NBC New York published an article on January 8th, two days after the Fort Lauderdale airport shooting. The article is headlined “Mental Health Effects of Serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.” The authors of the article point out that Esteban Santiago, the Fort Lauderdale shooter, is the eighth veteran to carry out a mass shooting since 2009. The authors wrote, “The shooting highlights the need to ensure veterans are receiving adequate help for service-related trauma and the plight service members face when they return to civilian life,” and provided a timeline with brief summaries of all eight veteran mass shooters from the last eight years. The clear inference is that simply serving in war causes mental problems, and some veterans are so distraught by the transition to civilian life that they carry out acts of unimaginable violence.

The only problem I have with NBC’s article is that it’s a load of absolute nonsense.

Of the eight active duty or veteran active shooters listed in the article, three never went to war. One of those shooters was Nidal Hasan, the 2009 Fort Hood active shooter. He was an avowed jihadist who communicated before the attack with Anwar al-Awlaki, a notorious Islamist orator tied to several terrorist attacks and attempts. Nidal’s mass attack had nothing to do with any trauma, he killed American soldiers as part of his radical Islamic jihad.

The second shooter was Wade Page, a white supremacist who killed six people at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin in 2012. He was a missile repairman and PSYOP soldier who was discharged before the War on Terror for going AWOL, being drunk on duty and other unspecified misconduct.

The third was Navy veteran Aaron Alexis, the Washington Navy Yard shooter. He had a history of minor misconduct and one incident where he shot out the tires of a car, before he joined the military. He was never in combat, or near it.

So three of the eight mass shooters listed in the article never deployed. And remember, the article’s headline is “Mental Health Effects of Serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Now let’s look at the five who did deploy:

1) Ivan Antonio Lopez-Lopez was stationed at Fort Hood, Texas, when he carried out the second Fort Hood mass shooting in 2014. Lopez served four months in Iraq, during which time one convoy he was on was hit by a roadside bomb. Lopez claimed to have been directly involved in the attack. Those unfamiliar with convoys might not know that convoys can be miles long, and it’s possible for one vehicle in a convoy to be hit with an IED while other soldiers in the convoy aren’t even aware of it. The army’s investigation determined Lopez wasn’t in the bomb’s blast radius, and “noted instances in which Specialist Lopez, who had served in Iraq in 2011, had been ‘misleading or deceptive’” about his wartime service. He seems to have been an outright liar; the Army determined that despite Lopez’s claims he had never been in direct combat, and “A Facebook page created by Lopez claimed that he was a sniper who had been to the Central African Republic.”

Lopez also had numerous stressors prior to the shooting: “Lopez was allegedly distraught over financial issues and the deaths of his grandfather and then his mother during a two-month period five months prior to the shooting. He was also undergoing regular psychiatric treatment for depression, anxiety, and posttraumatic stress disorder.” As noted earlier, the PTSD diagnosis is suspect (and PTSD doesn’t cause uncontrollable mass violence anyway). The incident that actually sparked the shooting was a dispute over leave.

So Lopez was a liar who exaggerated his wartime experiences, was never in direct combat, had personal, financial and family issues, and got into an argument just before he murdered three innocent people. Nothing suggests his four-month Iraq deployment caused the mass shooting.

2) Dionisio Garza III killed one man and shot several others in Houston in May, 2016. He was an honest-to-god actual infantry combat veteran of Afghanistan. He also appears to have been severely mentally ill and delusional when he carried out the attack. He had left California for Texas just before the shooting because he believed the dollar was about to collapse , and left numerous irrational notes on the walls of a small building he had turned into a fighting position. “Police say after the shooting, they found random piece[s] of paper and writing on the walls inside the tire shop. While they didn’t appear to be terror related, they seemed to be the writing of a person in a ‘mental health crisis.’” Not surprisingly, his family and a friend blame it all on PTSD; however, the symptoms of PTSD do not include “mass violence directed at random people.” Military service in Afghanistan may have in fact caused Garza to have PTSD, but it didn’t create psychosis.

3) Micah Johnson, the Dallas police mass murderer, had deployed to Afghanistan. Johnson was a carpenter on Bagram Air Force Base, which is basically a small city with a big PX, 24-hour restaurants, internet service, weekly salsa and country dancing nights, concerts, visits by celebrities, and pizza delivery service (my battalion was headquartered there in 2009, although I was lucky to be at a small firebase a couple of hours away). According to the Army, “[Johnson] also served general guard duty, but there is no evidence that he participated in any combat.” Bagram has ten thousand ridiculous rules and occasional incoming rockets that sometimes kill people. Stressful, sure. But did non-combat carpentry service make Micah Johnson steal panties, hate white people and especially white cops, get him kicked out of the Houston New Black Panther Party for bucking the chain of command, and murder five police officers including one I trained with?

No. Johnson’s actions were racially motivated, not a result of cutting 2x4s on a huge base in Afghanistan.

4) Gavin Long, the Baton Rouge police mass murderer, had served in Iraq as a Marine data network specialist. He deployed from mid-2008 to January 2009, when Iraq was relatively calm, and never received a Combat Action Ribbon (which Marines and sailors are awarded for engaging in direct combat). Long was also a radical separatist, involved with a black “sovereign citizens” group, told his mother he was being followed by the CIA, went to Africa to help people avoid “remote brain control experiments,” claimed to be a member of the Nation of Islam, and was generally a weirdo.

Did Long’s seven months working on data networks in Iraq well after the height of the war “trigger” uncontrollable violence? No. His delusions and radical views weren’t created by the Marine Corps or Iraq.

5) Esteban Santiago killed five people at the Fort Lauderdale airport less than a week ago. He served tens months in Iraq. He also appears to be psychotic, having reported to the FBI last year that he was hearing voices telling him to watch ISIS videos. He also may have been a radical jihadist sympathizer, although we’re still waiting for confirmation on that.

We do know that two soldiers in Santiago’s unit were killed by a bomb blast during his deployment. We don’t know that Santiago was ever in combat himself. And even if he was in combat, even if he did have PTSD, PTSD doesn’t make you hear voices in your head. It doesn’t make you murder innocent people in an airport. And it doesn’t make you sympathetic to radical jihad.

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Esteban Santiago, Fort Lauderdale airport shooter

After examining each veteran mass shooter, I don’t see any reason to believe that their military service caused the shootings. In Dionisio Garza’s case his experience sure made him more deadly, but nothing suggests military service was a the proximate cause or even a contributing factor. The truth is, some veterans have mental problems unrelated to their service. Some are criminals. Some are just evil people. The fact that a veteran committed a crime doesn’t mean they committed it because of their military service, just like if a former professional athlete commits murder that doesn’t mean he committed murder because he was a professional athlete.

Besides that, the stats show that veterans are actually underrepresented among mass shooters. A 2014 FBI report on mass shootings counted 160 mass shooting incidents between 2000 and 2013. 93 of those shootings occurred between 2009 and 2013, the time frame included in NBC New York’s article. Only three of those 93 active shooters were military (assuming NBC’s reporting is accurate), and those three shooters never even deployed to a war zone. I found reports of one more veteran active shooter during the 2009-2013 time frame, which means vets comprised 4 of 93 shooters, just over 4%.

But America’s roughly 22 million veterans comprise just over 6% of our population. Which means vets are statistically less likely than civilians to carry out a mass shooting. Is NBC going to publish an article showing that civilians are the more dangerous threat?

To be fair to NBC, plenty of vets push the stupid “poor, pitiful, damaged, hair-trigger veteran” narrative. Plenty of vets wear stupid “dysfunctional veteran” shirts and hats, and way too many proudly pose beside “I’m a hardened combat vet but can’t handle fireworks” signs in their front yards. NBC New York seems to have bought the damaged veteran myth, and the journalists who wrote the article may even think they’re helping us wretched loser veterans by telling the world that it’s not our fault we were ruined by the military.

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But NBC should dig a little deeper. If they did any actual investigation they’d find that many veterans are exaggerating or, like active shooter Lopez likely was, outright lying to get a PTSD diagnosis and the free money for life that comes with it. NBC might even learn that some of the voices screaming loudest in support of ridiculous “no fireworks” yard signs were never in combat. They might find former VA psychologists and psychiatrists who estimated at least half their patients were lying. They might learn the veteran community itself is split on the issue, with many combat veterans dead set against the “damaged vet” narrative and many others eagerly embracing it because it gets them money, sympathy and free stuff.

But one thing NBC wouldn’t find is anything about military service that causes people to go on mass shooting sprees. Military service doesn’t make people insanely violent; if it did, 22 million veterans in America would be murdering a hell of a lot of people every day. People commit mass murder because they’re mentally ill or just plain evil. They don’t do it because they served in the military, went to war, or don’t like civilian life.

So do some damn research, NBC. And next time you want to publish an article as stupid as this last one, talk to a veteran first. I’m fairly certain there’s not a single vet in your offices, or they would have set you straight. Contact me, and I’ll do the basic fact checking you didn’t bother to do.

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Chris Hernandez is a 22 year police officer, former Marine and recently retired National Guard soldier with over 25 years of military service. He is a combat veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan and also served 18 months as a United Nations police officer in Kosovo. He writes for BreachBangClear.com and Iron Mike magazine and has published three military fiction novels, Proof of Our ResolveLine in the Valley and Safe From the War through Tactical16 Publishing. He can be reached at chris_hernandez_author@yahoo.com or on his Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/ProofofOurResolve).

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I’ve been busy as hell working, spending time with family and writing for Breach Bang Clear lately, and haven’t been able to spend much time on my blog. Since I’ve been such a lazy slug here, I thought I’d share some essays I’ve recently written for BB&C, plus one media story I contributed to.

This one is about a new line of accessories for the Glock 43, my new favorite pistol:

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http://www.breachbangclear.com/vickers-glock-43-accessories-from-tango-down/

This is my advice to prospective police applicants, especially veterans thinking of becoming cops:

“Thinking of Becoming a Cop? Please, For the Love of God, Read This First”

http://www.breachbangclear.com/thinking-of-becoming-a-cop-please-for-the-love-of-god-read-this/

This essay is about “auditory exclusion”, and how it may have contributed to the September Tulsa PD shooting, when Officer Betty Shelby killed an unarmed suspect who was high on PCP.

“The Reality of Auditory Exclusion”

http://www.breachbangclear.com/the-reality-of-auditory-exclusion/

This one is from before the election, about my utter disgust with both major candidates and what I’ll teach my sons about America.

“Raising Sons After the Apocalypse”

http://www.breachbangclear.com/raising-sons-apocalypse/

The next three were part of Breach Bang Clear’s “Tank Week”, celebrating the 100th anniversary of the tank’s appearance in combat.

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“Syrian Lessons on Tank Warfare”

http://www.breachbangclear.com/syrian-lessons-on-tank-warfare/

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“The Tanker’s Reputation, Born in World War I”

http://www.breachbangclear.com/the-tankers-reputation-born-in-world-war-i/

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“RKG-3, The Russkie Anti-Tank Hammer”

http://www.breachbangclear.com/wtw-russkie-rkg-3-anti-tank-hammer/

I was also recently interviewed for a story about PTSD fraud. I thought the story turned out pretty well, except that the reporter for some reason thought my job in Iraq was to recover explosives. In Afghanistan one thing my HUMINT team did was gather intel for recovery of explosives, and I went on a couple recoveries myself, but in Iraq I was on a convoy escort team. The LAST thing I wanted to do in Iraq was meet any kind of explosive.

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“Doctors Say VA’s Streamlined Claims Process Facilitating Fraudulent PTSD Claims”

http://news4sanantonio.com/news/local/doctors-say-vas-streamlined-claims-process-facilitating-fraudulent-ptsd-claims

On a side note, this is why I’m so outspoken about PTSD fraud. This douche Brandon Blackstone not only lied about being wounded and having a TBI in order to scam the VA and get free vacations (and a free house!), he also claimed to have saved the life of a real Marine who was badly wounded and later committed suicide. In reality Blackstone spent one month in Iraq, was sent home for appendicitis, and wasn’t in the wounded Marine’s vehicle like he said. But even after admitting he made up the Purple Heart and TBI stories, he’s STILL claiming PTSD.

http://www.nbcdfw.com/news/local/Arlington-Man-Admits-Lying-About-Combat-Injuries-in-Iraq-402546655.html

Hope a few readers out there enjoy these essays, and I hope to have more time to devote to the blog soon. Cheers, guys.

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Chris Hernandez is a 22 year police officer, former Marine and recently retired National Guard soldier with over 25 years of military service. He is a combat veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan and also served 18 months as a United Nations police officer in Kosovo. He writes for BreachBangClear.com and Iron Mike magazine and has published three military fiction novels, Proof of Our ResolveLine in the Valley and Safe From the War through Tactical16 Publishing. He can be reached at chris_hernandez_author@yahoo.com or on his Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/ProofofOurResolve).


This was published today on Breach Bang Clear.

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Last week, former Air Force Security Policeman Andy Brown released his book Warnings Unheeded. Brown’s book is an account of his response to the 1994 Fairchild Air Force Base mass shooting, and the story of a B-52 crash at the same base just days later. If you’re a soldier, police officer or armed citizen you should know Brown’s story already; he killed an active shooter with four rounds from a pistol, at what many shooters would consider an impossible range. While many books have been written about mass shootings, I’m not aware of any written by a person who stopped one. That alone makes it worth reading, but Brown’s book is far more than just a memoir of his own actions.

Warnings Unheeded is an extraordinary look into three fascinating stories. The first is about how Airman Dean Mellberg managed to get into the Air Force despite his glaring mental health issues, why the Air Force retained him over the objections of pretty much everyone who interacted with him, and what ultimately happened when all the ignored danger signs came to fruition. The second is about the Air Force’s complete failure to rein in a dangerous and uncontrollable pilot who rammed himself, three others, and a B-52 into the ground in a crash which surprised no one. The third (and to a cop like me, the most interesting) is a detailed account of Mellberg’s assault on Fairchild Air Force Base’s hospital, Andy Brown’s response, and the four shots that ended a massacre.

Most of the book is devoted to Dean Mellberg’s agonizing path from disturbed and perverted teenager to awkward Air Force recruit to failed Airman to deranged mass shooter. What struck me about Brown’s incredibly detailed recounting of Mellberg’s short life was how painful it must have been for Brown to fully humanize the man he killed. While I’ve never shot anyone as a cop, I know many officers who have; every last one seems to view the person they shot as nothing more than an imminent threat that needed to be addressed. Brown, on the other hand, studied Mellberg’s family, his fruitless struggles to be accepted and loved, his many flaws and failures, his mental health diagnoses, and his tortured life’s final collapse. While Brown was completely justified in killing Mellberg that day – if anyone ever needed to be shot repeatedly, it was Dean Mellberg – I still suspect it wasn’t easy to change his perception of Mellberg from “imminent threat/difficult target” to “pitiful and dangerous, but still human.” I know it wouldn’t be easy for me.

Dean Mellberg in 1992

The second story, about the B-52 crash (which you’ve probably seen footage of), was initially hard for me to get into. I saw the crash as coincidental but completely unrelated, and felt it was a distraction from the real story about Brown and Mellberg’s confrontation. But as I got further into the B-52 story I found myself enthralled with it, and eventually understood it is related to the mass shooting. Both tragedies were the end result of a chain of leadership failures, and both could be seen coming light years ahead. As I got deeper into the B-52 crash story, knowing full well what was coming, I kept asking, Why did the Air Force let this guy keep flying? The man who crashed the B-52 had been warned, reprimanded, reported to commanders, and once missed a ridge by only 15 feet while showing off for a reporter. Many others refused to fly with him. Yet there he was four days after the mass shooting, showing off once again, pushing an aged bomber so hard it went straight into the dirt. Maybe that story grabbed me because I’m an amateur aviation nerd, but whatever the reason, I found it fascinating.

But the most important part of the book is Brown’s account of what he heard, saw, and did that day in 1994.

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Read the rest at http://www.breachbangclear.com/warnings-unheeded-lessons-from-a-man-who-killed-an-active-shooter/

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Chris Hernandez is a 22 year police officer, former Marine and recently retired National Guard soldier with over 25 years of military service. He is a combat veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan and also served 18 months as a United Nations police officer in Kosovo. He writes for BreachBangClear.com and Iron Mike magazine and has published three military fiction novels, Proof of Our ResolveLine in the Valley and Safe From the War through Tactical16 Publishing. He can be reached at chris_hernandez_author@yahoo.com or on his Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/ProofofOurResolve).


When Trump’s “Grab them by the pussy” video broke, I was disgusted but not surprised. I decided he was a clown show long ago, this just confirmed what a gigantic douchebag he is. In the video he admitted to sexually harassing and assaulting women; however, many of his supporters laughed it off as “bad language” and framed the disgusted reaction from much of the public as prudish weakness. “What, can’t handle locker room talk?” “He didn’t say anything real men don’t say all the time.””Show me on this doll where Trump’s words hurt you, HAR HAR HAR!!”

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So I’ll speak directly to those who defend Trump’s words as mere bad language: here’s the deal, motherfuckers. I was a Marine. I then served as a Soldier and made two trips to war. I’ve been a cop over twenty years. I’ve heard tons of bad language. One of my proudest accomplishments when I was a UN cop in Kosovo was learning to say “shit” in thirteen languages. The very first line of dialogue in my first novel is “My dick hurts.” Bad language is my first language.

Ordinarily I don’t use much profanity in my blogs. But today I have to use a lot of fucking profanity, because it’s the only way to make my point. If I don’t, all you Trumpers who scream shit like “We’re gonna make America great again and destroy anyone who opposes us” will twist my words into something else. Fuck that. I’m going to be as clear as I possibly can, so even you can’t misunderstand it.

Not only am I not offended by “bad language”, I actually like it. I’ve probably said things that would make Trump cringe. Here are some beautiful examples of fucked up locker-room talk I’ve heard:

1) Back in 1989 I was standing in formation with my mixed-gender Marine platoon. It was about 6 am on a winter morning, and we were freezing. The corporal standing up front announced, “I wish I had a nice pussy here to keep me warm. But not just any pussy. Only my wife’s pussy.” A young Marine in the formation answered, “I wish I had two. One for each ear.”

2) Soldiers from my old tank unit were joking about each other’s wives. Then one guy got serious and said, “Don’t joke about my wife.” That did it. By the end of the day a schedule was posted, “Who’s fucking Johnson’s wife”, with thirty-minute blocks assigned to each Soldier in the platoon.

3) A sergeant I went to a school with introduced me to a new acronym: FAN, for “feet, ass and nuts”. It’s the smell a group of men create when they’re filthy for days or weeks.

4) At a very challenging training event in the desert, one of my fellow tank crewmen, suffering a near-fatal case of TSB (Toxic Sperm Buildup), was sitting in the driver’s hole of a tank looking at a Hustler with an intense, deeply concerned look on his face. I walked about a hundred yards to another tank to get a hammer. When I returned to my tank my buddy was collapsed in the driver’s seat, nearly unconscious, with the Hustler tossed aside. I asked, “Dude, I was gone for like two minutes. What the fuck did you do?” He said, “I beat off, bro. It was goooood.”

5) My company was taking a physical fitness test, and I watched a lieutenant doing the worst pushups I’ve ever seen. His head pumped up and down like a piston while the rest of his body shook and shivered but barely moved. I told him, “Sir, next time you do pushups I’m going to hold a dildo under your face. That’ll teach you not to move your fucking head like that again.”

6) Not long ago I was at a pistol training course taught by a renowned instructor. Someone in the class jokingly called another student a pussy. A perplexed look crossed the instructor’s face. “I don’t understand why anyone uses pussy as an insult,” he said. “Pussy is my favorite thing in the whole world.”

And those are nowhere near the worst things I’ve heard and laughed at. So don’t preach to me about being able to handle bad language.

Not only have I heard and said pretty much every fucking dirty word there is, I don’t trust men who never talked that way. Disgusting, filthy talk is part of the very masculine worlds I’ve inhabited my whole adult life, and I don’t think much of those who shrink from that language. Locker room talk is real talk, and I enjoy it. Just a few days ago I offered this bit of political wisdom: “If republicans had nominated any reasonable candidate, like Ted Bundy or that homeless crackhead who offered to suck my dick in an alley today, they could beat Hillary. Alas, they chose Trump.”

So “bad language” is not the fucking point.

I understand men will describe women’s bodies in crude terms. They’ll give detailed accounts of past sexual conquests. They’ll graphically list what they want to do to women. Who has two thumbs and has done all those things? This guy right here. Guilty.

But Trump didn’t just use “bad language”. He talked about something he did. He bragged about doing things to women against their will. He boasted to the world about getting away with forcing himself onto women, because he’s a “star”.

That’s fucked up.

It’s not about morality. I’m not preaching against Trump’s sins. I’m a devout agnostic, and really couldn’t give a shit about religious rules. I’m no paragon of virtue myself, and have failed miserably in the morals department. So I don’t care if Trump was unfaithful, or availed himself to the numerous gold diggers eager to let him into their pants. If it’s consensual, I don’t care. He’s a grown man, they’re grown women, it’s their business. I also didn’t care about Bill and Monica’s consensual activities. When the White House phone rings at 3 a.m., it doesn’t matter who’s in bed next to the president when he or she answers. As long as they’re adults making their own decisions, it’s not my problem.

And before anyone says it: I don’t give a shit how much you hate Hillary Clinton. I despise her. I’d rather dive into a pool of kerosene while holding a thermite grenade than vote for her. But Hillary’s complete lack of integrity doesn’t mean Trump gets a pass for being a sexual predator.

I can’t stand Trump because, among many other reasons, he’s a sexual predator. I’m a husband, father of a daughter, and grandfather to two granddaughters. I have a visceral response against any so-called “man” who brags about harassing and assaulting women. Now that several women have come forward accusing Trump of harassing or groping them, or walking in uninvited while they’re undressed at beauty pageants – activities which, by the way, Trump himself bragged about on video or radio – we should kinda get the idea that he’s a lecherous shitbag who uses his celebrity status to take what he wants from women.

That’s the god damn problem. Not the words, not the vulgarity, not the locker room talk. But the fucking pathetic actions and entitled attitude behind them.

You support Trump and don’t care about his sexual predations? You don’t care that he bragged about sexual assaults, agreed that Ivanka was a “nice piece of ass” and said he’d date her if she wasn’t his daughter, and even said “I’ll be dating her in ten years” about a ten year old girl? Fine. At this point, I don’t expect anyone to change their vote. Hillary’s people will vote for her even if an email shows she sold Libyan terrorists the weapons used to kill Americans in Benghazi, Trump’s people will vote for him even if they see video of Putin giving him an underage sex slave as reward for doing Russia’s bidding. This election doesn’t have shit to do with integrity anymore, for either side. If you’re voting Trump because you hate Hillary more, or think she’ll destroy America, or want to Make Russia America Great again, go right ahead.

But don’t act like I’m offended by Trump’s “bad language”. Because that’s a fucking lie, and you  know it. The truth is, I hate sexual predators. Like the one you’re voting for.

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Chris Hernandez is a 22 year police officer, former Marine and recently retired National Guard soldier with 27 years of military service. He is a combat veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan and also served 18 months as a United Nations police officer in Kosovo. He writes for BreachBangClear.com and Iron Mike magazine and has published three military fiction novels, Proof of Our ResolveLine in the Valley and Safe From the War through Tactical16 Publishing. He can be reached at chris_hernandez_author@yahoo.com or on his Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/ProofofOurResolve).


On September 12, the Washington Post published an article by Radley Balko titled West Virginia cop fired for not killing a man with an unloaded gun. Balko is author of a book titled Rise of the Warrior Cop; the Militarization of America’s Police Forces, and frequently writes about police misconduct. His WP article was about a police officer fired for not killing a man he suspected was trying to commit suicide by cop.

The incident began when a woman called 911 to say her boyfriend was threatening suicide. The first officer to arrive, Stephen Mader, found the man holding a pistol in his hand pointed at the ground; Mader, a Marine Afghanistan veteran, deduced that the man was indeed trying to commit suicide by cop. Mader didn’t shoot, even when the man “flicked” the pistol at him. Two other officers arrived and shot the man. The suicidal man’s pistol was found to be unloaded, so Mader’s decision not to shoot seems to have been correct. Even so, Mader was later fired after his chief decided he didn’t trust his judgment.

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Balko, of course, credits Mader for not firing at the suicidal man, and praises him as the type of person who should be a police officer. He faults the two other officers for shooting the man, and the chief for firing an officer who did the right thing. Balko’s article concludes with, “Over the weekend, the New York Times ran an article about the longstanding problem in which even the rare bad cops who do get fired are often able to quickly find work at another policy agency. Mader, who served a tour in Afghanistan and has two sons under five-years-old, told the Post-Gazette that he’s now studying for a commercial truck driving license, but he’d consider another job in law enforcement if he were offered one. I hope that happens. I hope he’s given the same second chance that corrupt, trigger-happy cops are given. My hunch is that he’ll be driving trucks.”

Balko mentions that the chief had other complaints about Mader. He doesn’t mention that Mader allegedly escalated the situation by cursing at the suicidal man, “froze” on the scene, and failed to communicate with other officers. He also doesn’t mention that the suspect reportedly threatened his girlfriend, not just himself.

I don’t have anything against Radley Balko. As far as I know he’s a good writer, makes good points, and understands policing fairly well. I agree with some of what he writes, and get the feeling I’d enjoy a conversation with him about police issues. I don’t think Balko is wrong in saying that Mader shouldn’t have been fired – I agree with that, if he was fired solely because he didn’t shoot – but I do think he’s wrong to suggest the other officers shouldn’t have shot the man, or that the chief shouldn’t have questioned Mader’s judgment.

I think Balko is wrong for several reasons. First. Mader wasn’t fired for not killing the suicidal man. He was fired for not shooting him (or shooting at him). That’s a big difference. Despite a misconception among much of the public, we cops don’t “shoot to kill”. We shoot to stop a threat. The best way to do that is to make multiple center-mass hits, which quickly incapacitate the suspect. Sometimes those multiple hits kill the suspect, oftentimes they don’t. Had Mader hit the suspect and put him down without killing him, or even fired and missed but still caused the suspect to drop his gun and surrender, I see no reason to believe Mader would have been fired.

Even Balko admits, “As it turns out, [the suicidal man’s] gun wasn’t loaded. There’s no way any of the police officers could have known that.” Mader chose not to shoot, which was the only way he could have stopped the threat; he was fired for not stopping the threat, not for failing to kill the man.

Second, someone holding a gun in his hand pointed downward is still dangerous. Another common misconception is that a gun in someone’s hand isn’t a threat if it’s not pointed at you. It actually is, and if he’s “flicking” the weapon toward you, it’s a bigger threat. In a recent debate I had online about this incident someone said, “If the flicker [person flicking a gun] is able to get a shot before the cop then that cop is not worthy enough to be a cop.” That makes great sense to people who have no actual training or experience, not so much to those of us who have dealt with real lethal force encounters. In the real world, we all have reaction times, and a gun can go from down to up and shooting faster than we can recognize the motion and pull the trigger. Even if we shoot first, that doesn’t mean the suspect won’t get a shot off.

Watch this video of a recent shooting in Kingman, Arizona. This suspect, with several police guns on him, was still able to raise his weapon, fire multiple rounds, hit one officer and nearly hit another. The officer who was hit was seriously wounded. The other officer had a round go through his shirt.

Humans cannot eliminate reaction time. We can work to reduce it, we can train ourselves to recognize pre-assault indicators, we can put ourselves through simulations so we’re not stunned into inaction when we find ourselves facing an armed threat. But we can’t eliminate reaction time any more than we can teach ourselves to flap our arms and fly. Reaction time is built in, and the person initiating action will always have an edge on the person reacting to him.

Third, a 911 call reporting a suicidal man doesn’t mean that man can’t be a threat to others. Information relayed to officers from dispatch is often incomplete or incorrect, as I noted in my analysis of the Tamir Rice shooting. Officers can’t accept initial reports as gospel truth; even if the information was true when reported, it can change. Someone can go from suicidal to homicidal in a fraction of a second, as we see in this video of police responding to a “suicidal man” call last year in California.

I’ve heard complaints about officers killing people who were reportedly suicidal. Sometimes that’s just a silly criticism. If an officer shoots someone trying to hang himself, or kills a guy for overdosing on pills, yes that’s unreasonable. But a guy threatening to shoot himself can easily change his mind and shoot someone else.

Fourth, two officers can make different decisions, and both be justified. I was involved in a shooting years ago. I knocked on a door to investigate a report of a man pointing a gun at someone, and the man pointed a gun at me through a window. I got the hell out of the way and drew but didn’t shoot; another officer in the courtyard below me shot the man. I was right to not shoot, the other officer was right to shoot.

How could we both be right? Because I would have been shooting sideways into an apartment possibly occupied by innocent people, but the other officer was aiming upward so any missed rounds would go into the ceiling. As we found out later, several uninvolved people, including women and children, were in the apartment. Nobody but the suspect was hit. I was happy the other officer fired, and he was happy I didn’t. Same scene, same incident, one decision to fire and one not to. And we were both right.

Here’s another example of officers on the same scene making different decisions. Watch this video of an officer ramming a suspect carrying a rifle down a street. The first officer who followed him chose not to hit him, but a second officer sent the suspect flying.

The first officer, after seeing the suspect pointing the rifle at himself, apparently decided the man was only suicidal and chose not to hit or shoot him even after the suspect fired a shot into the air. I don’t agree with his decision, but I can understand it. The second officer, realizing an armed man was walking in the area of passing vehicles and pedestrians, and heading toward a busy highway, decided to take immediate action to end the threat. Whether you agree with his actions or not (I do), they’re reasonable.

What does this have to do with Mader’s shooting? Balko says Mader was right to not shoot, and suggests the other officers were wrong for shooting. He seems to base this on facts learned only after the shooting, like the suicidal man’s gun being unloaded. But that’s not the information the officers had when they arrived. Mader took in the entire scene, and made a decision not to fire. He wasn’t wrong. The other officers arrived, saw an armed man making threatening gestures toward an officer, and fired. They weren’t wrong either.

If you think police work lends itself to perfectly clear right and wrong choices, please stick to cop movies and TV shows. The grey, messy reality of what we do isn’t for you.

Last, risking your life to save a possibly suicidal man’s life is noble, but could also lead to more innocent deaths. In another celebrated police refusal to shoot, an officer who also happened to be a Marine combat vet refused to shoot a double murder suspect . The suspect charged him after a chase, acted like he was drawing a gun and yelled “Shoot me!” The officer kept the suspect at gunpoint, backpedalled, tripped and fell, and eventually got the suspect into custody when backup arrived.

Yes, the officer spared the man’s life even though he would have been justified shooting him. Yes, the man had just murdered his girlfriend and best friend and was trying to get killed. No, the officer had no reason to believe the man was unarmed and not a deadly threat. Had the man drawn a gun and shot the officer in the head after he tripped, then what? We’d have a triple murderer, armed with his own weapon, an officer’s pistol and maybe even a shotgun or AR-15 taken from the officer’s car, free to murder more cops or innocent citizens in the area. What happens when that murderer barges into a home and takes a family hostage? Would anyone praise the officer who chose to spare the murderer, at the expense of his own and other innocent people’s lives?

I get Balko’s criticism of the chief for firing Mader. I don’t think Mader should have been fired either. But I also understand the chief’s concern about Mader’s judgment, and understand why the other officers used deadly force. I also understand why officers treat allegedly suicidal people as deadly threats: because they are, or at least we have to treat them like they are until proven otherwise. Radley Balko should know enough about police work to understand this as well as I do.

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Chris Hernandez is a 22 year police officer, former Marine and recently retired National Guard soldier with 27 years of military service. He is a combat veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan and also served 18 months as a United Nations police officer in Kosovo. He writes for BreachBangClear.com and Iron Mike magazine and has published three military fiction novels, Proof of Our ResolveLine in the Valley and Safe From the War through Tactical16 Publishing. He can be reached at chris_hernandez_author@yahoo.com or on his Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/ProofofOurResolve).

 


Next week I’ll be heading to Arizona with the Breach Bang Clear crew to learn a new skill: tracking. This is something I’ve never even been exposed to before, I’m going in as a complete noob. If anyone has any advice, please lay it on me.

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“Horses, mules, and donkeys were the original all terrain vehicles. While they’ve largely gone out of style as a mode of transport or drayage in many parts of the world, they remain extremely important in others (and we’re not just talking about pulling beer wagons). Law enforcement and search & rescue units use them in places as varied as Times Square and rugged, remote stretches of the US-Mexican border. Military units use them as well, if only in very specific locations and usually for SOF (Special Operations Force) missions — as they did when ODA (Operational Detachment Alpha) 595 and their attached Combat Controllers mounted up in October of 2001 to hunt down the Taliban.

There only a handful of places the skills needed to successfully, tactically, employ horses can be learned. On of those is (or was) the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center in Bridgeport, California, where horsehandling is the purview of Marine NCOs with a background in riding. Another place, is Trails Found.

Trails Found is the training organization of Jim Grasky, a man who has spent a lifetime in the saddle. Laconic, lean, and weathered man,Jim Grasky is old enough to be the great grandparent of nearly everyone he teaches. He’s a former Vietnam Green Beret who became a smokejumper (and then a smokejumper squadleader) after the war, spending some time working abroad in unfriendly areas on behalf of some unique governmental agencies. He is a retired US Border Patrol agent, one of the founding members of the USBP’s BORTAC, was one of the USMC Combat Hunter – based Border Hunter SMEs and one of just a handful of old school mantrackers left in the world.

When specialized military or OGA personnel need to learn horsehandling before deploying to some faraway land, many of them quietly visit Jim in the backcountry of Arizona.

So, we figured we needed to do the same.”
Read more: http://www.recoilweb.com/trails-found-tactical-horses-107950.html#ixzz4JRckk5vs


With the spate of mass shooting attacks the last couple years, I’ve had a few people ask my thoughts on responding to a mass shooting as an armed citizen. Someone else asked the same question on a forum recently, and I’ve decided to give my opinion.

When someone asks, “If I wind up in a mass shooting, should I go after the shooter?”, my answer is, “You’re the only one who can answer that.” Only you know your level of skill, experience, toughness and willingness to act. If you know you’re not skilled enough, don’t engage. If you’re not experienced enough, stay back. If you know stubbing your toe makes you fold like origami, keep your distance. If you’d like to engage the shooter but are worried about missing your favorite TV show later that evening, chances are you’re better off doing what most armed citizens would do: getting yourself and your family the hell out of the area. That’s not what I would do, but it’s not wrong.

For the sake of this discussion, let’s assume you’re confident in your abilities, you know there’s a big difference between drawing on a convenience store robber armed with a knife versus going pistol against AR-15 in the crowded Pulse Nightclub, but you’re not real clear on what factors are involved with engaging a mass shooter. So I’ll identify a few things I think you should know and consider. My opinion is based on 22 years of police work, a couple trips to war, and some time spent training police officers how to respond to mass shootings. Please read it, decide for yourself if it’s valid, and do what you think is best. The points below aren’t all-inclusive; there are numerous other factors to consider. This is just a brief summary to get you thinking.

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Clackamas Mall, where a concealed carrier advanced on a mass shooter who then committed suicide

POINT ONE: YOU MIGHT GET REPORTED AS A BAD GUY.

A mass shooting is pure chaos. That chaos leads to bad or contradictory reporting. Bad or contradictory reporting means arriving officers don’t really know what’s going on, or even worse, makes them think a good guy is actually a bad guy.

Imagine this: a middle-aged woman with no tactical experience whatsoever is eating lunch at a mall food court. From the other side of the food court she hears sudden screaming, then rapid gunshots. She looks that direction in disbelief and sees a crowd of people running in all directions. Behind the stampede she briefly glimpses a white man in a black jacket standing still, hands out of view behind a table. He’s the only man calmly standing among the panicked crowd, and looks to her like he’s holding a gun. Her immediate impression is “He’s the shooter.”

She makes it outside to her car, calls 911 and reports her description of the suspect. That description is broadcast to responding officers. But the man she saw was actually a victim, shot in the abdomen and clutching his wound in shock. Now every responding cop will automatically lock in on any white man in a black jacket, even if the shooter was actually an Asian man in a red t-shirt.

Multiply that one woman’s report by the number of people who were near the shooter and think they saw something. That’s about how many bad reports can be generated during a mass shooting. Now, if you have a gun in your hand, imagine how many people will report you as the bad guy. Even if you’re doing everything right, even if you’re obviously going toward the sound of the guns, even if you’re directing others to safety, even if you’re yelling for police, some people will see your gun, freak out, ignore everything else and think you’re the shooter.

For you as an armed citizen responding to an active shooter, you have to remember that your actions will make you stand out, and standing out means you’ll likely be reported as the shooter.

How do you minimize the risk of being mistaken for a bad guy? Don’t act like one. Contrary to popular belief, cops aren’t trained to immediately shoot at anyone with a gun. We’re trained to engage those who reasonably appear to be an imminent threat to us or other innocent people. If you’re spraying unaimed rounds, cursing like a sailor, using a gangster one-handed pistol hold and strutting like you just got paroled, you’ll look like a bad guy. If you look, act and move like a professional, you’ll make responding cops think twice.

POINT TWO: DISTANCE IS NOT YOUR FRIEND

In most lethal force encounters, you want to create and maintain distance. In a mass shooting, you don’t. Or I should say, you don’t if you expect to take the shooter out.

The average concealed carrier has a small or mid-sized semi-auto in their waist or pocket. Maybe they’ll have a spare magazine. Even if you’re a pro with your CC weapon and hit targets at 75 yards on a square range, your accuracy is going to suffer badly when you introduce fear, tunnel vision, fleeing bystanders and a moving target. Dumping .380 or 9mm rounds at a mass shooter from nearly a football field away will probably result in nothing more than wasted rounds with no effect, but could also cause friendly fire deaths or draw accurate return fire from a rifle-armed shooter.

Yes, it’s possible to make an accurate shot from a distance, even under stress. I’ve even written about a couple instances where it’s been done in active shooter situations (https://chrishernandezauthor.com/2014/12/09/austin-pds-104-yard-pistol-shot-real-or-not/). It’s just not likely, and definitely isn’t what you should expect.

If I’m ever unfortunate enough to be present in an active shooter situation inside a structure, my plan is to send my wife and kids running in a safe direction, draw and keep my weapon in sul (tucked against my chest muzzle down) covered with one hand, and bound from cover to cover until I’m close enough to mag dump on the shooter. Or if he’s moving toward me, I’ll set up somewhere I can ambush him, the way a brave Turkish cop did in the Istanbul airport.

But I won’t stay far away and expect to Glocksnipe him. That’s a fantasy. In some situations it makes sense to keep distance and just report, but if your plan is to put “bullets on bone”, you have to close distance. 

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Virginia Tech, where an untrained but completely unopposed coward murdered 32 innocent people

POINT THREE: GO FASTER, YOU FRIGGIN’ SLUG

Unless a cop just happens to be close by, you can expect several minutes between the beginning of an active shooter incident and the arrival of the first officer. There is a world of difference between the first officer arriving to find you standing over a dead shooter with your weapon safely concealed and your hands over your head as you yell “The suspect is down!”, versus the first officer turning a corner and seeing you shooting at something the officer can’t see. So if you decide to act, act fast. Try to resolve the situation before officers arrive. The best way to avoid being mistaken for an armed bad guy by responding officers is to not look like an armed bad guy when officers arrive.

No, you should never rush into anything blindly. Yes, it’s always better to assess for a moment before acting, and especially before shooting. But in this case, you need to minimize assessment time and maximize speed. The best way to do that is to have a plan, wargame situations, and get ahead of the curve by knowing how to react before you have to react.

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Jeanne Assam, a former cop who shot an active shooter at a Colorado church

POINT FOUR: SPEAKING OF HAVING A PLAN…

My biggest worry in an active shooter situation is my family. Of course that’s everyone’s worry, but mine is a bit bigger because I have an autistic son. Because it’s sometimes difficult to get my son to do what we want him to do, I don’t plan on ordering my wife to drag my autistic son a quarter mile out of a mall to the car while a madman is shooting at her. So my orders to her are to get to the nearest safe place; in a mall, that’s usually the employees-only area in the back of a store or restaurant. An active shooter is searching for the largest number of easily-accessible victims, not looking to clear back rooms.

On the other hand, most businesses probably tell their employees to immediately go to those back rooms and lock them. That’s another reason to react quickly. Most untrained people will have “normalcy bias”, which significantly extends their reaction time. That is, when something out of the ordinary happens, their first reaction is to convince themselves it’s not what they know it is.

I saw this when I responded to a shootout between a cop and a bank robber, in broad daylight in a residential area, and heard witnesses say “I thought someone must have been filming a movie or something.” I’ve also experienced it myself, when I walked up to an apparently undamaged car at an accident scene, saw a decapitated child’s head on the back seat floorboard, and tried to convince myself the child was just stuck in a weird position so I could only see his head. When shots first ring out, untrained people will freeze, look toward the shots, and spend precious moments telling themselves they’re not seeing what they know they’re seeing.

You’re not untrained. You’ve taken the time and training to get a concealed carry license, you’re reading articles like this to help you better prepare for a lethal force encounter, and if you ever face a mass shooter you shouldn’t waste precious seconds denying you’re actually seeing what you’ve trained for. If you see it and hear it, react to it immediately. Implement your plan. My plan is:

  • Send my wife and kids to the nearest safe place. Force a door open if I have to, but get them out of view and behind cover.
  • Draw (if I haven’t already) and briefly assess the situation from behind cover. By briefly, I mean within seconds.
  • Threat scan for secondary shooters.
  • Bound from cover to cover toward the sound of the guns, or toward the identified shooter if I can see him, staying low and trying not to be seen. I’ll also keep my weapon in sul and covered by my off hand if I don’t have a target. Keep bounding until I find the shooter.
  • Engage from the nearest accessible covered position until he’s down.
  • Threat scan again, reload as necessary.
  • Separate weapon from shooter (kick it out of arm’s reach).
  • Holster my weapon.
  • Communicate by phone and wait for arriving officers.
  • Hold hands high and announce that the shooter is down as soon as I see the first officer.

Of course, no plan survives first contact. That’s fine, I’ll adjust as necessary. But when I hear the first shots, I won’t be bumbling around wondering what the hell to do.

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The Umpqua, Oregon Community College, where at least one concealed carrier chose not to force his way into a classroom to engage a mass shooter

And lastly, the most important thing to remember…

POINT FIVE: EVEN IF YOU DO EVERYTHING RIGHT, YOU STILL MIGHT GET SHOT BY A GOOD GUY. ACCEPT IT.

Cops aren’t supermen. In a critical incident we’re making life-and-death decisions, based on a tiny amount of often-wrong information, in an incredibly short amount of time. Since we’re lucky enough to not have daily mass shootings in America, we can assume that officers responding to a mass shooting will never have responded to anything like it before. They’ll be high on adrenaline. They’ll be confused. They’ll suffer from survival stress reactions like tunnel vision, auditory exclusion, and critical incident amnesia. They’ll know that every shot they hear could mean another innocent life lost, and they’ll be in a rush to find and engage the shooter. They might be experienced veterans who’ve heard thousands of shots fired in anger overseas, or terrified rookies who’ve never dealt with anything scarier than a parking violation.

And they might make a very human mistake.

I could follow all the steps of my plan, ensure I’m moving and acting like a cop instead of a criminal or terrorist, fire only a few accurate shots, clearly communicate my identity and intentions, and still get shot by an officer (or CCer) who mistakes me for the bad guy or is acting on bad information from a panicked witness. A mass shooting is a crappy situation, and all you can do is reduce but not eliminate the suck. In that crappy, sucky situation, an officer under stress can make an understandable error. If you’re willing to accept the risk of being shot by a cop in addition to the risk of being shot by the bad guy, you should take action against a mass shooter. If you’re unwilling to accept reality and irrationally expect perfection from people struggling to do the right thing in the worst situation they’ll probably ever face, keep your distance and only worry about yourself and your family.

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Chris Hernandez is a 22 year police officer, former Marine and recently retired National Guard soldier with over 25 years of military service. He is a combat veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan and also served 18 months as a United Nations police officer in Kosovo. He writes for BreachBangClear.com and Iron Mike magazine and has published three military fiction novels, Proof of Our ResolveLine in the Valley and Safe From the War through Tactical16 Publishing. He can be reached at chris_hernandez_author@yahoo.com or on his Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/ProofofOurResolve).