The following is a letter sent to me from Panhandle Rancher and is being published with his permission. I inquired with him about a video regarding the Finicum traffic stop and subsequent shooting. Some minor editing has been done for security reasons.
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There is a lot about that shooting that is troubling. I hope there will be hard lessons learned. Finicum was overcome with unbridled anger which sadly led to his demise. If that was his wife in the back seat [Rourke: It was not his wife in the back of the truck], she should have put away the cell phone and instead tried to calm her husband. It also appeared that she shoved her daughter out of the car first, a most unmotherly behavior.
In more urban settings, there are usually more options for dealing with felony car stops. At the xxxxx xxxxx xxxxxxxxx where I taught briefly, the instructors set up a novel and generally unwinable (is that a word?) car stop for each graduating class. One of the more innovative solutions was to call for the FD hook and ladder which had a remote controlled water cannon mounted to ladder’s end. They manipulated the ladder/water cannon to knock out a side glass and then literally washed the occupants from the car, a surefire non-lethal and terminal end to the event. The trouble is what happens in the heat of the moment – when passions flare, reason runs. I can’t tell you how hard it is to hold fire when one hears gunshots all around. I have an anecdote about the sad end of a bunch of serial jewelry store robbers sometime if you are interested. It is most unsettling to end a sudden gunfight and realize the slide is locked back with weapon empty – and not recall firing a single round. Most one on one gunfights end in a second and at close range.
Fortunately many can go their entire career without firing a round in battle, others however are vexed to end up shooting time and time again. This I do know, after surviving that first gun fight, one becomes sudden and accurate. From that point on, focus shifts to having the finest, most dependable, and most lethal equipment allowed, when walking into that valley of the shadow of death. My life certainly changed and probably not for the best. By career’s end, I found myself with a collection of ‘trophy’ photos of the slain – seemingly without conscious effort. I ran across the box of these when moving and can report them shredded. Not something to be proud of, not something I would want grandchildren to see, but even now in my 60s, you can count on me to be sudden and accurate – and to remember each and every situation in vivid detail, often revisited nightly in dreams.
The wife said it seemed to her as if the cops just wanted to kill Finicum. If that officer hadn’t run from behind the barricade ending up in front of speeding truck, then no officer’s lives would have been endangered and there would have been no rationale to shoot. I can see no action being taken against the officers (other than the HRT agents who have much to explain), but can also see a lot of training points on how to better contain a dynamic situation and control escalation. Want to bet the FBI was blocking cell phone coverage from their airplane?
The wife and I hadn’t been married long when one evening she likely saved someone’s life and me from going to jail. Another case of unbridled anger but I had a wife that defused the situation rather than focusing on her cell phone. Fortunately I have learned to better govern my emotions.
I didn’t see Finicum reaching for a weapon and I watched it twice. I was likely too busy reliving private personal horror.
I am most troubled with the way the whole event was managed; ending up in an unconfined felony car stop. It reminded me of the way I learned how to set up combat area security checkpoint stops. Have a few troops at a barricade to effect the stop, ID, and search if necessary, and then have a battle tank just out of sight around a curve or behind cover – a sure end for any who run the stop. I find the whole Finicum event, chilling.