Michael's Dispatches

Ferguson Shooting: Why did the officer not shoot Brown in the legs?


30 Nov 2014


My original Facebook post has gone viral: https://www.facebook.com/MichaelYonFanPage/photos/a.235978145664.135781.207730000664/10152528709400665/?type=1&theater

Slightly edited version:

Many people innocently ask why Officer Wilson did not shoot Michael Brown in the legs. The answer could stretch for pages.  More succinctly, a couple handfuls of reasons:

1) This ain't the movies

2) Most police do not fire their weapons much. Most are not great shots.

3) The officer would have to be an incredible shot to be crazy enough to fire wounding shots.

4) Nearly all firefights are "stress shoots." The other guy is moving. Heart pounding. Often breathless. Officer Wilson in Ferguson had just been punched in the face during a wrestling match for his pistol, according to Wilson.

5) Bullets that miss can hit someone else.

6) You always are low on ammo.  Do not waste a single bullet.

7) Time spent reloading is dangerous

8) I have seen many people shot who kept fighting. Shot with weapons far more powerful than any officer's pistol. Many police and combat troops have seen this and will verify.

9) Police and Soldiers never train to shoot to wound. (None that I know of.) Technically, officers will say they shoot to stop the threat but this is legal semantics.  They are trained to fire center mass.  All combat shots are center mass of any hittable part of the target. If you see only a foot, shoot the foot. If you see a chest -- aim for the middle.  If the officer is pointing his pistol at someone, he is one click away from going lethal to stop the threat. There is no in between. I have never seen a target at any military, police or civilian range, that designates legs as a target.

10) This ain't the movies.

During the firefight at the link below, I was photographing when two people were shot a total of seven times. Two men, shot seven times. The US Soldier was shot three times.  The al Qaeda man was hit four times with an M4 at point blank.

After the US Soldier was hit three times in front of me, he continued to fight well and fire at the al Qaeda, who was also shooting back.  

Soon, another US Soldier joined battle and hit the al Qaeda terrorist four times from just a few feet away.  The al Qaeda man was still standing trying to shoot. One shot took off a testicle.  The M4 held by the US Soldier ran out of ammo.  Our Soldier dropped the M4 and tackled the al Qaeda man. Despite being hit four times, al Qaeda man then engaged in aggressive hand to hand combat.  I must grudgingly give the al Qaeda man credit.  He fought very well even when badly shot.

Again, this ain't the movies. When officers or troops shoot, they must shoot center mass, or to kill.  

Some people may say there are no comparisons between combat in war, and police combat.  Ballistics and bodies are the same.  The idea of shooting someone in the legs or hands is a western movie fairytale.  

See the bullets fly and the men fight:


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  • This commment is unpublished.
    Jbad04 · 7 years ago
    You hit the nail on the head. As a retired law enforcement firearms instructor it is amazing that amount of misconceptions there are concerning deadly force incidents and how we have to labor to clarify them. Thanks for your succinct & knowledgable commentary.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Henry Wood · 7 years ago
    I've lost count of the ignorant comments I've seen about the Ferguson shooting, then your true story brings so much of what is happening in the mind and the body of a person under lethal attack, which I have no doubt Officer Wilson believed himself to be.

    "Why didn't he shoot him in the leg" / "the arm" / blah, blah blah.

    Your facts about being under a life-threatening attack, by firearms *OR LETHAL PHYSICAL FORCE* amply demonstrates why the "shoot him in the arm" clowns are wrong.
    Perhaps they saw too many Saturday morning matinees where Roy Rogers always managed to shoot the gun out of the baddies hand?
    Thanks for all your work, Michael.
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Brian · 7 years ago
      Umm yep since that's EXACTLY what happened before the final lethal shots.....he was hit in the arm what like 6 times? And it didn't slow him down one bit.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Dan Smith · 7 years ago
    I'm no expert, but from my reading of the autopsy report and testimony of witnesses (excluding Brown's accomplice, who is a liar) I think Brown was struck by Wilson's second shot, the one he took after he cleared his weapon that he thought missed but was taken a fairly close range. The bullet grazed Brown's thumb, passed through his biceps and then entered the chest. I think that explains why he stopped running after 150 feet. The effects of the injury were catching up. He turned back toward Wilson and grabbed at his right hip, a sign that he was having referred pain from chest shot. Then he stumbled forward and Wilson, feeling that brown was starting to charge, fired. The fatal head shot passed through the top of Brown's head, meaning his head was horizontal with respect to the street. In no way am I critical of Wilson for shooting. It just goes along with your observation that people can function and fight even when severely wounded.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    B. Ben · 7 years ago
    The whole question is almost as stupid as, "When an officer
    is confronted by a black person, why doesn't he just run
  • This commment is unpublished.
    luagha · 7 years ago
    Don't forget that the toxicology test showed a high degree of active Delta-9-THC in Michael Brown's bloodstream. He had been smoking pot, and a lot of it for a 296 pound man. He would be anxious, paranoid, prone to sudden outbursts of violence, and feeling no pain.

    He could easily ignore leg shots just as he ignored the arm shots.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    JK Brown · 7 years ago
    In the incident under discussion, Officer Wilson did shoot Brown in the arm several times to poor effect in stopping him as a threat.

    But, more importantly, in the zone where the incident occurred, the use of deadly force, and a firearm is always deadly force regardless of intent, is only legally justifiable when the individual has a reasonable belief there is an imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury. To purposely shoot to "wound" instead of the most effective means of making the threat stop is an admission that the shooter did not believe the threat was imminent thus undermining, if not negating, their claim that deadly force was a proportional response in self defense. Not to mention, extremity wounds can be just as fatal as center of mass wounds if the bullet clips an artery. Good luck with the grand jury and trial if you claim your intent was to purposely inflict a wound that was likely to not effectively stop the threat because you felt you had the time before they killed or did serious bodily injury.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Katheryn Sato · 7 years ago
    I absolutely agree with you. Anyone who asks "Why couldn't they shoot him in the leg?" or a similar question to TV news, a highly inflammatory one for a group which is already angry (which TV News thrives on) has zero knowledge of either firearms or the extremely violent and dynamic nature of defense or combat - especially at closer ranges. Not only that but they have zero knowledge of the astronomical uncertainty of the immediate effects of bullet impacts on a person. Sidearms as far as they have advanced deliver far less damage than most people realize. My analogy is that of blowing a spit wad out of a two inch straw.

    Besides that at the same time nothing is 100% at stopping an attacker immediately, all medics, EMTs and MDs know that a femoral hit or even a simple broken bone is to be considered life-threatening because of the femoral artery. One would get the worst of two effects, it could take 10- 0 seconds (or more depending on the severity of the artery damage), so the officer can be killed, than the attacker bleed out later.

    Most comments like this are from people who are gullible enough to believe TV and movies are reality. Victims get injured with anything, close their eyes and go to sleep until "cut."

    Most people do not have a clue about how short a time magazines are emptied in close combat. Many attorneys imply (and naturally news) that a murderous LEO takes time and shoots slow deliberate precision shots. Oddly enough I have never once seen any news station try to clarify these facts.

    Anyone who attacks a cop is either already a violent criminal or someone who has no control of anger. No matter what the case, violence is intended.

    In my people watching, THC tends to make people more passive (there are the rare "Paradoxical Reactions"). I'd say there's a good chance the attacker was normally far more violence prone when stone cold sober.

    I'm constantly stunned but not surprised that rioters will use any excuse to destroy people and things.

    I also am horrified that a good LEO who could actually react correctly while in a frightening situation not only has to face national rage, money offered for his murder, worry about his family then have to quit his job protecting a city which obviously needs protection.

    It happens so often that in recent decades I'm convinced that the people of our country (the gullible socialists) and our government have succeeded in pushing us towards a travesty of justice and ethics.

    A president with integrity would come down HARD on those people and I do not expect him to say that the officer could have been his son.
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Bruce · 7 years ago
      Furthermore, if you whack someone in the upper leg with a .40 S&W HP bullet, there is a VERY good chance that you will either blow out the femoral artery directly, or rip it right open with the sharp edges of the shattered femur, or fragments thereof.

      Either way, the "target" has very few minutes to live. Have you ever tried to apply a pressure-bandage, or, as a last resort, tourniquet, to a thigh with a major wound, either from a gun-shot, or, say, from a motor-cycle or other road accident? I have given first aid to one motorcycle rider whose thigh was smashed up during a collision with a truck. In the time it took us to run fifteen yards to the scene and start "work", his thigh blew up like a purple watermelon from the internal bleeding. All we could do was splint him up firmly and apply a wide pressure bandage to the upper thigh and get him away to hospital. He had also suffered head injuries, so I doubt he survived: Phnom Penh, 1990.

      If the femoral artery is ruptured (by a bullet or shattered bone), a LOT of blood is pumped into the surrounding tissue and out of any penetrating wounds, a la the Tivoli Fountain.

      Under the "twenty foot rule", the deal is to shoot and keep shooting until the aggressor "loses interest" or is "demised".............unless you want to leave the scene on a big rubber bag yourself.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    TomH · 6 years ago
    My old FBI firearms instructor used to tell us,"If I want something with knockdown power I will run over the bad guy with my Chevy pickup truck. No firearm truly has "knockdown" power. The laws of physics would not allow it, because the person firing the gun would also be knocked down (for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction).
  • This commment is unpublished.
    johnr · 6 years ago
    in grand jury testimony he said Brown "looked like a black demon" and even fifty yards away you can't take a chance if it really is a demon
  • This commment is unpublished.
    B 4-4 Soldier · 5 years ago
    It is also illegal to purposely maim some one. Meaning you cannot even in self defense purposely shoot someone in the legs.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Willie P. · 5 years ago
    I think it's worth mentioning, in addition to the point about how many shots the inexperienced person might expect to be lethal aren't always, there are places even in the legs where a gunshot can still be quite fatal. An artery anywhere is an artery, after all. So, while there are a wide variety of factors between wounds a person could survive and not survive, there is no such thing as an "easy" shooting -- or rather, a "nice" shooting, a "friendly" shooting, a "merciful" shooting, which aren't synonymous at all with a nice shot, friendly fire, or a mercy bullet.

    11. "This ain't the movies."

    (bears repeating)
  • This commment is unpublished.
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