Category Archives: Weapons Usage and Employment

Is he Trouble, or a Trouble Magnet?

George Zimmerman artActually, we wanted to use a crude word beginning with “A,” after a girl we knew who was an A—— Magnet. But we didn’t, we used “Trouble.” And he is George Zimmerman, whom I think we all expected to retire to obscurity after he was tried for his self-defense shooting of young thug Trayvon Martin. George has not fulfilled that expectation in any way, shape or form: his latest advent into the headlines is not like his rather admirable foray into art (left). Nope: media are reporting he got shot in the face in a road rage incident. George’s wounds are not life-threatening. (Update: the round was fired at him, and entered the cabin of his truck, but missed; he was injured only by flying glass. George does not seem to have returned fire). 



So, trouble, or trouble magnet?

zimmerman_involved_2_fox_35It’s worth noting that the media, deeply invested in the Saint Trayvon story and the six-years-out-of-date angelic kid picture, initially reported only, “George Zimmerman involved in road rage shooting” — not that George was the shoot-ee, not the shoot-er. Initial media reports are often wrong, of course, and when the media has a prefab Narrative handy, they’re almost always wrong.

The story has been a great chance for the media to stir up the Trayvon crowd, though, and recap the frequent “Zimmerman arrest!” highly hyped stories, none of which has turned into charges against the most famous Peruvian-American in the country, let alone convictions. 

zimmerman_involved_1_fox_35According to Fox 35 Orlando (which initially ran with the juicy hed, ZIMMERMAN INVOLVED IN SHOOTING (caps theirs, since broomed), the shooter may be a man named Matthew Apperson who has a long-running dispute with Zimmerman, and who accused him of a road rage attack in September, 2014, in a case that collapsed due to Apperson’s shifting story and lack of corroborating evidence.

Zimmerman was treated and released at a hospital in Sanford, FL (other media suggests he was only hit with glass from a gunshot that missed him), and was interviewed on the scene by police; his Honda Ridgeline, showing a bullet hole in the passenger side window, has been towed. Apperson has also spoken to police.

Police are likely to get to the bottom of the story a lot sooner and more accurately than the hacks at Fox 35 Orlando or any other media outlet. (The reporters and editors at Fox 35 didn’t blurb or promote the new headline like they did the ones shown here suggesting Zimmerman was the shooter. Media ethics for you!)

More media:

Psychological Effects on Cops of Shooting Suspects Dead

Interesting story, in Politico of all places, by a policeman turned academic who has studied police shootings from an interesting angle: the psychological effects on the cops. There is not much literature about this, and a lot of it is sheer nonsense: for example, Goodman’s Grossman’s On Killing follows conventional pop-psychology wisdom in suggesting that police (or GIs) are broadly and deeply traumatized by the act of shooting another human being to death, and that the same psychological mechanisms that contribute to PTSD in soldiers incapacitate many or most police who’ve had to kill in the line of duty.

The author expected that such conventional wisdom would be proven out in a larger study, based on his own experience killing a man who was slashing his partner with a knife, but it wasn’t. He was somewhat atypical in that his act of killing conflicted with a deep religious conviction. Among the larger run of policemen, one of the most traumatizing aspects of shooting a criminal turns out to be the cop’s fear that his leaders and an ambitious or pandering prosecutor will hang him out to dry. David Klinger believes his findings would help to defuse tensions between the public and the police, if they were properly understood. Some of his conclusions:

[T]he public needs to understand that America’s cops aren’t prowling about looking to kill someone, that officers don’t pull the trigger in most of the situations in which doing so would be clearly legally permissible, and that our police often take great risks to avoid gunfire. And, perhaps most importantly, people need to realize that police officers are human beings who often suffer in the wake of those situations where they can’t avoid gunplay, no matter how justified their actions might be.
The research I conducted, along with my own experience in killing a criminal and living with the aftermath of that action, tells me is that the conversation our nation is presently embroiled in about the use of deadly force desperately needs to be balanced by facts and knowledge. I say this because the vitriol that has been directed from many quarters of our society at our men and women in blue since August of last year portrays America’s police officers as heartless beasts who enjoy killing.
But nothing is further from the truth.

The whole article is worth a read, but really, you should go direct to the academic source and read Klinger’s study, which is available on the National Institute of Justice’s web site. (Politico notes this, but rather churlishly won’t link to it).

Some of his findings defy conventional wisdom. From the report:

Most officers reported experiencing no negative reactions 3 months after the shooting, and fewer than one in five reported “severe” reactions (two or more negative emotional or physical reactions) 3 months after the shooting. Even in the short term, many officers experienced no or only one negative reaction during the first day and week following a shooting (38 and 52 percent, respectively). Only one specific reaction—recurrent thoughts—persisted past the 3-month mark in more than one-third of the cases, and only two other reactions exceeded 10 percent—fear of legal problems and trouble sleeping, both of which were reported in 11 percent of the cases.
The emotions that officers experienced were not all negative. Following about one-third of the shootings, officers reported feelings of elation that included joy at being alive, residual excitement after a life-threatening situation, and satisfaction or pride in proving their ability to use deadly force appropriately.

This is a pretty normal post-combat reaction, actually. And it turns out, having support from your peers and chain of command is a bigger deal than having support from your spouse or family. And mandatory mental health counseling? Worthless, a CYA move by the department (although a couple of cops who had clinical depression after their shootings valued it).

Expressions of support from fellow officers, detailed discussions about the incident with officers who had previously shot a suspect, and taking department-mandated time off following the shooting were associated with slight or moderate reductions in officers’ negative reactions. Conversely, officers who felt a lack of support from their colleagues and supervisors or that aspects of the investigation into the shooting were unfair or unprofessional reported more severe and longer-lasting negative reactions following the shooting, particularly after 3 months. Less predictably, support from intimate partners or family members and attendance at mandatory mental health counseling sessions were not associated with officers’ postshooting reactions.

A concluding recommendation (one of several) flies in the face of Goodman et. al.:

The finding that most officers in this study experienced little long-term disruption as a result of shooting a suspect calls into question the appropriateness of training that stresses the severe guilt and depression felt by some officers who shoot. Focusing on severe responses that occur infrequently may be misleading and counterproductive. Several officers indicated in interviews that they thought something might be wrong with them because they did not experience the symptoms that training taught them to expect; others felt that, through the power of suggestion, their reactions were more severe than they would have been otherwise.

No, if you aren’t all broken-up because you shot the guy who was threatening somebody (like you), you’re not a sick puppy, you’re normal. And if you’re glad you changed the zip code of some deserving bum to Hell, NM 66666, you’re not some heartless monster. You’re normal.

Of course, the differences between Klinger and Goodman Grossman opinionating on the psychology of a justified shooting are at least two:

  1. Klinger has actually done it; and,
  2. Klinger has actually done peer-reviewed original research on it.

Yet, Goodman Grossman had the best-selling books. Go figure.

Both the Klinger article on Politico and his NIJ-grant-funded research are worth reading in full.


This post has been corrected with the proper name of the On Killing and On Combat author, who has produced some of the best sex manuals ever written by a virgin. Thanks to the commenters who caught our error.


No, really, it’s been corrected. For serious this time. Honest injun. (Can we say that any more?)


A sentence that trailed off to nowhere at the end of the first paragraph, and some potentially confusing wording near the beginning of the second, have been rewritten for clarity. Maybe we need to step away from the keyboard.

Defensive Gun Use? Doesn’t Sound Like It

Let us explain why we, and you, carry and should carry a gun (or guns): to defend lives (and perhaps property) from unlawful deadly force. Period. Full stop.

And why should people not carry guns? To play at cops, to bend people to your will, or to try to enforce societal standards on others. Not our department, fellow citizens. In this case, Sumdood 1 got in a beef with Sumdood 2 and “held him at gunpoint.” When the police showed up, they didn’t exactly deputize the self-anointed junior G-man: nope, they arrested him.

According to police, the incident began when [Christopher] Nazario and Anthony Santiago were passing over the Sagamore Bridge and continued in the northbound lanes of the Everett Turnpike. Nazario followed when Santiago exited onto Ledge Street, then passed him illegally, police said.

Nazario hit his brakes, then swerved to the left and collided with Santiago’s vehicle after he had turned in order to avoid a collision, police said.

The impact sent Santiago’s vehicle into a bus stop terminal, where Nazario drew a gun and ordered Santiago to get out and down on the ground, police said. Police arrived to the scene and interviewed both drivers, who sustained minor injuries but did not require medical attention. Officers recovered a loaded 9 mm handgun from Nazario and took him into custody without incident, police said.

via Man arrested after drawing gun following car crash | New Hampshire.

Pro tip: Dirty Harry and Death Wish (plus, to one extent or another, sequels) are not concealed-carry training videos. Even real detectives can wind up on the wrong side of the courtroom if they’re dumb enough to act like TV detectives always do. For regular muggles missing that patent of nobility, The Badge, such actions lead inexorably whence they’ve already taken Christopher Nazario: to jail.

If you have a tendency to wig out in a car (ask your friends, because the actual wig-out-prone cases are always the last to understand), you might want to change to an old man’s car with indifferent performance, but comfortable seats. Not to mention a really good radio, tuned to a “soothing music” station or just playing classical CDs. Listening to Prokofiev or Mendelssohn is less likely to bring out your inner Avenging Vigilante persona than, say, listening to Def Leppard. (And N.W.A. is right out).

Just because you have the right to be armed doesn’t mean “freedom to brandish and threaten.” Exercising your rights does not excuse you from exercising your judgment and using your forebrain, not your amygdala, to drive your interpersonal relationships.

Now, this initial news report could be all wet. That’s for the court to decide, in due course. But it’s not hard to retrace Mr Nazario’s steps and come up with several points where he had better options than the ones he opted for.

He’s lucky he didn’t actually pop the guy — he’d be the next poster child for irresponsible carry, and a nine days’ wonder of the national media.

How One Criminal Got His Guns

Jiminez380coverThanks to the anti-gun animus of the editors of the Palm Beach Post, who are trying to spin the Aaron Hernandez murder trial into an indictment of gun owners in general, we have a pretty good idea of how one gang member and murderer — Hernandez — got his weapons.

Would you believe, through straw purchases by fellow gang members, and other black-market sources?

Hernandez is a member of the Latin Kings gang and a former football player. (Maybe they have football in prison, so maybe not “former.” On the other hand, his jury of sports-addled Bostonians has been out for a very long time as we file this, so he might wind up with the benefit of a hung jury or an acquittal.  But his guilt is established for all except rabid Patriots fans. Update: he was convicted Wednesday morning. Next phase: two more murder trials). You see, unlike most Latin Kings members, Hernandez had talents other than crime, to wit, football; he was a star tight end and a 2009 college All-American. Because of his gang affiliation, most of pro football scouted him and let the idea of signing him drop, but the Patriots organization thought they could salvage him, however mistakenly, and drafted him. Hernandez, after involvement in at least one other shooting, murdered a criminal associate named Odin Lloyd, for which he’s now on trial.

The Post had a Page 1 story on Monday, April 13, about Hernandez’s guns, sharing above-the-fold space with more usual Post “reportage,” a worshipful prose paean to a politician. The Hernandez story, by Joe Capozzi, tells the story of Palm Beach County’s own players in the story, such as Oscar “Papoo” Hernandez Jr., no relation to Aaron Hernandez (except inasmuch as they may have been gang brothers — the news reporting has always downplayed the gang element in the murder).

Aaron Hernandez’s connection to FL is clear — he was a star at the University of Florida before the NFL draft where no one but the Patriots would touch him. Papoo, of Belle Glade, FL, received a $15,000 wire from Aaron Hernandez, and then… shipped him a car. The car, a nondescript used Toyota Camry with its Florida plates still on, was found in Hernandez’s garage. But the transaction wasn’t about the car. The car contained something special for the gangbanging jock: at least three firearms.

The three firearms included two cheap .22s bought at True Value Hardware on Main Street in Belle Glade, a .22 Jimenez Arms pistol (one of the dirt cheap pot-metal .22s once manufactured in Southern California) that was found near Lloyd’s body (but was not the murder weapon). That particular .22 was bought on 15 April 2013 by a questionable character named Gion Jackson, who says…

  1. he bought it for self-defense;
  2. and then he put it in the trunk of his car;
  3. from which it must have been stolen, because when ATF traced the murder-scene gun in June 2013 from manufacturer to True Value to him, he didn’t know it wasn’t in his trunk any more; and,
  4. he often lends his car to random people so he has no idea who might have taken it.
  5. and oh, yeah, one more thing: he was at the store on 15 April and so was his good buddy Aaron Hernandez, at the same time, but they didn’t talk to each other and didn’t plan to be there together. He sure wasn’t buying the gun for his prohibited friend.

As implausible as that story is, Jackson got up on the stand and testified to it. As far as we know he’s not charged with anything.

The other .22 from True Value, also bought in April (although it’s not clear, by whom) wound up in a Providence, Rhode Island street, thrown down after an incident involving Hernandez, a gang-infused retinue, and a heckling Jets fan in May 2013..

The third firearm, a Hungarian AK clone, was also bought 15 April 2013 at the Delray Beach Shooting Center. We don’t know who bought it, because ATF couldn’t find the “James Joseph” who signed for it, but range and store owner Mike Caruso says he wasn’t Hernandez:

I can tell you that Aaron Hernandez didn’t buy it. I’m a big Patriots fan and if Aaron Hernandez walked into my gun store to buy a rifle, I would know who he was.

Well, Mike didn’t get to sell Hernandez (who was apparently a prohibited person anyway, for a record stretching back many years) a gun, but he did have this year’s Super Bowl, so there is that.

In any event, the three firearms were acquired on or about 15 April 13. It is surely the smallest of coincidences that Papoo received a wire from Aaron Hernandez on that day. (For $15,000; maybe the athlete was expecting a big tax refund). It is surely the smallest of coincidences that Papoo then stuffed the guns in a Camry and shipped it to Hernandez. And the least of coincidences that one would be found at an assault scene in Rhode Island the next month, one would be found at a murder scene in two months, and one (the AK) would be found in a black gym bag in the back seat of the Camry, in the accused murderer’s garage. Loaded.

That’s what ATF calls a short “time to crime.” A typical crime gun traveled in legitimate commerce for years before being stolen or otherwise diverted into criminal channels. Guns that turn up at murder scenes mere months from their legitimate legal sale are indicators of potential straw purchases and trafficking. Typically, the straw purchases in this case have not been pursued by ATF and the responsible US Attorney.

If Aaron Hernandez beats this rap, it’s not all roses for him. He’s still facing other charges, including two other murders, and five gun charges (including ones related to these exact firearms). The case has been interesting because it elucidates how criminal organizations like the Latin Kings move firearms in interstate commerce without leaving a trace (unless investigators can break or turn one of the human links in the chain).

It’s also interesting because, for all these weapons Aaron Hernandez was going through in his life of crime, one which has not turned up is the murder weapon he used on Lloyd — that pistol, a Glock .45, has never been recovered.

Marathon Bombing Response Report: It’s Ugly

Other pressure cooker (and containing bag) remains of the bomb planted by Tamerlan Tsarnayev. FBI.

Pressure cooker (and containing bag) remains of the bomb planted by Tamerlan Tsarnayev. FBI.

There’s a reason they held this turkey until Friday night — it’s ugly.

The report also clarifies three things about the critical wounding of transit cop Richard “Dic” Donohue, Jr:

  1. Another cop did it;
  2. It’s a miracle he was the only cop wounded; and,
  3. They’re still trying to cover it up, and protect the cop who did it.

The Donohue shooting is probably the single most ate-up thing of the many wretched failures and blunders that took place during the bombing response. The uncontrolled mobbing, panicked lockdown, and contagious firing of the police response stands in stark contrast to the incredible job done on the medical side of things by a seamless combination of professional responders and citizen volunteers.

Indeed, it was a citizen who located the surviving suspect within a half hour of the time the cops gave up on their lockdown and dragnet-search, which found nothing but did delay the finding of the suspect and did impede the medical response by keeping staff away from the hospitals, and actually impeded the ambulance carrying their own guy to the hospital.

Here’s the summary:

A firefight ensued between the suspects and responding officers. As the shooting continued, additional officers arrived on scene from Watertown, BPD, MSP, Cambridge PD, and Transit PD. Over 200 rounds of ammunition were expended between the two sides.

The report talks about the shooting, but the suspects only had one gun and a few magazines. They did, however, have some homemade explosives, including “grenades” (which were mostly ineffective) and at least two more pressure-cooker bombs, which have to be taken seriously. For example, this was embedded in one of the cars on the scene:

watertown shootout bomb in car

Note that it not only tore through the door but it bent the much stronger structural-steel doorsill/rocker panel, typically one of the strongest components of a unibody. These two Up Brothers might seem like harmless buffoons, until you realize that by this point in time, they’ve shot a cop dead at point-blank range and that was after they killed three people with these bombs, and wounded 200-plus more, including 16 who suffered traumatic amputations.

The Tsarnaevs were violent criminals, terrorists, and they needed and deserved to go down hard. The police response wasn’t always helpful towards that end, and there are a lot of lessons that a cover-our-hiney approach will prevent from being learned.

In the course of the firefight, the first suspect was wounded. When he ran out of ammunition, he threw his gun and charged at a Watertown officer who subsequently wrestled him to the ground in the street. Meanwhile, the second suspect was able to enter the SUV and put the vehicle in gear. While fleeing the scene in the stolen vehicle, he struck the first suspect and dragged him a short distance with the vehicle, compounding his injuries.

tamerlan skidmark


Above: the scene. Below: Tamerlan, dead. He’s been rolled and searched by this point.

tamerlan dead again

As the second suspect fled the scene, a responding officer from the Transit PD was shot and critically wounded. The officer was transported to Mount Auburn Hospital, where medical professionals resuscitated him and performed life-saving surgery.

Did you notice that? Let us lay out the facts for you:

  1. The two sides of the firefight were the Tsarnaevs (with one black-market, defaced-serial-number Ruger pistol between them)… tamerlans ruger…and in the other corner, an uncoordinated swarm of cops from at least five agencies.
  2. The Tsarnaev with the gun (Speedbump, aka Tamerlan) shot his gun dry and threw it at the cops, and charged the cops. But the firefight, now one-sided, continued. Because the police were arrayed in a 360º Idiot Ambush around the suspects, they all perceived incoming and returned fire. Fortunately, they can’t shoot for $#!+.
  3. A Watertown cop tackled Tamerlan and took him down. But the one-sided, leaderless, uncontrolled “firefight” continued.
  4. Then brother Dzhokar (Flashbang) got in their jacked vehicle and took off… running over Speedbump and mortally injuring him. (Yes, he was killed by his and his brother’s incompetence, not the random, unaimed contagious fire of dozens of cops).
  5. As Flashbang exited, stage left (in Boston, all sides of the stage are left…), the police drumfire finally connected with someone — Dic Donohue, a Transit police officer. Note the passive voice: Donohue “was shot.” No wonder they’re all gun banners here, they never get the word about the people doing the shooting.

The deeper you drill down in the report, the worse it gets. It wasn’t a planned law enforcement response: it was lawless chaos, reminiscent of the Keystone ineptitude of the LAPD Chris Dorner response.

Take the swarms of cops in Watertown:

Thousands of law enforcement officers arrived in Watertown from across Massachusetts, other New England states, and New York. Many of these law enforcement officers did not come in re- sponse to a mutual aid request, but self-deployed to the area once it became widely known that one of the Marathon bombing suspects was at large in the town. These officers staged at the parking lot of the Arsenal Mall in Watertown; although officers received basic logistical support, including food, water, and toileting, few were provided oversight, situational awareness, or guidance. While most officers did not deploy into the field from the staging area on their own, there were a significant number of occasions when officers responded based on information or calls they heard on their radios, at times placing themselves and the officers with the authority to respond at risk.

Realizing that Donohue was critically wounded and exsanguinating, cops (CWCID) started treating him even before paramedics arrived (which was almost momentary). That part of the response went well… until they tried to transport him.

Officers on the scene tended to Officer Donohue to slow the bleeding with pressure and a tourniquet.

Many had already been en route from the Officer Collier murder scene in Cambridge.

At 12:51 a.m., Officer Donohue was loaded into the Watertown Fire ambulance for transport, but egress from the area was challenging given the numerous police vehicles parked in the vicinity and blocking street access. To circumvent the congestion made by the multitude of police vehicles and allow for the two paramedics to remain in the rear of the ambulance with the patient, a Watertown PD officer drove the ambulance to Mount Auburn Hospital, the nearest medical facility. Mount Auburn Hospital was approximately two miles away from the shooting scene, but did not have a trauma center. Nevertheless, the EMTs aiding Officer Donohue believed he would not survive a longer ride to a facility with a trauma center, and directed that he be brought to Mount Auburn. Officer Donohue had to be resuscitated upon arrival at the hospital, but the medical team at Mount Auburn was able to save his life.

That was a good and nervy call by the EMTs. A hospital that might not save him, now, was a better call than bringing his bloodless dead body to a better hospital that could have saved him if it wasn’t so far away. And more police CWCID, a cop took the wheel of the bolance so both EMTs could work on the patient. That probably broke elebbenty-twelve rules, and they ought to give that guy (and the EMTs) their shiniest medal.

The shooting of Donohue was only the first case of uncommanded, indisciplined, contagious fire. They did it again when they mistook other cops for the suspects, even though neither the cops nor the vehicle (a black full-size domestic pickup; the suspect vehicle was a small silver Mercedes SUV) bore any resemblance to the suspects. (Shades of Dorner, again). In this case the cops had, not quite a mad minute, but a number of mad seconds, and fortunately ceased fire before their eyes-wide-shut marksmanship could hit anybody.

An unmarked black MSP pickup truck is incorrectly reported as a stolen vehicle. The occupants of the pickup truck are a MSP Trooper and a BPD officer, both of whom are in plainclothes. As the vehicle drives down Adams Street in Watertown, a few blocks from the scene of the shootout, an officer on scene fired at the vehicle and its occupants. No one is injured.

But the random assemblage of random, ill-assorted, leaderless and unaccountable cops weren’t done. They collapsed into firearms incontinence again again, when they had the unarmed, wounded Flashbang (Dzhokar, nicknamed because he’d burned himself badly with one of his own IEDs) cornered in a boat.

Officers immediately responded to the home. The first officers on scene requested support from tactical teams and EOD units. A large number of law enforcement officers self-deployed to the scene after overhearing radio traffic about the location of the suspect. Within moments, more than 100 officers had gathered in front of and behind the home.

Note that the cops had eyes in the sky, and the eye in the sky had a thermal image of the wounded Flashbang:

dzhokar thermal boat


The boat was engaged from both sides and from dead ahead. However, Dzhokar wasn’t hit.

watertow boat damage

Several moments later, a responding officer fired his weapon without appropriate authority in response to perceived movement in the boat. Other officers then opened fire on the boat under the assumption the initial shot was fired at them by the suspect. Shooting continued for several seconds until a senior officer ordered a ceasefire.

After the MSP Airwing’s infrared camera confirmed that the suspect was alive, law enforcement officials made several attempts to coerce the suspect from the boat.

In both of the last two incidents the report seems to minimize the firing. Audio of the incidents doesn’t sound like one guy or a few guys firing.

One of the findings of the report is, not surprisingly, an absence of weapons discipline:

Weapons discipline was lacking by the multitude of law enforcement officers in the field during both the firefight with the two suspects near Dexter and Laurel Streets, and the standoff with the second suspect who was hiding in a winterized boat in a residential back yard. Although initial responding officers practiced appropriate weapons discipline while they were engaged in the firefight with the suspects, additional officers arriving on scene near the conclusion of the firefight fired weapons toward the vicinity of the suspects, without necessarily having identified and lined up their target or appropriately aimed their weapons. Officers lining both sides of the street also fired upon the second suspect as he fled the scene in a vehicle.

Note what the report said. Cops from both sides of the street shot at the vehicle as Flashbang ka-thump-a-thumped Speedbump and fled. That’s when poor Donohue got shot. But look at this false diagram which was submitted as evidence in the Flashbang trial — it suggests that cops were shooting at Tamerlan when they hit Donohue. Nonsense, they were just firing blindly in the vague direction of a car, and Tamerlan was already down for the long count. This diagram is a complete fraud, yet it was submitted as evidence and widely publicized — that’s how far they’re going to CYA whoever plugged Donohue. A politician’s nephew?



Shortly after the firefight, an unmarked MSP black pickup truck was erroneously reported as stolen. This vehicle, with two occupants in it, was then spotted driving on Adams Street, near the scene of the shootout, and fired upon by an officer. Upon further inspection, it was deter- mined that the occupants of the vehicle were a BPD officer and MSP trooper in plain clothes, both of whom were unhurt.

Weapons discipline was again an issue during the operation to capture the second suspect who was hiding in a boat parked in a residential backyard. An officer fired his weapon without appropriate authority in response to perceived movement in the boat, in turn causing many officers to fire at the boat in the belief that they were being shot at by the suspect. Each of these incidents created dangerous crossfire situations.

Massachusetts police training on firearms is so poor to be nonexistent, or even counterproductive. (Remember Framingham PD, which blew a non-suspect’s head off because they teach keep your finger on the trigger and your M4 off safe?) Mostly, they teach rookies to hate and fear firearms, so it’s not surprising that most of them fail to master them.

Fortunately, their combat marksmanship was even worse than their fire discipline, preventing from doing more than hundreds of thousands of dollars of property damage (which has gone unreimbursed: patch your own bullet holes, peasants) and crippling just one unlucky cop.

The biggest failing is that there are no lessons taken on board from this. Despite the occasional words of self-criticism, the report makes no attempt to identify the irresponsible cop who plugged Donohue, probably because the investigators didn’t really want to know. Overall, the report is saturated in smug self-satisfaction:

Overall, the response to the Boston Marathon bombings must be considered a great success.

You keep using that word….

The Instant that Ended a Police Career

In his entertaining narrative of the early US Space Program, The Right Stuff, Tom Wolfe writes that, while The Right Stuff couldn’t be precisely defined, you knew who had it — and who lost it. “It could blow at any seam,” Wolfe wrote.

A career in the police or military is kind of like that. While some golden calves get more top cover from leadership than is good for the organization or the nation, for the average guy or gal, it approaches a zero-defects environment. One good screwup — the kind of thing that’s a Major Minus Spot Report in Ranger School, outside the school environment — and the effort you’ve put into your career to date is an irrecoverable sunk cost. This is the story of a patrolman whose single, understandable act of temper ended his and several other careers.

In the denouement of a case we discussed last year, a fired policeman who bounced a mouthy suspect off the wall a couple of times is sitting with a tough decision many who are not policemen face: take a plea and jail sentence, or risk a jury or bench trial and a longer sentence for something that you definitely did?

Nobody knows which way former Seabrook, NH officer Mark Richardson will decide, probably not even Richardson, at this point. It’s a true dilemma.

At first, Richardson got away with the Veteran’s Day, 2009, assault, but in 2014 the victim’s lawyer got hold of the police station surveillance video and the victim put it on YouTube. Reaction was swift: Richardson and an officer who pepper-sprayed the victim after he was down were fired by Chief Lee Bitomski, and two supervisors who falsified records to hide the assault rocketed back down to Patrolman. Here’s the video. Richardson is the big guy (he’s about 6’7″; the suspect weighs about 140 lb, IIRC, roughly half Richardson’s weight):

Anti-cop activists went wild with the video, making it a key scene in the refrain of a rap video, “This is what happens when you call the cops.” (Actually, what happens when you call the cops is that the cops come, which can be good or bad. At a minimum, it’s a good time to lock your poodle in the basement). Here’s that video, you’ll recognize the Seabrook footage when it comes up:

The court raised the stakes for Richardson by handing him the plea in the same session in which it passed sentence on another cop for an unrelated, and less violent, assault. That guy will spend a month in the jug and 11 more on an ankle bracelet, assuming good behavior.  The nine-month sentence Richardson has been offered is likely going to be served the same way, but he can’t know that before he makes his decision.

There’s scant sympathy here for the suspect/assault victim, a crumb who was spitting at cops, except for this: no one deserves to be beaten by police, and as a society you can’t let police get away with it. The officer was, at once, creative in using the wall as a weapon (remember, everything is a potential weapon if you let your imagination free), and tragically mistaken to lose his cool with a mouthy crumb of a suspect. Is that sphincter muscle worth losing a job over? Worth going to jail for?

We believe NH is the only state in the country that makes assault by police a specific crime. The legal theory is that it helps to hold Granite State police to a higher standard than mere citizens. The immediate fact is that it leaves Mr Richardson with a tough decision. But the dilemma was of his own making.

Shooting Went Well, We Joined the Range

plastic_targets_fig_fmIt’s an hour drive (hey, you Westerners, before you start telling us how far away your range is, remember we’re in New Hampster, where everything is in everything else’s pocket, and the map usually has a call-out for the NH line, like all the other snack-sized states in the Northeast.

Anyway, the range is Granite State in Hudson. We could tell it’s near the end of the month from the sheer quantity of Staties out harvesting speeders on Highway 101. We like it better than our old indoor ranges, Bob’s (which is in MA, and therefore a non-starter with NFA stuff) and Manchester FIring Line (a similar set-up to Granite State, which is new). We were previously members at Manchester but very seldom saddled up and went. We have bought a life membership in Granite State, so we hope to shoot more in future winters. We also belong to a local fish and game club that has outdoor ranges.

Still, we have to doff our cap to Manchester Firing Line for this note-perfect FAQ entry:

20. May I shoot two guns at the same time, like I see in movies?

No. The gun-handling that you typically see in movies is unrealistic and unsafe, and we do not allow it here.


And at the Firing Line, the owner’s impressive (really) Class 3 collection is on display.  But they can be standoffish sometimes. (Not always, mind; they can be great, too). Still, at Granite State, one of the staff, John, had a father who was in 10th Group when we were in that unit in the 1980s. Another staffer is a guy who hooked us up with some 416 mags when those were hard to find, years ago. And Granite State has the nice lounge where we can plan, brief, and later, debrief a shooting session. All in all, we liked Granite State better.

That’s the Where. But What did we shoot?

Our mission today was threefold, with a fourth “extra”:

  1. Do a little pistol shooting with the M9 (actually a commercial 92FS, but near as dammit to an M9);
  2. Check Kid’s first AR lower build for function (we attached it to a proven and zeroed 16″ upper with an M68 CCO on it);
  3. Check the M4 SBR (the Afghan build gun) for function and perhaps sight it in.
  4. Function check some Magpul PMags that had been sitting around in their wrappers for a couple of years.

Goal was to fire no more than 100 rounds of 9mm ball and 200 rounds of M193. (Granite State has a restriction on steel-penetrator rounds). We didn’t even fire all the 5.56. We shot till we were ready to move on and enjoyed the ride home.

Kid shot very well with the Beretta. (Why did we choose the Beretta, and not the CZ or the Glock? Spare mags. We knew the Beretta had its three factory mags in the case; and the other handgun mags are “God knows where.” We gotta get a Job Box or something like that for mag storage). In fact, he shot better than we did. And one of the range staff gave him some light coaching, and he shot better. (He’s the Ex’s kid, not ours. We wish he was ours — he’s that kind of young man).

The Beretta, though, put him through a number of malf drills. It has never jammed before but it is a relatively recent one with all the cheesy plastic and pot-metal MIM parts.

Conversely, both of the ARs ran like they’re supposed to. Zero malfunctions. Likewise, no squawks on the PMags. Kid enjoyed firing his own build. It wasn’t necessary to adjust the zero of the new Colt SBR; it seems to have been adjusted, if it needed to be, at the factory.

Bottom Line:

We had fun, we converted money into noise and small holes in paper, we learned what we went to learn, and did we mention we had plenty of fun?

How Far Will a Paper Go — to Make a Good Shoot Look Bad?

The answer was in yesterday’s Palm Beach Post, where a writer named Jorge Millan had to twist, wrestle, and even torture the story to give it The Narrative® spin that he, or his editors, wanted: that a self-defense shooting in Jensen Beach, FL, was a bad shoot. Millan’s helical reasoning is hidden behind the Post’s paywall, but we’ll gist it for you.

The slant begins with the headline. The online version is Woman: Veteran who shot boyfriend pulled trigger too soon,” but the tree-bark edition says, “Woman says veteran pulled trigger too soon.” Note that both versions are quick to frontload the Scary Veteran bit.

Millan’s sole source? A bum who lives underneath an overpass. Her boyfriend, another bum, was beating her when a third bum began to squabble with the boyfriend. They were all (by the female bum’s admission) royally drunk.

A citizen, Josh Anderson, who was fishing with his family, asked the bums to stop. Instead, one of them assaulted him. He warned them, drew his gun, warned them again, and when they pressed the assault fired two shots. This was all witnessed by multiple people. The bums have lengthy (if petty) criminal records, for property crimes, violent crimes, and drug crimes such as cooking meth in a hotel room.

But to learn this you have to follow the jump from the front page of the local section to deep in the middle of same (B5, to be precise), and then you see why the Sheriff and detectives working with State authorities were so quick to call it a good shoot.

Because Millan leads, and closes, his article with uncritically typed statements from a friend of the two perps who are suffering in hospital (from drug withdrawal as well as gunshot wounds, no doubt), who was actually a participant in the events, and whose story is contradicted by multiple independent witnesses, who all back up the shooter.

You can tease this out of his article, but only if you read the whole thing with a critical eye. If you just glance at it, which is probably more attention than one of this guy’s articles deserves, you get the pure, undiluted Palm Beach Post party line: crazed veteran hopped up on Stand Your Groundium popped two lovable drunks for no reason, except for pure bloodymindedness and the fact that they were attacking him, but let’s not dwell on that, shall we?

If you see a 550SL trolling around under the Jensen Beach causeway, it’s not the usual lawyer looking for relief from one of the women of easy virtue there: it’s a lawyer looking to find a woman of easy virtue and partner up on a lawsuit.

They’ll be assured of fawning press in the Palm Beach Post.

Land Mines vs. Booby Traps vs. IEDs.

Those three are the most hated, if not always the most feared, enemy weapons. Much as WWII bomber crews loathed flak more than fighters (their gunners could shoot back at fighters!) the unattended (or command-detonated) explosive device is more loathed than direct fire. Tom Kratman nailed this in his military science-fiction novel, A Desert Called Peace, which we’re still reading.

“I don’t even like the idea of land mines,” Parilla muttered.

“No one does,” Carrera agreed. “Not until you have a horde of screaming motherfuckers coming to kill you and all that stands between their bayonets and you is a belt of land mines.”

How Armies Use Mines

In military usage, mines, which may be emplaced by combat troops or by specialist engineers, are used as artificial obstacles to hinder or channelize enemy forces, or as ambush initiators. It is good practice to initiate an ambush with the greatest casualty-producing weapon, or greatest shock-producing weapon, available to you, and the authoritative WHAM! of a Claymore is an excellent way to send a message to the enemy, when that message is: “Die, die, die!”

Note to national policymakers: If that’s not the message you’re trying to send as a matter of national policy, you may have selected the wrong tool when you chose the military as messenger.

In a well-executed ambush, the Claymore blast is followed by overwhelming firepower and then, very rapidly, by a lift and shift of fires from the objective to the enemy’s potential escape routes, while troops assault across the objective to ensure the total destruction of the target element, and to gather any intelligence that can readily be gained from their still-warm bodies and shattered equipment.

Just because enemy units are armored, there’s no reason not to initiate your ambush with a command-detonated mine. The Claymore has long had anti-tank equivalents in off-route AT mines, essentially a remote-command-launched rocket that you aim in advance where you expect the enemy armor to be. We don’t know how far these go back, but the first one we used to use was based on the old 3.5″ rocket launcher (the Super Bazooka invented in WWII and used in Korea after the 2.36″ one proved useless on T-34s). The US also has a set of shaped charges and platter mines that have a limited standoff capability. Most American troops never see or train with these devices; for whatever reason, they’re not a training priority, but they’re in the inventory.

The main use of mines, despite that long digression about ambushes, is to fortify positions. A minefield of this type has very limited utility if not covered by friendly observation and fire at all times; otherwise, the enemy can simply blow or lift the mines, something that, like mine emplacement, can be done “retail” by combat troops or “wholesale” by engineers. For this reason, the Hollywood trope of the patrol caught in the minefield is actually a very rare occurrence off-screen. You do not actually find your patrol in a minefield on a nice sunny day with the leisure to probe for mines with a stick (and please, not a bayonet). You find your patrol in the middle of the mines, usually a night in the foulest weather imaginable, and under accurate enemy direct or indirect fire.

In addition to mines that can be placed by troops, minefields can be emplaced hastily by engineer equipment, including sophisticated mechanical minelayers that lay mines in a ditch or holes the machines themselves dig, and pods that can scatter mines from aircraft, usually helicopters or (these days) UAVs.

Minefields emplaced by civilized troops for defensive purposes are, by international convention, marked with recognized international symbols. This is part of why mine, booby-trap, and IED warfare by irregular forces is often hated by regulars; the irregulars do not comply with these rules and norms, and so are thought to be fighting underhandedly. (The guerrillas, for their part, see it as merely doing what they can in an asymmetric fight).

The other part of forces’ loathing for enemies’ mine warfare is, as Tom’s character Duce Parilla seems to have internalized, you can’t fight back against a mine. The guy who killed or maimed your men is long gone. (Of course, you can fight back against minelayers, but the fight is indirect and requires you, too, to play to your asymmetric strengths). This feeling of frustration by mine-warfare attack (in this case, by booby traps that produced casualties) was a key ingredient, along with inadequate officer selection & training and bad leadership at all levels from corporal to Corps, in the misconduct of Americal Division troops that became known as the My Lai Massacre.  They were so tired of taking casualties by booby trap, and so badly led, that they took out their fear and frustration on enemy noncombatants instead.

As tragic as the outcome was for the simple peasant families of My Lai 4, the murders were a great victory for the Communists in the key center of gravity of the war — the minds of the American public and their elected leaders. It was part of an array of events that drove a schism between the military and the media that endures almost 40 years later.

So What’s the Difference?

Mines, Booby Traps, and Improvised Explosive Devices are three somewhat overlapping categories of (usually but not always) explosive weapons.


Mike Croll defines landmines as:

mass-produced, victim-operated, explosive traps.1

In American usage (Croll was a British soldier and, subsequently, NGO counter-mining expert), “landmines” also includes command-detonated weapons like the Claymore. It was once customary for patrols to use a Claymore wired with a tripwire and a pull or pull-release firing device to delay pursuit; this usage has been banned by American military lawyers who were, we are not making this up, inspired by Princess Diana.

Booby-traps are distinguished from mines by dint of not being made en masse in factories, but as Croll points out, “the difference can be academic,” and it’s certainly not significant to the victim. While no non-explosive victim-operated weapons are currently in production worldwide, non-explosive traps have been used since prehistoric times (Croll also traces the archaeology of caltrops and Roman obstacle fields in his book). In the early years of the Vietnam War, US forces did encounter Malayan Gates, punji pits, and other non-explosive mantraps; as the war ground on, the enemy improved his logistics and regularized his forces, and such bulky, hard to make, and easily detected traps gave way to explosive weapons.


Improvised Explosive Devices encompass everything that blows a fellow up, and that didn’t come out of the factory in the form in which it ultimately is used. The ED is often I from factory weapons that were not envisioned by their inventors as traps, command-detonated, or suicide mines. This definition of IED includes explosive booby traps, of course, as a subset. The many forms of suicide IED are also a subset; suicide weapons have approached mass-production status in Iraq and Iran, with such markers of production status as dedicated circuit boards.

We’ve provided a couple of Venn diagrams to help you sort ’em out, but as Croll himself notes, there’s a considerable gray area. An AT mine can be fitted with a pull-release device or pressure plate and deployed as a massive overkill anti-personnel booby trap, for example. So perhaps instead of having solid borders, the circles should shade into one another.

But we’re with Parilla and Carrera. We hate ’em, unless we’re behind ’em and anticipating the banzai charge of the Third Shock Mongolian Horde.


1. Croll, p.ix.


Croll, Mike. The History of Landmines. Bromley, England: Leo Cooper, 1998.

The Nuremberg Defense Did Work

The Nuremberg Defense did not avail the Nuremberg defendants, but it turns out it does have a use. A Park Forest, Illinois policeman, one Officer Taylor, used the Nuremberg defense: “I was just following orders!” to escape responsibility for one of the most irresponsible, tactically inept and cowardly police uses of force we’ve ever heard of.

The Circumstances of the Use of Force

An 95-year-old man known to be suffering from dementia was noncompliant and belligerent to nursing home workers, and they called the police. The police responded. The man was fending workers off with a long shoehorn, and retreated, alone, into a room when the police arrived. After brief discussion they entered with a shield, a shotgun, and a Taser. What happened inside the room was not observed by any credible witness, but the Taser was discharged without contact with the victim, but the shotgun, loaded with less-lethal “beanbag” rounds, was emptied into his thoracic region at contact range.

The police waited for the man to die, but he did not, and they eventually called EMS to transport him to a hospital. He was subsequently transferred to a trauma center, where he died from his wounds.

The police produced a knife that came from a set in the facility’s kitchen, and after working on their stories together, the three officers agreed that the 95-year-old attacked them with the knife. Unlike anyone else involved in a use of force, police are typically allowed days to work their stories out together with attorneys, before submitting to interviews. By the time these cops were interviewed, they were so thoroughly rehearsed that what they did sounded reasonable to the fellow cops questioning them.

The Initial, False, Police Report of the Use of Force

The initial police reports contained a false narrative of the victim’s resistance and the police use of force. The report said that several policemen fired beanbag rounds; only one did. They said three shots were fired and two hit; in fact, the autopsy revealed that five shots were fired at near-contact range and all five hit. The three policemen who made these false statements are also the only ones who have put a knife in the victim’s hands (the employees at the facility saw him only with a shoehorn). As usual, there have been no consequences to the officers for their false statements or testimony.

Medical Treatment of the Victim

While he was injured in a medical facility, it was not the sort able to provide care for victims of violent trauma. After a long delay, the patient was finally allowed to be moved to a local hospital. When it became clear that his wounds were beyond the local hospital’s treatment capability he was moved to a trauma center. He died about thirty hours after being shot as a consequence of his wounds, the delayed treatment, and his old age and frailty.

The Circumstances of the Court Decision

The court made its decision with the gallery packed with hooting, uniformed policemen, demanding the judge accept the Nuremberg Defense. The judge obligingly did. This is barely distinguishable from when the courts consider the case of a gangbanger, and the gallery is filled with unruly members of his gang displaying their gang colors. The only difference is, that the court tolerated it from this particular gang, displaying their gang colors.

There is much in common between the inside morality displayed by, say, Hells’ Angels or Crips (or executives of Goldman Sachs), and that displayed by the police. Anything a member in good standing does is okay, providing he does it to an outsider.

Even murder. Now, this was not murder, but it was incredibly gross negligence, on the part of Taylor, and especially his superiors and trainers. The incentives are all wrong, because whatever the ultimate civil case judgment or settlement is, it will be borne by the taxpaying citizens of the jurisdiction, who already have the burden of a hazard like Taylor among them.

How We Came to Hear of This Case

We were tipped by Herschel Smith, who wrote about it here. Herschel calls it a murder, and explores it from a Christian viewpoint. We explore it from a tactical viewpoint.

The Many Failures of the Park Forest PD

  • Failure #1: Going High-Order on a Contained Subject

The guy was in his room in the nursing home. He wasn’t going anywhere, and he wasn’t a threat to anybody in there, apart from himself. Sooner or later he would come out and get bagged. But the cops had fangs out, and went in after him, without much preparation, much of a plan, or any real idea what they were going to do, except “bust in there and see what happens.” Impatient cops drive a lot of outcomes like this. (Remember Waco?).

  • Failure #2: A Stupid Plan

Their plan was weak all across the board. Intimidating the subject into surrendering (which had already failed several times) was their Plan A. Some people say that expecting repeated action to produce a different result is insane; in this case, the effective word was “stupid.” They pulled their already-failed Plan A, and mirabile dictu, it failed. (And these geniuses were actually surprised. This is why departments whose personnel policy sets an upper bound on Cop IQ are screwing up). So then Plan B was a Taser, whose limitations will be explored momentarily; Plan C was, then, deadly force, but the cops thought it wasn’t: they intended to use less-lethal rounds to center of mass inside the ammunition’s lethal range. These guys and their supporters have never considered how bad that plan really was: try to operate it, and it rapidly reduces to “Let’s go in and kill the guy!”

There was also no probable outcome that didn’t involve injury to someone, probably the victim, but no call was made for EMS backup. This didn’t jump out to the officers as an oversight at the time, in part because no one reviewed the logic, or lack of the same, of the plan.

  • Failure #3: Flubbing a point-blank Taser shot. With no second shot option.

Ever hear the old trainer mantra, “two is one, one is none”? Of course you have. They went in with one guy with only a shield, one guy with only a Taser, one guy with only a shotgun with beanbags. There are failures aplenty in this, but one key point of failure was when Taser Guy’s one less-lethal shot went wide (at point-blank range; this whole thing took place in, essentially, a hospital room). Yet that bozo is still out on the street, despite a failure at a simple marksmanship task under stress, a failure that led to a citizen’s death. Think he’ll do any better if called on to fire real rounds some day? The best guide to future behavior is past behavior, and this guy got Buck Fever.

Of course, the dirty little secret of the Taser is that, even though when they demonstrate it to you in the academy they have zero problem making you write on the floor and vow never to do this again, the damn things have a much lower reliability rate in the real world, where the intended recipient isn’t wearing a cotton shortsleeve shirt and standing perfectly still. They miss, they bounce off, they tangle in clothing and don’t complete the circuit. A Taser is truly a one-is-none weapon, at least to the degree you can count on the thing, and that reinforces the sheer bozosity of the decision and plan to make a deliberate assault on a subject without a second Taser. Their Plan B offered, in real-world terms, no better (and arguably worse) than 50/50 odds.

  • Failure #4: Contagious / Panic Fire

At this point the only thing left was to blast the guy, although the cop didn’t realize what he was doing was lethal force. One aspect of this that has not been explored, is that Taylor did not fire a shot, reassess, etc. He instantly went cyclic on his shotgun and only stopped firing when it was empty. His explanation was the usual PBA lawyered-up mantra, “I was in fear for my life.”

If he’s that scared, he’s a coward, and a hazard to everyone when he’s armed.

  • Failure #5: Point of Aim

Taylor fired all shots at center of mass, and at point-blank range. A DOJ study notes that “Law enforcement personnel are generally trained to aim for the “center of mass” … but users of impact munitions should be aware that individ­uals struck in these areas are also more susceptible to seri­ous injury or death, especially at close ranges.” The same study found five fatalities hit in the chest with bean bag rounds, and one hit in the neck, all at close range (out of some 300 use of less-lethal munitions). (The only other lethal encounters in that study were officers who thought they were firing less-lethal rounds, but weren’t). It’s clear from reading the report that these rounds are not safe to be fired from within approximately 30 feet — they’re definitely lethal at inside-the-room range.

It’s unlikely that these cops ever read this report. It’s unlikely that their department’s leaders ever did.

Supporters of the police in this case note that the subject, a frail 95-year-old man, had armed himself with a kitchen knife, and therefore, deadly force was justified. But this is an ex post facto rationalization — the officer in question thought he was using nonlethal force. His training (as well as his leadership) failed him.

  • Failure #6: Not Understanding Beanbag Rounds

The Beanbag 12-gauge is much beloved by police because of its low cost — a few dollars per round — and belief that it can be deployed without training. Here we see one consequence of that mistake. There are several variations of the load, but they have a checkered history. The initial rounds were discontinued after a fatal shooting in 1971, and replacements came back on the market — at a slightly reduced velocity — only years later, after the emergence of an officer safety culture that accepts 10% fatalities from a round marketed as nonlethal.

After all, once you shoot ’em they all had it coming.

The beanbag round leaves the shotgun at 300 to 400 feet per second and at close range frequently produces broken ribs and sternums, cardiac arrest, internal-organ damage and internal bleeding (this last, plus the age of the patient and the delayed treatment wel’ll cover below, was what killed this guy).

  • Failure #7: Delayed Treatment of the Victim

Finally, we have the latest thing emerging, which is: the police not yielding the scene to medical responders until they’ve done the necessary: cuff the victim, safe their weapons, recover their taser darts, and coordinate and rehearse their “I was in fear for my life” stories. Only then did they let the nursing-home staff examine the distressed man, and only then did anybody realize he needed medical help, so only then did anybody call for EMS.

Given his age, frailty, and the trauma from the point blank discharge of five 300-400 fps beanbags into his thorax and abdomen at contact range, the guy might have been toast even if Taylor’s attack had taken him on the loading dock of the ER, and the police then facilitated, rather than hindered, his treatment. But the fact is they didn’t expedite his trip to hospital.

Taylor has beaten the criminal rap, and he’s back on the street. Don’t you feel safer already?