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Police recruits train to determine danger before shooting

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — Mark Bridge was a veteran Park County sheriff’s deputy, served two terms as sheriff and drew his gun a number of times while on duty, but never fired his weapon.

“I guess the good Lord was watching out for me that day,” he said.

Bridge is now a captain at the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy where he trains up to 500 police recruits a year the how and the why of firing their weapon in the line of duty.

“We’re hoping to be able to get them to the point where they can react and do those types of things instinctively which takes training and training and practice,” he said.

The IMPD officers who fatally wounded Aaron Bailey, 45, at 23rd and Aqueduct streets after a pursuit and crash early Thursday morning were veterans of the streets, graduates of IMPD’s Training Academy and annually re-certified on the department’s gun range.

Bridge said U.S. Supreme Court rulings guide when an officer feels his or her life, or the life of another, is in danger and deadly force is permitted.

“Three things have to occur,” said Bridge. “The bad guy has to have the ability to create harm to you or someone else. They have to have the opportunity which means the timing and everything has to be present. It could happen now, and then your life or someone else’s life you must feel it’s in jeopardy.”

Since the start of 2008, IMPD has been involved in at least 34 fatal police action shootings while three officers have lost their lives.

In the most recent case in the summer of 2016, Jeff Tyson died after leading officers on a wild pursuit from the north side of Indianapolis to the south side punctuated by gunfire on I-465.

Mack Long and Kevin Hicks both were killed while fighting with officers.

In late 2015, Christopher Goodlow was shot to death when officers said the mentally ill man lunged at them with a knife.

“What type of information did the officer have available to him at the time of the incident, what started the situation, was it a pursuit, was it a domestic violence call, is it a call where they already know that there’s some violent action that has taken place?” Bridge asked. “The officer just has to act in a reasonable fashion. If you’re doing something like that the officer doesn’t know if you’re reaching for a gun or sunglasses or wallet or camera or what’s going on.”

Thus far this year, 63 officers have died in the line of duty across the United States.