The reported facts do not seem to be in question: Dalton SMITH held Andrea Rebello captive in a residence, physically holding Miss Rebello in a headlock (according to AP account) while holding a ‘loaded gun’ to her head. Smith then pointed that ‘loaded gun’ at an unnamed Nassau County Police Officer who fired in response, killing SMITH and Miss Rebello as well.
Andrea Rebello was a student at Hofstra University. Her entire involvement in this event seems to be that of random victim. Nothing seems to indicate she invited this problem in any manner, save being ‘convenient’ to attack. One must also note under the laws of New York, she was barred from being able to defend herself from violent attack by the myriad of ‘gun laws’ preventing citizens owning firearms. This also applies to the other two victims in the event – who happily escaped physical harm. The late Miss Rebello was twenty-one years of age when she was killed.
Dalton SMITH has been identified as thirty years of age. One news account (http://newyork.newsday.com/news/region-state/cops-hofstra-student-andrea-rebello-armed-suspect-dalton-smith-fatally-shot-by-officer-1.5289639) reports SMITH as a convicted felon with an extensive criminal history wanted for violating parole. Please note, under Federal law – and most states as well – a convicted felon cannot lawfully purchase or possess a firearm. The account notes the serial number on the handgun in question was obliterated; in itself a Federal violation and an indication the possessor (or perhaps the seller in this case) is attempting to prevent back tracking the ownership of the firearm.
The Nassau Police officer has not been named, a common practice at this stage of the investigation. (No doubt some unscrupulous ‘journalist’ will obtain the name by some mechanism and publish it to gain a bonus or raise.) According to the account cited above, he worked for the New York (City) Police Department for seven or eight years prior to joining the Nassau County Police, where he has worked for twelve years. So the officer has nineteen to twenty years of police experience and training. He is currently on medical leave and will be monitored and offered counseling.
Addressing the shooting proper, as a long time armed law enforcement officer, shooter and student of armed force application, I note the following:
The report of the shooting is very sketchy. One sentence says Miss Rebello was being held in a ‘headlock’, but other comments indicate SMITH was holding Miss Rebello in front of him, as a shield. No mention is given of the distance of the shooting encounter, but it took place in a single room of a residential dwelling. Therefore, the range was most likely no further than seven yards (twenty-one feet). For an untrained handgun shooter, seven yards can be daunting for any precision; for a competent shooter, seven yards is not too difficult and for an advance shooter, seven yards is uncomfortably close.
Firing eight shots in rapid succession is demonstrative of one of two factors: Either lack of effect on target, or fear.
When confronted by an armed adversary who in the process of attacking or committing a dangerous action, one fires a shot to render the adversary incapable of continuing the threat, attack or dangerous action. If the adversary does not immediately abandon his threatening action(s), one fires another shot and re-assesses the result. This continues as needed. Please note, there is no time limit required for the assessment; do not get the incorrect idea that a defensive shooter must pause a certain amount of time between shots. The typical reason fired shots do not affect the attacker is a lack of power in the round itself, or poorly delivered hits.
When a defensive shooter is overcome by fear, he shoots rapidly and repeatedly in order to end the threat. This fear is normally generated by a lack of self-confidence due to a known lack of ability to hit the target. This is referred to in the discipline as ‘panic shooting’.
In the instant case, the caliber of the police officer’s weapon is not known. Commonly issued in the area – notably NYPD – are pistols in caliber 9×19 NATO (also known popularly as 9mm Luger and 9mm Parabellum.) Also unknown is the type of ammunition issued and used. One notes the specific ammunition has a great deal to do with the effectiveness of a shot delivered. The military style, Full Metal Jacket (FMJ) ammunition – used by NYPD as recently as the Amadou Diallo shooting in 1999 – is noted for a lack of ability to render an attacker unable to carry out further attack.
It is possible the combination of firearm and ammunition used by the Nassau County Police officer was ill-considered for ability to stop the illegal actions of a determined attacker. Further discussion on this point is purely conjecture and I will stop here on that aspect.
Another reason recipients of gunshot wounds (note I do not use the term ‘victim’) are not incapacitated is the shots were not delivered to a critical portion of the anatomy. The commonly accepted ‘desired’ bullet placement is in the Central Nervous System (CNS), comprised of the portion of the brain that controls volitional movement and the spinal column. Disrupting the function of the CNS will prevent the attacker further independent movement and render such attacker incapable of continuing a threat. However, as shown by shooting reports, not all ‘head shots’ are CNS shots. Body shots, which may in time cause death from blood loss, are not CNS shots and will not reliably stop an attacker from further threat. Mere pain may indeed end an attack, but will not in the case of a determined attacker and will certainly not deter an attacker under the influence of a host of pain suppressing agents, including alcohol and surely many mood altering drugs. Shots to limbs may or may not be fatal in time, but cannot be relied upon to instantly stop an attack. This paragraph is the reason behind many reports of a person being shot multiple times prior to death or other end of an encounter. This is the legitimate reason for law enforcement officers shooting a suspect multiple times; the suspect was shot X number of times because after being shot X-1 times, the suspect was still posing a threat.
However, the common reason for multiple shots fired in such circumstances is basic fear.
Between any given agency’s budget and manpower allocation requirements, and the abusive power of unions, law enforcement officers are given what can be generously described as ‘minimal’ training in the serious use of firearms.
Make no mistake; law enforcement agency management view all training as ‘down time’. The officer being trained is not on duty and therefore ‘wasted’. An officer being trained must be replaced ‘on line’, requiring hiring of an additional officer or overtime payments to another current officer. This cost is in addition to the direct costs of training; the trainers (typically officers who also are not on line), the equipment (a range and attendant facilities), the materials (ammunition, targets, alternate firearms and various props) and potential for added medical expenses for injuries suffered in training mishaps. From a management standpoint, these are all additional expenditures not directly related to the goal of ‘enforcing the law and preserving the peace’. Even more frustrating, the ‘value’ of such training cannot be directly applied to the yearly budget report. (From time to time, an officer will use the CPR training to save a life, providing a positive image of the agency to the populace served; however, the cost of the CPR training is still substantial and must be paid, up front.)
At the same time, all agencies can claim their employees are trained to the ‘required level and criteria’. What that means is the arbitrary standards of proficiency established by either the agency itself or a politically oriented and governed, over-seeing body. I have shot – and fired qualifying scores – on no less than nine different courses of fire over my life time. The only ones I felt ‘challenging’ were those I fired as a new shooter. They all deal with ‘ready’ positions, static problems, little stress and very little attention to firing a single, reactive shot – the first shot under stimulus – rather than multiple shots in a specific time period.
What can I say about law enforcement unions? From my own observations, law enforcement unions have the goal of raising wages while reducing the effectiveness of the individual officer. In specific, unions constantly protest against firearms qualifications as ‘too difficult’ and unreasonable in scope.
So: Here’s what the ‘inquiry’ will announce as findings.
1. The officer acted in the best interests of all involved. He did the best he could under horrible circumstances and is exonerated of any wrong-doing or culpability.
[This is true, but only in a limited sense. He acted in his own best interests first; he didn’t engage the suspect while the suspect was pointing the gun at the victim and announcing his intention to kill her. The officer only engaged when the suspect shifted the gun toward the officer. The officer did the best he could based on the rather basic and infrequent training provided by the agency; he fired rapidly and repeatedly at the suspect (and victim). The officer probably never did any individual training or practice for such an encounter on his own.
This will not be mentioned.]
2. The primary cause of the incident and subsequent deaths was the suspect, Dalton SMITH.
[Again true, in a limited sense. SMITH was loose on the streets because the State of New York turned him loose. Based on his rather questionable past, one wonders why in the world anyone would allow such a man any degree of freedom among relatively decent citizens? Ah, I have it! The ‘law’ demands it. The laws of the State of New York are written in such a way that such predators cannot be incarcerated to protect the citizenry. Did anyone notice SMITH’s photo? He appears to be a black male.
This will not be mentioned.]
3. The suspect was armed in violation of various laws, thereby endorsing even more stringent gun control laws.
[It’s a boilerplate statement in New York and other Leftist controlled areas; part of the Leftist dogma. Ignored in this sentiment are the facts that this suspect obtained a firearm in violation of extant state and federal laws, and such laws prevented Miss Rebello and her friends from defending themselves.
This will not be mentioned.]
4. The inquiry will mention the need for more study of hostage events and considerations of how to handle those events.
[One has no idea of how much tax money will go into such ‘study and consideration’, save that it will far outstrip the money spent on actual training. One also has a suspicion the actual training will degenerated into a touchy-feely discussion of how to interact with ‘less fortunate’ and ‘deprived’ members of the community who feel disenfranchised, victimized and discounted. That they are ‘disenfranchised, victimized and discounted’ solely on the basis of their personal decision to commit felonious acts of a violent and predatory nature will be ignored. No additional training on shooting the malefactor while not shooting a hostage will be provided. Or even considered.
All of this will not be mentioned.]
To the family and friends of Miss Andrea Rebello, may I offer my deepest regrets and condolences. You are also victims of this hideous event. Not just of SMITH; not just of the lackadaisical firearms training of Nassau County (and most agencies), but also of the State of New York, who decided it was better to let SMITH run loose with an unregistered firearm while preventing any of you from defending yourselves or your loved ones. So much for a government driven by political correctness. I will be praying for you all.