A Nurse with a Gun

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Importance Of Vision

Taken from Franconia New Hampshire Police Cpl. Bruce McKay's cruiser, a dash cam video shows the May 11 confrontation that led to the police officer's death and that of the driver he had just stopped, Liko Kenney. After shooting the law enforcement officer, Kenney twice drove over his body. Kenney is subsequently shot and killed by a citizen, Gregory W. Floyd, who grabbed the officer's sidearm while coming to his aid.

It starts with the first of two traffic stops on Route 116. McKay pulls over a small car for speeding and having an expired registration. Two heads are visible through the car's rear window. The driver appears to be talking to the officer. Two minutes later the coupe pulls away, followed quickly by McKay's police sport utility vehicle.

A mile and a half down the road, McKay overtakes Kenney, crossing the double yellow line, backing up and turning several times until the cars are nose to nose. Kenney reaches out and points, as if asking McKay to back up. A pickup truck behind them has stopped in the road. Kenney backs into a dirt driveway, but McKay doesn't stop. He drives the SUV into the coupe, bumping and pushing it into a gravel parking area backed by farm equipment and fields. Kenney's hands are up now, and the video, mostly silent, blares suddenly with the sound of a siren.

Events then happen quickly. Kenney leans his head and arm out of the window and waves. McKay walks into view toward the faded blue coupe. He sprays mace at the driver, confidently turns his back and walks out of view of the camera. Kenney leans out again, a firearm now in his hand, and rapidly fires seven shots, striking Officer McKay four times.

Kenney tried to escape. He drove over McKay's body twice, but did not get far. He was shot dead moments later by Gregory W. Floyd, a discharged Marine who seized up McKay's gun in a bid to protect him. In a summary report, prosecutors declared Officer McKay was justified in using non-deadly force on Kenney, partly because of a violent confrontation between the two men four years earlier. The attorney general also ruled that the shooting of Kenney by Floyd was justified.

As tragic as this murder is, there is much to be learned, or at least reinforced. What was the overriding mistake that Officer McKay made as he went about his duties? He underestimated his adversary. He had a history with this individual. He thought he knew what to expect. He sprayed Kenney with mace, and then he turned his back on his adversary. By turning his back, McKay gave Kenney the opportunity to pull a gun and fire it again and again, unopposed. McKay was cocky. You can see it in his last movements. He was complacent. He gave up the initiative. He thought he had resolved the encounter. He learned too late that he was wrong. He died as a result.

Seize the initiative. Never give it up. Never underestimate your adversary. Never, never take your eyes off your adversary. When you do so, you make yourself defenseless to his attack. Your first line of defense is your vision. Use it. You cannot react to what you do not see. By the time you hear the gunshots behind you, it's too late.



Blogger Mulliga said...

Also a good illustration of the limitations of less-lethal deterrents.

12:25 AM  
Blogger Matt G said...

That Cpl McKay blew it, there is no doubt. But some of his actions can be explained by understanding his intermediate weapon.

That big can of O.C. spray was a mist-type sprayer. Though extremely fast-acting, the mist type O.C. sprays are fantastically likely to cause a blow-back secondary hit on the person spraying it. We are trained to spray and move, quickly, sidestepping until the pepper has blinded the opponent and he can't find you. McKay, I think, was rapidly striding away from the fog of pepper spray that he had filled the car with.

Unfortunately, modern pepper sprays are water-based, and most cops forget to shake them up when they use them. The OC settles, and basically just strong water ends up spraying, much of the time. This slows the time it takes to incapacitate an enemy. Even with strong percentage and high SHUs and alcohol base, though, it takes a couple of seconds for your adversary to be blinded.

Note that Kenney's shooting is wild, and pretty much just sprayed. He got lucky in making a fatal hit.

If McKay had just taken cover and ordered Kenney out, the confrontation would have gone better. But it's damned hard to say that on the scene.

3:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If McKay had just taken cover and ordered Kenney out, the confrontation would have gone better.


It is quite likely that McKay had considered and rejected the idea of ordering Kinney out of the vehicle because he was unsure that he'd blocked Kinney's vehicle in well enough to prevent another chase. And it didn't look like he was using OC as a defensive tool, but simply to prevent Kinney from being able to drive off again.

8:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Googling Liko Kenney Bruce McKay returns a lot of hits about the incident. This appears to me to be an unfortunate example bad things happening to a bad cop. There is no excuse for Kenney's shooting McKay. Yet, with McKay's reputation for being an overzealous prick (http://abcnews.go.com/US/Story?id=3175234&page=3), and his personal history with Kenney, the town's police chief erred in failing to instruct McKay to call for backup to deal with Kenney. A policy like that could have avoided these two deaths.

12:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The driver was certainly not justified in shooting the cop, but the cop did a lot to escalate the situation that was over not paying a silly tax and going over an arbitrary speed limit that was probably also exceeded by the cop. Why not just get the plate and send the guy a ticket by mail.
Spraying someone with a chemical irritant is assault after all. Tragedies like this would likely be less frequent if the cops would just calm down a little and not turn speeding into a big confrontation.

Thank you for your blog by the way, quite enjoyable.

9:32 PM  
Blogger Matt G said...

Anonymous, you're completely off-base.

Kenney ran from the police officer over a minor traffic stop. Why? Were there other felonies afoot that were about to be discovered?

If we don't require citizens to stop for minor traffic transgressions, then they will not stop for anything. That smells a lot like anarchy. If we all stop, and put up with the officer's roadside investigation, we can argue it in court, where we can do the most good. Arguing or running away at roadside puts a possibly innocent person into the guilty category.

People are convicting McKay as a an asshole cop on the basis of claims by Kenney's camp. And, oh yeah-- he'd had run-ins with Kenney before. Uh, news flash: small town cops will have numerous run-ins with the same felons in their district. And calling for a backup everytime you pull over the asshole only makes you look like a puss who can't handle his duty.

I agree that the pepper spray was used in an attempt to stop Kenney from driving away any further. Intermediate force is allowed to effect the arrest of someone who flees. Kenney was going to jail that day.

Anonymous, despite your armchair, keyboard commando, anonymous declaration that this was entirely a situation of the late Corporal's creation, I will say this: Felons who assault cops, and then run away from them every time that they commit a traffic infraction will go to jail every time that they run.

While McKay's tactics on the scene might not have been the best, nothing was wrong about chasing down a convicted felon who ran from the traffic stop (because he was a felon in possession of a firearm?), which in my state at least is yet another felony. And nothing is wrong about trying to arrest a guy who endangered other people by running in a vehicle.

6:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

These two knew each other well, they had history. In Kenney's mind McKay was out to get him. In his situation I'd have taken it up with a lawyer, not a gun. If I was stopped for a traffic infraction and then backed off the road as requested and was rammed by the police car there's a significant chance that I'd switch from cooperation to self defense.

This was a long standing dispute. It is unprofessional for a police officer to have a long standing dispute with anyone. It is inappropriate. This should have been resolved years ago by the application of the law. Both these guys should still be alive. McKay's arrogance showed in how he strolled away after pepper spraying Kenney, that wasn't a cop backing off to get out of the cloud of spray, that was a swaggering bully walking away after a sucker punch. Did that justify Kenney shooting him in the back? Certainly not. Did the marine do anything wrong? No.

Sorry, but I don't think cops are universally good and blameless and I don't think regular citizens are universally bad. This was a situation that should never have been allowed to occur and once it had the professional in this encounter was certainly in the driving seat and could have avoided both deaths.

10:39 AM  
Blogger phlegmfatale said...

McKay may not have been of the most sterling motives, but he in no way deserved to be murdered. I have no sympathy for Kinney, Kenny, whatever-his-name-was. At least a brave Marine took up the gauntlet and took the bastard felon out of commission. That part of the story was heart-warming, to me. Thank goodness for the good men and women in our society. There is hope, yet.

7:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm going to go with presuming that the driver of the car was innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. Is not that the standard that cops are supposed to apply in their dealings with civilians. The cop in the video and a lot of other cops need to start thinking about serving the communities they work in rather than taking an approach that allows any means, no matter how disproportionate, to the end of enforcing the LAW. Also, their needs to be a lot more thought about what laws are just and what methods of enforcement are just. It goes beyond what is LEGAL, to the much more important question of what is moral.
It is a tragedy that two lives were cut short. Efforts on both sides toward mutual respect will result in better law enforcement, and fewer tragic deaths.

p.s. this is the same Anonymous of "Anonymous, despite your armchair, keyboard commando, anonymous declaration"

p.p.s. My name is Richard, I live on the west coast and I support anarchy, that is a peaceful natural order.

10:44 PM  
Anonymous SansAuthoritas said...

My name is Geoff, I live on the East Coast. I happen to agree with the logic of Richard's statements.

This man's actions made him a mere "law-enforcement officer," no longer a "peace officer." His actions against Kinney were not only imprudent and arrogant, but immoral: initiated to enforce an arbitrary vehicle tax. Failure to pay such a tax does not harm anyone except bureaucrats.

Had Mr. Kinney recently slaughtered five people, and McKay knew about it, his actions might have been justified. (He probably would've drawn down and shot him, like any other citizen has a right to do to an escaped murderer.) But he did not know that the man was responsible for anything besides not paying his registration tax. Failure to pay a small tax is not grounds for initiation of such force. Nor is suspicion of a crime. No peace officer is a legitimate ersatz judge, jury and executioner.

4:25 PM  
Anonymous Evan said...

One thing that you'll never hear anyone mention - certainly not the media - concerns Cpl. McKay's sidearm. Had it incorporated any one of the various "safety features" touted by the gun-grabbers, such as fingerprint readers, or a ring to be worn by the "authorized user," Floyd would have been unable to come to McKay's aid.

4:35 PM  

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