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Shooting to Wound and Use of Deadly Force

A Utah Corporal (Cpl.) responds to a report of a suspected robbery, finds an EDP (emotionally disturbed person) female holding a screw driver, disregarding commands.  Watch the video, it is pretty long but it's worth it for the training value.  Conversely you can just skip to the times I refer to below.

0:10 - Cpl. arrives and is instantly met by witnesses stating that "she is over there" which directs him towards a particular area of a truck parking lot.  Whenever you arrive on scene and there are a lot of people pointing and telling you were to go it usually means something is happening at that very moment.

0:38 - Cpl. draws his Glock pistol, looks like it has an Ameriglo red front sight, possibly an I-Dot or BOLD sights, and a Streamlight TLR1s HL.  Looks like he did his homework.

0:45 - The other officer there says "she's not putting it down" or something along those lines.  This setups the confrontation.

0:49 - Cpl. tells the EDP female that it would be a good idea to put the screwdriver down.  Hint hint, wink wink.

0:57 - Cpl. immediately recognizes that there is a random person in the mix, tells the guy to move.  Guy keeps his hands behind his back and shakes his head.  He wants a one way ticket to the violence show.

1:16 - It becomes pretty clear by this point the guy is not going to be going anywhere is probably someone who she knows.  EDP female decides she wants to walk away and the Cpl. rightly so, tells her that she is not free to leave, pointing his pistol at her.  This is the 100% right thing to do here.  There is absolutely no reason she should be allowed to walk around with a screwdriver in her hand.  That is unacceptable and creating a public hazard.  The Cpl. made the right choice by challenging her here.

1:21 - "you can at me with that knife I guarantee you I'll smoke ya".  He already said its a screwdriver, did he see another weapon?  Did he change his mind that it wasn't a screwdriver and its really a knife?  Telling someone, "I'll smoke ya" is pretty prejudicial.  His heart rate was probably bouncing right around Condition Grey (around 160ish heart beats per minute), and he was trying to force his logical decision making process into resolving this situation.

1:33 - "you want this to happen, I'd get back if I were you".  More of the same projecting of intent.  This is good and not so good at the same time.  He is calling her bluff, and in a way he isn't.

2:04 - "I can take her out like last time".  Last time you took someone out, how?

2:08 - "you want me to take her out like last time?" The other officer points and says something which I cannot understand.

2:10 - Cpl. immediately deploys his taser.

2:21 - Clearly is ineffective due to the EDP female's heavy jacket.

2:23 - "that's all I've got for taser".  This is a projection of intent.  He is checking the box here.

2:26 - Cpl. takes a deep breath and keeps it in.

2:29 - Cpl. takes three well aimed and accurate shots.  He has clearly done some range time with his duty gun as he knows exactly where he is going to hit and is confident in making those shots.  EDP female drops because her knee do not work anymore.

2:37 - Cpl. kicks the EDP female to the ground flat.  This is the right tactic and use of force.

2:45 - Cpl. broadcasts the discharge and requests EMS.  He is still thinking clearly.

2:57 - Cpl. starts to cuff the female, he is pushing and rolling her as she is a dead-weight noodle.  She is neck deep into a state of temporary cognitive dissonance.  You can hear the Cpl's breathing begin to escalate.  His heart rate is going up because the adrenaline dump due to discharging a firearm at a person.

3:17 - Cpl. handcuffed the dead-weight noodle that is now the EDP female, he verbalizes it to another officer.

3:22 - Cpl. uses a cuff key to double-lock the handcuffs.  I think this is a naturally ingrained reaction from him as she is shot in the leg and probably requires immediate medical attention.  Double-locking handcuffs is a procedural thing done before transportation, not something which should be done on a suspect who may require immediate medical attention, especially from a shooting.

3:39 - "okay, I'm going to tourniquet her."

4:02 - Starts to put on a RATS tourniquet.

4:17 - Realizes he needs gloves to properly apply the tourniquet.

4:24 - "is it tight enough?" I will honestly say that this is the last thing I want to hear when someone is applying a tourniquet.

4:31 - Cpl. starts to put gloves on.  You can clearly hear him sucking in air while breathing.  He is bouncing between autopilot and having the capacity to think logically.

4:57 - "pants are too baggy".  If the clothing on a shot person prohibit proper tourniquet (or other medical item) application, the clothing needs to be cut off.

5:38 - The EDP female says something to the Cpl. and he loosens up the RATS tourniquet.

5:46 - "she wants this tourniquet off, I don't think she's bleeding so much" to which the other officer responds with "leave it".  There seems to be a clear lack of confidence in trauma related medical item application here.

6:03 - "I'm just gana latch it where its at right now".  That's not how any of this works.

6:11 - Cpl. makes a grunting sound, this is him coming down off of a high heart rate.  The body will naturally make you do certain non-normal things to help you calm down.

7:33 - Video ends with the Cpl. standing over the female.

First thing first, I have no idea what that department's policy is for shooting people, if they are allowed to fire warning shots or if they are allowed to shoot to wound.  As discharging a firearm at someone is almost always considered deadly force I default to case law for incidents involving shooting of suspects.  Specifically TN v. Garner, and Graham v. Connor, which create an objectively reasonable standard each officer's actions need to be judged against.  What would a reasonable officer do in this officer's particular situation based on the observations, training and overall knowledge of the officer in question without the possibility of using perfect 20/20 hindsight in order to make a different decision.  There also needs to be an element of fear, in my opinion, as you reasonably need to believe the suspect in question is going to use deadly force against someone and you then have to use deadly force to stop that suspect.  The objectively reasonableness standard refers to if the suspect poses an immediate threat to others, the nature/severity of the crime, if the suspect is actively resisting arrest, and if the suspect is attempting to flee or is a risk of escaping custody.

The EDP female was holding a deadly weapon in her hand, she was suspected of committing a robbery (which is a part 1 violent felony crime, especially if she used a weapon - the screwdriver), the EDP female was actively arguing with the officer, refusing to drop the weapon she was holding and she attempted to walk away/showed movement with purpose while the Cpl. was in front of her challenging her to stop.  I would say that the EDP female checked all the boxes which are required by the objective reasonableness standard and that shooting her in the knees, not killing her, stopped the situation from escalating to something which could have actually caused others to be put in harms way.  The Cpl. deescalated the situation as it developed while considering the public's safety and the safety of other officers and his own safety.

According to a letter from their local county DA's office, Cpl. Dunn was not justified in shooting the EDP female, but that they would not pursue charges against him because it would be difficult to prove criminal intent.  There was no criminal intent in this situation, no malice shown or projected by Cpl. Dunn.  There was, however, a projection of intent of violence in my opinion.  This is a good thing though, except that I would want to have seen him go hands on once more officers showed up.  He pushed up his own timeline, creating an urgency to resolve this situation even though he had two officers on scene with him.  Yes his taser did not connect and he did not reload it (I don't know if he had an extra cartridge).  Sometimes situations require us to slow things down and think logically while understanding that going to guns is definitely an option, but it is not the only option.  Some combatives training would have probably done him really well in this situation, sometimes going hands on is something a LEO has to do even if a person has a weapon, because shooting people is a big hassle and has serious, possibly unknown, ramifications.  Personally speaking, I would not have shot her, but I was not there and I am only going off of a one sided video.  Maybe the Cpl. knew her and had prior knowledge of her which fed his actions, maybe there was other information which we are not getting.

Cpl. Dunn clearly trains with his pistol, he probably shoots a lot and is a competent shooter.  The issue is that once the shooting is over, medical competency takes precedence immediately.  Under stress, the Cpl. did not do well and it clearly showed in his ability to apply medical trauma care to a shot suspect.  Under stress you will always fall to your baseline competency of a particular skill set / ability to use a specific item in this case a RATS tourniquet.

The lessons we can take away from this situation is that, foremost, there needs to be a sense of urgency.  If you believe that a person is bleeding out you need to hurry the hell up and get that tourniquet on them as fast as you possibly can.  The Cpl. took his time double-locking her handcuffs, then tried to inaccurately apply the RATS tourniquet on her only to stop because he was not wearing any gloves.  After he put on his gloves he only went around twice with the RATS and if you check the instructions on how to properly apply a RATS you have keep winding until you run out of cord.

He went as far as to loosen up the RATS after the EDP female suspect complained of it hurting.  An applied tourniquet is supposed to hurt, that's how you know its working properly.  Also, if possible, a person should have their legs and arms out straight, as applying a tourniquet on a bent arm or leg may create an issue during transport when that muscle group is activated during movement.

It looked to me as though the Cpl. did not have confidence in his ability to effectively apply a the RATS tourniquet.  It is a good thing she was not actually bleeding out because from the time he got the tourniquet out and to the time he eventually half-applied it was enough for the average person with a femoral bleed to die twice over.

This is a good example of a situation which required specific medical items to be present, on the Cpl's person and trained with beforehand so that having a working knowledge of the items allowed the user to appropriately apply the needed medical items.  This is a huge reason for having an AFAK that is stocked with proven medical items and easy to use (and train with) tourniquets.

Another observation about tourniquet application.  If you are applying a tourniquet on someone, you are doing it because that person is literally near death and the application of tourniquet buys them time to get to a Level 1 ER where emergency department doctors will take the tourniquet off when they need to go in and save that persons life using the best in modern medical practices.  There needs to be haste, there needs to be urgency, there needs to movement.  Putting a tourniquet on someone who is supposedly bleeding to death should not be a check the box type of situation, as it really looked like it was here.

As LEO's we have a very real responsibility to the general public, each other and especially ourselves which is rooted in a moral and ethical understanding of reality.  We need to train accordingly to our profession and be able to apply that training instantly without hesitation.  Training is the only way we get through these types of situations without relying on the easy button which is our firearms.