Officer Down: Never Say Die – Body Armor Saves the Day

By Brian McKenna

Description of the Incident
Bryan Power was a young officer. Having only six months law enforcement experience, he was barely 20 and working alone. Since the town’s population was less than 4,000 and his department had only seven officers, it wasn’t unusual for a lone officer to be on duty at any given time. Although backup was available from nearby agencies, it was limited and often a long time in coming. Fortunately, the crime rate was relatively low, with few violent crimes. As was normal, Power’s shift had passed largely without incident. He was just finishing up a burglary report when a middle-aged Hispanic woman, a teenage girl and a young boy came into the station. The woman was visibly upset and rapidly speaking Spanish. Although Power understood the language, the woman was speaking quickly and in an unfamiliar dialect. He understood that she was upset about something her husband had done, but the rest of the words were gibberish.

Fortunately, the language barrier wasn’t an insurmountable problem. Since Anita Reynolds, the municipal judge, spoke fluent Spanish in several dialects, Power was sure she could help. He asked the woman to follow him to her office. After conversing for a short time, Judge Reynolds explained that the woman, a recent immigrant from El Salvador, (Gloria Delgado) had been arguing with her husband Carlos. Apparently, Carlos had ordered Gloria and her children to leave and refused to listen to reason. The judge suggested that Power talk to Carlos to see if he could resolve the dispute.

Power would later learn that Carlos Delgado had a reputation as a decent, law-abiding family man with no criminal record nor prior incidents of violence. He had not been drinking and did not use drugs, but had recently been having trouble controlling his temper. On several occasions he had suddenly erupted into a rage against his wife and children for no apparent reason. There had been no physical violence, but the intensity of his anger frightened his family. Earlier in the day, while Gloria was at work, he verbally attacked his step daughter Leticia, the teenager who had accompanied Mrs. Delgado to the station, kicking her out of the house. Leticia had gone to her mother’s place of employment and told her about the confrontation. After going home to talk to her husband and finding that he was unbending in his demand that she and the children move out, Mrs. Delgado had decided to ask the police for help.

Although Power didn’t know all the details, he realized he would have to intervene. He wanted to help, but he didn’t want to handle the situation without more information. With the judge translating for him, he asked Mrs. Delgado several questions, including whether Carlos had been physically violent, if he had been drinking or taking drugs and if he owned any firearms. The woman answered “no” to all three questions. In fact, her answers to additional inquiries gave no indication that her husband might be dangerous.

Power thanked the judge for the translation and told Mrs. Delgado that he would follow her home. As he stepped outside, the scorching summer heat blanketed his dark uniform shirt. Temperatures like these made him painfully aware of the thick ballistic vest encasing his upper torso. Body armor wasn’t fun to wear, but Power understood the value of being protected. Not having the money to buy a new vest, he’d borrowed enough from his father to buy a used one from a fellow officer just two weeks previously. While asking his father for the money, Power had made the comment that body armor was the best life insurance he could buy. As he got behind the wheel of the sweltering patrol car to follow Mrs. Delgado home, he had no inkling how prophetic that statement would be…

A few minutes later, Mrs. Delgado’s station wagon came to a stop in front of a rugged frame house, surrounded by a four-foot high chainlink fence. As Power pulled up behind the wagon, Mrs. Delgado and her children climbed out and headed for the side of the vehicle facing away from the house. The husband was nowhere to be seen and the house was dark inside. Power walked over to where the family was gathered and again asked Mrs. Delgado if her husband had been drinking or had access to any firearms. Again, she answered “no.” He told her to stay behind while he talked to Carlos.

Power opened the front gate and moved up the sidewalk to the front door. The solid door was open, but a screen door stood between him and the dark interior of the house. The contrast between the bright sunlight and the darkness of the house made it impossible for Power to see inside as he moved closer. Then, with a speed equalled only by its intensity, the young officer became aware of the utter silence! A hunter since childhood, Power knew what silence meant. His instincts cried out in alarm as he unconsciously slowed his pace. Fiercely alert to his surroundings, he  instinctively braced for the attack he knew was coming.

Before he could pinpoint the source of the threat, the screen door blew apart and something crashed into his chest like a whack from a massive baseball bat. He heard no sound and felt no pain, but the blow instantly dropped him to one knee and his ears began to ring. Bright blood was pooling on the porch below and something warm was spilling from his mouth. Swiping one hand across his mouth, he found it covered in blood.

Without hesitation, Power rose to his feet, drawing his Ruger .357 magnum as he moved to get out of the line-of-fire. There was a large oleander bush back to his left and he headed in that direction. The bush afforded no real cover, but provided some concealment. He’d also be able to watch the front and left side of the house from there. He realized he had to keep Delgado inside the structure. He saw dim movement in a window as he moved and fired directly at it. Continuing to move, he fired two more rounds through the next window, hoping to keep his assailant’s head down and scurried the rest of the way to the bush. As he began to move around behind the bush, another shot slammed into his lower back, just to the right of his tailbone. It was a deer slug, fired from a 12-gauge pump shotgun. It tore through his intestines and exited near his right front pants pocket. Like the first shot, the blow caused no pain, but it knocked his right leg out from under him and he crashed to the ground.

The first shot had been a deer slug as well, fired from about five yards away, the optimum range for maximum velocity. It had hit him in the upper left chest, clipping his badge and crashing into his newly-purchased vest. Although not rated to stop 12-gauge slugs, the armor had stopped the round. However, the impact from the huge chunk of lead had driven the front panel about three and a half inches into Power’s chest, bruising his heart, collapsing his left lung and causing considerable internal bleeding. It had also paralyzed his left arm. Power was grievously wounded, deprived of the use of an arm and leg, and battling a hidden madman from an exposed position. With only 14 rounds of ammunition left, no radio and no backup en route, his situation seemed hopeless. However, Power was not one to give up. He crawled behind the bush, proned out and watched for Delgado.

More shots rang out. Trained by years of hunting, Power could identify firearms from their report and he didn’t like what he heard. These shots cracked with the high pitch of a large caliber rifle. Power knew that such a weapon could do a lot more damage than the shotgun at this range. Worse yet, the crazed gunman was now firing at his own family! Bullets were tearing into the side of the station wagon, and Delgado’s wife and children were standing (frozen in terror) just on the other side of the vehicle.

To Bryan Power–whose soul burned with the spirit of a warrior–this was intolerable. His safety became secondary when the lives of others were at stake. He yelled at the family to get down and fired his last two shots through the screen door to draw Delgado’s attention away from them. Reloading a revolver with one hand is never easy. However, due to his injuries, Power was unable to rise to a position to make the effort less difficult. Still, he was well trained and unwilling to give up. Using only his right hand, he pushed the cylinder release, swung the cylinder out and ejected the brass. After slipping the frame of the gun behind his belt, making sure to keep the ejection rod on the outside, he reloaded with a speedloader. That done, he drew the weapon, pushed the cylinder closed with his thumb and trained the weapon on the house again.

Delgado’s family continued to stand trancelike next to the station wagon, and Power still couldn’t pinpoint the man’s position inside the house. Mustering strength, Power shuffled over to the four-foot fence while under fire, jumped over it and made his way to Mrs. Delgado and her children. While continuing to plea with them, he grabbed each one, dragging them to the ground behind the right rear wheel of the station wagon. After ordering everyone to stay put, he moved to the rear bumper, where he returned fire as Delgado’s Winchester .30-30 lever action rifle rounds blasted all around him. Crawling to his patrol car, he fired a couple more shots, took cover behind the right front tire and reloaded again.

The time to call for help was beyond overdue, but Power had no walkie-talkie and this was the first time he had gotten into position to use the car radio. All the car doors were locked and the engine had to be running before the radio would work. He reached for the keys on his belt, only to encounter another serious setback–they weren’t there! Moving back to the front of the patrol car, he was granted a stroke of good fortune. The keys were laying on the ground just a few feet in front of the gate. In spite of drawing fire from Delgado, Power’s desperate need for the keys motivated him to crawl over, snatch them up and return to the relative safety of his patrol car. While leaning back against the passenger door, he reached up and tried the key in the lock, but couldn’t get it to work. Undaunted, he laid the muzzle of his .357 against the window and fired, shattering the glass. He reached inside, released the lock and crawled across the front seat. The engine started up, and he grabbed the mic and called for assistance.

Just then, two young boys rode up on bicycles. Although the patrol car afforded some protection, they were still in danger. Power stopped transmitting long enough to shoo them away. Again, he called in to clarify his location and situation. As he lowered himself back into the seat, Power thought about his injuries. He knew he was badly wounded and believed he was going to die, but refused to dwell on it. In his mind, there were more important things to worry about, like preventing Delgado from spreading his bloodshed. He quickly determined that his only option was to hold on and keep Delgado pinned down until help arrived. He crawled back to the front of his squad car, where he split his attention between firing an occasional shot in Delgado’s direction and shouting at the family to stay back.

Since Power had already used his last speedloader and spent one of his rounds breaking the car window, he was running low on ammunition. He wanted to save two rounds in case Delgado rushed his position. Focusing on keeping Delgado contained inside the house, he used his ammunition sparingly, only firing when absolutely necessary. Power had to wait another four long minutes before backup arrived, but he managed to keep Delgado pinned down without anyone else getting hurt. As two officers lifted him into a patrol car to take him to the hospital, Power noticed smoke seeping out of the windows of the house. Within moments, the home was engulfed in flames.

A subsequent investigation disclosed that Delgado had set the fire before succumbing to wounds from Power’s magnum. He’d fired 68-70 rounds from his shotgun and rifle, and had also been armed with a .38 caliber revolver, which he had not used. It was never determined why Mrs. Delgado lied to Power about her husband’s firearms, but it has been speculated that she feared the police because law enforcement in El Salvador couldn’t be trusted. Power’s first two shots had found their mark. The first had hit Delgado squarely in the chest and pierced his left lung and heart before lodging in his back. It had been a mortal wound, but the man had survived long enough to keep up the gunfire for another seven or eight minutes. Power’s second round had struck Delgado in the lower right abdomen and lodged in his liver. Although not as critical as the first, it had caused extensive bleeding and might have proven fatal .

Remarkably, Bryan Power made a full recovery despite losing 33 pints of blood and dying four times during surgery. The paralysis in his left arm was short-lived and he was able to regain full use of his right leg after just five weeks of therapy. He returned to full duty six months later and remained in law enforcement for another ten years. He is now in private business and doing well.

Analysis: Questionable-Risk Situations
Officer Power was forced into battle against a brutal, unseen assailant while alone, severely wounded and outgunned. Still, he fought back with a level of courage, determination and commitment that almost defies belief. His winning attitude and fighting spirit will be the focus of much of this analysis, but first, let’s examine some other important learning points.

Danger Signs
Officer Power first realized that something was wrong when he noticed the deep silence as he neared the front door. He’d been an avid hunter since childhood and knew that silence means a predator could be nearby. Although he wasn’t consciously aware of it, he now knows that he had expected Delgado to show his anger by yelling, banging things around or making a lot of noise, which made the silence even more ominous. Power didn’t process this additional information at the conscious level. Instead, he only felt the danger, but that was enough to make him know he was in serious trouble.

Similarly, he later realized that the behavior of Delgado’s family was another subtle, but significant danger sign. Rather than yelling at Delgado to come outside, attempting to run into the house to confront him there, or otherwise showing their anger, as disputants often do when angry and emboldened by the presence of the police, they were also silent. They remained next to the station wagon, with the body of the vehicle shielding them from the house, indicating they were afraid of Delgado. Again, Power wasn’t consciously aware of this at the time, but he probably perceived it at the subconscious level.

This is the way the mind works when danger is present. There is seldom time for the conscious mind to think through all the sensory input in its sluggish, rational manner, so the subconscious mind does the work. It detects danger signs, analyzes them and communicates its conclusions to the conscious mind as alarm or fear. This is vitally important, because it means we must learn to trust our instincts  Rather than ignoring them or trying to explain them, we must immediately recognize fear for what it is and do something about it. This is not to say that we should overreact or panic when we feel the uneasiness that accompanies potentially dangerous activities. However, we must take action when our senses indicate there is cause for concern.

In this case, officer Power slowed down and began to take greater inventory of his surroundings. This is what we are hardwired to do, because in nature–where predators must make direct contact in order to make a kill–we must move slowly, while scanning when nearing danger. In the modern, man-made world, it is equally important to increase our awareness and often, to slow down. However, at times, slowing down can be dangerous. Because of man’s capacity to kill from a distance, slowing down can make for an easier target. It is also vitally important to change directions when in an exposed location. In this case, quick movement to either side of the door would have made Power a moving target as he went to the cover of the door frame.

On the other hand, Power can hardly be faulted for not immediately moving to one side, because he was simply doing what his instincts dictated. Unlike those of us who have the luxury of learning from his experience, he had not been forewarned about the danger or trained to respond to it. If he had been preconditioned (through forethought and training) to move laterally when in a dangerously exposed position, he would have significantly reduced his response time. This point reinforces the need for realistic officer safety training.

Since he was the only officer on duty the day of the shooting, Power would’ve had to call another agency to obtain backup. Consequently, he was reluctant to ask for help. Given that the call did not appear to entail much risk, he decided to handle it alone. In hindsight, should a call of this nature be considered low risk? There was a good chance that Delgado was still angry, and Power was essentially responding to a domestic disturbance that, although not in progress, had potential to flare up again when Delgado’s family returned.

Rural officers get used to handling calls alone. With this in mind, it’s understandable that he didn’t ask for help. Nevertheless, it’s important to emphasize that it’s always best to obtain backup on any kind of domestic incident, even if it’s from another agency. The risks are significant enough to justify it, and it’s better to have backup and not need it, than to need it and not have it. Because of the shortage of manpower in many rural areas, officers often make a habit of backing up others in adjoining communities. While this is a good practice, it doesn’t make up for the scarcity of officers. Rural officers must be more patient, self-reliant and innovative in their approach to safety than those in more populated areas. They may have to lay back while waiting for backup or take extra time to assess a situation before taking action. In addition, they must often improvise tactics to compensate for their lack of manpower. For example, when handling domestic disturbances alone, officer Power often called the disputant outside on his PA. Similarly, the author’s first exposure to a passenger-side approach on traffic stops came from a safety-conscious rural officer, long before it was taught on a regular basis. Finally, many rural officers readily admit that they wait as long as it takes for backup to arrive before initiating traffic stops on suspicious vehicles. And many also admit that they have occasionally declined to make certain traffic stops when backup wasn’t available. Rather than suggesting a lack of courage, this demonstrates sound judgment.

Inquiring About Weapons
Mrs. Delgado lied when officer Power asked her if there were any weapons in the house, a dangerous piece of false information. While you should ask about the presence of weapons, it’s equally important to be skeptical of the answer. Some people may honestly be unaware of the presence of firearms. However, they may be afraid that the officer will injure the other disputant if he believes him to be armed. They may also be afraid of the other party and reluctant to risk upsetting them. When asking about weapons, watch carefully for signs of deception and follow up with more questions if you believe anything is unusual about the response. Officer Power detected no deception in Mrs. Delgado’s answer, and he was a cautious officer with good instincts for the job. Welcome an affirmative answer when asking about weapons, and follow up by asking where they are kept. Also remember that the  subject may be telling a lie.

Positioning Upon Arrival
Unfortunately, officer Power followed Delgado’s family to the residence and they  pulled up out front, leading Power to stop there as well. In retrospect, this put him at a disadvantage by alerting Delgado to his presence. How often have we done the same thing? This case should serve as a stark example of the importance of positioning, even when parking our patrol units. Although it would have been impractical for Power to stop anywhere else after Delgado’s family stopped in front of the house, he could have pulled alongside them and asked them to move to another location. When following someone to the scene of an earlier dispute, a better option is to agree to meet at a location out of sight. This will enable you to ask additional questions and modify your plan before making a low profile approach to the scene.

As mentioned, officer Power’s arrival on the scene increased his vulnerability. It is important to point out, that the four foot fence surrounding the yard made it difficult to approach the residence safely by coming in from one side. Hindsight suggests that he could have jumped the fence. That said, how many of us would crawl over a four foot fence when there was no specific indication of weapons? Most officers would probably feel foolish doing so, but a decision like that should not be made without weighing the available facts. In this case, Power was alone with no portable radio; the only other access to the yard was via the front gate; the house was dark inside and the front yard was wide open, offering little cover or concealment. In retrospect, there were some worthwhile reasons to consider making a less direct approach.

Another alternative is to immediately branch off to one side after entering the yard, and move rapidly up to the nearest corner of the residence. From there, move along the wall to your intended entry point, using care to duck below the windows or at least move quickly past them. At the same time, watch and listen carefully for danger signs, and avoid giving your position away by brushing against the wall. Once you reach the entry point, pause and scan for danger before announcing your presence.

Another very good option is one suggested by officer Power. Since backup was scarce, he often ordered the parties in domestic disputes to come outside. This tactic makes use of a key officer safety principle; i.e., bring potential assailants to you instead of entering areas under their control. Officer Power generally used his patrol car’s PA for this purpose, but it can also be done by telephone, either through the dispatcher or by cell phone. One advantage of using telephones is that it doesn’t require that you stay with your patrol car. Instead, it allows you to choose a location of advantage to make the call. Additionally, it allows you to call the disputant outside without drawing the attention of his neighbors.

Lighting Considerations
Delgado’s attack was essentially an ambush, and the lighting conditions gave him a major advantage. It was a brightly lit day and the interior of the house was dark,  making it difficult to see inside. To make matters worse, the wire mesh in the screen door reflected outdoor light in a manner similar to glass, making it virtually impossible for Officer Power to see inside and easy for Delgado to see his approach in the bright sunlight. It’s important for officers to be aware of this danger when approaching dark structures in the daylight.

Backup Guns
Officer Power is a strong advocate of backup guns; partly because he is safety conscious and streetwise enough to recognize their value, and partly because he came dangerously close to needing one in his gunfight with Delgado. Fortunately, he was able to make do with just 16 rounds. However, had he been less aggressive in his counterattack and/or Delgado been less severely wounded, he would almost certainly have needed more ammo. In fact, considering the number of weapons and amount of ammunition at Delgado’s disposal, it was a near miracle that Power was able to get by with as few rounds as he did. Today, we’re armed with high capacity semiautomatic pistols, and often patrol rifles, but it’s still possible to run out of ammo, especially with the ever-increasing threat of terrorist attacks. A backup gun can be a lifesaver under such circumstances. Moreover, there are a number of other reasons for carrying backup guns, including malfunctions or loss of the primary weapon, disarmings, attempted disarmings and incapacitation of the gun hand. No officer should ever go on patrol without a backup gun.

Body Armor
Officer Power would have been incapacitated, if not killed, by the deer slug to his chest had he not been wearing body armor. Moreover, his was not the only life saved that day. Power was the only thing standing between Delgado and the man’s family as they stood mesmerized next to their vehicle. In fact, it was only Power’s aggressive return fire that prevented a bloodbath–something that would have been impossible had he fallen at the front door. This dramatically demonstrates the value of body armor and our fundamental responsibility to wear it. We have a solemn duty to protect our citizens, and the duty to stand and fight. Body armor enhances our ability to perform this vital task. If you don’t wear it for your own protection, wear it because others are depending on you.

Trainers have a powerful impact on those they train. Many officers who’ve won lethal encounters have commented on this, officer Power among them. He credits Lt. Mann, his officer survival instructor at the academy and a former marine with extensive combat experience in Vietnam, with much of his success in countering Delgado’s attack. Two things Lt. Mann taught him stood out as particularly important that day. First, his powerful message was “Never let yourself be executed,”  fight to the death if necessary, but never give up. Lt. Mann taught his recruits to save one round (if cornered), wait until their adversary came in for the kill and use it for a killing shot when he got close enough. Although officer Power wasn’t consciously aware of it, it is likely that was why he saved his last two rounds to use against Delgado, if the man closed in. However, the influence of Lt. Mann’s words went much deeper. It was his fighting, never-say-die spirit that had the greatest impact. Power fought back vigorously in spite of the odds, and Lt. Mann’s words were a major force behind his ability to do so.

The second thing Lt. Mann preached was to keep your opponent boxed in if you came under fire. He explained that it is difficult to control a mobile opponent, but one who is pinned down is even more limited. This principle became a major focus for officer Power, especially in light of the threat to Delgado’s family and neighbors. Even as the shootout dragged on and Power had more time to think about the severity of his wounds, he remained focused on keeping Delgado pinned down. As it turned out, he was remarkably successful, and no one else got hurt.

Finally, Lt. Mann taught officer Power how to reload a revolver one-handed in the academy, and it was a skill that served him well. One-handed revolver reloading techniques require considerable imagination and a fair amount of manual dexterity, neither of which is easy to achieve under the stress of combat. Considering the mental flexibility Power displayed under fire, it’s possible that he might have improvised a technique for reloading his revolver one-handed, but it’s doubtful it would have been as effective as the one he’d been taught. Because of proper training, he didn’t have to improvise, and he executed the technique with calm proficiency when needed.

The importance of good training cannot be overemphasized. Administrators who care about their officers and the community must ensure that their officers are as well trained as possible. It’s also each individual officer’s responsibility to obtain good training on his own. If your department doesn’t provide it for you, seek it out on your own, even if you have to pay for it out of your own pocket. In addition, magazines like The Police Marksman and many good books are available–use them.

Winning Mindset
By far, the most notable thing about officer Power’s story is what it teaches about the warrior spirit and winning mindset. Despite grave danger to himself, Power never lost focus of his duty to protect others. Even though his desperate situation was largely due to Mrs. Delgado’s inexcusable lie, he was more concerned about her family’s safety than his own. Even as his life seemed to be ebbing away, he remained focused on keeping Delgado pinned down inside the house so he couldn’t harm the others. This unselfish devotion to others, in the midst of a hellish fight for his life, marks Power as an inspiring example of a true warrior of the highest caliber.

Unlike merciless killers, true warriors fight because others are depending upon them. Like Power, they fight ferociously when necessary, not because they take pleasure in it, but because it is the right thing to do. Motivated by a driving commitment to protect others, they stay focused even when their own lives are on the line. What makes a warrior? Like other human characteristics, the warrior spirit is innately stronger in some people than in others. It also appears to be a quality that can be developed and enhanced through proper motivation and training. Officer Power is a good example of this. From an early age, he’d been taught to put others first. Raised by a family guided by principles like those expressed in the familiar Bible passage, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13), he possessed a steadfast faith in God and a strong devotion to others (traits common among officers who perform well in lethal encounters). Moreover, many of his relatives and friends had served in combat while in the military, and everyone in his family held military service in high esteem. All this helped mold him into a person who honored warrior virtues, regardless of the personal cost.

Officer Power was also a lifetime hunter. Although not essential to winning lethal encounters, hunting does help develop natural predator instincts. Hunters learn to practice situational awareness. They learn how to think like predators and aren’t strangers to killing. It may not be politically correct to refer to police work as a job that requires killing, but when it comes to defending ourselves and those we protect, that is exactly what we must sometimes do. Although we don’t employ deadly force for the sole purpose of killing, the ultimate outcome is often the death of a fellow human being–we can’t be squeamish about it. We must act decisively, swiftly and with commitment, even if it means taking a life.

Officer Power also learned to act decisively. His father taught him that although many of the unfortunate things in life cannot be prevented or controlled by us, we can control how we respond to them. The key is to control oneself, assess the situation, make a decision and act on it. Power had been encouraged to think on his feet, act decisively and have confidence in his decisions. He had learned that decisive action under stress almost always produces good results. This confidence helped him remain calm and mentally flexible under fire.

In a manner typical of winners, Power fought back in spite of the odds. This is the single most important thing you can do when in mortal danger. Even if it doesn’t stop your assailant immediately, it puts him on the defensive psychologically and often inhibits his physical capabilities. In this case, Power’s first two shots took much of the fight out of Delgado. The first was a mortal hit and the second caused massive bleeding. Although Delgado continued to aggressively attack, the wounds probably had an increasingly negative impact on his vitality and performance. It’s likely that this was the reason he missed with every shot he fired after the first few.

Perhaps the most remarkable trait displayed by Power was his ability to focus on his capabilities, instead of the severity of his predicament. In reality, his situation was nearly hopeless. He was severely wounded, losing blood fast, dangerously exposed while fighting a well-concealed, heavily-armed opponent. He was limited in his firepower and compelled to focus his attention on a group of people who refused to take cover. Nevertheless, he did not dwell on the negatives. This was most evident in a comment he made later, while talking about his thoughts when he was returning fire from behind the bush. Instead of focusing on the fact that he was paralyzed in one arm and one leg, and down to only two live rounds in his revolver, he simply stated, “I knew I had two rounds left, one good leg and one hand.”1 This is the kind of attitude that turns the tide of battle in even the most hopeless situation.

In a follow-up statement, Power provides valuable insight into how such optimism can occur in the mind of a warrior in combat. He went on to say, “I was trying to figure out what I could do, and I knew I had to get those women (Delgado’s wife and daughter) down.”2 He was focusing on a goal. Driven by his duty to protect others, he made it his goal to get the women into a position of safety and concentrated on using the few assets at his disposal to achieve that goal. By setting worthy goals like this, and forcing ourselves to focus on them, we can crowd out negative thoughts. When we learn to do this, we will be better prepared to overcome obstacles when facing danger. Power’s courageous actions showed us the importance of setting goals, maintaining focus and devotion to duty. We owe it to ourselves, our loved ones and those we serve to learn from his example.

•   Trust your instincts when it comes to danger.
•   Practice instinctive responses through proper training.
•   Request backup on all domestic incidents.
•   Ask about weapons when handling domestic incidents, but be skeptical if the answer is no.
•   Always be aware of positioning, even when choosing where to park your patrol car.
•   Plan your approach to potentially risky situations carefully, and consider alternative approaches.
•   Beware of the lighting concerns involved in approaching a structure with a dark interior in the daylight.
•   Always wear body armor and carry a backup gun.
•   Take advantage of training opportunities, and pay for it yourself if necessary.
•  Remain committed to your duty to protect others.
•   Be decisive when confronting dangerous situations.
•   Always fight back.
•   Focus on your capabilities, on what you can do to seize the advantage when under attack–remain focused on winning.

Note: As a service to its readers, The Police Marksman includes Officer Down as a regular feature in each issue. In order to present clear and relevant case studies, we would like to draw from our largest available resources–our readers. If you have, or can obtain, factual information on actual incidents that you think we can use, please write to:

Brian McKenna
7412 Lynn Grove Ct.
Hazelwood, MO  63042
or call collect at  (314) 921-6977

About the Author
Brian McKenna, a 31-year police veteran, is a lieutenant with a midwestern police department, where he serves as a shift supervisor, lead firearms instructor and in-service training officer. He holds an MS in management and development of human resources, is a certified police instructor with teaching experience at both the academy and in-service level, and is a member of ILEETA and The Police Marksman National Advisory Board.
1 CBS Television:  Top Cops; Bryan Power. May, 1993.
2 Ibid.

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