Earlier this week, we reported on the release of a video by the Los Angeles Police Department detailing an incident in April in which two officers engaged in a foot pursuit of a suspect were approached suddenly by another man—who had nothing to do with the original incident—who began shooting at the officers.
Two LAPD Gang Enforcement officers were first involved in a vehicle pursuit and then a foot pursuit through an apartment complex.
As the officers split up to chase the driver, the gunman charged Officer Enrique Trujillo and shot him at point blank range.
Trujillo returned fire, striking the assailant.
Trujillo was transported to a nearby hospital in a patrol vehicle, where he was subsequently treated and released. Curley Duff has been charged with attempted murder of a police officer.
An Increasing Problem
We've seen ambush attacks on officers increasing in number in recent years.
Just last month, an off-duty tribal officer was ambushed and shot in his home. Fortunately, Officer Josh Rigney survived the attack and is recovering from his injuries.
Another officer who survived an ambush attack in September 2018 returned to work in February. Micah Hale first day back at work joining Selma Police Chief Spencer Collier in addressing a group of students at Selma High School.
However, all too often officers attacked in ambush are murdered.
Earlier this month, a teen in Mississippi allegedly snuck up behind Officer Robert McKeithen and shot him several times in the back, fatally wounding him.
In 2016, Dallas Police Officers Lorne Ahrens, Michael Krol, Michael Smith, Brent Thompson, and Patricio Zamarripa were murdered in an ambush attack.
In 2014, a gunman quietly approached the patrol vehicle occupied by NYPD Officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu and killed them both in cold blood.
Also in 2014, Las Vegas police officers Igor Soldo and Alyn Beck were murdered as they ate at a local pizza parlor.
We all remember the names Mark Renninger, Greg Richards, Tina Griswold, and Ronald Owens. They were ambushed and killed at a Lakewood, WA, coffee shop nearly 10 years ago.
Sadly, there are too many duty deaths from ambush attack to list them all.
This problem is worsening, and police need to mitigate the threat.
Here are a handful of things I've learned from various training venues over the past 11 years. None of these tips is mine, but unfortunately I've spent so much time with so many instructors that I cannot be totally certain of who taught me what—or even when.
You know who you are. Thank you for your wisdom.
1. Get Your Head Out of Your Apps
If you're looking at your mobile phone—or your dash-mounted computer—without regularly looking up to assess your surroundings, you become a much easier target for an ambush attack.
It is part of the job to use those screens for a variety of tasks, but don't spend more than a few seconds at a time before checking out your surroundings.
Do a 360 scan around you, then a 180 scan up and down.
2. Eat at the Local Fire Station
Cops and firefighters have lots of fun with the "Guns 'n Hoses" rivalry between the different disciplines, but it's really all one big public safety family—albeit an occasionally dysfunctional family.
Eating shift meals at restaurants and coffee shops opens you up to possible attack—Las Vegas and Lakewood both took place while officers ate in public.
The fire station is a great alternative. A side benefit is the opportunity to build comradery and make new friendships with your counterparts.
If you're not inclined to take advantage of the culinary delights at "the kitchen table," head back to the police station to eat.
If you insist on eating at the local diner, take a tactically sound position in the restaurant, and keep your head on a swivel.
3. Baselines and Anomalies
In their incredible book "Left of Bang," Patrick Van Horne and Jason A. Riley teach about the concept of "baselines and anomalies." Baselines—essentially normalcy—can be gathered every day on patrol by actively observing everything in your sector.
Memorize everything you can, so that when something is out of place—someone's there who usually isn't, or people who are usually there are absent—you'll pick up on it right away.
It's more than situational awareness—it's more akin to becoming a student of your environment.
If you haven't yet done so, I strongly urge you to read—and then re-read—"Left of Bang."
4. Attack the Ambush
When you come under attack, don't retreat. Press forward and return fire. If you're in your car, use that gas pedal for its intended purpose and get out of the area. If possible, use your squad car as a 2,500-pound projectile.
Practice shooting from within a patrol vehicle—this was some of the best live-fire firearms training I've ever had.
Take the fight to them—and prevail!
5. Be Stealthy in Approaching Calls
One of the most likely times an officer can come under ambush attack is during the approach to a call for service. This is especially true for domestic violence calls, but officers have been shot in ambush on calls unrelated to domestic violence.
Park a block away from the call and approach from the side. Keep your flashlight extinguished unless absolutely necessary. Wear an earpiece for your radio so you don't unintentionally announce your arrival with radio traffic.
6. Wear Your Vest
This is one of the five tenets of the Below 100 program. Wear your vest on every shift no matter the heat and humidity. It seems so simple, but there's a very important distinction between simple and easy.
Simple is the lack of complexity.
Easy is the lack of effort.
Make the effort.
7. Practice Self Care
Make sure that you have a quality med-kit attached to your person. It should contain items like a hemostatic agent, gauze, trauma dressings, latex gloves, a tourniquet, medical tape, and perhaps an ice pack.
Train to use this potentially life-saving equipment with your off hand, and/or in an awkward position.
In another great live-fire training exercise I participated in several years ago, I was instructed to apply a tourniquet with my support hand to my strong-side upper arm, and then put rounds downrange—it was excellent training.
8. Remember that Complacency Kills
Another tenet of the Below 100 program applies here—remember that complacency kills. The worst possible thing you can do to increase your chances of being wounded or killed in an ambush attack is to get complacent and think, "That'll never happen to me."
As Lieutenant Colonel Dave Grossman says—albeit in a different context—"the enemy is denial."
An Ever-Present Threat
The two officers in Los Angeles incident last month never saw their attacker coming. They were focused entirely on the subject they were pursuing. To their knowledge he was the only threat present. But the fleeing suspect was not the only threat.
The threat of ambush is ever-present.
There is a war on cops in America, and the probability of being the victim of an ambush attack is increasing.
Be vigilant, always.