A question that commonly comes up, especially with armed citizens, is dealing with a downed threat. The armed professional receives instruction on this aspect of the fight, and it is their job to apprehend threats. For the armed citizen the rule, with very few exceptions, is never approach a downed threat.
The most dangerous time in a confrontation is when we are close to the threat. That’s why we train to create distance, reducing our chances of being injured regardless of the threat’s weapon, and use cover, positioning something protective between the threat and us. And just because the threat may go down or retreats doesn’t mean the fight is over. There may likely be other threats in the area, the downed threat continues to fight or comes back around a corner; approaching a downed threat distracts you from scanning, creating distance and using cover.
Getting within arms reach of the threat is dangerous. They may be playing opossum. In the FBI’s publication “Violent Encounters, A Study of Felonious Assaults on Our Nations’ Law Enforcement Officers,” there is a case where the threat lured the officer in and then “leg swept him (the officer) in an apparent well-rehearsed disarming move,” while at the same time grabbing the officer’s weapon, partially drawing it out of the holster. Bad guys practice just like we do, sometimes more, and they know a lot of tricks. Don’t approach a down threat. As an armed citizen it is not my job to disarm the threat, secure them for custody, or apply medical attention.
There may be times when I’m forced to move towards the threat. For example the threat is between the exit and me; I have to go past him to get out of there. I’m in one end of the house, Gretchen in the other, and I need to get to her, going past the downed threat. When you must move towards the threat it is done cautiously and tactically, scanning while moving, ready to respond instantly to signs of additional trouble.
The same is true for armed professionals except there are other variables to worry about as well. For example far too many times you see every officer on scene rushing in to go hands on with the threat without co-ordination and communication. Officers should be communicating and covering for one another with clear angles of fire. For those in the military there are additional concerns, which we won’t get into here for obvious reasons. The key, regardless of who you are, is not to let yourself become complacent. Always be ready for the unexpected.
What we do after the physical portion of the fight is over is just as critical and tactical as all the things we’ve done up to that that point. After the shootin’ is there is still plenty to be done, and it’s not time to get creative. The key with all fighting skills is to think about and practice them in advance.