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Doug  Wyllie

Doug Wyllie

Doug Wyllie has authored more than 1,000 articles and tactical tips aimed at ensuring that police officers are safer and more successful on the streets. Doug is a Western Publishing Association “Maggie Award” winner for Best Regularly Featured Digital Edition Column. He is a member of International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA), an Associate Member of the California Peace Officers’ Association (CPOA), and a member of the Public Safety Writers Association (PSWA).
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Video: Justified Deadly Force In D.C.

A vehicle presenting a lethal threat allows officers to use deadly force.

October 08, 2013  |  by Jon Adler

VIDEO: Officers Fire at Suspect In D.C. Chase

Law enforcement's use of deadly force at the end of the U.S. Capitol pursuit may not satisfy the mainstream media or other second guessers, but it was the proper response to a lethal situation.

Based on what we know publicly, a volatile subject attempted to breach a White House security barrier on Oct. 3 by ramming a black Infiniti into it. When the subject failed, they rammed a responding radio car, and struck a U.S. Secret Service agent. The subject then exposed the officers to great risk by speeding away at high speed in a reckless manner. The subject ultimately crashed the vehicle into a U.S. Capitol Police barricade. Officers stopped the potentially lethal threat by appropriately deploying their firearms.

Notice my reference to the individual who initiated the lethal scenario as a "subject." Responding officers were confronted by a potentially lethal threat, rather than a young attractive woman with her child in the rear seat. In assessing the appropriate level of force in this situation, gender should not be considered. All hands and feet are equally potentially lethal when applied to the steering wheel and gas pedal respectively. Inevitably, the news media's bias drew upon the subject's gender and appearance to criticize the level of force used.

Regarding the child in the vehicle, no one envies the officers who were on scene during the initial and final vehicular attacks. We don't know whether the officers were able to see the child in the back seat, especially considering window visibility factors. The officers demonstrated remarkable restraint when the subject first attempted to breach the security using her vehicle as a lethal weapon.

The presence of the child should be viewed as a potential victim of the subject's lethal behavior, and the officers should be commended for rescuing her without injury. History has shown us that subjects exuding irrational, lethal behavior have exploited children to accomplish their deadly objectives. The presence of a child, as heart wrenching as it may be, doesn't reduce the level of threat posed by the subject.

In terms of the use of deadly force, federal law enforcement officers follow the same policy and concept. We discharge our weapons as a last resort to stop a potentially lethal threat, and prevent serious bodily injury or loss of life.

Based on what is known, the officers used the appropriate level of force considering their reasonable perception of the threat level initiated by the subject. Based on her volatile use of the Infiniti, and the fact that she rammed government property and federal officers, she posed a potentially lethal threat to the officers. The subject also posed a lethal threat to those in the immediate area, including the child in her vehicle, by driving in a reckless manner.

While it was obvious that the subject used her vehicle in a hazardous manner to gain unauthorized entry to government property, there was no way to discern whether the vehicle contained any explosive material or other weapons that could have fatally wounded the officers or bystanders. Officers assess available threat indicators in micro-seconds and react accordingly.

Critics often ask why officers didn't shoot at the tires. The answer is that law enforcement tactics don't follow Hollywood fiction. They must respond in the real world. Warning shots and shooting at tires are usually prohibited by agency policy because they pose a greater threat to those in the immediate area. Shooting at tires would create a dangerous ricochet swarm that exposes anyone in the immediate area to significant risk.

The officers should be commended for their performance. The second-guessing, "could have" committee will draw upon the subject's publicized mental health history, and somehow suggest the officers should have known this and tempered their response. That's nonsense. There's no pause button for an officer to hit while being confronted by a lethal threat. Law enforcement officers receive training on how to deal with subjects with known mental illness, but in this situation, the officers needed to objectively assess what was known at the time of the attacks and respond appropriately.

While the loss of life is regrettable, it's fortuitous that no law enforcement officers or innocent civilians were killed. The Secret Service and Capitol Police have a very dangerous job, and they carry out their respective high-risk missions with the utmost degree of professionalism. I applaud them for their unwavering service to our country, and for confronting volatile subjects to keep us safe.

Comments (12)

Displaying 1 - 12 of 12

Chuck McKenzie @ 10/8/2013 3:56 PM

Having dealt with more than a few of these "loons", I seldom had the good fortune to have background information as to their mental conditions. They don't take their medications because they feel "just fine". They then proceed to inflict themselves on society, which wants to know, "Why didn't the cops do something about this guy?" Sorry, but she chose to end her life, at the potential expense of many others.

Yeti @ 10/8/2013 4:59 PM

Excuse me, the "subject was running away from the car not trying to run them over anymore! She was not a threat if she's running away. Or is that just for civilians. If I shot someone running away from me even though they just mugged me I'd be in big trouble. Even if I just ran them down and tackled them. How can they say it was justified? She was most likely running from the car so they wouldn't shoot her baby. She must have been one heck of a track star if no one thought they could just run her down and tackle her. It was just the heat of the moment. Everyone including civilians gets caught up in that it's just the police that can "justify" it!

Yeti @ 10/8/2013 5:02 PM

Although on the other hand if they would just start shooting ALL the criminals then we wouldn't have overcrowded prisons. Be consistent shoot them all or not at all!

Capt. Crunch @ 10/8/2013 5:43 PM

@ Yeti, how could she be running away from the car when she was in the car.

Yeti, the Capitol Police work for Pres. Obama, tell him you want to shoot all the criminals even the ones that jay walk.

Troop @ 10/8/2013 8:59 PM

Yeti, get off your moms computer.

DEADMAN @ 10/8/2013 9:38 PM

The car had 5 officers surrounding it,4 officers and a secret service agent in shorts,extremely close to the car,a potentially dangerous situation where two officers could have shot each other from ricochets,they were close enough to see inside that car and see a child seat and/or a child.She crashed into posts ,possibly because she misjudged her approach because it looks like she was in a parking space,she sees 5 men pull out guns and point them at her,she knows she has her one year old daughter in the car and she is in danger,what would you do to protect your one year old daughter,grow wings and fly,she probably didn't even see the cruiser behind her,hence the striking of the cruiser.The comments in the article are all police speak,terminology from officers to justify what they did,when they,why they did,and how they did.The last pictures shows the car hemmed in,unable to move,why shoot?You can write all kinds of reports to justify you actions/reactions but they're written after the.

DEADMAN @ 10/8/2013 9:50 PM

Fact.Any officer who puts himself/herself in harms way,either near a vehicle or subject themself is a fool,you don't do thatThere are quite a few dead cops and injured cops that did just that and cops that didn't wear their seatbelt or vest,clean their gun,pay attention to what's going on around themYou get complacent ,you make mistakes and either you,a subject or an innocent civilan pay the price.Next time you're in training class,keep your mouth shut and pay attention.
That woman could have just had an accident,the cops got scared,drew their weapons,she got scared for herself and her one year old daughter,she fled because she was scared,police shot,somebody died,it could have been two somebodys,how many of you could have lived or stomached the thought of killing a one year old little innocent girl ?
Don't think of her as being a nut job or a mentally ill person,think of "There,But For The Grace Of GOD Go I ".

James Cox @ 10/9/2013 3:01 AM

Why didn't they just shoot out the tires! I did so with a fleeing vehicle from a convince store robbery. This enabled capture of the perps which turned out to be three teenagers!

James Cox @ 10/9/2013 3:06 AM

Why didn't the simply shoot out the tires. I did so with a fleeing vehicle from a convenience store robbery. This enabled capture of the perpetrators which turned out to be three teenagers.

ordinary joe @ 10/9/2013 10:39 AM

I have not seen any evidence yet that would make this a justified shooting.

Leoperro @ 10/16/2013 9:36 AM

Hey Deadman, the video footage you are commenting on (incorrectly) is not the start of the incident. She attempted to access the rear of the White House. She had driven directly at a Uniformed Secret Service Officer and then rammed a concrete barrier. The scene you think is a "misjudged approach, because it looks like she was in a parking space" is just ignorance on your part. She has been pursued by three marked units, with emergency lights and sirens working. If you can't figure it out from there, you really should not be driving. She is confronted by Uniformed Police Officers, with their weapons drawn. Your ONLY job at that point, if you are an intelligent human being, is to do EXACTLY what you are told. If you have no idea what you are talking about, maybe you should just be quiet.

Johnny Law @ 10/17/2013 12:07 PM

Not justified!! HA HA!! She tried to run those officers down with her car and then drove 80 mph in a 25 zone zone endangering every citizen on the street! All this with her child in the car and claiming President Obama was following her.....she has serious mental problems and her actions caused her own death. Glad the child was not hurt by this crazy woman!! And deadman, leave the crime fighting to the police! You are not a LEO and won't understand even if I expalin it to ya! Go Sheepdogs!!

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