When police must investigate an officer-involved shooting, many times you will hear them refer to the action as a “good shoot” or a “bad shoot”. What this means is, was the officer justified in using, or attempting to use, deadly force.

Please keep in mind police have the authority to use deadly force if deadly force must be used to to save a life. In other words, a police officer can use deadly force to keep the person from killing themself (the officer), or someone else.

Police are taught to shoot to kill, not to shoot to disable. Remember, the only reason they can legally shoot, is to neutralize a threat and save a life. If an officer were to try and shoot a knee or a hand, or some other part of the body in an attempt to disable a potential killer, what happens when the officer misses? That “miss” could allow the bad actor to continue with their plans and kill someone. Also, if the bullet misses the target, it might hit an innocent bystander.

We are not talking about target practice. Things are happening incredibly fast. Many times there has been a fight prior to employing deadly force. If you are an officer, EVERY FIGHT can turn into a fight for your life. If the threat gets control of your weapon, you are most likely dead. Attempting to shoot when you are struggling for breath and adrenaline is pumping out the top of your head is not a recipe for precision fire.

Officers are taught to shoot center mass. If you shoot for center mass, even if you miss, you may hit some part of the body that will neutralize the suspect and save someone’s life. Maybe your own.

There is a perception shooting someone in the back makes a “bad shoot”. This is not true. In certain situations such things as trajectory, angles, timing, etc.. may come into play during an investigation. No single factor, independent of all other evidence, decides the legality of a deadly force encounter.

Good investigators put all the evidence together and then present it to a prosecutor for a decision. Once the decision is made that lethal force is required, the officer’s job is to stop the threat. Period.

Police frequently get criticized if multiple rounds are fired when attempting to contain a threat. There are countless examples of people who have been shot multiple times and continued to fight, shoot, and attack. It would be nice if there was a book that said, “OK, in this situation, you shoot twice, but if this happens, you can shoot five times..” Unfortunately, no such book exists. If the decision has been made that lethal force is required to eliminate a threat and that lethal force is gunfire, you shoot until the threat is neutralized.

The law does not say the officer had to utilize the BEST POSSIBLE solution to neutralize the threat. The law says the officer had to abide by the law in carrying out his duty. The justice system may take years to decide if the officer acted appropriately. The officer, who was under incredible stress, had a split second to decide what to do. It’s a pretty tough job.

We recently published a podcast on the Tennessee Underground Facebook page as well as TUGNEWS.COM reporting on the shooting of Jacob Blake by police in Kenosha Wisconsin and this blog is largely in response to the reaction by our friends to that podcast.

Please review this summary of what has been reported as the events that led up to the shooting of Mr. Blake.

The police were called and asked to respond to a domestic disturbance. A domestic disturbance is widely recognized as one of the most dangerous calls an officer must deal with. The people involved in a domestic disturbance are normally very emotional and there is a good chance weapons are within reach. It is not unusual for all parties involved to unite and see the police as the enemy.

The shooting occurred at about 5 p.m. on August 23. Investigators say the call was placed by a woman who said her boyfriend was present and he wasn’t supposed to be on the premises. The Kenosha Police Association says the caller complained Blake was trying to steal her keys and car. It is very possible the caller said both things.

The responding officers are advised of outstanding felony charges against Mr. Blake. The charges included 3rd Degree Sexual Assault, Disorderly Conduct, and Criminal Trespass. All of these were classified as domestic abuse. Of course, the normal course of business would be to place him under arrest.

Mr. Blake resisted arrest and even continued to resist after being Tased. He was a member of the wrestling team at his high school. He probably had great physical skills to resist. Some accounts say he put one officer in a headlock.

Police pursued him, catching up to him as he tried to enter the vehicle. Three innocent children were in the vehicle Mr. Blake was attempting to use to elude arrest for a crime of violence. If he was planning on using the car to escape, he was risking the children’s safety by involving them in a police pursuit event.

Reports say Blake told officers he had a knife. There are differing opinions as to whether or not the video shows a knife in Blake’s hand. A knife was recovered by police in the driver’s side floorboard of the vehicle. It is not clear at this point if the vehicle belonged to Blake or someone else.

Media spokespersons have emphasized the fact the shooting occurred in front of the children. It should be noted, the police did not introduce the children into this situation, Mr. Blake did. He led the police to the car in his attempt to escape arrest.

Once he brought the fight to the car, the police had a responsibility to protect the children.

Let’s see. This is what the officers knew.

Jacob Blake had a deadly weapon and a history of violence. He caused enough of a disturbance the police were called and he struggled with the officers. Their attempts to keep him from getting in the car, including trying to pull him back, failed. As a last resort, they shot him.   Some say Blake should have been allowed to drive away, with the children and the knife, and get arrested sometime in the future.

What happens when the children are hurt or killed in a crash when he is trying to get away from police? Or they find the car 2 hours later with three dead children inside?

Didn’t those children deserve to be protected from a violent man with a knife?

Please don’t argue the children would have been safe with him because he is their father. Father’s harm their children on a regular basis. Far too often.

It is important to understand police MUST react to the situation as they experience it. They act according to what they see and hear while the event is occurring.

Any knowledge of the history of the people involved is probably limited to a basic database record check. The officer does not have the luxury of hindsight

The author, Jim Leach, is a graduate of the 133rd Session of the FBI National Academy and he served as Director of Criminal Investigation for the Tennessee Highway Patrol.

More law enforcement related podcasts and blogs can be found at Tennessee Underground Facebook page and TUGnews.com website.


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Jim Leach and Steve Bowers

Featuring law enforcement issues, current cases, cold cases, and conspiracies

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