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Wound Expert Says NYPD's Firepower In Harlem Was Sufficient

August 12, 2010  | 


The NYPD issues Speer Gold Dot, 124-grain hollow-point rounds to its officers. Photo courtesy of ATK/Speer.

New York police officers who fired nearly 50 shots at two fighting suspects in Harlem wouldn't have been able to end the threat any sooner if they had been using higher-caliber ammunition rather than the 9mm handgun rounds they fired, an expert in wound ballistics and tactical medicine has told POLICE Magazine.

Trauma surgeon and tactical medic Dr. Sydney Vail has treated several gunshot wound patients that have received more than 20 bullets and survived—23-year-old Anthony Alvarez will live to tell about the 23 gunshot wounds he sustained early Sunday morning that likely originated from the 9mm semi-automatic duty pistols of four NYPD officers involved in the shooting.

"The human body is a complex, fascinating, unpredictable entity," Vail told POLICE on Thursday. "And unless the brain stem (or command center) of the body has a direct hit, or the pump runs completely dry, incapacitation may not happen."

Officers fired 46 rounds during a 2:30 a.m. melee, while another four rounds were fired from a .38 revolver expectedly fired by Luis Soto, the 21-year-old co-instigator killed in the incident.

Uniformed Officer Douglas Brightman returned fire after confronting a gunman on Lenox Avenue while heading toward 144th St. Three plainclothes officers including Michael Tadeschi from the 32nd Precinct fired on the two suspects from the opposite side, which made them vulnerable to crossfire.

Tadeschi was saved by his ballistic vest, which deflected a chest hit.

All officers were carrying one of the NYPD's approved on-duty 9mm handguns and fired Speer Gold Dot, 124-grain hollow-point bullets, Sgt. Kevin Hayes told POLICE Magazine. Officers carry magazines with a 15+1 capacity.

The department doesn't permit officers to carry a .40- or .45-caliber weapon.

Rather than the caliber of the cartridge, a more reliable measure of whether an officer can stop an advancing suspect with deadly intentions is shot placement, Vail said.

"Gold Dot, in my experience, is a very reliable expanding bullet design," Vail added. "It's a matter of shot placement. You can get hit by a .22 and die. You can get hit by a .45 and survive."

The department lists three approved semi-auto, double-action-only duty pistols, including the Glock 19, the Smith & Wesson 5946, and the SIG Sauer P226. Each of the three was used by officers involved in the shooting, Hayes said.

The SIG Sauer handgun is now only in the hands of veteran officers. The NYPD issued a directive that officers who chose the gun prior to July 31, 1995 can continue using it. Officers who started after that date must choose the Glock or Smith & Wesson pistol.

Authorized off-duty 9mm semi-autos include Smith & Wesson's 3953 TSW or 3914 DAO, Kahr Arms' K9, a Glock 26, or the Beretta 8000 Mini D. The department also allows veteran officers sworn in the early 1990s to carry a .38-caliber Ruger SPNY or Smith & Wesson 64 NY-1 (spurless hammer) revolver.

The origin, trajectory, and landing point of each bullet in the shooting will be analyzed by the department's Firearms Discharge Review Board, which will determine whether the shooting falls within guidelines for the use of deadly physical force, the New York Times has reported.

Related Articles:

Slain Harlem Suspect Bragged on Twitter About Going '2 Da Grave'

9mm NYPD Round Killed Instigator of Harlem Brawl

Two NYPD Officers Shot In Harlem Gunfight at 500-Person Barbecue

Tags: Officer Involved Shootings, NYPD, Ammunition, Smith & Wesson, Harlem Shootout, Speer


Comments (7)

Displaying 1 - 7 of 7

tpd223 @ 8/12/2010 7:20 PM

Of course the 9mm is enough bullet for law enforcement, so I'm not sure what point there is to this article.

We issue the same ammo on my job that NYPD uses, and it works very well.

Larger (and harder to shoot well) calibers are not the answer as all pistol rounds are puny and do not posses "stopping power".

Read about the Pete Solis gunfight some time for a 20+ round "failure to stop" incident where the .40 was used. The world is full of many examples of this happening.

sgtmac_46 @ 8/13/2010 12:07 PM

Of greater concern is the extremely heavy 'New York' GLOCK trigger. The average GLOCK trigger is 5.5 pounds. The New York trigger is 8 and 12 pounds, nearly doubling the trigger pull, and increasing the difficulty in controlling the trigger, trigger control being a key issue in shot placement.

Chris Norton @ 12/16/2011 5:24 PM

I disagree with tpd223's assessment. 9mm works well sometimes but in general a heavier projectile with more inertia will penetrate more reliably, particularly with barriers such as bone. I also do not believe that a heavier caliber is more difficult to shoot. MY department issues Glock 17s,22s, and 21s. I carry a 21 in 45acp, no officers at my department carrying 9mm can out shoot me. The .45 can be shot just as accurately and just as fast as the 9mm. So why not go with a larger round? My Glock 21 holds 13in the magazine and 1 in the chamber. I feel that if a situation cannot be resolved in the first 14 rounds then I need to get a lot more friends and a much bigger gun, say an AR-15 for example.

Chris Norton @ 12/16/2011 5:24 PM

I disagree with tpd223's assessment. 9mm works well sometimes but in general a heavier projectile with more inertia will penetrate more reliably, particularly with barriers such as bone. I also do not believe that a heavier caliber is more difficult to shoot. MY department issues Glock 17s,22s, and 21s. I carry a 21 in 45acp, no officers at my department carrying 9mm can out shoot me. The .45 can be shot just as accurately and just as fast as the 9mm. So why not go with a larger round? My Glock 21 holds 13in the magazine and 1 in the chamber. I feel that if a situation cannot be resolved in the first 14 rounds then I need to get a lot more friends and a much bigger gun, say an AR-15 for example.

Andy @ 8/12/2012 4:31 PM

i call BS chris, no way you can outshoot me with a 9mm, it's simply physics. If we were equally skilled i would have a advantage

camilion4 @ 8/23/2012 7:56 AM

I also call B.S on ChrisN, I carry for my department and we carry 9mm, .40, 45 and 357sig, I know others that carry 1911 and glocks in 45acp and I can beat them all even on a bad day, The issue is like hunting, "Bullet placement" is the key, we do stress test every 6 months and true its not real life but those training projectiles hurt like a B when your hit so your heart is pumping, if your confident in your ability and weapon a guy with a .22 will put on in your eye easy, I have been on the scene and seen people killed with both the 45 does make a big hole but the +p+ we use as 9mm are nasty too. In the end "bullet placement will save you or kill you, not how big your round is"

DAVID @ 2/20/2014 8:46 AM

Okay, I think both of you are way off the mark. I served two years in Vietnam and 35 years in LE and carried a S&W .357 for half my career until the wondergun autos came all the rage. For anyone to say that a 9mm is all anyone needs and relies on shot placement is a fool. Statistics shows that officers miss 80% of their shots in a gun fight and the FBI studies showed that from the mid 80's, when 9 mm came into use to the mid 90's found that it took an average of 8 hits to stop a suspect in a gun fight. The 45 is not much better because it is too slow and fails to penetrate or expand. The best auto cartridge out there is the 357 Sig. It is a 9mm bullet but traveling at high velocity, which is key to performance. Ask yourself why an AR-15 round is no deadly? It is basically a 22 round. It is because of the high velocity that makes it so effective. Most hollow point bullets have to be traveling 1200 FPS+ to expand. Most auto rounds fail at this. Exception is 357 Sig.

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