Officer Down: To the Sound of Guns

The Jake Laird & Pete Koe Incident

 


 

Brian McKenna | From the February 2011 Issue Tuesday, February 15, 2011

No one knows exactly what set Kenneth Anderson off, but it most likely had something to do with his beloved guns. He had amassed a virtual arsenal—including numerous assault rifles, handguns and vast amounts of ammunition—but the police had seized them after his mother told them about his schizophrenia and deep hatred for police. Despite the fact that he had managed to get them back after a brief legal battle with the police department, it’s believed it was his resentment over having lost them in the first place that made him snap.

Several months had passed when Anderson’s brother inexplicably received a late-night call from Anderson summoning him to their mother’s home. When the brother arrived, he was met by Anderson, who led him into the bedroom and showed him their mother’s body. Her midsection was drenched in blood from two gaping bullet holes inflicted by one of the weapons from Anderson’s arsenal—a 7.62 x 39 mm SKS assault rifle.

“It was me, I shot her,” Anderson said. Then he pulled a .357 magnum from his waistband, handed it to his brother, and asked him to shoot him.

In stunned horror and disbelief, the brother fled the house as Anderson cried out behind him, “Stick around and see what happens next!”

Leaning against the kitchen wall was the SKS and six fully loaded magazines. He picked up the rifle, crammed the magazines into his coat pockets and stepped outside. The brisk midnight air erupted with the rattle of rapid gunfire as he cranked off his rounds. He wasn’t aiming at anything in particular, he was satisfied with randomly shooting up the neighborhood.

Calls Arrive
Calls of a man with a machine gun began flooding into the dispatch center and several officers were dispatched to the scene, followed almost immediately by every available officer in the city’s South district. Among the responding officers were Officers Timothy “Jake” Laird, a 31-year-old, four-year veteran of the department and former Marine, and Officer Tim Conley, 43, who had eight years of service.

Conley was the first to arrive. He had doused his headlights and couldn’t see much in the murky shadows lining the street as he cruised along looking for the gunman. Then, just before he reached Mrs. Anderson’s home, a storm of gunfire began peppering his cruiser. Throwing his transmission into reverse and gunning the engine, he sped backwards to escape the barrage, but not before one of Anderson’s 7.62s tore into his stomach.

He kept going and then tried to make a hard right onto the first intersecting street, but missed the intersection, jumped the curb, and slammed into a chain-link fence. He bailed out, called in that he had been shot, and—now relatively safe from Anderson’s gunfire—stayed there until help arrived. Other units were soon pouring into the area and Anderson turned his attention to them. With the gunman now distracted and with the help of two other officers, Conley was able to withdraw to a safer location, from which he was soon transported to the hospital by ambulance.

The din of battle permeated the air as Anderson continued his rampage, but none of the officers could see his muzzle flashes. Blanketed in darkness, constantly moving and firing from concealed locations with a flash suppressor on his rifle, Anderson seemed invisible. As a result, the officers—none of whom were armed with a rifle—found themselves taking fire from a mobile adversary they couldn’t see or contain.

Unable to advance, unwilling to retreat and too well-disciplined to put others at risk by returning fire, the only thing they could do for now was hold their ground and endure the long wait for SWAT.

But one of the members of the tactical team was already en route. Officer Pete Koe, 41, a 16-year veteran of the department and former RECON Marine, had been at headquarters when he overheard Conley’s desperate radio call. After hurriedly making his way back to his squad car from the building’s top floor, he covered the 4.3 miles to the scene in record time. The traffic was surprisingly light for this time of the night, and even the traffic signals seem divinely manipulated to assist his lights and siren in clearing the way. Each of the 12 lights along the route was either green or turned green as he approached. His greatest concern—the possibility of colliding with one of the many other units rushing to the scene—proved to be no problem, as he saw no other patrol cars along the route.

Nevertheless, tragedy struck elsewhere as Koe sped toward the scene. Officer Laird, arriving just a few minutes behind Conley, stopped his cruiser almost 200 yards south of Anderson’s location and got out to take cover. As he started to crouch down behind his vehicle, one of Anderson’s bullets slammed into his left clavicle and sliced downward through his torso before coming to rest in his right hip. “I’m hit,” he gasped into his mic, and then crumpled to the ground. The deadly missile had penetrated almost every one of his major organs, causing a devastating wound. Though carried to safety almost immediately by three officers who desperately tried to save him, there was nothing anyone could do to help. He was dead within minutes.

Koe heard Laird’s call and then the frantic “officer down” calls from the officers nearby, and his heart sank. He knew Laird and Conley well. Now both of them were down, and this latest radio traffic had an especially ominous ring. Like a bad dream, the powerful engine under his hood seemed to just creep along as he sped the rest of the way to the scene.

As he got closer, he saw three ambulances and a squad car in an intersection just two blocks from Mrs. Anderson’s home. A single officer was trying to corral the ambulances into an organized group, and he could now hear the distinctive sound of gunshots, even with his windows closed. He then realized that the ambulances couldn’t enter the hot zone to aid the wounded until the gunman was stopped. This stirred Koe’s natural inclination to help others—already running high—to its highest pitch. There wasn’t time to wait for SWAT. He decided to act on his own.

Sprung to Action
Koe had heard enough on the radio to know that no one had located the gunman yet. Since there’s no way to deal with a threat that can’t be seen, he’d have to find a way to draw Anderson out into the open. To do that, he’d have to enter the eye of the storm.

Anderson’s gunfire was coming from the south, so Koe headed that way. He was close enough to proceed on foot, which would have been safer, but his white patrol car was more likely to draw Anderson’s attention, so he chose to drive instead. Koe had barely gone a block when he overheard another officer call in that a resident had just spotted the shooter walking toward his location in an alley less than a block away. He was in an ideal position to intercept Anderson as long as the man didn’t change directions, so stopped his car and headed for the trunk where he kept his M4.

Two other units pulled to the curb behind him. Apparently, the officers driving them—Officers Leon Essig, 35, a three-year veteran of the department, and Andrew Troxell, 25, a two-year veteran—had seen him heading into the hot zone and decided to follow. Both exited their vehicles, ran up to him as he opened the trunk, and asked him what he needed them to do.

Koe grabbed his rifle, inserted a magazine, and started to answer as he switched on its optical sight. Suddenly, the air was filled with scorching lead and the roar of gunfire. Koe dropped to the pavement behind the trunk for cover, brought the M4 into firing position and started scanning for a target, but the other two officers were unable to react as quickly. Startled and caught further away from the open trunk, they were both hit in the barrage—Essig in the arm, shattering the bone in two places, and Troxell through his hand—and withdrew into the darkness.

Although behind decent cover, Koe was at the vortex of the firestorm. Shards of metal, shattered glass and flying asphalt crashed all around him, and he still had no target. He was looking for a muzzle flash or even a hint of movement in the shadows to help him locate the shooter when a chunk of metal—probably a bullet fragment or piece of metal from his left rear wheel—crashed into the top of his head, tearing a hole into his scalp and sending blood gushing down into his eyes.

He knew it couldn’t be anything too serious because he was still conscious and alert, but the blood was making it hard to see. He rolled, got up onto one knee, and kept looking for his invisible assailant. It was then that he took another round, this time in the right knee. There was a telephone pole just a few feet away that would make better cover than the patrol car. He rolled over to it, stood, shouldered his M4, and, once again, began looking for Anderson.

Amazingly, although the bullet had hit Koe’s femur straight on, it just punched a hole through it without breaking the bone. There was no pain, but the realization that he’d been hit again made Koe acutely aware of his vulnerability. He felt no fear, however; only deep concern about how he could finish the job if the next round penetrated his body armor and mortally wounded him. He remembered from his SWAT training that human beings can often live for as long as 12 seconds after being mortally wounded, and then he knew what he would do: He would move forward, find his target, light him up, and keep moving and shooting until the threat was terminated.

Using the sound of Anderson’s gunfire as a guide, Koe looked over to his right toward the backyard of the house on the other side of the intersection in front of him. There was a small garage in the yard, and he could see a hint of movement and dark contrast against its light-colored wall. He pointed the M4 at the spot and switched its weapon-mounted light on, instantly flooding his target in its beam. Anderson, a very large man whose stance conveyed a message of angry determination, was still firing the SKS at Koe, but now with greater vigor and less accuracy.

It was just the chance Koe had been waiting for, and he answered the gunman’s rifle fire with two quick, well-placed shots of his own.

Exemplary Discipline
Anderson’s torso twitched with each round, confirming that both had hit center mass, but he didn’t go down. Instead, he darted off to the left and started moving toward the front of the house. He was heading toward a Jeep Wagoneer parked in the driveway, and his route took him past a well-lit window that briefly silhouetted him in its light. The movement gave Koe another opportunity to get multiple rounds on target, but he realized that someone might be on the other side of the window and held his fire.

Koe later learned that the homeowner had in fact been sitting inside the window. The man had been watching a war movie on television at the time. Its sound had drowned out the real-life gunfire just outside his window, making him oblivious to the danger. Koe’s exemplary firearms discipline may well have saved the man’s life.

This wasn’t the only time Koe exercised such discipline. Well trained, confident in his abilities, and deeply conscious of his duty to protect others, he never lost sight of the danger posed by his own gunfire. Even now, as Anderson took cover behind the Jeep and opened up on him again, Koe was conscious of the fact that other officers were down the street behind the man.

Still, Anderson had to be stopped, and Koe was the only officer in position to do it. Lowering the muzzle of the M4 to alleviate the risk to the officers downrange, he targeted Anderson’s lower body and legs. It worked. Anderson slumped to the ground, landing on his back with his head pointing toward the rear of the Jeep.

But he was still moving, holding the rifle and growling incoherently. Koe stepped from behind the pole and advanced, firing as he moved. His M4 went empty just before he reached the Jeep, but he couldn’t stop now. Aware that it would be harder for Anderson to shoot him if he approached him from the direction his head was pointing, Koe moved around the rear of the Jeep and approached him from there. Anderson’s right hand was still holding the SKS, finger on the trigger. In his right hand was a .357 magnum revolver.

Koe moved in closer and ordered him to drop the weapons, but Anderson ignored the command and started to lift his rifle. With his own rifle now empty Koe had to improvise. He swung the M4 hard, connecting solidly with the side of Anderson’s head. Anderson dropped the SKS, but then started to lift it again.

Again, Koe ordered him to drop it, and again Anderson ignored him. Koe countered with another butt stroke, this time shattering the man’s jaw and causing him to drop the gun. But Anderson wasn’t finished yet. He lifted the magnum toward Koe, and once more Koe crashed the rifle butt into his face, smashing the eye socket.

The blow seemed to take the fight out of him. He lowered the revolver, but then in a sudden burst of fury, he thrust it up toward Koe’s face. Koe instinctively dodged his head as flame thundered from the muzzle, sending a slug whizzing past his left ear. Koe kept moving, drew his Glock, and fired three .40s into the gunman’s chest, followed by two more to the head.

Anderson had seemed unstoppable, but no one could stand up to these last five rounds. All three to his chest had ripped through his heart, and the two to his head had lodged in his brain stem. The nightmare was over.

The Aftermath
Every officer had done his job with courage and conviction, and Officer Koe’s selfless actions had finally brought the bloody rampage to a close, but no one could turn the clock back. Anderson’s fury had cost others dearly: Officer Laird, a promising young officer who had devoted his life to serving others, first as a Marine and then as a police officer, was gone, leaving a wife and 7-year-old daughter behind.

Anderson’s mother was dead, and his brother was left behind to deal with the tragic loss of both his mother and brother—not to mention the horror of what his brother had done.

Anderson’s other victims were more fortunate. Officer Conley’s wound was the worst, and was the most difficult recovery, but he was eventually able to return to work and is still with the department. Despite the wound to his knee, Koe also made a full recovery and suffered no permanent injury besides the loss of some hearing in his left ear. He’s still with the department, continues to serve on its tactical team, and also speaks to law enforcement groups about the lessons learned from this incident (for more infomation on this training, e-mail Peter.Koe@indy.gov).

Officers Essig and Troxell were also fortunate enough to suffer no permanent disabilities from their wounds, and both are still with the department.

Discussion & Analysis
As tragic as this incident was, we can take some comfort in the fact that Officer Laird died courageously while selflessly rushing into harm’s way to protect others. The wounded officers acted with similar courage and commitment, as did every officer who responded to the scene. Officer Koe, in particular, acted selflessly and distinguished himself by using his special skills and resources to stop the carnage.

The courage and commitment displayed by these officers should serve as an example for us all, especially in view of the challenges we’re facing today. In a world of growing threats from active shooters and terrorism, today’s police officers must be unswerving in their readiness to deal with mass violence and their commitment to keeping their fellow citizens safe. True readiness to meet these challenges will require that we re-examine some of our traditional views of law enforcement, and this case offers a good starting point from which to do that.

There is a great deal more to be learned from this incident—lessons that can save lives—and we owe it to Officers Laird, Koe, Conley, Essig and Troxell to learn as much as we can from them.

Please review the discussion questions below and work through your own answers.

Stay safe.

 

Discussion Questions

1. Most of the officers in this case came under fire long before they could reach Anderson’s location. How serious is the risk of being ambushed in this way on a man-with-a-gun call? What is the safest way to approach these calls?

2. This incident changed dramatically as soon as the officers arrived on the scene. What had started as a man-with-a-gun/shots-fired call turned into an active shooter situation involving an unseen long-distance sniper. Do you agree that the urgency of such a situation justifies the taking of higher-than-normal risks when necessary to save lives? Why? Is there any such thing as an acceptable number of police casualties when taking action to stop acts of mass violence? Why?

3. Officer Conley immediately backed out of the hot zone when Anderson opened fire on him, which probably saved his life. Does this tactic have any shortcomings? Would any other tactic have been better? Why?

4. Officer Koe was almost shot in the head when he moved in close to Anderson. What does this say about the importance of post-shooting tactics? What is the safest way to deal with an armed suspect after he is down?

5. Officer Koe later credited his M4 for enabling him to stop Anderson as quickly and effectively as it did. Considering today’s increasing threats from active shooters and terrorists, how important is it to arm our patrol officers with rifles? Should every patrol officer be issued one? Why? Where should they be carried?

6. Officer Koe hit Anderson with every shot he fired and also exercised commendable firearms discipline. How important is firearms proficiency in a situation like this one? What does this say about the importance of proper firearms training, even in this time of limited budgets?

7. In what ways did Officer Koe’s attitude and actions exemplify winning mindset and warrior spirit?

Analysis

Approaching Man-with-a-Gun Calls

In most man-with-a-gun calls the suspect is not firing his weapon when the officers are dispatched to the scene, and in the vast majority no shots are ever fired, but this was no typical man-with-a-gun call.  In fact, it was dispatched as a "man firing a machine gun," which moved it more into the realm of an active killer call.  In addition like most active killer situations, the officers didn't know the shooter's exact location.  On the other hand, there were no reports that anyone was down or under fire.  It was also late at night in a residential neighborhood, making it unlikely that the shooter was shooting at his neighbors or passersby.  In fact, although the situation had some of the elements of an active killer incident when the officers were first dispatched it didn't actually become one until after officer Conley was shot, which explains why they initially handled it like a man-with-a-gun call.

While man-with-a-gun calls are generally less risky than active killer incidents, they are fraught with serious dangers of their own, especially at night and/or when the suspect is armed with a rifle.  Keep in mind that the gunman may have moved prior to your arrival and that he is likely to spot you before you spot him, so keep a low profile as you approach the scene.

Cutting your lights and siren well before you arrive is the first step, but it's also important to choose a safe location for stopping and exiting your vehicle.  Remember, Officers Conley and Laird were both shot either inside or next to their vehicles.  Police cruisers are easy targets that pin the driver into a fixed location behind the wheel until he can bail out, and, as every criminal knows, officers invariably use them for cover, usually by getting behind the door or left-front fender.  As a result they often draw hostile gunfire like a magnet.  With this in mind, approach the scene along a route that allows you to remain out of sight as long as possible, and stop before you enter the hot zone.  Pick a location with a building or other suitable item of cover between you and the gunman's location, and then complete your approach on foot, using cover as you move.

 

Active Killer Incidents

As long as Anderson was only randomly firing his weapon, the situation, while serious enough to require a quick response, was not yet so urgent that the officers had to take extraordinary risks or abandon sound tactics.  However, this had changed dramatically by the time Officer Koe went en route to the scene.  Conley had been shot, other officers were under fire, and the threat had to be stopped without delay, even if it meant taking higher-than-normal risks to do it.  This concept is a drastic departure from our traditional view of police work, which focuses on officer safety as the primary concern.  While officer safety remains very important in any situation, there are times when the need for rapid intervention is so urgent that safety must be relegated to second place. 

This is not meant to imply that we should take any more risks than necessary to protect lives, or that we should rush into danger without thinking, but neither can we let innocent lives be lost while we stop to carefully consider the safest possible approach.  Make a quick plan and use common sense, but don't waste time.  Move fast, locate your target as quickly as possible, engage immediately, and neutralize the threat before more innocent lives are lost.

In fact, after considerable thought and careful analysis of his actions, Officer Koe concluded that his instinctive response was the only realistic way to stop Anderson's carnage.  He believes that valuable time can be wasted by trying to locate a shooter who is hard to find, and that it is much quicker to make him come to you.  Unless you can quickly locate him by sight, the sound of his gunfire or some other means, the only way to minimize the bloodshed is to get him to turn his attention to you by alerting him to your approach or if necessary, making yourself a target.  In many instances, this will lead a suicidal active killer (as many of them are) to turn his weapon on himself.  If not, it should force him to ignore his intended victims while focuses his efforts on attacking you or moving into position to do so.  He will likely give away his position in the effort, which will in turn give you a chance to locate and neutralize him, as Koe did.  To its credit, Officer Koe's department agrees with this concept and has incorporated it into its active shooter policy, a decision that demonstrates a realistic view of active shooter incidents and a laudable commitment to the safety of its citizens.

It is important to note that Officer Koe's actions were not reckless.  Although he deliberately drew Anderson's fire, he didn't just stand out in the open inviting Anderson to shoot him.  He used his vehicle and then the telephone pole for cover, and when he still couldn't see Anderson, he used his hearing and common sense to locate him instead.  Then, with his attention focused solely on his goal of stopping the bloodshed, he stayed calm, kept thinking and quickly neutralized Anderson before he could hurt anyone else.  This is exactly how the concept of making the active killer come to you should be applied.  Although seemingly rash, it calculates the risks and then intelligently draws the shooter into a position where he can be quickly neutralized with a controlled counterattack.

Regardless of the tactics used, there will always be a significant risk of police casualties in any active killer incident or other active mass violence.  As Officer Koe is quick to point out, his shooting was "more like a military firefight than a police shooting," which requires "a whole new perspective in the way police do their jobs."  Included in this new perspective is the acceptance the increased likelihood of police casualties.  The concept of acceptable casualties, while an integral part of military thinking, is completely foreign to civilian law enforcement.  Nevertheless, we are facing new threats today that were virtually nonexistent to former generations.  Terrorist attacks are now a very real possibility and active killer incidents seem epidemic.  When taking action to stop the kind of carnage inflicted by these kinds of incidents hesitation for fear of suffering casualties can cost innocent lives.

As frightening as it may be to consider such situations, the fact remains that acts of mass violence are very real possibility in America today, and we must accept the fact that they are likely to result in multiple police casualties.  Again, this is not to say that we should recklessly expose ourselves to needless danger, but our citizens look to us to keep them and their loved ones safe.  This is a solemn responsibility, but it is one we all willingly accepted when we took the oath of office.  We must accept the danger posed by these new threats just as we accepted the other risks of the job from the beginning, and then move on.  We must do our best to reduce the risks through preparation and training, use caution appropriate to the threat -- not over doing it to the detriment of our citizens but not blindly rushing ahead either -- and then do whatever it takes to keep our citizens safe even if we must suffer casualties in the process.  The chances of ever having to make such a sacrifice are slim, but with innocent lives hanging in the balance we must be willing to pay the price.

Similarly, we have to reconsider how many officers we need for an entry team in these incidents.  Often there won't be time to wait for four officers, or even two, before entering the hot zone.  In some cases an officer may have to enter alone, but as this case so clearly demonstrates, a single officer can be very effective if he is properly trained (more on this later), keeps a cool head, and is determined to get the job done.  The key is to stay focused on locating and eliminating the threat as quickly as possible while maintaining control of your emotions and actions.

Finally, we need to rethink the use of verbal warnings during acts of mass violence.  Police officers have been conditioned through training and the media to issue verbal warnings before applying deadly force.  While this often is the right thing to do when there is time, it can prove disastrous when engaging someone who is actively involved in an act of mass violence.  The law doesn't require warnings before deadly force is applied (except in cases of fleeing felons and then only when "practicable"), and we have no moral obligation to give an active killer the chance to surrender.  But we do have a moral obligation to protect innocent citizens, and a verbal warning gives the shooter an opportunity to attack the officer, duck behind cover, or flee before he can be stopped.  If that happens and the gunman escapes, or worse, incapacitates the officer, the opportunity to stop him is lost and he is free to continue his bloodletting.  As peace officers it is our duty to make sure that doesn't happen.

The only exception to this rule is the rare instance in which the shooter is pointing his weapon at someone but not shooting.  In that case, there is a chance that he may flinch and fire his gun when hit with your first one round, thereby putting the victim at serious risk of being shot.  Therefore, unless you have this skill to make a precise enough shot to instantly kill the gunman with your first shot, it is often better to issue a verbal warning first, but only after preparing to fire immediately after issuing the command.  The purpose here is to get the shooter to turn away from his intended victim in response to your command.  As he does so, he will probably move his muzzle far enough off target to give you the chance to shoot him with considerably less risk to his intended victim.

 

Exiting the Hot Zone

As was mentioned earlier, Officer Conley's patrol car made him an easy target for Anderson's ambush.  Essentially trapped behind the wheel while under a heavy barrage from an unseen assailant, he was highly vulnerable with very little time to react.  Fortunately, he chose an appropriate tactic for dealing with the threat and was able to execute it quickly enough to avoid being hit with any more of Anderson's rounds.  It's very likely that his quick tactical response saved his life.

On the other hand, it is important to note that Officer Conley's effort to exit the hot zone was only partially successful.  When he tried to negotiate the intersection he missed the turn and hit the fence, which left him more vulnerable than he would have liked.  This point highlights one of the shortcomings of backing out of the hot zone.  Since it is hard to see and/or steer while backing up rapidly, especially under the intense stress of being shot at, it entails the risk of an accident and failing to reach safety or striking an innocent party.  In addition, since finding the Reverse notch on the gear shift lever is a rather fine motor skill, it may be hard to find under stress.

Considering these shortcomings, it is usually preferable to accelerate forward to exit the hot zone, even if it means driving past your assailant.  Besides significantly reducing the risk of a collision, forward movement is faster, simpler, and easier to do while staying low in the seat for cover.

Regardless of the tactics used, it's very important to be ready to execute it any time you approach a location that entails the risk of an ambush.  This requires awareness of the possibility and preplanning.  Decide beforehand what you will do if you come under fire while approaching the scene, especially on calls where firearms may be involved, and remain flexible.  If something doesn't look right or your plan no longer appears to be feasible because of a change in circumstances, be ready to adapt with a new plan.  Every second counts in an ambush, so don't waste them trying to figure out what to do next.  Be ready with a plan.

 

Post-I Shooting Tactics

Officer Koe was understandably in a hurry to make sure that Anderson was no longer a threat after he was down.  As a result, he approached Anderson instead of staying back behind the Jeep and waiting to see what happened next.  This was no reckless act however, but a calculated risk that included a calculated decision to approach Anderson from the direction his head was pointing, thereby making it harder for the wounded gunmen to get a good shot at him from the ground.

Nevertheless, this decision almost cost him his life when Anderson tried to shoot him in the head.  The problem was he got too close too soon.  The safer approach is to assume that all wounded suspects may still be dangerous.  If you are already behind cover, stay there.  If not, get to cover as soon as you can, and then reload and call for assistance.  Stay where you are while you wait for backup, and keep your eyes open for any previously unseen accomplices or signs that the suspect may still be dangerous.  This is also the time to start any self-applied first aid you may need, but don't give your wounds your undivided attention, as this will distract you from guarding against additional threats.  When your backup officers arrive let them take over.  It's likely that that you will be emotionally and physically exhausted from the shooting and therefore not at your best, so let your backup secure the prisoner.  If no one else is available, you can provide cover for the contact officers, but it is preferable to withdraw entirely and let the other officers do that as well.

 

Patrol Rifles

This case offers a graphic example of the need to equip patrol officers with rifles.  Armed with only their pistols and shotguns, the officers were unable to even return fire at the distances involved.  Moreover, the fact that they were pinned down by an invisible assailant with no way to fight back put them in a severe psychological disadvantage.  To their credit, these courageous officers didn't back down, but neither were they able to counterattack.  All they could do is hunker down and wait for SWAT.  Fortunately, no citizens were on the street that time of night and Officer Koe—armed with an M4 and well trained in its use and—was able to stop the bloodshed long before the tactical team could have been deployed.

Considering the threats we face today, it is no longer makes any sense to restrict the use of rifles to tactical teams.  When lives are being lost in a rapidly escalating incident there isn't time to wait for SWAT.  The rifles must be available at a moment's notice, and only way to ensure that is to issue them to every officer who demonstrates the desire, ability and mindset to use them..

But it isn’t enough to just issue these weapons to patrol officers and train them in their use.  Immediate accessibility is also a crucial factor.  In Officer Koe's case he was fortunate to be able to reach the M4 in his trunk before he came under fire or other lives were lost, but we can't count on being that lucky every time.  In many active killer incidents the shooter fires at two or more victims every minute.  Under such circumstances, the quicker the officer can access his rifle the better.  In addition, since the officer is vulnerable while retrieving his rifle from the trunk, his safety as well as the safety of the gunman's intended victims will be jeopardized by storing the rifle there.  The patrol rifle should be carried in the passenger compartment of the squad car, not the trunk.

 

Firearms Proficiency

It was fortunate for everyone involved, including the innocent citizens in the area, that Officer Koe was as proficient with firearms as he was.  Remarkably, he hit his target with every round he fired, but perhaps even more important was the fact that he practiced exceptional firearms discipline by shooting only when he had a good visual on Anderson and could be reasonably certain that it would not endanger anyone else.  This kind of discipline requires clear thinking, and clear thinking comes from competence.  In other words, firearms proficiency does more than improved accuracy; it also creates the competence we need to make the right decisions under stressful conditions on the street.

This is why it's so important for police departments and firearms instructors to put maximum time, effort and resources into giving their officers the best firearms training possible.  It's also why every officer should make every effort to get as much as he can out of the firearms training he receives, and to seek out training on his own if his department doesn't provide it.  Granted, today's budgetary concerns make quality firearms training more difficult to afford, but we owe it to ourselves and our citizens to do the best we can.

 

Training

Officer Koe did a remarkably good job of stopping Anderson's bloody rampage, and a lot of the credit for his success should go to his training.  Besides giving him the skills he needed to do the job, his Marine, police and SWAT training gave him confidence.  The importance of the confidence that comes from good training cannot be over emphasized.  This is because confidence creates a sense of control, a sense of control reduces stress and calms the mind, and a calm mind thinks more clearly, feels less fear and makes better decisions.  Thus, it was confidence in himself and his training that allowed Officer Koe to keep thinking on his feet, persist despite his wounds, and prevail.

Granted, most officers don't have the opportunity to be trained to the same level as Koe, but everyone has the power to make the most of the training they receive.  Take training seriously, put your maximum effort into it, and seek out opportunities to obtain as much quality training as you can.  Remember, it's your life on the line.  But it's also more than that.  Others are depending upon you, and it is your duty to give them your best.

s.. best,.  backup arrives This other option would have been to approach from Anderson's feet,

s.. best,.  backup arrives This other option would have been to approach from Anderson's feet,

 

Resistance to Severe Wounds

Anderson showed a great deal of resistance to gunshot and other severe wounds.  He took two center mass hits from Officer Koe's .223s, numerous rounds to the lower legs, and three devastating blows to the head from the butt of Koe’s rifle without succumbing to his wounds.  Even then, he obsessively persisted in his efforts to kill Koe until stopped by five fatal rounds to the chest and head.

Although not the norm, such resistance to severe wounds is not especially unusual.  A determined individual can stay mobile and continue to attack for up to twelve seconds, and sometimes much longer, even after receiving one or more mortal wounds.  So although gunfire is the most effective way to stop an aggressive assailant, it is not 100% effective.  We should remain confident in our ability to neutralize threats with gunfire, and bolster that confidence by developing the highest level of firearms proficiency we can, but at the same time we should never expect instant stops from any bullet.  Always be ready to keep shooting until your adversary is no longer a threat, or if that doesn't work, to do whatever else it takes to win.

In addition, we must never forget that we can also be surprisingly resilient to gunfire if we have the right mindset.  With proper determination and focus human beings can withstand an incredible amount of punishment.  In fact, less than ten percent of all gunshot wounds are fatal and most of cause death instantly, so it’s highly unlikely that you will die if you are conscious of having been shot.  Besides, worrying about your wounds will only distract you from the only thing that really matters--winning the fight. Ignore injuries, and keep fighting no matter what.

Winning Mindset/Warrior Spirit
Another key element in Officer Koe's success was his mental attitude.  His extensive Marine and law enforcement training certainly had a great deal to do with this mindset, but he also possessed other important traits that had a lot to do with it.

The first of these was his selfless dedication.  He is a self-motivated individual with an unshakable outward focus on the needs of others.  It was this selfless desire to serve others that gave him the courage to do what he did.  It was behind his decision to put himself into the center of Anderson's firestorm so he could locate him, to withhold fire when others might be at risk, and if it came to it, to use his last few moments on earth to charge and eliminate his target.  Confidence alone cannot inspire such selfless decisions.  In Officer Koe's case, it was his deep-seated belief that it was his duty to utilize his training to protect others that inspired him to risk his life for others.  As he later put it: "To whom much is given, much is expected."  This kind of unselfish devotion to others, even at the cost of one's own life if necessary, is the essence of the warrior spirit.

It is interesting to note that Officer Koe is a man of deep faith, and, as is so often the case, this faith played a significant part in his success.  People of faith tend to perform very well in dangerous situations, and there are several reasons for this.  The first is that a strong belief in the afterlife leads to less fear of death, which in turn makes it easier to do one's duty despite the danger.  Second, people of faith are generally taught to put the needs of others before their own, which inspires the outward focus just discussed.  In addition, many officers—Officer Koe included—also believe that police officers are ordained by God to protect the innocent.  This tends to inspire them to serve dutifully in spite of the risks involved.  Moreover, for many officers this belief makes it easier to cope with the emotional aftermath of a deadly force incident.  They believe that God deliberately placed them into position to intervene in the incident for the specific purpose of stopping the perpetrator’s violent actions.  This in turn helps alleviate guilt and gives purpose to the event.

Officer Koe's attitude and actions provide an excellent example of what it takes to win.  He stayed calm, kept thinking on his feet, took note of his wounds only in so far as they provided him with further inspiration to win, kept going no matter what, and displayed selfless courage in the face of danger.  These are the qualities that will often propel us to victory against all odds, and the virtues that set warriors apart from those they so unselfishly serve.

 

Summary

  • There is a serious risk of being ambushed when approaching the scene of man-with-a-gun calls.  Use a route that allows you to remain out of sight as long as possible, stop and exit your vehicle before entering the hot zone, and use cover as you approach on foot.
  • In active shooter and other mass violence incidents the need for rapid intervention is so urgent that it may be necessary to take higher-than-normal risks.  Every officer must ask himself if this is a risk he is willing to take.
  • If you come under fire while in your vehicle, immediately exit the hot zone, preferably by accelerating forward to safety.
  • Assume that all wounded suspects may still be dangerous.  Get behind cover, reload, continue to scan for danger, wait for backup, and let the backup officers approached the suspect.
  • Patrol rifles should be issued to every officer who demonstrates the desire, ability and mindset to use them, and these weapons should be kept in the vehicle’s passenger compartment, not the trunk,. 
  • Train to the highest level of firearms proficiency you can.  Your life or the lives of others may depend upon it.
  • Good training does more than develop the skills you need to win; it also gave you the confidence to apply those skills were needed.  Take training seriously, put your maximum effort into it, and seek out opportunities to obtain as much quality training as you can.
  • Although gunfire is the most reliable means for stopping a dangerous suspect, no firearm is 100% reliable.  Always be ready to keep shooting until your adversary is no longer a threat, or if that doesn't work, to do whatever else it takes to win.
  • Remember, the vast majority of gunshot wounds are not fatal.  If shot, keep fighting no matter what.
  • Confidence, focus, selfless devotion to others, courage and even faith are qualities that will often enable you to win against all odds.

1.    This training is provided at no cost other than expenses by Officer Koe’s department.  For further information or to request this training, please send an e-mail to Officer Koe at Peter.Koe@indy.gov, or preferably, make a formal written request to:


Indianapolis Police Department

South East District

Attn: Cmdr. Myers

1150 S. Shelby Street

Indianapolis, IN  46203

Tell Us About It!

Law Officer  can’t run “Officer Down” by Brian McKenna without your help. In order to obtain incidents that provide clear and relevant case studies, we would like to draw from our largest available resource—you, the reader. If you have, or can obtain, factual information on actual incidents you think we can use, please contact Brian at:

7412 Lynn Grove Ct.
Hazelwood, MO 63042
E-mail: pmbrianod@charter.net
Tel.: 314/921-6977 (call collect)
Cell: 314/941-2651

 

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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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