Officer Nathan Heidelberg Midland, Texas
Officer Nathan Heidelberg
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Last week, a jury acquitted David Wilson of murdering Midland police Officer Nathan Heidelberg. That Wilson shot and killed Officer Heidelberg was never in doubt. Officer Heidelberg hadn’t fired at Mr. Wilson. In fact, he wasn’t using any force against David Wilson at all. By all accounts, Officer Heidelberg was a good man, doing his duty.

Heidelberg’s death was an absolute tragedy, and an unnecessary one. There’s a lot we can and should learn from it.

The tragedy started about 1 AM on March 5th, 2019, when Midland police were notified of an alarm going off at Mr. Wilson’s home, where he lived with his wife and children. Two officers were dispatched and they called for backup shortly after arriving. Two more officers would arrive on the scene.

Things went wrong pretty fast. In fact, they had already had. During the trial we found out that the notice of the alarm from the monitoring company was a malfunction. Midland police assumed that the company would notify the Wilsons of the false alarm. Records show that never happened. The Wilsons had no idea their alarm had “gone off,” or that, by now, police were at their home.

When officers arrived and parked near the Wilson’s home, they did so without lights or sirens. At no point did they turn their flashing reds and blues on. This was standard procedure.

Lesson learned; cameras can mean the difference between your-word-vs.-theirs and hard evidence. Mr. Wilson had both internal and external low-light capable cameras at his home. Combined with the officers’ body-worn cameras, they provided a large and detailed amount of ultimately exculpatory audio and video evidence of what happened that night.

Video shows the officers first went to the back of the home where they found a gate locked. They then went to the front of the home, where one officer opened an unlocked front door. When the officer opened the door, an “open door” alarm chime audibly sounded in the home.

At that point, it was Mrs. Wilson, who, hearing the door chime, woke her husband and told him she thought someone was in the house. Mr. Wilson got up and retrieved a GLOCK 19 pistol from his closet.

That’s when Officer Heidelberg called out “Midland Police, come to the sound of my voice.”  Tragically, he did so only once, and was outside the home when he made the announcement.

Mr. Wilson testified that he never heard the officer’s single command, and the responding officers acknowledged in court that, considering his panicked state and his location in the home, Wilson may have indeed simply never heard the officer. Although one officer testified she heard the command, the announcement wasn’t picked up by another attending officer’s body camera.

At some point, the officers closed the front door and Mrs. Wilson called 911. She told the dispatch officer that someone was yelling and that they had kicked in their door. The officers had already reported that they saw what they believed was the family moving around in one of the bedrooms of the home. And yet, none of this was relayed to Mrs. Wilson. The dispatcher only told her that the police were on their way. She didn’t know that they were already there, milling around the Wilsons’ porch.

Dispatch also failed to inform the officers present that the Wilsons had called 911 and were awaiting their arrival.

With this evidence, I’m sure the jury understood Mr. Wilson’s plight. He could see shadows of men on his front porch, shining flashlights. He knew his door had been opened once, but was now closed. His wife woke him up telling him someone may be in the house. He had no idea the alarm company had notified the police, and he had some reasonable expectation that the police weren’t there yet.

Fearing someone had broken into his home, he went to check the front door. It was at this moment when Officer Heidelberg opened the door a second time, unannounced, and shined his flashlight into Mr. Wilson’s face. Wilson, blinded, fired, striking Officer Heidelberg through the wrist and shoulder, transecting his subclavian artery.

Shortly thereafter, Mrs. Wilson called 911 again, informing dispatch that police had still not arrived and that she believed her husband had just shot one of the intruders. It was only when she called back a third time that she was informed police were already on the scene.

Testimony and video evidence confirmed Mr. Wilson had no idea he had shot a police officer. He was handcuffed and put into a patrol vehicle. He asked why he was being arrested and informed the police he was the homeowner, not the burglar.

It was at that point Mr. Wilson was informed that he had shot a police officer. Mr. Wilson immediately broke down crying and asked if the officer was OK. Officer Heidelberg, 28 years old, would soon die of his wounds.

The trial lasted seven days, and it took the jury only 90 minutes to acquit Mr. Wilson of all charges.

The first thing we can learn from this: don’t believe initial reports from the media, the prosecutor, or law enforcement. The first reports that were widely circulated made it sound like Midland police clearly identified themselves while a trigger-happy Wilson rushed to ambush Officer Heidelberg. The evidence presented at trial painted an entirely different picture.

Next, remember that a halfway decent prosecutor can get a jury to indict someone for just about anything. In this case, the initial charge was more reasonable, second-degree manslaughter. The grand jury increased the charge to murder.  Any cursory review of the evidence would make a reasonable person wonder how this was possible.

The key here is to never assume that what you observe is the same thing everyone else observes. And never ever expect that someone will draw the same conclusions from your assumptions.

The officers in this case assumed their single announcement was heard. It wasn’t. They assumed Mr. Wilson knew of their arrival. He did not. Mrs. Wilson assumed police were on their way. They had already arrived.

The police assumed that the Wilsons knew they were there, and were likely simply waiting for one of the them to call or otherwise give them the all-clear for a false alarm. The Wilsons assumed one or multiple assailants had gained entry into their home. None of their assumptions were true.

Another lesson that must constantly be learned and trained for is…don’t scare people.  Whether you are law enforcement or not, you should do everything possible to reduce the level of fear in those you encounter, especially in a potentially threatening situation.  Frightened people are very difficult to predict and unpredictable people do unpredictable things.

On a purely tactical side, there are a number of lessons as well. For instance, if you are going to announce yourself, keep doing that until you get a response. Confirm, either by voice, by phone, or by signal, that the other party has heard and understands your command. Without that acknowledgement, don’t assume they know you’re there. Something has gone wrong, and you need to reassess the situation.

Evidence presented showed was just over 30 seconds from when the audible door chime sounded to when Mr. Wilson’s shot rang out. That’s not a lot of time. Whenever you can, slow it down. Build in time to think, calm down, and to communicate.

Finally, don’t ever shoot until you’ve identified your target. There are no exceptions to that rule.

Mr. Wilson’s wife testified that her husband owned one pistol and one rifle, and that he had only been target practicing on their property. She mentioned no training, and he didn’t have a concealed handgun license or LTC. It’s hard not to believe that if he had even rudimentary training and had ingrained into his being the most basic of gun safety rules, this tragedy would have been avoided.

In the end, the jury concluded that Mr. Wilson had reason to believe his life and his family’s safety were in immediate danger, and that he acted accordingly. I’m sure Mr. Wilson and his family are glad he isn’t serving a life sentence, but had he taken the time to positively identify his target, I’m betting he’d be sleeping a lot better at night. I know Officer Heidelberg’s family would.

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89 COMMENTS

    • Be it civil service or elected official it can be damned hard to fire a government employee. Screw ups are often (not majority of the time but still a bad ratio) promoted to positions where they supervise others who actually do the work and are mostly out of the way of screwing up anything important (besides competent employees’s chances of promotion).

    • “Co Attorney” (or those I’ve known over the last many years) is a damn low bar/hurdle. If they were a competent shyster would they be a county attorney (fancy it up with “prosecutor” if you like)?

      The old axiom that a grand jury will indict a ham sandwich is a fact.

      • The D.A. where I attended university was very frustrated with his grand jury one term: one of my roommates, a die-hard libertarian, had landed on the grand jury and the D.A. actually tried to get him booted off because he insisted on questioning everything, and convinced the others that they shouldn’t indict anyone they weren’t convinced was guilty because otherwise they were wasting the time of the court and whoever got chosen as jurors for those trials. Poor D.A. got told by the judge that the grand jury was in charge and if they wanted to ask a thousand questions for every case it was the D.A.’s job to politely answer every one.

  1. I am sorry, but someone coming in my door unannounced at that time of the morning just might get the same treatment. Flashing lights would have been a great thing, especially after backup arrived. I can not believe that any police agency would not announce themselves over and over though loudspeaker and flashing lights, yelling on coming into the home. This was NOT a no knock entry warrant, this was a silent alarm. The police had to be aware of the reason, and should have acted accordingly.
    This was a horrible accident, caused by bad police work. If this as policy, it was bad policy, if this was the officers’ choice or the standard, it was still wrong and any fault lies with the person who made those decisions, not the homeowner, who was protecting himself, his family and home.

    • Thankfully that seems to be the opinion of the jury as well. Hopefully he faces no unofficial harassment from any involved parties.

    • I wonder about this as well, though even after reading all these available details in the article, I wasn’t there and don’t have the benefit of seeing and hearing exactly what Mr. Wilson saw as he approached his front door. But if I approach my own door in the middle of the night under the reasonable belief that intruders are present and intend to enter my home, and then one of them opens the door unannounced and shines a bright light into my face, I don’t have the ability to positively identify the person due to the bright light. I can take my chances that the person entering my home is not an attacker, and try to have a conversation with him to determine his identity and purpose, or I might take the more likely route and assume the group of individuals entering my home in the middle of the night have nefarious intentions, and therefore pose a threat to my family within.

      • What if the homeowner took the time to shine his light at the officer to identify the potential target, and the officer had time to see someone pointing a gun at him? The officer could have just as easily shot the homeowner in that situation. We’ve seen that scenario play out before.

        • Bingo. Cops almost always get away with pulling the trigger. In fact, had that first officer fired, his buddies would likely have come rushing in behind him, doing mag dumps. That has happened again and again.

          Lucky for this homeowner that there were loads of digital evidence for the jurors to look at. In a he-said -she-said situation, cops are always presumed to be truthful, accurate, and correct.

      • It will soon be one year since this cowardly boot licker failed to heed President Trump’s urgent call to action on 1/6 Freedom Day.

        • “It will soon be one year since this cowardly boot licker…”

          The coward is you, boy, you hide behind an ever-changing user name.

          Have the balls to be a man and identify yourself… 🙂

    • And who the heck has their front door unlocked when asleep?

      I’m a bit paranoid on home security but I’ve never been burgled.

      And canus familiaris will either raise a fuss or sink her teeth into any intruder.

      • Many people who don’t live in diverse cesspits don’t lock their doors. It is a mark of civilization that the Debbie W’s of the world have denied us.

        • I lived in one of your all white fantasy lands. WV. Guess what? We locked our doors and kept our guns near.

          Our criminals all had white faces. You’re a fool.

        • Until meth came along most people here who live in the countryside didn’t bother locking their doors. Now many who didn’t have a garage are building one because even locking cars doesn’t make the contents safe!

    • I knew a guy who had police show up because of the same issue, a faulty alarm alert. But the police there were required to make contact with the resident by phone if possible before even setting foot on the property; they showed up but stayed in their cars while the dispatch officer talked to the guy and learned it was a false alarm, at which point both police cars flipped their lights on. Just one officer then went to the door to verify what was said on the phone call.

      Why that isn’t standard procedure I don’t understand!

      • That makes more sense. Not having a plan in place or not following it got that cop killed. I wonder if that opens his department up to liability?

  2. Sounds like a lot of negligence and poor communication occurred in this tragic situation. One thing police need to be very careful of doing and that is entering anyone’s house today without a warrant or making sure who is or is not in the house. This is particularly true in the case of Red Flag laws since the Supreme Court indicated that a person’s house could not be entered without a search warrant although there are a few allowable situations none of which involve Red Flag laws. This situation could have been resolved if the police tried to contact the home owners by phone or by double checking their own information with the dispatcher or the dispatcher with them.

  3. “… but had he taken the time to positively identify his target,…”

    lets be a little fair here. According to the narrative … .

    Fearing someone had broken into his home, he went to check the front door. It was at this moment when Officer Heidelberg opened the door a second time, unannounced, and shined his flashlight into Mr. Wilson’s face. Wilson, blinded, fired, striking Officer Heidelberg through the wrist and shoulder, transecting his subclavian artery.

    If the man did not know the police were there, had a reason to think someone had broken into his home and he needed to protect his family from the threat, the door suddenly opens and he is blinded by a light and you think he can identify his target being blinded by the light? He did what 70% or more of people would do, he fired at the area of the light being held by the “threat” in the doorway as if entering.

    With what, he reasonably thought was the threat according to the verdict, presented as the threat is right there in front of him blinding him with the light in the door way if as entering the house after opening the door. In that close proximity with what is acting like a threat would act in a home invasion right on top of him but hes blinded by the light … its really hard to take “had he taken the time to positively identify his target” as a reasonable critique conclusion and the jury didn’t think it was reasonable either.

      • No, that’s how an “innocent” man was killed in this particular situation. But a jury applied the “reasonable person” standard and arrived at the conclusion that Mr. Wilson acted as could be expected from a person in his position.

      • and that’s how you save your own life and the life of your family.

        If the threat is right on top of you acting like a threat, you would be stupid not to think its a threat.

        What if it was an actual armed home invader right there on top of him in the same positions coming through the front door blinding him with a flashlight beam, should he have taken the time to “identify” them then?

        Its sad a police officer got killed, I’m especially keen on it because every time my brother puts that uniform on and leaves for work it might be the last time. But there is a certain limit to whats reasonable, and under the conditions and proximity circumstances it was not reasonable to expect the man to take time to identity friend or foe when it may only be an eye blink in time available to counter what is acting like a threat right there on top of him.

        This whole thing was one big screw up from the beginning, one screw up piled on another all the way through. And none of it was the home owners fault. No, under the circumstances with the ‘threat’ right at him he didn’t have any obligation to take time to “identify’ the ‘target’, the ‘target’ under the circumstances ‘self-identified’ as a ‘threat’ by acting like a home invader would by not identifying himself as a police officer before and while opening that door the second time.

        • you are correct, he didn’t save anyone. But a ‘threat’ had presented its self like an actual ‘threat’ would and he had every reason to believe he was acting to protect and save his family and himself and there was absolutely zero that made him think otherwise. There is a reason the term ‘reasonable’ figures so prominently in self/home defense cases – his actions were reasonable considering the circumstances and conditions he was faced with even if he didn’t save anyone.

        • and not to forget, the police didn’t save anyone either but instead due to police screw up compounded by 911 screw up a police officer got killed.

        • I was going to write exactly what Forty just said. Saved me the keyboard strokes.

          I can add this, though…everyone’s an expert after the fact, when all details are made known and everyone knows how everything “should” have been done.

      • Easy for you as I to armchair today, with the story given. I and the jury feel the homeowner was correct in his actions at the time. The officer made a series of small mistakes that had only one of them been made would have saved his life, but compiling them all into this 1 occurrence took it. Again according to what we have above; no siren, no flashing lights, no call out identifying from the officers, no relaying of info by an incompetent 911 operator, all lead to this justified shooting. If I ever have a breakin and I am confronted by an individual shining a light on me that can clearly see I am leveling a firearm on them and they still dont identify – they will be shot also.

        • I don’t think anyone is arguing that the jury got it wrong. They didn’t. This was the only reasonable decision and it should have never gone to trial in the first place.

    • so we now KNOW the full story.

      But lets back up to te actual time and lce. Suppose that guy opening the front door with flashlight in hand, saying NOTHING< was indeed a home intruder with nefarious intent? Had Mr. Homeowner "takene the time to positively identify" said individual and said individual had been armed and brearing eveil intent, the meathack would have been dispatched to that address, but not for a wouded officer rather for a dead or wonded homeowner.

      I have to tag the local PeeDee for their cavalier handling of the situation. Their actions were not definitive enuogh to fully inform the homeowner that the "interuders" are his friend, and here to help. Mr Homeowner taking even two more seconds to identify the intruder may well have lost his life, and caused his Wife to also lose hers. Not a good tactic. Homeowner had NO CLUE the strangers on his property were LE, because those strangers did not take sufficeient care to inform. Their one time muttered annuncement was not sufficient.

      Hoe about when opening the door the second time, announce LOUDLY :POLICE Of course, a bridf history woud reveal that this IS a tactic employed by criminals, to induce homeowners to drop their own guard, leading to death and other ayhem for the residents. Some believe that utteirng the magical word POLICE, resolves everything. Ive raad of home burglaries succeeding because the perps dress up in constume shop police clothes, carry a gun like local PD carry, "identify" themsevels as polic,e gain entry, the ossupants dutifully stand down and get robbed and/or killed.

      Them red and blue blinkin lights are a pretty good indicator that The Man have arrived… can easily be seenreflecting and flooding eveyrwhere at night, and are not very easy to duplicate on the chea, as are cosutme store cop suits.

      Glad Mr. Homeowner was acquitted.. and Ihave to agree, the Grand Jury need a good whack upside the head for even returning a charging bill on the evidence.

    • Yes but as noted above he had no choice as the cop would of shot him a second later

      The resident should of barricaded himself in the bedroom

      • “The resident should of barricaded himself in the bedroom.”

        When trying to “clear” a room, the intruder has the advantage. Establishing a defensive position in one place buys time to make decisions and prepare for action. Of course, this is more complicated when there are family or visitors in other rooms.

  4. RIP to a good police officer. In the 21st century it really seems we as a society must lose most of our privacy, if we are to be kept safe. Multiple cameras outside and inside our homes. Cameras in the front of our vehicles and in the back of our vehicles. Everyone will be wearing some form of badge camera. Also an audio and visual recording device in all of our reading glasses.

    And if your cameras are hooked up to an internet system. It’s possible that the system could be subject to an outside hacking attack.

      • I hve mysefl nd known mny others, who never lock their houses at night. Many areas are perfestly safe to doso. Depends on where you live. Any city in california, no way. But when I sued to live there, Ihad two houses in succession in a small town, and one house never even had a key for the front door lock and there WAS no lock on the back door. Next house, front door had a lock but no one but salesmen and the sheriff ever used that door. We all used the back door. The shop door, right next door, was another story. Front door locked after closing, but no lock on the back door. Onely heft I ever had was an inside job. a ‘trusted individual decided she wanted something and took it. Her problem.

        • Yes but if he has all these security devises he clearly does not feel safe enough to have an open door. It really doesn’t even make sense.

    • Something else that would have helped is something a friend of mine installed when they bought a place on a country lane that had been having break-ins: he put up floodlights all connected to a circuit with switches in bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, and home office. Any time there was a disturbance they couldn’t account for, the nearest switch got flipped so if they went to look out a window or through the front door “peep hole” they’d be able to tell what or who was outside.
      Another friend actually tested their system by showing up unannounced late one night and shutting his headlights off before he got to the house. Sure enough, one of them noticed that headlights had come into the driveway then disappeared, and the friend was still ten yards from the porch when the whole place lit up like one end of a sports stadium.

      I’m currently redoing much of the wiring in my house and putting in floodlights like that is on the to-do list.

      • “I’m currently redoing much of the wiring in my house and putting in floodlights like that is on the to-do list.”

        Have often wanted to do that, but….

        The HOA covenants require approval by the truth commission. Given the left leg limp of the HOA board (and most all my neighbors), my alterations would be denied, the board would issue an enforceable citation, and. if the lights came on, the neighbors would likely sue me for disturbing the peace.

        • That reminds me — I need to put a provision in the house deed that it will never, ever be under any HOA!

  5. I complete agree with much of this article but beg to differ on the point about Mr. Wilson identifying his target before he shot. First, as noted above in another comment, someone was coming into his house in the middle of the night. Second, in the dark when someone flashes a light at you it is highly probably you lose night vision and could actually be “blinded” by the light, not being ABLE to see who is behind the light. Put that all together and Mr. Wilson can’t really be blamed for violating Rule 4, know your target and what’s beyond.

    • Give the substantial amount of video and recorded evidence, this tragic situation should NEVER have gone to trial. Clearly the homeowner and any reasonable person would believe at the time there were home invaders. A good shoot. Unfortunately, also a tragic shoot for the officer.
      The lessons learned are good and highlight so many links in the disaster chain, any one of which could have avoided this tragedy.
      The DA on the other hand is a scumbag for bringing charges and should be fired and have his license revoked. Absolute prosecutor immunity needs to END.

    • Greg B,

      You bring up an important point that “tactical” flashlights literally cause temporary blindness these days.

      About three years ago, someone entered my next-door neighbor’s home late a night. My next-door neighbor does not actually live in the home and I know his cars–the car that was in the driveway was NOT any of my neighbor’s cars. I called it in and three deputies arrived in about 10 minutes. When I went outside to assist, I carried a large LED MagLight: I was careful to turn it on when I was still 80 yards away and, more importantly, I held it high up in the air pointing back at myself so that the deputies could plainly see my entire body and so that I was not blinding them. My interaction with deputies was smooth and zero-stress thanks to the way that I held my flashlight.

      Word to the wise: if you shine bright flashlights in people’s faces during contentious encounters, your encounter is much more likely to go downhill rather than uphill.

  6. The burden of professional conduct is upon the Police alone. It is their job to follow procedure and to ensure their safety and the public they protect, That’s why we pay them and spend money to train them. They made mistakes and an officer died. How dispatch can not be in communication with the home owner and with the officers, at the same moment puzzles me???

    The home owner should have locked his door, DUH. Cameras are great, but exterior lights are better to not only be able to identify people, but let them know that they are visible and you are aware of their prescence. Going and looking for trouble is usually a mistake when dealing with break-ins or people outside the home, Best to hunker down and wait for them to come to you. Also, yelling, “I have a gun and the police are on the way”, may make the bad guys flee and in this case, it could have saved a life.

    Bad situation all the way around.

    • “The home owner should have locked his door”

      You beat me to it. That was my first thought while reading this. My second thought was never assume anything.

      • yes, the door should have been locked. But that’s not a thing here, home invaders are widely known to employ methods to open locked doors so a locked door would have made no difference to the homeowners perception of a threat when the door opened and the flashlight blinded him.

    • I agree with part of that, disagree with some of it.

      Yes, of course the door should have been locked. I’ll add a DUH along with yours.

      “going looking for trouble”??? Seriously? In my own home?

      “yelling I have a gun” or anything else? I strongly disagree with that. The moment you announce your presence, you have lost virtually all element of surprise, and handed the intruder the golden gift of initiative.

      My extended family works all different hours, 10 hour shifts, 12 hour shifts, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd shift, 4-day weeks, 5-day weeks, and 6-day weeks. People come and go around the clock. When I am awakened by sounds in the night, I do NOT call out. I quietly creep out of bed, arm myself, and sneak out to see who is who. When I’ve identified the person in the house, THEN I announce myself.

  7. I’ve answered a lot of alarms. Most monitored. Most at around 0700 hrs and 1800 hrs. Anyone see a pattern here? Most homeowners couldn’t be bothered with acknowledging/canceling the call. Too much of a hurry to get to work, or do the “Thank God I’m home thing.” That’s okay. We never got in a hurry to a residential alarm. Some local agencies don’t even respond after the third false alarm. I’d rather put my money on a horse than bet it on a monitored alarm system getting things right.

    • Joel, you are exactly right. I’ve said a variation of that sentiment for years. “Be careful of a stranger, for that very reason. He’s a stranger. You don’t who he is, or what he’ll do.”

  8. Enough tragic mistakes to go around, but that’s world that was created for us in the past few years! Expect more of the same.

  9. Finally, don’t ever shoot until you’ve identified your target. There are no exceptions to that rule.

    Yeah. But. You are rudely awakened in the middle of the night. One or more assailants are in your home. They blind you with a flashlight. You react RIGHT NOW, or you don’t react at all.

    The onus is on the police to announce themselves, clearly, loudly, and repeatedly. An intruder into a man or woman’s castle has forfeited his life – that’s what the Castle Doctrine is all about.

    The Breonna Taylor case was an example of a cop whispering in the hallway before entering the residence “this is the police”. Literally, he whispered it. We might presume that he didn’t want to disturb neighbors – or we might presume that he had no intention of announcing himself, and warning the residents he intended to kill.

    You’re a cop? Say it. Say it loud. Say it long. Don’t leave any potential doubt that you’re a good guy. If, indeed, you are a good guy.

    • Yup.. Had the now departed officer slowly pushed the door open WHILE LOUDLY ANNOUNCING POLICE POLICE POLICE is anyone here? he would almost certainly be yet amongst the living.

      Locked door? Come on. Many parts of the country no one loces their door, even at night. I helped one family move from one place to another a few years back, and after everything ws out of the house, my friend began to wonder where the key to thehouse front door was. He’d not seen r used it in the twenty years theyd had the place. Nor could his Wife remember where the thing was. They thought about changing the doorlocks, but then their son ended up buying the place. He did not need a kay. Problem solved. I don’t know what Son did when he respold the place ten years late. In thrity years the doors had never been locked. Never had a probem, nowhere in that entire neighbourhood in tat ime had there been a problem.

  10. Damn…there was an awful lot of assuming going on with no verifiable two-way communication taking place. A good Officer died and a homeowner drug through the mud and traumatized for life. Credit to the professionalism of the Midland PD for not mag dumping the home owner as the NYPD and others would have done.

    My routine for years has been to check all external doors and ground floor windows that they are closed and secured before going to bed. The dogs and exterior cameras are my early warning and self-monitored systems.

  11. Like virtually every tragedy, this one has multiple layers of failure, RIP to the officer and it is another failure that the homeowner was charged in the first place.

  12. I wish I had a door to lock. All I can do is pile a bunch of leaves in front of the hole.
    That should be fair warning though, ” Leaves me alone, or I’ll hiss at you.”

  13. “It’s hard not to believe that if he had even rudimentary training and had ingrained into his being the most basic of gun safety rules, this tragedy would have been avoided.”

    Thinking the above is an assumption not based on real world experience concerning the majority of gun owners…the majority of whom are not trained in combat situations. As the article notes, the shooting event happened in about 30sec. 30sec to ramp up to an unexpected event, and unexpected presence of police, an expectation that unidentified persons who once opened the door, suddenly appeared in darkness, shining a flashlight in the face of the adrenaline-pumped homeowner, and shooting to stop the threat.

    Simply knowing the hallowed rules of engagement due to sitting through a basic gun safety class does not, in any way, automatically translate to a gun owner risking their life, in the above situation, by asking themselves, “Have I clearly identified the target?” Such hesitation puts one on the wrong side of the power curve: action beats reaction.

    The “highly trained professionals with guns” were totally responsible for the tragic outcome. How ’bout “If the ‘highly trained’ professional had taken the time to clearly understand the “tactical” situation, it is likely events would not have unfolded as they did?

    Note: I generally do not question JWT, but something about the description of circumstances just seemed struck me as error in JWT’s conclusion: “…but had he taken the time to positively identify his target…”

    • Wow! I wish I hadn’t thrown that pass into the end zone. Sorry, Sam, that is totally wishful thinking on your part and ignores several real life scenarios that, in my opinion override all the NRA safety rules ever written. We are not talking about standing on a range or an open field taking target practice. We are talking about in your home with your family at risk at Oh dark thirty at night with some unknown dude shining a bright light in your face. The thirty seconds time estimate is just that. Nobody had a stop watch on the action. If it were in fact, a bad guy shining the light thirty seconds might have been 29 seconds too long.

      The sad part about all of this is that the home owner is probably left penniless. A seven day jury trial for murder per the supposed grand jury decision, most likely ran more than the home owner’s equity in his home. He probably has a second mortgage now and a lien on any automobiles that he has equity in and his credit score is minus 10.
      Even if he qualified for the public defender, many jurisdictions require repayment if the client has any financial resources. Even assuming Mr. Home Owner had a significant bundle in some form of liquid assets, it is gone now. He also has the “He murdered a young cop” sobriquet hung about his neck for the time he spends in that town.

      All of those sad outcomes are why cops should not have the right to just bust into homes. Even if some relative has requested a welfare check the cop should repeatedly announce himself — and have backup. I sincerely hope this tragic incident is a significant learning lesson for the cops of that town and cops everywhere.

      • “Sorry, Sam, that is totally wishful thinking on your part and ignores several real life scenarios that, in my opinion override all the NRA safety rules ever written. ”

        Uncertain where it is we disagree.

  14. “They then went to the front of the home, where one officer opened an unlocked front door.”

    That is not part of a good security setup.

  15. I have to second Sam this time: JWT’s comments at the end of the article are a prime example of armchair quarterbacking and 20/20 hindsight. If we were reading a story where the homeowner did everything exactly the same as he did above, but the person on the other side of the door was an armed criminal, I have a feeling JWT and most other regulars here would be praising it as a successful DGU.

    • “…a prime example of armchair quarterbacking and 20/20 hindsight.”

      While grateful for the three or four times each year someone agrees with me, not seeing JWT’s article as “armchair quarterbacking”, but more like extending the lesson beyond its support beams.

    • You are mistaken. I’ve been very consistent for years about taking whatever time it takes to positively identify your target.
      I’ve been in EMT in a paramedic now for a few decades. I’ve seen some accidental shootings. Never seen a single one of those shooters happy they took the shot quickly.

      • “I’ve been very consistent for years about taking whatever time it takes to positively identify your target.”

        Indeed you have. It isn’t consistency that I questioned, but whether, in an explosive moment, the best course is to accept first strike in any and all circumstances. And whether, in the end, the success of an event where all “the professionals” failed, it is appropriate to hold the victim ultimately responsible for avoiding a bad outcome.

        As it unfolded, the victim did properly identify and shoot the target: alarm system indicated an intrusion; unidentified/uninvited group of people milling around on my porch, one darkened individual, without permission, enters the front door and shines a light in my face. Everything up to this moment is a threat situation. I fear for my life, and shoot the identified target: an invader standing right in front of me. I fire a single shot, ending the threat. The fact that I do not know that “the highly trained professionals” screwed up, nor that I didn’t have the name, rank and serial number of the invader, does not put upon me the responsibility to sort through the possible scenarios while allowing the threat to overpower or eliminate me. (yes, i have received mucho exposure to “the four rules”)

        And, as an aside, whether “training” would have dictated a different, better outcome, well, “Leading a horse to water”, and all that…

        • “the victim did properly identify and shoot the target: ”
          Demonstrably false. According to Mr. Wilson he did not intend to shoot the officer.

      • “You are mistaken. I’ve been very consistent for years about taking whatever time it takes to positively identify your target.
        I’ve been in EMT in a paramedic now for a few decades. I’ve seen some accidental shootings. Never seen a single one of those shooters happy they took the shot quickly.”

        No he wasn’t mistaken.

        I’ve been very consistent for years about taking whatever time it takes to positively identify your target.

        And you did this with a stranger suddenly opening your door to enter your home in hours of darkness a few feet from you and shining a flashlight in your face when you had every reason to believe a home invasion was in progress?

        I hope you never have a home invasion.

        “I’ve been in EMT in a paramedic now for a few decades. I’ve seen some accidental shootings. Never seen a single one of those shooters happy they took the shot quickly.”

        Seriously? This is your ‘gauge’ factor, if a person is happy or not? This is the sum of your whole experience with shootings?

        This is the experience from which you declare judgment upon a man who feared for the life of his family and self having reason to believe a home invasion is in progress from an unknown intruder who is a few feet from him and shining a flash light in his face after suddenly opening the door to enter – and your judgement is the man is at fault with “… but had he taken the time to positively identify his target”.

        Its a horrible thing. I’ve been there several times over my life, three times in the last several years. Although I’m glad we survived I am not happy that I had to pull the trigger. Would I do it again if I had to? Yes I would. Its a less than eye-blink in time moment decision, had I hesitated to be all warm and fuzzy about it and had the time luxury to “identity” the target my wife and I would both be dead.

        Do you not understand the concepts of ‘imminent’ and ‘reasonableness’ for self/home-defense? This mans ‘threat’ was made ‘imminent’ by the officers actions by presenting like the threat the man was expecting and had every reason to believe was present, the ‘reasonableness’ of his actions were sound and justified. You can call it an “accidental shooting” if you want trying to frame it in the many years of your experience of not having the experience this man had, but there was nothing “accidental” about it as the man pulled the trigger intentionally believing the life of his family and himself was in danger from an imminent threat.

        I can understand the situation this man was in. I understand the fear he had, I understand his reasoning. I also understand the less than eye-blink moment in time decision he had to make to save his family and himself from a home invasion threat that was presented. This man did “identify” his target, in the ‘reasonableness’ of action and the ‘imminent’ state of the conditions he was faced with he correctly identified the target as the threat it presented and under those conditions had no other choice if he was to save the life of his family and himself.

        I just hope you are never on a self-defense case jury.

        • Nope, not yet and don’t plan on it.

          I hope you never end up dead because you tried to second guess the situation with the threat right in front of you with a “hmmm…let me be consistent with identifying the target.” but alas you probably will.

  16. Don’t go with stupid people to stupid places and do stupid shit.

    I’m surprised this doesn’t happened more often.

    I see a lot of stupid shit by this new bred of cops.

    They also thing we are the enemy.

  17. Good summary and article. Until the last three paragraphs. The homeowner has no time to identify the threat. He faced a situation of shooting or allowing someone armed to enter his home.

    Now, the Midland Police will hopefully change their policies and procedures while retraining their officers.

    But the DA should be in jail. If the evidence is as clear cut as this…. if we are viewing bodycam recordings and 911 dispatch tapes… if we have ALL of that evidence supplied by the government and we are still prosecuting a citizen… tar and feathering government officials should no longer be a euphemism.

    • While I agree that the prosecuting attorney ducked his responsibilities and passed the ball to the grand jury, possibly hoping they would return no true bill, they may have surprised him by returning true bill. The thing that really surprised me is that they jumped the charge to murder instead of manslaughter. Apparently the prosecuting attorney didn’t know the make up of his grand jury. Once they return a true bill, he is duty bound to take it to trial in most states. I don’t know the law in that state and so can’t comment on alternative actions open to him. I also don’t know what his closing arguments were to the jury. He might not have argued the facts at all but simply stated that he had presented the evidence he had and the judge gave them the law and it was up to them to decide the verdict and left it at that. That’s the course I would take if faced with that decision. You can present the evidence or you can prosecute the case. The prosecuting attorney’s path to a verdict is varied.

      That’s what the prosecuting attorney’s obligation is to the grand jury. He is supposed to present the evidence to the grand jury, perhaps advise them as to the degrees of proof required of him if they inquire regarding that or even voluntarily if there are multiple charges possible under the evidence and the grand jury decides if a crime and what crime has been committed and if the named defendant is the perpetrator of those crimes.

  18. The homeowner 100% identified his target. It was an armed invader, and he hit said invader.

    It’s unfortunate that said armed invader happened to be a cop, but that’s on Dispatch and the cops.

  19. Bad all around . I’m guessing maybe the officer wearing a vest and the homeowner’s round missed it to go through the hand and shoulder ? Center mass, the officer may have survived if vested up, but expect both he and the partner would’ve dumped mags into the homeowner.
    Sure to be used as a training example . Sad for both sides . Both were trying to do a job, one answering a call, the other protecting his family .

  20. @jwtaylor
    “Demonstrably false. According to Mr. Wilson he did not intend to shoot the officer.”

    The proper questions would be, “Did you fear for your life. Did you intend to shoot the intruder?”

    In the circumstance, the entire circumstance, how was the homeowner supposed to determine the difference between an armed intruder, and police? How was the homeowner supposed to more correctly identify the target, without allowing the intruder the advantage of time? Who sets the standard of how much time to forfeit to the intruder? (“Every situation is different” doesn’t work, here.)

    The dead officer paid the tragic price for systemic failure of an organization populated entirely with “highly trained professionals”. Systemic failure should be the lesson.

  21. I wish those “highly trained professionals” would do what my university astronomy professor did: every other year he took an education course to learn to be a better teacher, and on the in-between years he attended conferences on improving lecturing for university students. Over a ten-year period he actually took enough courses to get a B.A. in education!

    I have to say it’s a bit weird being in an education course and having your astronomy professor sit down next to you! (Though when it came time to form project groups he shifted so there could be no possible appearance conflict of interest by working with one of his students.)

  22. About 40 or 50 years ago in this county we had a similar situation. An anonymous call to 911 stating that shots were fired at a certain address. Two deputy sheriff responded. It is oh dark thirty at night. They check the front door, locked. The surviving cop said they announced themselves. This was long before body cams. They checked the back door, locked and the surviving cop repeated that they announced themselves. They checked the side garage door and it was unlocked. Same drill with announcing. They advanced into the garage with their flashlights shining around inside. Home owner opens the inner door to the house and proceeds to fire multiple rounds into the garage, killing one officer. I don’t remember if the second officer was wounded or not. My recollection this many years later is that he was but survived his wounds. I know he testified at trial. The homeowner was charged by the DA and it went to trial. He was acquitted of all charges.

    I am confident that the shooting was written up in police journals and discussed at police seminars across the country. One would think this many years later a standard protocol for announcing police officers in a loud and continuous manner would be required.

    Yeah, if bad guys are inside and holding hostages, it is going to alert them. So what? Are you going to do a frontal assault on the home if they are? If you have a hostage protocol in place you will call for the hostage negotiator. If your department does not have such a protocol in place, what’s the matter with the chief? Is his only qualification to be chief that he is the mayor’s nephew?

    It seems to me there is a significant lack of training in that police department. I don’t know what that lack of training is due to. It seems to me there needs to be a considerable shake-up in that police department. I think it is time the chief either retired or sought employment as a greeter at Wal-Mart. He should do that on his own initiative as he has significantly failed in his duty to his men. Of course, there is always the failure of the truly stupid which is to recognize that they are, indeed, stupid beyond believability and so they continue to bumble along.

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