Rapid Response: 1 critical lesson from the ISIS-inspired attack on a Philly cop

There is one very significant yet simple takeaway from this incident which requires our attention and consideration: shot doesn’t equal dead — the will to win is a potentially life-saving force

What Happened: In a sudden ambush, a Philadelphia police officer was shot multiple times late Thursday by an attacker who later said he had pledged loyalty to the Islamic State, also known as ISIS and ISIL. The assailant — identified as Edward Archer — used a gun stolen from police in the assassination attempt conducted “in the name of Islam.”

Despite being struck by multiple rounds (according to initial reports, three gunshots to the arm), Officer Jesse Hartnett not only survived the attack, he was able to get out of his vehicle, chase the suspect, and return fire, wounding his attacker. Other officers later apprehended Archer, who was treated at the hospital and released into police custody. 

Hartnett is reportedly in stable condition and his father, Robert Hartnett, said his son was “in good spirits.” Having just shot a terrorist who tried to kill you can have that effect.

Why it’s Significant: The tactic — used countless times overseas — to attack police in the name of jihad has hit American soil. Despite the fact that Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said Archer’s “abhorrent” and “terrible” actions had “nothing to do with being a Muslim or following the Islamic faith,” we know better. 

So does the mayor’s newly appointed Police Commissioner. Richard Ross said at a news conference that Archer said that he targeted police because “he believes they enforce laws that are contrary to the Koran,” according to the Washington Post

Jihadi rhetoric in online videos — as well as in recruiting / how-to magazines like Inspire and Dabiq — has for some time called for attacks on military and police. In fact, the latest issue of Dabiq contains the following passage: 

“You must strike the soldiers, patrons, and troops of the tawāghīt. Strike their police, security, and intelligence members, as well as their treacherous agents. Ruin their sleep. Embitter their lives for them and busy them with themselves. …kill them in any manner possible.”

The military has already come under attack on our shores several times from self-radicalized jihadis, and now police are being targeted. Unprovoked ambush attacks such as this one can come from all manner of attacker, but clearly there is now a new threat to be cognizant of. 

The good news in all of this — aside from the obvious fact that Officer Hartnett will be okay — is that the attacker failed. Probably the worst thing for a jihadi is failure. 

Top Takeaways: There is one very significant yet simple takeaway from this incident which requires our attention and consideration: shot doesn’t equal dead — the will to win is a potentially life-saving force.

This case once again offers stark evidence that surviving an attack depends in large part on what’s happening between your ears, and what you’ve got between your solar plexus and your spine. In coming weeks we will likely learn more about the number and nature of Officer Hartnett’s injuries, but regardless of where he was struck, this cop clearly used his training and his willpower to not only survive, but prevail in the fight.

We’ve seen multiple times an officer’s mindset, training, and determination being critical factors for staying in the fight. Officer Steven Hough took a round to the face, got up, scrambled for cover, and instinctively began combat breathing. As he later wrote on PoliceOne, “I was calm and focused.” 

Sergeant Mark Chesnut was shot in right arm, through his left wrist and hand, and into his right side between his vest panels, angling down into his abdomen. Despite these horrific wounds, Chesnut was able to get his right hand on the gear shift and left left hand on the wheel, gunning his unit backwards out of the fray. As he later told PoliceOne, “I didn’t know if I was going to die or not, but I absolutely wouldn’t close my eyes on that ambulance ride.”

Lieutenant Brian Murphy was shot 15 times while responding to the shooting rampage at a Sikh Temple and was able to crawl away on his elbows, survive, and even return to active duty. He later described what was going through his head: “My wife and I had tickets to go on vacation in Florida, and I was thinking, ‘We’re not going to Florida anytime soon, and she’s gonna be pissed.”

We have similar stories from James Van AlstineJared Reston, Marcus Young, and others. 

PoliceOne Columnist Dick Fairburn evaluated this incident perfectly when he said, “Last night in Philadelphia we saw the best possible outcome from an extremely dangerous ambush attack. The ambush attacker scored at least three serious wounds on Officer Jesse Hartnett, yet in less than ten seconds from the first shot, Officer Hartnett was returning fire and chasing down his assailant. Press reports suggest the officer also logged three hits — on a running target while himself running — after taking serious wounds. Here is our example for counter-ambush response!”

What’s Next: Two things will happen with certainty. Weak politicians will ignore this attack’s connection to radical Islamic terrorism — in fact, they probably won’t even utter those words. And when he is fully recovered, we at PoliceOne will reach out to give Officer Hartnett the opportunity to talk about his experience in this incident, if he wishes. In the meantime we wish Officer Hartnett a speedy recovery, and we salute him for his excellence. 

Further Reading:
"I got shot in the face": How I survived and healed
Cop shot 15 times at Sikh Temple says, 'Never give up'
Shot 5 times, a sergeant reflects on lessons learned
'They're gonna kill you': One warrior's will to win

About the author

Doug Wyllie is Editor at Large for PoliceOne, responsible for providing police training content and expert analysis on a wide range of topics and trends that affect the law enforcement community. 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 900 feature articles and tactical tips. Doug is also responsible for planning and recording the PoliceOne Podcast, Policing Matters, as well as being the on-air host for PoliceOne Video interviews. Doug also works closely with the PoliceOne Academy to develop training designed to prepare cops for the fight they face every day on the street.

Doug regularly represents PoliceOne as a public speaker in a variety of forums and is available for media interviews — he has appeared on numerous local and national radio and television news programs, and has been quoted in a host of print publications. 

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).

Contact Doug Wyllie

  1. Tags
  2. Officer Safety
  3. Terrorism Prevention and Response
  4. Jihadists

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