NewsWest 9 Special Report: Officers Train to Deal with Shooting Situations

NewsWest 9 Special Report: Officers Train to Deal with Shooting Situations
Odessa Police Department (Source: KWES)

ODESSA, TX (KWES) - Officer involved shootings have become common place in today's society. Most happen while on the job. Many, at other times. Local departments have seen their share.

You can't get away from it.  Every time you turn on the television or log on to social media, you see it. There's been a report of another officer involved shooting, somewhere in the country. Sadly, West Texas and the Permian Basin are not immune. 

According to Cpl. Steve LeSueur with the Odessa Police Department, "None of them wanted to go into that situation. They were forced to go into that situation and forced to make a split second decision. They were forced to use deadly force."

Between 2010 and 2015, the Odessa Police Department was involved in four officer involved shootings. Some officers were hurt, but, luckily, survived. 

OPD officers have been involved in a couple of incidents in 2016, too.  Again, there were injured officers, but no deaths. 

September 8, 2007, on the other hand, is a day few people will ever forget. It was a day that shook the Odessa Police Department to its very core when officers responded to domestic disturbance call. 

"As everyone knows, three of our officers ended up dying, losing their lives, as a result of that domestic disturbance," said LeSueur. 

Corporals Arlie Jones and Scott Gardner and were shot and killed during a standoff at the home of Larry Neal White. Corporal Abel Marquez was also shot and died four days later. These officers paid the ultimate price while doing what they were sworn and trained to do.

"A lot of people think that we're always out to get everyone. That just isn't the case, at all.  Our job is to serve and protect," said LeSueur. 

While still a painful memory, Odessa police use what happened that day as a learning tool to insure a tragedy like this, never happens again. Officers use the Modular Armored Tactical Combat House, or MATCH, to go through just about every possible scenario they are likely to encounter in the real world.

"A lot of the training we do, is a direct result of that incident, that occurred in 2007," said LeSueur. 

LeSueur said if something is going to go wrong, this is where it needs to happen. 

As of late, officers aren't just getting shot while performing their job. LeSueur said the landscape is changing fast. Officers are getting shot while they are getting gas, eating lunch, even as they are sitting in their cars, filling out a report.

"There's been a dramatic increase in ambushes and attacks, nationwide, within the last couple of years and we're definitely aware of it. So, that definitely gets put in to our training."

We wanted to get into the mind of gunman, to find out what makes them tick, why they would want to turn a gun on law enforcement.  Dr. Diana Bruns is a professor of Criminal Justice at the University of Texas of the Permian Basin.

She said, "If the subject has indicated that he wants to take his own life or he will only surrender to the person in charge. If he has a record of assaults. If he's expressed an interest in 'going out in a big way.' If the subject demands to be killed, those are all warning signs."

Along with the usual calls, police have to handle situations dealing with people who have metal health issues and also those who might possibly want to end their life. The latter is a situation known as "suicide by cop." 

"With suicide by cop, there are two things that need to happen. They need to show intent and they leave a suicide note," explained Dr. Bruns.

LeSueur said, "In a lot of the cases, if the individual ends up deceased, we can't interview them to determine what they were, actually thinking. So, there are a lot of reasons that make it extremely difficult if that was really the case." 

In the end, as harsh as it sounds, the reality for officers, in these life and death situations, is kill or be killed. 

According to Cpl. LeSueur, "The bottom line is, if someone points a gun at us, they shoot at us, they threaten us with a deadly weapon, we're going to take action. In some cases that includes using deadly force."

In the age of social media, while it proves a powerful tool for many, it also provides an arena for backlash against law enforcement.

"It's so important to know that, unfortunately now, with social media, there is a lot of negative publicity towards law enforcement. It's so important to know, out of all the officer involved shootings that occur, that the vast majority are justified. Unfortunately, you're always going to have that one incident, here or there, where that isn't the case. Those are, unfortunately, what's getting magnified, across the media, on a daily basis," said LeSueur. 

But when the chips are down, at the end of the day, when all the training is said and done, Cpl. LeSueur said all members of law enforcement want the same thing, "We have families, just like everyone else. We have families we have to come home to, at the end of the night. The last thing we want to happen is for someone to die."

Copyright 2016 KWES. All rights reserved.