20 Nov 99

This just in from a friend in Manila:

“Two armed robbery suspects were flagging down and subsequently robbing produce trucks on the highway that leads into the capitol.

An elite police team, tasked with handling such serious crimes, confronted the two as they plied their trade on an isolated stretch of highway. A two-man police team, armed with pistols and one M16 rifle, approached and challenged the suspects. The police were standing in the open several yards from the suspects when the incident went down.

Without hesitation, the suspects both turned and fired (pistols) immediately, fatally wounding the officer with the rifle and seriously wounding his partner. Neither officer returned fire. The two criminals then, again without vacillation, fired on a police vehicle, parked a short distance away, which contained the back-up team (four officers).

Three of the four officers were hit, and none returned fire.

Twenty minutes later, the two criminals were apprehended by the perimeter team, which had been alerted. Caught in an untenable position, they surrendered and were taken into custody without further incident.

Pretty rough news from my neck of the woods but well, it’s still home.”


1 Criminal suspects believed to be dangerous should never be confronted and challenged by officers standing in the open. Such confrontations should only take place from adequate distance and with officers in strong (covered) positions.

2 The outcome of most hostile encounters is determined before the fight ever starts. Poor positioning, inadequate strength, inadequate firepower, lack of alertness, and confusion of purpose all contribute to negative outcomes, as we see in this case.

3 Just because you arrive with superior armament doesn’t mean the other side will be impressed. The world is full of people who are not afraid of the police and have no respect whatever for their authority. Criminal suspects surrender usually meekly. It happens so often, we sometimes forget about the exception that proves the rule. COMPETENT GUNMEN KNOW THAT AN UNEXPECTED AND EXPLOSIVE COUNTERATTACK IS THE SUREST WAY TO BREAK OUT OF AN AMBUSH, PARTICULARLY WHEN THE OTHER SIDE IS COMPLACENT AND CARELESS. In this case, both officers were caught by surprise by two suspects who were (a) competent gunmen, (b) determined to make good their escape, and (c) had no compunction about shooting uniformed police officers. So violent and precise was their counterattack that the M-16 rifle carried by the officers never came into play.

4 Positioning in depth often saves the day, as was the case here. Concentric perimeters will contain even the most violent criminal suspects, so long as it is in place before hostilities start. This, at least, they did right.