Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Florida Deputy Shoots and Kills His Officer Roommate

According to Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey, Brevard County Sheriff’s Deputy Andrew Lawson and his close friend and roommate Deputy Austin Walsh were at home playing an online game when the two reportedly took a break. Deputy Lawson picked up a pistol he thought wasn’t loaded and reportedly in jest, pointed the pistol at Deputy Walsh and pulled the trigger, killing him instantly. Lawson called 911 immediately after the shooting. Agents from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement later took Deputy Lawson into custody on a no-bond warrant for manslaughter with a firearm.

Some officials called this incident a “tragic accident.” Did Lawson intend to shoot his roommate? Undoubtedly no; however, this was negligence, not an accident.

The four firearm safety rules:

1. Treat every firearm as if it is loaded at all times. Are all firearms always loaded? Of course not; however, if we always treat them as if they are loaded our actions are less likely to result in tragedy. Did Deputy Lawson know the status of the firearm he was holding? No he did not.  FAIL!

2. Always point the firearm in the safest direction — this is dependent upon the environment and circumstances. We live in a 360-degree world. A safe direction one minute may not be safe a moment later. It should go without saying, NEVER point a firearm at anyone or anything you are not willing to destroy. Did Deputy Lawson intent to destroy Deputy Walsh? Very likely he did not, yet he pointed a deadly weapon at him.  FAIL!

3. Keep your finger off the trigger and out of the trigger guard unless you are intentionally firing a shot. Discard all other variations of this rule. Intentionally firing a shot is a conscious act. Did Deputy Lawson consciously intent to shoot Deputy Walsh? Very likely he did not, yet he placed his finger on the trigger and pulled the trigger.  FAIL!

4. Be sure of your target and what is beyond it. Did Deputy Lawson consider Deputy Walsh a target? Very likely he did not.  FAIL! 

The four firearm safety rules are multilayered for a reason. You can typically violate one without catastrophic consequences. Once you begin to violate two or more you are in trouble. Deputy Lawson violated all four of the firearm safety rules.

Some may consider my comments harsh--I don't.  Firearms are dangerous tools—not toys and must be treated as such. Deputy Lawson presumably received firearms safety training at the academy.  Perhaps he was absent that day.  A moment’s buffoonery resulted in one life lost and another ruined.

Monday, November 14, 2022

Shot in the Heart: The Ghaznavi - Parks Gunfight

2010 Robbery
Pistols generally are not instantaneous fight stoppers. As numerous incidents have demonstrated, the only pistol shot that will instantly stop a fight is one that destroys the brain or severs the spinal cord thereby disabling the central nervous system. Gunshot wounds to the circulatory system and some head wounds often leave their victim capable of purposeful action for many seconds after the fatal wound.

Mehmood Ghaznavi, the owner of the Java Gold jewelry store was no stranger to violent armed robbery. In April 2010 security cameras recorded an armed robbery at the Java Gold jewelry store in Houston, Texas when three men robbed and severely beat Ghaznavi and an employee. Police eventually caught all three attackers. After the 2010 robbery, Ghaznavi armed himself and unfortunately was killed in a gunfight with Anthony Lee Parks during an attempted robbery in a separate incident a year later.

The Ghaznavi - Parks Gunfight

In July 2011, Anthony Lee Parks decided to rob the Java Gold jewelry store. The Java Gold security video shows Parks talking to Ghaznavi for 10-15 minutes prior to attempting the robbery. The video shows Parks reaching into the pocket holding his pistol several times and then removing his hand without the pistol. Although I am speculating, it is very likely that Parks was trying to get up the nerve to go through with the robbery. It is unfortunate that he did not just walk out.

When Parks drew his pistol, Ghaznavi grabbed his pistol as well, a Taurus Judge. During the initial exchange of gunfire, a bullet from Park’s .38 Special S&W Model 37 inflicted a fatal wound on Ghaznavi striking part of his heart. Both men were standing 3-5 feet apart during this exchange.

Parks ran to his car and was attempting to start it when Ghaznavi calmly walked to the door of the business, opened it, and fired two aimed shots at Parks as he sat in his car outside. One of Ghaznavi ‘s shots penetrated the windshield and struck Parks in his upper right forehead, an inch or two above and to the left of his right temple. The bullet lodged in his brain and was later removed during surgery.

Ghaznavi’s Taurus Judge was chambered for the 45 Colt; however, the pistol was loaded with .44 Special cartridges. Why Ghaznavi had loaded the pistol with .44 Special cartridges is unknown; however, a .44 caliber, .429-inch bullet fired in a .452-inch bore meant the bullet did not get the rifling’s full benefit. After shooting Parks, Ghaznavi collapsed in the doorway, almost 30 seconds after he was initially shot.

The actions each man was able to take after receiving what arguably should have been incapacitating wounds is illustrative.

After being shot, Ghaznavi was able to continue purposeful action for almost 30 seconds and in that time, shoot his attacker. After being shot in the head, Parks was able to get out of his car, go back into the store (stepping over Ghaznavi’s still-twitching body), go to the restroom, and stop the bleeding of his head wound with paper towels. Parks then realized that video cameras had recorded the incident, so he began searching for the digital video recording (DVR) equipment, which turned out to be locked behind thick glass. Parks tried shooting the glass with his pistol, but he was out of bullets. He then took Ghaznavi’s gun and tried to shoot the glass again, but Ghaznavi’s pistol was also empty. Parks then PICKED UP A CHAIR and was able to smash the glass to get to the DVR. This is where the video ends as Parks disconnected the DVR, took it outside, and hid it in some bushes along with his pistol.

Police at the Scene
Police found Parks at the scene when they arrived suffering from a gunshot wound to the right side of his forehead. Per an individual who worked on this case, Parks tried to pull the old “they went thataway!” and told Houston Police that some guys had just robbed the place and shot him. The Houston Police allowed an ambulance to transport Parks to a hospital, but his story quickly fell apart. As police reviewed the crime scene, they discovered the DVR equipment and Parks’s pistol hidden in the bushes. The police recovered the video of the robbery and subsequently arrested Parks for Ghaznavi’s murder. 

A jury later convicted Parks of Ghaznavi’s murder and sentenced him to 40 years in prison.

Anthony Lee Parks
An individual involved in the trial stated that he noted no sign of cognitive difficulties for Parks when he met him a few days later in the jail. He stated that Parks was intelligent, polite, and respectful. If Parks had any long-term brain damage, it did not manifest itself during his murder trial. 

Pistols Are Generally Not Instantaneous Fight Stoppers

Extensive research has shown that the only pistol shot that will instantly stop a fight is one that destroys the brain or severs the spinal cord thereby disabling the central nervous system. Shots that do not strike the central nervous system must rely on a critical level of blood loss to cause unconsciousness. Often someone who has received a fatal wound that reduces blood circulation will still be capable of purposeful activity for ten seconds or longer because the brain can remain sufficiently oxygenated.

In other words, even if you inflict a fatal wound, your assailant may have a significant period of time in which they can still injure or kill you. There is no physiological reason for an individual to be incapacitated until blood loss is sufficient to drop blood pressure and/or the brain is deprived of oxygen. As discussed here, there are many documented instances where someone continued fighting for much more than ten seconds after taking a serious wound to the heart or other critical circulatory system components.

The same applies to head wounds. The human skull is hard and has evolved to protect the brain. If the brain or the spinal cord remain intact, there is no guarantee that the person will be incapacitated. Parks’s head wound, although it might have been ultimately fatal without medical intervention, was not immediately incapacitating. The shot to the head most likely to guarantee immediate incapacitation is a shot to the ocular cavity. 

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Sunday, October 30, 2022

SSD Special Match: Little Buzz Saws

As I was processing the targets from yesterday's SSD Special Match, I noticed a number of .223/5.56 bullet holes that were a perfect silhouette of a bullet. This means that the bullet was tumbling when it passed through the target.

Typically this is caused by either the barrel not stabilizing the bullet (i.e. the barrel is shot out or the twist is incorrect for the bullet weight) or the bullet striking something.
It is possible that the bullets were striking a flash hider, muzzle brake, or a baffle in a suppressor. There were no other intervening obstacles.
It is also possible that the shooter's barrel was the wrong twist for the bullet they were firing. For example: a 55 grain bullet in a 1:6" twist or a 62 grain bullet in a 1:16" twist.
At one point in my military days, I would often see this with M-16s that had the barrels shot out. At 25 yards the bullets struck the targets sideways. It was a great hoot firing them on full auto, shooting bullets like little buzz saws--they would really chew up the targets.

Sunday, October 16, 2022

Dave Spaulding and the Handgun Combatives Legacy Class

I came across Dave Spaulding and his Handgun Combatives courses late in his career—much to my regret. My first class with Dave was eye-opening. Dave is one of those unique individuals who can perceive the obvious. I do not say this lightly, the only other individual that I have encountered in my professional life that had this skill was GEN Maxwell Thurman, an Army four star general. At the time, I was one of two officers that the Intelligence Director permitted to brief GEN Thurman because he was a difficult individual to brief. This permitted me an interesting perspective because I was facing the audience full of other generals and colonels. GEN Thurman would make a comment or observation that in immediate retrospect was obvious; however, no one had considered it until that moment. 

Dave has that ability and that is why I enjoy his classes. His unique perspective and ability to distill shooting tasks down to their essence is a pleasure to observe and has improved my own teaching ability.

In the picture on the right with Dave and me is Gunsite instructor Randy Watt. You might ask why a Gunsite instructor would be taking a pistol class? All good instructors/teachers continue their professional development and take classes from other instructors.  I rarely learn something new about shooting per se; however, in every class I take I walk away with a new instruction technique or new insight I had not previously considered.

The legacy class I attended was Dave’s last formal class and his company Handgun Combatives has ceased operations after eleven successful years so an after action report on the class is pointless. Of course, that does not mean that Dave will not teach in the future. If you get the chance to attend one of Dave’s classes at some point, I suggest that you do so.

In that vein, if there is a particular teacher or class you would like to attend you might seriously consider attending sooner rather than later. Many of the well-known trainers are nearing the end of their careers and you may not have the chance if you postpone. I was fortunate to receive a slot for Dave’s legacy class off the waiting list—otherwise I would not have had the opportunity to enjoy his teaching one last time.