Report Library

Armed Suspect Flanks Responding Officers at Convenience Store

Event Summary

Officers responded to a report of a robbery shooting in a residential area next to a convenience store. A citizen caller advised that two suspects had fled into the store several minutes before officers arrived. The citizen caller reported that he was also inside the store and provided his own physical description to the call taker.

Two patrol officers arrived to check the store, but it was believed that the suspects had likely already fled the scene due to the time elapsed. The two officers entered through the store’s front door and immediately recognized the caller based on his clothing description. The officers asked him if the suspects were still in the store. The citizen said no and then told the officers that he did not know what they were talking about because he did not call 911. As officers walked further into the store, they observed several patrons but did not order anyone to the ground or detain anyone.

Unbeknown to the two officers, the two suspects approached the officers from their flank and walked behind the officers while exiting through the front door. Once the two suspects had walked out of the store, the citizen caller felt safe enough to tell the officers that the two individuals who had just walked out of the store were, in fact, the suspects. The officers ran out of the store and confronted the suspects. Both suspects complied with orders to lie down prone on the ground. A loaded semi-automatic handgun was recovered from the waistband of one of the suspects.

One of the two officers who entered the store told me that he had allowed the suspect who was armed to brush past his back as the suspect was leaving the store. The officer was shocked that he had allowed an armed person to get that close to him and eventually behind him. The officer stated his guard was down because of the statements from the citizen caller, who had indicated that there were no suspects in the store.

 

Lessons Learned

  • Officers must take control on a scene where there are reports of armed suspects. In this near miss incident, officers chose not to engage all the customers in the store because they feared they would receive a citizen complaint. As a result, officers put themselves in a deadly situation and for only luck, they were not killed.
  • Per Terry v. Ohio, officers are justified in temporarily detaining citizens when they have reasonable suspicion that criminal activity is occurring or has occurred, and officers can conduct a pat-down search of a suspect’s outer clothing when they have reasonable suspicion that the person is armed and dangerous. When officers meet these standards, they need to place officer safety over concern of a citizen complaint. Officers who take these actions but remain professional and take the time to explain the reasons for their actions to citizens after the situation has been resolved can avoid complaints, and most importantly, remain tactically sound and survive an encounter with an armed subject.
  • Officers should also recognize that citizens may not be forthcoming with information even after they have called 911 to report a crime. Officers should investigate further and never make assumptions, which can endanger their safety.

 

Changes as a result of that experience (what would you do differently?):

I instructed the officers to establish a perimeter and call persons out of the store instead of making entry. Two officers could have held the front and back while additional officers arrived on scene. Also, the 911 call taker could have called the citizen caller back and asked him to step out of the store to speak with the officers.

 

Full Report

Armed Suspect Flanks Responding Officers at Convenience Store

 

 

Employer Information

What was your level of involvement in the near miss/incident? Directly involved

Type of Law Enforcement Agency: Local – Police Department

Type of Police Department: County / Parish

Agency Size – Sworn Staff: 1,000 or more

Approximate Population Served: 500,000 – 999,999

Region of Country:

South – South Atlantic (DE, DC, FL, GA, MD, NC, SC, VA, WV)
 

Involved Personal Information

What was the involved person’s duty assignment at the time of the incident? Sworn – Patrol

Was the involved person a supervisor? No

Years of experience in law enforcement (at time of incident): More than 5, but less than 7

Approximate age of the involved person (at the time of the incident): 26 – 30 years old

Sex: Male

Ethnicity: Not Hispanic or Latino

Race:

  • White

 

Incident Information

What type of call or activity was the involved person responding to or engaged in? Robbery – Person

How was the call or activity initiated? Call for Service / Radio Call

Please classify this incident: Almost resulted in officer injury or fatality

Date of near miss/incident: November

Date of near miss/incident: 2017

Approximate time of incident: 1126

What was the involved person’s initial assessment or impression of the call or situation?

  • Wanted additional information

Did dispatch provide an accurate description of the call or incident? No Information Provided

How many officers were at the scene at the time of the near miss/incident? 2

Did this incident involve a pursuit? No

Event Summary:

Officers responded to a report of a robbery shooting in a residential area next to a convenience store. A citizen caller advised that two suspects had fled into the store several minutes before officers arrived. The citizen caller reported that he was also inside the store and provided his own physical description to the call taker.

Two patrol officers arrived to check the store, but it was believed that the suspects had likely already fled the scene due to the time elapsed. The two officers entered through the store’s front door and immediately recognized the caller based on his clothing description. The officers asked him if the suspects were still in the store. The citizen said no and then told the officers that he did not know what they were talking about because he did not call 911. As officers walked further into the store, they observed several patrons but did not order anyone to the ground or detain anyone.

Unbeknown to the two officers, the two suspects approached the officers from their flank and walked behind the officers while exiting through the front door. Once the two suspects had walked out of the store, the citizen caller felt safe enough to tell the officers that the two individuals who had just walked out of the store were, in fact, the suspects. The officers ran out of the store and confronted the suspects. Both suspects complied with orders to lie down prone on the ground. A loaded semi-automatic handgun was recovered from the waistband of one of the suspects.

One of the two officers who entered the store told me that he had allowed the suspect who was armed to brush past his back as the suspect was leaving the store. The officer was shocked that he had allowed an armed person to get that close to him and eventually behind him. The officer stated his guard was down because of the statements from the citizen caller, who had indicated that there were no suspects in the store.

 

Environment Factors

Did the near miss/incident occur indoors or outdoors? Indoors

At what type of location did the near miss/incident occur? Business / Retail Establishment

Was the involved person aware of any previous calls for service or incidents at this location? Not applicable

Did dispatch provide accurate information about the location of the call? Yes

What were the lighting conditions inside? Well lit

 

Subject Information

Did the involved person encounter a subject(s)? Yes

How many subjects were encountered? 2

Was the involved person aware of any active warrants, criminal history, or known risks regarding the subject(s)? No

Did the subject(s) have a weapon(s)? Yes

Had the involved person been informed that the subject(s) may be armed? Yes

What kind of weapon(s) did the subject(s) have?

  • Firearm

Was the weapon(s) concealed? Yes

Did the subject(s) appear to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs? No

Did the subject(s) appear to be emotionally disturbed? No

Did the subject(s) resist arrest? No

 

Lessons Learned

What type of accident or incident was averted?

A potential shoot out with an armed suspect who had placed both on scene officers in a position of tactical disadvantage.

What risk factors almost led to or did lead to you or another officer being injured or killed?

  • Complacency
  • Decision-making
  • Distraction
  • Inadequate Scene Size-up/Assessment
  • Insufficient/Inaccurate Information about Subject(s)
  • Lack of Communication
  • Lack of Situational Awareness
  • Multiple Subjects
  • Subject(s)’ Possession of Weapon(s)

What protective factors contributed to you or another officer not being injured or killed?

  • None of the above

Lessons Learned:

  • Officers must take control on a scene where there are reports of armed suspects. In this near miss incident, officers chose not to engage all the customers in the store because they feared they would receive a citizen complaint. As a result, officers put themselves in a deadly situation and for only luck, they were not killed.
  • Per Terry v. Ohio, officers are justified in temporarily detaining citizens when they have reasonable suspicion that criminal activity is occurring or has occurred, and officers can conduct a pat-down search of a suspect’s outer clothing when they have reasonable suspicion that the person is armed and dangerous. When officers meet these standards, they need to place officer safety over concern of a citizen complaint. Officers who take these actions but remain professional and take the time to explain the reasons for their actions to citizens after the situation has been resolved can avoid complaints, and most importantly, remain tactically sound and survive an encounter with an armed subject.
  • Officers should also recognize that citizens may not be forthcoming with information even after they have called 911 to report a crime. Officers should investigate further and never make assumptions, which can endanger their safety.


Changes as a result of that experience (what would you do differently?):
I instructed the officers to establish a perimeter and call persons out of the store instead of making entry. Two officers could have held the front and back while additional officers arrived on scene. Also, the 911 call taker could have called the citizen caller back and asked him to step out of the store to speak with the officers.



How relevant are the lessons learned in this incident to you and/or your agency?
4.00 avg. rating (85% score) - 1 vote

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *