Standoff highlights police weapons’ problem

Published 9:51 am Wednesday, January 30, 2013

With a maximum effective range of 54 yards, a standard 9mm handgun does not come close to comparing with standard high-powered rifles that typically have effective ranges of 437 to 656 yards — something the Coal Grove police was reminded of during a standoff Sunday afternoon that ended in the suspect’s suicide.

Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office, law enforcement responded to a domestic dispute call at about 3 p.m. The 911 caller stated that an individual driving a champagne-colored Ford Ranger pickup was driving by and shooting at a home on County Road 181 (Hog Run Road) with a revolver and a 270 caliber bolt action Mossberg rifle.

Before the standoff ended when the suspect turned the gun on himself, one of the rounds from the rifle hit a Coal Grove cruiser.

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Coal Grove Police Chief Eric Spurlock said, when officers arrived on a scene with an armed suspect, they are trained to maintain maximum possible distance. He said this is a good policy, but when the officer only has a pistol and the shooter a rifle, the distance becomes a problem.

“The distance was simply too great for the officer,” Spurlock said. “Thank goodness a trooper showed up with a rifle.”

Spurlock brought up his concerns regarding his department’s arms dilemma during Monday’s village council meeting.

He said the need for rifles was made clear soon after he took over as police chief in 2010. He said when guns are confiscated from suspects a judge can award the gun to the department, which has happened in the past. However, he said poor inventory has made it impossible to use the one high-powered rifle they have because it doesn’t have a serial number.

“Before I became chief no books were kept,” Spurlock said. “Now we tag all weapons we receive with all necessary information. We are trying to get rid of all our old guns by trading them to licensed dealers.”

But the lack of records makes it challenging said Spurlock.

Spurlock said for now he would be happy with two rifles, but eventually hopes to have all five of his vehicles equipped with a gun capable of giving his officers the capability to properly handle shooting situations from distance.

“Right now money is an issue,” Spurlock said. “The price of AR-15s is sky high. The police committee is meeting Saturday and I was told they would discuss this issue.”

The officer involved in the standoff was shaken up, but unharmed, Spurlock said.

The police cruiser that was damaged in the shooting is expected to be out of service until Thursday.