It was mid-June, 1755 in the early afternoon. The battle weary army under General Braddock was just a few miles from Fort Duquesne, when they ran into disaster. The sudden deafening barrage of gunfire from the forest took out numerous officers, and men on the front line. Nine hundred French soldiers and Indians hid in the woods waiting for just this moment to strike. Officers on horseback were easy targets. General Braddock was one of the first among the wounded. His aides were all down except George Washington. The big Virginian had two horses shot from under him, and a bullet shot through his hat. Three more bullets passed cleanly through his coat without touching him – still he fought on.
Colonel Washington tried to keep his men from panicking - mostly British troops trained for regimented warfare on the fields of Europe - firing aimlessly into the forest or shooting their own men in confusion. Many survivors simply dropped their weapons and fled. It was impossible to rally them being in such a panic. Finally the whole regiment was forced to retreat.
Washington was considered the hero of this battle. People called him fearless and praised him for how he fought with remarkable courage. But he was haunted by the defeat. He hated to speak of it, and considered it scandalous.
Officers involved in shootings are often praised as heroes. They do act with courage but most never feel like a hero. Everyone I have talked to felt like they had lost a battle rather than done something heroic.
In shooting incidents LEOs go into an automatic pilot mode. They fall to the level of their training. They have a job to do, and will do that job until finished no matter what.
There are common reactions reported after a shooting. Some LEOs become emotional, cry, or yell. Others say they feel numb, and don’t feel anything at all. Physical reactions often include puking, the shakes, loose bowels, and headaches. These are all normal reactions to critical incidents. Some have nightmares, insomnia, and other symptoms. Symptoms may be immediate, within a few hours, or may show up weeks later.
Talking things out with a trustworthy person brings some relief. A verbal purge can often help. It’s almost like a K-9 when called off before getting to bite someone. The officer and the bite dog both need to do something to come down. The dog needs to bite (preferably a toy) the cop needs to talk.
Strenuous exercise and lots of water will help eliminate some of the chemical dump that occurs during a high-stress incident. Adrenaline and other chemicals were dumped into your body to give you a burst of energy, strength, speed, etc. Most shooting incidents happen quickly not allowing your body to use all the chemicals it has produced. These need to be eliminated by sweating, urinating or crying them out. Obviously, sweating or urinating are the preferred methods of most first responders.
Finally, avoid excess sugar, caffeine and alcohol after critical incidents. These only add to the chemicals your body is trying to eliminate.
A common question often asked of the chaplain after officer involved shootings, even from those not particularly religious is ”What about the ten commandments,” and “Thou shalt not kill?”
Lt. Col Dave Grossman, the author of On Killing does an excellent job addressing this question in his seminars. He starts with explaining how the word “kill” in the Bible is better translated “murder.” In other words “Thou shalt not murder.” He goes on to talk about how the Bible describes King David. David was a warrior king. Songs were sung about his killing tens of thousands in battle. The Bible records God gave victory to David, and even called him a “man after His own heart”. David’s troubles began after he “murdered” Uriah. Grossman lists numerous other examples, including how the first gentile Christian in the Bible was Cornelius, a Centurion (modern equivalent would be the police officer or soldier).