TTAG runs a lot of police and cameraphone video of cops gone wild – especially when they end with a questionable “ballistic solution.”  The Trinity Texas Police Department posted the video as a well-deserved attaboy for Officer Wheeler. I’d have been inclined to put a little distance between myself and the driver and/or changed the angle to make firing a little more difficult when I spotted the gun, but those are minor quibbles from an armchair quarterback. No question: this is an excellent example of a police officer who gets it right. Of particular note . . .

is the way Officer Wheeler changes his tone of voice to alternatively command and calm the perp. He’s respectful yet forceful when he needs to be, successfully achieving compliance. We hope that more police departments will release bodycam footage of cops dealing with difficult situations with admirable professionalism. TTAG will continue to post them when they involve firearms. We invite alert readers and police PR to send links to thetruthaboutguns@gmail.com.

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52 Responses to Trinity, TX Cop’s Successful Armed Perp Interaction

  1. Giving the guy the benefit of the doubt….May have been harmless.

    Having his gun out on the seat like that? …not smart at all …for too many reasons to type here.

    • In NC without a CHP it’s either put it on the seat beside you when you travel, have it on the dash or keep it far far away from you such as in the trunk. Our laws are a bit ambiguous so it is generally inadvisable to put it in glove compartment.

  2. Well crap, that will never make it to the 24 hour news loops. 2 pinks interacting, no browns, no bloodshed, no wanton violence. Not even objectionable language! Sure would like to know where he’s getting gas for $2.15 though!

      • As low as $1.96 in some places. That is Trinity, TX, on the Trinity River just west of Athens and Malakoff. Small town in east Texas.

        • No, you are thinking of Trinidad. Trinity is the county seat of Trinity County, it is south of Lufkin and Angelina County, east of Huntsville. I drive through it often to visit my son in Huntsville.

        • I went to high school in Malakoff, and you’re thinking of Trinidad. That isn’t Trinidad. lol.. Does Trinidad even have a gas station?

  3. Well done. If I were in that situation I would have started my sentence with, “don’t reach for it but is that a real gun?” Also, he put his handgun close enough to the driver’s hand to be easily swatted away or the truck door could have been swung open pushing it away…definitely put some distance there/change angle.

    But it’s easy to criticize from my cozy couch with no adrenaline pumping and my life not on the line…well done officer.

  4. I usually have to hold back to not pile on when cops get caught doing wrong or just being incompetent but I am all for showing both/all types of encounters. In this case if nothing else it was nice to see the cop using a straight trigger finger and holstering his firearm properly.

    After having LE point firearms at me for no justifiable reason (not even the suspicion was justifiable) with fingers resting on the triggers I really appreciate seeing his trigger finger where it should have been while holding a handgun ready to use and mostly pointed at the driver.

    I also give him relatively high marks for lack of hysteria compared to what I have dealt with and I never did anything close to having a handgun sitting openly on my passenger seat which is illegal in my state.

      • On January 1, 2016 It will still be illegal to have a handgun out in the open in a vehicle. Open Carry requires gun be on body in a holster or concealed, As a member of Texas Law Shield have received a number of emails clarifying what is allowed under the new law in the run up to Open Carry taking effect. The guy was very lucky to have this LEO stop him!

        • This is what i’ve been talking about for years. Texas has a certain reputation, but is by no means a particularly gun friendly state. There are any number of states which have much better gun laws.

        • C,

          That’s a countermyth. Yes, plenty of people watched western movies and T.V. shows growing up. They read about the Alamo, settlers, Indians, and so forth, and they buy into the myth that Texas is “guns everywhere” and rifles are sold from vending machines. Well.

          That’s all so counter to reality and normality, that when people learn the reality, which is squarely pro-gun, but not cartoonishly so, their assessment careens to the other extreme that Texas is supposedly anti-gun.

          Pro- or anti-gun are broad assessments which while valid compared to each other (Texas vs. California), but which can become less pronounced within the pro-gun category (Texas vs. Virginia). Some states suffer because people have built up hype about them. Other states are still enjoying the hype. Look at Arizona.

          Pro-gun forces have fought valiantly just to get Phoenix to allow “Gun Save Lives” paid advertisements on public property. This is in Arizona, y yet they’ve had to fight for it. That world famous doctor got arrested at the Phoenix airport for legally open carrying a rifle. Sure, charges were dropped, eventually, but only because he’s a renowned doctor, has fame to attract media coverage and money to defend himself. Joe Blow? Not so much, in “pro-gun Arizona.”

          Really, all I’m saying is that shades of pro-gun are exactly that: shades. The letter of the law matters, but so do police, public, courts’ and prosecutors’ attitudes about guns. There are also many, many laws affecting practical gun ownership day to day, but generally people only even consider the high profile provisions, like licening, when applying labels. States like Arizona can come up short on those practical provisions, but that’s unknown or ignored.

          It’s a far more complex and nuanced an issue than simply creating an OC vs. Non-OC or licensed vs. Constitutional carry chart and handing out ribbons for winners and demerits for losers.

  5. When pulled over, your mind is racing and you may be angry/confused/frustrated. Just focus on the officer and do as he says. Remain polite and professional even if if he doesn’t. You might get a ticket or just a warning, but even if you get arrested, remain calm. If you think his actions were unjustified, save it for your lawyer and the court. Arguing with him only gets you deeper in that hole you are digging.

  6. But wait, Robert, you’re anti cop! All those jackwagons who come out of the woodwork when you post about a cop misbehaving, said so, so it must be true.

    You can’t be the real Robert. Ok Pod Person, what did you do with the real Robert Farago?

  7. In Texas it is legal for anyone who can legally own a gun to have a handgun it in a vehicle as long as it is concealed. This guy should have put it in the glove box.

    • True, but if he were a thinking man, his headlights would have been on and he would not have been in possession of drugs…….it’s dumb stuff like that that gets them in trouble in the first place!

    • Did they get rid of or change the traveling exception in the law? That law did not distinguish between visible and concealed. Not sure if he fell under that provision.

      • “Travelling” is in the state constitution, I don’t think it’s been changed. It existed long before our CC laws, like many decades. Problem is, and always was, what constitutes travelling. Most recent I heard was a police interpretation which said “crossing 3 county lines”. And you are correct, OC or CC, loaded or unloaded, etc, was the result of a surplus of highwaymen 150 years ago.

  8. When the driver reached for the passenger seat (and, possibly, the gun) I held my breath–even though I saw him get out of the truck from the dash cam footage. I think that the cop did a good job.

  9. It’s Texas, everybody is armed. The officer did the correct thing, the driver was stupid for reaching for the gun. Had he not reached for it he may not have been detained. Not sure of that though.

    • “It’s Texas, everybody is armed.”

      You would be surprised at how many are NOT armed. I know quite a few panty-wetting types here in “Where the West Begins” Fort Worth who wouldn’t dream of owning, much less carrying, a gun… unless that was sarcasm on Frank’s part in which case, “Yup, armed to the teeth… all three of them! Hyuck!”

      • Perhaps he was paraphrasing a line from the movie Miss America: “Of course he had a gun. This is Texas, everybody has a gun. My florist has a gun!”

  10. Had the cop shot the driver as soon as he reached for the gun it would have been ruled a good shoot in sane times. These days, who knows?

  11. When all is said and done, cop cams may prove to be the best thing that ever happened to good cops. It will be more difficult for bad cops to get away with BS when they know that the whole world is watching, but the vids will reward good cops and spare them from unfounded claims of excessive force.

    • Yes, but for that to happen, the good stories need to get out AND get air time.

      “If it bleeds, it leads” is the MSM mantra, the counter case is also true: if there’s no ‘blood,’ there’s no reporting.

      That’s a travesty.

      I hope agencies take up Robert on his offer here. I think the hammer should be dropped hard on bad cops that overstep their true Constitutional role. But, I also don’t like GOOD cops getting painted with that brush.

  12. This cop did a good job of controlling the situation. Forceful when needed but not an asshat. A lot of us have seen the asshat ones. This could have gone both ways if the driver was up to it.
    Ive said it here plenty of times. Most cops aren’t bad and just want to go home at the end of a shift. Just like the rest of us.

  13. Wow – the driver actually reached for the gun. This officer’s restraint is the only thing that kept him alive. Taking the shot would have been completely justified.

    • He was not reaching for it as if to use it but rather in response to the officer’s question. Kind of like show and tell. Dumb on his part but expected due to his impaired condition and the line of questioning. As someone pointed out previously, had the officer prefaced the question with a command to not touch it, there might have been a different response. The Cedar Creek area is known for having a large percentage of its population partaking of drink and drugs. They are not bad people, just bored and misguided

  14. When the officer asks about your gun, casually picking it up to hand it over to him is the wrong move.

    When the “perp” tries to give you his gun, yelling “Hey don’t touch it!!!” is the right move.
    Assaulting him with a deadly weapon is taking it too far at that point.

    If I were the “perp”, I’d be kicking myself for unthinkingly reaching for my sidearm. I’d apologize to the officer for that. But I’d also be looking for an apology for drawing on me.

    As for mixing “command voice” with “calm voice”, he yelled “Put your hands on top of the car!” because the “perp” was moving in super slow motion and he didn’t get his hands on the roof fast enough for the cop’s liking. Tough shit. If that was me I’d be moving as slow as possible too. Yelling like that is a good way to make the “perp” jump to comply quickly, which is a good way for him to get shot by an antsy cop.

    If I were the chief, I wouldn’t be singling out this incident for an “attaboy”.

  15. I am totally unimpressed. Not too long ago in California you were REQUIRED to keep your hand gun in plain sight in your vehicle.

    There was nothing overtly dangerous about that man. He displayed no intention to hurt anyone. Telling him four (four!) times to put his hands on the roof is not unusual for someone suddenly thrust into an unexpected arrest.

    Officer Wheeler didn’t do anything wrong but this was one big yawn.

  16. Hate on me if you want but I believe if that had been a black man in the truck, he’d been shot and or dead. Even regardless the enthnicity of the officer.

  17. First let us get one thing PERFECTLY CLEAR. Guns are a PROTECTED ITEM
    and their possession a SECOND AMENDMENT RIGHT. Therefore LEO need to
    STOP ACTING as if EVERY GUN they don’t have is an INSTANT AND IMMEDIATE
    LETHAL THREAT. They need to start treating guns like cell phones. Ubiquitous.
    Everyone has one even if you can’t see it and STOP REACTING TO THE GUN.
    React to what people do. Everyone is acting as if this officer deserves all sorts of
    praise for DOING HIS GODAMMM JOB. That is ALL he did….and part of his job
    is NOT TO SHOOT PEOPLE WHO AREN’T A VALID THREAT.

    • Says the guy who’s never done that job, who’s never approached a vehicle at night with an unknown occupant already in plain violation of traffic law, who didn’t just have a fellow officer assassinated as he pumped gas.

      Guns can be normal, sure, but driving around with lights off and reaching for a gun once stopped isn’t normal. He’s lucky he got a reprieve from his own stupidity.

      • As someone who HAS done that job, I’d like to share a little story. It has no real point other than being what I think is a fun little anecdote.

        I once pulled over a truck for running a red light. This was not a casual “just didn’t get stopped in time” but an honest to goodness red-light busting. As I approached the vehicle, I noted it was packed full of Hispanic gentlemen. From the tools and manner of dress, they were obviously a work crew on their way from or to a job.

        I asked if anyone spoke English and one fellow said “a little.” I asked him to get out of the truck so I could talk to him easier. My thinking here was rather than 6 to 1, I’d prefer to talk 1:1 with one person. He got out and I explained why I stopped the truck.

        About the time another car pulled in as “Back-Up,” I asked him if there was any weapons in the truck. It was still six to one and I did not want ‘surprises.’ He said, “No, not really.”

        Hmmm. What the HECK does THAT mean?

        But, the lady that was my “Back-Up” was not getting out of her car. She just sat there.

        Split attention is not good for “Situational Awareness.” I told the dude to pass along “Don’t run any more red lights” and sent them on their way.

        Walked back to the other “Officer’s” car to see what the heck was going on. She could not get her seatbelt off.

        So, moral of the story (if there is one): sometimes when you have “Back Up,” your don’t really have back up.

        Some cops are top notch, a-okay, squared away individuals. Some cops are arrogant pricks. Some cops are just plain incompetent.

        • That’s cool, JR. Sometimes discretion is the better part of valor. That many people in one vehicle, especially in the back of a truck, it’s pretty dangerous running red lights. It has even more potential for danger stopping them with or without competent backup.

          Could be a crew of hardworking illegals, or it could include someone wanted for a string of violent crimes and who has no idea whether you know that about him.

          Most recent contact I had with an officer was a few weeks back after we got into a little fender bender. We were totally cool about it, so the topic of the three side arms we were carrying never even came up, despite our CHLs popping up on his computer when he ran our driver’s licenses. Pretty routine encounter, I suppose, and nobody got shot or even drawn on.

      • “reaching for a gun once stopped isn’t normal”

        He didn’t reach for the gun once stopped, he reached for the gun once asked about it. It’s a natural reaction to look toward, gesture toward, even reach toward something someone asks about.

        If I ask “is that a real Rolex?” odds are you’ll turn and pull your wrist closer so we can both look at it better. Asking about the item (which the subject wasn’t reaching toward or otherwise paying any attention to before then) escalated the situation. It would have been safer, and entirely lawful, to simply ask the subject to exit the vehicle once the officer saw the gun.

  18. Just so everyone knows….this is how it goes 95% of the time. Most officers I have worked with and known over the years take care of business just like this one and 100% of my Troopers handle themselves this way! Thanks Robert for posting this video!

  19. The thing that struck me is that the driver, mostly, followed instructions, didn’t argue with the officer, and generally behaved himself. It’s amazing what happens when you do those basic things.

    I’ve told my kids from the moment they started driving that when they get pulled over; shut your mouth, answer the questions, and most importantly, open the windows, turn on the interior lights, and keep your hands on the wheel with DL/insurance on the dashboard in plain sight.

  20. I gotta say kudos to that cop. How many times have we here seen cops launch into some high-decibel profanity-filled tirade that no one could understand (but that sounds just like the cops on an HBO miniseries!) and then wind up shooting someone for “not complying”?

  21. Admirably done. I particularly note how calm and professional he is throughout–look at how he is thinking ahead of the developing situation and staging his response. From both camera views this might have been a training exercise rather than a potentionally explosive situation. …which, of course, is why you train.

  22. I have to agree that this is what an officer ought to do, and so is not in itself outstanding; indeed, the officer could have done a few things better (though I will point out that his freedom to put distance between himself and the driver was limited by the location).

    But that said, it has to be emphasized that clearly we have a large number of officers out there for whom this ordinary competent behavior is out of their reach, and from that perspective it needs to be shown so they’ll know how to do it.

    I am reminded of my days as a lifeguard. We didn’t just talk about how we were to do things; we had unannounced staged incidents on top of the every-other month in-service training that involved going through actual situations we might have to confront. I have to wonder if LEOs ever do such training, because it was only due to such experience that when a crisis did occur, my reactions weren’t adrenaline-driven but came from both habit and muscle memory. If our law enforcement aren’t training that way, then the wide spread of results in terms of quality is easy to understand.

  23. Sound judgement, professional, cool headed thinking. Outstanding officer and an absolutely an interaction to be praised. Follow the link in the original post and let his chief know how good of a job he did. It says good things for the chief that he is training this kind of officer so let him known that.

  24. I’m glad no one was shot. Cop or driver. Great professional response from the cop. I’m glad the driver followed directions once he was out of the car.

  25. #1. I am thankful for body cameras.
    #2. The Driver acts like he is impaired
    #3. The LEO is obviously a seasoned, well trained, mature individual with respect for others and himself.
    #4. The Driver was very lucky he was dealing with #3.
    #5. This will never, ever be shown on national TV news.
    #6. Good training pays big dividends
    #7. Proper selection of new recruits, and good employee retention techniques for good LEO’s is critical for police departments
    #8. After Action Reviews (AAR’s) play a vital role in force education and development.
    #9. The Officer should be given public praise at the next team meeting.

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