It's been two years since the terrible tragedy of the Lakewood shootings occurred. There's a lot to be learned from this event. Read Brian McKenna's article, Legacy of Lakewood, followed by answering the discussion questions below. We would like to hear what you have to say, and suggest you share the questions with your department so history doesn't repeat itself.
1. It’s natural to become complacent about routine, non-police related activities like dining at a restaurant, but this incident graphically demonstrates that even downtime can prove deadly. How can we raise our awareness of our surroundings under such circumstances?
2. We will never know if Clemmons displayed any pre-assault indicators as he entered the coffee shop and approached the officers, but most offenders who attack police officers do. Armed individuals also tend to display certain characteristics or behaviors indicative of the fact that they are armed. What are some of the indicators that a given subject may be dangerous? How important is it to be aware of these indicators during our downtime, as well as at all other times when on duty?
3. Threat recognition is vital to officer safety, and improved observation skills are vital to timely threat recognition. How much training have you received in ways to improve your observation skills? What can this tragedy teach us about the need for more training in this area? How can individual officers improve their observation skills?
4. According to FBI statistics, 21.5 percent of the officers murdered in the U.S. over the past decade were killed in ambushes, which is by far the highest fatality rate of any category of felonious police killings. What can we do to defend against this threat during downtime, as well as at other times when on duty? How much training have you received in detecting and responding to ambushes? What can this tragedy teach us about the need for more training to deal with this threat?
5. The evidence indicates that Officer Owens attempted to engage Clemmons with a non-lethal empty-handed technique rather than use deadly force. He was skilled at control tactics, in excellent physical condition, and had a proclivity for going hands-on in force incidents. Could this have been the reason why he chose not to use deadly force?
6. Could the fact that Clemmons’ gun jammed, and was therefore no longer an immediate threat, have influenced Officer Owens’ decision to use non-lethal rather than deadly force? Are police officers legally or morally obliged to withhold deadly force under such circumstances? Is an officer legally required to wait until the last instant before resorting to deadly force? Under what circumstances is an officer legally permitted to use deadly force?
7. What is the best way to respond to an extreme close-quarters armed attack? If you are a trainer, do you train your officers in such techniques? If not, has this tragedy convinced you to seek out solid, street-relevant extreme close-quarters techniques and then thoroughly train your officers in them?
8. What does this incident tell us about the importance of staying aware of the possibility that an armed opponent may be armed with a backup weapon?
9. Officer Richards was confronted with the extremely difficult task of neutralizing an armed assailant who was engaged in a physical struggle with a fellow officer. What is the best technique for dealing with this kind of situation? How much training have you received in solid, street-relevant techniques for neutralizing such threats? What can this tragedy teach us about the need for more training in this area?
10. It appears that Officer Richards drew his gun before he was disarmed. This is an important point, because the majority of officers who are disarmed lose their guns during the draw. What does this say about the need to focus more on weapon retention techniques for retaining control of your sidearm during and after the draw?
11. What does Clemmons’ level of coldblooded calculation and preparation tell us about the cop killer mindset? How should the realization that such individuals exist affect our level of commitment to training, hard work, mental preparation and winning?
12. In what way did officers Owens’ and Richards’ actions exemplify winning mindset and warrior spirit?