You don’t expect a 2nd Lieutenant to demonstrate much beyond potential. But this 2nd Lt. in the West Virginia Air National Guard is already a veteran of the Marines and a husband and father experienced in the world. He recently was in a local Walmart when a woman began screaming for help. A man was holding a knife to her neck.
Police eventually responded to the scene and put the suspect in handcuffs. Nelson said he later discovered that the woman he was threatening was his own mother. He turned the knife on his mom when she refused to buy him a gun, according to a copy of the police report obtained by TheBlaze.
Nelson and his wife both carry everywhere they can, legally, to protect themselves and their family. In this case, Nelson protected two strangers — the threatened woman and her disturbed son.
Nelson, remarkably, resolved the situation by only displaying his firearm without drawing it, and using his maturity and command presence — yeah, a 2nd john’s command presence — to talk the angry man down. He talked him into letting his mother go. Then he talked him into stopping threatening himself, which was what he did after releasing his mom. Then he talked him into putting the knife down. Finally, he talked him out of running away, and into sitting down and waiting for the cops.
It was a bravura performance — and the firearm never left the holster, although it seems to have contributed greatly to Nelson’s command of the situation.
Nelson had nothing but good things to say about the way officers with the Del Rio Police Department handled the situation. He said the officers commended him for his handling of the situation — and because he never brandished or fired his weapon, officers said “no thanks” when he asked if they wanted to see his legal concealed carry permit.
Would a lot more stand-offs end like this, instead of the usual shooting, if they were met by armed, calm citizens rather than a police Steroids Weapons And Tantrum squad call-out? Hard to say. Every threatener is different, and so is every threat. Cops talk a lot of suspects into giving up and laying down weapons every day, and those cases seldom make the papers. Nelson might have wound up shooting the guy. And in some jurisdictions, cops and a district attorney would have jumped at the chance to “nail” Nelson. Fortunately, West Virginia is not New Jersey, so he didn’t get the Brian Aitken treatment.
“The number one reason I carry is to protect my family. It’s a God-given, constitutional right that I fully, 100 percent stand behind,” Nelson told TheBlaze. “Secondly, I love my fellow Americans, and if I’m in a position to help one of them, obviously, I want to do that.”
“I immediately felt responsible for that lady’s life,” he added. “If I’m in a position to help someone and I don’t, I would feel just as bad as the guy who does wrong.”
Apparently this guy is in flight training, heading for the ranks of pilots, which is where the Air Force tends to find its leaders. They’re lucky to have such a sensible and mature fellow. He’s also a delegate in the WV legislature, which seems like another good place to have a sensible and mature man.
What is bothersome, he explained, is the fact that there are tons of stories about responsible armed citizens that never get reported by most of the media. He may have a point — this incident has barely been reported and it occurred back in April.
“They never let us tell our side of the story,” Nelson said. “We hope that some good can come out of our story and let people know what is really going on.”
This is another reason we’re leery of the emphasis on the quick-draw in so much use of force and handgun training. Sometimes the best place for it is in the holster. When you need it, you are much, much more likely to have the time to draw it (and even prepare it) than you are to be assaulted out of a cold situation.
Police training would have emphasized an early draw in this situation. The suspect has deployed deadly force (the knife), and cops are keenly aware of justr how deadly a knife is, and how quickly a knife-wielding bad guy can close normal distances. In addition to that, police policy is, generally, to meet force with overwhelming force to impress the suspect into immediate surrender, and it works great on rational suspects. But a force escalation produces unpredictable results with irrational suspects. The majority of them can be talked down (and this does seem to be what happens in most of these cases, policy notwithstanding). Those that resist often resist in a slow-motion, dare-you-to-shoot-me way. There is usually time for a less-kinetic approach to these less-kinetic threats.
So what should police training emphasize? In a perfect world, individualized judgment. Simple rules and mantras are probably necessary if you insist on deploying some 80-IQ blockheads among your cops, but you want to have pretty good liability coverage if that’s your plan. (In a lot of jurisdictions, some pretty bright cops have slipped into the force — heh).
It’s not like waving the gun does the cops much good. Movies notwithstanding, most shooters can not make the shot on a bobbing, weaving perp’s head as he crouches behind a hostage at a few meters. IPSC hostage targets just sit there, and nothing but points hang in the balance. Even “moving” targets usually have either limited, one-axis, or repetitive motion. A real human head is a very hard thing to hit, especially one that’s wrapped around the idea that someone wants to shoot it.
Finally, we as a nation are scandalously overdue for doing something about the problem of mental illness. (Clayton Cramer made these points well in the University of Connecticut Law Review [HTML intro / .pdf article] this past May — for all of you who thought it was just a basketball school, they train lawyers too). We need to have new authorities for involuntary commitment, new authorities for involuntary outpatient treatment (“probation” and “parole” equivalents), and facilities to confine and treat the involuntarily committed. These will be expensive, but will remove a major drain on the economy. Our experiment with deinstitutionalization is forty years old, and it’s a sanguinary failure. It’s time to end it with humane reinstitutionalization for the dangerous mentally ill.