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Miami Growhouse Shootout--A Gunfight Analysis
Results from force on force experimentation clearly indicates that explosive movement, a visual threat focus, and acceptable marksmanship wins the reactive gunfight.

Research has shown that the only shot that will instantly stop a fight is one that destroys the brain or severs the spinal cord thereby disabling the central nervous system. Shots that do not strike the central nervous system must rely on blood loss to hit a critical level causing unconsciousness. Often someone who has received a fatal wound (or wounds) that reduces blood circulation will still be capable of purposeful activity for ten seconds or longer because the brain can remain sufficiently oxygenated. In other words, even if you inflict a fatal wound, your assailant may have a significant period of time in which they can still injure or kill you. There are many documented instances where someone continued fighting for much more than ten seconds after taking a serious wound to the heart or multiple wounds.

The following video link is an example of this phenomena in action. ( The video shows several Miami Police Officers approaching a suspected marijuana grow house to conduct a “Knock and Talk.” You’ll notice that the first 2 officers pass the shooter seated in the car without even a glance; the 3rd officer positions himself in the front of the house also without taking apparent notice of the shooter seated in the car. The shooter initiates the gunfight when he steps out of the car and opens fire on Officer number 3 (O3) to his immediate front—this is the first warning the officers have of his presence.

O1 draws his pistol approximately 2 seconds into the gunfight and fires 5 shots (he fires those shots in approximately 2.40 seconds) and makes at least two what are probably fatal hits on the shooter (his second and fourth shots) see picture #1. Although no autopsy information is available, my analysis of the video indicates that the second shot likely hits the shooter center chest and exits his back without severing the spinal cord. Four seconds into the gunfight O1 fires a fourth round which enters and travels laterally through the shooter’s upper right side and exits his left side (see picture #2). This lateral wound subsequently exhibits a great deal of blood loss in a short period of time (see picture 3 which shows evidence of both exit wounds). The shooter physically reacts to the impact of both shots by hunching or wincing.

Approximately one second after taking two probably fatal hits, the shooter opens fire on O1 (for approximately 2 seconds) hitting O1 three times below his vest in the groin and thigh as the officer moves straight backward away from the shooter. O1 continues to fire as well (although these shots are not aimed fire) shooting what appears to be a total of 7 rounds. The shooter remains on his feet after firing at O1 and continues purposeful activity for an additional 14 seconds until another officer fires a shot striking the shooter in the head and inflicting the stopping wound. Shortly before the head shot, you can clearly see that the shooter appears to be slowing down as a result of blood loss (see picture #3).1

Dr. Ken Newgard, M.D2 stated that instantaneous neutralization is impossible with non-central nervous system wounds; that a gunshot wound to the thoracic aorta (such as that our shooter may have suffered) would cause blood loss and relatively fast incapacitation. However, Dr. Newgard’s analysis of case studies showed that even if the thoracic aorta were totally severed, it would likely take at least 4-6 seconds to suffer sufficient blood loss to cause unconsciousness. Vasoconstriction resulting from adrenalin dump, amphetamines, antihistamines, cocaine, or other drugs can mitigate this wounding effect and the assailant may remain capable of purposeful action for a much longer period. The shooter in this incident fired at least 3 shots after he had suffered two probably fatal chest cavity wounds.

The man who has the initiative gets to start the fight and all he requires is decisiveness, marksmanship, and the will to kill. The shooter had the initiative in this fight and his attack as well as the physical environment dictated the officer’s tactics. O-1 faced a reactive event where the bad guy was already preparing to shoot him. Although he successfully drew and fired first, his shots were not immediately effective--unfortunately no pistol round is guaranteed to be immediately effective.

Studies and countless OIS videos have shown that the initial reaction of many officers who are facing a lethal threat is to stand flat-footed, draw, and try to return fire—the stand and deliver technique. Square range training often conditions officers to respond to lethal threats presented at close range in this manner. However, to effectively respond using stand and deliver to beat your assailant, you will have to be at least twice as fast as the bad guy. Sensible Self Defense, Inc. conducted some experimentation with the stand and deliver tactic and discovered that it simply does not work.4 As we see in this incident, in the 1.5-1.9 seconds that reaction requires, an officer could receive a minimum of six rounds coming at them.

It is obvious as the gunfight develops that other officers (specifically O3) are also firing. O1’s options for direction of movement are all poor, particularly as O3’s shots are impacting on the tree and ground near the shooter. Sometimes there are no good choices. O1 survived the wounds; however, he likely would have walked away unhurt rather than carrying a bullet inside him for the rest of his life if he had dynamically moved with the bad guys’ first shot. By moving straight backwards, O1 remained in the shooter’s line of fire. Look at the video again, had O1 moved laterally (to his left front) before he drew his pistol and opened fire, his movement would have begun before the shooter recovered from the strike of the second bullet. It would have been very difficult (perhaps impossible) for the shooter to track and effectively engage O1 (as he moved to the shooter’s right rear) given the shooter’s deteriorating condition and the constantly changing angle of fire.

Some firearms programs try to address movement and teach the side step as appropriate response (Texas Department of Public Safety for example); however, this is also indicative of square range limitations. Like the step back and draw that O1 attempted in this incident, the side step reflects a method that is only appropriate for the square range environment. An artificial, self-limiting, and totally unrealistic venue when compared to the 3600 real world and its unpredictable adversaries.

Results from force on force experimentation that Suarez International, Defense Training International, Sensible Self Defense, and others have completed clearly indicates that explosive movement, a visual threat focus, and acceptable marksmanship wins the reactive gunfight. However, training in these skills requires expert instruction and a range where you can effective practice the techniques. For more information, please contact us.


1 The video frame rate (fps) of available copies of the incident videos (30 fps) is clearly not the frame rate of the original recording (which was likely either 5 or 10 FPS) and the resolution of the various cameras is different. Unfortunately, as a result the, precise timing is problematic; however, the times are very close since there is a time stamp on the videos.

2 Newgard, Ken, M.D.: "The Physiological Effects of Handgun Bullets: The Mechanisms of Wounding and Incapacitation." Wound Ballistics Review, 1(3): 12-17; 1992.

3 Vasoconstriction is the narrowing of the blood vessels resulting from contraction of the muscular wall of the vessels, in particular the large arteries and small arterioles.

4 See “Why stand and deliver simply doesn’t work” at