Safety and Training

Gun Fights are Dangerous — Even if You Win

News reporter on the scene

An armed resident and an intruder were both killed. The intruder was killed by the homeowner. The homeowner was killed by a responding officer. Read the following account of what happened. The details are sparse, but the commentary regarding the dos and don’ts in the comment section should be revealing.

It’s about 1:30 a.m. The police have responded to an intruder call. As the police arrive on the scene, they hear gunshots. Fearing for the safety of the home’s occupants, the police rush in and encounter a man holding gun. The police shoot the man with the gun. In doing so, the homeowner, who had just shot the intruder, is shot and killed by the responding officer.

The investigation of whether the officer’s actions were justified is fodder for another place time. We simply do not have enough details, and I have no wish to foster a bunch of comments to bash those who run to, not from, the 911 calls. Nonetheless, this could be most any of us. Maybe you did everything right, perhaps not.

After all, the police shot the homeowner in his own house. Stress levels were high. The officer may not have properly identified himself. In the heat of the moment, adrenaline flowing, the homeowner may have panicked and leveled his gun at the responding officers after they identified themselves. We just don’t know, and there is little benefit to debating the right or wrong actions of those involved without complete details. However, that does not mean that this cannot be a catalyst for a learning moment.

Don’t Get Mistaken for the Bad Guy

You awake to a crash and people yelling. You realize an intruder is in your house. You hear a family member scream and gunshots. Fearing for your safety and that of your loved ones, you move to confront the intruder.

Your neighbors also heard the shots and screams and called the police who, unbeknownst to you, are only one block away. You see the intruder coming down the hall, alone. You confront him and are forced to shoot and kill him as the police pull up to the house

What happens next?

This is your chance to write the story and share your knowledge with readers of The Shooter’s Log. Provide your answer in the comment section.

The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (60)

  1. The homeowners mistake was in calling the “police.” That’s always a recipe for disaster. Cops are good for handing out speeding tickets and that’s about all.

  2. We don’t know all the facts yet. However, ANY foolish person that tries to justify the behavior of a LEO that has killed two people in a 30 day time period, is asinine. A homeowner doesn’t need to train, kiss the police’s butt as they come to their home. All they need to do is obey the law and be respectful of of their authority, that’s all. The Constitution gives us certain unalienable rights, which law enforcement cannot take away. Period! To comment that the homeowner has to unload his gun, get on the floor with his hands behind his head is ridiculous. The officers have to know that the homeowner is going to be impaired, in shock or affected in an adverse way after a shooting maybe they should be the ones who train for this scenario not the homeowner.

  3. First, I’m not a police officer. As a civilian though, there are far too many reports of civilians being killed by police. As far as this story, all I’ve heard is that the homeowner was told 5 times to put down his weapon before he was shot by the police. I have not heard whether the homeowner was pointing his gun at the police or not. Was he shot simply because he didn’t put down his weapon? Could his hearing have been impaired because of his shots to kill the intruder? Were the police all shouting commands simultaneously so that he was confused? Could he have been shot yet not killed? The police are trained to shoot center mass which almost always is fatal. Is it possible he could have been merely wounded to disable him? In my opinion, the homeowner should not have been shot. I understand that their job is public safety and that they also fear for their own lives. However, they should be trained much better to handle these situations without the death of someone being the only option.

    1. There are over 1,000 incidents a year of police breaking into the wrong home and the results being catastrophic resulting in injury, death, confiscation and destruction of property putting innocent people in horrendous legal and persona situations.

      As far as this article goes I stated earlier that it should never have been written until all the facts were known. Looking at the array of comments it is obvious that not everyone has the same information or which information is accurate. Makes most of us make assumptions that may or may not be correct about how we might handle the situation. Would have been better to wait, give us all the details so that we could respond more knowledgeably.

  4. No, he should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the LAW! Remember he is in the shooters home where the homeowners rights are unequivocal. If the police chief ruled that the LEO is not guilty he should be FIRED immediately. A cops rights do not exceed the rights of the individual or the C0nstitution. Period. Now you know why Denver has become a den of thieves and pot smoking parasites. Everybody wants to make sure it is known that they love the police and firemen. I don’t like any of them that break the law and murder innocent folks. This cop not only needs to be fired, he has to serve jail time. No back-up, no identification and apparently no clue about procedure. Did the police chief in the Florida school shooting earlier this year transfer to Aurora? This pisses me off!

  5. It’s really hard to say what the correct thing to do is. It’s all driven by the situation and not a one size fits all thing that can be planned. I know what my 2 decades of Army training have turned into muscle memory. I do keep combat plugs by the AR that I use for home defense. That way I won’t lose my hearing if or when shots get fired. But having your firearm at the ready and not standing in the open if you think there is a possibility of another intruder would be the optimal plan. Then when the cops do come busting in you have a better chance of seeing them rather than being caught by surprise. Cops tend to shoot armed people that are started by them. It’s always best to take up a good defensive position once you have removed the immediate threat. It can keep you from getting shot by whoever come by next good or bad.

  6. We live just down the street. This is the latest, but may not correct. The homeowner is a Vietnam vet, a bit hard of hearing. A naked crazed neighbor got inside his home and was assaulting his grandson. The homeowner used lethal force. Cops did not enter the home and instead one cop fired INTO the house from OUTSIDE and killed the homeowner. Again, will the narrative change later? I don’t know.
    Lesson to be learned, when you call 911, and you are armed make sure you do two things. Say you are the homeowner and armed and clearly describe yourself to dispatch. Obviously make sure you impress upon dispatch that you are in fear of your life.

  7. Once the intruder is down and no longer a threat, put down your own gun and await police (if they were called). If not, call them! Keep intruder under wraps at all times to ensure he’s no longer a threat. The important things are: 1) the last thing a cop should see when he arrives is you with a gun, and 2) keep your hands visible at all times. If you’re holding the intruder for the police, turn on all the lights and be ready to drop your own gun as soon as the police arrive. Make no sudden movements. As a homeowner, you have the right to shoot a man armed with a handgun on sight with no warning. Police don’t have that right, but if you turn your gun towards them, even as a reaction, they can and will shoot. That said, you also have to beware a second intruder, so act intelligently. A cop will usually bark a command and then identify themselves. That’s not the time to explain. Drop the gun. It won’t go off. Let it drop to the floor and place your hands on your head! If the police shoot you then, they’ll have a lot of splaining to do.

  8. Sad and tragic outcome! Though, for many, it might be a common thought to, “….you move to confront the intruder….,” unless you are sure that some other innocent in your home is in immediate danger, the correct response to any home invasion would be to know everyone is “secured” behind their locked doors, armed, and calling 911. If anyone approaches your locked door, you tell them that you’re armed and the police have been called! DO NOT go hunting for the perps! DO NOT exit your room/s until the authorities have arrived and have satisfied you that they are what they say they are. As indicated in this event, STUFF can be replaced, your life, or that of a loved one, in this worse case scenario, NOT! Since 1 in 5 homes will experience some type of home invasion/theft, it is well worth the time to HAVE A PLAN established, especially in a home with more than one bedroom occupied!

  9. Yes. Police are always in charge. If you are going to deal with the problem then get it done then call the cops to clean up the mess. Remember then are usually minutes away even if they are blocks away-call delay, dispatch delay, etc. if you want the cops to deal with it then hunker down. You cant have both going on at the same time.

  10. As a 25 yr. veteran poluceman rule #1 is the uniformed officer is in charge, do exactly as he says. Assume that he has no idea who you are (good guy,bad guy or undercover) Once he has things under control then tell your story.

    1. In my home, I am in charge. Nobody else is. Police have no right to shoot a man in his home. They have a great responsibility, and we entrust them with a lot. Unfortunately, i have yet to meet a police officer that understands that they are civilians just like us. Nothing seperates them from us whatsoever. They have no rights and should have no privilege beyond ours. That police officer had a duty to assess the situation before barging in and definetly before shooting the homeowner. To error is human. And i doubt any police officer would use force without being settled in their mind it was neccessary. When an officer oversteps their bounds, they betray our trust.

    2. Would it be wise for the officer to identify himself before entering a home where shots have been fired? I’m for the police but going in like the king of Siam doesn’t sound smart or like it’s following procedure. The homeowner doesn’t give up his rights because shots have been fired.

    3. The CONSTITUTION of the United States states that I, as a citizen, has the right to bear arms. How/Why does a policeman, being uninformed and without a search warrant, supersede our right to have a firearm in our own homes?

  11. Outlet w/ lamp or ceiling light ( if more than one in rm, ) in every room wired to switch in your bedroom. light entire house up. Electrician would be useful. Also have blinding flashlight backup. Suppressed firearm for in house. Stopped threat, retreat to bedroom call police.

  12. A very difficult situation indeed!

    I would of suggested to first call 911 and brief them on the situation before engaging, if your able to due it safely. If that is not possible due to the situation at hand, I don’t know if I would suggest distancing yourself from the weapon as a second intruder could exist. I think after neutralizing the intruder, it’s best to holstering your firearm, cocked and ready if incase another intruder is present.

    In this scenario, I’m not even sure if the homeowner even had time to holster the firearm, but that is what I would of suggested after neutralizing the intruder, if time aloud.

  13. Its always been drilled into me in most of the defensive handgun courses that I’ve taken, that after one removes the threat in one’s house, one renders the weapon safe, puts it down, turns on all the lights, and assuming the police have already been called, sit and wait for them to arrive. This can be performed in a few seconds, if police are already in your residence-just drop it. don’t go walking around outside in the bushes to wait for them -JUST DESCALATE THE SITUATION!!

    1. I would have immediately set my weapon down, turned on lights in room, Sit down and Wait for P.O. to arrive.Then FOLLOW Exact Instructions P.O. given. Afterwards, when Asked what happened, I would tell my side of the incident, making Sure of a Complete Detail, from Beginning to End.

  14. That’s an excellent point that he had just fired his weapon in an enclosed space & probably can’t hear anything that the officer might have said. We all need to program that scenario into our minds & be prepared for it to happen.

  15. The key part I heard in the video was the police encountered an armed man. From all of the posts it seems that distancing yourself from the weapon should happen first. Taking time to clear it would be nice but if a LEO sees a weapon in someones hand….Your the bad guy, unfortunately. The attorney post with a good guy description is a great idea if you or someone in the home is the caller. When your neighbor calls…..there is no description.

  16. I find it interesting that the media says two people were murdered. At the worst an intruder was shot in self defense and a homeowner was shot by accident. This is two homicides, not murders.

    1. I really don’t think semantics are applicable in this situation. Regardless of how you word it, 2 people are dead. 1 justified killing, 1 not.

      As always
      Carry on

  17. Never wast your time calling the cops till the threat is over. Then call police and put your weapon away. Do not talk to 911 other to inform them that a intruder that was going to kill you is dead. Hang up and wait for the police. Only tell police you feared for your life and don’t say anything else. Talk to a lawyer before you answer any questions.

    1. Excellent advise Randy. That is the same advise I received way back from multiple department officer’s when I inquired on the subject. I support that approach and I support everyone’s right to defend hearth and home and family and self but cops today are so afraid for their own lives and have (it seems from conversations) far less training and of course are largely from the age group of me, me, me and always me, so be prepared for anything.

    2. I disagree with hanging up with the 911 operator. I tell my students to stay on the phone with the operator, she is in contact with the responding officer. Describe yourself and what you are wearing so she can relay that to the responding officer. Inform them if you feel another threat may be present and that you are still armed. Tell them where you are in the house and remain behind cover if you feel a threat still exists. Tell the 911 operator exactly what is going on. Do not discuss what happened only that you shot someone because you felt your life was in danger. The conversation past that should be to help the responding officer safely locate you and avoid you being shot by mistake.

  18. Guns a blazzing, Someone sure did screw up in this case. Im not changing my plan of action.
    “Pick up my gun, call 991”. But never say you picked up the gun first. Tell 911 your getting your gun, that makes a record that you called authorities first. Im in Tennessee so my next move is identify the threat and shoot the bast…uh intruder that just came through my locked door or window. I have home security so my back up is in place.

  19. Guns a blazzing, Someone sure did screw up in this case. Im not changing my plan of action.
    “Pick up my gun, call 991”. But never say you picked up the gun first. Tell 911 your getting your gun, that makes a record that you called authorities first. Im in Tennessee so my next move is identify the threat and shoot the bastard that just came through my locked door or window. I have home security so my back up is in place.

  20. This has to be a “Perfect Storm” scenario. First of all, gunshots at 1:30 AM has neighbors springing to their phones to call 911?

    Unless we’re talking emptying a magazine, a few shots will wake up the neighbors who will spend the next ten minutes deciding whether or not they heard gunshots or a car backfiring. In that time, no one has turned on the lights or called 911 themselves? Shock could paralyze the shooter, but everyone in the house?

    These days, Police are being trained to stop active shooters,
    but assuming no shooting is taking place when Police arrive, would the first responder bust through the door guns blazing?

    I’m not saying it could never happen, but for all these factors to fall into place as described is very unlikely.

    1. Car backfiring? Seriously? When is the last time anyone heard a car backfire? Oh wait…watching reruns of Columbo. Yup, was that a gun or the neighbor watching TV? People today just love being first and calling 911 is a knee jerk reaction.

  21. I am at lost of some of the comment here, put the gun down, raise your hand, and all not very smart comments.
    When you call 911 the first thing is to give your description to the dispatcher so they’re related to the cup, second make sure you secure yourself in area where the cop cannot shot you, and try to identify yourself.
    This is like another incident when a lady unarmed got killed.
    In situation like this cop is not your friend but a deadly threat,
    He is a killer with license, so protect yourself till u r sure he is aware of your identity, still never face him with gun in your hand.

    1. Aaah the perfict world. Hello, 911? Yes, im 5′ 10″ tall, weight 195, brown hair and eyes, 65 years old, tattoo on my right arm that says “GOD IS ACID”, I have a S&W model 586 .357 cal. Im about to confrount a perp in my house. Tell the police augh aaaaa HEEEELP he got my gun!!!!

  22. A few additional facts have been made public: in the 911 call, both the perp and the homeowner were described (one white, one black); the policeman who did the shooting had killed another person only 30 days prior to this incident.
    To agree with another writer, the homeowner had just fired a gun in close quarters and his hearing was undoubtedly affected. He probably didn’t hear the police officer; also, he was undoubtedly in a daze as to what had happened/what he’d done, and was still trying to comprehend it all.
    The policeman rushed into the house, and shot the first person he saw, who didn’t follow his instructions, but it also appears that this particular officer is trigger-happy and both ignored the information provided in the 911 call (i.e., that the homeowner was a white male and the perp was a black male). the officer also apparently did not asses the situation professionally and a) went in alone and b) did not take into consideration what had just happened in the home. Was this a lack of training, forgetting, an adrenaline rush or simply being trigger-happy? Obviously, this officer should have been re-evaluated regarding his training since his shooting only 30 days prior. Just as obviously, he should not have gone into the home alone, nor over- reacted as he did. As a result, a totally innocent – and inexperienced (who isn’t?) homeowner was killed by too-quick of a police response.
    Already, the Aurora police chief has absolved his officer of any wrong-doing. Wow. That quickly. And this, in a jurisdiction where the prosecutor – not the police – determine whether deadly force/personal protection is justified or not. In the past, both Aurora and Denver prosecutors – both liberals – have taken homeowners/licensed personal carry individuals to court and required them to prove their innocence. And the innocent are stuck with the costs of defending themselves against such anti-2nd Amendment people. This is a very sad case of a policeman being poorly trained and too quick to judge. I love our police, firemen – they all deserve our support and assistance, and they’re all severely underpaid. I respect anyone who has to put on a bullet-proof vest and a gun, just to go to work. But in this instance, the officer should be severely reprimanded, re-trained, and put on unarmed (desk?) duty until he’s had ample opportunity to review his actions. My heartfelt sympathy to the homeowner who lost his life defending his granddaughter. .

  23. It might help to know, at 1:30 am, what was the homeowner wearing, PJ’s underwear, shorts or nothing? Looking at and seeing the man are two different things.

  24. I think a lot more facts need to come out on this event before commenting on it directly — though I agree with several of the comments that have already been made.

    Yet there are a few things going through my head that haven’t been mentioned yet:

    1) How did the police manage to arrive before/as the shooting was occurring? (having worked as a dispatcher through college, I’m well away that even after the police are called they aren’t going to arrive at the scene instantaneously)

    2) What was the homeowner’s situation/mindset? I know that due to my own situation and the nature of potential home invaders I could face (e.g. history of using of false flag tactics) it’s predisposed me to respond in a (potentially) lethal manner to anyone unrecognized coming into my home uninvited — no matter what they are wearing — and especially if they have a weapon (of any kind) in hand

    ……which is something that absolutely terrifies me (and is one of the many reasons why my doors are generally locked even when I am home).

    So yeah, I think there are a lot more facts that need to come out before any significant analysis of this incident can occur. Though it may serve as an inducement to think a bit more rigorously about our own situations and responses.

  25. How many of you that gave the text book response have been in an actual gun fight? Used your weapon on a person? Been a LEO that has?

    I really appreciate OldGringos post. Thank you! Our police are put in very difficult situations and roasted for any mistake. I would like to think they are superhuman, but they make mistakes. In my mind, this is one more argument to address compensation. We want moderately to poorly paid, and at times respected, people to perform flawlessly across a variety of difficult scenarios. As a free society I would think we would value them more than that…

    1. That is all bs. That officer should be at the very least be tried for man slaughter. Doctors are held accountable for their mistakes. I am held accountable for mine. All officers know that this is a potential problem before they take the job as well as the pay rate. When you except extreme responsibility you must be beyond reproach with methods, procedures and tactics. This officer failed in several ways resulting in a civilian death. A jury of his peers should decide his fate, this should not be allowed to be dimissed beaurocracts. Please don’t get me wrong I am a very strong supporter of law enforcement and my brother in law is a LEO. I am also a strong constitutional 2A supporter. But please explain to me why a trained professional officer has less accountability than any citizen of this country.

  26. First off my heart goes out to the home owner that got killed just making his house safe. Now if someone is in my house and I haft to kill them make sure you put one in his head then he’s done look for a gun or weapons then go around the house yelling come out to make sure no more bad guys are in the house but the yelling will help someone else like cops coming to help or a Nabor it called sounding off be loud let everyone know we’re you are and one the house is cleared then you secure your gun once again my heart gos out the the family of the home owner that was killed

  27. I’m reading these arm chair procedures after the fact and old Gringo is using the most logic. Randy, do you know if there is only one intruder? Police should NEVER enter a residence without identifying him or herself. If procedure is followed, then the officer will have back up. Even if shots are fired, you cover the exits, make a strategic analysis and clear the house while properly identifying yourself. I would reserve judgement either way but it doesn’t look good for the officer. There will be a suit. There will be a termination. The only questions are, is will they find out the truth, will there be justice and will anything be learned? WE have the right to defend ourselves in OUR own homes, without sprawling on the floor with our hands behind our heads until the police come and properly identify all parties involved.

  28. The homeowner firearms BEFORE he is certain that ALL the Bad Guys have been located and taken out? Not on my watch!

    Isn’t article’s clear implication that NEIGHBORS called the police? How do neighbors, in the middle of the night, have a clue about the homeowner’s attire?

    Information to the effect that the officer who killed the heroic homeowner had VERY recently shot another presumed suspect MAY be far more pertinent than indicated in this discussion (it is not referenced AT ALL, herein, I believe). Is that situation being de-emphasized, disregarded, or omitted?

  29. First and most importantly, my sympathies to the family and friends of the homeowner. The intruder got what he deserved.
    This is one of those situations that’s very easy to say what you’d do, but in the heat of the moment with adrenaline pumping through you, most of that goes out the window.
    Of course putting down the weapon, and assuming a non-threatening position on the floor, would be the ideal way to wait for the police to respond, but there’s so much happening so fast, and the police are on your side. You probably wouldn’t even think they would shoot you, after all, you were in the right. You may not even realize the weapon is still in your hand. Add to that the fact that you’re not sure if he was a lone assailant, or had an accomplis. Now you’re trying to assess the condition of others that may be in the house with you. Are they alright. All this is happening at warp speed, so disarming and laying on the floor may be the furthest thing from your mind. Add to this the fact you just fired a weapon inside, so your hearing is slightly compromised. Making it hard to hear directions being directed at you. Or could they be yelling at another intruder you can’t see.
    Its very easy to see how this could spiral quickly out of control. Because of the amount of variables, there is no finite answer that I can see. You could train half your life, and not cover every possible scenario. Just ask the LEO that fired and killed a man defending his home and family.
    Perhaps the responding officers should have taken cover and directed the man to disarm until he did, before using deadly force. They are, after all, supposed to be the pro’s.
    Its tragic, and amazing it doesn’t happen more often.
    I guess all you can do, is try to remember that the people coming to help, have guns too.

    As always
    Carry on

    1. i read about this on another page..they left out a lot of details here. the intruder was naked and was trying to drown the homeowner’s grandson in the bathtub. when he shot the intruder he also hit his grandson but the little guy is expected to be o.k….

  30. I think before writing an article like this the facts should be known ahead of time. I doubt a home owner would mistake a uniformed officer and point their gun at them or threaten to shoot them. Seems to me someone screwed up.
    This incident would not deter me from protecting myself and my family.

    1. dprato
      I read your comment and like you I would protect my family.
      But the article never said the homeowner threatened to shoot uniformed officer. While this is a tragic event. I can tell you will 100% honesty that a distressed homeowner who just used his or her weapon to protect themselves in their house. Whether they hit the intruder or not is irrelevant. They will point the gun at the police. By mistake or out of pure adrenaline and they are swinging their arms around. I have had homeowners point guns at me more times than I would like. Where I live every body owns and carries a gun just about so I don’t freak out upon seeing a person with a gun. Especially when like most men sleep, in their underwear or woman in a nightgown. But these officers may not be used to it. Just seeing the guns blocked every other clue like the homeowner was wearing boxer shorts. I will say the officers if they did not do it should have yelled several times that “ we are the police, we are coming in. Put your weapon down if you still have it.” But even after that, I have still had homeowners point a gun at me. They are only human and sometimes S**t just happens.

    2. If the officer shines a light in your face, you will not see a unformed officer. All you will see is a bright light. Which is what is supposed to happen.

      We do not know what happened. The only way we will ever know is to see the body cam footage.

  31. I beg to differ, I have worked local, state, federal and military law enforcement, and also became an attorney and prosecutor. Yes, I am old. First focus on the facts we know. A cop barged into a house and killed the homeowner. Every home owner is likely to have gun. The cop should never, ever go into a situation like that without knowing what the homeowner was wearing. That cop(s) should have been yelling at the dispatcher to confirm the description of the good guys, or not go in. This looks to me like a rookie mistake. I am sorry to offend, but this just look obvious.

    Now, everybody needs to tell their wife or other, to always tell the dispatcher—the good guy is wearing shorts and a green shirt and glasses, and to repeat it explaining this is the identifying clothes of the good guy. It may very well be that the little woman in that case did not make it clear, we shall see….

    If you make that 911 call, you tell the dispatcher I am the good guy, I am wearing…..and tell them again, or just lock yourself in the bedroom until they get there….IMHO

    1. Agree. Any officer entering a home should assume homeowner is armed and under stress. In this case based on the local coverage here in Denver, it sounds like homeowner had every reason to believe there were other intruders present and was clearing his home after engaging the first threat. Police knew he was there, he didn’t know police were there. With all the discussion of armed citizens needing to behave certain ways in the presence of police, where is the focus on training of law enforcement behaviors around legally armed citizens?

  32. IF I have to fire at an intruder, I would clear any weapons away from the body, confirm the intruder is deceased, then make my weapon safe, and secure it. then open the front door hands raised. I would then follow any instructions the LEOs gave. letting them reach for my ID.

    1. Randy Donk – I hope I have that much capacity and that much ability to hear after discharging a firearm in a bathroom, hall, bedroom, living room, den, garage, whatever without ear protection in place – which I probably should start wearing every night after reading this cuz we have coward cops here and they most likely will shoot 1st, do any part of their duty well after. Thank you for this as it can be helpful to others too.

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