Written by: Greg Ellifritz
I haven’t done a Tactical Training Scenario post in a while. This will be a good exercise for your thinking muscles.
Watch the video linked and embedded below. It’s two minutes of some of the most savage violence you will ever see. Caution for those with weak stomachs, this video is exceptionally gruesome.
If you were walking down the street and saw this happening, what would you do? Would you intervene? If so, how? There is no “right” answer. Each person will likely come up with a slightly different course of action. I’m not here to try to tell you what is best. I’d rather ask some difficult questions and allow you to come up with your own plan of action.
The first question is “do you intervene?” I’ve long advised the adage of “not your people, not your problem.” Could you ignore this one or would you feel compelled to jump in to save the woman? I think many of you “high responders” probably wouldn’t be able to walk away from this scene without doing something.
If you choose not to intervene, what can you do to assist here? Calling the police would probably be the bare minimum action that I would expect from nearly everyone. If you are going to call the police, they will ask you some very direct questions in a scenario like this. Most important is knowing the location where the crime is happening. Get a street address or a nearby intersection. The cops and medics don’t magically know where you are.
Next, they are going to want a description of the perpetrator. Don’t look back at the video. Can you describe the attacker? We want a description of the person’s sex, race, approximate age, hair color, and clothing description. Did you remember all those factors from watching the video?
What is also really important is getting a direction and method of travel in the event the perpetrator attempts to escape. If we get his car description and/or his direction of travel, we are much more likely to catch him. The 911 operators are looking for cardinal directions (N,S,E,W) rather than terms like “left and right.” Your description should be something like “The suspect left the scene on foot. I did not see him get into a car. I last saw him walking north on High Street.”
You would be amazed how often we get a description that sounds more like: “Uh, I don’t know exactly where the guy went. I think he turned left.” That isn’t very helpful.
Beyond calling the police, I would also expect a bystander to provide medical aid in this situation so long as it is safe to do so. Would you know how to deal with all that blood? Do you have the medical skills to handle this situation? Everyone talks about tourniquets, but they wouldn’t be much help in this case. She needs direct pressure and likely wound packing. Do you know how to do that? If not, pick up a medical class. Even a basic “Stop the Bleed” class at your local fire department would be a very good place to start.
What if you made the decision to intervene? How exactly would you do it? I want you to go in depth with this one.
The answer is NOT:“I’ll just shoot him” or “I’ll take away his knife and beat his ass.” Not good enough. Go deep. Think about exactly how you would respond and contemplate the likely outcomes of your intervention efforts.
Crises seem to pop up whenever we are least prepared to deal with them. I want you to wargame this scenario several different ways based on the equipment and skills you bring to the fight. First, imagine intervening using your legally-carried firearm.
What if you don’t have your gun? Next, you should figure out your response if you were only armed with a folding knife. Finally, think about what actions you would take if you had no weapons and were forced to engage physically.
Let’s look at some options here and ask some more questions. I’ll provide my solutions and the rationale behind my decision making process. What I detail below are the best practices that I can articulate. Keep in mind that I shoot well. I almost always carry a gun in public. I’m a 240- pound power lifter with 30+ years of martial arts and fighting experience. The best options for me may not be the best options for you.
Intervening with a firearm
This isn’t an exceptionally difficult problem to solve if you are armed with a gun. I still want you to plan in great detail how you would use your firearm to defend this woman’s life.
Where would you shoot this attacker (head, chest, limbs, etc.)? How far away from the bad guy would you be when you take the shot? You want to be close enough to make a guaranteed hit, but not so close that the killer could stab you with the knife.
Do you know the distance whereby you are completely guaranteed to make a good hit on whatever part of his body you decide to target? For most of you, it’s far closer than what you may imagine.
As the suspect is mounted on top of his victim, one of the obvious issues is the question of how to shoot the attacker without hitting the victim from either a miss or a pass-through bullet. If you are in a standing position near the suspect and fire at the suspect’s center of mass, a pass through bullet is likely to hit your victim. How do you reduce the chance of that possibility?
The obvious solution is to move into a position where you are assured you can make the hit and then adjust the angle of your firing. I would try to approach the situation from the side (not from the directions of the victim’s head or feet). Ideally, I want to be on the side of the fighting couple that is farthest away from his knife hand. That allows me to get a little closer than I can get if I was approaching on the attacker’s knife side. It keeps me out of his knife range for a little more time.
If I approach from the side and target his chest area (via the armpit) at a downward angle, I’m not as likely to hit the victim if my bullets pass all the way through his body. I could also “level change” by dropping to a knee and shooting the attacker from a straight side-to-side angle. The level change technique may not be the best option depending on your ultimate backstop. If you fire at a downward angle, a pass through bullet likely ends up in the ground. If you fire horizontally and the bullet passes through the attacker, do you have a good backstop?
Would you shoot for the head or the center of mass? Head shots reduce the chance of you hitting your victim, but almost all of the head shots I’ve seen in real life with .38/9mm and greater calibers penetrated completely through the skull and out the other side. That may not be desirable if you are in a crowded urban environment.
If I was responding to this scenario, I would close the distance to about six feet away from the side of the attacker and would shoot at a downward angle into the suspect’s chest cavity. I want to be close enough to ensure I get only hits, but not within range of his knife strikes.
Intervening with a blade
What if you cannot legally carry your gun in this particular scenario? How would you solve the problem with your tactical folding knife?
I would approach the suspect from behind. I would plunge the knife into the side of his neck or stab downwards just above his clavicle (targeting the subclavian artery). With either target, I would bury the blade as deeply as I could and then vigorously move the blade in a circular or linear fashion within the wound channel to increase the damage. Think about “stirring the soup” with your knife blade.
Be ready for the attacker to stop stabbing the victim and to start stabbing you when you do this. It takes a while before someone bleeds to the point of unconsciousness. Be ready to run, parry his knife attack, or deal with a knife on knife “duel” if he decides you are his next stabbing target. You do have knife training, right? If you don’t, you probably shouldn’t be relying on that folding Spyderco knife to save your life or that of the victim.
How would you handle this one if you were completely unarmed? The bystanders in the video were very hesitant. They were trying to stop the attack without actually harming the attacker. That’s a pipe dream. Don’t hesitate. No half measures. If you decide to intervene, do so with all of the force you can muster.
Think about how many stab wounds this victim took while the bystanders delivered ineffective kicks. If you are going to kick the dude it should be a full power punt with the attacker’s head as a target. No patty-cake. Blast him with all the force you can muster.
I like the idea of using a good kick in this scenario. It keeps you out of grappling range. You don’t want to grapple unarmed with an armed opponent. It’s probably the move I would try first (and maybe second and third as well). Kick him in the head with all the power you can generate.
You could also try to strike him with your hands or attempt to choke him unconscious. For me, those options are less desirable than a kick. I don’t want to have to hold onto this guy for five seconds as he stabs me before he goes to sleep.
What eventually got him off of the woman is when a bystander physically pulled him off of the victim about a minute into the video. That technique is worthy of exploration. You may be able to drag the guy off the woman and get away before he can stand up and attack you with the blade.
The bystander here grabbed the guy’s sweat shirt to pull him off. I think I would have grabbed the end of his hood or his hair instead. I’ve had good results in real life with both options. Pulling bad guy off and then creating some distance might be a good option if you are physically superior to the attacker.
Other random intervention techniques
There were several people trying to stop this attack. How would you use numerical superiority to your advantage? If two or three guys were willing to jump in with you, how would you optimally coordinate their efforts? Think about communication like: “You two guys grab his knife hand while I choke him out.” “While you hit him with the stick, I’m going to pull him off the victim.” Think about how you would organize a team attack here.
We naturally tend to focus on the attacker. Could we focus on the victim instead? Could several people grab the woman and carry her off to someone’s car or inside a lockable nearby shop? When one bystander is dealing with the attacker, others might be able to get the victim to safety. It’s something to think about.
You should also be thinking about the fact that the attacker may have more than one weapon. When you take away his knife, he may pull another one or maybe even a concealed pistol as well. Are you ready for that potential issue? Would you attempt to restrain the disarmed attacker or would you let him up and follow him from a safe distance as you phone police? Either is a valid option. You should consider what may be the best course of action for you.
Take some time and truly think about responding to an event like this. Exactly what would you do? There are lots of considerations and every scenario is slightly different. Thinking about viable options is almost always a positive use of your time and brain power. Figure out this scenario in advance and determine what is the best option for you.