K.C. officer praised for quick reaction during gunfight

Editor's Note — This incident is notable for several reasons, says Street Survival Seminar lead instructor Dave Smith.

"First, the officer didn't panic and give up when wounded, he fought back and survived. Second, too often we don't train to use our vehicles as cover or how to shoot from them and around them. They need to be on the range when possible and officers should practice using them as cover and shooting from them."

Also, Dave says, "One of the problems with today's vehicles is that they are too cluttered and are difficult to manuever inside of. Ask yourself: Could you exit your vehicle's passenger side if necessary?"

The Kansas City Star
Related: KC police chief to rethink one-officer policy
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — “Officer down! Officer down! I’ve been hit!”

The voice on the police radio is urgent, but not panicked.

“Where are you?” another officer asks by radio.

“40 Highway and Sterling, just south of the QuikTrip, and I don’t know where he (the gunman) is. Send me MAST (ambulance). I might be hit. Definitely in the leg, and I don’t know about the head.”

That audio accompanied video that Police Chief Jim Corwin released Tuesday of a shootout an officer had with a gunman last week involving about 45 bullets fired into the early morning darkness.

Police also displayed photos of the officer’s cruiser, with three holes in the driver’s door, one in the windshield and one the size of a child’s fist in the officer’s laptop computer. Bullets also flattened a tire and broke a window.

Corwin said he released the tapes and photos and displayed the suspect’s gun — a 9 mm semiautomatic machine pistol that can hold 31 rounds — to show what his officers face on the streets.

"This ain’t the movies,” he said. “This is a police officer who goes home to his family and kids.”

Corwin praised the officer.

“He was shot and wounded and still giving instructions. When things got bad, his training kicked in and saved his life.”

A bullet from the initial volley struck the officer in the ankle and traveled up to his knee. Pieces of his computer struck him in the forehead after he dived into his cruiser for cover.

He returned fire, forcing the gunman to flee. A police dog tracked a suspect and bit him in the arm when he resisted. The dog, Soty, also attended Tuesday’s news conference.

The outcome could have been worse, Corwin said. Noting a monument outside Police Headquarters etched with names of officers who died in the line of duty, he said: “There are 119 names on the fallen officer’s monument. It is only by the grace of God that we do not have more.”

That shooting, combined with two other violent attacks against police since March, prompted Corwin to rethink his recent enforcement of a 54-year-old policy to have most officers patrol neighborhoods alone.

Some officers had been riding together, leaving some patrol districts without an assigned officer, something Corwin opposed.

Dispatchers send two officers — whether riding together or separately — to high-priority 911 dispatches such as shootings, robberies and ambulance calls. Lesser-priority calls, such as petty theft, require only one officer.

Corwin said Tuesday that he wanted to reopen the debate and analyze whether officers riding in pairs could be as efficient in some areas as officers riding alone. Efficiency is important, he said, but at times it may need to give way to safety.

An analysis will be complex and time-consuming, he said.

“Maybe they had it right,” Corwin said of the officers who had been doubling up. “I want my organization to know I’m not closed-minded. I want us to be critical thinkers, and that starts at the top.”

Copyright 2007 Kansas City Star

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