Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Shooting Report from Portland

During a traffic stop a few weeks back, Portland police got into a gun battle with a young black man, Keaton Otis. There is contention about why Otis was stopped -- if it was racial profiling or because he was driving erratically -- but not really any dispute, from my view, about the shooting itself.

Otis grabbed a gun and shot one of the Portland officers, twice -- at which point three of the other officers in on the stop returned fire and killed him.

This is as righteous as it gets, and there was no question about somebody thinking the man had a gun -- he did, and he used it. Open and shut, a slew of witnesses, some with cell phone cams.

Turned out the man was mentally off-the-beam, though exactly what hasn't surfaced yet. Some kind of mood disorder. And he'd stopped taking his meds. Sad. Tragic.

The basic story is that a couple units pulled him over, he didn't want to get out of the car. Back-up arrived, boxed his car in, and when they tried to pry him out of his vehicle, he didn't want to go. They tasered him -- multiple times, and that didn't do it.

Otis went for his hardware. The shot officer was backing away when he was hit.

The diagram above shows the scenario. There were seven officers at the stop. Once the shooting began, the one outside Otis's passenger door, Murphy got the hell out of the crossfire which was a really good idea, and I'll get to why in a minute.

Three of the other six returned fire -- the shooters were at the driver's side door and slightly back, and directly behind the vehicle, according to the police department diagram.

It all happened really fast once the firing commenced. You don't see the entire sequence of police shooting cleanly, but a couple of cell phone cams across the street caught the start and some of the action. Once everybody opens up, the woman with the best cam-view (wisely) ducks inside her balcony. You hear her talking to somebody after it's over: "Get down, they are shooting guns and shit."

Another vid, shot through what looks like dirty glass or a blotchy, screened window, is also online, but you have to fill out a survey to access it.

Here's the part I don't like: The three officers who shot fired a total of 32 rounds. Yeah, yeah, I know, I'm not bitching about that per se, but rather the fact that they hit him 23 times, which means that 9 rounds missed a target who was a) four feet, b) five feet, and just under ten feet away from the shooters. (Officer Defrain, closest, fired 15 rounds; Officer Cody Berne, next to him, 11 rounds; Officer Polas, to the rear of the car, 6 rounds, through the rear windshield. I don't know exactly what their hardware was --Glocks 17, 19, or 26 are standard carry.

About 72% hits averaged -- which is pretty good in a four-round gun fight, but not so good when you are unloading most of a box of ammo in the middle of a public street near Lloyd Center.

One of the stray rounds went a couple blocks and in through the open door of a Radio Shack where it hit the floor molding where a customer picked it up. Huh. Look at that. A bullet.

Wonder where the other eight went?

Otis, who fired his nine twice -- it was a stolen gun, nobody seems to know how he got it -- hit Officer Burley both times, in the legs near the groin, shooting from inside the car, after being tasered three times, and Burley was a distance of about twenty feet from the vehicle.

Anybody see where I'm going with this?


Scott said...

There's a natural aversion to killing people that crazy people sometimes lack?

The cops would probably outshoot the crazy handily at a range poking holes in paper targets.

Justin said...

I imagine rapid-firing a pistol causes some kickback that affects aim.

I wonder what kind of rapid-fire training police officers undergo. After all, they're not too likely to fire just one single shot in a firefight -- preferable to unloading a clip, but not likely.

dprice95 said...

There's a lot of Law Enforcement writing on this... While I think the aversion to killing theory would have support (read Col. Grossman's On Killing), probably not all there is to it. LE Officers miss at this kind of a percentage pretty regularly, outside of very active SWAT teams and the like. Lots of theories, including not enough training, stress reactions, and the like. I've got a personal theory, something along the "Oh S&*% theory." It says that Officers have done a traffic stop (ok, so this was out of the ordinary, but still a vehicle stop) and have had these stops have worked out OK, this one will to... oh wait, that guys shooting at us, crap, I need to shoot him!!! Officers are involved in shootings so rarely, it still comes as a surprise to most who are suddenly in one. Being very surprised, and thinking about the fact that you are actually in a shooting, would tend to deteriorate your shooting somewhat, I would think.

Just a theory, though.

Some other thoughts on this one..
Glass deflects bullets, 1st couple may have skipped off until the glass was gone. Also, Officers are taught to shoot until the threat stops. In this case, from the back, a guy firing a gun from a sitting position does not look that different from a guy dead in his seat. i.e. there was no visual cue that the threat had stopped, so they continued firing.

Oh, right, more theories!

(BTW, long time reader of the blog, and books, and LE Officer. Registered to post on this one!)

Scott said...

"not enough training, stress reactions, and the like. I've got a personal theory, something along the "Oh S&*% theory." It says that Officers have done a traffic stop (ok, so this was out of the ordinary, but still a vehicle stop) and have had these stops have worked out OK, this one will to... oh wait, that guys shooting at us, crap, I need to shoot him!!! Officers are involved in shootings so rarely, it still comes as a surprise to most who are suddenly in one. Being very surprised, and thinking about the fact that you are actually in a shooting, would tend to deteriorate your shooting somewhat, I would think."

Doesn't explain the disparity, though; if anything, the cops should be better trained and readier than the kook, right?"

dprice95 said...

"Doesn't explain the disparity, though; if anything, the cops should be better trained and readier than the kook, right?"

Not completely. Although for the bad guy, he knows this is about to turn into a shooting, the Officers don't. Whereas most Officers have been involved in a stressful situation that was resolved without gunfire, and consciously or unconsciously, expect this one to be too.

And I have no illusions that my theory explains it all, just that its my theory; :)

Steve Perry said...

Two points, kinda linked:

One, an untrained, mentally-deranged guy who just took three sets of taser needles manages to get his piece out -- and if I had to bet, I go with the notion that it's a weapon he probably never fired before, or at best, not much -- and goes two for two at twenty feet.

Three trained officers, all with more than fire years on the force cut loose with thirty-two rounds and miss nine times, at one quarter to one half the distance.

Even if the guy behind the car had glass and skipped a couple rounds and then missed the other four, that means at least one of the two closer shooters missed, and maybe both, there being three more rounds that didn't impact the suspect.

Two, if all of the research seems to show that when the shit hits the fan, LEO's are gonna get the adrenaline spooks 'n' shivers and miss the target, that there *will be* a training failure, then common sense says to take away the high-cap Glocks and give them back revolvers.

I mean, if you can't do it with eighteen at four, five, and nine feet? I don't want you emptying a fat magazine into the neighborhood -- that's a lot more hard sleet tearing down the road and punching holes in things that don't need holes punched in 'em ...

At the very least, you could limit the collateral damage.

I heard a range officer, ex-gunnery sergeant, as I recall, say at a range once, "If you cannot make the shot, you do not take the shot." Great line, I used it in a book.

Dan Gambiera said...

Sounds like a righteous shoot. I really wish PPB policy wasn't "At all costs, empty your magazine." Some years back Portland police executed a circular firing squad against a guy holding a kid hostage. Yes, they surrounded the criminal killing him and the hostage.

A few weeks later police out on the coast resolved a similar situation with one shot. The chief's response to why his men only shot once "We're not Portland."

jks9199 said...

Two points:

On the bad guy's shooting vs. the cops's shooting... Action versus reaction. He knew & decided what he was going to do. They were confronted with it, and had to transition from a "we need to get the guy out of the car" mindset to a "HOLY CRAP! HE'S SHOOTING AT ME!" mindset -- which leads to point two.

That adrenal dump does a lot of things... Including compromising fine motor control (like lining sights up... even for point shooting), messing with vision (both mental and physiological), and hearing, and more. You also have to take into account the fact that this happens in seconds -- and as long as they're hearing shots, people are likely to keep shooting...

(Oh, that "Oh S&*%" theory... It has a name. Presumed Compliance. We cops get so used to the vast majority of people who go with the program, no matter how much they talk... that we can be surprised and stunned when they don't.)

Steve Perry said...

All of which offers what seems to be common knowledge among cops and soldiers and serious street fighters -- when the line goes hot, things can get wonky.

But if things got wonky every time, then there wouldn't be any point in training cops, soldiers, and serious street fighters.

I know the theory of shoot until the threat ceases, and a guy jammed so he can't fall over keeps eating jacketed until the magazine runs dry. Which is fine if you can put them into the target.

If you can't, then I don't want to be in the neighborhood when the bullets come whistling down the street. In this case, they were a block away from one of the big malls when the shooting commenced

Probably most of the misses ended up in the car, spattered on the street or sidewalk, or in the wall of the building bordering the street. But at least one went shopping at Radio Shack a couple blocks away.

And as for the dead guy, whatever advantage reaching first and shooting gave him, getting jolted by tasers at least three times, according to police reports? I'm thinking that anybody still presuming compliance needed to reset those expectations.

Yes, I am Monday morning quarterbacking. I wasn't there, and I don't have the training. I'm not arguing that it wasn't a righteous shoot; I'm saying that if the guns clear leather and speak, the shooter needs enough practice to hit his target or know where the strays go if he misses. If Officer Murphy hadn't been fast on his feet, he might have easily been a vicim of friendly-fire. As would somebody walking out of the Radio Shack down the road.

And if the training with boomware is going to be spray-and-pray and we-don't-need-no-steenkin'-backstop? Then I'm for limiting the firepower. If it's a car full of meth dealers all carrying Uzis, the black rifles and shotguns are in the patrol car.

Last week, some yahoo with a concealed carry license saw a couple kids rip off some cell phones from a store. So he gave chase, and then, having watched too many cop shows on TV, pulled his snubbie and tried to shoot the tires of the getaway car. He missed. Police came, listened to the story, and arrested him. And rightly so --guy is a nightmare for concealed carry folks. You don't don't pull your piece unless it is to prevent a serious felony -- if it isn't life or death or pretty close to it.

Stealing cell phones isn't in the shoot category. His permit is gone and it should be. In order to get it in the first place, you are supposed to know better.

Discharging your weapon in the middle of town requires due diligence, no matter who does it. That no civilians got shot here was lucky, and sooner or later, that runs out.

Master Plan said...

I wonder about the likelihood of a J Random Criminal having 'more' 'gun fight' experience than J Average LEO.

I figure anybody will do a sub-optimal job, for the most part, the first time they try to do a high-stress activity "for real".

A cop can be pretty sure if he\she is firing their weapon it's going to be examined pretty thoroughly (one hopes) a criminal doesn't have that expectation.

Seems mentally simplifying to me if all I gotta do is shot HomeBoy X or Y in uniform as opposed to worry about clearing the line of fire, justifying the shooting, and all the rest of whatever might be reasonably assumed to pass through the mind of a person in their first gun fight.

Which, I'm not wrong, this IS the first gun fight for all the involved officers, is it not?

Steve Perry said...

I don't think encouraging the police to get into more real gunfights to insure better performance is the way to go.

No kind of training is the real thing except the real thing, but there are better and worse ways to learn your tools. The stress of an IPSC or an IDPA match, or scenario stuff in a shoot-house is not the street, but it has to be better than slow-aimed paper punching at twenty-five yards for a seventy-percent qualifying score.

If the untrained homeboy is a better shooter, something is wrong with that picture. If you are going to turn people loose on the streets with legal leave to shoot, it seems to me that trying to make sure they have some ability with their tools needs to be a priority.

The concealed handgun licensed citizens are, most of them, never going to have need to use a pistol. And even so, some of them I know spend way more time practicing than most LEO's do. I haven't been to the range much lately, but for a while, I was going once a week and burning at least a box or two each time at the combat range.

Most police officers fifty years ago went their whole careers without ever firing a round outside the range. Officer-involved shootings are still relatively rare, but there are more of them and they involve a lot more lead. The old saw was three-feet-three-shots-three-seconds. In Portland, at least, empty high-cap magazines happen all the time. Spray and pray shooting is a bad idea, and the more that happens, the more likely it is that somebody innocent is gonna get plugged.

If a bad guy soaks up six bullets to the center of mass and keeps going, six or ten more ain't going do the job any faster.

Maybe somebody should do some serious teaching of the Mozambique Drill.

Steve Perry said...

It would be interesting to know what the current standards are for handgun qualification for sworn officers at the PPB. All I can find in the policy manual refers to nuts and bolts of the hardware, and something that indicates the course of fire is fifty rounds, but how fast and at what they shoot, it doesn't say.

Years ago, the standards were low enough that many PPD officers wouldn't be qualified to carry in L.A. or San Diego, but training has been upgraded since.

I should dig around and see what the course is now.

jks9199 said...

Training is, unfortunately, always one of the first areas cut when budgets get tight.

GOOD simulation training is hard work. And takes a lot of planning. And a huge reduction in trainer ego. All that has to be coupled with an administration that accepts that it's needed and supports doing it.

I'm absolutely in favor of increased training for cops. But the reality is it just ain't happening any time soon. To do good simulation or scenario based training takes time to plan, time to run people through it, and the acceptance that people will get hurt occasionally. Sometimes in the dumbest ways possible, like tripping and tearing a knee ligament.

Scott said...

Grossman suggests that recreationally shooting people - e.g. paintball, laser tag, video games - is better prep for shooting people than range time.

MP's suggestion of asymmetric tasking - that what cops are trying to do is more complicated and so fucks them up - is interesting, never heard that one before. Worth thinking about.

Presumed compliance after 3 tasers seems like an example of habit trumping observation. That's not a slam, happens to me all the time; not sure training could reduce it.

Viro said...

Viro's analysis:

Mentally unbalanced people use their bullets sparringly, but hit their targets over a decent amount of distance.

Portland police officers tend to empty their cips and, in doing so, miss a sizeable percentage of their shots at close range.

Therefore, in the interest of public safety, the Portland police department needs to hire more mentally unbalnced officers.

Police in Portland don't like Radio Shack and will take any opportunity to fire upon it.

jks9199 said...

Let me clarify something; presumed compliance applied (if at all here) only until the guy refused to comply and get out of the car. Once it became about getting him out of the car, the cops (speaking from experience) focused that task: they used appropriate methods for what is often described as an "Active Resistor" because he wasn't attacking them -- but was actively resisting and disobeying their commands. (Yes, a Taser is generally appropriate force at that point, though a recent decision in the 9th Circuit may change that out west.) He shifted to an "Assailant" when he decided to go for the gun -- but the cops didn't know that yet. That's why I pointed to the difference in action vs. reaction; the officers were still trying to get him out of the car -- they had to make that mental adjustment on the fly to dealing with the assailant.

It'd be nice if they had TV-style, single shot kills. Their hit ratio is actually reasonably on-track for police shootings. There are lots of reasons for this, as has been discussed. No, it's far from ideal. But it's reality. It's like hand-to-hand; there're some officers who will train or shoot enough on their own -- and in a way that's going to be beneficial. There are more who will do the mandated training, and maybe a little more... if it's not too inconvenient. And many who won't do anything they don't have to. Outside of SWAT operators and range staff... most agencies just don't give cops much practice time. And when they do, it's often simply shooting a qual course or two, and calling that training. It's enough to cover the liability... and every agency has "that guy" who barely passes qualification every year. (Funny thing, though... I know anecdotally of cases where that same guy shot did incredible shooting when it counted!)

Steve Perry said...

Yep, it's a problem, but it's one that doesn't seem to be getting addressed. Everybody talks about it, but unlike the weather, something might be done about it.

Do I have the answers? No. But maybe somebody does.

There are several things that keep popping up. Some of them go to the whole profiling thing -- the reason Otis was flagged was because he looked like a gangbanger -- he was wearing a hoody. He did signal for a lane change, but then, he didn't. And he didn't use his turn indicator within a hundred feet of an intersection, so they pulled him over. This is another of those facts of life in Portland -- you can get pulled over for DWB at any time. And once officers following a vehicle decide you need to be checked out, they are surely going to notice a bad tail light or crooked license plate -- another fact of life.

Let me ask the LEOs here -- you ever feel the need to pull somebody over and couldn't find a reason?

I'm not denying that a good street cop can get a hinky feeling and that he should try to see if it's valid. You see a guy wearing a Nixon mask parked outside the bank? Probably needs to be looked into. But if you get hinky every time you see a hoody? Or if your partner looks at you in wonder -- what? when you decided to stop somebody?

After an officer-involved shooting a couple months back, the local minority newspaper offered an article that allowed that if you were black, maybe it wasn't a good idea to call the police, since that might get you capped instead of helped. I can see how they might think that every time some unarmed black man or woman gets shot.

My dealings with the police have been infrequent here, and uniformly good -- but I'm an old white guy who lives in a nice neighborhood.

Second, during the Otis incident, nobody seemed to be in charge. There was a sergeant, but the tasers were going off independently, and involved officers admitted they didn't know what the other officers were doing.

Third, the gang that couldn't shoot straight. Seventy-percent shooting using that many rounds in a crowded neighborhood doesn't cut it if there are ways to make it better, and if it's a matter of training funds, then we the citizens ought to be yelling at the mayor and the city council to get their priorities straight. Paintball and Airsoft guns aren't that spendy to keep a few at the range. Maybe qualification with somebody shooting back might help. There must be a force somewhere in the U.S. that manages to be the example, and if so, finding them and seeing how they do it would seem to be useful. Shrugging it off and saying, Well, that's the way it goes, doesn't seem helpful.

If you get sick, the cure needs to be less deadly than the disease. You can get rid of the rats by burning down the barn, but that's not generally considered the best option.

We put a man on the moon forty years ago. Surely we can come up with a way to teach people how to shoot better?

jks9199 said...

Have I ever wanted to stop a car and couldn't find a reasonably legitimate reason to stop 'em? Yep, a few times. Not many; there's a whole lot of stuff in that code book, and some of it is pretty obscure & picayune.

Control of the scene... That's a huge headache. Most street cops don't train to work together enough, especially in a situation like this. It takes time, and preparation, and it takes discipline to handle such a chaotic situation. The sergeant is supposed to be the voice of calm, if on scene. But it's easy to get wrapped up in what's happening. A lot of the time, the truth is we have too many guys trying to handle something, with no shared plan.

The solution? Training. Practice. The headache is it takes time and money. And too often, the deciding point in something like that is what is the MINIMUM acceptable by liability standards. For example, where I live, the requirement is that we qualify on one of the prescribed courses, once a year. Common sense reading is every twelve months, right? But that's NOT what it says. What it says is once a year... so it's been held to mean once during a calendar year. As in shoot on New Years Day and you don't have to shoot again until December 31 the following year. That meets the minimum -- so that's what we do.

VC said...

Have you seen this?