A Bryan (TX) police officer called to the scene of a domestic disturbance by a female resident was apparently involved in a confrontation with the woman’s ex-boyfriend, who put his hand in a back pants pocket and refused to remove while making ominous statements alluding to the fact that he may be armed.
The man then moved in the direction of the woman and rapidly pulled a black object out of his back pocket as if drawing a gun and then pointed it at the officer.
The shooting happened about 10:20 p.m. Sunday after Bryan police responded to disturbance calls in the 5300 block of Mallard Drive. A woman told Laughlin and another officer that a man was at her house and was not supposed to be on her property. A protective order against him had recently expired, she said, and he had been arrested previously.
The man, who Buske said had at one point been in a “boyfriend-girlfriend” relationship with the woman, approached the address while the officers were talking with her. Laughlin “casually” approached the man, who placed his right hand in his back right pocket. Buske said the man refused to take his hand out of his pocket despite multiple commands from Laughlin.
Laughlin kept a patrol vehicle between himself and the man, who repeatedly moved around the back side of the vehicle while making statements such as “are you ready” and “I ain’t dropping nothing,” Buske said.
He asked Laughlin “if he was ready,” moving in the direction of the woman, Buske said. Laughlin told him “don’t do this,” to which the male responded, “do it, man.”
The man rapidly pulled out a black object from his back pocket, took a shooting stance and pointed it at Laughlin, who dropped to cover and fired his handgun multiple times, striking the man. What Laughlin thought was a gun turned out to be a cell phone.
The unnamed man was last reported in critical condition at a local hospital. Officer Steven Laughlin, a three-year veteran of the department, is on administrative leave, per standard procedure in an officer-involved shooting. There are multiple concurrent investigations into the incident, with one group of police looking into possible criminal charges against the ex-boyfriend, while there is an concurrent internal affairs investigation to ensure that the officer acted both within the law and department policies.
Body camera video of the incident is expected to be released after being reviewed by the district attorney.
It’s sadly rather well-known that for law enforcement officers to have a chance at surviving violent confrontations, they can’t wait to positively identify a weapon before making the decision to fire on a suspect. They must reaction to motions that appear to be an attempt to draw a weapon. This is called a “furtive movement,” and suicidal suspects have been known to draw empty hands and other objects out of their pockets to feign attacks in attempts to have officers open fire.
It usually works in provoking the desired response, because officers have to respond to their training.
The officer-involved shooting of Alfred Olango (above) was another recent high-profile example of this kind of incident. Apparently distraught over the death of his best friend, Olango pulled a silver vaping device that looked like a gun barrel and pointed it at an El Cajon police officer, forcing the officer to open fire. Olango died at the scene.
Sadly, until there is a Star Trek-like phaser that we can set to stun that works 100% of the time (unlike tasers, which routinely fail for a multitude of reasons), the only proper response for officers for someone making a furtive movement like this is to open fire and use deadly force in these kinds of incidents.
They’re never going to be able to tell if a suspect is drawing a Smith & Wesson, or a BB gun, or a smart phone until after engaging the suspect and ending the threat.