A blue-on-blue officer-involved shooting and the 'ready round' for survivors

Ultimately, a cop’s got to do what a cop’s got to do, and it appears that that’s exactly what happened in this unfortunate case


According to a local television report from WJLA in Virginia, local police shot and killed 34-year-old Ricardo Leon, a Lieutenant with the Naval Observatory Police who was off duty at the time of the shooting. According to the WJLA news report, Leon had been “in a rage” and throwing furniture out various windows of a Centreville (Va.) home.

Fairfax County Police spokeswoman Mary Ann Jennings said in one report that officers were called to the residence around 0130 hours, after dispatchers received one call from inside the home reporting a disturbance, in addition to a similar 911 call from a neighbor.

According to that Fairfax County PD spokeswoman, responding cops reportedly encountered Leon in the garage of the residence, where he was apparently seen with a weapon — reportedly a shotgun — and did not comply with orders to drop the weapon.

One witness named Ashley Daniels reportedly said that she heard police tell Leon to put his hands up. “They waited for few minutes and then I heard a big shot,” Daniels said.

According to one report, Leon had pointed his gun at officers.

At least one of the officers fired at Leon, and immediately after the gunman was shot, officers attempted to save Leon’s life. Despite those efforts, Leon was declared dead at the scene.

Check out the video now, and scroll down below for the remainder of this column.

Dealing with the Aftermath
The aftermath of the shooting could potentially cause a certain amount of blowback for the officers involved — not because it was a bad shoot, but because of the feelings one might have about having had to stop a threat that turned out to be a fellow-LEO. While our condolences certainly go out to the friends and family of Lt. Leon, we also have thoughts and prayers for the officers involved in this shooting. We also have some reminders from our roster of writers for anyone else who may one day find themselves in a similar situation.

Noted police psychologist and PoliceOne Columnist Larry Miller wrote about this type of scenario only six months ago in an excellent piece called “Unfriendly fire: Dealing with the aftermath of a blue-on-blue death.”

In that piece, Miller stated, “Although I’ve never been personally involved in a cop-on-cop shooting case (because they’re so uncommon to begin with), I have done evaluations and consultations on officers who have gotten into physical fights with other officers, who have been arrested by other officers for misdemeanors or felonies, or have drawn weapons on other officers but with no discharge or injury. In all these cases, their actions have had expectable career-changing effects. In addition, I’ve worked with officers who have made what they — and/or others — consider to be negligent mistakes that led to the injury or death of another officer. Extrapolating from these cases and reviewing the sparse literature on cop-on-cop violence leads to some general conclusions about officer reactions.”

Miller stated in his column on the topic that the officers involved may be mad at:

• Fate — “Why does this shit always happen to me?”
• The suspect — “How the hell was I supposed to know he was a cop — why didn’t he say something?”

It appears from the initial reports that at the time of this shooting, there was little — if any — behavior on the part of Lt. Leon that would reflect him to be an officer of the law. It’s impossible to say at present whether or not Leon was a ‘suicide by cop’ candidate, although some of the folks with whom I’ve spoken today have mentioned that likelihood with raised eyebrows. What IS known right now is that one LEO is dead, and at least one cop — probably more than one — is dealing with the aftermath.

The “Ready Round” 
Regardless of the circumstances, the officers involved may have feelings guilt and/or depression — they did, after all, shoot another cop. How the hell are they supposed to feel?

An equally realistic possibility is that these officers will feel no ill effects from this particular OIS. To an extent, it all comes down to the individual. However, it also becomes incumbent on the colleagues of the cops involved in such shootings to look after their own.

Cases like this remind me of a passage in Chapter Six of On Combat by my friend, Lt. Col. Dave Grossman. It is here where Grossman writes that “the right response to a survivor is to say simply, ‘I’m so glad you’re okay.’ That the person survived the ordeal and is okay is all that matters.”

Grossman says further that an officer involved in a shooting doesn’t need to hear “good shooting” or “the bastard had it coming” or “we’ll get you a good lawyer.” Instead, Grossman says, the message should be: “I give a damn about you, and I’m glad you’re okay.” Calling this the “ready round,” Col. Grossman says this is the one that’s “in the chamber ready to go when you do not know what to say or do. You simply let the person know that you care about him and are glad he is okay.”

Ultimately, a cop’s got to do what a cop’s got to do, and it appears that that’s exactly what happened in this unfortunate case. So, to those officers involved, I say, “I give a damn about you, and I’m glad you’re okay.”

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 800 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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