When the police take gunfire, another perspective in law enforcement shootings

Boulder police officer Beth Haynes picked up a domestic violence call late in her shift on April 16, 1994. Employed at police department just three months, Haynes had no idea this would be her last call for service.

Ali Kalamy threatened to commit suicide and take, “others with him.” His former fiancé, Libby Guyse was in an apartment with her two children. Haynes arrived at 1590 Eisenhower Drive, alone, she didn’t even make it to the apartment door, when she faced Kalamy, who was armed with a 9mm semi-automatic gun in his waistband.

An account of the event was provided by an anonymous witness from the Boulder Daily Camera. After Haynes told him to “stand down,” Kalamy replied, “What are you going to do? Shoot me?”

Haynes then told the witness to go inside the apartment building and soon after he heard gunshots.

Haynes ran and took cover behind a nearby car. Kalamy chased after her, and jumped onto the vehicle Haynes was hiding behind, before she could roll under the car to safety, Kalamy fired down on her. He hit Haynes, who was wearing a protective vest, in the head, chest and hand. Haynes returned fire and hit Kalamy in the chest and leg.

Back up officer’s arrived after they heard an inaudible radio transmission that sounded like Haynes was in substantial peril, but Haynes did not survive her injuries.

Hayne’s story is an example of the grave consequences that can happen to officers when they are shot at in the line of duty.

In 2015, Senate Bill 15-217 was signed into law. The bill mandates state and local law enforcement agencies report specific elements about officer-involved shootings that stem from criminal activity to include all parties involved in the event who are either fired at, or criminally charged.

info-graphic-ois-4The Report of Officer Involved Shootings in Colorado 2010-2015 by the Colorado Department of Public Safety, provided the reasons for initial contact with suspects according to incidents in police involved shootings. The data revealed the primary reason for officer’s contact that lead to officer-involved shootings, were calls for service, second were investigations, and the third was police traffic stops.

Forty-eight Colorado law enforcement agencies reported 192 incidents to the Division of Criminal Justice, from 2010 to 2015 and the report made the disclaimer that, “It is unknown if the incidents reported here represent all officer-involved shootings during the period of study.”

The primary reasons officers were involved in shootings, were categorized by incidents in the 2010-2015 report. The top two reasons for officer-involved shootings were, an imminent threat, and a shot was fired at the officer, other reasons can be found in the information graphic to include the racial make up of citizens that were involved in the shootings as well.

According to a police report from the Longmont Police Department. Longmont Police officer David Blake was on patrol, May 8, 2010 when he spotted Brandon Duke, who was wanted for third degree assault.

Blake approached Duke and said, “Brandon, stop right there.” Duke took out the earbuds he was wearing and replied, “What?”

As Blake gave Duke more commands, Duke asked him what he had done, Blake said he would inform Duke in a moment, and proceeded to command Duke to get down on his knees and put his hands up in the air. Duke complied.

When Blake came closer to Duke and told him he was under arrest, the police report said Duke got up off the ground and ran away.

Blake gave chase and noticed Duke, “reaching both of his hands around the front of his abdomen in the area of his waist band.” Blake fired his Taser but the probes did not connect, according to the Longmont Police report.

Duke fired a handgun back at Blake. Blake took out his handgun and fired twice at Duke as he ducked behind a line of commercial trucks, according to a 2010 Police One article.

Blake saw Duke run out from behind a line of commercial trucks in a parking lot on Boston Ave. Duke still had his gun pointed at Blake; and Blake fired at Duke as he ran out of the parking lot. Duke fell on his back and the gun fell two inches from Duke’s hand.

Looking back on that moment, “I had no cover and the gun was pointed right at me. I had no choice but (to shoot Duke). I was in total fear for my life,” Blake told Police One.

“Don’t go for the gun,” Blake yelled. Duke picked up the gun anyway and pointed it at Blake. Blake fired one time, and thought he hit Duke. Blake took cover, and back up officers arrived, according to the Longmont Police report.

Blake fired his gun seven times at Duke and hit him in the torso, arm, and head.  Only Duke was injured in the gunfire.

“I attribute my success in this situation to the excellent training I have received at the Longmont Police Department,” Blake said in an interview with Police One.

Miami-Dade Police Training Officer Thomas Salerno told NBC South Florida that officer training should focus on all possible circumstances.

“This is a profession where very often you will be called upon to make split second decisions,” said Salerno.

Because of the potential problems that accompany any decision to shoot, Salerno reminds officers they will be held accountable for every bullet.

“Your name is on it, your reputation. You’re responsible for it professionally, ethically, morally, civically, financially possibly nationally, maybe even criminally,” he said to NBC South Florida.

Officers at the Monroe County Sheriff’s Detention Dept. conduct annual training on MILO Range and driving simulators which, according to the Miami Herald, puts officers in different scenarios they might encounter while on duty.

The simulator can read the officer’s actions throughout the scenarios if they use pepper spray, a Taser, a pistol or a rifle that are modified with lasers. In the trainings officers are taught to keep threatening subjects at a 21 foot distance and to take cover if it is possible. Stressful situations are simulated after doing a simulated driving pursuit, jumping jacks and pushups to get the officer’s heart rate up.

After the scenario(s) are over an instructor critiques the officer’s performance and discusses what they did well and what needs to be worked on.

Officers like Beth Haynes who die in the of duty, stand as an example to all law enforcement of how imperative split-second decision making can be, and how much sorrow the ultimate sacrifice can bring.

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