Self-Defense Tip: Look for Signs of Impending Aggression

I’m not here to second guess the slain officer’s actions prior to his murder. I’m simply pointing out the fact that there are subconscious cues indicating the onset of violent behavior from people who are not overtly aggressive. An armed (and unarmed) citizen should remain alert for the possibility of an attack whenever they are in a “discussion” with someone they don’t know very well. If the person appears unresponsive or listless, not making eye contact, it’s always best to put some distance between yourself and the other person. provides a list of warning signs, including and especially any history of violence . . .

Frustration (e.g., from an inability to communicate effectively).
He/she feels threatened.
He/she feels powerless.
He/she is in pain.
He/she expects to be confronted/treated with hostility.
He/she has been in conflict with the individual in the past.
He/she feels justified in being angry.

The site warns against speaking to the potential attacker in a condescending tone, or using jargon. But again, if you suspect something’s wrong, it probably is. Gun or no gun, doon’t wait around to find out. [h/t GeoffB]


  1. Good book, covers much the same subject in great detail.

  2. avatar Taylor TX says:

    Shit, Ive been in “discussions” with people I know fairly well who I assumed/hoped wanted to have a calm rational discourse but lose their shit immediately. As we continually repeat here, action beats re-action and some people are just permanently going to act like neanderthals(the might is right mentality).

    You may also include “He/She is under the influence of a mind altering substance” And that dude looked like he was on something in both the video and the prior mugshot. Sympathy going out to this young officers family who as far as the released body cam info, was honestly doing his best to help rectify the situation. I guess this is one of the many reasons that domestic disturbance calls some of the most dangerous you can take.

    1. avatar Grindstone says:

      “Shit, Ive been in “discussions” with people I know fairly well who I assumed/hoped wanted to have a calm rational discourse but lose their shit immediately.”

      BTDT. Had a “discussion” with the FIL about the rules of MY house he was staying in. Without warning, his ham-shank size fist came up. I should’ve been more vigilant, but I did not come from a violent household and did not expect family to physically attack family over such a petty issue.

      He is no longer welcome on my property and trespassers will be dealt with.

      1. avatar Taylor TX says:

        At some point imho, vigilance is hard to come by, there are just certain situations that are compounded by people who are your “family” that are hard to prepare for on the best of days. Unlike your experience, I come from a very turbulent household where I experienced “discipline” with tools ranging from a horsewhip to a wooden dowel. As my dad has mellowed out over the past decade or so, I still have a similar situation with one of my siblings that emulates your FIL, some people are just not capable of acting like civil human beings and resort to the level of “meat head” that can only be responded to with force. Its a sad world that we live in, but its the one weve got and thats that. Great story and Im glad you responded, got me thinking quite a bit 🙂

      2. avatar Aaron says:

        So what FIL are you refering to? F’ng Idiot Liar? Future Income Limiter?

  3. avatar Ralph says:

    I saw those warning signs from my last GF.

      1. avatar Ralph says:

        That reminds me of another old song, “I Used to Kiss Her Lips, but It’s All Over Now.”

  4. avatar LarryinTX says:

    Decision making cannot be stressed enough. The video looks as though when the gun is presented, the officer is close enough to punch him in the mouth. Even a wimpy punch. Think of the difference.

    1. avatar Aaron says:

      I eas thinking something very similar. Grab the gun with left hand, collar with right hand, step through to osoto gari and make sure you hang on to the gun hand hand when douche bag hits the cocnrete.

    1. avatar uncommon_sense says:

      I’m not sure about the particular source that you cited. I have reviewed other sources that explain and illustrate “pre-assault cues” or “pre-attack indicators” and I honestly did not see anything from that guy … at least with the quality of video from the body camera. As far as I can tell, that guy simply went from zero to blue-light instantaneously.

      I have to wonder if the attacker was a sociopath of the highest order.

  5. avatar pyratemime says:

    Just a note the link is broken. Here is the right link:

    It includes a much longer list. Though the one posted is a good sampling.

  6. avatar Peter says:

    Also consider the value in getting certification in facial cue recognition, so that you (and your attorney) can have something of value to show that you made the right decision. Here’s what I’ve been recommending to people with whom I work:*1ebdb1c9361f63e09ce0d407819eb4af87&name=Steeves_Dangerous_Demeanor_Detector

    1. avatar Hannibal says:

      Courts will laugh pseudoscience out of the door, usually. Hopefully.

  7. avatar Adub says:

    .22 LR wins the caliber wars again!

    Too soon?

    1. avatar SAS 2008 says:

      In the video the reporter mentions that Stewart is only the second Flagstaff officer to lose his life in the line of duty. The other officer was Jeff Moritz and he was also killed with a .22.

    2. avatar Barstow Cowboy says:

      Yeah, I wasn’t going to say anything, but this whole thing stinks to high heaven. Everyone knows you can’t kill anyone with a .22 round, let alone one from a single action revolver. There had to be a second shooter.

      1. avatar pigs die says:

        The pig deserved it. Death to all pigs!

  8. avatar shawn says:

    Looks like the officer (naturally) recoiled when the gun was drawn. You’ve got to close that distance. RIP

  9. avatar Jason says:

    Never let the suspect put hands in pocket.

    1. avatar Barstow Cowboy says:

      It looked like everything was going fine when his hands were in his pockets, it wasn’t until after he took them out of his pockets that things went bad.

      1. avatar Ryan says:

        This pretty much reinforces the old adage: ALWAYS WATCH THE HANDS.

  10. avatar Dev says:

    I saw this last night, I am very sorry for the officer and his family. Unfortunately, he made several mistakes as shown in the video and that is why he was murdered. Everyone, civilian and law enforcement, must learn from this video.

  11. avatar Sheepdog6 says:

    Hands kill. Nothing makes me more nervous than talking to someone who keeps their hands in their pockets.

    1. avatar Barstow Cowboy says:

      To be fair, it’s Flagstaff on December 27th. Most people (even those not planning to kill other people) have their hands in their pockets.

      1. avatar Ryan says:

        But not while being interrogated by a police officer about a possible crime.

  12. avatar Dano says:

    The good and bad about body cameras: The camera will force some bad apple cops to call it quits and retire, that’s not a bad thing. The public is going to get a much better view of the shitheads we deal with and how they behave in the street, gone will be the days of a jury hearing what a good boy someone is after the video shows what an ass they are. The bad, we’re going to see more videos like this one. As hard as these videos are to watch, there will be me many training updates that come out of these horrible incidents. Just as the video of Constable Darrell Edward Lunsford, Sr. changed the way we stop cars and get people out, this video will change the way we deal with domestics.

    1. avatar Geoff PR says:

      ” Just as the video of Constable Darrell Edward Lunsford, Sr. changed the way we stop cars and get people out, this video will change the way we deal with domestics.”

      And that is a bad thing… How?

      LE *MUST* be held accountable for their actions.

      1. avatar Christian says:

        I think Dano’s point is that it is a good thing for officers to be held accountable. His point is also that videos like these should bring LEO’s and Citizens to more of an understanding of their job. I don’t like the idea of being put in cuffs as a “precautionary measure”. Videos like this though, make me much more understanding of it, and of an officer exercising an abundance of caution.

        My deepest condolences to the officer’s family.

        1. avatar Barstow Cowboy says:

          The hell of it is that it’s Arizona; unless the shooter was a prohibited possessor he could’ve just told the cop, “Yeah, I have a weapon…and?” and it wouldn’t have been a big deal. If the cop asked why he had it, he could’ve just told the cop it was in case a vicious dog came along, which the officer would’ve SURELY understood, as police shoot dogs in self defense all the time…

      2. avatar LarryinTX says:

        I read that as his saying that watching them will be unpleasant.

    2. avatar Jonathan - Houston says:

      You think that body camera video was tough to watch, you should get a load of Dover P.D.’s “Dashcam Confessional” video on their Facebook page. What that officer did recently with Taylor Swift’s “Shake it off” song, well, there oughta be a law. Funny stuff, though. Wonder whether they staged it.

  13. avatar Accur81 says:

    My condolensces to the officer’s family.

    With that being said, domestic calls are a bitch. The officer should have searched for weapons on the person first, after putting him in a position of disadvantage, which would make a close range draw extremely difficult. Once the set up was achieved.
    There should also be two officers responding to domestic violence calls. One contact, and one cover.

    Even then, a typical house is still full of weapons. Bad things can and do happen, and there is no way to completely shut down Murphy’s Law.

    I’d much rather search my own house than somebody else’s.

  14. avatar Paul B says:

    Hate to second guess anyone killed like that. Hands in the pocket are not a threat. When they come out be ready to block what they have in them. That left hand that was open grabbing his right and holding it away could have been more effective.

    Bad deal. At least the shooter will have a hard time claiming any mitigation should the case go to trial.

    1. avatar Geoff PR says:

      “Hate to second guess anyone killed like that. Hands in the pocket are not a threat.”

      Since when? What drugs are you on?

      “Bad deal. At least the shooter will have a hard time claiming any mitigation should the case go to trial.”

      No trial, no report to file. (so to speak)

      He shot himself a few seconds after killing the cop.

    2. avatar DaveR says:

      “Hands in the pocket are not a threat.”

      Maybe not a threat but definitely threaten-ING.

      If you’re in any kind of a tense situation, hands in pocket == potential for escilation

  15. avatar J says:

    Wonder what you do in that situation. Do you try to control the gun and hand? Do you keep your hand on your gun ready to draw?

    1. Grab the gun with the left, punch the guy in the throat, then eye rake, control his head into the ground with right hand on back of head/neck while arm-baring with your gun filled left hand.

      If he lets go of the gun, continue to beat him with it. If his head makes it all the way to the ground continue arm-bar with your right knee on the back of his neck until he lets go of gun or his arm goes limp.

    2. avatar Barstow Cowboy says:

      Get a job at the post office…

  16. avatar JasonMfromSoDakota says:

    The officer was polite and treated the suspect with dignity as expected from law enforcement when engaging the public, and he should have been on guard in this situation.. Any person who has seen the show COPS and sees the police responding to a domestic violence call, hears the cop say DV are the most dangerous calls to go on, but this police officer must have missed that in the academy. The cop messed up and it cost him his life so it is a learning experience to not cower at the sight of a gun also that the gun is not the only tool for self-defense, and it is dangerous to always train as such. The cop should have collapsed the smaller guy with a punch as he is going for the weapon that has just been produced and is pointed up and away making it a fight for your life to not allow the gun to be pointed at you. The cop had a very good chance to be at home with his family but his fight or flight was obviously the latter, and he was in the wrong chosen profession. Being a cop can sometimes be dangerous, not many times but in the times that danger has found you are paid to confront it to ensure your safety, you running away is not a highly sought after job requirement. Firemen and paramedics are the only true public first-responders as they go into danger to help more than just themselves.

    This work place violence incident will be used as further justification to erode law abiding citizens rights by increasing restricting individual liberties in the name of officer safety. You used to have the right to not be illegally detained but every time a cop handcuffs and says its for his safety you are detained until he chooses to take off the cuffs. Cops will now be able to point guns at us more frequently than they already do and it will reinforce that law enforcement officers are superior than we lowly citizens, since officer safety trumps citizens rights.

    1. avatar jwm says:

      It saddens me to see a response like yours to such a tragic moment. He was 24 and it’s obvious he was inexperienced.

      I survived my first firefight in spite of the fact that I did everything wrong. I had luck on my side. This young man did not have the same bit of fortune.

      And then along comes a key board commando such as yourself to turn his and his families tragedy into some sort of half assed PSA about losing our rights and work place violence. A complete load of bilge.

      And to question his courage or suitability to be a cop. Let’s here all your experience in dealing with sudden violent attacks.

      1. avatar JasonMfromSoDakota says:

        In a random gunfight being lucky is the most important thing after being prepared, but if it is your profession to possibly be in a gunfight being lucky should only be relied upon for gamblers. As a Christian I feel bad that a man lost his life but I don’t know if he was a good man or not so looking at his death objectively as what not to do is rather reasonable. The fact he was a cop will be used by those who believe that police are of an elevated status to further encroach upon others. I care about a cops safety as much as I do a city sanitation worker as the only service their occupation has to offer me is garbage removal.

        “And to question his courage or suitability to be a cop. Let’s here all your experience in dealing with sudden violent attacks. ” His courage or lack there of was evident in him trying to turn and run away as his body movement on the camera shows. I don’t want a public servant that will run away from danger or empty a magazine out of fear when they are paid to resolve dangerous situations. Not all people can deal with fearful situations and those people should not be cops.

        I unfortunately saw my first murder at 22 years of age and it was a horrible experience that I learned to be better prepared from for when evil knocks at the door. My friend’s little brother messed around with a guys girlfriend and the guy came to air his grievance. The guy didn’t realize a friendly poker game was going on when he kicked the door in. I have very fast hands and before I could draw my guns my friend used the knife that just cut summer sausage and cleared a five foot table putting the guy into the closet. The other guys behind the recently departed were at gunpoint when my friend stood up covered in blood. One single stab wound is all that occurred and killed the guy instantly after his last breath. My friend had to serve two years for manslaughter since there were the aggravating factors of his brother being a moron. I apologized to my friend because I wasn’t fast enough and that is all I felt after watching an emotional driven knuckle dragging thug be shuffled off this earth. I don’t desire getting in gunfights and I don’t actively seek them out, but I don’t turn and run away when one has found me and I happen to be not so nice to people meaning others harm physically or financially.

        1. avatar jwm says:

          So. before you could draw a weapon your buddy had cleared a table, closed the distance and killed a man with a knife. You didn’t turn and run. You froze. Deer in the headlights,

          If that fellow had been there to do you all it would have been luck and your friends reactions that saved you.

        2. avatar Karl says:

          I have news for you, freezing in that kind of situation is a natural response. Unless you train for this as you would in the military this is what your body will do.
          You sound like a blowhard.

          You sound like a blowhard.

        3. avatar Karl says:

          I have news for you, freezing in that kind of situation is a natural response. Unless you train for this as you would in the military this is what your body will do. Cops don’t train that way. If they did there would be a lot more shootings.
          Monday morning quarterbacking is a wonderful thing.
          You sound like a blowhard.

  17. avatar Andy says:

    I’d be terrible at law enforcement. I didn’t see anything at all scary about the shooter. He wasn’t bouncing around or being incoherent and was making eye contact (I think; not sure where the camera was). He seemed to look down a lot, but I do that myself while listening or thinking. Many of the warning signs listed above–

    “Frustration (e.g., from an inability to communicate effectively).
    He/she feels threatened.
    He/she feels powerless.
    He/she is in pain.
    He/she expects to be confronted/treated with hostility.
    He/she has been in conflict with the individual in the past.
    He/she feels justified in being angry.”

    would be present for a lot of people in interactions with the police, so aren’t much help.

    1. avatar Tony says:

      Agreed. I think a second officer for cover would have been better than looking for cues that a lot of not – dangerous people would also display in a police stop.

  18. avatar Summer says:

    Hindsight is of course 20/20, but I would have been uncomfortable with this guy. And really, it’s clear the cop was, too because he all of a sudden says: “Mind if I pat you down and check your pockets for weapons?” He’d already asked about guns and the dude was like no, no. But I think the officer “knew” he had weapons. Otherwise it wouldn’t have come up again.

    And while I’m generally for body cams, I do wonder if in this case it wasn’t part of what cost the officer his life. If he had this gut feeling the guy was no good, without a body cam he might have drawn his weapon for his own protection. But if he was wrong about the guy and there was evidence of him drawing his weapon it might be difficult to convince his superiors that he “had a gut feeling”.

    1. avatar jwm says:

      This is a situation that’s made for the hammerless j frame snubbie. Your duty weapon is in plain sight in it’sretention holster while your hand is in your jacket pocket with the j frame.

      From the video it looks like they were at contact range. Perfect for the j frame, even if you have to fire thru the pocket.

      1. avatar ccchaz says:

        Perfect for the j frame, even if you have to fire thru the pocket.

        In an Air Soft training situation I’ve tried that, holding the pistol in my jacket pocket. While I was able to react quickly enough to get a couple of shots off from inside the jacket it is very doubtful that those would have stopped the attack before I got the full K-bar in my neck. My error was letting the threat get too close. Maybe a Krav Maga move could have helped if I knew how.

  19. avatar Glenn in USA says:

    I feel extremely sad for the officer and his family.
    This is not being judgmental of the officer but I think these videos can be instructive to all of us.
    It’s because of situations like these that I chose not to go into law enforcement.
    The things I noticed:
    1) No eye contact.
    2) Proximity.
    3) Keep your hands out of your pockets!
    I could not tell from the video the suspects demeanor or tone of his voice.

  20. avatar Hannibal says:

    This is why police don’t want suspects to have their hands hidden.

    And stop with the stupid “oh, the hands are only dangerous when they come out!” Action beats reaction. If someone is holding a gun in their pocket and they decide to act they will be able to do it before you can stop them. From that distance you had better hope for a misfire.

  21. avatar Aaron says:

    Dude looked a little hinky. Once gun came out, officer might have had a better chance NOT by holding up his left hand as if to say, “whoa, hey, hold on” but by immediately stepping in and using that left hand to control the dude’s gun hand. Meanwhile, the right hand could have been put to good use in a number of useful ways. but first ya gotta delay the dude’s gun hand.

  22. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

    I’m not a pshrink, not a cop, but have been in a few bits of “quality time” on the streets of Los Angeles with people who were, shall we say, not subscribing to the same version of reality as the rest of us.

    I learned there is often a tell before an altercation really starts (fisticuffs or knives in my case); the other guy usually touched his face in some kind of sweeping motion. The biggest tell I saw was what I call the “chin wipe” (the guy puts his palm over his nose and mouth and wipes downwards, usually with his weak hand – (ie, he’s planning to hit you or bring a knife into play with the other hand) some moments before he starts to escalate. This perp in the video above does something with his left hand on the side of his face at 1:41 on the video. That’s when my bell went off, the facial touch coupled with his right hand staying in his pocket.

    I don’t know why this is, I don’t know why people do it, but once I learned of it (by thinking through the sequence of events when someone went off on me) I started to notice the consistency of certain behaviors. The face touch or chin wipe, a change of stance, a wandering of the gaze, etc.

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