VIDEO: Use-of-force cop training: ‘My chest felt heavy as I pulled the trigger’

My hands shook as I aimed my gun. My chest felt heavy as I pulled the trigger.

I was sure I fired only once; I was later told I had fired at least 10 times.

I felt sick, but also relief, because it was all just a simulation — part of Boynton Beach Police’s shoot/don’t shoot training for reporters and city officials so we could have a small sense of the uncertainty officers face on the streets.

The “shooting” happened before noon on Thanksgiving Eve in the parking lot of an ale house in Boynton Beach. The makeshift scenario was that I was called to investigate a disturbance in which two men were fighting and a crowd had formed around them. I didn’t know if the men were armed. But I walked up to the scene with my gun out of its holster anyway.

The men were taller than me. They are were very loud. I was wearing a bullet-proof vest, a long-sleeved shirt and a mask and I was very hot. I looked at the scene: “What is that guy who’s walking around holding?” and “What are these men screaming?” were questions that popped in my head.

Who are the good guys? Who should I be focusing on? Is everyone a bad guy?, I was thinking.

I don’t want to get shot.

“Hey! Hey! Guys. Guys,” I shouted.

One of the men arguing looked at me.

I shot him (albeit with the fake gun with soap bullets).

I thought he had a gun. I’d find out later he didn’t.

He fell to the ground but I couldn’t help him — there was another guy I had to watch.

Suddenly, someone in the background fired at me. I shot back so many times and so fast that it was hard to come up with a number while watching the body camera video later.

If this was all real, I would have been put on paid administrative leave and would have been quizzed for someone to determine whether my shots were justified.

Were they?

In my mind, my life was in danger. But why did I shoot someone who simply looked at me? And why did I shoot someone else at least 10 times?

Well, I don’t have training. This was my first time firing a gun and my first time acting like a police officer.

But the point was clear: Officers don’t know what they’re up against, and only training and experience can help them prepare.

The training coincided with the Boynton Beach Police department opening of their newly-renovated $190,000 training center on Congress Avenue. It has LED lights, a surround system, renovated walls, a new roof, new air conditioning and new floors. Officers can do active shooter training inside and plan to build movable walls to have the building mimic a house.

The reporters and city officials were invited to act in these real-life scenarios to understand what officers go through in these shoot/don’t shoot calls. 

Mayor Steven Grant took part and had to decide whether to shoot two fighting men who stood over an injured police officer on the ground.

“He came towards me. I didn’t tell him to get back. I just shot him,” Grant said after.

Officers didn’t tell us whether we acted correctly. Capt. Matthew Zeller said officers never know what they’re going to encounter in any scenario and what the officer is thinking and feeling has to be taken into account regardless of what the video shows. And sometimes, even the body camera doesn’t show the whole story depending on how wide the view is.

“Things happen really fast,” said Zeller. “These are life-changing incidents.”

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Local

JUST IN: Crash on northbound I-95 closes several lanes near Jupiter
JUST IN: Crash on northbound I-95 closes several lanes near Jupiter

A crash has closed several lanes of traffic on northbound Interstate-95 near Jupiter Thursday night, according to Palm Beach County Fire Rescue. A crash just north of Indiantown Road has closed several lanes of the interstate as trauma helicopters are responding to the scene, according to authorities. Fire rescue officials said to “avoid area...
Nouman Raja files ‘Stand Your Ground’ claim in Corey Jones shooting
Nouman Raja files ‘Stand Your Ground’ claim in Corey Jones shooting

Calling it “a classic case of self-defense,” lawyers for former Palm Beach Gardens Officer Nouman Raja are asking a judge to dismiss manslaughter and attempted murder charges against him for the October 2015 shooting death of 31-year-old stranded motorist Corey Jones. Raja’s lawyers in court documents filed Thursday are asking...
State senate revamps sex harassment rules

The Florida Senate released a revamped sexual harassment policy Thursday, after sex scandals rocked the chamber and led to the resignations of two prominent senators. Former Sen. Jack Latvala announced his resignation this past month following the release of an investigative report that recommended a criminal probe into allegations the Clearwater Republican...
Sportcaster, former NFL player Ahmad Rashad selling Gardens home
Sportcaster, former NFL player Ahmad Rashad selling Gardens home

Former Minnesota Viking and NBC sportscaster Ahmad Rashad has put his Palm Beach Gardens home on the market, reports. Rashad is listing his 3-bedroom, 4 1/2-bathroom house in Frenchman’s Creek Beach & Country Club for $740,000. The home has a two-car garage and a pool that’s surrounded by thick landscaping for privacy, but the...
NEW: 1 dead, five injured in crash near Palm Springs, road closed
NEW: 1 dead, five injured in crash near Palm Springs, road closed

One person is dead and five are in the hospital after a crash near Palm Springs Thursday evening, according to Palm Beach County Fire Rescue. Crews were called to a multiple-vehicle crash near Melaleuca Lane and Congress Avenue at 5 p.m. Several people were trapped inside a vehicle that was on fire, according to Capt. Albert Borroto, the spokesperson...
More Stories