Ask any veteran cop who has been involved in a “running gun battle” about their experience and the first thing they’ll inevitably bring up is how unpredictable these types of shootouts can be.
What they won’t tell you – at least not right away – is how the pursuing officers, in many cases, will unload dozens of rounds of ammunition, inflicting massive amounts of collateral damage, often without hitting the fleeing suspect.
Sometimes, an officer will get hit. And sometimes, officers or the suspect will tag an innocent bystander, like they did during a shootout on a quiet neighborhood street in Westchester back in September 2015.
Other times, bullets fly in every direction, ripping through windshields and terrifying bystanders, until the suspect gives up – or escapes, according to KQED News.
In one recent incident that unfolded in San Francisco’s Design District about two weeks ago, a shootout erupted when officers cornered a murder suspect who had eluded them earlier that day. The suspect, identified as Joel Armstrong, was discovered after officers discovered a car that had been stolen earlier that day, which they believed belonged to the suspect in a double shooting where one victim later succumbed to his wounds. Police had linked the carjacking and the shootings to the same suspect, and when an officer went to investigate the stolen car, he discovered Armstrong hiding in a nearby RV.
An officer “peered into a window of the RV” and saw Armstrong, according to the Police Department’s description of the incident. One of seven body-camera videos released by the Police Department shows an officer rush back to his colleagues after looking in the window.
“Hey, we got him! We got him,” the officer says. “He’s in there! He’s in there!”
Body camera footage shows seven officers surrounding Armstrong. First, the officers ordered the other occupants of the RV out of the vehicle. Three people and a large dog emerged, and officers ordered them to stand down.
All of a sudden, two shots rang out from inside the RV – and the officers scrambled for cover. One officer fell, another tripped over the officer that fell.
Officers unleashed a ten second burst of handgun and assault rifle fire at the RV. In total, 65 shots were fired. None of them touched Armstrong.
He eventually surrendered after a couple of hours, leaving the RV at 2:15 am ET.
He’s charged with murder, eight counts of attempted murder, carjacking, being a felon in possession of a firearm, discharge of a firearm and receiving stolen property, according to the Police Department.
Unsurprisingly, San Francisco homicide and internal affairs teams are investigating the incident. The local district attorney’s office and the department of police accountability are also investigating.