What we can learn from officer hand and arm injuries in gunfights

We’ve seen too many examples of officers being injured in the hands or arms during gunfights to ignore this common pattern of injury


As we start to learn more about the terrible attack on the Tree of Hope synagogue in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh, some useful information is emerging about the law enforcement response to the active shooter [1] who claimed the lives of 11 victims. In particular, the wounds sustained by the responding officers illustrate a reality of gunfights that has significant implications on law enforcement training and preparations.

Blood lessons

Reports indicate that four officers were wounded in the response to the synagogue shooting, with one officer being shot seven times. That officer was saved by a tourniquet that was applied by a tactical EMS (TEMS) operator – who’s actually a SWAT-trained trauma doctor – which once again proves the value of a TEMS program, and the necessity for proper medical skills and equipment in the tactical environment. There are also indications that the officer’s ballistic helmet was instrumental in protecting him from a gunshot that could easily have been fatal.

Perhaps what’s more interesting, however, are the reports that indicate three of the four wounded officers were wounded in the hands. Two officers reportedly received gunshot wounds to the hand, and one officer received a graze or shrapnel wound to the hand. Fortunately, they escaped more serious injuries, but the pattern of wounds to the hands is a significant piece of information that shouldn’t be ignored.

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