Is this a lethal-force threat? Could the threat seriously injure or kill me, or someone else? Do I have any other options?
These are the questions that (should) run rapid-fire through your mind if faced with a lethal threat as Officer Spencer Mortensen did in August of 2013 when responding to an apartment where the suspect of a car accident had fled.
The suspect’s girlfriend warned Officer Mortensen that Eric Byron Johnston was hiding in the back of the apartment and that he was armed with knives. Officer Mortensen removed her from the house, but it sounds clear that she never went further that onto the front porch.
Mortensen told Johnston that it was just an accident, and it wasn’t worth whatever Johnston was considering doing. When Johnston remained unresponsive, Mortensen began pieing the main room, and then saw Johnston in the kitchen, wielding two knives.
Johnston slowly advanced upon Officer Mortensen as Mortensen ordered him to drop the knives. Mortensen side-stepped back to the front door, but the suspect’s girlfriend was on the porch. Mortensen was effective boxed in.
Officer Mortensen called out eight times for Johnston to drop the knife, and finally opened fire when Johnston was less than ten feet away, still advancing.
The prosecutor in Bonner County determined that this appeared to be “suicide-by-cop,” and did not charge Mortensen.
He’d run out of time, out of distance, and out of options… all thanks to Johnston’s decision to die over a minor traffic accident.
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In most self defense scenarios outside the home, you’ll have far less warning than Officer Mortensen did going into this incident, and less time to respond. Find a force-on-force defensive shooting class in your area that uses airsoft, man marker rounds, or similar tools in scenario training that gets you off the square range, and which can show you what adaptations you need to make in your training.
No one wants to ever have to fire a shot in self-defense, and having good force-on-force training not only gives you a real feel for what an attack might look like, but also gives you an idea of what your capabilities are, so that you won’t have to second-guess yourself if that horrible moment ever arrives and you have to ask yourself those critical questions that determine whether you open fire, or not.