Four Cops Executed in Tacoma by Gunmen

It is not clear how many gunmen were involved, but four police officers were killed in a coffee-shop ambush in Tacoma Washington.


The reason I bring it up at all is because it is an interesting case that wen unraveled may shed more light on the legal and social sides of the question of how to address unfettered access to and use of firearms technology in the US.

Details here.

The news currently says that it was one or two gunman, four of four cops in the coffee shop were shot, no one else hurt, and no details were given on the kind off firearms used. If you know more, please feel free to add it below.

Comments

  1. #1 Bruce H
    November 29, 2009

    I’m more interested in why the cops were shot. Was it revenge for something one or more of those particular cops had done? Was it unfocused rage at “the establishment”, or some other unknown motive? Undoubtedly, gun legislation could help to curb such violence, but a deeper discussion of why such violence occurs in the first place would be more illuminating, I think.

  2. #2 Greg Laden
    November 29, 2009

    Bruce, that is exactly what I’m interested in as well, in addition to the usual questions that so often seem to remain unanswered: Where did the guns come from and by what route did they go from an assembly line to the shooter’s hands, and at what steps along the way was a law violated or could something different had happened.

    These are all related, of course.

  3. #3 Sevesteen
    November 29, 2009

    A study I saw some time ago (that I can’t currently find) said that the majority of “crime guns” are stolen from homes, mostly by addicted burglars who exchange them for drugs. Collectibles go to Mexico, decent but ordinary guns get sold to other criminals, and crap guns go to gun ‘buybacks’.

    Yet another place where the drug war makes things worse for ordinary people who don’t use drugs.

  4. #4 Treppenwitz
    November 29, 2009

    Yet another place where the drug war makes things worse for ordinary people who don’t use drugs.

    And ordinary people who do use drugs.

  5. #5 Nalgas
    November 29, 2009

    There is an additional black market for handguns in this country. When cops ‘recover’ a handgun and the BATF comes back with nothing for that serial number, the gun is untraceable. Cops buy, sell, and trade these guns on the sly, keeping no records, but eventually such guns end up in the hands of professional criminals, prized for the fact that they have already proven untraceable.

    My source for this was a gunsmith, now deceased, in San Bernardino County, who had a sideline trafficking in these guns, dealing only with full-time ‘sworn’ officers.

    Remember The Sopranos and the term ‘dumb gat’? Now you know where they come from.

  6. #6 Greg Laden
    November 29, 2009

    Naturally, there is already confusion about this story, including who was shot. At least one authoritative source is saying that it was sheriffs deputies, but the local paper is saying three men and one woman on the Lakewood police force.

    http://www.thenewstribune.com/topstory/story/973573.html

  7. #7 Art
    November 29, 2009

    So much for claims that ‘if only someone had a gun they could have stopped the shooter’. Four dead. All had guns. All were wearing vests.

  8. #8 Roadtripper
    November 29, 2009

    So much for claims that ‘if only someone had a gun they could have stopped the shooter’.

    You mean like at Fort Hood? That’s pretty much what happened there.

    Four dead. All had guns. All were wearing vests.

    Has anyone been able to verify this comment? Every article I’ve looked at (so far) says they were in uniform, but nothing about vests.

    Rt

  9. #9 Greg Laden
    November 29, 2009

    Road tripper, one news account I saw on line said they were wearing vests. Not that this bears at all on the question of how having armed people hanging around the coffee shop will stop crime in said coffee shop.

    But it does suggest that maybe the perp had cop-killer bullets, perhaps.

  10. #10 Greg Laden
    November 29, 2009

    Two stories that mention the vests. Also, the perp may be wounded. Which, of course, proves that the Gun Lobby is Corrextez!!!!

    http://www.king5.com/news/local/Police-officers-shot-78089882.html

    http://www.thenewstribune.com/topstories/story/973747.html/

  11. #11 Roadtripper
    November 29, 2009

    Road tripper, one news account I saw on line said they were wearing vests. Not that this bears at all on the question of how having armed people hanging around the coffee shop will stop crime in said coffee shop.
    But it does suggest that maybe the perp had cop-killer bullets, perhaps.

    That’s my concern, as well. I’ve been following this story, but haven’t been able to find out anything about the vests. I’m waiting for corroboration on that.

    On any normal day, a police presence in a coffee shop should deter crime. But on a normal day, crime = robbery. This case isn’t “normal.” Obviously, this wasn’t a robbery, and if this shooter was willing to take on four armed police officers, nothing was going to deter him.

    Rt

  12. #12 Robert Bruce Thompson
    November 29, 2009

    Road tripper, one news account I saw on line said they were wearing vests. Not that this bears at all on the question of how having armed people hanging around the coffee shop will stop crime in said coffee shop.

    Greg, the assertion by people who favor concealed carry is that armed civilians stop such events with minimal loss of innocent life because the bad guy doesn’t realize they’re armed. Any bad guy’s first act in such a situation is to shoot the obvious armed people. Had there been someone carrying concealed in that coffee house, the bad guy might well have been shot before he’d killed all four cops.

    But it does suggest that maybe the perp had cop-killer bullets, perhaps.

    There’s no such thing as a “cop killer” bullet. You’re presumably referring to KTW and similar rounds, which are coated with Teflon to prevent bore erosion and have Teflon tips for the same reason that Teflon tips are used on canes.

  13. #13 dean
    November 29, 2009

    “Had there been someone carrying concealed in that coffee house, the bad guy might well have been shot before he’d killed all four cops.”

    Possibly – although studies show that the number of times people with license to carry actually stop crimes is greatly over-stated.

    I hope we soon see a post discussing the capture of whoever did this.

  14. #14 Nelson Muntz
    November 29, 2009

    Pierce County sheriff’s spokesman Ed Troyer got quoted as saying, “This was a targeted, selected ambush,” and that quote is now all over the news.

    No, there was no ambush. The cops were inside, seated at a table, busy with their coffees and laptops, when the shooters came in from the outside and shot them.

    In an ambush, the attackers are lying in wait, in place before their targets arrive.

    There oughta be a law: PIOs should be required to own dictionaries.

  15. #15 Greg Laden
    November 29, 2009

    Robert, I think you are correct about the assertion that concealed weapons are the idea behind that idea …. but that doesn’t work either.

    There are cop killer bullets! There is a whole class of bullet called, by cops, cop killer bullets, and you’ve described them. I’m not entirely why you think they don’t exist! (They are not sold under that name, I suspect….)

  16. #16 gwen
    November 29, 2009

    The police have identified a primary suspect. He is a man who has been convicted of 5 felonies in Arkansas(sentence commuted by Huckabee), followed by 5 felony convictions in Washington State. He had been jailed for second degree child rape and recently released (bailed out?). Why was he on the streets? Reminds me of the man who assassinated the 4 police officers in Oakland, Ca earlier this year.

  17. #17 Greg Laden
    November 29, 2009

    Wow. If Huckabee was a Democrat that would be the end of his career.

  18. #18 Art
    November 29, 2009

    The report I watched on TV news, ABC I think, said all the officers were shot in the head. No special bullets needed.

    The reporter clearly said they all had vests. The graphic shown, showed four in a booth behind laptops and clearly showed vests in black.

    The reports I saw didn’t mention the assailant being wounded.

  19. #19 Greg Laden
    November 29, 2009

    Art: In the simulation you saw, was one of the four cops standing when the incident started? Did one of the cops make it outside before he/she was killed? Those versions are also reported.

  20. #20 Sevesteen
    November 30, 2009

    Cops are not ballistics experts. “Cop killer bullets” defined as a bullet design particularly suited for defeating ballistic vests with a handgun are not available through legitimate sources–Their existence isn’t quite a myth, but it is nearly so.

    The requirements to penetrate a vest with the power available from a handgun are a pointed, small diameter, extremely hard bullet resistant to deformation traveling at abnormally high velocity. In order to get the required velocity without blowing up the gun, you need an abnormally lightweight bullet for the caliber.

    The requirements to maximize “stopping power” from a handgun are very different–Large diameter, soft material with controlled expansion (typically a soft lead hollowpoint with a thin copper jacket), with a medium to heavy bullet weight.

    The FN 5.7 is the gun most commonly accused of using cop killer ammo. It was designed with the ability to fire ammo that can penetrate some armor, but that ammunition is deliberately not available in the US. It is about 30% less powerful than typical police calibers.

    Virtually all rifle ammo (other than .22 rimfire) will penetrate a vest, because the velocity far exceeds what can be accomplished with a handgun.

  21. #21 Art
    November 30, 2009

    “Did one of the cops make it outside before he/she was killed?”

    The simulation was fairly static. The officers were depicted in a large wrap-around type booth that went halfway around the table, all with their backs pretty much against the wall. One on the far right at a 45 degree angle. The simulation showed a gunman figure approach the table and then move away. His figure didn’t seem to be articulated. The police figures didn’t move and there was no mention of any of the police officers leaving the building.

    Of course I have no way of verifying the report.

    Looking at teh report at:http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory?id=9200330

    From that report:
    Troyer said investigators believe two of the officers were killed while sitting in the shop, and a third was shot dead after standing up. The fourth apparently “gave up a good fight.” …
    “We believe there was a struggle, a commotion, a fight … that he fought the guy all the way out the door,” Troyer said. “We hope that he hit him.” Investigators were asking area medical providers to report any gunshot wounds.

    From:http://www.komonews.com/news/local/78088192.html:

    When he reached the counter, the barista saw him pull a gun our of his coat. She fled, thinking the gunman was about to target her.
    Instead, he turned and fired point-blank at the four uniformed officers as they were working on their laptop computers.
    Two officers were hit before they had to react. One officer was shot as he attempted to struggle with the gunman. Another officer fired off some shots toward the gunman as he fled, and may have hit him, Troyer said.
    “We believe there was a struggle, a commotion, a fight … that he fought the guy all the way out the door,” Troyer said. “We hope the suspect was shot, because that would tell us who it is. There aren’t a whole lot of people running around with gunshot wounds.” Two baristas and a handful of other customers were inside the coffee shop at the time of the attack, but none of them were shot or injured. The suspect fled without taking any money.

    Snip

    So, apparently, one officer did, perhaps, make his/her way out of the building. Evidently fighting in some way with the attacker. As always the solid and verified accounts take longer to get out and initial accounts are full of holes and incorrect information. Humans are pretty poor as observers and easily slip in their existing bias and assumptions.

  22. #22 Greg Laden
    November 30, 2009

    What is the motivation for gun enthusiasts to deny the idea that there are bullets designed in such a way that they can be fired from a pistol and penetrate a vest worn by a police officer? And to deny the rights of our God Fearing Patriotic First Responders to dislike such things???//??

    Regarding simulations: It is the lowest level of journalism to provide one of the out-of-the-producers-ass simulations based on nothing. We expect simulations to be based on some sort of research, to have some sort of use. Simulations were being shown of a recent air crash of this sort as well…. just a guy with POV software and a vague idea of what an airplane looked like. There should be an explicit journalist rule that a simulation be based on something, and to add value rather than to confuse and obfuscate.

  23. #23 Sevesteen
    November 30, 2009

    What is the motivation for gun enthusiasts to deny the idea that there are bullets designed in such a way that they can be fired from a pistol and penetrate a vest worn by a police officer? And to deny the rights of our God Fearing Patriotic First Responders to dislike such things???//??

    If I understand your motivation for doing a series of posts on commonly misunderstood and misapplied scientific principles, my motivation is very similar.

    Can you produce an example of a handgun bullet designed or adapted for penetrating a ballistic vest being used to kill a cop (or even someone wearing a cop’s vest), where regular ammo would not have been equally effective?

    Can you find a real example of this ammo for sale to civilians in the US? The neutered version of the FN 5.7 round doesn’t count, only the actual armor piercing one.

  24. #24 Art
    November 30, 2009

    IMO simulation is not necessarily a depiction of fact. Any more than a diagram quickly sketched out on a blackboard is a depiction of fact. It’s just a tool for transfer of ideas. The ABC news graphic was pretty basic, basically static CG dummies, and I doubt anyone mistook them for a high fidelity depiction of events.

    All simulations and depictions have limitations. The only accurate stand-in for reality is reality. Everything else is, at some level, an approximation. Very intricate simulations are often the most potentially deceptive. Which isn’t to say that simulations can’t be accurate, or as accurate as humanly possible, or that accuracy isn’t important.

    For some reason the movie “The Stuntman” w/ Peter O’Toole comes to mind as it explored how events are depicted, how perceptual reality can be manipulated from within and without, and how one event can be experienced many ways. Kurisowa did it better in “Roshimon” but that’s heavy fare for ‘date night at home with the main squeeze’ and “The Stuntman” is lighter, funny in spots, and it has a happy ending.

  25. #25 Paul D.
    November 30, 2009

    I disagree. I think that a simulation has traditionally been used on TV news to show what “experts reconstruct” of some event. The use of imagery that looks like a simulation tacitly implies some level of information.

  26. #26 Anne Gilbert
    November 30, 2009

    I learned about this horrible tragedy last night, on, of all places, the Facebook comments of a niece of mine, who is a local cop. She was nowhere near the cops who got shot, but she knows many of them, or their families. There appears to have been, according to the latest reports, one, lone person involved, and he had a record of prior arrests and prison time in Arkansas. It appears he was pardoned by then-governor Mike Huckabee, who, as many of you are progbably aware, ran in the primaries for President on the Republican ticket. The man accused of the crime claimed, at the time he was pardoned, that he’d “turned his life around”, seemingly through some Christian ministry. This apparently appealed to Huckabee, who, before he became governor of the State of Arkansas, was a Christian minister. As for “motive”, who knows? There was another police killing here in the Seattle area, only two weeks or so ago, where the guy just wanted to shoot police officers because they were “racist”, or something like that. And I have no idea what the motives of this person might be.
    Anne G

  27. #27 Robert Bruce Thompson
    December 1, 2009

    There are cop killer bullets! There is a whole class of bullet called, by cops, cop killer bullets, and you’ve described them. I’m not entirely why you think they don’t exist! (They are not sold under that name, I suspect….)

    No. “Cop-killer bullet” is simply an inaccurate description coined by anti-gun people to describe the type of bullet introduced under the name KTW. I met two of the guys who designed this new bullet back in the 70′s, and shot a lot of KTW rounds before they were commercially available. The KTW bullet was not designed to penetrate body armor, and is not particularly effective at doing so. People made assumptions about why the KTW bullet was Teflon-coated and had a Teflon tip, apparently thinking that because Teflon is slippery it was intended to help the bullet to penetrate the Kevlar and ceramic plates used in vests.

    In fact, the KTW was designed to be used in police service pistols to minimize the danger from ricochets hitting innocent bystanders. When a standard pistol bullet hits auto glass or sheet metal at a sharp angle, it tends to ricochet rather than penetrating. A KTW bullet is much less likely to ricochet, which is the purpose of the soft Teflon tip.

    Greg, I don’t want to be rude, but my impression after reading a lot of your posts about firearms is that you know nothing about them, and that you make yourself look foolish by simply regurgitating inaccurate information that you’ve read somewhere. Have you ever actually fired one? More than once?

  28. #28 Paul
    December 1, 2009

    In fact, the KTW was designed to be used in police service pistols to minimize the danger from ricochets hitting innocent bystanders.

    Trinitrotoluene was designed and originally used as a yellow dye. Should we not consider it an explosive now, when it is advertised and controlled as one?

  29. #29 Greg Laden
    December 1, 2009

    Robert, I am not an expert on firearms and never intended to suggest that I was. I am not totally ignorant, either. It is simply not the case that one is either an expert or a moron in this or any other field.

    I have fired a number of different firearms, more than once. This includes shotgun, various pistols, various hunting rifles, and automatic rifles. I have also been fired at by a number of different firearms, more than once, including rifles (this does not count accidental cases with shotguns and rifles working as an archaeologist during hunting season, or just having firearms pointed at me but the trigger not pulled, which would include pistols, various automatics, and the odd RPG launcher) which does not add expertise but certainly does add excitement.

    I have found that gun nuts, or enthusiasts, have their own standards for who gets to express an opinion vs. not and who can be declared as sufficiently expert vs. not, and that these declarations are usually stupid and defensive.

    Your comments are not like that, and are rather, helpful and very much appreciated. That is interesting information about the teflon coating.

  30. #30 Robert Bruce Thompson
    December 2, 2009

    Okay, thanks for the information. It sounds like you’ve shot at least a bit, which is more than I’d expected.

    I understand that shooting enthusiasts can be annoyingly pedantic. For example it annoys many of us to hear someone refer to a magazine as a clip, because they’re two entirely different things.

    But my main concern has nothing to do with inaccurate terminology or similar nitpicking. It’s that non-shooters make a lot of very bad assumptions about something they know little or nothing about. And those assumptions often lead them badly astray.

    For example, most anti-gun people assume that cops are well trained and expert in the use of firearms and that civilians have little training or expertise. In fact, the truth is the converse. The average cop has very little firearms training and never practices. He or she probably shoots a box of 50 rounds at the range twice a year to qualify. And that under very unrealistic conditions–paper target at a known range in full daylight, and so on. Conversely, the average armed civilian probably shoots more practice rounds in a year than the average cop does in a lifetime. Obviously, there are exceptions. Some civilians do what it takes to pass the test for a concealed carry permit and then never shoot again, and some cops are hobby shooters. But it’s true that the only people who are worse shots than the average cop are criminals, who never practice.

    Similarly, cops are often raked over the coals for perfectly justifiable shootings, based on Monday-morning quarterbacking by people who weren’t there (and if they had been there would have been crying for the cop to protect them). So, in the luxury of their armchairs, they judge the cop who had to make a split-second decision, probably in the dark and pumped full of adrenaline. As you know from experience, having someone shoot at you is disconcerting.

    Many years ago, I competed in combat pistol events. I shot several times a week on realistic courses. There were days when I ran literally 1,000 rounds of .45 ACP through one of my 1911 Colts. I could consistently make center-body hits on a silhouette target at 50 yards, rapid fire. I attended combat pistol school with groups from HRT and GSG-9. In short, I was a shooter.

    Then one day I happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. I saw a guy doing something and yelled at him. He straightened up and shot at me! (In case anyone is wondering, the first reaction isn’t fear; it’s stunned surprise, followed by anger. The shakes come later, after it’s all over.)

    At any rate, my .45 cleared my holster instantly, I assumed the position, aimed for a center-body hit, and fired, expecting the guy to drop. Instead, I blew out the windshield of a car that was 10 yards from the guy. This at a range of maybe 25 yards, top. I actually stopped to look at my pistol, thinking something was wrong with it. Fortunately the guy took off running.

    But I learned a lesson that day. No matter how much one practices under even realistic conditions, it’s somehow different when the target shoots back.