In 2017, Chuck Delgado spoke to our Action Training Group regarding the circumstances when he shot and killed an unarmed attacker when he was a Spokane County Sheriff’s Deputy in 1971. Chuck was neither charged nor disciplined because the use of force was justified. Nevertheless, the shooting was contrary to use of force procedures in place in the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office in 1971.
The following is an After Action Report provided by Mr. Delgado.
“If you wait until you see the muzzle flash of the adversary’s weapon, you waited too long.”
-Bob Smith, Use of Force Expert
Policies Are Great If They Don’t Get You Killed. At the time of the 1971 shooting, the policy of the Spokane Police Department was to the effect of, “You only shoot after being fired upon.” In a section of the Spokane County Sheriff’s Training Manual, concerning the shooting of an unarmed subject read something to the effect of, “you can only employ lethal force on an unarmed subject if attacked by three or more.” In those days there was little or no understanding of the “Disparity in Numbers” argument in a self-defense situation. That line of thinking was not unique to our local agencies, and that is why so many police officers were killed during the mid-Seventies and often with their own weapons.
Remember who used to write the policies back then? The old guys with the gold bars on their shoulders. The officers who haven’t worked in the field in years or even decades. But that has changed since I was in the uniform. It is now more common to see the practitioners who actually work in the field, i.e., patrolmen, patrol corporals and patrol sergeants involved in those studies which lead to policy changes. The present day use of force seminars sponsored by local police agencies are presented by patrol officers (patrolmen, corporals and sergeants) and detectives involved in research and development of use of force policies.
Gold Bars Don’t Make Policy Today. I have never attended any of those presentations where the speaker was a Lt. or Capt. There were few exceptions to guys with gold bars presenting use of force education to officers. One exception was Dean Lydig, who was the detective Captain at the time of the shooting. Two days after the shooting, the post shooting investigation was completed. Captain Lydig called me into his office, closed the door behind me, sat me down and handed me the entire file, and instructed me to read every page: The autopsy report; the WSP ballistic report; the background of the deceased; witness interviews; crime scene pictures of the damage done by the deceased in his efforts to gain entry to the complainant’s dwelling, etc. He did not disparage the patrol Lt. or the patrol Capt. who I overheard say, “Chuck is in a heap of s—!” but Capt. LYDIG did say, “How could anyone reasonably expect you to physically prevail (I was 154 lbs., the adversary was 244 lbs with martial arts traing) with a guy like this? Had you try to physically subdue this guy, I’d be here looking at your autopsy reports.” In those days there was little or no understanding of the “disparity of size” argument in a self defense situation. I should further point out that on my first day back to work after the shooting, my Sgt., pulled me aside, looked directly into my eyes and said, “If tonight you go on a call like the call last Monday morning, you do exactly the same thing you did at 0113 hrs on Monday, you understand me?”
That was the difference between Patrol Sgts. and the brass. Policies are improved by guys like me who broke the rules.
Gun Fight at GU. I should bring the readers attention to the gun fight which took place at the Gonzaga University on November 22, 1971 A call was put out of a man with a rifle on the campus. The Gonzaga district patrol car was two-man unit. Two well-seasoned veteran cops, were dispatched to the call. Another two-man unit, which was close, but in a different district was occupied by two rookies, requested to back-up the primary unit. Radio advised the rookie unit it was not necessary to back-up the primary unit, since it was a two-man unit. As soon as Bob, the senior officer in the rookie unit, advised dispatch that he understood the instructions to disregard the back-up, he put the Motorola mike on it’s mount and told the junior officer “Screw it, we are headed for Gonzaga!” Those two rookies saved many lives that day, including the Old Veteran cops. A gun battle erupted, the Veterans missed the bad guy, who was ultimately killed by the rookies. It should be noted that Bob was in my Spokane Police Academy class. We graduated November of 1969.
Wait & See Policy in 1971. The conventional policy in 1971, prevalent for most police agencies across the country, was “Wait until you see a weapon!” At that point it is too late. I am a graduate of the Spokane Police Academy, as well as a former Martial Arts student. I have been taught that ACTION IS FASTER THAN REACTION. If the defender allows the aggressor to initiate the threat of deadly force, prior to the defender being prepard to neutralize the deadly force, it is too late. As a deputy sheriff, at the first furtive/suspicious movements, I had my sidearm out of the holster and in my right hand. If I was within striking distance of the subject, where I may have compromised my safety by reaching for my sidearm, I would immediately take the individual down and handcuff the subject. During the 1970s so many cops were being killed, many with their own sidearm, because they were not taught the defensive tactics taught today along with ineffective use of force policies. Even now the cops are waiting too long to shoot. I read recently that between 2013-2015 11% of the LEOs killed in the line of duty were killed with their own weapon. They’re still failing to control the scene and allowing the adversaries to get to close or waiting too long to shoot. Once you lose control of the scene, your safety, as well as the safety of the citizens you should be protecting, is in jeopardy. It has always been said that there is a weapon on every call a cop goes on…the cops weapon.
Weapon Retention Skills Are Paramount. Many LEOs were killed after being disarmed by the bad guy. Think about JoAnne Chesimard who killed the N.J State Trooper and and is now in Cuba.
FBI research confirms that LEOs were waiting too long to shoot! My shooting was part of that research. Sadly, because of such things as the Black Lives Matter movement (based on the false narrative of hands up don’t shoot) and a citizenry which has been dumbed-down by corporate news media, public education and the NFL, the average citizen believes police are killing Black people due to invidious racial prejudice. This same misinformation and media bias is a powerful tool aimed at armed citizens. We have an uphill battle.
Action Training Group. That is exactly why more people have to get involved with groups such as the Action Training Group. Although the ATG is nonpolitical, members need to work individually with their legislators and with politically inclined gun groups like the NRA to keep the policies from being watered down. If the lethal force available to the police is unduly restricted, the responsibility for armed citizens to deploy deadly force in defense of our own lives and the lives of our loved ones will also become severely restricted. Right now, armed citizens in Washington state theoretically have broader authority to use deadly force than LEOs.
According to the Legislative Note included with RCW 9A.16.040:
Legislative recognition: “The legislature recognizes that RCW 9A.16.040 establishes a dual standard with respect to the use of deadly force by peace officers and private citizens, and further recognizes that private citizens’ permissible use of deadly force under the authority of RCW 9.01.200, 9A.16.020, or 9A.16.050 is not restricted and remains broader than the limitations imposed on peace officers.”
The reality, however, is that the average person, including lawmakers, judges and attorneys and jurors, thinks that officers have broader authority in regard to the use of deadly force. Law Enforcement Officers and armed citizens need to recognize that we all have an interest in educating the public regarding issues involving the criteria for use of deadly force. I once read something like, “You deserve what you are willing to tolerate. Get involved with the legislative process, because if you don’t use your rights, you will lose those rights.”
Chuck Delgado, November, 2017