"Take your hands out of your
pocket!" or some variation of this phrase remains one of the most
frequently repeated commands in law enforcement. Although police
officers have been yelling it for years —as we saw in the Scotty Richardson incident— it is often not the best approach.
One of the first things police officers learn is that a suspect's "hands" pose the greatest threat —
indeed they do. When dealing with a suspect, an officer should be
acutely aware of the ability, or inability, to see the person's hands to
ensure he is not clutching or reaching for a weapon. This is a proper
concern and when officers encounter someone with their hands in their
pockets, the officers should immediately assume an elevated level of
awareness and act accordingly.
Such was the case with Malcolm Antwan Orr, 29, on Jan. 1, 2016, in Estill, South Carolina.
Estill Police Officer Quincy Smith responded to a suspicious
person call at the Charles Party Shop. A clerk told Smith that a man
wearing camouflage and a red bandana tried snatching groceries from
Smith spotted a man matching that description walking away from
the store along Railroad Avenue. Smith drove his patrol car a short
distance toward the man, who police later identified as Orr.
Smith parked his patrol car and ordered Orr to stop. Orr refused
and continued to walk away from Smith, while holding a cellphone to his
ear and keeping his right hand in his jacket pocket.
As Smith was repeatedly
threatening to fire his Taser if Orr did not take his hand out of his
pocket, Orr removed a 9mm handgun from his right pocket and began firing
at Smith. The video above shows that Smith fired his Taser; however, it
is likely that one or both Taser prongs missed — in any event, the
Taser had no effect.
Just as Smith fired his Taser, Orr fired three shots in his
initial burst. The first shot hit Smith in the neck, another struck his
left arm breaking two bones, and a third passed through Smith's upper
torso stopping in his back.
As Smith rolled away to his right, Orr fired a fourth round and
continued shooting four more rounds as Smith rolled on the ground and
then retreated to his patrol car. Orr fired at least two of the eight
rounds as Smith was lying on the ground.
The video of this incident demonstrates the danger in telling a
suspect to remove his hands from his pocket in an uncontrolled manner.
The suspect's hand movement is not going to be an indicator of trouble —
Smith initiated the movement when he commanded Orr to take his hand out
of his pocket, and Orr was doing what Smith expected. However, the
first opportunity for Smith to see that Orr had a firearm was when it
was too late.
The video shows that Smith fired his Taser at Orr 1.267 seconds
after the first instant that he could have seen the pistol. Orr opened
fire at Smith .667 seconds after Smith fired the Taser or 1.934 seconds
after he removed the pistol from his pocket (actually fairly slow when
compared to other incidents of this type).
Orr fired his second shot in 0.567 after his first and his third
shot 0.367 later. Orr fired his first three shots within .933 seconds —
likely much faster than Smith could have drawn his service pistol even
if he had not had to drop the Taser and had not been shot. As officer
Smith rolled away to his right, Orr fired the fourth round at the 2.733
second mark and continued shooting four more rounds as Smith retreated
to his patrol car.
Smith stated that initially: "I didn't draw my firearm because at
the time I didn't think it was warranted, he was just walking away. But
unfortunately, I made a mistake and I drew my Taser and he got the upper
hand on me."
Smith's approach was understandable and in many circumstances,
would have been the best approach. However, any encounter can turn
deadly in an instant as we see here.
Orr continued to walk away ignoring Smith's commands to stop. I
am not a South Carolina legal scholar and offer no legal advice;
however, did Orr's refusal to stop provide justification for Smith to
use nonlethal force to gain compliance? If so, Smith's use of his Taser
earlier in the encounter may have prevented Orr's subsequent deadly
Additionally, Smith was close enough to Orr to deflect his pistol
and then attempt a disarm or use his Taser directly on Orr. Clearly,
this requires specific training and situational awareness that Smith may
not have possessed.
During the course of a career, a police officer will interact with
a countless number of individuals who have their hands in their
pockets. On the street, simply commanding the individual to remove his
hands makes it almost impossible to tell whether he is drawing a weapon
or complying with your command until it is too late to react.
Controlling the manner in which they remove their hands will give
you an advantage and position you to react if they do present a weapon.
There are several full versions of this video available that
contain Smith's efforts to summon aid and the efforts of bystanders who
try to help. Official aid was surprisingly slow to arrive, and the
bystanders stated several times that they did not know how to help.
If Smith had a trauma kit in his patrol car or on his person, he
never mentioned it. At the minimum, carry a QuikClot Combat Gauze, a
combat tourniquet, and a 4-inch Israeli Emergency Bandage on your
equipment belt and a more complete kit in the patrol car.
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About the Author
Eric Lamberson is a retired Army officer and firearms enthusiast
with 40-plus years of experience in using firearms for hunting,
competition and self-defense. He is an IDPA 5-gun Master and has
completed the Force Science Institute certification in force science
analysis. Eric is a Texas LTC instructor, NRA Pistol, Massad Ayoob Group
Staff instructor and currently teaches basic, intermediate and advanced
levels of the modern technique, low-light skills, as well as the Suarez
International close-range gun fighting and force on force curriculum as
an affiliate. You can contact Eric at email@example.com or visit his Sensible Self Defense
These thugs do not care if the officer is black or white, they're an officer and that's all they need to justify their gangster tendencies. The last administration of the US has done more to hurt relations between law officers and urban communities that it boggles the mind. Thanks again "O" for all the damage you did to our country and race relations. You could have done so much good, but that just wasn't part of your plan was it??