The obvious disclaimer: never take any account of a gun battle at face value. Just as home invasions usually involve victims who are not entirely unfamiliar with the sale and purchase of illegal drugs, gun fights in urban enclaves are hardly ever random affairs between complete strangers. In this headline case, we have an off-duty Bridges and Tunnel cop named Anthony Presley (a.k.a. “hero cop”, above) who just happens to be at ARJ Auto Repair in Bedford-Stuyvesant on Saturday night when five—count ’em five—armed robbers make the scene. Here’s the 411 on the 911 from nydailynews.com:
Five robbers ordered the group onto the ground and began rifling through their pockets. Presley, an MTA Bridges and Tunnels officer who was off duty, pulled his pistol, stood up, identified himself as a cop and told the robbers to stand down, police said.
Presley was shot in the shoulder during the close-quarters gunfight that ensued, police said.
The unidentified school safety agent grabbed the Glock that Presley dropped when he was shot, sources said, and chased the five bandits, firing back after at least one robber shot at him.
Investigators believe Presley fired his weapon seven times before the school safety agent squeezed off nine shots, a source said. The robbers fired a total of six times.
The agent, who is not licensed to carry a gun, could face charges, sources said.
Two of the robbers were wounded in the gun battle.
OK, so, let’s look at this as if there’s nothing more to the incident than what we’re reading. Here’s some of the lessons we can learn:
1. Timing. Is . . . Everything
Colonel John Boyd was a jet jockey who developed some important theories about how not to lose an aeronautic dogfight. Most famously, Boyd developed the OODA loop. That’s Observe, Orient, Decide, Act. In a loop. Once you’ve acted, you start over. And keep looping ’til you win.
The key to successfully implementing the OODA loop: speed. In Top Gun as in self-defense gun, the trick is to try to start your OODA loop before the bad guy starts his and run yours faster than he runs his. Or, in this case, before five people start theirs.
Boyd called this “getting inside” your opponent’s OODA loop. Remember both loops are running simultaneously. (It gets even more complicated than that, but we’ll stop there.) And there’s no way on God’s green earth that you’re going to out-OODA the bad guys. They’re starting first, using the element of surprise. They’re rock and rolling before you even hear the music. In the common parlance, they’ve “got the jump on you.”
About the best thing you could do in a situation where five bad guys appear—or one for that matter—is to run away or dive for cover. If they’ve already got guns deployed, you’re so behind the curve you’re in a different time zone. You’re chances of successfully drawing a gun on someone with a gun drawn are less than the chances of drawing on an inside straight.
So you’re only option may be: cooperation. This does not mean acting like a sheep. It means getting your OODA loop up-and-running. If, for example, the Broolyn bad guys didn’t rifle through their hostages clothes for wallets, or said something about “payback”, that would be a very bad sign. Requiring immediate action. No matter what.
In this case, something “inspired” Anthony Presley to take action. Fair enough. He acted. But there are actions and there are actions . . .
2. Use speed, surprise and violence of action
No doubt Presley’s actions—standing up with a drawn weapon—gave him a momentary advantage in the OODA loop department. But not for long. And this is where speed is critical.
IF the cop was going to stand up and confront the robbers, he needed to stand up and shoot someone. Maybe even a lot of someones. Hell, maybe he didn’t even need to stand up. Just shoot them from the floor. (A good example of why you need to practice firing from the prone position, BTW.)
NB: if his life wasn’t in danger, he shouldn’t have stood up, n’est ce pas? And there’s no bout a doubt it: once Presley crossed the “oh shit I’ve got to do something” threshold and decided to do something, shooting was the thing to do. Few things are as likely to fuck up a bad guy’s OODA loop better than shooting him. That’s the “violence of action” deal.
Violence creates what the poetic amongst like to call “the fog of war.” It makes it hard for people to think. If the bad guys can’t think, that’s good. If you can’t, that’s bad. Hence it’s never a bad idea to unleash as much violence as possible as early as possible in a self-defense situation.
ID’ing yourself as a cop to five bad guys isn’t an act of violence. It’s an act of suicide. One wonders if there wasn’t a Quentin Tarrentino moment after Presely told the perps to stand down. One assumes that one of the BGs simply shot him. And then the gunfight broke out.
At which point another lesson was learned (well, by us) . . .
3. If the fat lady starts singing, listen
Although I’ve never been in a gunfight—a state of affairs I wish to preserve until my dying day—I imagine it really gets your blood flowing. In other words, you experience a fight, flight or freeze response. The trick is, of course, to choose the right mode.
In stage one of this encounter, for the victims on the floor facing overwhelming odds, freeze was the ticket. When Presley stood up, for him, fight was the right answer. And when the robbers took off, flight was the correct response for the “school safety officer” (SSO).
Getting behind cover or concealment would have made the most sense. And yet he picked up a dropped gun and shot it at fleeing robbers? Come back here you bastards and fight like men! ‘Cause otherwise I’d just have to sit here thank the good Lord that I’m alive to see another day.
If the fat lady starts singing, indicating that a gun battle is reaching its conclusion, avoid any remaining brickbats or bullets, shut up and listen. In any case, I certainly don’t share the Daily News’ opinion that the SRO was a “second hero.” He prolonged the gunfight.
Which leads me to believe that he had some sort of skin in the game. Why would the cops consider possession charges against a man who picked-up a gun and used it for self-defense—unless he did nothing of the sort?
The bottom line for those of us on the outside: the harder you train for armed self-defense, the faster you’ll be if push comes to shove. And if push comes to shove, shove hard. Otherwise, run!