Chips on the Table

So there he was…

A rookie cop who graduated from the academy in December of 2018.  I’m told that his classmates and the staff at a regional academy serving 10 counties voted to award him the class flag.

In March of 2019, while still in field training, he was involved in a shooting.  He rode the bench for a couple of months while the shooting was investigated.  He was only recently cleared to resume field training.

And then 1 July 2019 happened…

That rookie cop, still in field training, responded to a call along with his field training officer (FTO).  I haven’t listened to the dispatch recordings first hand, but it is my understanding that the call was originally an unknown problem call involving someone covered in blood.  The dispatch was later updated to the bloody suspect wielding a knife in a confrontation with a maintenance man who had fired shots.  I do not know the timeline of the update and the arrival of the officers on scene.

What happened next was a tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving situation; a situation which has been torn apart with 20/20 hindsight of numerous keyboards.

Yeah, there are some nits to pick, but there are also two undeniable facts:

-Two officers tried their best to not kill a guy.

-A rookie cop who hadn’t even completed field training and who had been put the ringer of a shooting investigation already made a chips on the table head shot to save his fellow officer.

Precedent But Not That Precedent

Yesterday, 4 June 2019, word began to spread about the interweb that the state of Florida had filed criminal charges against a former “deputy” who allegedly failed to act in the face of an active killer.  I use the word allegedly because now with criminal charges having been filed, the individual is presumed innocent until otherwise proven in court.

As news of the charges has spread, I have seen numerous comments to the effect of:

“The Supreme Court ruled that the police have no duty to protect…”, followed up by statements that the case will be thrown out due to the aforementioned ruling.

Such statements are (wrongly) based on two cases: Warren v. District of Columbia, 444 A.2d. 1, D.C. Ct. of Appeals (1981), and Town of Castle Rock v. Gonzales, 454 U.S. 748 (2005).

In Warren, the District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Department was sued in what started as two separate cases asserting a public duty protect.  The D.C. Court of Appeals (not the Supreme Court) ultimately ruled that the police had a duty to provide service to the public at large but that it had no duty to protect individuals barring any sort of special relationship.

In Castle Rock, a federal civil rights lawsuit brought under 42 U.S.C. 1983 claimed that failure to enforce a restraining order (we call them protective orders in the great state of Georgia) violated the plaintiff’s rights.  She claimed that the restraining order gave her a “property interest” to the enforcement of the order under the Due Process Clause.  The Supreme Court rejected that argument stating that the restraining order did not attach a property interest and thus “no legitimate claim to entitlement” existed.

Both of the above-cited cases were civil suits.  Nothing in the rulings bars the prosecution of state-level criminal charges.

The actual charging document, including the probable cause statements, can be read here.

In short, the state is alleging perjury based on a sworn statement by the accused that he didn’t hear shots (other than initial shots) after he arrived at the building in which the murders took place.  The state is further alleging that the accused’s failure to act as he was trained resulted in neglect and abuse of minor children.  It should be noted that the affidavit refers to official agency policy (which isn’t law) and a contract between the agency and the school system.

I do not pretend to know how the case will ultimately be resolved.  I write this article simply to point out the erroneous statements regarding existing precedent and to assert that this single criminal case in state court in Florida does not and will not result in any sort of binding precedent throughout the rest of the country.  If he is convicted, it does not even establish binding legal precedent in Florida.  That’s not how precedent works.

Traffic Citations: Elements of the Offense

The Georgia Court of Appeals has overturned a conviction for a traffic offense based on the fact that the officer only listed the title of the offense and the code section.  See Strickland v. The State, A18A1829 (2019).

In the case in question, the citation was written for the offense of “Following too closely” with the code section being 40-6-49 O.C.G.A.

The issuing officer did not provide any remarks on the citation establishing the elements of the offense of “Following too closely”.  The court reasoned,

“the true test of the sufficiency of an indictment or accusation or citation
is not whether it could have been made more definite and certain (or, for
that matter, perfect,) but whether it contains the elements of the offense
intended to be charged, and sufficiently apprises the defendant of what
he must be prepared to meet, and in case any other proceedings are taken
against him for a similar offense, whether the record shows with
accuracy to what extent he may plead a former acquittal or conviction.”

In other words, the citation needs to list the facts necessary to establish the elements of the offense.

A simple listing of the details of the offense written in the remarks section should be sufficient.


Killers and Their Vouchsafed Protections

“When James Bogan Weems went to work on March 9, 1968, there was no reason to anticipate that before the day was out he would be a corpse, made so by an armed robber…”. So begins this tale of woe.

Bogan was my father’s first cousin. He was a World War II veteran having served in an anti-tank company of the 155th Infantry. On his last night working as the manager of the Red Bird Service Station in Clarksdale, MS, he was shot and killed by one Tommy McNeal. Obviously, if he was killed that night, it was his last night working there or anywhere else, but our tale is compounded in its woefulness in that Bogan had accepted another job, and that fateful night was his final scheduled shift.

As I so oft heard the story, Bogan had regularly made bold pronouncements as to what he would do if anyone ever tried to rob his station. True to his word, Bogan put up a fight with his .32 Smith & Wesson, but 3:1 are bad odds when you are flying solo. Tommy McNeal was not alone.

There was no profit for their misdeeds as our antagonists dropped the money in the midsts of their gunfire hastened departure.

Bogan’s demise was one of those precautionary tales of my youth; as much a part of my upbringing as another that I have related.

My grandmother told me that Bogan’s killer had gotten off on a technicality, but she never offered details. One day I was inspired to consult the all-knowing Google, and right there just waiting for me to come looking were the court decisions in the case.

Tommy McNeal fled to Chicago, but he was captured. At the initial trial, one of the prosecution witnesses did not testify as expected, at least as expected by the prosecutor, who then asked for and was granted a mistrial on the grounds that he wanted a do-over.

A second trial resulted in a conviction and sentence of life imprisonment for McNeal. He appealed claiming error in the jury instructions, but the state of Mississippi was wont to turn loose a killer.

After his state-level appeals were exhausted, McNeal’s lawyers filed a federal habeas corpus petition.  It was denied at the district court, but the federal appellate judges undertook a more strict reading of the Constitution than did their Mississippi and federal district counterparts, and they found fault with the prosecution’s tactics; thus a killer was set free.

The quote at the outset of this piece comes from a dissenting opinion in the appellate court’s holding as does the title which is derived from the following quote:

“Nevertheless, all persons, including killers, are entitled to certain specified protections vouchsafed by the Constitution of the United States.”

The dissenting judge pointed out that a claim of double jeopardy was not raised at the second criminal trial as it should have been; however, the rest of the appellate court didn’t seem to think that poor lawyering was cause to overlook the Constitution.

For brevity’s sake, I didn’t outline all of the prosecutorial shenanigans in this case.  They are detailed in the federal appeal.

While I see the validity in the dissenting opinion, I can’t escape the fact that the prosecution botched the case, and the rules are that the burden is on the prosecution, vouchsafed protections and such, even when it is my kin being made a corpse by an armed robber.



“No trespassing” signs in Georgia are meaningless.  16-7-21 O.C.G.A. is the statute that deals with criminal trespass.


The first part of the criminal trespass law deals with intentional damage to someone else’s property with the damage being less than $500, and it also addresses the malicious inference with the possession or use of another’s property.    That part is pretty simple.

The misunderstanding of the law pertains to entry onto the property of another.

There are three instances in which entering upon the land, vehicle, aircraft, railroad car, etc, of another, is prohibited:

  • When the entry is made for an unlawful purpse
  • When having received specific and individual notice from the owner, rightful occupant, or authorized representative of same that said entry is prohibited
  • Remaining on the property of another after having been notified to depart by the owner, rightful occupant, or authorized representative of same

In other words, if one owns it or rightfully occupies it, one can prohibit entry or order others to leave it.  Also, if a parent or guardian has given such notice, this can’t be undone by a minor child.

As to item number two in the above instances, signs are not specific and individualized notice.  There are a multitude of cases in which the Georgia appellate courts have held that individuals must be specifically advised of exactly which property they are prohibited from entering or remaining.  There is even a case in which a conviction was overturned because the defendant had been ordered to stay away from her ex-husband’s place of employment via a divorce decree rather than an actual owner/occupant/representative of the property.

In order to prosecute a person for criminal trespass, the state must prove that the person received a specific and individual notice to leave or not enter a specific property.  There is case law that such notice is valid for two years.

From a practical standpoint, as a peace officer, I don’t know who you have authorized to swim in your pool or fish in your pond or otherwise be on your property.   Furthermore, I can’t decide who you can let swim in your pool or fish in your pond, etc.  You are the property owner, and that is your decision.

Methods of notification may include sending someone a registered letter informing them to stay off of a specific property or serving an individual personally with written notice to stay off of a specific property.  It’s a typical (but may not be universal) practice for law enforcement to carry either a “barring notice” or “prohibited entry form” that can be filled out on scene and served to individuals, but again note, this must be at the behest of the owner/occupant/representative or the property.  A verbal notice will also work, but my advice would be to make a recording of such notice being given.

Review: The Complete Combatant (and Sundry Others)

I first became aware of The Complete Combatant due to their hosting Caleb Causey of Lone Star Medics for one of his medical courses.  Caleb is a a regular presenter at the Rangemaster Tactical Conference, and that is how I met him.  I attended the course, that is how I met Brian and Shelley Hill, the owners of The Complete Combatant.  This introduction resulted in Brian and Shelley hosting two of my Police-Citizen Contacts courses.  They have another class with Caleb coming in September; so, be sure to check their schedule IF you aren’t planning to spend that weekend with me at Social Levergun.  Quality medical training should be a part of your personal safety plan, and Caleb has a solid program.

Another example of the classes that they are bringing in to augment their own offerings, they hosted Andrew Branca’s Law of Self Defense course.  Andrew’s material is a “must” for the armed citizen.  He provides valuable information that is grounded in actual statutory and case law without getting wrapped around bogeyman and interweb fantasy stories.  Also of note, Brian has completed the Law of Self Defense instructor course.  I have attended Andrew’s presentation at the Tactical Conference, and this was a good opportunity to get the full two-day presentation.  I have purchased his book, and hope to do a stand alone review of his material at some point, but again, it is a “must”.

This weekend, the timing finally worked out for me to take their 1.5 day The Complete Combatant course.  This class is taught at their facility in Marietta.  The first day begins at 4:00 PM and runs for four hours.  The second day begins at 9:00 AM and runs until 5:00 PM.  It’s a full day of training as there is a presentation during lunch.  For this class, the presentation was me talking about Police-Citizen Contacts.  I have presented on this dozens of times, but this was the first time I had to do so after getting smacked in the head.

The course material was intense, but the teaching style was relaxed.  I very much appreciated this approach.  While the material did involve striking and  ground fighting, it wasn’t a gladiator camp with a bunch of MMA folks having fun with fresh meat, and the coaches weren’t screaming or telling students, “If you can’t execute a perfect rear naked spinning death punch your are going to die.”  It was solid, simple techniques that one didn’t have to have a martial arts background to learn and actually utilize.  The lessons built upon one another culminating in a final scenario.  There were numerous alumni in this class session (customers who came back, that’s a clue), and their scenarios took this into account.  I liked this approach as it put an added value on students who wanted a refresher in the course work but who wanted to face greater challenges.  The more we master physical techniques, the more our brain’s processing power can be devoted to the problem.  Likewise, students weren’t thrown to the wolves.

Brian Hill, Claude Werner, and Lee Weems

Finally, noted instructor, Claude Werner, audited the course at Brian and Shelley’s request.  This indicates two things.  First, they are confident in their material as they aren’t afraid of asking someone who isn’t bashful about his opinions to look at their coursework.  It also shows that they are seeking a learned opinion to offer suggested improvements.

They have other course offerings that would work well for those who can’t devote an entire weekend to such a class.  Give them a look.

Campus Carry: What you need to know.

In the 2017 legislative session, the Georgia General Assembly passed House Bill 280 amending state law regarding the carrying of handguns on Georgia’s college campuses.  The bill was signed by Governor Deal, and it goes into effect on July 1, 2017.

The purpose of this post is to share information about the bill.  It is not to debate the merits of the bill, pro or con.

The first distinction that needs to be discussed is that this bill allows for Georgia Weapons Carry License (GWCL) holders to carry concealed handguns in certain places on campus.  It is important to stress the word “concealed” as otherwise, the GWCL allows for open and/or concealed carry, and yes, the GWCL is required for open carry.

The bill did not amend 16-11-127.1 O.C.G.A. as it pertains to other weapons.  So, if you are a GWCL holder, you will be able to carry a pistol on campus, but your pocket knife with a blade of more than two inches in length would still be illegal.  Remember, this is government; it doesn’t have to make sense.

Below is an excerpt of 16-11-127.1 containing the definition of weapons that are prohibited on campus (prior to the change allowing for concealed handguns):

 “Weapon” means and includes any pistol, revolver, or any weapon designed or intended to propel a missile of any kind, or any dirk, bowie knife, switchblade knife, ballistic knife, any other knife having a blade of two or more inches, straight-edge razor, razor blade, spring stick, knuckles, whether made from metal, thermoplastic, wood, or other similar material, blackjack, any bat, club, or other bludgeon-type weapon, or any flailing instrument consisting of two or more rigid parts connected in such a manner as to allow them to swing freely, which may be known as a nun chahka, nun chuck, nunchaku, shuriken, or fighting chain, or any disc, of whatever configuration, having at least two points or pointed blades which is designed to be thrown or propelled and which may be known as a throwing star or oriental dart, or any weapon of like kind, and any stun gun or taser as defined in subsection (a) of Code Section 16-11-106. This paragraph excludes any of these instruments used for classroom work authorized by the teacher.

Again, everything on that list, except concealed handguns, will still be illegal to carry on college campuses.

As for concealed, here is your definition:

‘Concealed’ means carried in such a fashion that does not actively solicit the  attention of others and is not prominently, openly, and intentionally displayed except for purposes of defense of self or others. Such term shall include, but not be limited to, carrying on one’s person while such handgun is substantially, but not necessarily completely, covered by an article of clothing which is worn by such person, carrying within a bag of a nondescript nature which is being carried about by such person, or carrying in any other fashion as to not be clearly discernible by the passive observation of others.

As for where you can carry:

Any weapons carry license holder when he or she is in any building or on real property owned by or leased to any public technical school, vocational school, college, or university, or other public institution of postsecondary education;

and where you can’t:

  •  buildings or property used for athletic sporting events or student housing, including, but not limited to, fraternity and sorority houses;
  • any preschool or childcare space located within such buildings or real property
  • any room or space being used for classes related to a college and career academy or other specialized school as provided for under Code Section 20-4-37;
  • any room or space being used for classes in which high school students are enrolled through a dual enrollment program, including, but not limited to, classes related to the ‘Move on When Ready Act’ as provided for under Code Section 20-2-161.3;
  • faculty, staff, or administrative offices or rooms where disciplinary  proceedings are conducted;

NOTE: In 2016, the General Assembly passed HB 792 which made made carrying “electro shock weapons” on campus legal for those over 18, but as of the writing of this article, they have not been removed from the prohibited weapons under 16-11-127.1 per the published code sections.

Class Review: FLETC Use of Force Instructor

The Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) has a program that allows state, local, tribal, and territorial officers to attend classes at FLETC along with federal agents/officers, and I was afforded the opportunity to attend the Use of Force Instructor Program.


The Students

Other state/local agencies represented in the class were the Alaska State Troopers, the New Orleans Police Department, and the Gwinnett County (GA) Sheriff’s Office.  Federal agencies represented in the class included Immigration and Customs Enforcement, National Park Service, Diplomatic Security Service, Federal Protective Service, Federal Air Marshals, Treasury Department, Customs and Border Protection, Defense Intelligence Agency, Homeland Security, and the United States Coast Guard.  Numerous FLETC staff instructors also attended as students.

Academics and Testing

The course was two-weeks in length and included numerous testing points along the way.  At the end of the first week, students had to pass a written test covering the academic blocks presented in the first week.  During week two, we had graded practical exercises, an individual oral review board with a panel consisting of an instructor and a lawyer, and each student made a 30-minute presentation on an assigned topic.  A failure at any testing point resulted in dismissal from the program.  Not everyone made it to graduation.

A note on the testing: this was not a “gimme class”.  It was not taken for granted that a basic instructor training had prepared students to develop and deliver presentations.  This had to be demonstrated in the class.  The practical exercises were no joke.  The oral review boards were the real test.  While the written test measured recognition, the oral board required recall and the ability to explain the material.  Some of the questions were simply knowledge checks, but there were others in which applying and explaining the course material was required.  Students had to truly know, understand, and be able to explain the material.

The academic training included blocks on legal aspects of use of force, liability, human performance factors (Force Science Institute stuff), and procedures for training with non-lethal training ammunition (NLTA) and developing training programs.  The first week also consisted of numerous laboratories in which students were exposed to drills and scenarios.  During the second week, we ran drills and scenarios that were developed by the class.

Drills, Scenarios, and Practicals

The training methodology involved the initial use of drills.  The student would be given specific instructions for a response such as the use of a baton or a firearm, etc.  Sometimes the drill would include a transition from one implement to another.  Each drill would be followed by a debrief in which the student articulated the actions of the role player as well as their own actions.

After the drills came scenarios in which students were given a pre-brief such as a type of call and other pertinent information and sent into the training area to handle it.  Sometimes the role players would comply; sometimes they wouldn’t.  The student was expected to respond in an objectively reasonable manner.  As previously stated, each drill/scenario would be followed with a detailed debrief.

The purpose of the dictated response drills, particularly those involving transitions, were to “build the files” for responses to avoid the euphemistic “404 file not found”.  The courts describe such incidents as tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving.  The facts of an incident often change during an incident, and when the facts change; the response changes.  For instance, in one scenario, I was sent to arrest a person on a warrant for not paying child support.  I found the suspect at his job site.  It so happens he was a groundskeeper, and he didn’t want to go to jail; a point of view he emphasized with his shovel, but he reconsidered his opinion once I drew my pistol; however, at that point he decided to resort to fisticuffs.  I countered his argument with a baton.  Of course, a debrief followed.

The scenarios didn’t require a specific response.  The response had to be objectively reasonable based upon the interpretations and procedures of the Supreme Court.  The responses to such incidents are not cookie cutter responses.  Where one officer my utilize a baton while another officer might utilize pepper spray in the same instance, what matters is that the response is objectively reasonable based upon the facts of the situation.

Our graded practical exam involved functioning as the instructor to include giving the pre-brief, observing the scenario, and then conducting the debrief.  The “student” for the scenario was a FLETC staff instructor.  This was followed by going through a scenario as a student to test our application of the material to the facts presented and our ability to articulate our actions.


Ample of use of the Student Centered Feedback Model was the method of debrief.  This method, if used properly, is a very effective tool in both drawing out the details of the incident and breaking free from “cop speak”.  For instance, there is a difference between “he took up a fighting stance” and actually describing a fighting stance so that it is clear exactly what the person did.

In Closing

To any agency heads that read this, I strongly recommend that you get people from your training units through this class and allow them to come back and implement what they learned.  Also, don’t get a case of sticker shock when look at the costs.  The published costs are a worst case scenario for if no on-center housing is available and the student has to stay at a contracted hotel, and there may be other ways to offset the costs fully or partially.  Even at the full published amounts the training is worth it if you allow your personnel to implement the material across your entire organization.  Don’t look at it as an expense; look at it as an investment, and I would put this class alongside the Force Science Institute program as far as the quality and usefulness of information, which reminds me, you need to get your training staff through that course as well.

Familiarity Breeds Contempt

I grew up primarily on what had been my grandfather’s dairy.  My father harped on me when dealing with the livestock, “Familiarity breeds contempt”.

The meaning of that saying was just as soon as you started thinking one of the livestock wouldn’t hurt you, it would hurt you.  It was more than just words.  My grandfather was killed by one of his cows.

I ignored the rule at least twice.  I wound up unconscious both times.  The first words my father said to me on each occasion, “Familiarity breeds contempt.”

Today, I dealt with a guy whom we had arrested previously.  He has an active protective order against him.  In that encounter, he tried to bait me into an escalation.  Later in the day, I responded to a call with the same subject.  He entered a residence from which he is prohibited, and he busted out the windshield of a car on scene as well along with some other damage.

The subject fled to a nearby vacant house.  It was there that I confronted him.  He screamed at me to shoot him.

And then he shoved his hand into his jacket pocket.

I had a decision to make and only a split second in which to make it.  I was pretty sure that he was just baiting me.  I  was pretty sure that he didn’t have a firearm in his pocket, but in a moment of tachypsychia I heard my father’s voice..

Familiarity breeds contempt.

Later when I talked about the incident with the Sheriff, he said, “If you hadn’t just dealt with him and knew his state of mind, or if it had been another deputy who confronted him in that house, he’d be dead right now.”

I had to make a split-second decision as to whether or not to press the trigger.  Legally, I can articulate a justification for doing so, but if I had, I’d be the latest cop to be plastered all over the news as having killed an unarmed man.  If he had been armed, and my “pretty sure” was wrong, I would have been in initiative deficit, and I might be all over the news tonight for a much different reason.

While I have been able to wrap this whole thing around a saying from my upbringing, this type of incident plays out repeatedly for peace officers all over the country.  It really is that close of a call time and time again.

As another saying goes: It’s not the odds; it’s the stakes.

Class Review: Rangemaster Defensive Shotgun

“When people get shot with a shotgun, they tend to stay shot.”  –Tom Givens

Tom Givens

Tom Givens

For the second time this year I had the pleasure of participating in the Rangemaster Defensive Shotgun course.  The first time was as a student.  This time, due to the lovely and gracious Lynn Givens being occupied in whipping all of the male shooters in a Gunsite 250 Pistol class en route to an Expert rated certificate, I had the honor of being Tom’s assistant.

The class was held on the same picturesque range as the previous day’s Defensive Revolver Skills course.


My favorite thing about Tom’s teaching style is that he puts everything into context.  There is a reason for every drill, technique, etc, and it is thoroughly explained.  In his shotgun class, everything is put in the context of a person using a shotgun for personal defense within their home or business.  For instance, a business owner isn’t going to take the time in the middle of a hold-up to attach shell holders to their belt; the problem will have to be solved with the ammo in and on the gun.  This is a much different context than the use of the shotgun in a military environment

As problems with operating a shotgun are typically shooter induced, the class is strong on robust manipulations and repeated drilling on the fundamentals of operating the weapon and loading techniques.

Yes, You Have to Aim

The pictures below show two separate targets shot with Federal Flite Control OO buckshot.  As you can see, the patterns are tight enough that the shots clearly have to be aimed.

Flite Control: One round at three yards

Flite Control: One round at three yards

Elite Control

Flite Control: Three rounds at 15 yards

Chris Baker of the Lucky Gunner Lounge was a student in the class.  He wrote an article on choosing buckshot for the home defense shotgun and created the video embedded below.  The video has good information on different loads, and they currently have a series underway focussing on shotguns.

Patterning & Set-up

Following all of the shooting drills, the class patterned their shotguns out to 15 yards with the buckshot loads they brought with them as well as with Flite Control.  Tom also discussed his preferred set-up regarding sights, magazine extensions, etc.  This too was in context as he discussed this topic with personal defense in the home/business in mind and not a peace officer on a manhunt.


For some reason the mention of a shotgun as a personal protection tool offends people who prefer a carbine or other option, and they feel honor bound to justify their choice.  Usually, their reasoning is fueled by misconceptions or misunderstandings of the capabilities of the shotgun (that should set some such people off).  The fact is that the versatility and the fight-ending effectiveness of a proper shotgun load can’t be denied.  I personally have more confidence in a magazine tube full off Flite Control than I due a magazine of 9mm or .223 to solve an immediate close to intermediate range problem.  If you choose otherwise, be happy in your choice.  If ever I have to shoot someone; I want them to stay shot.