Kuyper's tactic paid off: White ducked down as Jim Rygg—situated to Kuyper's immediate right—fired three rounds from his location, striking White's right front fender. The bank robber was caught in a crossfire.
White took a kneeling position and Kuyper could see the barrel of the Ruger angle upward as the man tried to reload. The top part of White's head came into view so that Kuyper could see from the bottom of his earlobe to the top of his head. It was his opportunity and Kuyper knew it. He took a breath, got a sighted picture with his pistol, and squeezed off two rounds.
A Federal 165-grain hollow point round struck White in the top of the head. As White went down, the rifle barrel of his Ruger spun around so that, from the officers' perspectives, it looked as though White had proned out to engage them again from under the vehicle. As Kuyper jumped onto the rear bumper of his Tahoe, Rygg went up onto the curb on the right side of his squad car.
Between the Explorer's naturally high profile and its curbside canting, Kuyper could see beneath the vehicle to where blood was pooling in the snow beyond it.
Later, Kuyper would wish that he'd waited for more officers to show up before making an approach. But pumped with adrenaline, his compulsion was to make sure then and there that White was down and out of the fight. He finished reloading then went around to the back of the Ford Explorer while Rygg circled around to the front.
Kuyper says his only goal during the shootout was to prevent White from wounding any more of his officers. "Radio communications was telling me that every time he engaged one of my officers he was shooting them up," Kuyper recalls. "That told me that when I ran into him I had to be more aggressive than he was. And I was."
Kuyper's aggressiveness was tempered with maturity. He knew full well the inherent risks when he decided to engage White, but felt comfortable in his abilities-abilities that were honed through years of range practice. Still, he learned some lessons that day, lessons that he has since seen incorporated into his department's training.
"Our training had always emphasized the need for officers to move and use cover. But by no means were there commensurate attentions paid to hostage targets or partial target presentation—someone peeking around a car. We've since increased those types of scenarios within our firearms training curriculum," Kuyper says.
Kuyper openly wonders what kind of mindset some officers hit the streets with given some of the comments he has heard.
"Some officers have questioned the need to shoot the suspect when he wasn't actively shooting at me, but ducking down and reloading. Hey, the fight's not over. He hasn't dropped the weapon or surrendered. And I'm not going to give him time to reload and time to get back into battery and start shooting. You need to end it," Kuyper explains.
Ending it can mean relying on less anticipated variables.
"At six feet, my height came into play," Kuyper reflects. "Had he engaged an officer such as Shelby Lane, she would not have been able to get the sight picture with which to shoot him in the head like that."
Kuyper's Tahoe was stocked with a 4013 TSW pistol, a 12-gauge Remington 870 shotgun, a Colt M16 full-auto rifle, as well as his own Ruger carbine rifle. But Kuyper chose to engage the robber with his pistol. He has no regrets in forgoing a more powerful weapon, believing that retrieving such a weapon might have cost him his life.
Kuyper's experience with firearms extends back to his days of shooting competition pistol as an explorer scout, and six years of experience as a firearms instructor at the time of the incident. A 14-year stint with SWAT didn't hurt, either. Next to lingering in the bank, White's decision to engage the sergeant in a firefight was about the biggest mistake he made that day.
And given White's history, it is a curious mistake for him to have made. He was obsessive in keeping himself in excellent physical condition and as conscientious in keeping notes on his diet and dating history as he was in how to do recon and takeovers. That attention to detail had allowed him to conduct at least 14 bloodless bank robberies from April 1998 to the day he rolled into Edina-a period that saw his cumulative haul total $253,900.
Officer Blood survived his grievous injuries and received a medical retirement. Moyer recovered almost immediately from his wounds.
Kuyper has received numerous decorations for his actions including his department's Award of Valor, the Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association Award of Honor, and the National Association of Police Organizations Top Cop Award. He continues to serve the citizens of Edina.
What Would You Do?
Put yourself in the shoes of the Edina, Minn., patrol officers who faced desperate, heavily armed bank robber David Lincoln White and ask yourself the following questions:
- Shards of the splintered headlamp could have blinded Officer Billy Moyer. If you wear prescription glasses, are your frames bullet-resistant? Have you considered ballistic-resistant eyewear?
- Psychologically prepping oneself for a "fight or flight response" is not only natural but recommended. Have there ever been times where you were psychologically committed to one action only to find yourself having to address an entirely different type of problem? How flexible do you consider yourself to be in such situations?
- Do you feel that your range training adequately addresses the prospect of engaging hostage-holding suspects or targets that are only partially targetable? Is your agency responsive to not only identifying problems with prior officer-involved-shooting incidents, but also incorporating solutions in its training?
- Even a veteran officer such as Sgt. Scott Kuyper found it difficult to rein himself in when it came to closing the gap between himself and the suspect when verifying the man's condition. Do you feel you're always in control of your emotions and your actions? How do you prepare yourself for such situations?