hradzka: (303 british)
[personal profile] hradzka
Saw an interesting news story on a police gunfight. Interesting and unusual, not only because it's an NYT article that praises the heroism of the police officer involved in a shootout -- this rarely happens -- but because it does so for the wrong reasons.

Background: NYPD Officer Ferris Jones, a 20-year veteran who collects evidence for the crime lab, was getting her hair done when a 19-year-old man, Winston Cox, entered the salon with a large revolver and demanded money. Once the women in the salon had placed their belongings into his bag, he ordered them into a bathroom in the back and began to ransack the place for more valuables. Jones took their confinement as potentially a very bad sign, and gave her cell phone to the shop owner with an instruction to call 911. Jones then exited the bathroom and identified herself as a police officer, whereupon Winston Cox opened fire on her. Jones returned fire with her off-duty carry piece, which the NYT identifies only as a five-shot revolver, no make or caliber listed (so I'm guessing a Smith & Wesson J-frame). She emptied her gun. This is where the story gets interesting:

One shot knocked the gun from the man’s two-handed grip, piercing his right middle finger and grazing his left hand, according to the police. Another shot hit the lock on the front door, jamming it. The gunman tried to flee, Mr. Browne said, but could not get the door open. Finally, he grabbed his gun, kicked out a lower panel on the door and crawled out. Officer Jones followed him out the door to see which way he was running.

[NYPD Spokesman] Mr. Browne said Officer Jones’s performance was commended at an internal police briefing by Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly, who said that “her reserve under fire was matched only by her marksmanship.”


Terrific job by Officer Jones. No question. The only problem is that the article, and for that matter the NYPD spokesman, makes it sound like Officer Jones shot the gun out of the guy's hands deliberately, and used another bullet to try to lock the guy in, which is Western-serial bullshit. I can see why the NYT wants to promote it, because it promotes an idealized view of what's possible in police violence. Look, Jones was being shot at and she managed to *shoot the gun out of the bad guy's hands!* Cops should do that *all the time!* While Jones was unquestionably heroic, she was heroic in attainably human ways, and the article makes her out to have skills on par with the Lone Ranger.

Folks get their hands shot in gunfights all the time. Unless the other party is a sniper and has a lot of time to aim, it happens by accident. It happens because we tend to look at what is freaking us out, which is usually the other guy's gun, and we tend to shoot at what draws our focus. What you *want* to do is shoot center mass, because that will stop the bad guy much more effectively. Also, you're going to be having an adrenaline dump that makes your accuracy go to hell, so you want a really big target. I really doubt Officer Jones was shooting at the gun or the lock on the door; she was shooting at Winston Cox's center mass, per the dictates of her training, and her adrenaline dump caused her to miss. Despite this, she scored a hit on him with at least one bullet out of her five. With a snubby revolver. Solid work. Winston Cox missed completely with his revolver, a .44 Magnum. From the Times photo, Cox looks to have been carrying a Ruger New Model Super Blackhawk with a five-and-a-half-inch barrel.

Here's everything you need to know about accuracy in a gunfight: two shooters, one a career criminal and one a police officer, trading up to eleven rounds, only one of which hits its intended human target.

Per the NYT and the NYPD, the gunfight took place at a distance of twelve feet.

Date: 2010-10-27 01:22 am (UTC)
niqaeli: cat with arizona flag in the background (Default)
From: [personal profile] niqaeli
A hand is a small target to be hitting at any time, I'd imagine -- and if you miss, you almost certainly missed the target entirely. This is why you don't go for the head-shot unless you're a trained sniper and you sure don't go for it in the middle of a gunfight like that. It's just... augh. Of *course* you go for the center of mass; if your aim goes off due to adrenaline dump you're still more likely to hit them somewhere. See: she hit the guy's hand, at least.

I find it mind-boggling that people don't understand the logistics of that... I admit, I've never shot a firearm (someday!). But I competed athletically when I was younger and I know what adrenaline did to my performance; it's why you practice to make everything as rote and deep a muscle memory as possible. And that was just what happened with adrenaline in a controlled environment where the danger was in poor performance* rather than an unpredictable and potentially lethal opponent.

*Yes, there was some danger -- I was a gymnast, you can fuck yourself up thoroughly with a lot of acrobatics if you don't do them right.

Date: 2010-10-27 02:28 am (UTC)
jecook: (Default)
From: [personal profile] jecook
Yes- the training I got was all about center of mass- At short ranges, it's a big, easy to hit target. 'Aimed' shots (i.e., head shots, shooting the firearm out of one's hands, etc.) are stupidly difficult to pull off under stress, and frankly, doing a head shot as a coup' de grace is liable to get you in deep, deep legal trouble afterward.

I'll be more then happy to take you and the crew (if they want) to the range some weekend- just say the word.

Date: 2010-10-30 09:40 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] maire
I find that interesting.

I always seemed to get much, much better at fencing after I'd fought at least one bout and been hit at least once, because my focus and aim both seemed to bet much better.

I'd assumed it was adrenaline helping me to be more accurate.

Not likely?

Date: 2010-10-30 07:30 pm (UTC)
niqaeli: cat with arizona flag in the background (Default)
From: [personal profile] niqaeli
It might be; different people respond differently to adrenaline. Though I'd still bet a not insignificant chunk of what it was that you'd gotten the anticipation of a fight of being hit out of the way and could focus better.

Date: 2010-10-27 07:50 am (UTC)
lian: Klavier Gavin, golden boy (Default)
From: [personal profile] lian
/OT

I love that Inception fandom taught me enough to know exactly what you're talking about. *wry grin*

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