A Lucky (Lethal) Shot?

If you scour the Internet for private security stories, a recent one out of Utah should have caught your eye. It may have also made you cringe a bit…at least, I hope it did.

Here’s the gist:

  • A male subject walks into a Driver License Office.
  • During his transaction with one of the clerks, an argument ensues.
  • The subject is asked to leave and initially complies until he comes back into the facility to continue the argument.
  • An armed private security officer confronts the subject and a hands-on struggle breaks out.
  • At some point during the fight, the guard’s weapon discharges while both subjects are struggling on the ground.
  • Thankfully, the bullet did not hit anyone and the aggressor ceased his violent behavior after the accidental discharge (AD).

I can think of quite a few ways to de-escalate a situation like this without counting on an AD to end the incident. Granted, I’m sure it wasn’t the officer’s intent to “scare” the aggressor with a warning shot or anything like that. However, as security professionals who work in healthcare, schools, event security, or the private sector, situations like this should make us pause and consider more reasonable ways to handle aggressive subjects.

If you consider the scenario I described above, what was available to the armed security officer when verbal commands failed? It is likely that the agitated subject did not present a lethal threat based on what we know of the initial confrontation. Therefore, the officer was forced to go hands-on due to a lack of an appropriate intermediate option.

According to a study submitted to the National Institute of Justice, hands-on techniques up to and including strikes succeed in ending the incident on the first application of force less than 30% of the time. The effectiveness of intermediate tools is drastically higher, so wouldn’t it make more sense to replace or supplement the lethal firearm with a non-lethal option like a Pro V2 that can minimize the risk of a hands-on encounter and de-escalate (and document) the incident?

Imagine if this subject was approached by the security officer wielding something like the Pro V2 when he returned to the Driver License Office building…

  • The officer would have notified the subject that his actions were being recorded.
  • The subject would have visually recognized that the guard had something for personal defense.
  • The likelihood of a hands-on struggle would be minimized.
  • If the subject decided to continue his aggressive behavior, the officer would have had additional non-lethal tools to deploy without physically engaging with the subject.

That’s a good day in any security officer’s book.

In this case, the lucky (albeit lethal) accidental shot from the armed officer’s firearm may have ended the struggle, but the collateral damage would have been devastating if that bullet hit anything other than drywall.

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