10 police training takeaways from the St. Cloud mall attack

Real shootings involve stress, cover, concealment, movement and suspects who sometimes do not stop when we think they should

On Sept. 19, 2016, Officer Jason Falconer, off duty and in civilian clothes, was making a purchase at a store in the Crossroads Mall in St. Cloud, Minn. when he heard screaming and commotion. He walked outside and was approached by a man wearing a security uniform, who asked him, “Are you Muslim?” 

After Falconer replied that he was not, the man turned and walked away. 

Falconer noticed the man had a knife in each hand, holding them so that the blades were hiding along the inside of his wrists. One of the blades was bent from stabbing one of his 10 victims.What followed was an off-duty shooting of the terror suspect. 

Here are 10 training takeaways from the St. Cloud terrorist shooting and videos of the incident.

1. Carry off duty.
Officer Falconer, an accomplished 3-Gun competitor and firearms instructor, carried a Glock 19 with him that day. If he had chosen not to use it, things could have ended far differently.

2. Verbal and visual identification is essential.
Officer Falconer immediately verbally identified himself as an officer and commanded the suspect to drop his weapons. The suspect responded by running to the Macy’s store. Falconer pursued him. During the confrontation, Faulkner continued to verbally identify himself. When the suspect fell to the ground after being shot, Falconer produced his badge and held it above his head. The witnesses in close proximity had no doubt as to who Falconer was or what he was doing. This kind of training is essential for officers to prepare for off-duty incidents and to avoid blue-on-blue shootings.

3. Down does not mean out.
The suspect initially lied on the ground and complied with the officer’s commands while both knives were still in his hands. The suspect then charged Falconer and was shot several times. The suspect fell and Falconer repositioned himself. The suspect then crawled toward the officer, regained his footing and charged again. Additional shots were fired and again the suspect went down. Despite shots to the torso and head, the suspect crawled forward and attempted to regain his footing by grabbing a display case. The case toppled with the suspect and he was permanently down – with a knife still in his hand. This is a stark reminder that the suspect decides when an attack is over. 

4. Be prepared to shoot from the ground and on the move.
During the initial charge by the suspect, Falconer turned, backed up to his left and fell. The suspect was hit and also fell. With the suspect charging, Officer Falconer was able to hit the him with his gunfire while moving and possibly from the ground. Have you trained and practiced to do the same?

5. A head shot is not a guarantee.
At some point during the attack, the suspect was shot in the head, but continued to advance on the officer despite the wound. This is a reminder that unless the bullets hit the correct part of the brain a suspect can continue to function. It also reminds us that wounds that cause heavy bleeding can take time to incapacitate. During that time, if we are not prepared, additional injury and death can be wrought by a motivated attacker.

6. Stay vigilant.
After being shot, dropping to the ground and rising again, the suspect continued to attack the officer. He even turned his back in what appears to be an attempt to get the officer to hold his fire so that he can get close enough to stab the officer. Falconer recognized the threat and shot the suspect twice in the back. Falconer saw the danger and responded to it.

7. Be prepared to miss.
Real shootings involve stress, cover, concealment, movement and suspects who sometimes do not stop when we think they should. Those components almost guarantee missing the suspect. Falconer shot 10 times, striking the suspect six times. A 60 percent hit ratio is above average for a police shooting.

8. Carry enough ammo.
With a lower capacity weapon, this incident may have allowed for a reload. Not all situations will afford an officer this opportunity.

9. Prepare for the real world.
Have you trained for the killer that will not stop? Have you trained for a crowded mall with bystanders in all directions? Have you practiced from the ground, on the move and against a moving target? Officer Falconer continued his training beyond what he learned in the academy and beyond the requirements of his agency in competitions and by becoming a firearms instructor. He attended numerous shooting schools, is a competitive shooter and the owner of his own firearms and tactics business.

10. More attacks are coming.
ISIS has called for more knife attacks. Are you preparing to deal with them on and off duty? Consistent and realistic firearms practice and positive mental rehearsal sessions are the key to your preparation and survival for on- or off-duty response.  

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