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Puyallup suicide scene (courtesy

Police call it “sympathetic fire.” One officer shoots, so the other officers shoot. The phenomenon accounts for more than a few instances where a bunch o’ cops let loose an inordinate amount of lead. Worse still, it accounts for times when cops unleash their fusillade at people who don’t need shooting. I’m thinking here of the Chris Dorner-related LAPD shooting, where eight jumpy LEOs fired more than 100 rounds at a mother and daughter delivering newspapers, believing them to be the cop killer. As often happens in these cases of frenetic fire, they more-or-less missed. Same deal here, where a Washington state Deputy responded to a suicide . . .

Pierce County Sheriff’s deputies were called to a parking lot in the 16500 block of Meridian Ave. E. just before 5:30 a.m. for reports of a suicidal man, according to investigators.

When they arrived, they found the man sitting in a red pickup truck. But as a deputy approached, the man shot himself, officials said.

Deputies, hearing the shot and thinking officers were under fire, fired two shots, but didn’t hit anything, according to sheriff’s spokesman Ed Troyer and Sheriff Paul Pastor.

Troyer says the fatal shot was self-inflicted. The deputies did not hit the man.

Or anyone else, thankfully. And let’s be fair; this story [via] could’ve happened to anyone. My only beef: the Deputy missed. Fair enough?

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  1. It tells me that whoever fired the shots hit the panic mode. They fired without thinking and without a target. Whoever fired is way to jumpy and needs some remedial training and decaf.

  2. “…fired two shots, but didn’t hit anything,…”
    I guess the deputy must have either a). Found a magic bullet or b) sent a handgun round in to low Earth orbit.

    Every time I shoot I hit SOMETHING, even if it’s not exactly what I wanted to hit.

    • Same here, although if you were to send a bullet into orbit, it would be more accurate to say that you haven’t hit anything YET. Physics is fun like that.

  3. Two problems with this; one, drawing down on a suicidal man should be obvious. Unless you consider facilitating the man’s desire for death to be “helping”.
    Second, “The deputies did not hit the man.” You are absolutely responsible for each and every round you fire. So WTF did they shoot at? People are way too cavalier about the latitude we give police with regards to lethal force.

    • Actually, if the suicidal man was displaying a weapon, then drawing down would be the appropriate response. When he swings the gun around in ¼ second and starts popping rounds at the responding officers, that’s the WRONG time to be drawing down.

      Standard protocol nationwide in LE circles is to work the situation at gunpoint. Would you be willing to volunteer, empty-handed, to talk to a suicidal party displaying a firearm? If you are, you’re nuts! If you’re not willing to, then we should be able to protect ourselves, and the public as well. Unfortunately, many of these are suicide by cop situations, but others have also been staged ambushes for responding officers. It usually takes a few seconds to process that the person has now turned on you and is firing rounds. You now throw in the additional time to draw your weapon that should have been out? Too late!

      Until a better solution comes along, this is the standard protocol.

      As for missing, I do agree. At the same time, we know less than 2% about this since it is the initial media report (remember Ferguson?). In the majority of incidents, the “facts” are far off from the actual “facts.”

      • I would say “at least you have two others covering you” but apparently they’re useless in that regard. I will say, though, that I did not see any mention that the weapon was displayed. Just “they found the man sitting in a red pickup truck.” I am concerned about how trigger-happy police forces seem to be and the justifications people bend over backwards to give them. As armed agents of the state with the power to enact violence upon the public, there needs to be a LOT more scrutiny in its use.

        • Coming from the law enforcement side, I actually do believe in the Monday morning quarterbacking. But I also believe it is conditional. The people doing this need to know what they are talking about.

          1) They need to do ride-a-longs, and lots of them (preferably 80-100 hours). I actually wish a ride-a-long was a prerequisite for getting a driver’s license. This allows the public to see what we actually do, not what people think we do. I think ride-a-longs build better community relations, as well as develop the Sir Robert Peel method of policing (“The Police are the Public, and the Public are the Police”). I’m now just a reserve and in private enterprise, so I don’t see rider’s very often like I used to. When I used to take riders, my methods and how my day was conducted didn’t change. This is true for most officers. People get to really see what goes on.

          I approach every call, traffic stop, and contact as if I’m on camera, because it is the morally right thing to do. My department doesn’t have dash or body cams. Since I first started in 2003, I’ve always carried a recorder (tape back then, and around 2006 I bought an Olympus digital). I click it on for every contact that is made and keep the files for 90 days. You’d be surprised about complaints that are filed. I personally don’t curse, ever, yet I’ve had complaints that I have inappropriately “cussed” someone out. It’s really nice to be able to walk into IA and hand them a digital file of what actually occurred. This is how most of us (90%+) do our job. Unfortunately, most understanding of LE work is from the news. The news reports about the 1-2% that do violate people’s rights and do their job poorly. This skews the public image and is now creating an “us vs. them” problem, spearheaded by the Chief Executive of the US.

          The oath I took with my department when I graduated the academy was to: Uphold the Constitution of the United States; Uphold the Constitution of the State of Colorado; Uphold and enforce the Colorado Revised Statutes. It was in that order. I take that very seriously. As a gun owner and 2nd amendment supporter myself, in an open carry state, the majority of us would “jump ship” and directly disobey an unlawful disarmament. Hence, the reason so many sheriff’s stated they would not be willing to enforce our new unconstitutional law that went into effect last year.

          Every one of my riders has always been shocked by how people lie! “Do you know how fast you were going?” “I was doing about 71 or 72 (in a 65),” even though they were actually doing 27 over. Most stories you hear from your buddies about being stopped for “5 over” just flat out aren’t true. I’ve received one ticket, and it was after becoming a cop. I was going 19 over on the highway and deserved it. I didn’t “badge” the officer, and took what I deserved. If I can admit to what actually happened, they should as well.

          Basically, all this to say that the public needs to do more ride-a-longs to be better informed about what actually goes on . . .

          2) Have a good understanding of basic law. I hear people saying all the time, “Oh that cop shouldn’t have done this or that.” People need to understand what “Mens rea” is and how it applies to the statutes. They need to understand when Miranda is actually used (no, you aren’t Mirandized just because you have been arrested and being jailed). They need to know what an arrest really is (court summons not necessarily jail which also helps put Miranda in perspective) and have basic knowledge of significant case laws related to search and seizure (Pennsylvania v. Mimms; Maryland v. Wilson; Terry v. Ohio; Chapman v. US; etc.). I also wish people would read all of the Constitution, not just their favorite parts. Understanding Article VI is just as important as understanding the 2nd amendment. We all have to know this stuff inside and out. So should the people that want to critique how the job is done.

          3) Actually know “facts” about the incident that is being critiqued. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been on a call and will see the news report the following day thinking, “Were we on the same incident?” or “What are they talking about?” There is no exaggeration when I say this, you can count on less than 5% of the news report to be accurate, especially during the first 96 hours. Once again, look at Ferguson.

          This also applies to this situation. The media didn’t report where the gun was located (obviously it was on his person since he blew his brains out). Who called in the incident? What was said to dispatch? Was it a relative, friend, or simply a stranger that walked along and saw a guy waving a gun around threatening to kill himself? Where was the officer positioned when he fired the shots, and what did he see (when the guy shot himself, was another officer near the window of the vehicle and did the bullet exit his body causing appearance that he was shooting at the officer)? Where did the shots that were fired by the officer actually go (yes, that was very stupid of the sheriff to say that his deputy “didn’t hit anything.”)? Did they lodge in the seat of the suicidal party and stop?

          The fact is, we know NOTHING about this incident! I believe when we jump to conclusions, we become just as bad as the left. The questions I just asked cover about ¼ of the questions that immediately pop into my mind, but I don’t have all night to write on this forum. I’m just cautioning everyone to not jump to conclusions.

          A lot of agencies offer a citizen’s academy. I encourage people to attend when they are available. They are very informative, and it also gives better incite and openness into what we actually do (plus you do get to do some really cool stuff like drive on the track, some do some basic firearms skill sessions, get to see the lab, and sometimes they take groups and sit in actual court cases).

        • Know your target and what is beyond.

          Oh yeah, and NRA Rule #2:

          Always keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot.

      • @Jeff-If it takes you a few seconds to realize that you are being shot at you may be in the wrong line of work. The other cops that fired out of a reaction based on fear need to be fired as they are a threat to the general public. They were flock shooting with no concern for others. You guys are supposed to not roll up on a scene and already have it in your mind that you have a green light to shoot. I am not a cop and in situations involving someone that is an armed perceived threat will be viewed as such and never given a chance do to having situational awareness and yes I profile.Because the times I have been shot at in the past from playing stupid games in stupid places I’d have to wait to shoot back and decide if it is even worth it, which was about a second and a half to clear a shirtIWB, draw and fire. I as a citizen have to know where my bullet is going as any responsible shooter and have more of the burden of proof on me for self defense purposes. As a cop you have the option of brandishing your firearm plus body armor so your reaction time to being shot should be automatic and on target. Its an automatic shot for because you have had time to figure out the path of the bullet and your gun is always drawn. The suicide by cop thing you should never hesitate to protect yourself because then you finally have served the the citizens instead of just being a revenue extraction agent.

        • Jason,

          Please see my comment that I just posted above. Your post came through while I was writing my response.

          As for the reactionary time, it is clinically proven that it takes “seconds” not “milliseconds” for a person that has been elevated to Condition Black to process what is occurring (sensory overload), and appropriately respond, including drawing your weapon and firing. This is the reason for the 21-ft reactionary gap for someone armed with a knife. The average person can clear that distance in under 1.5 seconds and stab someone. That’s barely enough time to react to the threat, pull your weapon, and fire.

          I keep hearing the term “all of these trigger-happy cops.” Most officer-involved shootings end up on the news, because in reality, they are a rarity compared to actual crime. For example, from 2003 to 2009, 4,813 died while being arrested or in the custody of law enforcement or corrections (DOJ statistic). That doesn’t just include by gunfire. Put that in perspective with a 300,000,000+ population. 10,000 more people died by homicide alone in 2012, and don’t forget the 33,000+ people that were killed that year in vehicle crashes.

          “Trigger happy cops” is a blanket term, just like throwing out the word “racist” at someone to win a point. Considering officer involved shootings have been on a decline, and that 2013 was the lowest number of officer deaths by gunfire (33) since 1887, its sounding a lot like the “gun violence epidemic” that we keep hearing about. (Even though the homicide per capita rate has been cut in half from 1991 to 2012 and there are more guns than ever in the US.) It’s no different than “perceived safety” vs. “actual safety” (one is fact and one is fiction).

          I believe that any police officer that has been reckless should be held accountable, just like any citizen would. Unfortunately, you don’t hear in the media how this actually occurs, more often than you would think. It is not necessarily in shootings (because those make the national media), but in everything from civil rights violations, to policy and procedure violations, etc. In my department, I can think of about 70 that have been let go over the last decade, and it was usually for lying. Only one was ever reported to the news. Considering we hear about every “trigger happy cop” on the national news, it’s actually very few out of the 900,000+ sworn officers across the US. If it were the “epidemic,” just like the gun violence “epidemic,” we should be hearing about 30+ of these daily.

          I remember seeing one poster after the Ferguson deal say that if he had been the shooter, his name would have been released to the media (this was before they released Wilson’s name). That actually isn’t true. We’ve had self-defense shootings in the area, and those investigations include sealing the person’s name so it isn’t immediately released to the media until the investigation has been completed (sometimes years).

          If there was wrongdoing in this case, then the deputy needs to be held accountable. It just needs to be done based off of facts, not public perception from a minimal news story that in reality has no information.

      • Actually, if the suicidal man is not threatening anyone else, it would seem intelligent just to leave him alone. If anyone approaches him, they are putting their own lives in danger in the event the supposedly suicidal person changes his mind and decides to shoot at them, or whatever.

        Many of these “situations” would be resolved nicely if everyone just minded their own business.

      • Jeff, I’m actually replying to your other (long) post, but there’s no Reply link for that one, so here it is…

        Do you still do ride-alongs as a reserve? I’ve been wanting to do one (some) for a while, but am wary about getting placed with just anyone (I’ve done a fireman’s shift and ride-along with paramedics). You, though, based on your posts, seem like an interesting fellow to hang with. 🙂 Are you, by chance, anywhere along the COS to CR I-25 corridor?

        • It’s rare that I get to take a rider, but I can probably set you up with someone. Is there any way to contact you off of this message board?

  4. Of course. Suicide is generally illegal in the U.S, whereas shooting a guy in a pickup is legal — if one’s a deputy — and might “prevent a crime.”

  5. “Deputies, hearing the shot and thinking officers were under fire, fired two shots, but didn’t hit anything”

    seriously, how many more such incidents must the citizenry hear, before Pansy Bloomfcukberg’s Moms Demand Action call to ban ALL guns from the oink oink??


  6. So they have a name for it, but they haven’t come up with training drills to reduce it? Or, are there such drills and I’m just assuming?

  7. So is a “cop by suicide” or the other way around? Oh wait-maybe the deputies can get a Secret Service job.

  8. Farago wrote:

    “My only beef: the Deputy missed. Fair enough?”

    I commented in the Oklahoma beheading the exact opinion and got my head (figuratively)
    ripped off and rammed down my neck.

  9. “Deputies, hearing the shot and thinking officers were under fire, fired two shots, but didn’t hit anything, according to sheriff’s spokesman Ed Troyer and Sheriff Paul Pastor.”

    Didn’t hit ANYTHING? They hit something. Those bullets didn’t just evaporate into thin air. Shooting without knowing at what you are shooting is negligent. If they didn’t even hit the truck, which was just there, not moving, tells me that those cops either need some serious training or should be looking at another line of work.

  10. Wait, per liberals Cops are supposed to be so well trained, the only ones in fact. If that was the case, they wouldn’t have shot.

  11. After living in Pierce county for 15 years,I cannot blame the deputy.especially after the donut shop killing a few years ago.I knew one of those hear gunfire and………….

  12. Jeff, I agree with your points, too many deaf ears around here.
    Rich, it was a coffee shop, lets avoid the stereotypes.
    Startle responses are something they warn you about in training, but stuff happens.
    Will agree the target should have been hit if you do fire.


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