posed by the weapon and then focus on neutralizing the force behind it—your attacker.)
  • Advance. After evading your assailant’s weapon and before he can change his point of aim, rush forward and get in close, preferably off to one side in order to move further out of his line of fire. Since he was probably expecting you to freeze, back away defensively, or even try to outdraw him, this should catch him off guard, disrupt his plan of attack, and make it a lot harder for him to maneuver his weapon into firing position.
  • Counterattack. The counterattack must be immediate, overwhelming in its ferocity, and able to neutralize your opponent before he can react effectively to it. While there is general agreement on these basic elements of the counterattack, the specific means for achieving them vary depending upon the technique used.
  • Take further follow-up action. Your attacker will probably instinctively back away as you move in on him, so be ready. Keep moving and keep up the counterattack until he is no longer a threat. After he is incapacitated, back away, move to cover if available, reload, call for assistance, and continue to scan for possible additional threats until help arrives.13

Fail to Fire: Countermeasures

On one side is a group of various countermeasures that use gunfire to neutralize the threat. These are relatively simple to employ and devastatingly effective provided that the shots are delivered without hesitation to vital targets and kept up for as long as necessary to stop the assailant. However, your gun must be held close to your body in order to protect you from being disarmed, and to keep you from jamming it into his body, which could push the slide out of battery and prevent the gun from firing.

Although some experts believe that there 's very little chance that a gun will fail to fire if its muzzle is pressed against a human body, it can in fact happen and must be avoided. While most of the techniques for countering an ECQ attack call for the officer to hold the gun in close to his body with one hand in order to keep it safe, there are two other alternatives well worth considering.


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Brian McKennaBrian McKenna, a 32-year police veteran, is a retired lieutenant from the Hazelwood (Mo.) Police Department and Law Officer's Officer Down columnist.


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