The November 28th police shooting in Austin, Texas, where a mounted patrol officer neutralized an active shooter at over 100 yards with his handgun, reminded me of another active shooter incident 20 years ago. Both cases reinforce the lesson that police pistol training needs to take place at longer ranges.
Austin Sgt. Adam Johnson engaged suspect Larry McQuilliams, who had unleashed over 200 rounds around the city’s downtown from two rifles, at 312 feet with his duty Smith & Wesson M&P40. Johnson was on foot and holding the reigns of two horses when he fired a single fatal shot, one-handed, at the suspect. The bullet hit the McQuilliams in the heart and stopped him.
Decades earlier on June 20, 1994, U.S. Air Force Security Policeman Andrew Brown was on bicycle patrol at Fairchild AFB in Spokane, Washington. Dean Mellberg was an airman who had been discharged for mental issues. Mellberg, armed with a rifle, began a shooting rampage at the base hospital that left five dead and 22 wounded.
Upon receiving the call of an active shooter, Brown rode his bike a quarter of a mile across the facility. Mellberg was chasing another victim. Brown dismounted his bicycle, took a kneeling position in the street, and fired four rounds from his M9 at Mellberg. One of the first three bullets struck the suspect in the left shoulder. Brown’s final shot hit Mellberg in the head, killing him instantly.
The day of the incident, Brown’s issued Beretta was down for maintenance and the SP was carrying a replacement M9 he had never fired, much less sighted in. The distance from Brown to Mellberg at the time of his shooting was 70 yards. And Mellberg was firing his rifle at Brown.
I am embarrassed that we seldom shoot our duty handguns over the 15 yards at state qualification and sometimes 25 yards in practice. Even modest precision shooting, say headshots at 25 yards, helps with sight alignment, breathing, trigger control, stance, and concentration.
I have nothing but respect for both lawmen. They each entered a dangerous situation and performed their duties with distinction. The suspects carried AK-47 variants and were not afraid to use them. On November 28, 2014 and on June 20, 1994, law enforcement protected their communities. Would you be ready behind the sights if one of these scenarios unfolded before you? I hope I would be.