I was just reading Tiger McKee’s “The Book of Two Guns” where I came across this passage:
When engaging a threat with fire you are shooting to stop the threat-not kill them. Due to the areas we must shoot to stop the threat effectively-the center mass and head, the threat may die. But that isn’t the desired effect. Our job is to stop the threat as quickly as possible-or we hurt them enough that they decide to leave.
I entirely understand WHY we are taught this way…because of litigation. “So officer you are saying that you INTENDED TO KILL MY CLIENT?!?!” And to combat the television educated critics that demand to know why we don’t just “shoot him in the leg” or knee.
There’s also the (IMO) silly argument that “shooting to kill” means that we execute incapacitated subjects or surrendering offenders.
However, I have always thought that this meme has some holes in it (so to speak).
If you draw your firearm and shoot someone in self defense, you are intending to use lethal force against them with legal justification. It’s called the “Use of DEADLY force” for a reason. It’s not called the “use of STOPPING force”. Death is not merely a side-effect of your actions, it is most likely going to be the natural consequence of them.
A lack of intent does nothing to establish the justification of self defense, yet somehow people have gotten the idea that they have to pretend that they had no intent when they pull the trigger.
“Stopping” is not a legal term in this context, but firearms trainers are determined to give it legal significance. I would bet an attorney would say that it has none and never has. You can try to dress up the use of lethal force anyway you want, but the bottom line is if you use it you had better be justified in intending to kill. “Shooting to stop” could easily include shooting the handgun out of their hand or shooting their leg. That’s a dangerous road to go down. If you could defend yourself by using less-than-lethal force, then you probably weren’t justified in using lethal force.
If some crook shoots me in an attempt to escape and I survive he is going to be charged with attempted MURDER not an illegal STOP with a firearm.
I will refer you to another post of mine where I addressed this. It was in reference to the tragic death of Police Officer Jonathan Schmidt.
Officer Schmidt was gunned down on a traffic stop while trying to arrest a man with a warrant for an unleashed dog. The man came out of the backseat of the car firing and Schmidt lost his life. A quote from a local news article reads:
Wounded in the neck and scrambling away from a gunman, a young Arkansas police officer managed to shove his sergeant out of harm’s way before dying in a shootout while pleading for his life, witnesses told The Associated Press on Wednesday.
According to Elumbaugh, when Schmidt opened the rear passenger door where Lard was sitting, Lard lunged at him and started shooting. Schmidt, hit in the neck by a bullet, turned away and pushed Overstreet toward safety.
Once Overstreet was behind Schmidt’s police car, Schmidt turned back toward Lard and began to return fire.
While he was shooting, Elumbaugh said, Lard was cursing Schmidt, saying “Die, (expletive)!”
“Please don’t shoot me. Please don’t shoot me,” Schmidt cried out, Elumbaugh said.
It’s my opinion that the “shoot to stop” meme so popular in our profession (and made necessary by attorneys) ingrains in us the mindset of “please stop..please let this stop him…God stop him!!”. In this sort of situation, where a gunman has hit you in the neck and is screaming “DIE F$%^#R!!!” at you…perhaps it should be entering into our minds that it’s KILL or BE KILLED! If he’s yelling “DIE MOTHER F#$@%R!!!” I’d prefer to see officers yelling “YOU FIRST A$$%^!E!!!” through a barrage of bullets.
It’s a difficult topic. On one hand I understand the reasoning behind the “shoot to stop” mentality, but on the other it seems more about semantics than tactics.