“More young men are killed each day on the streets of America than on the worst days of carnage and loss in Iraq. There is a war at home raging every day, filling our trauma centers with so many wounded children that it sometimes makes Baghdad seem like a quiet city in Iowa.”
— Dr. John Pryor, U.S. Army Surgeon, KIA Christmas Day 2009
On Sunday January 23rd 2011, Lamar D. Moore calmly walked into the Detroit Police Department’s Northwestern District station just after shift change, and approached the front desk.
Concealed from view was a pistol-grip shotgun.
Within moments, he began firing, striking officers with his shotgun at point blank range. The calm Sunday morning at the desk turned into a gun battle in an instant. Moore ambushed the DPD precinct while officers went about their Sunday morning routine.
Commander Brian Davis stopped into his precinct to check on his officers that morning and to get a briefing on an unrelated incident which had occurred the previous night. He was wearing his church clothes with a small backup weapon strapped to his ankle. The officers working the desk were going about their business as they normally do on a Sunday morning — until Moore approached the desk and ambushed those officers.
Moore had been implicated in the kidnapping and sexual assault of a runaway teenage girl. She escaped Sunday afternoon from Moore’s house and police responded — it was after this that Moore shot up the station.
Moore walked into the station and approached the desk. Before anybody could even greet Moore, he pulled his shotgun and starting shooting at officers from a distance less than six feet away. Commander Davis, Sgt. Ray Saati, Sgt. Carrie Schulz, and Officer David Anderson dropped to find cover behind the desk. Two of these officers had already been struck by Moore’s shotgun fire.
Moore took a couple steps back toward the door as officers started to return fire, but in an instant, Moore charged the desk and leaped over the high counter like something straight out of a Hollywood movie. Commander Davis couldn’t believe what was happening — after all, it was just another Sunday morning.
Moore was now behind the police desk shooting at the officers. Commander Davis took a handgun from one of his injured officers lying next to him. He then engaged Moore in a gunfight that lasted 37 seconds from the time the first shot rang out — at a distance starting out around fifteen feet — until the finally volley at each other barely two feet away. As Moore stood up and continued to shoot at the officers lying on the floor, another officer covered Commander Davis to protect him. That officer fired upon Moore, until Moore shot him.
Moore approached Commander Davis’s position behind a small partition, Commander Davis stood up and greeted his adversary with the desire to neutralize his threat at all costs. He found himself only a couple feet from the shotgun barrel Moore was pointing at him. The two engaged each other and both were struck by bullets.
Davis fell back, and Moore ran around the partition and continued to shoot Davis. Commander Davis even threw a trash can at Moore as he fell back onto the floor. Shortly after the two fired upon each other, Moore fell to the ground mortally wounded.
Four of Detroit’s finest laying wounded from shotgun blasts, clutching the will to survive. Commander Davis was hurried to a chair in an adjoining office. As officers checked Davis for wounds, they found his hand had been shot up and a finger was destroyed. Then, all of a sudden, the officer checking Davis for injuries yelled for another officer to help him. They whisked Davis out of the office — still sitting in the chair he’d been sitting in — and outside to a patrol car.
Davis, still in shock, wasn’t clear on the need to hurry and wondered why his officers were driving so fast to the hospital. Once in the emergency room, as the medical staff was frantically working on him, he eventually overheard the doctors commands to “prep him for surgery.”
Davis asked a nurse “Why am I going to surgery?”
She replied that he had been shot in the back. He later would learn that there was a hole the size of a softball in his back from one of the shotgun rounds.
The Cornerstone to Survival
I am happy today to report that all of the DPD officers and Commander Davis survived the ambush that day in January.
Commander Davis embraced his warrior spirit as his adversary sought to kill him and his officers. That spirit is the cornerstone to survival in an era when more officers are ambushed than in recent history.
I believe strongly that the will to survive is embraced by some officers and is nothing more than a statement to others. Tactical self talk can help you in such an ambush — as well as its aftermath.
Try living this statement as you patrol the streets of your city:
“Through practice and repetition I will survive and I am in control.”
Training your mind to battle an ambush provides the necessary information that your brain will seek in that short instant you’re compelled into a fight for your life.
Repeat this statement every day — often — until the day you get your retirement watch.
When it’s Time to Fight, Fight!
There is an element in many humans that chose flight over fight. Time and time again I watch videos of officers being confronted by an armed suspect and they choose dialogue first over lethal force. The fact is that many police agencies have plenty of officers who — for various reasons — will choose dialogue first and combat second. While conducting Close Quarter Battle Tactics training over the years, I’ve observed an increase in the number of officers yelling for their adversary to “drop the gun, drop the gun” during a scenario in which the bad guy has a gun pointed at the officers. The target is clearly a deadly threat, and yet too many cops are choosing to yell “drop the gun, drop the gun” before they engage and shoot the target. That apprehension clearly gets officers killed.
I understand the various components that create apprehension in an officer’s mind. Law suits, criminal charges, disciplinary actions and the media all lend to the desire to verbally resolve a conflict. Let’s be clear about one thing, when an officer is confronted with a deadly force situation he/she must respond quickly and decisively with deadly force to swiftly neutralize the threat. That means, in some cases, you must neutralize your threat immediately which means there will be no time to yell “drop the gun”.
The point I am trying to convey is simple. Your mindset should be to fight when it’s time to fight, talk when it’s time to talk, and — when needed — transition from talk to fight quicker than your opponent can comprehend (much less respond to).
Come to terms with the fact that we can’t talk every situation into a successful resolution. Train yourself to strike quick and decisively. We always speak of the fact that your adversary has to process through the OODA Loop. Well guess what, so do you. You must process the information and respond quicker than your adversary. This alone will increase your chances of survival.
Commander Davis chose to strike his adversary quick and hard. He didn’t hesitate to obtain an injured officer’s gun, or stand up in civilian clothes and shoot as many times as he could at a man wanting him dead. Imagine the confusion as the battle instantly unfolded and then consider how long it would take you to process the information. You must be able to react as Commander Davis did or you may end up on the losing side of this fight. After all, any hesitation from him that morning most likely would have enabled Moore to murder those officers lying on the precinct floor that quiet Sunday in the Motor City.
As we patrol the streets in 2012, let Commander Davis and the men and women of the Detroit Police Department remind us that the will to survive is the cornerstone to survival in an ambush that sadly, some unsuspecting officer(s) will face in this New Year.
“An Army stronger in soul, will be victorious over the army of lesser...”
— Unknown Greek Army General
Sgt. Glenn French