Eyewitness News was invited to the Los Angeles Police Department's tactics training unit for a rare look at how experienced patrol officers are trained and re-trained. It was also a chance to sample the life and death decisions they must make.
This comes as tempers are still hot over the fatal shooting of a Guatemalan immigrant earlier this month in the Westlake District of L.A. Several witnesses told police they saw Manuel Jamines drunk and threatening passersby, including a pregnant woman, with a knife.
Three LAPD bicycle officers came to the scene. They say Jamines refused to drop the knife and lunged toward them. He was shot and killed. One witness said she saw no knife.
In an LAPD simulation, a man comes into an apartment and pulls a knife on the subject, about seven feet away. It would take perhaps one second to close the distance.
The bicycle officers in Westlake had no Tasers. They had non-lethal pepper spray and batons.
People have suggested that the use of lethal force wasn't necessary. An officer could shoot the suspect in the arm or leg, or shoot the knife or gun out of his hand. Even a really good shot would find that extremely unlikely, especially in a life-or-death situation.
Sgt. Markel has been doing this for more than a decade. Every scenario is different.
But officers are trained to protect themselves and citizens from serious bodily injury.
"When we shoot, we shoot at whatever we can hit," said Markel. "In a world where we see a suspect attacking us, we are shooting to stop the suspect. The largest target on the body is the torso."
Bottom line: It's easy to second-guess the use of lethal force. Unless you were there or know all the details, it's also easy to be wrong.
The Westlake shooting is still under investigation.