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Friendly Fire


I’m carrying more frequently these days. Church? Check. Men’s group? Check. Movies? Check. Restaurants — no alcohol? Check.

Having the pistol allows me to believe that I have some control over my destiny. That I have a chance to protect myself from gang violence or road rage.

A chance. I’m not getting younger — and neither are you. As we climb the ladder of years, that chance or opportunity or risk-to-safety balance is almost certainly going to diminish … and not in our favor.

Officer Brian Mulkeen

I had to admit this just last month when I learned about the death of New York City Police Officer Brian Mulkeen, 33. Mulkeen was shot twice during a struggle with one Antonio Williams, 27. The shooting took place in the Bronx early Sunday morning, Sept. 29. At first, it appeared that Mulkeen had been shot by the suspect, who grabbed Mulkeen’s service pistol, but the NYPD story has changed since originally reported.

Mulkeen was on patrol with the city’s anti-crime unit, monitoring gang activity. He and two other officers saw Williams sitting in his car around 12:30 a.m. Williams was on probation for a narcotics-related arrest and had several other arrests, including burglary. When the officers got out of their vehicles to question him, Williams ran. Officer Mulkeen tackled him, precipitating what NYPD Chief of Department Terence Monahan described as “a violent struggle.”

Then, in body-cam audio, Mulkeen can be heard yelling, “He’s reaching for it! He’s reaching for it!” meaning his service pistol. Surrounded now by several cops, a shout that Williams was reaching for a gun was a certain death sentence, and indeed, he was shot dead at the scene.

Of course, Mulkeen, vigorously wrestling with Williams, was also surrounded by cops, all of whom apparently drew their service pistols and began firing. Mulkeen himself fired five rounds, and his partners fired an additional 10 times. In the semi-dark of streetlights and the confusion of the brawl, Mulkeen was hit twice. Although rushed to the hospital, he died.

However, his death was not, as originally reported, a murder by his own pistol. Nor, it seems, had Williams even fired his .32 — an admission Chief Monahan made almost reluctantly.

Mulkeen was shot by fellow officers, and his death was ruled “accidentally killed by friendly fire.” Mulkeen is the second NYPD officer to be killed by friendly fire this year.

Watch Your Back

Friendly fire. I thought we might have heard the last of that as Vietnam faded into our historical rearview mirror, but no.

A seating chart typical of the modern multi-plex cinema. It could be a death trap in an active shooter situation, with danger from both the perpetrator and potential friendly fire from armed citizens and police.

The layout of the modern Multiplex Theatre — crowded, noisy and confusing — could make it a death trap if more than one shooter, friend or foe, were involved in an incident. (Photo from Wikipedia)

And so, I realized that my confidence and the gun I carry in a cross-draw holster might not be the entire solution in a self-defense incident. They give me a chance, but what about the other folks at church and in the semi-darkness of the movie theatre? If some nutcase walks in and begins shooting, most people will flee immediately for exits, but some will draw their licensed weapons and return fire. You do not want to be caught in the crossfire, killed by friendly fire.

First, to avoid friendly fire, be aware that 18.66 million people carry concealed in the U.S., and not only is that number growing, but most — unlike NYPD officers — have very little training. Think exits first, then cover and concealment. Stay low … and watch your back.

About Rick Sapp

After his stint in the U.S. Army, including time as an infantry platoon leader and working with West German KRIPO during the 1968 Soviet invasion, Rick Sapp returned home to earn a Ph.D. in social anthropology. Following his education from the U.S. Air Force Academy, the Catholic University of America and the University of Florida, he moved to France for a year. Rick worked for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service before turning to journalism and freelance writing, authoring more than 50 books for a variety of publishers.

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