The attack cycle
There is an arrogance. An arrogance that presupposes omniscient perceptions.
We are warriors… Magnificent legion that make demons tremble upon our arrival!
We are also usually moral creatures that live within societal constructs. One of those constructs… a really really important one: You may only use deadly force when someones actions create a reasonable belief that there is an imminent likelihood of death or great bodily injury.
Even though we know…. we just know… that the guy staring at us at the bar is going to attack us in the parking lot as we walk out to our cars… we are not allowed to attack him first, even though we may have a strategic advantage right at that very moment.
One of my all time heroes, St. Thomas Aquinas developed this legal philosophy in his great work the Summa Theologica (In his theological opus magnum, there is a “book within a book” called De Legibus… literally “of the laws”).
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There he argues that each individual must be granted every opportunity to find salvation…. right up to the end. If we were to defend ourselves with terminal force, beforebad guy launches his attack, we are essentially robbing him of the opportunity to act righteously… essentially everyone gets the opportunity… right up to the edge of the ditch to decide that he would rather accept a righteous life, than continue on with his evil ways.
Once he has committed to his vile act through an outward instigation of hostilities… well then you can dump him.
While this blending of cosmology and legal ethics is quite elegant, it kinda puts us behind the eight ball when it comes to defending ourselves. After all… this codifies that the bad guy gets the first bite at the apple.
Case and point: The body cam video of the officer involved shooting at the top of this page.
Our officers are sent to question an individual allegedly involved in shop lifting. They find him holding up in the restroom of an Applebes. While this case involves the positiveactions of law enforcement, the circumstances can also be analyzed through the lens of the vigilant civilian.
(Just a point of clarification: I use the term positivein reference to the actions of the police. This is not a judgment call, rather a means of describing their actions as positively engaging a potential hostile, as opposed to defensively looking to create as much distance as possible between themselves at the suspect)
The first thing that strikes us is the relative calm demeanor of the suspect. He appears well… normal. He looks slightly intimidated and embarrassed… sort of the way a normal person would think they would act placed in similar circumstances.
This is potentially very very dangerous.
While empathy may have positive social value it can also lower our guard. “This guy is acting just the way I would act if I were in his position. Since I am non-violent, and I can relate to him I will draw the logical conclusion that he must be non-violent”
This is exactly the type of unilateral disarmament the bad guy is hoping for.
Unfortunately for him, and the video proves this out, both officers had the presence of mind to not focus on the suspects’ apparent benevolence, instead they focused on his hands.
When the suspect pulled a gun… (or what appeared to be a functional firearm).. the officers went into full scale defensive mode.
The taping officers partner immediately threw the suspect to the ground, (an off balance suspect is less likely to shoot you than a stable one). Then while the suspect was in motion both officers drew their firearms and began shooting.
They also continued shooting until they were convinced that the threat was no longer a viable threat.
Someone is going to stop engaging in a deadly assault for one of two reasons. 1) They psychologically have agreed to stop being a threat, or 2)they physically have been made incapable from continuing their threatening actions.
Here our suspect has not shown any outward signs that he has psychologically stopped. It is therefore incumbent on the part of the officers to ensure that he has been physically stopped.
Had they relied on his demeanor, his apparent good-naturedness, this encounter may very well have had a disastrous conclusion for the officers and that of their loved ones.
Remember… the best way to avoid a gunfight is to be ready for a gunfight.