RULE FOUR: Even Worse

Tactical officers use the FBI flashlight technique in a night training exercise on
Tactical officers use the FBI  flashlight technique in a night training exercise on
Tactical officers shoot using the FBI flashlight technique via

Earlier in the week we discussed the incident in Virginia where a homeowner failed to follow Rule 4 (Always be sure of your target). He shot his teen-aged daughter as she attempted to reenter the home after sneaking out the night before. He simply heard a noise, assumed that his family was upstairs asleep, and shot at the human shape as it came through the garage door.


It was an obvious and blatant violation of a cardinal rule of shooting, and she is very lucky to have survived.

Now we know that the shooter can’t even feign ignorance of this basic rule.

He was a law enforcement officer, and thus trained in low-light techniques.

A Virginia deputy sheriff shot his 16-year-old daughter after mistaking her for an intruder, then crashed his car as he rushed her to the hospital, authorities said.

The teenager was in stable condition at a Winchester hospital, according to media reports

Capt. Donnie Lang of the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office said a security alarm sounded at about 3:30 a.m. Tuesday at the Winchester home of Easton McDonald, a sergeant with the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office. He said McDonald, responding to the alarm, saw the dark shape of a person advancing through the garage door and fired.

“He figured someone had broken into the garage, and his family was upstairs asleep,” Lang said.

Armed with his privately owned gun — not his service weapon — McDonald fired, Lang said.

“Then he hears her voice and recognizes that it’s his daughter,” he said.

According to investigators, McDonald grabbed his daughter, who had been returning home after apparently sneaking out, and called 911 to report that he was taking her to the hospital. En route, McDonald lost control of his car and hit a barricade, damaging the front of the vehicle but causing no additional injuries to his daughter or to himself, Lang said.

Emergency responders went to the scene of the crash and took McDonald’s daughter to the hospital.


All low enforcement officers are trained to use flashlights to identify their targets in low-light conditions. There are various techniques (we covered the FBI and Harries techniques during our introductory night shoot at Gunsite), and every police officer knows them well. More importantly, they know why they need to use these techniques to avoid shooting people who are not threats.

Sgt. McDonald is now on administrative leave as the department investigates the shooting, though I suspect that is the least of his concerns. He is likely beating himself up far worse than his department ever will, and I’m sure that his family is looking at him far differently now.

If I were McDonald’s commanding officer, I’d also want to try to make sure that the incident doesn’t affect his job performance, causing him to freeze up in a future low-light incident and putting himself and others at risk when the threat may be real.

Find and learn a good flashlight technique, folks, and get a good flashlight. If you’re on a budget (who isn’t?) and can’t afford a $200+ light, there are other good options. 5.11 Tactical makes economical tactical lights, and I picked up an M18 Maverick from Olight on the advice of one of our Gunsite instructors, retired Special Forces Master Sergeant Walt Wilkinson. It’s a well-thought-out design that is small and simple enough for every day carry.


Always be sure of your target and what is beyond it, folks. There is simply no excuse for firing at a shape that you have not positively identified as a threat. As these threats often come at night, adding a tactical light to your carry gear is a must.

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