Are Officers overshooting when they shoot a suspect a dozen times, or is there more to the story than we know? Let’s see what a firearms expert has to say.
The issue of police shooting someone more than a few times has become a topic of scrutiny lately. It seems like every time a police shooting video is posted, the top comments underneath the video are along the lines of “Why did police have to shoot them so many times?”.
Believe it or not, there is a reason for this: real life is nothing like the movies. Bullets don’t always kill someone right away. Firing one shot into a moving suspect’s head is extremely difficult. Also, people who are shot can still kill you very easily.
Police officers shoot people to stop the threat. Not to wound the threat. Not to warn the threat with loud bangs. And certainly not to wound the threat into submission.
Let’s look at some examples of why so many shots are sometimes necessary.
Sergeant Timothy Gramins, Skokie, IL
On August 25, 2008 a 37-year-old gang member robbed a bank near Sgt. Timothty Gramins’ patrol area. A BOLO was put out for a two-door white car being driven by a black male. As the Sgt. was entering the highway he spotted the suspect and initiated a traffic stop.
The suspect attempted to flee from Gramins, but suddenly slammed on his brakes and jumped out of his car. The suspect ran at the Sgt. while firing a 9mm pistol. Four rounds struck the hood of Gramins’ patrol vehicle before he could even un-holster his.45-caliber Glock 21.
Gramins fired 13 shots through his own windshield while still sitting inside his car. He stated “I was confident at least some of them were hitting him, but he wasn’t even close to slowing down”.
The bad guy emptied his 9mm pistol and ran back to his car to retrieve a .380 Bersa pistol. The suspect ran to the patrol car again while the two exchanged gunfire. Gamins’, a firearms instructor and sniper, was sure he was hitting the suspect. The suspect reloaded again and kept firing.
By this time, Gramins was on his third magazine. He laid down in a grassy area beside his car and proned out while the suspect was on the other side peeking underneath the car. As the suspect peeked under the car, Grammins fired a three shot burst, hitting the suspect three times in the head and ending the fight.
Overall, the suspect fired 21 rounds.
Grammins fired 33 rounds.
14 of those rounds struck the suspect before the three shots to the dome. He was struck in the heart, right lung, left lung, liver, diaphragm, and right kidney.
Navy SEAL Senior Chief Mike Day, Afghanistan
Navy SEAL Douglas “Mike” Day was part of a raid on al Qaeda militants on April 6, 2007. He entered a small room inside of a compound and was shot 11 times in his body armor. As he fought through the feeling of what he described as “being hit by a sledgehammer”, he was shot several more times.
Mike Day was shot a total of 27 times, 16 of those stuck his his abdomen, all of his limbs, his groin, and his buttocks. Day also took some grenade shrapnel, which knocked him unconscious at one point.
Mike Day was shot 27 times, killed three enemies, then walked himself to a medevac helicopter.
Master Sergeant Roy Benavidez, Vietnam
Master Sergeant Raul Perez “Roy” Benavidez was an Army Green Beret and part of the elite Studies and Observations Group (SOG) during the Vietnam war. In 1968, three years after stepping on a land mine and learning how to walk again, Benavidez responded to a call for help from a nearby 12 man SF team that had been surrounded by 1000 enemy NVA.
Over the course of six hours, Benavidez killed several of the enemy and saved the lives of at least eight soldiers. Throughout the fight, he had received 37 separate bullet, bayonet, and shrapnel wounds.
He lived to receive the Medal of Honor.
Adrenaline is a hell of a thing.
Reid Henrichs, professional firearms instructor and owner of the training facility Valor Ridge, made an excellent video that dives even deeper into why police sometimes fire so many rounds.
In the video below, Henrichs is joined by J.J. Wittenborn, who was an illinois state trooper for 27 years, Clay Brinkley, an expert marksman who works with the Dekalb County Police Department, and James Owns, a professional firearms instructor and EMT.
The scenario that they set up is an active shooter, the target, confronted by four police officers. Three “officers” have pistols and one of them has a rifle. They shoot as many times as they could in three seconds, striking the “suspect” nearly 50 times.
Breaking the incident down, Wittenborn explains how quickly these incidents can unfold. As the video shows, in three seconds the suspect was shot dozens of times.
Hopefully this clears up why suspects are shot so many times by police in certain scenarios.