Police shoot car: What I saw in the video

Toronto Police surround, fire 14 rounds into subject vehicle. (c) 2015 by anonymous (known to us)

Amazing video of the Toronto Police apprehending the driver of a stolen car on Wednesday,
For what it’s worth, and because I’ve spent a lot of time working with guns in various situations, here’s what I saw in the most dramatic video.  It’s the one posted online at newstalk1010.com. *

Watch the video here.


The First Frame – Before the Video Begins

Subject Vehicle (SV) is silver, mid-size, 4-door with a sunroof.  Possibly minor collision damage at front, hood looks popped, some debris on the ground in front of the vehicle.  Windshield wipers operating.

Three TPS cruisers, clockwise from bottom:

  • Vehicle 1: Cruiser 5102 – stopped parallel to SV on its right side, close enough to prevent SV doors opening. Front bumpers of both cars aligned.  It is a car assigned to 51 Division.
  • Vehicle 2: Cruiser 5151 – stopped and empty, both doors closed, angled into the left rear quarter of the SV; very close, possibly in contact with SV. It is a car assigned to 51 Division.
  • Vehicle 3: Cruiser 7?6 – stopped parallel to V2, nosed in to left front corner of SV, possibly touching. Driver’s door open.  It is not a 51 Division car (assigned to Traffic duties or other specialized unit?) and, therefore, the officer may not be well-known to the other officers at the scene.

COMMENT:  At this point, SV is not full blocked in.  It can move forward through the narrow space between V1 and V3.  It can also reverse out of the space, though possible that V2 is in contact.

Four TPS officers, clockwise from left:

  • O1: Standing behind SV at its right rear corner, looking at SV, right hand on his holstered service pistol.  Likely he came from passenger door of V1 or V2.
  • O2 & O3: At the driver’s door of SV, between the two police cruisers V2 and V3, wearing sunglasses, hands unseen.  O3 leaning in close to driver’s window.  One is likely the driver of police cruiser V2, the other may be the passenger from V3.
  • O4: Standing at the front bumper of V3 (likely the driver of V3) approximately 1-2 ft in front of the front left corner of SV.  He is in danger of being struck by SV if it moves forward, which it appears it can.  He is wearing sun glasses and appears to be looking at the driver.  He is in a modified Weaver shooting stance with his firearm in his left hand.
  • O5: (Unseen at this point) Is in the driver’s seat of V1, too close to the SV to exit his car.

COMMENT:  Normally, left-handed shooters are left-eye dominant and use their eye to sight their weapons.  O4 appears to be a left-handed shooter, in a ready to shoot stance. Shooters are initially trained to close their disengaged eye, though as they gain experience they may be told to keep both eyes open to enable peripheral vision and provide for better situational awareness.

I do not know how police officers are trained to deal with motor vehicles.  However, I do know that as a soldier, I was trained to consider a moving automobile a deadly weapon ­– the same as a firearm.  Given the adrenalin of the situation and the fact O4 is exposed in life-threatenening position in front of SV, it is entirely likely he is focused exclusively on the driver of SV and the vehicle itself.  He may see O2 and O3 in his peripheral vision if both eyes are open.  It is entirely possible his peripheral vision on his left side is obscured by his focus on the target.  I would not be surprised if he is completely unaware of O1 who is directly in his line of fire at this point.


The Video Starts – V1 moves

As the video starts, four things happen quickly:

  • O4 remains in his shooting stance, but begins to move backwards creating distance between himself and the SV threat.
  • V1 moves. Police cruiser 5102 begins to move forward and to the left to complete the front-end block on SV, so that it cannot move forward and escape, or strike O4.
  • O1 responds to the movement of V1 by at first backing away, then moving forward to close in on the passenger side of SV.
  • O2 and O3 can be heard shouting at the driver of SV.

COMMENT:  O4 clearly responds to the threat of SV moving by backing away.  With his peripheral vision possibly obscured, he may have misinterpreted the forward movement of V1 as movement of the SV as well.


O4 Begins to Shoot

V1 continues its pincer move forward and turns sharply toward O4.  SV appears to move, likely as it is pushed against V3 by contact with V1.  O1 moves forward behind V1 towards the front passenger window of SV. O4 drops his point of aim to the left front corner of SV and begins to fire.

Immediately the shooting begins, O1 retreats backwards and to his right, gaining an angle on O4’s line of fire.  He disappears from the frame and is later seen moving back toward SV but, using V1 as cover from fire.  V1 stops moving and the driver (O5) remains in the vehicle, now completely unable to open his door and exit.

O2 and O3 react to the shots by stepping backward along the side of the SV.  As O4 continues to fire, O2 and O3 move back forward and appear to try to pull open the driver’s door on the SV throughout the rest of the video clip.

O4 fires nine shots, rapid but deliberate fire, into the left front quarter of the SV.  He lowers his body, reducing the angle between his line of fire and the ground beneath the SV, then adjusts his fire position and point of aim a number of times.  He fires another group of five shots in a rapid but deliberate pace.  A total of 14 shots are captured in this video.

After firing 14 shots, the officer steps back to create space from the target and reaches back with his right hand to his gunbelt in the right kidney area.

COMMENT:  All shots fired by O4 in this video clip are deliberate, aimed fire.  Photos of the SV taken after the incident show a small grouping of bullet holes in the left front hood and around the headlight area.  It appears that O4 may be trying to disable the car by damaging the electrical system (battery & alternator) or engine block.  By reducing the angle between the line of fire and the ground, he is also reducing the possibility his rounds will go through empty space in the engine compartment, strike the asphalt and ricochet elsewhere.

COMMENT: The other officers seem surprised by the shots, suggesting there was no verbal communication from O4 before he began shooting.  It seems likely that he was the driver of V3 and therefore one of the more senior officers present.  He is also the only officer in an obviously life-threatening position at the time he begins shooting.

COMMENT:  It appears O4 is in the process of reloading his service weapon at the end of the video clip.  When a semi-automatic handgun has expended all the rounds in its magazine, the top slide of the weapon remains locked to the rear of the weapon. I can’t see clearly enough if this is the case, however, O4 clearly reaches back with his right (non weapon hand) to the area on his pistol belt that a left-handed shooter would keep his spare magazine pouches.

There is also an audible noise on the video consistent with the slide on the pistol being unlocked and sliding forward.  This noise, however, is out of sequence.  Normal reloading drill (as taught to soldiers – perhaps it’s different for police officers) would be to release the empty magazine from the weapon while grabbing a loaded magazine, to insert the full magazine into the pistol grip, then to release the slide lock and allow the slide to move forward, chambering a round so the officer can continue firing if necessary.  The sound suggests O4 doesn’t do this, possibly for one of three reasons:

  1. He didn’t immediately realize he was out of ammunition, but thought the weapon had jammed. However, releasing the slide with the locking lever is not the recommended immediate action for a jam – that would normally involve using the support hand to pull the slide fully back, cant the weapon to one side and release the slide.
  2. He mishandled the weapon, perhaps confusing the slide lock lever for the magazine release button in the heat of the moment.
  3. TPS teaches a different combat reloading procedure entirely.


The video ends while the reloading is in progress


* EDITED 22 Dec 2015: Name of person who filmed & posted the video to Instagram removed at his/her request.