ORLANDO, Fla. – A deputy opening fire on an armed suicidal woman entering a hospital in Marion County is the latest example of split-second decision-making under enormous pressure that can mean the difference between life and death.
Coincidentally, the Orlando Police Department trains for nearly that exact worst-case scenario with their virtual training simulator: an armed suicidal person headed for a crowded building.
News 6 first showed you the scenario featured in Orlando PD’s 4K high-definition surround-screen simulator in July 2020.
In the training simulation, officers faced off against a suicidal man in a truck parked in front of a public building. The man got out with the gun pointed at his head and walked towards the entrance of the building, ignoring any attempts to stop him.
Officers engaged in the simulation pleaded with the man over and over.
“Just please sir, please drop the weapon!” they yelled at the screen. “Sir please, sir drop the weapon, don’t walk to the building, sir stop walking, stop walking!”
Officers learned they had to open fire and shoot the man in the scenario when he wouldn’t listen to their commands to stop. If they did not fire, the simulation, repeated several times, ended with the man walking inside and the sound of shots fired.
At the time, Orlando Police Chief Orlando Rolon said he wanted to show journalists how hard it is to get it right every day in every situation, and how hard and how often officers train and retrain to learn to get it right, drilling scenarios where sometimes there is no good answer.
“There may be some people who question whether the officer should shoot him in the back,” Rolon said. “This was the perfect scenario where unfortunately that action would have to be taken.”
After the simulation demonstration, Rolon said when someone with a gun threatens to walk into a building filled with people, police have to stop that person, even with deadly force if there’s no other way.
Rolon said the training simulator demonstration also showed that officers often have just milliseconds to observe, process and react, and must rely on instinctive reactions learned during training.
“It is key for our citizens to understand what it is that our officers confront out there,” Rolon said. “The unknown is the biggest obstacle for officers when they go to a situation, things can change very quickly. And that’s the message we need to deliver and be very clear about.”
About 62% of the 300 different scenarios in OPD’s simulator require deescalation in order for the scenario to end successfully.
The Orlando Police Department did not want to comment on the Marion County incident out of respect for that department and its investigation.