Roswell police officers with sights aligned and engaging threats with multiple rounds to center mass. Photos courtesy Roswell, Georgia PD
Progressive firearms drills and exercises for ambush preparation.
This article is dedicated in honor and memory of fallen Lakewood, Washington, police officers Sgt. Mark Renninger, Officer Ronald Owens, Officer Tina Griswold and Officer Greg Richards, and in admiration of Seattle, Washington, Police Officer Benjamin Kelly who used lethal force defending himself against Maurice Clemmons ending Clemmons’ rampage of violence.
Sunday, November 29, 2009, was a most horrific day affecting LEOs around the world. Although the date may not jog your memory, saying “Lakewood, Washington,” will. On this date, four fellow police officers were murdered while sitting in a coffee shop completing incident reports, checking departmental emails and socializing with fellow officers. The officers likely noticed when the attacker Maurice Clemmons first entered the coffee shop, but some of the officer victims never saw that he had pulled a handgun on them.
Officer Tina Griswold and Sgt. Mark Renniger were killed as they sat in their chairs. Officer Ronnie Owens struggled with Clemmons, but was fatality shot when Clemmons produced a second handgun. Officer Greg Richards, who was standing at the counter placing his order when the assault started, engaged in a violent physical fight with Clemmons. During the struggle, Officer Richards’ firearm was torn from his duty holster during the fight. Richards was able to shoot Clemmons once in the torso, but Clemmons eventually gained control of the weapon and killed Officer Richards.
Lakewood’s After Action Report (AAR) of the incident concluded that from the first shot killing Officer Griswold to the final shot killing Officer Richards was approximately one minute. The report notes that LEOs are often in public places and it’s unrealistic to have guns drawn whenever a citizen walks by. There was a comparison of a suicide bomber detonating a bomb with zero reaction time. Clemmons saw the uniform patrol cars in the parking lot, but walked into the coffee shop committed to executing the officers unprepared for the violence about to overcome them.
The premeditated violence of a solo attacker who willingly attacks multiple LEOs was repeated more recently on January 23, 2011. Lamar Moore walked into a Detroit police station to murder officers. Moore was armed with a shotgun and engaged in close-quarters combat (CQC) with officers sitting at their desks. Moore was fatally shot in the attack, but not before wounding four officers. The intensity of the ambush was captured on the station’s video surveillance system.
Clearly, the speed, surprise and violence of action elements that are characteristic of achieving an advantage in combat were all achieved by both Clemmons and Moore when they assaulted the two groups of officers. Given that the officers were with other officers in places familiar to them the Color Code of Mental Awareness was evident. Some of the officers were likely in Condition White, which is when one is unaware and not paying attention. They were focused on their computers or paperwork and never saw their attacker. At best, a few might have been in Condition Yellow, which is when one is attentive but relaxed. However, when the attackers struck, the officers instantly transitioned from Condition Yellow to Condition Black, which is actively fighting for your life.
Progressive Firearms Drills
As Roswell, Ga., Police Captain Donald Moss worked with his cadre of firearms instructors drafting the department’s annual firearms schedule, they all reflected upon the recent events in Lakewood and Detroit. As a result, there was a commitment ensuring officers would be prepared to defend themselves in the event any officers faced similar ambushes. Progressive firearms skill development includes drills and exercises focused on shooting on the move, prone, kneeing, behind cover, in low-light and no-light scenarios, in close-quarters combat and with patrol rifles and shotguns.
After reviewing the horrific details of the Lakewood and Detroit incidents, instructors designed three new shooting drills:
- shooting while seated
- shooting while moving from seated to standing
- shooting while seated in a patrol vehicle
Duty Weapon & Ammo Selection
Roswell Police seek to maximize officer safety by issuing all uniform patrol officers the 15-round Glock 22 chambered in .40 caliber. Many firearms experts adopt a common-sense selection policy for a law enforcement caliber by ensuring the round starts with a “4.” Officers carry two additional 15-round magazines on their duty belts offering 46 rounds for a standard duty load. Officers are also encouraged to have a “go-bag” containing additional magazines and ammo for extended operations, such as an active shooter incident. Ammo selection is as important as choosing a proven handgun for LEOs. The objective of deploying lethal force is to stop the threat in the shortest time possible with the fewest possible rounds fired.
“Aim Small! Miss Small”
Roswell’s lethal force policy directs “whenever possible or appropriate” officers should fire for “center of mass.” The two objectives sought by this policy are:
- Maximize the probability that the suspect will immediately cease hostile activities
- Minimize unfavorable circumstance for officers and innocent bystanders
Many officers may recall in the movie, The Patriot, where Mel Gibson’s character coached before an engagement to “Aim small! Miss small!” Going for center mass helps compensate for the 50% rule, which states in an actual lethal force encounter you’ll only be 50% of your best practice day.
Our firearms instructors developed and adopted the below training scenarios and drills as part of the annual firearms training. The purpose of the drills is to engage targets from seated positions to simulate being seated in a restaurant or in a patrol vehicle. The drill equipment includes one silhouette target, one chair, barricades (representing fellow officers) 36 inches directly in front of the shooter and a handgun with three loaded magazines.
Seated Shooting Drill
At the 15-yard line, shooters are seated with weapons holstered (loaded with 16 rounds). On command, shooters will remain seated and lean to the direction called out (“Lean left!” or “Lean right!”), engaging the threat with two center mass shots while shooting around their fellow officer (barricade). Repeat drill eight times until all 16 rounds are fired. Reload while seated with a magazine of 15 rounds.
Seated-to-Standing Shooting Drill
At the 15 yard line, shooters are seated with weapons holstered (loaded with a 15-round magazine from the previous drill). On command, shooters will remain seated and lean to the direction called (“Lean left!” or “Lean right!”), engaging the threat target with two center mass shots while shooting around their fellow officer (barricade). Shooter will than stand, move to cover while firing an additional two center mass shots. Upon reaching cover, shooter takes one “failure to stop” headshot on the threat. A total of five rounds are fired for each “threat” command. Then reload with the officer’s third duty magazine (15 rounds) and repeat the drill a total of six times (30 rounds).
Feedback from officers upon completing the annual firearms’ training was very favorable. The training day was aggressive and demanding. It included reviewing use-of-force policy and handgun, backup, patrol rifle and shotgun qualifications. The seated shooting drills were well received. Most officers admitted thinking about how they might react and respond if attacked while in a restaurant and were grateful for the opportunity to evaluate their marksmanship while seated, moving from seated to standing and while seated inside their patrol vehicle.
The authors’ expectation from this article is to encourage our fellow officers and agencies to replicate our efforts within their own agencies. At the beginning of every officer’s shift, being trained and prepared for a violent encounter with a determined violent criminal is critical to survival. Depending upon fortune and fate aren’t a substitute for firearms training that challenges officers to shoot fast and straight.
City of Roswell, Ga., Police Department
Roswell, Ga., Police Department is a 140-sworn-officer LE agency protecting a population exceeding 90,000 citizens. Money Magazine ranked the City of Roswell as one of the top 20 best cities to live in the eastern U.S. The Roswell Police Department has accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA).