On Saturday, May 29, 2011, there were two separate criminal ambushes on law enforcement officers with different situations and results.
In San Antonio, TX, Bexar County Sheriff’s Sgt. Kenneth Vann was responding to an accidental shooting call across town. While enroute to the call, he stopped in traffic at an intersection and was fired upon by the occupant(s) of another car. Vann was killed in his squad. He did not have a chance to return fire.
The preliminary investigation had no suspects. The shooting was apparently not related to the call for service. It was thought that the murder weapon was a rifle.
Also on Saturday, Marion County, FL Sheriff’s Office deputies responded to a domestic situation in the Ft. McCoy area of the Ocala National Forest. A grandfather and grandson had argued over the alleged shooting of a bear. The grandson, Bruce McDonald, shot his grandfather with a borrowed shotgun, and then fled into the woods surrounding the house.
Two deputies arrived and one went into the home. Deputy Owen Confessore stayed outside. McDonald suddenly emerged from the woods and confronted Confessore. McDonald shot Confessore in the torso. Both deputies returned fire and struck McDonald.
Deputy Confessore suffered a shotgun wound that at least partially pierced his ballistic vest, according to MCSO, but he is in stable condition. The grandfather’s condition is serious. McDonald had two non-life threatening gunshot wounds and was subsequently charged with multiple counts, including attempted murder of a law enforcement officer.
One method for minimizing your risk of an ambush is to practice good officer safety techniques at all times. Trust no one. When I was a rookie, I had an old sergeant come up beside me at a call. I was standing in a front yard covering the primary officer during an interview (Contact and Cover).
The sergeant said in my ear, “Where would you go if it hit the fan right now?” I was kind of blank for a second. He said he would get with me after the call. I met with him later and confessed I had not had a plan when he asked me. He replied that a cop should always check his surroundings for the best cover and be ready to react to a sudden escalation of force.
Sgt. Vann did not have a chance to react. In his situation, even off-set maneuvers to keep other vehicles from being broadside, or leaving escape routes, do not always work in the complex flow of traffic. It is sad he did not have even the opportunity to defend himself against the cowardly murderer.
Deputy Confessore faced a different threat, with an armed subject unexpectedly exiting a wooded area. The suspect would have been able to observe the deputy without being seen and could time his assault to his own advantage.
No law enforcement officer can guarantee that he will survive a surprise attack. We can only prepare. I wrote in a previous article, on the Rise in Law Enforcement Officers Killed by Gunfire, that I firmly believe that constant vigilance and decisive action are the keys to defeating a criminal ambush.
Randall is a twenty-three year sworn police officer in a mid-sized Florida police department. He has been an FTO, K9 Handler, Detective and SWAT Team Leader. He is currently the Midnight Shift K9 Sergeant and department SWAT Coordinator.