The news article below got me thinking of some things.  Read it and we’ll discuss some of the implications.


ExxonMobil sued over clerk who locked door in Detroit gas station shooting


In summary, a gas station clerk remotely locked a thief inside the gas station store to detain him for shoplifting $4.00 worth of goods.  Both the clerk and several customers were in the store when the clerk locked everything down.  The thief began shooting and no one could escape.

Locking gas station doors got me thinking about a somewhat similar situation I created during an arrest I made more than 20 years ago.   Story time from uncle Greg…


We had a guy robbing a bunch of jewelry stores. He was crazy and regularly fired shots into the ceiling of the stores as he robbed them.


He promised his girlfriend a diamond ring after one heist, but he didn’t give it to her. She called the po-po and became one of our detective’s informants to enact her revenge after she didn’t get her diamond.


The girlfriend told us that the robber had guns in his car and his apartment, so we wanted to engineer an arrest scenario where he didn’t have access to either location.


His girl told us that she regularly bought cigarettes at a gas station near the boyfriend’s apartment. When the two of them were together, she usually drove (in her car) because his license was suspended.


We set a trap to catch the guy. We had the girlfriend set up a “date” with the robber one evening. She was going to drive. At the agreed upon time, she would pull up in front of the aforementioned gas station, park her car, and go inside to buy some cigarettes. That left the theoretically unarmed robber boyfriend outside in her car waiting for her.


We had a plain clothes officer in the gas station watching the front door. When our informant entered the store, our officer would lock the outside door and usher all the customers to the back of the store out of the line of fire. As soon as we saw that, five of us would do a “felony stop” on the parked car and arrest the bad guy.


It sounded like a great plan and it went down exactly as expected. At the agreed upon time, the girlfriend parked her car right in front of the gas station and walked inside. Our officer locked the front door and we swooped in with three unmarked police cars.


I pulled my unmarked truck with the Kojak “bubble light” (You folks born after 1978 might have to use Google to understand the reference) on the roof right behind the girlfriend’s car so he couldn’t drive away if he had a key.


Two other plain cars with Kojak lights pulled up to cover me and order the robber out of the car.


Yes, we actually used these back in the day.  They plugged into the car cigarette lighter.


As I was holding dude at gunpoint with my state of the art Ruger Mini-14 rifle, I looked up and saw that all the customers locked in the gas station were pressed up against the front windows watching the action.  Our inside cop got the door locked, but he couldn’t convince the shoppers to seek cover from a potential gunfight. My “safe” backstop consisted of 10 people eagerly staring at me from about 30 feet away.


To make matters worse, as we were giving the robber verbal commands to get out of the car, a young boy (about 5 years old) ran from the gas pump area and tried to get in the store to buy some candy while his mom pumped gas. He was confused that the door wouldn’t open and ended up standing about 10 feet downrange from the armed robber throwing a screaming temper tantrum.


One of our officers ran past the armed felon, scooped the kid up and ran him back to his mom. The robber eventually complied and we arrested him without further incident. Despite the girlfriend’s insistence that he would be unarmed, he was carrying two loaded pistols in a cheap Uncle Mike’s fanny pack holster.


The robber’s “holster.”

In 2001, we thought we were brilliant tactical planners and congratulated ourselves on the “safe” apprehension of a seriously bad dude. I don’t know any cop who would think that was a good plan today. We all live and hopefully we all learn over time. If we survive to live another day, we learn how to better thrive in the chaos we call “reality.”


Just like in the story linked below, we had a “perfect” plan. And just like the store clerk’s plan in the article below, everything was “perfect” until it wasn’t.


I had never trained for the possibility that I might have a little kid run directly through my textbook “felony stop.” The store clerk in the news story never thought that someone stealing $4.00 worth of groceries would shoot the place up if he was locked in and couldn’t escape.


All of our tactical plans are great, but we all must be prepared to change those plans when we are confronted with a variable or variables we didn’t anticipate. Nothing will ever happen the way we expect it to. The wise tactician thinks about all the ways his plan might go really bad, and comes up with mitigation strategies to deal with those unexpected variables.


I think that being extremely adaptable and willing to change the plans at a moment’s notice is a more worthy skill set than being a tactical “guru” who assumes all his plans will be executed perfectly.


Humans are imperfect beings. Being able to anticipate this human imperfection and change plans on the fly is a more valuable character trait than being the world’s best shooter or fighter.


Training folks to thrive in chaotic conditions is a far more noble goal than training your students to have a sub- one second draw speed.


Think about that before you plan your next training session. How are you training folks to prevail in chaos? Being able to master ambiguity is  far more valuable than learning to pull the trigger really fast.




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