When the Intruder is a Cop

by Greg Ellifritz

Gun Barrel Self Defense
Gun Barrel Self Defense
Buckeye Firearms Foundation
Buckeye Firearms Foundation

Ohio – -(Ammoland.com)- [Recently] at work I responded to an urgent call for backup. An armed homeowner pulled a gun on one of my fellow officers.

In the end, everything turned out fine. No one got shot. By the time I arrived at the home, both officer and homeowner had secured their respective weapons and were talking peacefully. It was a tense situation for a few seconds and could have ended tragically.

Here’s how it went down…

The officer was dispatched on a “check the well being” call. A high school student had called police to report that he had received several texts from his friend. The text messages hinted that the friend was planning on killing himself. The officer was sent to the friend’s house to ensure that he wasn’t suicidal.

It was 9 pm and dark outside. The house was lighted up inside and the officer heard sounds that indicated the house was occupied. The officer knocked on the door vigorously and rang the door bell. No one answered.

The officer could have just left the scene at that point, but he is conscientious and wanted to make sure that the boy wasn’t in danger, or even worse, had already attempted to kill himself.

Seeing lights on at the rear of the house, the officer decided to try knocking at the back door. He entered the back yard through an unlocked fence gate and was walking towards the back door of the house when the homeowner spotted him.

The homeowner was inside the house and couldn’t see well. He heard his gate open and close, then saw a man dressed in all dark clothing poking around in his back yard with a flashlight in hand. The homeowner ran to get his pistol.

By the time the officer reached the back door, he was looking down the barrel of the homeowner’s gun. The cop drew his own gun, called for backup, shined his flashlight on his badge, and verbally identified himself as a police officer. The homeowner immediately lowered his gun, then secured it before opening the back door and talking to the officer. Tragedy averted.

Let me start by saying that no one in this situation did anything wrong.

The cop was trying to make sure a boy wasn’t going to kill himself. The homeowner was legally defending his residence from a suspicious intruder approaching the back door of his house. Some frazzled nerves, poor training, or a couple more pounds of pressure on either weapon’s trigger would have resulted in a tragic outcome.

How do we prevent situations like this from going bad?

We have to start by teaching cops to take extra care to identify themselves in any ambiguous situation. Any time a cop is on another person’s property, he should be in full uniform. He should repeatedly verbalize the fact that he is a police officer. Basically, cops need to slow down a bit and look at their actions from the perspective of an armed homeowner. Would the cop’s actions be thought of as “suspicious” by the property owner? If so, it’s up to the cop to change his approach to ensure that the resident knows that the person lurking in the darkness is a police officer instead of a potential home invader.

Second, you as a homeowner must recognize that there are legitimate reasons for police to be on your property (and occasionally in your house). Not every “intruder” is a criminal. I hear a lot of talk from armed citizens saying “I never break any laws. There’s no reason for the police to be on my property. I’ll shoot first. Better to be judged by 12 than carried by six…etc.” That logic is wrong. The homeowner in this story didn’t break any laws. He didn’t have any reason to suspect that the police would be coming to his house. Despite the fact that the homeowner did not violate any laws, there was still a legitimate reason for the police to be poking around his back yard.

There are lots of completely legal situations that could result in a cop, fireman, or utility worker to need to be in your yard. Let’s use some logic here. What is the more likely explanation for a strange man to be in your yard at night? Is it more common that that stranger might be a first responder of some sort, or is it more common that the stranger would be a home invader? Speaking for myself, I’ve never been the victim of a home invasion, but I’ve seen utility workers in my yard dozens of times…even at night. I’ve had firefighters walking through my yard trying to find the source of a brush fire. I live in a relatively safe neighborhood. If I play the odds, it’s more likely that anyone on my property is a neighbor or first responder than it is that the person is a criminal.

We all just need to calm down a bit. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t defend your property or yourself. Just make sure that the person you are “defending” against is a real threat. Shooting the policeman who is trying to ensure your son isn’t trying to kill himself doesn’t create the outcome you are looking for.

Cops need to make sure their actions don’t appear criminal. Armed citizens need to ensure that they practice good target discrimination and take some training about how to adequately address threats in a low light environment. Both groups need to be calm and clear thinking, without the automatic “I am right” egotistical response that is commonly seen.

Cops don’t want to get shot. Armed citizens don’t want to mistakenly shoot a cop who is trying to help them. Both groups want the same outcome. But it is only by understanding the other group’s perspective that we can safely achieve it.

 

Greg Ellifritz is the full time firearms and defensive tactics training officer for a central Ohio police department. He holds instructor or master instructor certifications in more than 75 different weapon systems, defensive tactics programs and police specialty areas. Greg has a master's degree in Public Policy and Management and is an instructor for both the Ohio Peace Officer's Training Academy and the Tactical Defense Institute.

For more information or to contact Greg, visit his training site at Active Response Training.

About:
Buckeye Firearms Association is a grassroots political action committee dedicated to defending and advancing the right of Ohio citizens to own and use firearms for all legal activities. Visit: www.buckeyefirearms.org

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    RattlerjakeTSgt BSeahorsetjJerry Bailey Recent comment authors
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    TSgt B
    Guest
    TSgt B

    One issue that I do NOT see addressed here is the one of “us vs. them”. Unfortunately, this is a serious attitude problem pushed upon the cops by their politically correct superiors. They are taught to assume that EVERYONE is suspect until proven otherwise, and this attitude continues even after constructive communication commences. This needs to change. I say this as a retired military man and former LEO.

    tj
    Guest
    tj

    “And if someone does break into your house he has so-far only committed breaking and entering laws.”

    He has also become target practice if i don’t recognize him. It is assumed that he has criminal intent.

    Jerry Bailey
    Guest
    Jerry Bailey

    Police often tend to be in too much of a hurry. Probably because they are often far away and often get there too late. Accidents can happen. Like when firemen are found to be killing more people at intersection crashes than they save in fires, in a particular year. A big truck full of water with siren on, blowing air horn at intersections while running red lights, and stop signs, is a bad thing. (I think that ended in about 1966). All that said it is more than a little illegal to shoot someone who has not even broken into… Read more »

    james
    Guest
    james

    Agree patrol car should have had the light bar activated and pull into the driveway.

    Jeff82
    Guest
    Jeff82

    If you could see a uniformed officer draw his gun then you could see he was an officer. Bad guys don’t wear police gear.

    ole Shoemaker
    Guest
    ole Shoemaker

    This sounds exactly like a “swatting” deal to me… All I have is questions.. One is why the LEO did not go back to his car and turn lights and siren on to wake the people up ??? Then go back to Front door… Why would you pull your gun on someone who had a gun on you, if you knew you where in the back yard unidentified… Would you rather die than raise your hands and say hold on I am a LEO.. Let me Identify myself ??? WAS the kid having problems and if not was the “friend”… Read more »

    Chuck
    Guest
    Chuck

    If the cop drew his gun with a gun trained on him, he was a dumb SOB. He is very lucky that he is not dead now and something is lacking in his training. The homeowner had every right to blow him away when he reached for it and I would have. He draws his gun before even saying he is a cop. How dumb can you be. He was begging to be shot. This guy needs to be sent back through the academy because he didn’t learn anything the first time. Yes, he did something very wrong!!!

    David
    Guest
    David

    So a fireman needs a warrant now to enter your property while your home is on fire? Interesting. I didn’t know they are handing out law degrees online now.

    freewill
    Guest
    freewill

    the police are not above the law, he was an intruder without a lawful warrant, friends or relatives could have been called, theyre called law enforcement for a reason..nobody answered the front door so he should have left

    Steve K
    Guest
    Steve K

    Bad guy in police uniform, saying,”I’m a police officer”. ??? Now what?

    Raymond Miller
    Guest
    Raymond Miller

    Great way to avoid a terrible mistake from happening. Those red and blue lights will flash through the home and anyone inside who looks first will be able know what is going on. Also there is a little trick being used by Blumturd people where they call the police and report things like this to the police it’s called “Swatting”. They are doing this against persons that they know are gun owners in obvious hope that someone will get shot, This is the kind of scum we are fighting.

    Dave
    Guest
    Dave

    You got this right 100%.

    William Clardy
    Guest
    William Clardy

    A good article as far as it explores the issues, but one point which you didn’t address is the tremendous imbalance in how the law would treat the police officer or the homeowner if either had pulled a trigger. It’s a virtual certainty that the DA would have cleared the officer if he shot the homeowner because the base legal standard for justifying an officer-committed homicide is only that they felt an imminent threat, regardless of the events leading up to the threat. But if the homeowner had nervously shot the officer as he saw him drawing his gun, how… Read more »

    Dale Bailey
    Guest
    Dale Bailey

    I live in the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania, within an hour’s drive of New York City and Philadelphia .There have been several homicides (I’ve lost count ), break-ins ,rapes , and open drug dealing ,all within a half mile of my home. The county courthouse is nine blocks away , the borough hall/police station is seven blocks away ,the average police response time ,including a shooting , the five times I called is twenty-five minutes . Do I expect to ever see a police officer in my back yard ? NO….NEVER ….NOT EVEN WHEN THEY WERE LOOKING FOR AN ACTIVE… Read more »

    Jim in Conroe
    Guest
    Jim in Conroe

    Had a similar situation, when a uniformed officer climbed the fence into our backyard pursuing a suspected burglar, who had actually gone into my neighbor’s yard. The first thing I saw was a flashlight beam through my back door. I retrieved my firearm and approached the glass patio door When I recognized the uniform officer, I lowered my weapon and held it by the barrel, muzzle down. I opened the door for the officer and advised him that I was armed. This being Houston, he took that in stride. I opened our gate to let him out.

    wraith67
    Guest
    wraith67

    There was something wrong with the front door?

    Terry
    Guest
    Terry

    I was a cop and you can draw and fire before the armed person can pull the trigger. I did so in training. I would do so in real life rather than give up my gun. I am glad that the cop had the presence of mind to identify himself before doing so. I’m glad the homeowner was willing to wait that mili-second rather than just pull the trigger.

    Seahorse
    Guest
    Seahorse

    You might get by with that in training, however, in the situation mentioned, if I feel the need to draw my weapon, the trigger will be back and my finger will be resting on the trigger, you would have to be very quick to draw and fire before I let the lead out. There are no doubt some very quick operators, but I would not want to bet my life on it. The cop should have remained very calm while moving his flashlight to shine on his badge and those moves should only come after the cop has verbally identified… Read more »

    Grey Beard
    Guest
    Grey Beard

    I’ve had LEO and Utility on my property late at night. In EVERY case they came to the front door and knocked. I turned on the light and saw a person in uniform and a vehicle with flashing lights. I opened the door and once found the Police were looking for a small boy missing from his home late at night. In both cases of utility workers their truck was out front with flashing lights and they were in “uniform” (cap) with yellow vests. It seems that access to some utility poles is much easier through my back yard. I… Read more »

    Arthur
    Guest
    Arthur

    the home owner didn’t hear the officer knocking on the door but did hear the gate to the yard. Something is not right here. Just saying…

    Darrell
    Guest
    Darrell

    Where as this is a good article and example of a good out come. I disagree with your opinion that Police, firemen, or utility workers have a right to be on your property. No they do not!!! There is no perceived law or right given to them to trespass on anyone property. By Law they must identify themselves and two have a warrant from a judge to circumvent any trespassing. Otherwise a land or home owner has every Right to refuse them being there. This is why there are Castle laws and people have a right to defend themselves and… Read more »

    Darrell
    Guest
    Darrell

    Doesn’t make sense…By the time the officer reached the back door, he was looking down the barrel of the homeowner’s gun. The cop drew his own gun, called for backup, shined his flashlight on his badge, and verbally identified himself as a police officer. If your looking down the barrel of my gun , your not going to have time to pull your own weapon. The biggest mistake people make is not being mentally conditioned when they feel threatened. Don’t misunderstand me, I’m glad the cop was okay after this confrontation. If your going to pull a weapon then be… Read more »

    paul
    Guest
    paul

    I work for a utility company in a large ohio city. We frequently enter the property in different areas of town, both good and bad. I drive a large utility truck that has flashing lights, which would be on continuously if I am out during both the day and night. I have never personally had someone point a gun at me, but I have had co workers experience this, I have been questioned by homeowners, one did bring a baseball bat with him outside. We usually run in pairs, but not always. I do not knock on doors after a… Read more »

    Carl
    Guest
    Carl

    Sgt. Dave, I have several relatives, many now retired, on the Houston TX. PD and Sheriff Dept. some were excellent and two that I still communicate with today even though I’m a 1000 miles away, use the bubble gum machine to their advantage, I also have a couple that just enjoy the idea of carrying a gun and a badge. Neither could qualify for the Military but a police uniform is a good substitute. These two are also anti civilian guns, Period. I have often wondered how they passed the Psych test.

    Sgt. Dave (Ret.)
    Guest
    Sgt. Dave (Ret.)

    When I was an Officer, I always, except in some special covert operation , like a drug raid or warrant service, used to park as close to the house as possible and turned on my emergency lights. Anyone that heard a knock on their door and peeked outside could immediately see there was an Officer at their home. I did that anytime I had to go to a home in the dark, where and when it was practical.

    5WarVeteran
    Guest
    5WarVeteran

    I wonder how often “Bad Guys” knock? There probably is a statistic on that.

    Well written topic Greg Ellifritz.

    Rattlerjake
    Guest
    Rattlerjake

    Actually there have been many instances. They may do it to draw you away from another entrance where their buddies are coming through, they may do it to see if the house is occupied, they may do it so that once the owner opens the door they can force their way in. It is far more common than you think.

    5WarVeteran
    Guest
    5WarVeteran

    Excellent response Joe!

    Joe
    Guest
    Joe

    One of the best articles on the civilian/police lethal force interface that I’ve ever read. A copy should be included with every purchase of a gun intended for home defense.

    Cecil
    Guest
    Cecil

    I will still have the gun, if he does not identify himself and draws a weapon – tell me, Greg, what would a cop do then? He would probably shoot and it would be ‘sad, but justified’. I have nothing against the police, but your premise of, “Who would be more likely to be in your yard?” Is flawed – IT WAS AT NIGHT.

    Rattlerjake
    Guest
    Rattlerjake

    My same thoughts. Since when do utility workers come into someones yard without knocking on the door? And why would they be there at night unless a major storm went through and they were restoring power? If you are in my yard at night, uninvited, you are WRONG. And if you draw a weapon on me you’re dead! That cop became an immediate threat when he drew his weapon; he could have identified himself without threatening the homeowner.

    Jeffrey Lee
    Guest
    Jeffrey Lee

    Re: The phone. Too many people have no land line phones. The police have no way to know who to call for a particular address anymore. Everyone should be certain to have their cell phone is registered with the local 911 dispatch for their own safety.

    Shaft
    Guest
    Shaft

    Blessings Greg.

    HandyDan
    Guest
    HandyDan

    When I was 16, I was chased home at night by a vehicle without markings and substantially different from any police vehicle used in our area. I got home and made it into the garage, closing the door behind me. I got out of the car and there was a furious pounding at the door. Thinking it was my parent, I stupidly opened the door. When I opened the door I was manhandled to the ground by a man in civilian clothes. As it turned out, it was a detective who thought I had robbed the video store I had… Read more »

    Raconteur
    Guest
    Raconteur

    There is a magical device that was invented a few years ago, called a PHONE. Perhaps the cop or dispatcher could call and notify the house that a cop is outside? Just a thought…

    Rattlerjake
    Guest
    Rattlerjake

    I find it odd that the author never said whether there was actually a kid in danger or it was a prank call. There are calls being made by anti-gun jerkoffs that know the homeowner is a gun owner and is trying to create a confrontation, that’s what this sounded like.

    ross
    Guest
    ross

    True story.talking to my brother about someone at the door and put their foot in so couldn’t close it.jokingly said I would shoot it if they didn’t remove it.my other brother said he would do the sam e.what he didn’t here was it was a cop probably rogue.funny thing that brother is a cop.how stories change