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At least once a year since 2006, someone drags out this email with alleged comments by Sheriff Grady Judd. Although a little bombastic, there was indeed such a shooting. Here, Snopes recaps the alleged incident:


An illegal alien in Polk County Florida who got pulled over in a routine traffic stop ended up 'executing' the deputy who stopped him. The deputy was shot eight times,
including once behind his right ear at close range.

Another deputy was wounded and a police dog killed. A state-wide manhunt ensued..

The murderer was found hiding in a wooded area and as soon as he took a shot at the SWAT team, officers opened fire on him. They hit the guy 68 times.

Naturally, the liberal media went nuts and asked why they had to shoot the poor undocumented immigrant 68 times.

Sheriff Grady Judd told the Orlando Sentinel: 'Because that's all the ammunition we had.' Now, is that just about the all-time greatest answer or what!

Snopes then went on to explain what really happened.

Just before noon on 28 September 2006, Polk County Deputy Doug Speirs pulled over a speeding rental car bearing Kentucky tags. That vehicle was being driven by Angilo Freeland, a 27-year-old who had been arrested on various charges in 1999 but had skipped bail. Freeland offered Speirs a fraudulently obtained drivers license in another man's name; something about the proffered I.D. bothered Speirs, so he called for backup. Deputy Matt Williams and his police dog, DiOGi, were dispatched to the scene.

Likely sensing things weren't going well, Freetand broke from the officers and ran into the woods. He took cover in the densely forested area near a fallen oak tree that made him all but impossible to see. The two officers and the dog went into the woods after him, Williams and DiOGi working one area, and Speirs another.

As DiOGi closed on the suspect's hiding place, Freeland shot the dog in the chest from close range at an upward angle, killing it. He then fired on nearby Deputy Williams, wounding him in the right wrist, left bicep, rear left thigh, right leg, right buttock, and upper right arm. One of the shots penetrated to the officer's spine. Freeland then approached the immobilized man and delivered two shots to Williams' head at point-blank range.

Deputy Speirs heard the shots from a nearby ridge, moved towards the sounds of the gunfire, and was shot at by Freeland. The two exchanged fire, and the deputy was wounded in the leg. He radioed for help and made his way out of the woods.

Every available unit and canine team descended on the area. Freeland briefly appeared at the perimeter of the woods to fire at the officers but then took cover again. He dug in under another fallen oak tree and hid there. Later that afternoon the body of 39* year-old Deputy Williams, a father of three, was found and carried from the wooded area. Officers noted that the slain man's gun and ammo were missing.

Freeland remained under the oak tree overnight, where a 10-member SWAT team found him the next morning. When they saw Freeland raise his right hand clutching a gun (one they would later learn belonged to the slain deputy), nine of the ten officers fired, hitting him with 68 of 110 shots. Freeland was dead at the scene.

Afterwards, when called upon by the media to make a statement about the manhunt and its outcome, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd told various reporters, "That's all the bullets we had or we would have shot him more. Quite frankly, we weren't taking any chances."

In Force Science News, Transmission 144, they cover this very subject of (what might appear to be) excessive rounds shot during a gunfight. This is pretty heavy lifting, but an interesting study. If your pressed for time, be sure to note the paragraph "Time to Stop".

"Excessive" shots and falling assailants: A fresh look at OIS subtleties
A new look at why officers often fire controversial "extra" shots after a threat has ended has been published by an independent shooting reconstructionist and certified Force Science analyst.

Researcher Alexander Jason reports that even under benign experimental conditions brain programming compels roughly 7 out of 10 officers to keep discharging rounds after being signaled to stop shooting. "In a real gunfight, under extraordinary stress and threat of death, an even much higher percentage would likely deliver extra shots," Jason asserts.

On average, additional findings show, officers may "reasonably" fire 6 rounds or more into suspects who initially are standing and then begin falling and who, in fact, may already be mortally wounded. And that's 6 rounds per officer involved in the confrontation.

"Understanding why this occurs can be critical in shooting investigations and in criminal proceedings and civil lawsuits that allege excessive force by officers for firing 'too many' shots," says Dr. Bill Lewinski, executive director of the Force Science Institute. "As Jason explains, so-called 'extra' shots are generally beyond an officer's control. They're more likely to be an involuntary reaction under stress than a conscious decision with malicious motivation."

About 7 years ago, Lewinski performed widely cited experiments in Tempe, AZ, that documented the tendency of officers to "over-shoot," that is to discharge 1 or more additional rounds after perceiving a stop stimulus during rapid-fire discharges.

Jason's work, conducted in California, essentially confirms some of the Tempe factors and adds important new elements. His full report appears in the current issue of Investigative Sciences Journal, a peer-reviewed professional quarterly, and can be downloaded free of charge in pdf format at Click on the paper, "Shooting Dynamics: Elements of Time & Movement in Shooting Incidents."


A crime scene analyst specializing in shooting analysis and reconstruction, Jason heads the Anite Group in Pinole, CA, and has been involved in a number of high-profile cases, including New York City's Sean Bell incident in which a prospective bridegroom was killed shortly before his wedding in a fusillade of 50 rounds fired by undercover and plainclothes officers.

Time to Stop

The core of Jason's paper is his research on how long it takes an officer in rapid-fire mode to stop shooting once he perceives that he should do so.

The test subjects were 32 officers (30 of them male), ranging in age from 23 to 56, with the median age 33. They averaged nearly 11 years' service, but ranged in experience from less than a year to more than 2 decades.

Using the semiautomatic pistols and leather gear they normally wear on duty, they one at a time faced a "hostile man" target at a distance of 5 ft. Hands at their side, they were told to draw and "start shooting at the buzzer. Shoot as fast as you can," and stop shooting when 2 100-watt spotlights pointed at them flash on. An electronic shot-timer provided the start signal and the "stop" lights came on at random intervals, after a minimum of 4 intended shots.

"Most of the officers were unable to immediately stop shooting at the stop signal," Jason reports. Indeed, 69% fired at least 1 "extra" shot, with 17% firing 2 extra and 8% firing 3. Fewer than 1/3 were able to stop fast enough to prevent discharging surplus rounds.

Although the shooters "reacted as quickly as they could," Jason writes, most continued to pull the trigger past the stop signal "because the brain-to-trigger finger impulse was still 'in motion.' " In other words, they could not perceive the light signal, transmit that perception to the brain, have the brain interpret it, and send back a "stop" command before the trigger finger was already proceeding with subsequent shots based on the mental program that had been put in action by the start buzzer.

Benchmark findings by other researchers, cited by Jason, suggest that as a rule of thumb the brain may need about 3/10 of a second to evaluate an incoming stimulus, and then at least 16/100 of a second minimum to "inhibit (cancel) an anticipated action (like firing the next shot)."

Such reaction times, of course, vary among individuals. And if an officer does not instantly see a stop signal because his visual attention is narrowed and intensely concentrated on his sights and/or the target, the delay in responding can be much longer, Jason explains.

Extra Shots on the Street

Jason writes: "It is important to compare and note the different effects on performance between the conditions facing a shooter in [the] safe and relatively stress-free [experiment] with an urgent, life-threatening and highly stress-inducing situation [of] a real-life shooting incident.

"The shooters in the test only had one, clearly defined stimulus to stop firing.... A shooter in a genuine shooting incident will [experience] both a higher level of physiological arousal (stress) and additional choices (Should I take cover? Is the target person no longer a threat? Should I look around for other threats? Are there others who may be exposed to my gunfire?, etc.).

"Human performance research has determined that as the number of choice alternatives increases, reaction time (including perception, decision, and action) will increase. The elevated arousal and multiple-alternatives effect will likely cause the shooter to fire additional 'extra' shots--more than [were] measured in this test study."

Lewinski found in the Tempe study that the more motivated a shooter was to shoot, the longer it took before he was able to stop shooting. "And an officer firing to save his life is about as 'motivated' as a human being can be," Lewinski says. "Once the human dynamics of ceasing shooting under stress are understood, the less sinister the connotation of 'extra' shots generally will seem."

Time to Fall

In his most recent study, Jason measured the amount of time required for a person to fall to the ground from a standing position and explored the implications of shots fired by officers at the falling figure, whether those shots are deliberate or involuntary because of reaction time.

During a confrontation with a standing armed offender, "the most commonly understood and accepted indication that the [suspect] is no longer a threat is when that person either releases the gun from his hand(s) and/or drops to the ground" from being shot, Jason states.

He asked 5 volunteers (4 males, 1 female) to stand "erect with hands out in front, as if holding a gun" and, upon verbal command, to drop to a padded mat "as quickly as possible." This, he concedes, was an imperfect attempt to mimic a rapid collapse ("dropping like a sack of potatoes") such as would occur from "a significant disruption of the central nervous system or sudden loss of consciousness." Genuine collapses from such causes, of course, cannot be tested in an experimental environment.

Thirty-five drops were recorded with a digital video camera and later analyzed on a computer. Timing began "at the first detectable motion initiating the movement of the body" toward the ground and ended when the upper torso was on the mat and "horizontal to the ground."

On average, the subjects took 1.1 seconds to fall down. During this amount of time, Lewinski's research has shown that "4 shots could be fired by an 'average' police officer," Jason writes. "A crumple fall [going to the knees first, then down] will take more time and could result in several more shots fired during the movement. Additional shots could also be fired until the shooter perceives that the person is no longer a threat and is able to interrupt his shooting sequence."

In all, Jason writes, "the total number of [rapid-sequence] shots fired at a person standing then going to the ground could reasonably be a minimum of 6 shots: 1 or more before the [suspect] begins to fall; 4 shots during the fall; 1 or more as the body contacts the floor" during the time required for the brain to recognize and process that the threat has ceased.

"In situations with more than one shooter firing, the total number of reasonable shots could be 6 x Number of Shooters; i.e., if 3 officers were firing simultaneously, then 18 shots (6 x 3) would be expected....etc."

Depending on a suspect's positioning through the fall, at least some of these shots may end up entering through his back, Jason points out, deepening the illusion that the shooting was an unjustified "execution." In his paper, he includes graphics showing how "posterior entries" can innocently occur under these circumstances.

Further Considerations

Apart from the reaction-time phenomenon, a falling assailant may invite continued gunfire because a collapse or crumple can be an ambiguous movement. Falling from incapacitating wounds cannot always be "distinguished from a deliberate tactical maneuver of someone who has decided to go to ground to avoid being shot or to assume a less exposed position while returning or preparing to return gunfire," Jason writes. "Even a mortally wounded person can fall to the ground and fire one or more shots before becoming incapacitated and/or unconscious."

Moreover, because of the nature of bullet wounds an officer may not know whether his rounds are hitting his assailant--another motivation to keep shooting. Jason explains:

"There is no significant momentum or 'push' from a bullet strike. This means that there would be no significant...motion effect of a bullet striking a standing or falling person.... Also...unlike the shootings seen in dramatic films and TV shows, it is most often not possible to visually determine if a shot has actually struck a target person. Bullet entry holes do not project large amounts of blood and the defect in the skin--always smaller than the bullet diameter--may not be visible at all if the shot was fired through clothing, particularly loose or layered clothing."

In short, Jason concludes, police shootings can be complex occurrences. For persons untrained in forensics and the science of human behavior to jump to conclusions in judging an officer's actions can lead to grave misinterpretations and injustices.

EPILOG: In the Polk County incident....the bottom line.

In response to the Florida Civil Rights Association's complaint that the police had shown disregard for human life when they shot Angilo Freeland after an all-night manhunt, the U.S. Department of Justice asked the FBI to look into the matter. In November 2006, the latter agency announced it would investigate whether authorities used excessive force in the incident. In June 2008, the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) announced it had cleared the Polk County Sheriff's Office of any wrongdoing in the incident, stating: "After careful consideration, we concluded that the evidence does not establish a prosecutable violation of the federal civil rights statutes. Accordingly, we have closed our investigation."


Credits: Force Science News (Transmission 144). Snopes Web site.

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Updated 03-20-2010 at 02:47 PM by Rossi



  1. rkbartley's Avatar
    Excellent information. Strange...I don't remember any of this being brought up in the media when reporting excessive force charges after police shootings. Could it be that logical information would hamper ratings?
  2. texengineer's Avatar
    I saw a video recently that showed an incident from 2 squad car cameras at 2 different angles. In the first angle, it appeared as if 2 police officers shot a guy in the back as he walked away from them. From the second angle, it was obvious that the man had fired a random shot back at the the officers before they opened fire.

    Here it is.

    People shouldn't jump to conclusions!
  3. Sgt T's Avatar
    Excellent Article! Thanks for posting.
  4. SkivMarine's Avatar
    If I recall right the perp in the video was actually holding a cell phone.

    However, he kept making motions as if it were a gun. And remember, the bad guy doesn't have to actually shoot at the officer. All he has to do is look as if he might (making a move for a pocket, pointing a hand holding a cell phone, etc.).
    I think the main thing I take from this video is the fact that the officers could have legally fired on at least two occasions but didn't. It wasn't until the perp kept walking away while seeming to have a dangerous weapon in his hands.
  5. jlprtr's Avatar
    Excellent Blog entry, Rossi.

    I subscribe to Force Science News, although I am not, nor ever was in law enforcement.

    All of their research is as vital to us as it is to LEOs, as to learn what to expect your reactions will probably be in an encounter as a carrier, or, for that matter, as a juror in a trial involving an Officer.

    I urge everyone to sign up for a free e-mail subscription to their articles by going here:


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