Former SWAT Sniper Recounts His Most Intense Hostage Situation


10 months ago



Joel Turner

1 appearance

Joel Turner is the world’s leader in target panic science, a master educator in shot control, and the founder of ShotIQ.


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When it comes down to life or death stuff, that's where you're a very determined person, just in the way you live your life. It's cam, very determined person, right? So that's how you get to where you get to. It's the first ingredient in this whole control factor, is having enough determination to do that. And you have a why. You have a why as to why you're doing this. The why was, I was scared to death, man, in the sniper world. I was like, man, I hope it doesn't go bad. And I'm like, that can't be the mindset. Holy mackerel. But it is the mindset of most cops because they don't have a why. You know, if a cop's never been in a gunfight or a shooting, their why is artificial, right? And that's, it's scary. The first time that you do that, you know, having that why and seeing like, I was in an HR where I, you know, had to use lethal force on a person that was, I had to put around this far from another human being's face, right? And it was, that's my why. So when I do training on the team, it's like, you guys don't understand when you're, when you see, when you're looking through your optic at a reticle, and there's somebody's face on the edge of the, I mean, their face is fully in your scope. And the reticles right on the edge, right? And you have to put the round past their head. That's your why, right? So that's your why for all this tactical training that you do. But if you've never been there and done that, you have to learn how to manufacture determination, right? Can you imagine what failure would be in that situation? Well, tell the story, if you don't mind, the story you told me about the guy who was mept out. Yeah. So got a SWAT call out of a hostage rescue. There was an unarmed barricaded subject for the hostage. And you never know. That's all the information you get on the call out, right? So we go there, I get there, and it was weird because on the brief, I walked up to the house and the SWAT commander briefed me at the, at the head of the garage there. And it was light colored concrete. It's dark. You know, we didn't have a bunch of lights on because the operation is active in that house right there. But the room was in kind of the back of the house. And I remember he's talking to me, telling me the situation. And I'm looking on the ground and I'm like, what is all that stuff on the ground? Right? And I'm looking at these dark patches on the ground. So I turned my flashlight on and it's blood. There's blood all over the place on this, on the walkway down from the garage. And I'm like, what is up with that? And he's like, well, this guy stabbed his cousin and then took his own daughter hostage, used her as a human shield with a knife to her. So that's how SWAT got called and all this stuff. So I get there and I got to be, I'm up on a ladder over a wood fence and we're about, I'm only like 15 yards from the, from the window, but we can't see anything in the window. And the negotiator's on the phone with this guy and he's not really making a lot of sense. He wants to talk to his girlfriend, blah, blah, blah. He's got his daughter in there with him and we can hear her through the wall, right? We can hear her sometimes she's screaming, sometimes she's crying, sometimes she's laughing. So we don't know what is going on in there, right? And it goes, this goes on for, the negotiators are on the phone with him for a while. And then finally the decision's made, like we have to get in there because it's starting to go south in negotiations. And we lost calms with the guy and... So you're worried he's going to stab his daughter? Yeah. Well, we don't, I mean, he's already done that to his cousin, right? I mean, stabbed him in the face and legs and arms, big K bar knife. It was not a good situation. So yeah, and he's already used her as a human shield, right? When the cops, what happened is there was a big fight went on. The cops got in, got everybody out. Then they realized the daughter was hiding behind a couch. So they go back in, they restack up, they go back in. Now he's got the daughter around the waist using her as a human shield, knife to her, and he kicks the door shut on a bedroom. That's what starts the SWAT call out. So I'm looking in this window, it's got blinds on it. Negotiations are going south, we lose calms with the guy. So finally we're like, we got to get calms with this dude, so we're going to put a throw phone in. So we put a throw phone, a throw phone's like a box. It's got a phone in it so the negotiators can talk to the dude. And so we put that in there. My buddy rips the blinds out. When we rip the blinds out, there's the dude again. I can't see him because I can only see like half the room. And he's in the right corner of the room, and I'm over this fence. And the window guys are yelling at him to drop the girl, drop the knife, you know, to get him all the commands, and he's kind of working his way along the wall. He's got her around the waist so he would hold her up above, you know. So they can't get a shot. And so he's moving his way across the wall, and then he moves his way across this wall and ends up in this corner, sits down, and pulls her up over the top of him. And so the window's on the same wall as this corner, and I can't see any of this stuff. I'm the sniper team leader, so I work my way around, and I get to this gate. I'm like, they called fire priority to the window team. I'm like, I'm on the wrong team. Right? So because he's got, there's like six dudes at the window, and nobody's shooting. I'm like, why in the eff are these guys not shooting? Because I couldn't see what they saw, but that's what's going through my head. So I get off the ladder, I run to this gate, and it's weird, the stuff you remember. They had this, it was like one of those latch type of locks, and it had a bolt through it with the nut all the way buried, and this bolt was like, it felt like it was this long, right? So I'm having to unscrew this frickin' bolt, right? I'm screwing, it's the finest threads I've ever felt, right? So I'm unscrewing this bolt, finally, bing, I get that, I go through the gate, I come around, I go up to the window, and there was another officer that had basically his face planted against the window so that he could just barely see through this sliver, because it was on the same wall. And so, and he wasn't shooting, and I'm like, why are you not shooting? And so we actually end up having to remove him off the ladder, because I don't know what he was thinking, he wasn't hearing us, we were giving him commands to get off the ladder so I could get up there and evaluate the situation. And I'm shooting a, my sniper rifle's at, it was a gas operated .308, and lowest power on the scope was 4.5. And I've told, I told the admin years ago, I'm like, I need lower power, because it's going to be close, probably, when it does happen, and sure enough it was. So I get up on this ladder and I put my face against the wall, and I can just see through the sliver, I can see him sitting, and I can see her on, you know, sitting in his lap basically, and he's got his arm around her. And so, and the team keeps giving him commands, and I'm looking at this shot, and I'm evaluating what's going on, and I'm thinking to myself, I'm going to have to shoot him left handed. And I'm thinking, lowest power is 4.5. So I do an optic check on the wall, and I'm like, I ain't going to work. So I'm thinking to myself, I'm going to have to shoot him with my pistol. When you say optic check, it's because it's moving too much? No, because it's, yeah, too much magnification. So there was a picture of something on the wall, so I brought my rifle up and looked at him like, ain't I going to work? He was just blurry. It's 4.5 power. The shot's only 11 feet, like 12 feet, 11 feet. Oh my God. So I, so I'm like, this is, I don't have the right tool, so I'm thinking, I'm going to have to shoot my handgun. And then I'm thinking, I always preach, handguns suck for killing stuff, right? So that's why I always tell my guys, handguns suck for killing stuff. We don't use handguns if we don't have to. But I'm thinking, I got the wrong tool. What am I going to do? So I'm thinking, wait a minute, stupid. There's six guys standing at the window that have the right tool, right? Because they all have their assault rifles. And so I, the first guy, and it just happened to be the guy that we pulled off the ladder, I'm like, give me your rifle. He's like, what? Go give me your rifle. So we, we swap rifles and he says HK416. And the reason he said that was because on HK416, if you flip the safety twice, you go to full auto, right? So don't want to do that in a precision environment, right? So I'm like, Roger that. And so I got up and the window's broken at this point. So when you step up to the window, you're literally walking on broken glass. Okay. So I step up, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop. That, the glass all pops underneath my feet. And I push the rifle. I got to shoot left handed, right? So I pushed the rifle in and I come around the corner. Now the rifle butt is in my bicep with somebody else's rifle, right? But I know this rifle is zeroed because it has to be zeroed because to get through my qualification a month earlier, it had to be zeroed, right? So I knew that things were good. But I also knew that you got to aim two and a half inches higher than where you want to hit because that's a mechanical offset, right? Difference between bore height and sight height, two and a half inches. So I push the rifle in the window and I come around the corner and I look and the little girl's looking right at me, right? Because all the broken glass. So she's looking right at me and I bring the reticle up and it's full pop brightness, right? I can't see anything because he had it set for a white light shot. So when you turn your super bright flashlight on, on your rifle, it will blare out your reticle. So you got to have your reticle turned way up. Well, he had it set for a white light shot, but I wasn't going to do a white light shot. So I looked at him like, oh no. So just like you're thinking your thing didn't turn on when you're looking at this nil guy. I'm looking at this red sun in a dimly lit room and I'm like, this ain't going to work. So I pulled the rifle back out of the window. And now I got to work on the buttons on this site. Well, this isn't my rifle, right? So now I got to find the button that dims the red dot. So I mess around with this thing and the whole team is outside and they're watching this, right? Because they're going to go on my shot. Now this dude had the door barricaded with a TV and a TV stand, all that stuff. So they were going to have to hit the door hard, but they were going to get a running start at it. But I moved them out because they were right on the other side of the door, but I didn't know if my round was going to go through the wall or not. So I moved them out. So we got them out. So they're all watching this shit show basically of me on this optic. And they're thinking, what are you doing, Turner? Right? And I'm thinking, I'm like, I just got to get this thing turned down, right? So I mess with the buttons and I finally get to the right one. So I'm like, okay, good. So I go back up to the window, you know, glass breaks again, pop, pop, pop underneath my feet. I come around the corner. Does this guy know you're there? I don't know because he was, I mean, who knows what kind of mental state he was in. And I was trying not to be too, that's why I didn't turn on any lights or anything. So I come around the corner again and I look in there, I'm like, okay, I got the right brightness, but it's too close, right? Like her head was like an inch because what I'm looking at is this. So like this is the back of her head. I'm looking at his eyeball. So I got like an inch. I'm like, nah, it's too close. And remember that almost, so this was on, this was in December, a year earlier, it was 364 days after I made that decision in that tree stand when I mapped things, right? So now between 14, December of 14 and December of 15, now I'm, I have control of what's going on and I made that vow, right, long ago that I'm not going to shoot an uncontrolled shot. So I come around the corner and I'm looking and she's of course looking at me and it's close. I'm like, nah, I ain't going to do that. So I'm waiting and then he moves his head back, right? I'm like, okay, two and a half inches of mechanical offset, but his head, his face is all covered in hair, like this giant mop of hair. So I couldn't see the geography of his face at all. Like I'm going, I want to put it in his eyeball, but I don't, I can't see it, right? So I'm just going by the curvature of his, of his forehead. I know I got to aim two and a half inches over that. So I put it up there, safety's off, fingers on the trigger, it's a two stage trigger. So I took the first stage out. Here I go. I remember saying that. And then when I'm, when I'm working on rifle stuff, it's, it's kind of an audible exhale. So, right? So I, that's my, that's my concentration guidance. So I put it up two and a half inches over where I wanted to hit, safety's off, takes the stage out of the trigger. Here I go. And he moves his head back, right? And he pops it back against the back of her head. And it's funny the stuff you remember, because I remember his hair swishing, right? And he's, so now he's back and it's too close again. So I'm like, I'm waiting. He moves his head back again. So he moves his head back again. Now I've got better, you know, it's faster for me to aim where I need to aim. So I put it where I need to, stages out. Here I go. And the shot broke and the rest is history. So it, but... Worst case scenario, in terms of tension, in terms of consequences, a messed up guy, knife to this girl. I mean, it's just the whole, that was the culmination of everything. That was the start of ShotIQ. Because now I'm like, this is no bullshit, right? This is how to concentrate in high stress events, right? So, and it was cool because I had, I had lots of high level military operators that I was able to bounce ideas off of, like, because I'm not getting in gunfights every day. So I go, hey, man, is this real or is this not real? Like, yeah, how'd you figure that out? I'm like, I don't know. I'm just a dumb cop, man. Just, just thinking, you know? And so I was able to bounce things off of people that were actually, that had been there and done that. And that's, you know, when you're looking for solving a problem, you have to find those people that have solved it before. But it's so rare to find somebody that solved it before and blueprinted how they did it. You know? That's what's rare in the instruction, and just in life in general. You know, there's lots of mentors out there that have been there and done that in whatever field you're looking for. But did they blueprint it? So, I think that's a good point. I think that's a good point. I think that's a good point. I think that's a good point. I think that's a good point. I think that's a good point. I think that's a good point. I think that's a good point. I think that's a good point. I think that's a good point. I think that's a good point. I think that's a good point. I think that's a good point. 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