To shoot or not to shoot? How officers make decisions in dangerous situations

By: Don Granese, WOWT Channel 6

OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) — When an armed suspect reportedly fired shots at police, officers did not fire back. Five members of law enforcement in harms way were left with the decision of whether or not to fire back.

“No matter who you are or your level of training, to be shot at, initially, is a very disturbing event,” said former SWAT member Trevor Thrasher, now with 88 Tactical. “Until you know that you have some measure of safety, it’s very high stress for you.”

Witnesses said they saw suspect Dwight Rodgers with a long gun at Parliament Pub where it all began Wednesday afternoon. Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine told WOWT 6 News that it appeared Rodgers was upset with management at the pub. With three people there in harm’s way, Rodgers left the pub to take refuge at an apartment complex to the east.

Returning to both crime scenes 24 hours later, the damage is still evident. Police said Rodgers aimed at officers and fired that long gun from his apartment. Officers had to duck behind a nearby car. One shot ended up striking a garage door behind them.

So, to shoot, or not to shoot?

Thrasher said, “They have tactical training of how to deploy with rifles, use of cover concealment and maneuver, things of that nature. So there’s a tactical aspect of it and then there’s a big decision making aspect to it.”

In this case, officers did not fire back. Rodgers gave himself up after negotiations.

Thrasher believes it’s important to remember these instances when police can end conflicts peacefully. “Very rarely do they have to use deadly force. People should pay attention to that. You don’t hear about the times that they don’t use force.”

Rodgers is set to make his first court appearance Friday morning. He faces five counts of attempted second-degree murder, eight counts of use of a weapon to commit a felony, and two counts each of terroristic threats and criminal mischief. If convicted of all charges, Rodgers could be sentenced to over 610 years in prison.

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