OCALA, Fla. – When Ocala police officer Jordan Decker was confronted with a gun in his face at a front door last month, the officer chose not to draw his weapon but instead go hand-to-hand.
Ocala Police Chief Mike Balkan said it was a split-second decision stemming from proper training that led to appropriate instincts.
“This could have gone wrong eight ways to Sunday, and the fact that he was able to disarm the gentleman using the techniques is a tremendous testament to his training and capabilities,” Balken said.
Decker first encountered the man and woman in downtown Ocala after a report of a drunk couple causing a disturbance.
Police body camera video shows the officer offering to drive the couple home.
After he dropped them off at their house and prepared to leave, Decker said he witnessed the man put his hands on the woman.
Decker knocked at the door to speak with the woman and that’s when the body camera video shows the man, identified by police as Trevor Henderson, walked to the front door with a gun. Decker said Henderson pointed the gun at Decker’s head.
But instead of backing up and drawing his own weapon, Decker lunged at the man, grabbed his hand and tackled him inside the house.
Video shows Decker wrestling the gun away from the man.
“Awe really?” the man said after he was tackled.
Decker, after securing the gun, asked the man, “Are you calmed down?”
Balken said tackling the man was safer and wiser, considering the woman was standing between them.
“Just because you’re justified to pull your firearm and engage a target doesn’t mean that’s what you should do, and maybe not the smartest thing to do,” Balken said.
Balken said if Henderson had been able to fire a shot and/or if Decker had fired back, lives could have been lost.
“The worst case scenario is that could have been multiple gunshot victims at that same scene,” Balken said. “What flashed through my mind is the worst night a cop could think of in his career. That could have resulted in the death of my police officer very very easily.”
Balken said it’s a reality that police officers now fear public scrutiny for drawing their weapon and firing, even if they’re justified.
“Yeah I think that’s becoming an issue for us,” Balken said. “What I never want to happen, and I would argue that most chiefs and sheriffs would agree with this, is we never want any of our officers put in a position where they’re going to hesitate to take the action that they need to protect either themselves or someone else in the community, for fear of some news reporter making this a national incident. Especially when they were in the right.”
Balken believes officers are hesitating for fear of ending up on national television.
“We should be held to a higher standard and I as a chief welcome that. What I never want to happen is the officer hesitates and it cost someone their lives because of fear of reprisal for doing a very difficult job at a very difficult time,” Balken said. “Yeah I do think it’s happening. How do you combat that? With training. We try to train them to react just like officer Decker reacted. To almost make it instinctive.”
Henderson was charged with attempted first-degree murder of a law enforcement officer but Balken said the incident ended as positively as possible, as do most incidents every day, all day.
“This isn’t a shock to me, I guess that’s what I’m trying to say,” Balken said. “I’m thrilled that everybody went home safely, thrilled at the actions of the officers involved, but it’s not a shock. No cop comes to work at this agency or any other agency, and I’ve been a lot of them around the country, and says, ‘I really hope I get to draw my gun today.’ That just doesn’t happen.”
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