At approximately 2300 hours on Sunday, May 6th 2012, California Highway Patrol Officer David “Ryan” Bunting was in his patrol vehicle, stopped beside the road on California Highway 178 near Bakersfield. According to reports, a dark-colored SUV passed him headed westbound, executed a U-turn, and came back, driving the wrong way up the one-way road.
A gunman in the back seat on driver’s side then opened fire with what is believed to be a fully- automatic MAC-10 type handgun.
The One Sentence
Despite being twice struck by gunfire — once to the hand and once to his body armor — Officer Ryan Bunting returned fire on his assailants as they sped away in their vehicle. He then attempted to pursue the fleeing SUV. Because his bullet-riddled squad was disabled, Bunting was forced to come to a stop. It is believed that Bunting put at least one — perhaps more than one — round into the gunman.
In addition to his Herculean effort to fight back and to apprehend his attackers, perhaps the most remarkable thing about Bunting’s heroism that night is his radio work.
At one point he radioed: “Tell units to slow down... my... uh... one of the shots went into my vest, one into my hand... neither are life threatening.”
There is no way of knowing the lives he may have saved with that one simple sentence.
In the past week and a half, I’ve received this audio tape from no fewer than two dozen law enforcers from across our great country. There’s a reason this thing has been so widely distributed. Officer Ryan Bunting did an absolutely awesome job.
Along with the audio file came a number of photographs, which we added to the recording to create the “video” below. Listen to the radio traffic, look at the images, read what some of my email buddies had to say, and share your own observations in the comments area below.
The Audio, The Images
The Email Comments
At the Stockdale Country Club in June, during an event held by the Kern County Law Enforcement Foundation, Officer Bunting was the recipient of the Medal of Valor. According to the Kern Valley Sun, part of the radio traffic you just heard “was played for the attendees at the banquet, sending chills and stirring emotions.”
Having also heard it, here’s a sampling of what my many email contacts had to say, including Detective Sergeant Ken Impellizeri of the San Diego Police Department.
“Officer Bunting took appropriate action by returning fire and attempting to chase the vehicle until his patrol vehicle became inoperable,” Impellizeri said. “Officer Bunting did an incredible job giving a description of the suspects and their vehicle. He also had the presence of mind to give an assessment of his injuries and to direct other officers to slow down.”
Another person — whose name had been deleted from a long string of email forwards — observed, “Listen to how the officer remains calm in his radio transmissions, even after being shot and returning fire. Outstanding job. His calm attitude helps to meter the response of other units and doesn’t spool them up and make them drive too fast to his aid.”
“The Communications Operator was also outstanding for her ability to get it done in a business like manner,” said another person whose name had been deleted from an email forward.
Finally, a friend with whom I have regular email contact, and who always wishes to remain anonymous when I quote him, said, “This is a very good training piece for dispatch and communication centers. It is an outstanding training piece for patrol, mindset, professional bearing and tactics. I want you to remember this phrase, ‘Eagle Vision.’ My friend Matt Graham uses this phrase when he teaches about not having tunnel vision, auditory exclusion, voiding yourself, and loss of dexterity. And just keeping your wits about you while in extreme duress.”
The One Thing
The transmission, “Tell units to slow down...” was the first, but not the only, thing I took from this audio. As has been stated above, there are numerous elements to consider as “learning points” or whatever you may call them in your PD.
First off, he was wearing his vest!
It may have saved his life.
What else do we hear?
It may have given him the wherewithal to speak so clearly.
We hear vivid descriptions of the suspect vehicle and its occupants.
We hear so much more... But I’ve chosen to focus in on just one thing.
As I have previously written, I attended a presentation at ILEETA 2012 which profoundly affected me. The lesson: If we control that which is under our control, we can substantially reduce officer deaths in this country. Before that Friday morning seminar in April, I never would have believed it possible, but we may be within reach of actually being fewer than 100 officers killed in the line of duty in 2012.
Don’t get me wrong. Ninety-nine officers killed is still 99 too many, but compared to 173 in 2011, 168 in 2010, and 139 in 2009... 99 is a hell of an improvement. I wish the number would be zero, but it’s not and never will be.
As of this writing, 55 officers have been tragically killed thus far this year. I mourn each and every one.
But I serve the living.
So, let me ask you to concentrate on one thing. I would much prefer if you concentrated on all five, but for now, at the very minimum, choose one thing from the list below – and commit to making it your thing.
That one thing you’ve seen in your department which has unnecessarily put your officers at risk. That one thing which you evangelize (and leading by example, do!) on a daily basis to help lower the number of officer fatalities everywhere.
• Wear your belt • Wear your vest • Watch your speed • Think WIN: What’s Important Now? • Remember: Complacency Kills!
Policing is an inherently dangerous business. Gunfights happen. Pursuits happen.
Ambush, quite clearly from the above audio tape and picture images, happen. But they don’t always have to be deadly.
“Please share this with your squads and use it for training,” Impellizeri concluded in his email.
Share, then, I will. Stay safe out there my brothers and sisters.
About the author
Doug Wyllie is Editor in Chief of PoliceOne, responsible for setting the editorial direction of the website and managing the planned editorial features by our roster of expert writers. An award-winning columnist — he is the 2014 Western Publishing Association "Maggie Award" winner in the category of Best Regularly Featured Digital Edition Column — Doug has authored more than 750 feature articles and tactical tips on a wide range of topics and trends that affect the law enforcement community. Doug is a member of International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA), an Associate Member of the California Peace Officers' Association (CPOA), and a member of the Public Safety Writers Association (PSWA). Even in his "spare" time, he is active in his support for the law enforcement community, contributing his time and talents toward police-related charitable events as well as participating in force-on-force training, search-and-rescue training, and other scenario-based training designed to prepare cops for the fight they face every day on the street.
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