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Columns : The Federal Voice

The Myth of the Unarmed Man

All violent subjects are dangerous, regardless of whether they have a weapon.

October 27, 2014  |  by Jon Adler

If you don't believe media bias plays a role in how Americans interpret use of force by law enforcement, try this simple test. Do a Google search for "police officer kills unarmed man." I did and I got 179,000 results. Searching "Police officer shoots unarmed man" returned 205,000 results. Finally, I flipped the search around and typed, "unarmed man attacks police officer." I got this message: "No results found."

So does that mean no unarmed men are attacking and seriously injuring officers? Absolutely not.

The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF) says 57,892 law enforcement officers are assaulted each year and 15,483 sustain serious injuries. The most recent FBI "Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted" (LEOKA) report indicates that 80.2% of the assaults against law enforcement in 2012 were committed by unarmed subjects. The 2012 LEOKA report also reveals that unarmed subject attacks are the leading cause of injury for law enforcement officers.

The media's total disregard for these facts in regard to the coverage of the recent Ferguson and Staten Island incidents leads me to conclude that reporters are unaware of the annual NLEOMF and LEOKA reports or read them and ignore them. One conclusion is evidence of unacceptable ignorance. The other is evidence of anti-police bias.

Two federal officers can attest to the bias.

Initial coverage of a 2008 deadly force incident in the U.S. Virgin Islands that involved ATF Special Agent Will Clark suggested Clark's use of deadly force against an unarmed man was unjustified. But what those reports omitted was the fact that Clark intervened to prevent a 300-pound man from fatally battering a woman. Nonetheless, the local and national press minimized the threat of an enraged, irrational 300-pound man charging and swinging a long steel flashlight and focused solely on reporting the dead man was "unarmed." Fortunately, Clark was acquitted at trial.

In 2011, DSS Special Agent Chris Deedy was charged with second-degree murder and prosecuted in Hawaii after he intervened to prevent aggressive subjects from harming a customer in a McDonald's. The initial news reports in that case led the public to believe that a drunken agent killed an innocent, unarmed man. A McDonald's security video disproved the news accounts. So Deedy was acquitted.

All of the subjects in these cases and Ferguson and Staten Island were large men, well over 250 pounds. And three of the subjects allegedly attempted to or actually inflicted bodily injury on law enforcement officers.

This may come as a shock to most reporters, but unarmed men have arms and hands and legs and feet. And if an unarmed man punches or kicks an officer and renders him or her unconscious that officer and the public are in great peril because the unarmed attacker can arm himself with the tools on the officer's belt.

Reporters and commentators are quick to condemn law enforcement for failing to deploy less-than-lethal weapon options against unarmed men. Intermediate and less-than-lethal weapons are viable options when distance and circumstances allow. However, they are not a magical remedy for subduing a violent, non-compliant unarmed man.

News-flash to the media: Law enforcement officers don't get paid to be pummeled by unarmed men. Law enforcement officers are tasked with controlling and arresting violent subjects, and using the appropriate level of force to accomplish that goal. Further, while attempting to arrest non-compliant, violent unarmed men, officers also have to protect and retain their firearms from powerful subjects. And a subject who initially appears to be unarmed may in fact have a weapon.

While some of the examples I referenced involved subjects who were large unarmed men, Hollywood provided an excellent example of how even average-sized, unarmed subjects can be lethal. In "The Silence of the Lambs," the character of Dr. Hannibal Lecter is not physically imposing, but kills two armed guards. Arguably, an unarmed Hannibal Lecter is potentially more lethal than many armed criminals. Yet if a law enforcement officer were confronted by an unarmed Lecter type, the liberal news media would likely script the headline, "Police Officer Picks On Defenseless, Unarmed Doctor."

I don't want any officers to be unduly influenced by the media crucifying a fellow officer and then hesitate during violent encounters. Irrespective of what the media may publish, violent, noncompliant unarmed men are anything but unarmed and must be handled with great caution.

Comments (17)

Displaying 1 - 17 of 17

kevCopAz @ 10/27/2014 5:16 PM

Great article, every LEO should send this on to EVERY person that they know especially those that are "libs".

TheRookie @ 10/27/2014 10:02 PM

No such thing as there's always 1 gun at the scene/contact. Yours. I had a crack head try to take my duty weapon & I know to shoot me. I fought the good fight, eventually won the battle with assistance, & war. But in the process I received a torn out left MCL, ACL, Patella, Deep infected lacerations on left forearm, & gouged eyes. That cost me a early medical retirement at 51.
The mythical poor "Gentile Giant Brown" or "Momma's Boy" Trayvon Martin is pure BS.

Mike @ 10/28/2014 1:08 AM

Great article! Now if only a few more department chiefs could muster the courage to spend more time articulating that to the public once in a while...

Richard Jellicoe @ 10/28/2014 1:13 AM

While I agree with the above comments. I want to delve into something a bit off topic. Some of you may remember the central California 13 year old that was shot while pointing a replica AK at a deputy. It just came to memory that the the very day before a 12 year old shot and killed two people at the Sparks Middle School, in Nevada with a real AK47. I am sure that was in the mind, as it would be in my mind, when I shot the 13 year old teen in California, he was such a good boy pointing a automatic weapon at a deputy. I'm sorry I would have killed him as well

bo2234 @ 10/28/2014 12:55 PM

To the writer: I was 100% in agreement with your article until you tried to validate your argument with the story of a movie character overpowering two prison guards. It was a MOVIE. Please do not use that to articulate the issues that we deal with on a daily basis. Find a real, viable example or don't mention it at all. The last thing we need would be someone laughing at us for using a movie character to justify our argument.

mayorka @ 11/3/2014 9:44 AM

yeah, jon, you lost me with the movie

Tracey @ 11/24/2014 11:42 AM

Great article, except when using the movie as an example. There are many examples of suspects, even "defenseless, unarmed subjects," fighting with LEO's. Use one of those next time please.

David @ 11/26/2014 7:54 AM

@therookie, sorry to hear about your injuries but glad you made it through. Please don't combine the Brown case with the Martin case because they are different in many ways. Zimmerman wasn't an officer, he was an overzealous civilian who illegally tried to restrain Martin despite the fact that Martin wasn't doing anything illegal and Zimmerman had no authority to create a physical confrontation. Once the confrontation was created by Zimmerman and he was getting the worst of it, he used the only weapon on the scene; his. The lack of consequence for Zimmerman is shameful. On the other hand, Officer Wilson was performing his legal, sworn duty when faced with someone who was the suspect in a crime and it was the suspect who created the physical altercation. Apples and oranges.
Jon, you lost me with the movie example too but it is an otherwise good article.

tsalagi @ 11/26/2014 8:07 AM

David, you must have watched a different trial than I did, there was no evidence to even suggest your version.

JoeThePimpernel @ 11/26/2014 8:26 AM

There were 726 homicides committed in 2011 alone with hands, fists and feet, and the majority of those homicides were committed by young black males.

More homicides are committed each year with hands, fists and feet than are committed with rifles and shotguns combined, including 2012 when the Newtown, Connecticut and Aurora, Colorado mass-murders occurred.

A 6’4” 292-pound documented violent thug like Saint Charging Bull would be more than capable of killing a cop with his bare hands and Air Jordans.

Rachelle @ 11/26/2014 11:50 AM

Great article! If only these basic facts could make it past the self-censoring media. One or two hard blows can knock you unconscious. Then your gun is gone. Then your life is gone. Officer Wilson acted the only way he could given the circumstances.

Lee Cruse @ 11/26/2014 2:55 PM

We need to demand the truth from all press and government. I would much rather be told something that I do not like and will hurt me than be told a lie that will make me comfortable.

Barbara @ 11/27/2014 5:58 PM

I totally agree. Our media are a big part of the problem.

Joyce @ 11/29/2014 9:08 PM

My brother-in-law, a police officer in Miami, FL, was murdered by an unarmed man. The unarmed man was in handcuffs and somehow got hold of my brother-in-law's gun and shot him dead. This man was being deported and my brother-in-law was escorting him to the airport. Yes! Unarmed men can be very dangerous!

randy @ 1/2/2015 9:24 AM

2 Milwaukee officers ran from a knife weilding man yelling he was going to kill them because they were afraid of the backlash if they shot him. They were responding to a homicide where they observed 2 dead bodies before the man came at them.

Bernie @ 1/5/2015 6:39 PM

Randy, I had not heard that one. Is this the real motive behind the riots and race baiting? Give the offenders an even better "head start?" Deadly force is no longer an option if the subject to be arrested is a black male, whether armed or not.

Jensen @ 2/2/2015 9:06 AM

Mr. Adler,

Hannibal the Cannibal? Really? How can you think the actions of a fictional character who is written to be superhuman in his abilities bears any witness to real life? Hannibal is written as a super genius who can out think nearly everyone else. Of course he would subdue his guards. The character's author determines what the character can do not laws of physics, physical stature, etc.

There is a case to be made for fear of unarmed people but a fictional, middle-aged psychopath's superhuman (and they are superhuman because no one is that smart) exploits are not one.

Why not use actual examples? When you use a fictional character like Hannibal, you lose credibility with your readers who might be sympathetic to your point of view.

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