Two Los Banos police officers were in a fight for their lives

By Joe Vargas

On July 31, 2017,  in the City of Los Banos two police officers responded to a burglary in progress at an apartment shortly after 6 a.m. — not an unusual call by any means.

The two officers entered the apartment where they encountered the estranged husband of the resident. Also present were the couple’s children.

During a late afternoon news conference, Chief Gary Brizzee described how officers first tried to get the suspect to step outside. When he resisted, they attempted to deploy a taser. When that didn’t work, a struggle ensued. The suspect managed to disarm one of the officers and started shooting.

One officer was shot in the upper torso. The second officer was shot in the torso, head and calf. The suspect also was shot and later died at the hospital.

Thankfully, the latest update is both officers are in stable condition and are expected to survive.

This brings up something most people don’t understand. Every police officer brings a firearm to a fistfight. If they lose that fistfight, the consequences could be deadly.

The fact this doesn’t happen more often is a testament to the training and situational awareness of today’s officers. Don’t get too close, keep your hands where I can see them, wait for follow-up.

In any struggle. police officers are trained to be on guard for firearm retention. Ask any officer who has struggled with a suspect, only to have the suspect grab at his or her holster. From experience, I can tell you the “pucker” factor goes into overdrive. It now turns into a life-and death-struggle you cannot lose.

Audio from Broadcastify of Los Banos officer involved shooting

Most holsters are designed to prevent your handgun from being pulled out. It’s another story when an officer has a firearm already in his or her hand. Last month, Sacramento Sheriff’s Deputy Alex Ladwig was shot in the face with his own firearm after struggling with a subject at a lightrail station. Deputy Ladwig suffered major facial injuries.

In this file photo, Orange County Sheriff’s Department Recruit Margarita Alatore wrestles with a suspect during an exhausting “Will to Survive” test at the OC Sheriff’s Regional Training Academy in Tustin.
File photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Think about it. What is the mindset of anyone who fights with a uniformed and armed police officer? It’s something a sensible person wouldn’t even think of doing.

Training, adrenaline and outright fear set in. It becomes an anything-goes, knock-down-drag-out, life-or-death struggle. Oh, by the way, it doesn’t look pretty, either. Officers give no thought about how it looks. Only, How do I survive this?

One review of the data found that over two officers a year are shot and killed with their own firearm. There is no accurate data showing how many officers were wounded with their own firearm, shot at but not hit or simply had their firearm taken from them.

Joe is a retired Anaheim Police Department captain. You can reach him at jvargas@behindthebadgeoc.com.