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By Major Van Harl USAF Ret

Darren Wilson

St. Louis Policeman Darren Wilson suffered an “orbital blowout fracture to the eye socket” most likely from a punch to the head.

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Wisconsin --(Ammoland.com)-  While in grade school I suffered two concussions in the same calendar year.

Both were head strikes I sustained on the school playground and both times I wound up in the hospital. I overheard a doctor tell my parents that one more concussion could kill me. This as a child, scared the hell out of me.

Apparently the doctor suggested that I not play contact sports in my K thru 12 school years. I was not apprised of this. I did wonder why when my friends went out for football in junior and senior high school, that the game was never discussed in my home. I remember being punched in the face and hit in the head four times while in high school. Three of those times they put me to the ground and kept hitting me in the head.

It would appear that when people mean to do you physical harm everyone understands that striking the head is an outstanding target of opportunity.

There is a documentary entitled One Punch Homicide (onepunchhomicde.com) that deals with the killing of a person after striking them only once in the head. I am sure you have all seen a TV show or movie where the good-guy needs to stop someone, but they do not want to use deadly force. So, they punch the victim in the head with the intent of knocking them out for a little while.

The lucky victim allegedly only has to wake up with a splitting headache, but can be thankful he did not wake up to a bullet in his brain.

In real life it does not always work that way. In One Punch Homicide you will see person after person who suffered only one strike to the head and they are now dead. That single hit delivered to one human’s head, by another human’s actions, is why little Tommy is going home in a box.

I have been in Law Enforcement for over thirty five years and I have had the discussion with my wife many times about my fear of being hit in the head, incapacitated and disadvantaged at the hands of my assailant.

One of my favorite TV shows is NCIS. Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs is always hitting Agent DiNozzo in the back of the head when DiNozzo screws up. It is funny and it is a long standing part of the shows story line, but then it is not funny, because people see it and believe it is OK to strike a person in the head, if only in a fun-kind-of-way.

A head strike is a head strike.

I am an Army-trained infantry officer and I truly hate wearing helmets. I was always the first one to take my helmet off and the last one to put it on, but I never refuse to wear a helmet. I have done the research on the lives saved in combat since the helmet was introduced into mass usage in WWI.

When there are complaints in the press about the militarization of the American police because the “cops” show up in helmets and flak vests, always remember the ingrained knowledge of everyone (criminal or not) that the head is a prime target of opportunity.

Modern “cops” are trained to leave the head and shoulder area of a suspect that they have come in physical contact with, alone. Attacking a person’s head in the law enforcement world is considered using deadly force. Now if the bad guy is attacking you with intent to do (your body) bodily harm, then the “cops” are trained to supersede the restriction of impact force to the head and shoulders.

Someone coming at you with a knife (deadly force) that is a very good reason to strike them in their head with your police issued baton; you are however trying to stop them not kill them. When that police officer killed that man in Ferguson, MO I told my wife very early on, as we watched the violence play out on TV, that I believed the officer had been struck in the head.

The “cop” used deadly (firearms) force as a last resort, because he was losing control due to the pain, impairment of vision and belief he would be rendered unconscious, after he received brutal head strikes.

Again back to my fear as an old “cop” lying on the ground coming in and out of consciousness from a head strike, as the bad guys (they never come alone) take my duty weapon and used it on me.

Think twice before you slap someone in the face. It is not just a little slap. It is a strike to one of the most venerable parts of the human body. One punch can kill, and go on to ruin many lives.

The officer has the right to survive the day, and go home to their family. Potentially being knocked out by street thugs and dying in your own pool of blood is a very good reason to fight evil with anything you have at your disposal.

Major Van Harl USAF Ret.
vanharl@aol.com

About Major Van Harl USAF Ret.:Major Van E. Harl USAF Ret., a career Police Officer in the U.S. Air Force was born in Burlington, Iowa, USA, in 1955. He was the Deputy Chief of police at two Air Force Bases and the Commander of Law Enforcement Operations at another. He is a graduate of the U.S. Army Infantry School.  A retired Colorado Ranger and currently is an Auxiliary Police Officer with the Cudahy PD in Milwaukee County, WI.  His efforts now are directed at church campus safely and security training.  He believes “evil hates organization.”  vanharl@aol.com

  • 13 User comments to “One Punch Homicide And A Police Officer’s Safety”

    1. The Rifleman on August 27, 2014 at 6:53 AM said:

      (quote) “The “cop” used deadly (firearms) force as a last resort, because he was losing control due to the pain, impairment of vision and belief he would be rendered unconscious, after he received brutal head strikes.”

      (quote) “The officer has the right to survive the day, and go home to their family. Potentially being knocked out by street thugs and dying in your own pool of blood is a very good reason to fight evil with anything you have at your disposal.”

      On those statements, I couldn’t agree with you more, and you are absolutely right. However, on the same token, I must also say that you certainly had to know the many great risks you would be taking to your life when you decided to become a law enforcement officer. (i.e. you didn’t “have to” live with those fears) you accepted that as being a daily part of your life when you were sworn in, and you had the option of checking out any time you wanted to. On the other hand, people that were “drafted” into the military did NOT have that option.

    2. VAN IS A WOOS!!!!
      FROM A
      US ARMY RET,, INFANTRY/PARA/SHOOTER AND CIVILIAN COP/NARC

    3. Learn how to defend yourself without resorting to using deadly force. Every cop should be able to defend his/her self without resorting to use deadly force against an unarmed person.

    4. JCH you obviously haven’t got a clue about real life situations where you have to defend yourself. I too am retired law enforcement and when a person is emotionally disturbed, high on any number of mind altering drugs or running on pure adrenaline one man cannot subdue that person or defend themselves without deadly force should that person attack. Only when you’ve been forced into such a situation and survive do you really know how it is.

    5. You don’t have to use a weapon to use deadly force against another person.

      Your bare hands are all that is needed if you have the training and experience to use them to kill another person.

      An individual could be on drugs, have no physical weapons on them, end up killing you as their body and brain are immune to your defensive moves.

    6. JCH – “which part of being killed by a punch to the head” did you miss? I hate this liberal nonsense about being “unarmed.” Hands kills more people than all rifles combined.

      Would you call a black belt martial artist, “unarmed?”

      Well, you would because you are an ignorant liberal.

    7. The Rifleman – “and you had the option of checking out any time you wanted to. On the other hand, people that were “drafted” into the military did NOT have that option.”

      Sir, please remember your statement if the occasion ever occurs in your life when you may need a law enforcement officer to possibly come to you, or your family’s, aid for life threatening reasons. I took my oath as a permanent promise to attend to any and all situations dispatched to. Failure to act is not an option for any LEO that isn’t willing to accept his own criminal and civil prosecution for not performing his duty. Also, there hasn’t been a military draft to be considered in quite a while. It’s all voluntary and if going AWOL seems like a viable option, the paperwork signed during the induction process will hold any volunteer to a set of standards similar to a LEO’s oath.

      JCH – “Learn how to defend yourself without resorting to using deadly force. Every cop should be able to defend his/her self without resorting to use deadly force against an unarmed person.”

      JCH, certified LEOs are trained to defend ourselves, as well as others with many methods; verbally, physically and can escalate up to the use of deadly force if necessary to prevent the loss of life or severe bodily injury to MYSELF, others, or to prevent the acts of a forcible felony. You seem to roll the actions of ALL law enforcement officers into the form of a single superhuman with your comment. We come in all shapes and sizes, young and old, tall and short. One cop will not have the same physical abilities to take care of business as every other cop in the nation. We’re just plain ol’ citizens, just like everyone else. We just felt a calling to serve, trained to be able to perform and took an oath promising we would perform to the greatest of our abilities and accept accountability for our performance. Use of deadly force is the last resort we ever implement to mitigate a situation. Less lethal options are certainly preferred and are always considered. We have department policies and state laws dictating use of force. All use of force is held to the strictest accountability. A criminal may wake up in the morning with an all or nothing agenda and be willing to take out anyone that manages to interrupt that agenda. If this cop is “invited” to check out that perp’s intentions, I’ll arrive with the intention of mitigating the situation, all the while assuring I make it home that evening to hug the wife and eat a home cooked supper before resting so I’ll be able to go out the next day and perform my duty as promised. If you can guarantee to the LEO community that all criminals will not attempt to kill me or someone else, then reconsideration of the steps of “force” may be reasonable. Until then, I believe the LEO community will continue to conform to their department policies and state laws they are sworn to uphold.
      Major Van Harl – Someone coming at you with a knife (deadly force) that is a very good reason to strike them in their head with your police issued baton; you are however trying to stop them not kill them.

      Major Van Harl, I disagree with your statement. Myself in the same situation, I’ll choose to stop deadly force with deadly force. The choice of what “tool” to use can be confusing sometimes, but I will not purposely risk my life by selecting an implement of defense less than what a subject is threatening me with. I would not be considering killing the individual in your scenario. My intention would be stopping the threat from attacking me with the knife. If he gets close enough for me to strike with a baton, I hesitated when I should have already acted. Anyone attempting to attack a firearm carrying LEO with a knife should expect similar results in most parts of this country.

      The situation in Missouri was terrible, to say the least. The media, the outsiders that went to great lengths to aggravate the tense situation, and the “Monday morning quarterbacks” are all tainting the rest of the country to boiling point proportions. I’m perfectly content to allow the internal investigation, external investigation, grand jury, prosecution, defense, jury and judge the chance to evaluate the evidence – ALL OF THE EVIDENCE – and respond with a reasonable and just decision. Due to a constant media presence, I am not sure that can happen in a way that is guaranteed under our Constitution. All published info I’ve been privy to so far only escalates issues not even related to actual events and promotes their own agendas.

    8. The Rifleman – “and you had the option of checking out any time you wanted to. On the other hand, people that were “drafted” into the military did NOT have that option.”

      Sir, please remember your statement if the occasion ever occurs in your life when you may possibly need a law enforcement officer to come to you, or your family’s aid for life threatening reasons. Hopefully, the responding officer to your call won’t even consider “checking out” rather than performing as expected. Any officer that would intentionally do that would be subject to serious penalties if anything negative occurred by ignoring his dispatch. I took my oath as a permanent promise to attend to any and all situations dispatched to. Failure to act is not an option for any LEO that isn’t willing to accept his own criminal and civil prosecution for not performing his duty. Also, there hasn’t been a military draft to be considered in quite a while. It’s all voluntary and if going AWOL seems like a viable option, the paperwork signed during the induction process will hold any volunteer to a set of standards similar to what a LEO will be subject to if he violates his oath.

    9. JCH – “Learn how to defend yourself without resorting to using deadly force. Every cop should be able to defend his/her self without resorting to use deadly force against an unarmed person.”

      JCH, certified LEOs are trained to defend ourselves, as well as others with many methods; verbally, physically and can escalate up to the use of deadly force if necessary to prevent the loss of life or severe bodily injury to MYSELF, others, or to prevent the acts of a forcible felony. Your suggestion would be great if it was actually possible. The antagonists don’t always play fair. You seem to roll the actions of ALL law enforcement officers into the form of a single superhuman with your comment. We come in all shapes and sizes, young and old, tall and short. One cop will not have the same physical abilities to take care of business as every other cop in the nation. We’re just plain ol’ citizens, just like everyone else. We just felt a calling to serve, trained to be able to perform and took an oath promising we would perform to the greatest of our abilities and accept accountability for our performance. Use of deadly force is the last resort we ever implement to mitigate a situation. Less lethal options are certainly preferred and are always considered. We have department policies and state laws dictating use of force. All use of force is held to the strictest accountability. A criminal may wake up in the morning with an all or nothing agenda and may be willing to take out anyone that manages to interrupt that agenda. If this cop is “invited” to check out that perp’s intentions, I’ll arrive with the intention of mitigating the situation, all the while assuring I make it home that evening to hug the wife and eat a home cooked supper before resting so I’ll be able to go out the next day and perform my duty as promised. God willing, that’s the way it’ll be. If you can guarantee to the LEO community that all criminals will not attempt to kill me or someone else, then reconsideration of the steps of “force” may be reasonable. Until then, I believe the LEO community will continue to conform to their department policies and state laws they are sworn to uphold.

    10. William on August 28, 2014 at 1:59 AM said:

      JCH, LEOs are trained to defend by many methods; verbally, physically, and use of deadly force. Your comment rolls all LEOs into a single mold. We are all shapes and sizes, young, old, tall, short. We don’t all have the same physical abilities. We felt a call to serve, trained to perform, took an oath that we’d perform at the top of our ability and accept responsibility for our acts. Deadly force isn’t what we want to do. Other options are preferred and considered. Policy and laws regulate our use of force. “Bad guy” has an agenda. He’s willing to kill anyone that interferes. I respond to the call. I go to mitigate the issue and pray I go home that evening to hug the wife and prepare for tomorrow. Guarantee to the LEO community that no one will “harm” anymore; reconsideration of “force” may be possible. If not we’ll just adhere to the policies and laws we swore to uphold.

    11. William on August 28, 2014 at 2:28 AM said:

      Major Van Harl – Someone coming at you with a knife (deadly force) that is a very good reason to strike them in their head with your police issued baton; you are however trying to stop them not kill them.
      Major Van Harl, I agree with the justification in your scenario. In the same situation, I’d stop this attack with my sidearm. The choice of what “tool” to use can be confusing. I will not purposely risk my life by selecting an implement of defense less than what a subject is threatening me with, even if a head strike is justified. An attack with hands gets response with spray or baton. I’d have to stop this knife threat with bullets. If he gets close enough for me to strike with a baton, I hesitated when I should’ve been acting.

    12. The Rifleman on August 28, 2014 at 6:38 AM said:

      William. with all due respect, I think maybe you missed my point regarding “checking out”. What I meant by that statement is: he always has the option of quitting his job as a LEO if the stress of being an LEO gets to be too much for him. This had nothing to do about not responding to a call, or going A.W.O.L. in the military. (i.e. if you can’t take the heat, then get out of the kitchen.) As I said, I agreed with the actions taken by this officer.

    13. […] The human body is fragile and it doesn’t take much force to the head to critically injure or kill someone. A threat of great bodily harm or death, to be in fear for on’es own life, doesn’t require your attacker to be armed with a firearm. Follow the link to read a great explanation of the risk associated with head injuries and the necessity to respond with lethal force when threatened with being attacked. Click to Read: One Punch Homicide And A Police Officer’s Safety […]

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