Friday, April 01, 2005

Sad tale of a fallen hero...

I watched a pretty horrific video in class yesterday. It was the video footage of the death of Lance Corporal Coates, a South Carolina Highway Patrolman. Coates was on a "routine" traffic stop for a driver who was later shown to be armed and dangerous. AT the time though, the driver seemed friendly and docile. It was only after Coates decided to pat down the driver that he pull out the small gun and fired at Coates. They wrestled for the gun as Coates drew his own .357 revolver. The driver was shot five times in center mass. Coates stood up and reached for his shoulder radio to call for help. The driver fired, the .22 caliber bullet going through Coates' arm and into his chest, severing an aorta. Coates died on the scene. The killer survived.

There were many officer safety lessons to be learned from the video. However, the video showed an interesting thing that happened after Coates was shot. Another patrolman received the call of an officer down and sped to the scene. Before he got there, two truckers who had seen the gunfight stopped to help the fallen officer, one of them brining their gun in case the driver still wanted to fight.

The other officer drives up and sees two men standing over Coates' body, one of them holding a gun. The officer flew out of the car and put down the truckers at gunpoint. It was a few minutes later before the true story came out about who had done the shooting. Luckily, the truckers weren't hurt. In the interview later, the arriving officer had said he was so consumed with rage that if they had moved wrong even an inch, he would have killed them. That's some scary stuff!

Beyond lessons of officer safety, it teaches us another lesson: Know what is going on. Things aren't always as they seem. Scenes can appear one way and be another. In the video, the arriving officer put himself in an unsafe position because while he was proning out the two truckers, the real killer was lying off to the side. If he had more ammo and wasn't bleeding from massive chest wounds, this could have been a double tragedy.

So stay safe out there and remember that there are no routine stops and things aren't always obvious.

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