California Association of Tactical Officers
Chemical Biological Radiological Nuclear Explosive
Weapons of Mass Destruction
Multidisciplinary Response Teams
Norm Sanders, M.D.
San Mateo County Terrorism Counter Assault Team
CATO president Lt. Ken Hubbs and the CATO Board have recently added a section to the forums regarding communications specific to CBRNE/WMD for California special weapons teams. As tactical officers, we are quite cognizant of the increasing threat from various forms of terrorism within the United States. On the federal level, great strides have been made since September 11, 2001. The formation of the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force, the various intelligence fusions centers, and the DOD’s WMD Civil Support Teams add a high level of information sharing and post attack CBRNE HAZMAT capability. However, the initial response to a terrorist threat or attack will most always be at the local jurisdictional level. And herein lays the deficit in domestic preparedness in many or most of our communities.
I serve with San Mateo County’s Terrorism Counter Assault Team (T-CAT). T-CAT is a federally funded multi-agency multi-disciplinary task force comprised of experienced operators from the four San Mateo County tactical teams, county fire/paramedics, HAZMAT, and the county ‘bomb squad’. In my attempts to communicate and information share with other CBRNE/WMD teams in California, I ran into a road block. I found no effective means of communication and information sharing other than to pick up the phone and call the teams on CATO’s California SWAT Team list. There are a small number of CBRNE/WMD teams in California that have achieved a high level of preparedness. Examples include the Joint Hazardous Assessment Teams of Orange County, San Diego County, and Los Angeles County. There are many more teams that have received personal protective equipment under federal grants, but remain untrained in proper usage or WMD tactical operations. The formation and integration of SWAT, EOD, HAZMAT, CBRNE specific tactical EMS, and multidisciplinary Incident Command is very complex. Add to that the critical training and equipment needs and a myriad of CAL OSHA requirements for compliancy, and the task becomes overwhelming for most jurisdictions.
We are suggesting the creation of a tactical CBRNE/WMD knowledge and information sharing data base in California. To begin with, the formation of a
CATO California CBRNE/WMD Team List, along with appropriate contact information. This can be accomplished by teams inputting data into the newly formed CBRNE/WMD Tac forum. Teams at all stages of training and readiness should participate, from the advanced to the newly formed. A valuable follow on would be the creation of a library of sample documents on a variety of topics including training, equipment, OSHA compliancy, policies and procedures, joint memorandums of understanding, etc.
This information sharing can only serve to better our special weapons team’s domestic preparedness to mitigate and respond to a WMD attack. And most assuredly, it can save up and coming CBRNE/WMD teams countless hours from ‘recreating the wheel.’
LAPD Releases SWAT Report
Los Angeles, CA
May 15, 2009
LAPD report details events leading to 2008 killing of SWAT officer
SWAT Officer Randy Simmons was shot and killed by a mentally disturbed suspect on Feb. 7, 2008. SWAT Officer James Veenstra was shot on the left side of his jaw, but survived.
The response of Los Angeles Police Department officers to a mentally disturbed man who killed three family members and a SWAT officer last year in a standoff that lasted nearly 11 hours was within department policy, according to a report released Wednesday.
Police Chief William Bratton's 38-page report follows the LAPD's response from the time the first 911 call was placed at 8:39 p.m. Feb. 6, 2008, to 7:28 a.m. the following day, when the 20-year-old suspect was killed by officers after tear gas was fired into the home at 19828 Welby Way near Winnetka. The report was made available to City News Service through a California Public Records Act request.
SWAT Officer Randy Simmons, 51, was shot and killed by Edwin Rivera just after midnight when officers first entered the home. SWAT Officer James Veenstra was shot on the left side of his jaw, but survived.
Rivera also killed his father, Gerardo Rivera, and two brothers, Edgar and Endi. Gerardo Rivera's live-in girlfriend remained inside the house for most of the night, but fled to safety once the tear gas was released.
“The evaluation of tactics requires that consideration be given to the fact that officers are forced to make split-second decisions under very stressful and dynamic circumstances,'' Bratton wrote in his report. “In this instance, although there were identified areas for improvement, the tactical considerations neither individually nor collectively `unjustifiably and substantially deviated from approved department tactical training.'''
Despite the report's overall support of officers' actions during the standoff, the Los Angeles Police Protective League - the union that represents LAPD officers - criticized the decision to release the report.
"Our legal advisers have expressed serious concern over the LAPD's decision to release to the news media such a detailed report containing opinions of officers' performance and describing in detail safety tactics used by our officers during this tragic event," said LAPPL President Paul M. Weber.
"Nevertheless, the report from the chief of police supports what the LAPPL has always said about the Feb. 7, 2008, SWAT incident in West San Fernando Valley - the officers involved are heroes in every sense of the word. Their bravery and courage under fire epitomizes what it means to be a police officer and it is no wonder the president of the United States recognized these officers yesterday."
The first 911 call was made at 8:39 p.m. Feb. 6, 2008, but because no one on the line was responsive to the 911 operator, police were not sent to the home until a second call was placed at 9:04 p.m.
When officers arrived two minutes later, they heard a male voice from inside the home say “three dead people inside.'' As the officers backed away from the door, they saw Rivera appear in the window, make eye contact and state, “I have already killed three. Come inside and kill me,'' according to the report.
As the officers sought cover behind vehicles parked in the driveway, they broadcast a request for an additional unit and supervisor. Bratton wrote in his report that because of the statements made by Rivera, the officers should have requested assistance and provided responding units with directions on how to safely approach the home.
By 9:45 p.m., neighbors were evacuated from surrounding homes. They told police that as many as six people lived in the home, and none of them reported hearing gunshots.
At 10 p.m., as higher-ranking LAPD staff began arriving on scene, an unidentified officer was instructed to call Rivera to gather information and establish a rapport.
“At times, the suspect answered the telephone and engaged her in conversation, while other times there was silence and the calls were terminated. According to [redacted], on several occasions it sounded as if someone was pushing buttons on the telephone,'' Bratton wrote.
Police - who also heard mumbling in the background of those calls - believed the phone buttons were possibly being pushed by an injured victim.
A public-address system outside the house was also used in an attempt to make contact with Rivera.
A Blackberry text message was sent to SWAT officers by Metropolitan Division desk personnel at 11:02 p.m., stating that a man with a gun was inside the home, three people had been injured and Rivera was threatening suicide. At that point in the night, however, it was not yet confirmed that the suspect was armed, nor was he threatening suicide, according to the report. The inaccurate text message was based on notes someone wrote on a white board, Bratton wrote in the report.
At 11:13 p.m., mental health counselors were called in. While officers believed the victims inside the home might still be alive, a decision allowing officers to enter the home was delayed because of concerns over the suspect's mental state.
“My biggest concern was, number one, this is your typical suicide-by- cop-type scenario; and number two, I don't believe my guys are quick enough to breach that door ... It takes a lot of work to kick a door, and when you're sitting in front of that stronghold ... at the entry trying to get in and you're kicking, you're putting guys in harm's way,'' an unidentified captain said, according to the report.
In that instance, the captain was referring to patrol officers, not members of SWAT.
One minute before midnight a team of SWAT officers, armed with rifles and semi-automatic pistols, kicked in the front door. The home was “extremely dark'' and as officers fanned into the living and dining room areas, they saw one of the victims on the dining room floor.
“Suddenly, the suspect took a barricaded position behind the right door jamb of the doorway at the right rear corner of the living room and fired several rounds from a handgun that he held in his right hand. Officer [redacted] was struck on the left side of his jaw, and Officer [redacted] was struck in the face on the right side of his nose. Officer [redacted] fell backward and landed in a seated position, and Officer [redacted] fell forward and landed face down,'' according to the report.
Though the names have been blacked out, the first officer struck in the jaw is likely Veenstra and the second officer is likely Simmons.
Through the doorway, officers saw Rivera extend his right hand and point a handgun in their direction.
“I feared for their safety, because I felt as though if - if I didn't fire my weapon, he would either shoot me, or he might shoot, you know, someone else that entered the location with me,'' an unidentified officer said in the report.
That officer fired five rounds at Rivera from his rifle at a distance of 19 feet. A second officer fired additional shots from 11 feet away, and a third officer fired six rounds in rapid succession from a distance of 19 feet.
Moving deeper into the house, an officer heard Rivera say, “I'm in here. I've got the gun. Come in and finish it,'' and “Shoot through the wall. I've got a gun in my hand.''
Officers left the home at that point, and a weapon and shotgun shells were left behind. Though it would have been difficult to remove either at that point, it “gave the suspect access to an additional weapon and the shotgun shells provided the suspect with ammunition for the shotgun that was subsequently located inside the residence,'' according to the report.
When paramedics were called for Simmons and Veenstra, the situation became “very chaotic after the help call was broadcast. The degree at which personnel abandon their positions of assignment to respond in mass to the residence was not consistent with the discipline necessary to effectively manage the rapidly unfolding situation,'' Bratton wrote.
At about 2 a.m., SWAT officers were told that Simmons had died at Northridge Medical Center.
Rivera's brother and sister-in-law arrived at the home at 4 a.m. Wilfredo Rivera told officers his brother was unemployed and had a history of mental problems, including signs of schizophrenia. In a continuing effort to make contact with Rivera, Wilfredo Rivera recorded a message that was then played over the PA system.
About an hour later, another message on the PA system warned Rivera that a chemical agent would be released into the home. When the gas was released at 5:38 a.m., the girlfriend of Gerardo Rivera ran from her hiding spot in a bedroom closet. Shortly thereafter, a fire erupted under an armored LAPD vehicle that had been driven into the home. A lack of communication between the police and fire departments meant LAFD officials were unaware that officers were using a tactic that could lead to a fire, according to the report.
After the girlfriend left the home, three other officers fired shots at Rivera.
At 7:28 a.m., an unidentified officer reported seeing Rivera stand in a doorway in the rear of the house, partially engulfed in smoke from the fire.
“There's no doubt in my mind that at that point and time, he was seeking out and targeting officers for the purpose of bringing harm to them. It's my belief that had he been given the opportunity, he would, without a doubt in my mind, kill additional officers given the opportunity,'' the officer said in the report.
That officer fired one round from his rifle, striking Rivera in the chest and causing him to fall to the ground. Another officer saw Rivera on his hands and knees near the doorway. Rivera then turned in the officer's direction and raised his left hand. The officer, thinking Rivera had a gun in his right hand, fired two rounds from a distance of 50 feet.
It was then that officers reported the suspect was down. A firearm was not found on Rivera or in the immediate vicinity of where he collapsed, according to the report. Elsewhere in the home, officers found the barrel of a .380-caliber pistol, 32 magnum Charter Arms revolver and a 12-gauge Savage Arms double-barreled shotgun.
The chief found all of the shootings to be within policy.
Bratton also determined that based on the number of officers and resources needed to respond to the murders and barricade, the city should have declared a tactical alert.
Fifteen of the police officers involved in the standoff were honored at the White House Tuesday as part of the National Association of Police Organizations' Top Cops award. Veenstra was among the officers who met with President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden in the Rose Garden.
Police Kill Man During Standoff
May 31, 2009
The following is a media release sent from the Tiffin Police Department: "A Tiffin man was fatally shot by Tiffin Police Officers this (Saturday) morning. Benjamin A. Grimes, 30 of 194 East Perry Street died at Mercy Hospital shortly after the 3:22 AM shooting. At about 1:53 AM, officers were called to 194 East Perry Street in reference to a man who was breaking into the residence. When officers arrived they were confronted by Grimes, who had barricaded himself inside the home with at least two weapons.
Two of the officers who responded had been trained as crisis intervention counselors. They were able to establish contact with the man through a rear window in the residence. These officers talked with Grimes for nearly 90 minutes, trying to convince him to come out of the house.
At about 3:20 AM it was determined that Grimes' mental state was deteriorating to the point that some attempt had to be made to end the standoff. Officers from the Tiffin Police Special Response Team were able to force entry through a side door which had been barricaded.
When the team entered, Grimes pointed a loaded revolver at the officers. Officers were forced to open fire, striking Grimes several times. He was taken into custody then transported to Mercy Hospital by a Tiffin Fire & Emergency Services squad. He died a short time later.
The shooting was the second encounter officers had with Grimes last night. At around 10:50 PM, officers received information that Grimes was threatening to harm himself. He was transported to Mercy Hospital to be evaluated by Firelands. A Firelands counselor responded to the hospital and spoke to Grimes, but decided he posed no threat to himself or anyone else. He was released to the custody of a friend at 1:24 AM.
Toledo Police Fatally Shoot Gunman During Standoff
May 24, 2009
Toledo police shot and killed a 32-year-old man Sunday morning after a standoff that included gunfire in North Toledo and negotiations over a hostage. The suspect, who police said lived on Allendale Drive where the standoff occurred, was shot by a Toledo police sergeant who had entered a home to negotiate with the suspect.
The man, who has not been identified, allegedly had one hostage inside a home in the 1900 block of Allendale. The man also had two semi-automatic guns in his possession, Toledo police said. "At this time we still don't know for sure what happened," said Toledo police Chief Mike Navarre who was at the scene.
In all, three people were injured in the morning shooting, including the hostage who was being held inside a home. The suspect was inside a neighbor's home where there were two children inside. That home is next to his, authorities said.
During the negotiations shortly before 8 a.m., police and the suspect exchanged gunfire in the front and rear of the home. During that time, police removed a back screen of the home and safety removed two children who were inside the dwelling. They were the children of the neighbor.
Three shooting victims in the standoff situation have been taken to St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center and Toledo Hospital. One of the victims is the hostage. Police said one victim has life-threatening injuries.