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Wolf Pack: Multiple Assailants

Surviving attacks by multiple assailants.

November 01, 1996  |  by Joel Johnston Jr.

It is absolutely critical to become an expert in reaching the verbal and nonverbal cues that people give off when you are dealing with them. Situations do not just happen. They develop because someone fails to accurately assess or recognize pre-assault cues. If you are tuned into these cues, a bad situation may be averted. Look for the following pre-assault cues:

  • Raspiness or change in the voice
  • Repeated words or phrases
  • Confrontational, aggressive or hos­tile language
  • Direct threats
  • Unusual or inappropriate sweating
  • Tightened jaw or clenched teeth
  • Resistive tension in body and face
  • Breathing through the mouth or audible breathing
  • Balling of fists
  • Trembling
  • I,000-yard stare (intimidation)
  • Target glancing (looking where they will attack)
  • Looking around furtively, possibly for witnesses or escape routes
  • Encroachment of space
  • Physical distraction
  • Reaction hand distraction
  • Blading body (turning sideways)
  • Shifting weight (ready to attack)
  • Rolling shoulders forward, tucking chin or bending knees

Usually these cues, which occur as a result of stress, are done to intimidate, prepare the body to fight or cause the intended victims to drop their guard. Be on the lookout for these cues, whether you are dealing with one subject or several. Specific multiple-assailant pre-­assault cues:

  • Positioning group members relative to each other
  • Positioning group members relative to you (adjusting to each other or to you in order to attack)
  • Assailants glancing at each other (silent communication)
  • U sing words or phrases that do not make sense or are out of con­text (used to confuse or as an attack signal)
  • Showing body language inconsis­tent with words or context
  • Secondary subject distraction (one person will attempt to divert atten­tion towards another)

These cues are strong indicators that you are dealing with a wolf pack.  These movements occur in the assailants' efforts to coordinate an effective attack or to lower an officer's awareness so that he or she is more susceptible to an attack.

If these cues are recognized and the opportunity exists, this may be the appropriate time to revise your priori­ties, turn into "Ofc. Friendly," curtail any investigative activities and grace­fully disengage from this imminent physical encounter. No arrest, ticket or check could possibly be worth your physical safety. It is better to return when the odds are more in your favor.


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