Layout of the Denver Shootout

The Denver Post published a photo that adds some detail to the story about the recent Denver shootout.

While the Post does not explain the photo, which shows the layout of the restaurant where the confrontation took place, the general idea seems clear. The circles marked “O” appear to be the officers, while the circles marked “C” appear to be customers. That would make “X” the bad guy.

Previously, I theorized that one of the officers may have shot a bystander in the ankle because the officer shot prematurely because he had his finger on the trigger too early. The distance between the officer and the bystander was about 30 feet, and the hight of a gun in a normal stance is about 5 feet. That makes the downward angle from the gun to the ankle about 10 degrees. My wife held a string that ran from her gun position past me (standing at point “X” relatively) to approximately point “C;” the string passed my thigh. (That squares with the geometric calculations.) So the officer definitely shot low.

Why is this? I can think of three possible reasons. First, the officer shot prematurely because his finger was on the trigger as he brought his gun up. Second, the officer lowered the gun after the recoil from a previous shot. Third, the officer shot after suffering “shards of glass in his eye,” making his aim low. Denver Police Chief Gerry Whitman said, “That officer was shooting and was being shot at, almost simultaneously,” according to the Post. However, there’s a lot I don’t know here, such as the positions from which the officers fired and which officer shot the bystander in the ankle.

But the photo brings up another obvious point: the officers were shooting directly in the direction of five innocent bystanders. Obviously, that is extremely dangerous. Such action is justified only in the most dire circumstances. However, the criminal “was pointing the shotgun at restaurant patrons and two plainclothes officers in an attempt to rob them.” I don’t know what he said or how he acted. But, obviously, he posed an extreme danger himself. Whitman said that two of the bystanders who were shot were “very supportive of the officers’ actions.” Here’s another point: the officers may not have been able to comply with the robber’s commands without revealing their identity as officers. And the bystanders probably weren’t able to duck for cover without drawing the attention of the criminal. I for one am not in a position to second-guess the officers’ decision in that very messy, very dangerous situation. Even if, in light of more complete information, the officers were judged to have acted rashly, that wouldn’t change the fact that the ultimate responsibility for the danger and for the injuries rests with the criminal.

Here’s another important part of the story reported by the Post:

The gunman, Phuong Van Dang, 26, was a halfway-house inmate who had served a portion of a prison sentence for assault with a deadly weapon, court documents revealed.

Dang was convicted of the felony charge in Jefferson County in 1998 and sentenced to 18 years, according to Colorado court records. But he was released from prison and placed in a community corrections program. …

Dang, 26, was convicted of assault with a deadly weapon in Jefferson County in 1998 and sentenced to 18 years. The conviction was for shooting a victim in the back at the Penny Lane Arcade.

At that time, he was awaiting trial for robbing a fellow high school student at gunpoint in 1997. He received a 10-year sentence for robbery.

The Rocky Mountain News adds that Dang, age 16 when he shot “an arcade worker in the back,” “was in a violent gang, facing multiple felonies.”

I’m all for encouraging people who commit less-serious crimes to rehabilitate themselves. But when you threaten people with guns and then shoot somebody in the back, you have demonstrated that you are incapable of living in civilized society. The perpetrator’s actions certainly do not bolster the case for leniency for highly violent minors of sufficient age to know better.

3 thoughts on “Layout of the Denver Shootout”

  1. I think TonyB’s point is the most important aspect of the story. It would be interesting to know how many non-violent drug dealers were denied early release when this repeat violent offender was turned loose on the public.

    Questions as to whether the police department’s training is adequate are also important. My view is that they should be trained to shoot in situations like that regardless of the risk of hitting innocent bystanders. I say this because letting a crminial like that go poses a greater risk of death or injury to innocent people than shooting at the perpetrator and hopefully getting all bullets in the bad guy.

  2. Be responsible for your own safety.
    1. The shooter is responsible for the bullet wherever it goes and it doesn’t matter if they are a LEO.
    2. Did the bystanders have a plan, did the cops have a plan, or were they just riding along thinking that nothing was going to happen?
    3. Always have a plan. Address possible threats, cover, and where your bullets will go.
    4. If you think that is being paranoid, then don’t look both ways before you cross a street.

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