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Seattle Ambush Sparks Domestic Violence Response Review

During the night time hours of 12/21/2009 two Pierce County Sheriffs Deputies responded to a ‘domestic dispute’ call between brothers.

Suspect David E. Crable, 35, was killed in the ensuing shootout.  Pierce County Sgt. Nich Hauser was shot one time, seriously wounding him while Deputy Kent Mundell is on life support after being shot numerous times.

Domestic violence calls are some of the most treacherous calls to service police officers will encounter during their career, according to the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center.  Husband vs. Wife, Boyfriend vs. Girlfriend, Child vs. Parent… extended family members… same sex couples…

Police officers never know what type of powder keg they will have lit in front of their very eyes when the go to the DV call.

The most treacherous time for responding to a domestic dispute is the very beginning, before officers have established control over the scene.  For this reason, I would like to review some simple tactics for responding to domestic violence complaints.

1)  ARRIVE READY – On your way to the call, listen to the dispatcher.  If you have to, request information regarding the residence.  Has the department been there before?  Who is the suspect?  Have there been prior contacts with the suspect/reporting party?  Are any known weapons in the house?  These are all bits of information that could prove invaluable when you first arrive on the scene.

2)  ARRIVE IN STEALTH MODE – If your policy allows it, and you feel safe doing so, try not to use your siren all the way to the call.  The siren will allow the suspect to gauge your distance/location.  The impending doom of police contact may also make the suspect to escalate the use of force on officers -or- the victim.

3)  APPROACH TACTICALLY – Right out of the DV 101 training that we all received in the academy.  Park your patrol car 2-3 doors away from the target location if possible.  In an apartment complex, park out of view of the apartment.  Then walk up to the scene.  This serves a dual purpose, first, the suspect will hopefully not see that you are on scene allowing you the element of suprise.  Second, this will allow you to observe the residence and collect valuable information before making contact.

4) AVOID THE FATAL FUNNELDoorways are dangerous!  The bad guy just has to assume that you are somewhere between those 34″ door jambs and start shooting!  At all costs, avoid this area while knocking.  Enter quickly, advance then step aside.  Do not stop in the doorway!  The best tactic for announcing your presence remains to be the ‘knock and walk.’  Simply pound on the door and take a few steps away and to the side to ensure you will not be in the bad guys target zone.

5)  CONTROL THE SCENE – Once you are at the scene, you are in charge.  ACT LIKE IT!  Do not allow subjects to walk freely about where they may retrieve a weapon.  Search the ‘wingspan’ of any subject you are dealing with to ensure there are no weapons within easy reach.  Do not conduct investigations in the bedroom as this is the room where over 90% of the people who own weapons hide them and be alert for any weapons of opportunity.

Of course, these are only guidelines.  We never know what will happen at a call but arming ourselves with knowledge and a tactical mindset is the best way that we can prepare.

As always, Learn in Order to Serve… and be SAFE!


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