• June 17, 2024

One Punch Homicide And A Police Officer’s Safety

St. Louis Policeman Darren Wilson suffered an “orbital blowout fracture to the eye socket” most likely from a punch to the head.
St. Louis Policeman Darren Wilson suffered an “orbital blowout fracture to the eye socket” most likely from a punch to the head.

While in grade school I suffered two concussions in the same calendar year.

Both were head strikes I sustained on the school playground and both times I wound up in the hospital. I overheard a doctor tell my parents that one more concussion could kill me. This as a child, scared the hell out of me.

Apparently the doctor suggested that I not play contact sports in my K thru 12 school years. I was not apprised of this. I did wonder why when my friends went out for football in junior and senior high school, that the game was never discussed in my home. I remember being punched in the face and hit in the head four times while in high school. Three of those times they put me to the ground and kept hitting me in the head.

It would appear that when people mean to do you physical harm everyone understands that striking the head is an outstanding target of opportunity.

There is a documentary entitled One Punch Homicide (onepunchhomicde.com) that deals with the killing of a person after striking them only once in the head. I am sure you have all seen a TV show or movie where the good-guy needs to stop someone, but they do not want to use deadly force. So, they punch the victim in the head with the intent of knocking them out for a little while.

The lucky victim allegedly only has to wake up with a splitting headache, but can be thankful he did not wake up to a bullet in his brain.

In real life it does not always work that way. In One Punch Homicide you will see person after person who suffered only one strike to the head and they are now dead. That single hit delivered to one human’s head, by another human’s actions, is why little Tommy is going home in a box.

I have been in Law Enforcement for over thirty five years and I have had the discussion with my wife many times about my fear of being hit in the head, incapacitated and disadvantaged at the hands of my assailant.

One of my favorite TV shows is NCIS. Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs is always hitting Agent DiNozzo in the back of the head when DiNozzo screws up. It is funny and it is a long standing part of the shows story line, but then it is not funny, because people see it and believe it is OK to strike a person in the head, if only in a fun-kind-of-way.

A head strike is a head strike.

I am an Army-trained infantry officer and I truly hate wearing helmets. I was always the first one to take my helmet off and the last one to put it on, but I never refuse to wear a helmet. I have done the research on the lives saved in combat since the helmet was introduced into mass usage in WWI.

When there are complaints in the press about the militarization of the American police because the “cops” show up in helmets and flak vests, always remember the ingrained knowledge of everyone (criminal or not) that the head is a prime target of opportunity.

Modern “cops” are trained to leave the head and shoulder area of a suspect that they have come in physical contact with, alone. Attacking a person’s head in the law enforcement world is considered using deadly force. Now if the bad guy is attacking you with intent to do (your body) bodily harm, then the “cops” are trained to supersede the restriction of impact force to the head and shoulders.

Someone coming at you with a knife (deadly force) that is a very good reason to strike them in their head with your police issued baton; you are however trying to stop them not kill them. When that police officer killed that man in Ferguson, MO I told my wife very early on, as we watched the violence play out on TV, that I believed the officer had been struck in the head.

The “cop” used deadly (firearms) force as a last resort, because he was losing control due to the pain, impairment of vision and belief he would be rendered unconscious, after he received brutal head strikes.

Again back to my fear as an old “cop” lying on the ground coming in and out of consciousness from a head strike, as the bad guys (they never come alone) take my duty weapon and used it on me.

Think twice before you slap someone in the face. It is not just a little slap. It is a strike to one of the most venerable parts of the human body. One punch can kill, and go on to ruin many lives.

The officer has the right to survive the day, and go home to their family. Potentially being knocked out by street thugs and dying in your own pool of blood is a very good reason to fight evil with anything you have at your disposal.

Major Van Harl USAF Ret.
[email protected]

About Major Van Harl USAF Ret.:Major Van E. Harl USAF Ret., a career Police Officer in the U.S. Air Force was born in Burlington, Iowa, USA, in 1955. He was the Deputy Chief of police at two Air Force Bases and the Commander of Law Enforcement Operations at another. He is a graduate of the U.S. Army Infantry School.  A retired Colorado Ranger and currently is an Auxiliary Police Officer with the Cudahy PD in Milwaukee County, WI.  His efforts now are directed at church campus safely and security training.  He believes “evil hates organization.”  [email protected]

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