Friday, July 2, 2010

Game Warden on his Game

Officers killed two suspected cop killers in West Memphis a while back. Some of the video was released today. I watched the part where the officers make the final traffic stop of the suspect vehicle in a Wal-Mart parking lot. The suspects are in a white van, and are driving out of the parking lot. Before they can leave a police car pulls into the parking lot and approaches them from the front. The police car moves to block the exit of the van from the parking lot. While I am not a big fan of stopping suspect vehicles from the front, I don't think I would have wanted to drive past these heavily armed suspects. The officers were responding to the Wal-Mart because an alert game warden had noticed the wanted van and called it in. The officers took action, stopped the van from exiting and begin to exit the car.

The game warden, driving a giant pick up truck, sees the suspect vehicle start to back up, as if to try and flee from the police car blocking their path. That could have lead to either the suspects running into the Wal-Mart and taking hostages, shooting it out inside a Wal-Mart store, or simply a road pursuit. The game warden speeds up his truck and slams into the drivers side of the van. It appeared to me he was trying to hit the van in the rear and the van may have turned as if to make a u-turn, causing the truck to hit the side of the van.

The game warden then puts his truck in reverse and backs up a long distance, perhaps 25 yards from the van. The game warden then jumps from his truck, wearing his body armor and with gun drawn, and moves to a position of cover. I know many of us think of game warden and we think about a guy who spends his days writing tickets for people who have a clam that is too small or a dove out of season. This guy was on his game. He saw the suspects, called it in, waited for back up, took action to prevent their escape, maneuvered his vehicle to a safer position, got to cover and then prepared to engage by gunfire the two armed suspects. This game warden did a great job!

Within a few seconds, the parking lot is full of officers and it is apparent that the officers are firing at the van. The video I watched is very small and you really can't tell what the suspects are doing, but they are inside the van. The responding officers do a good job of staying out of each others way and avoiding a crossfire. They also do a good job of using the available cover. At one point several of the officers are on the "wrong" side of the van and you can see they all move at the same time, back to the safe side of the vehicle. Apparently, someone must have given them a verbal command to get back out of the line of fire, since they all moved at the same instant.

Stressful situations like this are where our training and experience comes into play. Good observational skills, the willingness to call for back up and wait for it, the ability to plan your actions and to change the plan as things develop are all important. It is good to see these officers doing a good job under terrible stress, two of their own were murdered only a short while before this shootout. That's one of the imponderables in this job, we never know what will happen on any given day; so you have to be ready all the time, even if you are just a game warden; that's what the SGT Says.


Bob G. said...

Yeah, 'ya never know WHEN...or WHERE...or by WHOM.

Stay safe and have a great 4th!

Bunkermeister said...

Yes, always ready. Because you never know.

Ann T. said...

Dear Bunkermeister,
After reading about the crime waves in places like Yosemite, and thinking about all the people with guns a game warden approaches all the time, I imagine that they have a challenge a good much of the time.

It was strong work, especially as you describe it. Kudos to Michael K. Neal and may he stay alert!

Ann T.

Bunkermeister said...

Yes, Ann T. A game warden in hunting season often approached groups of armed men, while he is alone! It takes a special kind of officer to do that every day.

Protect_and_Serve said...

I can't speak for other places but here our two game wardens are "real" cops that I'd welcome as back up on any call.

Bunkermeister said...

In California Game Wardens have full police officer powers. They do a great job.