A SWAT Team, Used Properly

Saturday, January 21st, 2012

Since we spend so much time looking at excessive use of SWAT teams here, it’s worth pointing out instances where they’re used properly, and really do save innocent lives.

Here’s one such instance:

The terrifying abduction of an 11-year-old girl began with a kidnapper’s gunshots in the early-morning hours Friday as she was grabbed from her San Jose home. It ended almost five miles away and 12 hours later with a single shot, when a SWAT officer killed 42-year-old Tri Truong Le, the alleged kidnapper, during a gunbattle in a narrow staircase.

The girl, who was in the kidnapper’s arms when the gunbattle started, was miraculously almost unharmed and recovering from the trauma at a hospital, police said.

The officer who fired the fatal head shot was identified by police Friday night as Mauricio Jimenez.

Police Chief Chris Moore said the brave rescue by Jimenez and the highly trained team of special operations officers was the result of “what they are trained to do, time and time again, hoping they never have to use that skill set.”

“I am extremely grateful to our officers today for their courage and professionalism under fire,” Moore said. “Today’s events involved a lot of great work by a lot of people. Being able to reunite this little girl with her family was our number one mission.”

Note that the SWAT team didn’t resort to violence first, as is almost always the case with suspected drug offenders.

Police scoured the city looking for the girl and her kidnapper.

At 12:15 p.m., officers from the San Jose police special operations tracked him down. They quickly surrounded a two-story green-and-beige townhouse in the 3400 block of Pistachio Drive off Senter Road.

As officers set up a command post to see if they could get him to peacefully surrender, the suspect appeared in the window of the townhome with the girl in his arms and fired a handgun at officers.

The officers went into instant hostage rescue mode. They forced open the townhome front door.

Le was still holding the girl in his arms at the top of the stairs when he began firing at the officers. Jimenez fired back with his assault rifle, without hitting the girl, and killed the man.

“This type of crisis hostage situation only happens every 10 or 15 years,” said police spokesman Sgt. Jason Dwyer. “When an officer has a chance to save a hostage’s life you get one shot to make it count.”

This is why we have SWAT teams—to use violence to defuse an already violent situation. They saved this girl’s life.

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37 Responses to “A SWAT Team, Used Properly”

  1. #1 |  picachu | 

    Well I’m happy to see the girl got out of that unharmed. Its newsworthy because it’s an aberration but its still nice to see SWAT team act like professionals instead of a bunch of weekend warrior yahoos playing good guys vs Muslim terrorists like they usually do.

    How unusual it is to see the police actually helping someone!

  2. #2 |  SJE | 

    Well done. Interestingly, San Jose is not one of those places we hear about for over the top SWAT raids. Maybe there is some link….

  3. #3 |  (B)oscoH | 

    But the problem with training groups of officers at that level of readiness for 1 in 15 year events, and having the groups available anywhere on quick notice is that they will be itching for other deployments. I’d bet if you throw in armed robberies and the like, it might be 1 in a month events for a city like San Jose where a team like this is needed and deployed appropriately with a mission to neutralize imminent violence. But it’s not drug warrants. Or at least the default assumption should not be that drug warrant equals SWAT level violence.

  4. #4 |  CyniCAl | 

    “They saved this girl’s life.”

    False. There’s no logical way to prove now that the perpetrator would have killed the hostage.

    They killed the hostage-taker, that is all. It is very possible the hostage would have survived the encounter. So, they did not “save the girl’s life.” They did free her from the hostage-taker, arguably increasing her chance of survival, that is demonstrable.

    Plus, the only weapon discharged was the police rifle, and in close proximity and direction to the hostage. A sudden movement and the hostage could have been killed by the cop. That is very risky behavior, albeit a risk that a human had to judge appropriate.

    Knowing how institutions operate, I sense the general motivation for the cop was that inaction in this situation would be more harshly criticized than action that resulted in the death of the hostage. We all know that cops never face penalties for actions committed in the line of duty.

    In all, this is a wash, and only so because of the positive result, in which luck was a factor.

    On a side note, I understand the purpose of this post. It helps one’s credibility in the eyes of the establishment to present a “balanced” viewpoint of police behavior. We’ll see if that mission is accomplished. I suspect the police, by and large, do not consider the opinions of bloggers in crafting strategy and tactics.

  5. #5 |  Dante | 

    From the article:
    ““This type of crisis hostage situation only happens every 10 or 15 years,” said police spokesman Sgt. Jason Dwyer. ”

    SWAT Teams were created only for these types of situations, right?

    So, we can expect not to see the SWAT team for another 10 years, right?

    Riiiiight.

  6. #6 |  Radley Balko | 

    On a side note, I understand the purpose of this post. It helps one’s credibility in the eyes of the establishment to present a “balanced” viewpoint of police behavior.

    The purpose of the post is to point out that there are appropriate uses for SWAT teams, and that this was one of them.

    You’re accusing me of posturing. Don’t pretend you know my motivations. You pretty clearly don’t.

  7. #7 |  Nick M. | 

    CyniCAl,

    Did you even read the second quoted section in Radley’s post? The police weapon was not the only weapon fired. They hostage taker started firing at the police through a window and then when the police forced entry into the home, the hostage taker continued firing at the police from the stairs, using the hostage a shield. The cop fired one shot at the hostage taker’s head, killing him. Seems exactly like the police saved the girl’s life.

    I usually enjoy reading your posts, as they’re pretty educational about anarchism. But, don’t make up facts just to suit your point of view.

  8. #8 |  derfel cadarn | 

    This operation appears to be truly professional. Thanks to these officers for their bravery and showing how it should be done. If this type of police professionalism could spread Americans would be safer and much better served. Keep up the good work.

  9. #9 |  c andrew | 

    I agree, Radley. This is an appropriate use of SWAT to counter imminent or occurring violence. Would that all SWAT deployments were this worthy.

  10. #10 |  Mark Kimsey | 

    This, or something very similar, type of SWAT action happens every day.

    It it so common that is does not make the news and therefore not on Radley’s radar.

    But, I appreciate you stumbling onto this one.

  11. #11 |  H. Rearden | 

    CiniCAL has never seen a police action that wasn’t an statist overreach. And he fancies himself omniscient when attributing the most sinister of motivations to the apparent good deeds of others. But at least he’s aware of it as he has chosen a most appropriate handle.

  12. #12 |  Stephen | 

    #4 | CyniCAl |

    You didn’t read Radley’s entire post. The hostage taker fired at the cops first out of the window and then some more later. The cop’s one shot was the only one fired back at him.

  13. #13 |  David Bratzer | 

    Good post Radley.

  14. #14 |  Murc | 

    “This, or something very similar, type of SWAT action happens every day.
    It it so common that is does not make the news and therefore not on Radley’s radar.”

    I call bullshit on this.

    I live in a decently sized city (200k or so) with a metro area that comes to about, mmm, three-quarters of a million. If someone exchanges fire with the cops ANYWHERE, it makes the news AND the paper. If someone DIES in a police shootout, it makes the news for several days, and then the trial makes news a few months later if there is. If someone got taken hostage, and then the hostage taker died in a dramatic police shootout? That’s going to be FRONT PAGE news. The guy who fired the shot would be interviewed all over the place.

    So no, stuff like this ISN’T so common it does not make the news. Unless you meant national news, to which I can only say “Well, so what?”

  15. #15 |  John | 

    Excellent post.

    “The purpose of the post is to point out that there are appropriate uses for SWAT teams, and that this was one of them.”

    Excellent rebuttal.

  16. #16 |  Ed kline | 

    “The officer who fired the fatal head shot was identified by police Friday night as Mauricio Jimenez.”
    There it is. If the police are willing to release the name of the cop who killed another human being, then they must collectively feel pretty good about the shooting. Good luck however finding out who fired the fatal shot to someone’s dog in a botched drug raid. This could almost be used as a litmus test for good vs bad shootings.

  17. #17 |  mad libertarian guy | 

    [blockquote]This is an appropriate use of SWAT to counter imminent or occurring violence. Would that all SWAT deployments were this worthy.[/blockquote]

    Would that more than a teeny tiny fraction of all SWAT deployments were this worthy.

  18. #18 |  BamBam | 

    Outside of CyniCAl’s comment about Radley’s motivations, do you agree or disagree with the rest of his statements? I think he is spot on. Follow the logic and you can’t come to any other conclusion.

  19. #19 |  Mark Kimsey | 

    …….Or, “Something very similar” means exactly that.

    ‘Murc’, maybe needs to read what I posted. The correct application of a SWAT team does not always end in a shooting of either the alleged suspect or an officer.

    Of the thousands of SWAT deployments, “to counter imminent or occurring violence”, most end with all involved safe. Even those SWAT operations to conduct search warrants or make arrests rarely end with death or injury.

    That is why when that does happen it is man-bites-dog news.

  20. #20 |  H. Rearden | 

    …they did not “save the girl’s life.” They did free her from the hostage-taker, arguably increasing her chance of survival…
    What’s so arguable about that? It seem to me that their actions guaranteed her survival. Why does CyniCAL attribute sinister motivations to any person that can be viewed as a cog of the state or a mindless institution, but fails to see any sinister motivation in someone who has kidnapped a young girl, has fired shots at her potential rescuers, and holds a gun to her head. If CinaCAL’s argument is that the girl may have survived regardless, you could do that. But to say They killed the hostage-taker, that is all really negelects to consider what would have happened to this girl if CiniCAL’s anarchist utopia existed, and there were no police to respond.

    Plus, the only weapon discharged was the police rifle… Untrue.

    Knowing how institutions operate, I sense the general motivation for the cop was that inaction in this situation would be more harshly criticized than action that resulted in the death of the hostage. Again, CiniCAL’s omniscient ability to determine one’s motivations for a particular act. I find his analysis to be unbelievable.

    In all, this is a wash, and only so because of the positive result, in which luck was a factor. How can it be a ‘wash’, and still have a positive result? The net positive result means that it wasn’t a wash. I may be wrong, but I believe that the negative that CiniCAL sees that balances out the positive in order to result in a ‘wash’ if the fact that this rescue was performed by a SWAT team whose mere existence, to CiniCAL, is a statist aggression.

    I think he is spot on. Follow the logic and you can’t come to any other conclusion. I disagree.

  21. #21 |  Helmut O' Hooligan | 

    CyniCAL: “False. There’s no logical way to prove now that the perpetrator would have killed the hostage.”

    Jesus Fucking Christ, CyniCAL. Look, we have had some good conversations about your beliefs and I feel better informed for having had these conversations. But you are not only wrong on this, you are actually becoming a parody of yourself. You are a Monty Python character in the making. Ooh Ooh, violence inherent the system.

    The above quote from you basically suggests that the SWAT team should have just gone with it and trusted that A FUCKING HOSTAGE TAKER might just let THE FUCKING CHILD STRANGER HE JUST FUCKING ABDUCTED go free AFTER HE STARTED SHOOTING AT THE FUCKING POLICE ATTEMPTING TO FUCKING FREE THE HOSTAGE (You were so eager to stick it to the man you forgot that the guy was shooting at the police, though I’m sure that was staged by some malevolent agent of the State flying overhead in a black helicopter).

    If talking this kind of rancid shit is required of the principled anarchist then I will never, ever in my life consider myself a fucking anarchist no matter how much I sympathize with their “cynicism” about the state. Long before I encountered you on this site, I felt that most “anarchists” were either teens or college kids trying to act scary and piss of their parents or aging burn out college professors who just think they are more intelligent than the rest of us rubes. I have modified my views on anarchists somewhat since then, but your comments about this case kind of brought back those old feelings again. Perhaps I need to have more faith in my intuition.

    I say good on San Jose P.D., at least this time. As for the hostage taker, FUCK HIM.

  22. #22 |  H. Rearden | 

    H O’H – I couldn’t agree more. Until reading CiniCAL’s posts here, everything I knew about anarchism I learned from listening to Dead Kennedys’ albums in junior high. CinaCAL’s previous posts have exposed me to philosophical underpinnings of anarchism, to which some (not all) I found myself sympathetic.

    Unfortunately, a majority of his posts are just him screaming at his computer screen:

    #44 | CyniCAl | January 20th, 2012 at 6:11 pm

    I am going to wear twice as much cologne as I did before. Fuck you all.

    His argument here is just plain disgusting. If a private citizen had shot this kidnapper he, and I, would be hailing him as a hero. I don’t know why it should be any different just because the guy is a cop. His distaste for state aggression trumps all. I’d say that your intuition is correct.

  23. #23 |  JOR | 

    “If talking this kind of rancid shit is required of the principled anarchist . . . ”

    Don’t worry. It’s not. Though I do sympathize with his arguments to some extent: given what we know about police – even SWAT team – marksmanship standards, the fact that they didn’t shoot the girl in the kidnappers’ arms must be a matter of sheer luck; they were likely just shooting back to protect their own hides, and killing the kidnapper without injuring the kid (or any other bystanders) was a happy coincidence. I say this purely based on what I know about other SWAT raids and general police behavior; it has nothing to do with my anarchist principles per se (which say, for what it’s worth, that anyone has the right to do anything they can that doesn’t violate anyone’s rights, and shooting a kidnapper who is shooting at you to try and ‘defend’ his take doesn’t violate anyone’s rights).

  24. #24 |  StrangeOne | 

    Ok in defense of the general perception of anarchists, and let me throw in my two cents. I know its a problem that the media, in general, only celebrates the successes of police and ignore their many failings. I know that, in general, the government advancement of para-military tactics in domestic policing is having a disastrous effect on civil rights, public safety, and public trust in its civil servants. But the proper time to make those criticisms is when those things actually happen, which as this blog frequently points out is all to often.

    If you want to criticize someone for selectively venerating the police, Balko is not that guy. If you want to complain about violent, reckless, and unaccountable behavior by police, this isn’t the news item you should be concerned about. Seriously, just wait a couple days, these opportunities for righteous indignation are far too frequent in my opinion.

    Tomorrow I can be pissed about whatever blood curdling items my daily blog walk takes me to. Today I’m thankful a little girl gets to go home.

  25. #25 |  Helmut O' Hooligan | 

    #24 StrangeOne: “Tomorrow I can be pissed about whatever blood curdling items my daily blog walk takes me to. Today I’m thankful a little girl gets to go home.”

    Thank you, StrageOne. That is the key point here. Earlier I was so angry that I couldn’t put it that succinctly. The actions of the police resulted in a child being freed from a kidnapper. The kidnapper was the true aggressor in this instance and the police did their job–or at least what their true job should be–to end the threat. This should not be about ideology. This should be about a girl being freed from a violent shit head. So I am just saying when you get to the point that you are an anarchist first and a human being second, then maybe you need to re-think your political views.

  26. #26 |  Murc | 

    “The correct application of a SWAT team does not always end in a shooting of either the alleged suspect or an officer. ”

    True, but I’m not sure how that’s relevant to your point. You said situations like the one Radley describes or “something very similar” happen so often that they don’t even make the news. That’s a clearly wrong claim.

    If you’re arguing that SWAT operations with no weapons discharged by anyone at all, no hostages, and no deaths are “very similar” to the operations in question, I say no way. Yeah, if the cops deploy a SWAT team and it turns out that everyone involved comes quietly and/or is apprehended without a weapon even being drawn? I can see that not making the police blotter. To argue that those situations are at all comparable to this one is wrong.

  27. #27 |  Helmut O' Hooligan | 

    #23 JOR: “they were likely just shooting back to protect their own hides, and killing the kidnapper without injuring the kid (or any other bystanders) was a happy coincidence.”

    JOR, while I appreciate your more measured response to this issue, I still find the above statement vexing. You seem to be saying that the SOLE reason that Officer Jiminez shot the hostage taker was to protect “his own.” Are you seriously saying that this officer didn’t care about an eleven year old kidnapping victim? If so, that is just cold and pretty damned offensive.

    Look, Jiminez is a human being. Why would he not care about freeing this girl? This, in a nutshell, is the whole issue with anarchists and the police. You guys time and time again deny the police their humanity and that has always bothered me a great deal. Not because the state of policing in this society is excellent (I am on record here saying quite the opposite!) but because I think it is terribly dangerous and counterproductive to assume that someone has sinister motives 100% of the time. Attitudes like that tend to lead to pretty ugly places (such as death camps), historically speaking.

    JOR, I grew up around cops. My Dad was a cop. I don’t always agree with his views, but I don’t think he lived to go out and torture people either. I think he was a family man doing a job that he often found annoying or moderately interesting, depending on the day. I do know he saw through a lot of the bullshit in policing that I currently criticize. As a result, I think he did his best to ignore aspects of the job that he found counterproductive. I will tell you one thing though. I guarantee he would have busted his ass to save a kid from some thug kidnapper. I have no question about that! And he would say, that is just what we are supposed to be doing out here. And it is what they are supposed to be doing (feel free to cite the usual court case about police not being required to defend you, but most cops don’t care about that case).

    So how far do you want to take this sterotyping? This demonization of all things State-related. My wife is a state employee (public aid office). Do you want to demonize her to? For trying to help out some people who are truly impoverished (and getting lied to by manipulative shit heads on a regular basis as well). Would you ascribe terrible motives to her too. She knows the system fucking blows, but she tries to make the most of it and I love her for it. I guess that makes me an evil statist pig too (Come get me!). Or maybe you would like to go around to city hall and piss on some public works trucks. Or go spit in the face of the nice old lady at the county clerks office. Or throw rocks at fire fighters. Hey, have a ball man. Just understand that blanket attacks on public employees won’t fly outside the libertarian blogosphere. If you don’t believe me, ask Scott Walker.

  28. #28 |  A SWAT Team, Used Properly - Death Rattle Sports | Death Rattle Sports | 

    […] violence to defuse an already violent situation. They saved this girl’s life. The Agitator View original postSHARE IT Tweet REGISTER NOW! Users must be logged in for immediate display. We will review & post […]

  29. #29 |  JOR | 

    Helmut, I’m not trying to stereotype. I try to base my opinion on the actions taken (shooting at a man holding a kid, perhaps as a shield – by a member of a group not exactly justly known for keen marksmanship) not on prior assumptions about their motives. For what it’s worth, I think the cops probably did have a strong desire to save the kid, at least going in, but when bullets start flying, good intentions tend to fly with them. Does that make the ultimate outcome a bad thing? No, not in the slightest.

    It’s interesting that you direct your frustration with libertarian/anarchist tendency to demonize government employees per se at me, given my occasional criticism of the same tendency. Needless to say, that’s something I try not to do, not so much because it’s unfair (as, granted, it sometimes is) but because it’s superficial: as far as I’m concerned the state is best understood as just another private institution (or network of institutions), an extension of the corporate capitalist power structure, and made of people just like every other human organization. The state is bad because of what it does, not because of what it’s made of. Humans were oppressing, robbing, murdering, and raping each other a long time before they had states. The state is the result of violence, not the (primary) cause of it.

    And for future reference, while I am pay attention to claims that I’m being unfair, or inaccurate, or cruel, or whatever (because those are all bad things to be, in and of themselves), I have no interest in pandering to anyone. I couldn’t care less what flies outside the libertarian blogosphere, or within it, for that matter. If conventional wisdom weren’t fucking stupid, we wouldn’t be in the sorry place we’re in.

  30. #30 |  Helmut O' Hooligan | 

    RE: #29 JOR…

    Thank you for the rejoinder. Your explanation in #29 sounds pretty sensible to me. While I don’t think extreme manifestations of violence are “human nature” I do think that contests for dominance are (as suggested by the behavior of other primates). With or without the State, some people with “act the fool” as some people in my community are fond of saying.

    I also want to point out that I have no hard feelings towards you, in spite of the fact that I probably still sounded pretty worked up in #27. This story and CyniCAL’s response sort of hit a nerve with me. It has to do with my own background as well as some of my disagreements with anarchist theory. It just made for a kind of “perfect storm.” Thanks again.

  31. #31 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    Le was still holding the girl in his arms at the top of the stairs when he began firing at the officers. Jimenez fired back with his assault rifle, without hitting the girl, and killed the man.

    Knowing how often official incident reports are blatant lies, it is rather difficult to determine anything. All we know is “something happened and a guy is dead”. No way I’m concluding anything based on a police report.

    This hostage situation seems to be a good use of SWAT. And, I have no idea if SWAT acted appropriately.

  32. #32 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    I guarantee he would have busted his ass to save a kid from some thug kidnapper.

    I don’t mean to harshly criticize your post, but your characterization might come more from Hollywood “vengeance” movies than real life. Please consider a lens of mental illness in which to view shooters and hostage-takers like this. Very, very, very few are just violent thugs. Most have some degree of mental illness (assign your compassion as you wish).

  33. #33 |  goober1223 | 

    This “CyniCAl” can’t be the same “Cynical in CA” from the days of yore. I swear he was just a political anarchist, but still a human. Unless he got even more cynical. Anybody else notice the same thing?

  34. #34 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    goober,
    I don’t see it that way. IMO, cynical was attempting to point out that there is no absolute proof that the girl’s life was saved by a SWAT bullet. He may/not have made a great argument, but I wouldn’t prescribe “inhuman” to the position @ post #4.

  35. #35 |  Medicine Man | 

    A little depressing to see you guys arguing over something as clear-cut as this.

  36. #36 |  CyniCAl | 

    Not sure you’re going to read this Boyd, but thank you very much for seeing what everyone else was too blind to see. That was EXACTLY my point.

    My points are always founded on logic.

    OK, OK, I do get emotional sometimes, but it’s in proportion to the nutpunchery that goes on here daily.

    Now that I’ve written that, I have resolved to take a sabbatical from this hellhole. And I mean hellhole in the nicest possible way. Toodles, and have fun banging your heads against the brick wall.

  37. #37 |  CyniCAl | 

    One last thing:

    I re-read my comment and I stand by every word as the logic is impeccable, as has been averred by commenters other than myself and of cooler heads than say Helmut O’Hooligan, who decided to go full retard in a very uncharacteristic moment.

    My one retraction is that I will grant that I have no way of knowing what Balko’s motivation in posting this story was, so I retract “I understand the purpose of this post.” Clearly after reading the man for a decade, I haven’t the faintest idea how his mind works, or should work given what appear to be his goals.

    Without that presupposition, the statement “It helps one’s credibility in the eyes of the establishment to present a “balanced” viewpoint of police behavior…” still stands.

    I agree that it is logically possible that was an unintended consequence of Balko’s post.

    However, that leaves open the distinct likelihood that the purpose of the post was to justify the existence of SWAT teams. Which has led down the slippery slope to where we find ourselves today. In a police state.

    Am I wrong?

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