**I want to be clear: this is intended as a TRAINING post and not in anyway to degrade or “armchair quarterback” the incident that occurred. I applaud the job that was done by Miami-Dade Law Enforcement and offer my condolences to the family of the wounded officer, Detective John Saavedra. The Detective was shot three times, twice in the stomach (below his body armor) and once in the leg. **
(I also apologize in advance for not using a You Tube vid versus a Link, but Live Leak is the only one that had the best view).
I am going to break the events in this video into “categories” to make it easier to digest. Lastly, I am also going to approach certain aspects of the gunfight from the perspective of the deceased perp shooter, not to glamorize or add credence to him or his profession, but to gain training perspective. As Sun Tzu said “You must know your enemy as you know yourself”.
Time and Distance
The first thing I want the CO to realize about this incident is how long the ACTUAL gunfight took. Keep in mind, although the entire video is 2:22, the actual “gunfight” (where the perp and LEO start firing at each other until the perp is killed) is only 36 seconds, which is actually, when compared to national statistics, a LONG gunfight! Secondly, look at the distance between the perp and LEO’s. Using the people’s height present in frame as a measuring tool, I think the farthest distance (when the perp exits the car at :51 and fires at the officer behind the tree) would be around 10 feet. As the fight escalates, and Detective Saavedra (on far right) scores some hits on the perp (:56) and Perp returns fire at Detective Saavedra (1:00) the Distance closes to around 8 feet. With 21 Feet being the “Gold Standard” of most recorded gunfights,(and consequently the distance taught in most police academies) we see from this incident that to “keep it real” we need to train at more ECQ distances; 8-10 feet being the norm.
In the rush to get the visible suspect in custody (:41), the officers forgot to clear ALL the surrounding vehicles, especially the one with really dark window tint parked in the driveway, where an armed perp was hiding. This awareness mistake was IMO the worst mistake made in the entire incident; only because it gave the perp the advantage of surprise, allowing him to virtually ambush 3 officers who were in the process of subduing another suspect. I want to throw a “what if” at you and let you think about this from another angle: WHAT IF the armed perp at :56 comes out on the PASSENGER side of the vehicle versus the driver side, where his position of cover and fields of fire are superb and instead of a pistol he is armed with a semi-automatic rifle like an AR or AK? I can tell you with some degree of certainty that instead of 1 wounded officer you would be having 3 Police Funerals. Awareness is the Fundamental that can be an absolute game changer guys…if that car would have been cleared, the shootout would had been averted and an officer would not have been shot, period. Stay Aware!!
As soon as a gun was introduced into the scenario (:51), the officers needed to be moving to the nearest cover (behind vehicles) quickly! Notice the perp was wise enough to do it! He quickly found that tree, where he had cover from the officer he was shooting at first (at his 12 o’clock) but not from Detective Saavedra at his 2 o’ clock (his right), who scored some good hits, but was shot three times in return and only started moving to cover after he was hit, (1:02). The old adage “If the enemy is in range, so are you!” holds true in this scenario.
Fire & Maneuver
Here is where we see square range training really take hold. The classic, Police Academy trained Isoceles “Statue” stance taken by Saalveda at :56 is what you will see in 90% of all dashcam police videos because 90% of Police Officers are trained that way. The officer squares up to the threat, offering his ballistic vest as the big target, legs slightly bent, gun “pushed out” to the threat with both hands, his vision is dead centered on the threat and not on a swivel. The officer is not in any way prepared to move, he is set like a statue. In fact, we do not see movement from Detective Saalveda until after he is hit. Ironically, we see the highly promoted training ideology of “squaring up” to the target while wearing a ballistic vest FAIL also; the officer was wounded in the stomach (below the vest) and leg, thankfully the wounds proved to be not fatal.
Bottom line guys, we can never expect to “square off” against an armed perp at >10 ft (body armor or not)and not take some damage. MOVEMENT OFF THE X (toward cover if possible) resets your enemy’s OODA Loop, forcing him to “stutter step” in his plan to kill you, a simple side step may buy you the 3 seconds you need to SURVIVE.
After we have Displaced out of the Kill Zone, we need to train to SHOOT (while MOVING to COVER). I am a big believer in teaching the oblique clock method when moving (which by default forces us to shoot one-handed, ambidextrously, using a “metal on meat” sight picture) but I also teach movement to cover (sort of a combat crouch) while maintaining a two-handed grip on the weapon and a traditional front sight focus.
NEVER GET BOGGED DOWN IN DOGMA, FIGHTING (NO MATTER THE WEAPON) MUST BE APPROACHED AS A CONTINUUM…THE RIGHT TOOL, AND THE RIGHT METHOD, FOR THE PARTICULAR SITUATION.
Changing Gears, Shooting Around Cover & the Mozambique Drill
Notice the position of the perp behind the tree, after he has been wounded at around 1:07. He kind of lingers back and forth, breaking cover and then getting back behind the tree. Now in order to make this type of shot, ACCURACY takes Precedence; so we have to “gear down” and get back to our “Marksmanship Fundamentals”. Remembering that gun training is a continuum, we have to recall our grip, trigger control, breathing and sight fundamentals. One minute you are 8 feet from this guy blasting away, your adrenalin pumping out of the top of your head, not really seeing a sight picture, maybe seeing a blurry, hazy figure, with the frame of your gun super imposed on it; now, nothing but this guy’s head is popping back and forth from behind a tree and it is the only shot you have to end this ordeal. You must be accurate to end this. The Final Killshot comes at 1:27; the perp presents his head as a target, with no hesitation the shot is made.
I want you to see how quickly the types of skills you have to draw upon in a gunfight change; and they may change several times in a firefight, depending on the longevity of the fight and number of shooters you are facing. We must always train with this “Continuum Mindset” to stay prepared for this. Also, training to shoot from behind, (and around) cover is paramount, in particular, “small window, small target” scenarios. The dual profile Hostage Target’s from LE Targets, where there is a color contrast between the perp’s head and the no-shoot works well for this; as always, just ensure to add some type of stressor to add realism (More on Training Stressors coming soon).
Lastly, integrating the tried and true “Mozambique”,”Failure to Stop” or the “2 and 1” (2 shots center mass, one to the head) Drill in our training can never hurt..if there was ever a drill from Jeff Cooper that made us change our proverbial “gears” in a gunfight, this is it!! Also with the advent of more and more people owning body armor, this is the contingency drill that just might be the game changer in a firefight.
Speaking of cover, from the perps perspective, when you get behind cover, stay behind cover. Use the old infantry adage: Find Mother Earth and bury into her! Exposing your cranium repeatedly like a prarie dog on a Kansas plain can only have one desired effect…a hole in it.
Stay Dangerous and Train Hard!