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Police Expert: Normal Officers 'Coordinated, Controlled' During Fatal Standoff

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A law enforcement expert says the three Town of Normal police officers who fatally shot a gunman in late August responded well to a life-threatening situation.

A law enforcement expert says the three police officers from Normal who fatally shot a gunman last month at a mobile home park appeared to be coordinated and well trained.

Eureka College associate professor of criminal justice Bill Lally reviewed police body camera footage of the Aug. 30 incident in which officers shot and killed a 66-year-old man who had killed two people and wounded three others.

“I believe that they were able to approach the situation in a fairly organized and concerted manner,” said Lally, referring to how the officers communicated with each other to avoid the potential for crossfire.

McLean County State’s Attorney Don Knapp issued a statement last weekpraising the officers’ actions as “heroic” as State Police released the video to the public.

The video shows a hail of gunfire as officers shot and killed the suspect.

“I believe what we can see is the fire on behalf of the officers was controlled and purposeful,” Lally said. “They were intending to neutralize the target, not necessarily just returning fire.”

Bill Lally

Lally said when a situation involves an active shooter, neutralizing the suspect means firing at their midsection. He said firing at limbs increases the likelihood of missing and instead hitting an unintended target.

Lally said the shootout in a mobile home park creates a “worst-case scenario” because residents may not be safe inside as gunfire can easily penetrate the walls and injure or kill someone. He said State Police will need to determine how many shots were fired during the incident. He said for now it's hard to say how many shots were fired by officers and how many were fired by the suspect.

He said television crime dramas often create an unrealistic image of the difficulty that officers under duress face when trying to hit an armed subject who is often a moving target.

“(They face) a lot of stress and a lot of moving factors because you are also trying to not allow yourself to have tunnel vision (where) they are not seeing the innocents that may be wandering inadvertently into the firing area,” Lally said.

The video shows traffic, including a school bus, traveling down a busy street nearby at the height of the shootout. Lally said the Normal Police Department should have blocked traffic in that area “if they had the luxury of personnel,” but added the department would have had little time to coordinate with other agencies to set up a perimeter around the scene while the gunman was still on the loose.

The three police officers remain on leave pending the State Police probe. Lally said police culture has only recently tried to address PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) following traumatic incidents.

“If you go back even a short amount of time in a lot of departments, there were not any types of resources for officers to utilize after such a critical incident,” he said.

Lally added police now generally avoid getting in-depth accounts from the officers immediately after a traumatic incident because he said they are more likely to have a temporary memory block about key moments until they have had time to “come down from that event.”

“It is a life-threatening situation that they found themselves in and they also knew they were responsible for others’ lives. That’s going to take a toll on anyone,” Lally said.

Normal Police have denied comment on the incident, citing the State Police investigation.

Eric Stock is the News Director at WGLT. You can contact Eric at ejstoc1@ilstu.edu.