PHOTO GALLERY: Surviving Edged Weapon Threats
On August 22, 1995, Officer Steven Alva punched five bullet holes into a suspect's chest, including one that went through his heart, but the deadly fight continued as the suspect attacked with a large knife.
After a five-block foot pursuit, the 6-foot 4-inch, 260-pound suspect led Alva and his partner, Officer Jay Chambers, inside a house. The suspect ran into the kitchen area as Alva and Chambers entered the house. "As soon as we were inside we saw the suspect with a large knife held in the 'ice pick' grip, just like in the movie Psycho," recalled Alva.
Immediately the suspect lunged to cover the 11 feet between himself and Chambers, who didn't have a chance to draw his gun.
Alva fired three shots, all of them hitting the suspect's chest.
But the suspect didn't seem to notice that he had been shot as he began to slash Chambers and a struggle for the knife ensued. The suspect knocked Chambers down and landed on top of him, slashing the officer's face and making a deep cut from his left eye, across his nose, and down to his chin. All of this happened very quickly.
The slashing continued as Chambers and the suspect struggled for the knife. Knowing that his partner was taking potentially lethal wounds, Alva quickly got into position and fired two more shots into the suspect.
Now Alva was so close that he was able to wrest the knife out of the suspect's hands. Then he pushed him off of Chambers and handcuffed him.
In the aftermath, 180 stitches were needed to sew Chambers' face back together and they discovered that his kevlar vest had protected his chest from a deep slash attempt.
The toxicology report revealed that the suspect had been on PCP.
When you get into a deadly fight like this one, the key decision you'll be confronted with is whether or not to reach for a weapon-will it save your life or place it in jeopardy?
The distance between you and the suspect must command your decision. If the suspect is too close and you reach for a weapon, he could plunge the knife into you.
In the case of Officer Chambers, going for his weapon would have been too dangerous because the suspect was too close to him. Chambers would have had one or both hands occupied drawing his weapon, which would have left him open to even more stabs and slashes and could have ended his life. It also would have introduced a second weapon to contend for.
If the suspect is farther away-21 feet or more-you might be able to fire one or two shots, although you'll want to rotate off line to try to get out of the path of the incoming knife.
Alva had enough distance to draw and fire three rounds into the suspect before he reached Chambers. But even after Alva fired two more rounds into the suspect, he still ended up using empty hand tactics to get the suspect off of Chambers.
The bottom line: A knife was introduced into this fight by surprise. Surprise is one factor you must be ready for because at close range your gun isn't enough to stop a determined suspect who has an edged weapon.
My research on edged weapons, including officer interviews, reviewing articles, books, and videos, and even knife training, led me to five conclusions to help you survive this deadly threat: 1) know your tactics, 2) study concealment, 3) realize capabilities, 4) learn knife fighting, and 5) develop basic knife defenses.