Enoch UT police shooting
Courtesy Enoch, Utah Police Department
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Why not shoot someone in the leg?

“And the answer is always, ‘Well, have you eliminated the threat if you shoot someone in the leg or the arm?’” said [former officer Randy] Shrewsberry, who is now the executive director of the California-based Institute for Criminal Justice Training Reform. “‘Do they still have the ability to shoot you?’”

Cadets throughout the nation learn to aim for a person’s torso above the waist, known as one’s center-mass. It’s the biggest part of the body and can’t be moved as quickly out of an officer’s line of fire, like an arm or a leg could. It’s also where humans carry most of their vital organs. So, the logic goes, if officers perceive an imminent threat, their best chance of eliminating that threat quickly is to shoot someone there.

[Deputy Chief Scott] Mourtgos, with Salt Lake City police, said you also can’t expect an officer in a dynamic and stressful situation to consistently hit a small, and sometimes moving, target on a person’s body.

Then, he said, you have to consider a general principle all officers are taught: action is faster than reaction.

If an officer tried to, for instance, shoot a knife out of someone’s hand, Mourtgos said that person could move their hand faster than an officer could perceive it and reassess their aim. If an officer misses, the threat he or she sought to eliminate remains — and the misplaced bullet could hit someone in the background.

And, he said, even when you shoot someone in a part of the body with fewer vital organs, there’s still a possibility the person bleeds to death.

“I’ve seen people survive being shot in the head with a bullet … I’ve seen people die from being shot in the leg and arm,” Mourtgos said. “There is no good place to shoot a human being.”

Maj. Scott Stephenson, Utah POST director, said in a written statement that he agreed a shoot-to-incapacitate policy would result in more suspects surviving — “because officers will frequently miss their intended target.”

But the tradeoff, he said, is “this could jeopardize innocent bystanders at a higher rate.”

And he said [Enoch Police Officer Jeremy] Dunn’s two shootings “are not enough evidence that this could be practical.”

— Paighten Harkins in Shooting Not to Kill. This Utah Case Fuels a Debate That Frustrates Police.

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  1. The only reason the officer in the article was able to shoot the woman in the knee was because she was standing still. Which is why he got fired, she was only armed with a screwdriver and wasn’t even threatening the officer. She just refused to drop it. The officer wasn’t under imminent threat and the shooting wasn’t justified and wouldn’t have been justified if he shot her center mass either. He’d the shooting been justified that knee would have been a very difficult target to hit.

    Also, if the perp lives the taxpayers have to foot the bill for a trial and incarceration, so center mass is the fiscally responsible thing to do.

    • I don’t disagree.

      I would say that if you have a cop pointing a gun at you with his finger on the trigger, DO what he tells you to do. To do ANYTHING else is a serious risk to your life. Regardless of who is right and who is wrong. If you feel that strongly that your not wrong and your willing to fight, it’s important to consider the weapons being used. Your NOT going to win with a screwdriver.

      • Never bring a screwdriver to a gunfight.

        I doubt this woman in a rational state of mind at the time.

      • You bought up a very important point, that being …

        “I would say that if you have a cop pointing a gun at you with his finger on the trigger, DO what he tells you to do. To do ANYTHING else is a serious risk to your life.”

        there are a lot of stupid people in this world. I saw a guy years ago, cops had him at gun point, and here he is with the assault weapon (a crowbar) covered in blood (the victim lived) dancing around daring them to shoot him. He got his wish when he charged them, he lived.

    • At the cost of ammo these days, aiming center mass means less bullets wasted by missing so center mass is the fiscally and resource-expenditure and logistically responsible thing to do.


      • Well, seen from a different POV, being at the scene of the shooting means being at the scene of a gun range (so to speak), so why not expend a few extra rounds and get a drill in?

        You won’t be burning any extra gasoline, so it could be seen as the environmentally-responsible thing to do. 🙂 (sarc)

      • @.40 cal: ah, but that’s the rub. When have liberals ever shown fiscal and logistically responsibility. Or for that matter, when have they ever been practical… dacien is a perfect example.

  2. I remember years ago when the Use of Deadly Force rules used in police departments and used by federal government included the line “whenever possibe shoot to disable rather than kill”. Officers actually tried to do that, the bad guy would keep moving and shooting usually also shooting someone else on purpose if they were around before shooting at the officer again just to make sure they shot someone as revenge for them getting shot. Then that line was removed from the Use of Deadly Force rules, bad guys started going down and being stopped instead of being able to keep moving and shooting.

  3. Shoot ’em in the leg is Hollyweird BS. So EZ to bleed out. Most cop’s aren’t trick shot artist’s. Duh…

    • interesting that the cop who shot her in the knee was a competition shooter, very slilled. SHe was stanidng still up to that point, bright sunny day, clean backstop. If he’d missed (not likely considering all….) she may have melted into the tarmac, or charged. Hope he was ready for that second option. I believe she was not that far away. A screwdriver to the neck could have been fatal, as he had earlier surmised.
      I’d bet notont cop in two hundred could reliablyh make that shot in real life, as opposed to standing on a quiet calm square range.

  4. Two center mass followed by one in the ocular cavity. I trained with Secret Service when I was on the Federal Force in Syracuse. They shoot for the throat. Every time. Brain stem.

      • A ‘goober’ like you, demented troll, oughtta know one when he sees one.

        Where have you been recently, anyways? You’re slacking off in you duties of being an example of what not to be as a human being… 😉

    • So they shoot for double taps? Its hard to tell from your story, its center mass then its “ocular cavity” (a shot 99% of shooters are not able to make under stress unless at very very close range), then its “throat. Every time. Brain stem.”

      In short, from your story, it sounds more like amateur “spray-n-pray” shooting.

      Hmmm…we have the federal government lease range space here for their training at a local commercial range. Its the only range that will lease to them in the tri-state area that has a 600 yard range for their snipers, so they just lease range time and space on an annual contract for all their weapon training and qualification as do the highway patrol (in this area of the state) and a few different police departments. I’ve watched the federal guys shoot and qualify and heard their training instruction and seen them train. I never saw any of the federal guys (customs, secret service, DHS) ever being instructed to shoot for other than center mass and never saw any of them shoot for other than center mass, except the snipers would try for head shots. Sure, there were sometimes stray shots that went into other areas.

      • I was dual sworn as a Deputy U.S. Marshal when I was a member of the N. FL Violent Fugitive Task Force so I trained with the Feds a little. Center mass is all we did. Aim for the throat? Stupidest thing I ever heard. I took a couple of Bill Roger’s classes. He taught only head shots. This was on a pneumatic range where 8″ steel plates were exposed for less than a second. High stress fast shooting. Recommend it highly.

  5. Today’s date in Freedom: 1781…General Cornwallis Surrendered British and German (Hessian) Forces at the Battle of Yorktown. Effectively Ending the Revolutionary War.

    • Isn’t it hypocrisy how liberals worship art, music and literature from days long past all while despising The Constitution of The United States specifically The Second Amendment. Their blind, ungrateful, pompous standard of reasoning equates to a fool who trades his great father’s great grandfather’s priceless Stradivarius for a shiny new whistle and some chump change.

    • General Cornwallis brought 8,000 British troops to Yorktown for battle. He expected re-enforcement and support from British ships sent from New York, these ships never arrived. It was either fight without the needed support and see his men die in great numbers and be decimated on the battle field or surrender. The reason was due to the fact that Cornwallis had decided to fortify in Yorktown and in doing so found his troops in a position of entrapment surrounded by the American and French armies. Without the ships with their re-enforcement and support his forces would be decimated and they had no hope of escape or victory or repelling the Americans and French.

      Cornwallis didn’t actually surrender the British Army nor did he actually surrender the Hessians. The Hessians laid down their arms and surrendered them selves seeing there was no hope without the British unable to engage and battle with no re-enforcement and support.

      Cornwallis refused to attend the surrender ceremony and refused to accept surrender although he knew it was the thing to do. But he listened to reason and sent his deputy Brigadier General Charles O’Hara to surrender so it would not be said that he surrendered to Washington. O’Hara did not want to surrender to the Americans’ either, so he first tried surrendering to the French. Rochambeau, the French commander, wasn’t having that and refused the surrender and then pointed to Washington. O’Hara then offered his sword to Washington, who also refused the surrender and had his second-in command, Benjamin Lincoln, accept the sword of Cornwallis’ deputy thus the surrender of the British Army. The Hessian’s were already in the process of surrendering before the surrender of the British Army, theirs was less formal as they just laid down their arms and walked to the nearest American troop and became a POW then the formalities came after with the surrender of the British Army.

    • “General Cornwallis Surrendered British and German (Hessian) Forces at the Battle of Yorktown.”

      The dreaded ‘Hessian’ troops, those European super-soldiers that were going to make such short work of the ignorant hill-billy ‘Jethros’ in the colonies.

      We beat ’em fair and square, and I bet that just pisses off the real goobers like ‘dacian’ to no end… 😉

      • In all fairness those Hessian soldiers were just peasants rounded up and ‘contracted’ to the British. Most of them had never seen a musket until they were on board transports bound for the colonies.

        In europe you are a peasant and the princes can do as they damn well please to you. The differance between a citizen and a subject.

      • Smart move on the part of the Hessians, eh? Now they could become citizens as the new natin formed in just a few years. ost were pretty good men, better than everage soliders, and became solidparts of their new land.

  6. Aim for the groin. While the genitals are a small target on most men, the pelvis, spine, thigh bones, vasculature and nerve trunks will present an abundance of critical anatomy that almost certainly will be hit. Most body armors don’t protect the groin either.

  7. Using a firearm is supposed to be a last resort. If you aren’t shooting to kill, then obviously the situation doesn’t call for a firearm.

    • Huntmaster, for your edification the police in this day and age are instructed to shoot to STOP THE THREAT. I was in law enforcement for 35 years and we were NEVER taught to shoot to kill.

    • Congratulations, you are among those “self-defense” gun owners who will most likely be charged with murder or man slaughter, and probably convicted, if its discovered your goal was to “shoot to kill”.

      “shoot to kill” in law implies a premeditation intent that is not self-defense, leaving only two other things which is murder or man slaughter.

      In all 50 states, no matter what their gun laws are, the only fact that determines if it was self-defense is a justifiable “fear of your life” (and in some states “in fear of serious harm”) causing the self defense to be carried out to stop the threat. Stopping the threat is somewhat subjective/relative, but if you intended to kill that removes or casts doubt on the subjective/relative and points to premeditation intent that is not self-defense. If the threat happens to die as a result then that’s one thing, but if you intended to shoot to kill that’s an entirely different matter no matter how much you claim “I was in fear of my life”.

      A lot of gun owners seem to have this “romanticized checklist” view of defensive gun use like “bad guy attacks, I shoot, bad guy goes down or runs off. Yea me!”. Then when the cops show up they expect the cops to say “yep, you checked all the squares, self defense it is.” It does not help that the things they read about in articles and hear about in the media do not go into behind the scenes details and it does not help that the majority of claimed self-defense shootings covered are those which end well for the defender in the legal arena.

      78% of defensive gun use defenders are indicted for murder or man slaughter and are forced to defend their selves to justify their use of force for self defense, you never hear much about these types. In over 90% of these its determined it was justifiable use of force. But the point is, you do not need “shoot to kill” introduced in such a case because its going to convict you. Do not ever tell anyone you know that you would “shoot to kill” – the last thing you need in such a case is for them to be called as some sort of witness (character or otherwise) and them get on the stand and say “he told me he would shoot to kill if…” (what ever the defense situation is) (or similar).

      The truth is this, in a nut shell; when the cops show up their job is to investigate and not agree with you, they are not on your side. If the cops or a prosecutors office think for any reason you intended to do anything other, or its implied you intended to do anything other, than simply stop the threat because you were in “fear of your life” (and in some states “in fear of serious harm”), your life is going to get very complicated very quickly as you ponder why you are wearing those handcuffs.

  8. So who was it that tried to say that cops should aim for appendages… oh that’s right, our esteemed 🙄🙄🙄🙄🙄 leader, Biden. Why is this guy our leader (please keep in mind, this is rhetorical)? As other people have noted, shooting a weapon out of someone’s hand or shooting them in an appendage only happens in Hollywood. Oh wait, that’s it. Hollywood is all fake… Biden’s a fake president, ok, now it makes sense.

    Vol.1 No.3 Fall 1992
    The Mechanisms of Wounding and Incapacitation
    by Ken Newgard, M.D.

    “How Many Shots Should An Officer Fire?”

    Instantaneous incapacitation is not possible with non central nervous system wounds and does not always occur with central nervous system wounds. The intrinsic physiologic compensatory mechanisms of humans makes it difficult to inhibit a determined, aggressive person’ s activities until he has lost enough blood to cause hemorrhagic shock. The body’s compensatory mechanisms designed to save a person’s life after sustaining a bleeding wound, allow a person to continue to be a threat after receiving an eventually fatal wound, thus necessitating more rounds being fired in order to incapacitate or stop the assailant.

    How many times is it necessary to shoot an assailant before he is incapacitated? Although shooting situations vary tremendously, the correct answer is clearly to continue shooting as long as an officer believes he is still threatened by his adversary. An officer in a life threatening situation should aim and fire as many rounds as tactically feasible. No absolute limit can be set since the officer has no way of knowing what organ tissue his rounds are disrupting and if compensatory mechanisms will allow the assailant to continue fighting. The officer has no way of determining if an assailant is about to immediately collapse or to continue his actions for 4, 5, 10 or more seconds. The only indicator he can use is the assailant’s response: as long as he continues to be a threat, the officer should continue to fire until he can perceive that the assailant is no longer capable of continuing his life- threatening actions.

    The implications of the above information are not trivial. Persons writing police department policies on the use of lethal force, firearm instructors, forensic scientists, lawyers litigating shooting cases, police investigators, expert witnesses in criminal and civil cases and the news media must take the physiological response to bullet wounds into consideration when performing their respective duties or drawing judgmental conclusions. Also, a summary of this information should be part of every police officer’s education.

    —- Or you could just take the advice of Clint Smith: “Shoot until the target changes shape or catches fire.”


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