Hero Shot By Cop in Active Shooter Incident

The downside of the "good guy with a gun" trope.

CNN (“A ‘heroic’ man who fatally shot a gunman was himself killed by a responding officer, Colorado police say“):

The man hailed as a hero for preventing further bloodshed after a gunman fatally shot a police officer in Arvada, Colorado, on Monday was himself fatally shot by police, Arvada police said in a statement Friday afternoon.

Police say Johnny Hurley, 40, confronted the gunman, identified as Ronald Troyke, after Troyke had shot and killed Arvada police officer Gordon Beesley near Arvada’s Olde Town Square on Monday afternoon.

As Troyke ran toward the square with a long gun, Hurley shot the suspect with a handgun, according to Arvada police.

“A responding Arvada Police Officer then encountered Mr. Hurley, who was holding the suspect’s AR-15,” the statement said. “The officer shot him.”

“Arvada PD views Mr. Hurley’s actions as heroic; it is clear that he intervened in an active shooting that unfolded quickly in a busy commercial area in the middle of the day, and that he did so without hesitation. Mr. Hurley’s actions certainly saved others from serious injury or death,” Arvada police said in the statement.

[…]

Police also confirm that they recovered a note from Troyke which contained a host of specific threats against the Arvada Police Department.

“Today I will kill as many Arvada officers as I possibly can,” and “I just hope I don’t die without killing any of you pigs,” were among the threats spelled out in the document, according to police.

[…]

Monday’s shooting incident has triggered two separate investigations to this point, with the Arvada Police Department conducting the probe into Officer Beesley’s death. A multi-agency Critical Incident Response Team (CIRT) is investigating Hurley’s fatal shooting, according to the statement.

“We want to be clear that although these two deaths unfolded as part of the same incident, they are being investigated separately,” Arvada PD says.

“Finally, it is clear that the suspect bears responsibility for this tragic sequence of events,” the department adds.

The story is tragic on many levels but, quite likely, the responding officer acted properly.

The Defense Department requires its employees to take annual training each year on how to respond to these “active shooter” scenarios. There have, alas, been quite a few of them over the years on military installations. And, while Hurley’s actions were heroic and indicative of how most of us hope we would respond in such a crisis, they’re exactly what we’re trained not to do for precisely the reasons illustrated by this tragedy. A responding officer simply has no way of knowing that someone holding a firearm is a heroic civilian rather than the active shooter and the likelihood of said civilian getting shot is therefore quite high.

To the extent attaching “responsibility” for a tragedy to someone who is already dead matters, Troyke is indeed the one who bears it. But the fact that we have daily incidents of deranged individuals shooting up innocents with their AR-15s is also an indictment of our fetish for guns. We pay a mighty high price to protect the freedom to go target shooting with cool-looking weapons.

FILED UNDER: Police
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. HarvardLaw92 says:

    If you’re standing at the scene of an active shooter scenario with a weapon in your hand, you’re going to be identified as a threat / target. Unfortunately people don’t come with good guy / bad guy labels. Doing anything beyond immediately discarding the weapon and adopting a non-threatening stance in response to arriving officers can (and in this case did) get you shot. This guy, after shooting the bad guy, IMO should have adopted a guarding stance where he was, and left the bad guy where he was. Leaves him open to fire another round if the bad guy revives, while putting separation between two that helps paint a visual picture for responding officers.

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  2. OzarkHillbilly says:

    In the one active shooter incident I was a part of, I felt no urge to pick up his rifle. The fact that his brains were in the gutter behind him probably had something to do with that. That being said, do NOT pick up the shooter’s gun, just kick it far away from him/her.

    Over the years I have read numerous stories of “good guys with guns” choosing to NOT get involved because they feared this exact result, that and others who were aware of the fact that they’re situational awareness was not 100% and were afraid of shooting an innocent. All of which turns the whole justification for concealed carry on it’s head.

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  3. Sleeping Dog says:

    This was discussed on yesterday’s open forum. My contribution

    What happened is a logical outcome of the nexus of private citizens inserting themselves into crime scenes and today’s force protection police policies. Someone, particularly a cop is shot, and it should be expected that LEO’s arriving on the scene will shoot first and ask questions later.

    After Rep. Gabby Giffords was shot in Tucson several years ago, I heard and interview on NPR with one of the citizens that subdued the shooter. That person said he was carrying that day but left his gun holstered, knowing that arriving LEO’s would like come out shooting anyone with a gun. In fact he came around a corner of a building and found two men wrestling over a gun. The one who had possession, but not control, was another citizen who was trying to subdue the shooter. He said if he had come weapon out, he might have shot the wrong guy.

    More guns don’t solve gun problems.

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  4. George says:

    What ever happened to police saying “Drop your gun and put your hands up?” That’s the way it seems to work in most of the world. If the person doesn’t do that then they’re shot.

    https://saskatoon.ctvnews.ca/inquest-hears-timeline-of-tense-moments-before-saskatoon-man-was-shot-by-police-1.5480972

    The result is the same in this case, but the difference is that the man in Canada had the chance to drop his gun and live, the hero in Colorado didn’t.

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  5. George says:

    @Sleeping Dog:

    Totally agree that more guns definitely don’t help gun problems, in the same way that pouring gasoline on a fire doesn’t put it out. But cops shooting first and talking afterwards doesn’t help either.

    Its hard not to notice that the single biggest commonality between those shot by police is that they’re poor. Blacks and Indigenous people are killed by police at 3x the rate of whites, which is a sign racism is very much big part of it. Poor people are killed by police at a rate 1000x the rate of wealthy people, which is a sign that financial status is an even bigger part of it. Seriously, proportionally there should have been some people worth 100+ million killed by police but that never seems to happen.

    1
  6. Michael Reynolds says:

    I think I might have mentioned this before, but the problem is the guns. Private individuals should not own guns. Period.

    Some gun fetishist will be along shortly – I think JKB gets an email alert any time there’s a gun involved, or a Black man – and they’ll babble about their rights. Well, their insistence on their ‘rights’ is what enables every gun murder that takes place. Their insecurity, their weakness, their fear, their stupidity, and the stupidity of our courts, is the cause of both of these deaths.

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  7. Teve says:

    Some of my coworkers Conceal Carry. Oh this guy lifted up both arms to get a mattress, and you see the Glock 23 jammed into his waistband? I’m one of those STEM guys mentioned this past week, and my odds are fine. I don’t give a shit.

    ‘Course, I’m Florida Man, and I’m much more likely to be taken out by Alligators, Crystal Meth, Bath Salts, Oxys,..

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  8. gVOR08 says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    This guy, after shooting the bad guy, IMO should have adopted a guarding stance where he was, and left the bad guy where he was. Leaves him open to fire another round if the bad guy revives, while putting separation between two that helps paint a visual picture for responding officers.

    What is a “guarding stance”? You’re apparently advocating he should have kept his own gun in hand and at the ready. And how would that have looked to the cop arriving on the scene?

    The original shooter, Troyke, was obviously deranged. My local semi-pro newspaper has a letter this morning saying mental health is the problem and we should keep guns away from people with mental issues. The letter writer admitted that would be difficult. No spit. Mental health is, I believe, the current NRA dodge. Which doesn’t mean they wouldn’t go ballistic if we started denying guns to people based on a psych evaluation.

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  9. gVOR08 says:

    @George: That. Police officers volunteered for a dangerous job. They’re supposed to protect the public, even the perp, even at risk to themselves. But that’s not how they’re trained.

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  10. gVOR08 says:

    @Teve: I’m also now a Florida man. Went out to dinner last week and the guy at an adjacent table fished in his pocket for something and revealed a pistol butt. At least I saw his, I should assume half the people around me are packing.

    I’m constantly reminded of a coworker in Texas some years ago. He was a part time civilian reserve cop. He always carried a Beretta in his sock and a .38 in his glove box. When he was working with the cops he carried a .357 Magnum. He worked as a radio dispatcher. Knowing him, I always had a mental picture of, “Goddam static. Pow, pow, pow.”

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  11. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @gVOR08:

    Not necessarily in your hand, but accessible. The idea is to not present yourself as a potential threat to arriving officers while retaining the ability to further intervene (pending their arrival) if the actual threat proves not to have been neutralized.

    In this manner, when they arrive, you raise your arms above your head, palms open, point out the actual threat and advise that your weapon was used to stop it. That allows them the mental space to transition into analysis mode from stop threat mode without having to shoot you.

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  12. dazedandconfused says:

    @George:

    In reply to your comment yesterday, I think one has to factor in the difference of two people already down. It’s a significant difference between the two situations.

    That said we have a rather hazy picture of what went down. How close were they when the officer first saw him? Did the officer know shots had been fired and there was an officer down when he arrived, or was it plainly apparent when the officer approached? How was the guy holding the weapon? Questions that need answering before passing judgement.

  13. Mikey says:

    Or, as it’s titled in a Reddit post: “Good guy with gun killed by good guy with gun after killing bad guy with gun who killed good guy with gun.”

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  14. Gustopher says:

    The downside of the “good guy with a gun” trope.

    Do good guys carry guns everywhere?

    He contributed to a gun culture, and he got killed as a direct result of that gun culture. He was on the least worst edge of gun culture, for sure, but let’s not call him a good guy.

    He also died living his dream though, so there’s that.

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  15. George says:

    @dazedandconfused:

    I agree it would depend upon the details, which haven’t come out yet. If he was standing there with the gun in a firing position looking as if he was about to shoot people (and I assume there were a lot of civilians about) then there wouldn’t have been time to do anything but shoot upon sighting. But if he was standing there with the gun loosely in his hands and not an immediate threat to anyone then there would have been time to order him to drop it first. That’s the standard procedure even when apprehending someone believed to have killed someone — and in fact many murderers and mass murderers are taken alive for that reason.

    So yes, I’m assuming a situation that might not be true, ie that he was standing there more or less in shock and not an immediate threat to anyone, giving time for the officer to order him to lay down his weapon.

  16. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Teve:

    Not to forget the blue hairs and bald pates that can’t see over the steering wheel.

  17. MarkedMan says:

    @Gustopher: Harsh, but valid.

    1
  18. Paine says:

    I don’t know… I’m not tactically trained or anything but picking up the shooter’s weapon seems like a monumentally stupid thing to do. Just kick the damn thing away.

    And yes, he was living out exactly the sort of scenario the gun nuts have dreams about… playing the hero. He probably died with a smile on his face.

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  19. dazedandconfused says:

    @Paine:
    For most it requires recurrent training and drilling to reliably act and think straight in the game of Total Adrenalin Dump. It’s unsurprising the man could’ve entered a state of shock. The NRA et al’s tendency to imply that anyone is just a few shooting lessons away from being ready does a lot of damage.

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  20. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @dazedandconfused:

    Indeed

    1
  21. gVOR08 says:

    @dazedandconfused:

    For most it requires recurrent training and drilling to reliably act and think straight in the game of Total Adrenalin Dump. It’s unsurprising the man could’ve entered a state of shock.

    And that also applies to the cop. By all accounts they spend way more time being trained on how to shoot than on how to react.

    3
  22. grumpy realist says:

    @gVOR08: Considering the number of times that cops shoot unarmed people “because I thought he had a gun!” it’s not surprising that a cop will also shoot someone who is, indeed, holding a gun.

    2
  23. de stijl says:

    What with concealed carry, and Freya help me, permitless concealed carry, I am now as wary of random citizens as I am of cops.

    It is madness. Utter madness.

    What goes through your mind that to carry a pistol around with you routinely everywhere is going improve your life?

    I find the whole shit-show ludicrous, inconceivable, and very horrific. Why would you do so? And if you do do so, you have confirmed that you are a stupid person and a bad citizen and I want to have no interpersonal interaction with you ever.

    You are a massive part of the problem.

    In OECD charts, we are middle of the road as to violent crime per capita. In gun deaths, we are off the charts so stupidly they have to adjust the scale.

    This has to end.

    1
  24. JohnMcC says:

    Can’t help but compare-and-contrast a bit with the death of Michael Reinoehl. In both cases, I bet someone with god-like powers of looking within would discover that the LEO doing the shooting had some sort of mental trigger already pulled and had decided this was a life or death shootout. Then they arrived on the scene.

  25. Clif says:

    We’d have to assume he was a white guy, so there’s no harm/foul let alone the chronic need to cope with these issues like procuring free electronics/alcohol?
    Maybe they’ll erect a statue of him, like they do of other people who encourage peaceful existence?
    A judge in Ohio encountered such a thing a few years ago, he didn’t die at least.