Ralph Painter, the police chief in Ranier, Oregon, was killed yesterday, apparently in a struggle with a suspect at a car stereo store. The Chief was in his mid-fifties, the force he commanded only five officers strong, town of 1800 people. First LEO to die in the line of duty there in the town's history.
A terrible thing.
When Guru Plinck has classes at his house in Washington, my preferred route is via Hwy 30, which winds along the Columbia through several small towns on the Oregon side. During rush hour, it's faster than the interstate, and a much more pleasant drive.
The bridge into Washington is from Ranier to Longview, and you get a good look at Ranier because the speed limit through the little town is 25 mph. More than a few times I've driven through speed traps there. Goes from 55 to 40 to 25 mph in the space of a few hundred yards and if you try to blow through town at anything faster than 25, you are apt to get pulled over.
When I heard the story on the local newscast yesterday, the basic narrative was that the suspect was screwing around with a car being worked on that wasn't his. Employees called it in, the Chief came to check it out. A struggle ensued, the Chief was shot, officers from Ranier and some of the other small towns converged and shot the suspect.
The shooter, from Kalama, a tiny town just down the road on the Washington side, had a record of mostly-car stuff, DUIIs and speeding -- and was apparently a drinker and a dope-smoker -- plus there was a malicious mischief charge, but no indication of violence at this level. The picture of him shows a well-built jock, though not that big, and I'm willing to bet he was stoned on something when this went down.
The tone of the story suggested to me that the kid -- he's 21 -- managed to get the Chief's weapont. Subsequent reports support that. And the arriving back-up fired at least eight times, plus or minus, and the not-severely-wounded suspect was transported to a hospital in Portland, where he is expected to survive. A picture of him being herded cuffed into a unit indicates he wasn't shot too bad.
Witnesses say as many as thirty officers showed up.
Again, that fight-or-flight stuff. Eight rounds, probably more. Why isn't the shooter dead? Because when the adrenaline flows, the hands shake. There were windows across the street being blown out, the local preacher says they hit the floor just before rounds came through, spraying them with glass.
It's still speculation at this point, but if the suspect managed to get the Chief's gun, what an awful tragedy that is.
It is tragic in any event.
The stats indicate that of LEO's killed by gunfire in the line of duty in the U.S., about one in ten or twelve is shot with his or her own service weapon. They make special retention holsters to stop this -- the Blackhawk is advertised on gun night on the Outdoor Channel frequently. Safariland and Uncle Mike's also make these.
There are apparently four levels of retention for sidearm holsters, from Level I to Level IV, with IV being the most effective. Level I is supposed to protect against a snatch and grab attack for at least five seconds. According to Massad Ayoob, no officer with a Level III retention holster has ever had his weapon taken from one and used against him. Apparently Level II is what most departments who require these mandate.
There are other devices connected to the gun itself, though I'm not sure how reliable they are. There's a safety for revolvers that requires a magnetic ring or the gun won't fire. And fingerprint readers built into the grips. Guns with manual safeties have saved lives, though most nines and forties these days don't have those -- no Glock does.
Good retention holsters run from thirty to forty-five or fifty bucks. From LEO's to whom I've talked, such devices aren't popular because they believe it will slow them down too much if they need to draw in a hurry. Come the dill, you don't want to be fumbling with your fucking holster, trying to claw your piece out, and I can understand that. But if you are apt to be wresting with somebody, the old advice to newbie officers is that there is always a gun at the scene of every arrest -- yours ...