On April 14, 2011, 34-year-old Guy Ronald McDowell called 911 to report that a shooting had taken place. He called again moments later to describe his vehicle and indicate that he wanted to surrender to police.
Officer Charles Lyons of the Knoxville police department located the suspect vehicle and was following him on Central Avenue Pike when McDowell stopped, exited his car, and brandished a silver pistol. Officer Lyons immediately put distance between his car and McDowell’s, calmly telling dispatch, “I’ve got a red PT Cruiser 197 whiskey mike x-ray tried to go 10-25 on me.”
Additional units had joined the pursuit on Interstate 275 by the time a Knoxville police negotiator called McDowell on his cell phone. McDowell abruptly stopped his car, and instead of complying with officers’ clear instructions to get out of the car with his hands up, “McDowell chose to exit with the firearm, pointed it at officers and then made a racking motion with the weapon as he leveled it at the officers,” said Knoxville Police Chief David Rausch.
McDowell was holding a pellet gun painted to look like a chrome-plated 9mm Beretta semi-automatic pistol — it was a suicide-by-cop incident caught on dashcam. Chief Rausch said that his department will use the video for training purposes — so will we.
• What are your observations of Officer Lyons’ use of his vehicle? Does your agency train for “rapid rearward tactical movement” in such scenarios? If so, is that training done by EVOC instructors, use-of-force/firearms instructors, or both?
• Before McDowell stopped the first time — on Central Avenue Pike — his vehicle did something that some instructors might consider by to be a pre-attack indicator. Did you notice what it was? If so, does your agency train officers to watch for it?
• While you watched the traffic stop on Interstate 275 unfold, what were your observations of the officers’ communications, movements, and other tactics? What would you and the other officers in your squad room do similarly? What would you do differently?
• According to a report by WATE-TV, four officers (it merits mention that Lyons did not discharge his weapon) fired a total of 40 rounds, striking the suspect 13 times. What do you think of this hit rate? Do you think the officers in your PD receive training that would result in a higher or lesser hit rate given similar circumstances?
• The investigation after this incident quickly revealed that this was an SBC event. What does your agency provide in terms of post-SBC support? What can (or will) you do to enhance or increase that capability?