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August 02, 2013
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Doug Wyllie, PoliceOne Editor in Chief 10-43: Be Advised...
with Doug Wyllie, PoliceOne Editor in Chief

Blocking a gun grab: "My training took over"

Unfortunately for Robert Lewis Bridges, the men and women wearing the uniform of the Hillsborough County (Fla.) Sheriff's Office refused to allow complacency to creep into the picture

In a Hillsborough County (Fla.) courtroom earlier this week, Robert Lewis Bridges was about to appear in proceedings against him on multiple charges, including burglary, grand theft and obstructing an officer. 

Before that segment of Judge Martha Cook’s daily docket was closed, Bridges would face additional charges of battery on a law enforcement officer and depriving an officer of means of protection.

Several members of the Hillsborough Sheriff's Office stood on duty that day. However, for Bridges only one — Master Sergeant Tracey Wallace — stood out as the potential victim of his nefarious ideas. 

Bridges probably figured that a female LEO standing just over five feet tall (compared to the big, brawny male deputies present) would be an easy mark for a gun grab. Bridges figured wrong. Wallace slapped away his gun-grab attempt, and other deputies quickly swooped in and secured the assailant....

Situational Awareness
Unfortunately for Bridges — and fortunately for the people gathered in the courtroom that morning — the men and women wearing the uniform of the Hillsborough Sheriff's Office refused to allow complacency to creep into the picture.

Master Sergeant Wallace had seen Bridges make target glances at her gun, her TASER, and her cuffs. 

She explained in one report, “He was studying me — studying the equipment that I wear.” 

Due to her observations of the subject’s “interest,” her preparedness was ratcheted up such that when that gun grab happened, she was ready and able to do what she needed to do to keep herself and everyone else in that courtroom safe. 

She swatted away Bridges’ gun grab attempt and bladed her gun side away from the assailant. 

Wallace told ABC News, “My instincts kicked in and I just swiped and turned away.”

Then the cavalry came rushing in.

Faster than you can say, “two deputies,” there were two deputies pushing the assailant away from Wallace. 

A third deputy quickly joined the fray, walking into the view of the camera from the right side of the screen. That deputy looked back into the courtroom to be certain there was no threat at his six, and then helped the others remove Bridges to a holding cell.

Great work on the part of those deputies, and what looks like great teamwork all around. 

On the Other Hand...
Was Wallace’s performance in this scenario perfect?

No, it wasn’t.

Considering the fact that she’d already had her hinky-alarm go off in her head, she may have chosen to walk a wider berth around the shackled subject.

We’ll never know if Bridges still would have attempted the gun grab if she was three feet farther away from him as she passed, but safety may have been better served by a wider arc in her movement.

What about Master Sergeant Wallace’s hands? Some might be critical of the fact that she was carrying a water bottle. 

I look at it from two somewhat opposing viewpoints. 

On one hand, someone might reasonably say, “Why didn’t she drop that water bottle?”

My supposition is that clutching the water bottle (as opposed to dropping it) was a sympathetic response — wanting to retain the gun, her brain sent instructions to clamp the fingers of BOTH hands around whatever they were holding. 

On the other hand (quite literally), her gun hand was free — her “support side hand” was the one in which she was carrying the bottle of water. 

I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen — either in person or on one of these videos — an officer needlessly carrying something in his/her gun-side hand when the “weak side” hand remains free. 

So on balance, having that water bottle in hand is something of a wash — neither particularly good, nor particularly bad.

What else can we observe from the video? What do you see as something you might have done differently?

Add your thoughts in the comments area below


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. In addition to his editorial and managerial responsibilities, 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), and an Associate Member of the California Peace Officers' Association. He is also a member of the Public Safety Writers Association, and is a three-time (2011, 2012, and 2014) Western Publishing Association "Maggie Award" Finalist in the category of Best Regularly Featured Digital Edition Column. 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.

Read more articles by PoliceOne Editor in Chief Doug Wyllie by clicking here.

Contact Doug Wyllie





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