Learning from Tragedy: The Ogden Utah Shootout

Please read the article below.

This was originally hosted on www.policeone.com and written by Charles Remsberg.

We won’t name names or places because the parties involved have suffered enough without adding public humiliation. Those still alive no doubt live with demons.

But please take a few moments to consider the elements of a search-warrant service gone bad.

The incident was recently debriefed at the annual conference of the Association of SWAT Personnel-Wisconsin. The out-of-state speaker who presented this case, a former SWAT commander, said if he’d been one of the supervisors involved, he would have eaten his gun…

Starts with Sixteen Plants The case begins when a disgruntled girlfriend in “a little bit of a rough town” rats out her boyfriend for growing marijuana in his basement. At issue, as it turns out, are 16 plants.

Some four months pass. Members of a multi-agency narcotics strike force visit the single-family residence a few times, trying to rouse the suspect. When their knocks go unanswered, they make the assumption that the place is not lived in but used only for “the grow.”

According to the presenter, they make no concerted effort to gather intel from the girlfriend — “a complainant with a wealth of information about the suspect and what goes on at the house.”

They fail to learn that the boyfriend, among other things, is a rabid anti-government ex-soldier.

Chaos and Confusion On the winter evening they finally decide to serve a knock-and-announce search warrant, a team of eight agents and two supervisors is deployed. One of the supervisors is on light duty because of a shoulder injury and “shouldn’t even have been there,” the former commander says. He shows up without a gun.

With scant (if any) pre-raid planning, according to the presenter, the team stages in a church parking lot across the street, in a clear line of sight from the target residence.

Once again, there’s no response to a knock. The group breaches a side door and plunges inside for a “rapid clear.”

No one is assigned to a containment position outside.

Half of the officers head down to the basement, the rest toward two main-level bedrooms. Relative to the bedrooms, officers are backlit by a dim bulb in the kitchen.

Seconds later, ambush! All hell breaks loose in the cramped quarters as a fusillade from one of the bedrooms. One agent is shot in the face, knocking out three of his teeth. Another is hit seven times. “Rounds whistle everywhere,” the speaker says.

Concealed in darkness, the suspect can’t be seen but agents try to stop the onslaught by shooting back at his muzzle flash.

Three of the agents fire their Glock 22s to slide-lock, then are done. They carry no spare magazines. Half are wearing body armor, half are not. Some have no radios. One of the critically wounded tries to get behind another agent for protection.

Agents clamber upstairs from the grow room. Wounded officers are dropping and the suspect keeps shooting, even putting rounds through-and-through a refrigerator. One of the officers with a radio is hit and falls down the stairs. Chaos. Someone shouts, “Get out! Get out!”

Wounded are left and then can’t be rescued because of the suspect’s “hellacious” hail of bullets. “So many rounds were flying,” the presenter says, choking up as he paints the scene. The suspect shoots agents who are already down. He’s barefoot and leaves his footprints in pools of officers’ blood as he advances through the house.

An officer who’d shot his pistol dry grabs a shotgun outside and starts to fire at the attacker. The trigger is blocked — he’s left the safety on.

“The suspect sees the gun and shoots him.”

As brave rescues under fire are made, some of the wounded — “all shot to crap” with one paralyzed from a spinal hit — are staged at the end of the residence’s driveway, backlit and within view of the front door. The suspect shoots at them even as they’re dragged, rounds skipping off the pavement, with arriving patrol officers firing back as they straddle downed colleagues.

The gunfire from first responders drives him back. Transport of the wounded begins by squad car.

Unseen, the suspect scrambles out of a window and runs to a nearby shed. “No one knew what he looked like or even how many suspects there were,” says the ex-commander.

“There was a lot of confusion.”

When the attacker is located and taken into custody, he turns out to be wounded four times but survives. In about six minutes of relentless combat, he has fired at least 38 rounds, officers at least 90. Six agents were wounded — five seriously, one fatally. The dead agent was one of those who had carried no spare ammunition.

“He kicked asses that night,” the presenter lamented.

“This is one of the most catastrophic failures of warrant service,” said the speaker.

To date, his department — a principal contributor to the task force — has presented to its personnel no debrief of the incident, no review of lessons learned.

“The department shut down, distributed no information,” he said.

“They ought to fire people for this,” he said, his voice quivering with rage. “Instead, they stand them up and give awards.”

These were not inexperienced bumpkins stumbling through their first raid — this is one of the largest agencies in its state, a hub of narcotics activity where 150 to 225 warrants are served per year.

This is 2013. In 1975, the late Pierce Brooks launched the officer-survival movement with his landmark book, “…officer down, code three.”

As an LAPD homicide investigator, he’d seen too many murdered and wounded cops, and he wanted to transform officer safety with greater tactical awareness.

Thirty-eight years later, the revolution is far from complete.

  1. Tactical Intelligence
    • Mentally map out places that you go to frequently
    • Ask yourself “If I were a criminal, where would I ambush me?”
    • Map out your home and determine what the most likely points of unauthorized entry are.
  2. Have a plan and an immediate action drill for home defense
    • The guy who carried out the crimes detailed above had an immediate action plan and did not hesitate in executing it.
    • Even when barefoot and caught somewhat off guard, he had the presence of mind to grab a Beretta 92 and two spare magazines.
    • The officers in this raid had ample time to plan it out and did not plan it thoroughly.
  3. Medical Skills
    • Gain the skill set needed to treat a gunshot wound until paramedics arive.
    • Be sure to outfit yourself with the appropriate bandages as well.
  4. Spare magazines
    • Many of the officers who were not carrying any spare magazines were out of the fight rather early.
    • If you are carrying a pistol in a holster on a belt, then you need a magazine pouch (with 1-2 extra magazines).
    • This is part of why I emphasize selecting a gun with a good capacity magazine that holds more than 10 rounds .
      • When you are firing at full speed before the first reload, that 14-16 rounds in a GLOCK 19 or GLOCK 23 can go really quick.
  5. External Safeties
    • One of the officers was shot while trying to deploy a shotgun and the safety was still on.
    • If you are going to use a long gun (shotgun or rifle) defensively be very familiar and develop the muscle memory to turn the safety off quickly and efficiently.
  6. Movement to cover
    • The bad guy kept moving from position to position while firing.
    • It is important to know when to move to cover.
    • Understand the difference between cover and concealment.
    • Understand the concept of moving off the line of attack.
  7. Aggressiveness and multiple shots on target
    • The bad guy kept moving and firing at the officers to force a retreat.
    • In tight confined quarters (CQB), many of the officers were shot multiple times.
  8. “Good luck reinforces bad tactics.”
    • This applies to everything, including gun safety.
      • The most egregious safety violations I have seen on the range and in class have come from folks who have been informally “shootin’ for forty years” and not had a negligent discharge that resulted in injury in spite of their poor gun handling.


It is important that we take tragic incidents like this and try to learn how they can be prevented.

Please visit www.odmp.org to find out how you can volunteer to help the families of police officers lost in the line of duty.

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Posted in Mindset, Officer Safety, Tactics

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