Saturday, December 19, 2015

Page One Sheriff SHOAR SPIN II: Sheriff's Office using new 'less-than-lethal' weapon to reduce fatal shootings

Sheriff's Office using new 'less-than-lethal' weapon to reduce fatal shootings
Posted: December 18, 2015 - 11:43pm | Updated: December 19, 2015 - 7:28am

Record reporter Stuart Korfhage shoots non-lethal weapon (not a typewriter)

It’s a choice St. Johns County Sheriff David Shoar hates his deputies to have to make: shoot a suspect in a dangerous situation or hold off and risk being killed or maimed yourself.

Now the Sheriff’s Office is equipping its personnel with a new weapon that might give deputies a better choice, especially when they are in a standoff situation.

The new device, a 40-millimeter launcher manufactured by Safariland, is described as a “less-than-lethal” rifle that fires projectiles with foam rubber tips. The launchers pack enough wallop to incapacitate an individual temporarily but not enough to kill — when aimed away from the head and major organs.

“This is going to give our folks a chance to bring (a situation) to conclusion without anybody getting hurt,” Shoar said.

There are other nonlethal weapons used by deputies, including pepper spray and Taser stun guns. But the effectiveness of those devices is severely limited when the suspect and officer are separated by more than 10 or 15 feet.

The launchers are equipped with laser sights and are accurate from 25 yards away or even farther.

“I don’t see any downsides,” Shoar said. “We’ve got a lot of hopes for it.”

Use of the launchers will be for serious situations only, the sheriff said. The weapons are only to be used when there is a physical threat to officers, bystanders or the suspect.

The Sheriff’s Office will be studying the number of times the launchers are used in the field, Shoar said. In the next 18 months, every time the launchers are fired, the use will be part of a “Response to Resistance Report” for the incident.

On Thursday, the last of the deputies who will carry the launchers completed their eight hours of training with the weapons. It included classroom and firing range time.

Sgt. Brian Canova, training supervisor for the Sheriff’s Office, said deputies have had no trouble getting comfortable with the new weapons. He thinks they will be happy to have something other than a firearm to handle potentially fatal situations.

“It just gives us options we didn’t have before,” he said. “It’s not going to stop officer-involved shootings, but it’s going to put a big dent in them.”

Officer Mark Samson, spokesman with the St. Augustine Police Department, said his department is also looking at less-than-lethal alternatives and believes the launchers are a viable option.

“It (gives) officers an opportunity to control a dangerous situation,” he said. “Using a tool like that keeps you a few more feet away and keeps you much safer.”

While there have been more than 1,100 cases of fatal officer-involved shootings in the country through Tuesday (according to the website, the Sheriff’s Office this year has had just three incidents of officer-involved shootings, two of which were fatal.

The threat, however, is always there. In May, there were two shootings in the same week.

In both of those situations, officers were confronted by men with weapons, practically forcing officers to discharge their firearms.

“We keep dealing with these suicide-by-cops (scenarios),” Shoar said. “When we get in there, our options are limited.”

That’s why the launchers were ordered — about 150. The cost for the equipment runs about $150,000, funded with drug seizure money.

Shoar said it’s money well spent because he knows they work. The SWAT unit has already been using them, and a recent incident showed just how effective the launcher can be.

On Nov. 27, Tracy Jane Huff entered a St. Augustine Papa John’s location wielding a knife. She was threatening to hurt herself and possibly others, according to the St. Augustine Police Department.

The business was cleared out, and when Huff came outside she was shot in the thigh with one of the foam rubber projectiles.

It was enough to get her to drop the knife and allow officers to take her into custody without anyone suffering a serious injury.

That’s exactly the way Shoar would like to see standoff situations end.

“When we go out to calls, the last thing we want to do is use lethal force,” he said. “Nobody goes to work wanting to kill somebody.”

reader4paper 12/19/15 - 09:06 am 13“Response to Resistance Report”
Interesting phrase! Resistance?

" she was shot in the thigh with one of the foam rubber projectiles." Why weren't the previous victims shot in the thigh with the real bullets instead of going for the kill shot? Now that they have foam rubber projectiles they will aim for non-lethal shots?
More toys for the sheriff's boys.

olddog a/k/a Retired Circuit Judge CHARLES MATHIS, son of the segregationist judge who incarcerated the St. Augustine Four in juvenile jails where they were raped and beaten; this son of a segregationist was after judicial retirement the chief homicide prosecutor, who helped coverup the Michelle O'Connell case working as a prosecutor for State's Atorney RALPH JOSEPH LARIZZA
olddog 12/19/15 - 10:20 am 30Big difference
There is a big difference between trying to disarm someone who is trying to commit "suicide by cop" with a knife in hand, and being involved in a shoot out with a person armed with a gun and threaning the officer with it. The offices can afford to shoot for the thigh in this case, but if their lives are in danger, th y don't have that option. These weapons can save lives and protect the public.

sponger2 12/19/15 - 10:38 am 20Firearms training and center mass. ( to Reader4paper)
Military and police training in the tactical use of firearms are trained to shoot for "center mass". This being the most likely area in which to score a hit considering factors such as movement, distance, environment, and/or the heat of the moment. To discriminate with a leg shot is something more reminiscent of the old movies. Besides what if you hit the femoral artery?

Firstcoaster 12/19/15 - 11:18 am 20Alternative
The cops should shoot the gun out of the perp's hand. I know they can do it because I have seen this in Hollywood movies dozens of times, so it must be valid. :)

Someone above must have been arrested or ticketed a few times (or both), therefore the cops have been picking on him.

//roll eyes//

Morris1 12/19/15 - 12:13 pm 00Of course these devices make perfect sense...
... and its not 'more toys'. It adds another option to the use of force continuum for someone who poses a threat but isn't menacing with a firearm. The incident at Papa Johns is a perfect example of why less than lethal options like these should be made readily available to all officers, in addition to firearms.

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