Countering an Ambush

Updated: Jun 6, 2019

At 23:32:34 hours, Sheboygan (Wisconsin) Police Department officers were dispatched to a robbery in progress call at the Union Avenue Tap, just a few blocks from the shore of Lake Michigan.

Two Sheboygan officers quickly responded, peeked in a side window and saw nothing amiss – the bartender and four patrons calmly sitting at the bar, looking toward the side door.

The officers then moved to the side (east) door - the lead officer, Brandon, a 14-year veteran serving as the entry team leader for the department’s SWAT team, was followed by officer TJ, a firearms instructor and a U.S. Marine with multiple deployments to the war on terror.

As they rounded the corner and approached the side door, a man dressed in camouflage began to exit, armed with an M4 carbine with an optical sight and suppressor.

As the armed robber started to raise his carbine, fully loaded with a 90-round drum magazine, the officers fired a total of 13 rounds from their sidearms in 2.6 seconds, landing seven hits on their adversary and more on his weapon.

One of the officer’s rounds entered directly into the muzzle of the attacker’s suppressor, near perfect alignment.

The attacker retreated into the bar without getting off a single shot.

Total elapsed time from first radio dispatch to shots fired was 1 minute, 49 seconds.

What makes this an ambush and not an armed robbery? While we will never know the attacker’s intent with absolute certainty, the investigation and circumstances paint a picture of an ambush interrupted.

The attacker ordered the bartender to empty the till, which was spread onto the bar. He selected a couple of large denomination bills, leaving several hundred additional dollars in U.S. currency on the bar.

He lingered long enough to make sure the police had been called before moving toward the side exit.

His car, parked a half block away, contained more weapons and ammo beyond the 318 rounds of 5.56mm on his person. He also carried a large knife, a TASER and flex cuffs in his chest pouches.

This dude was loaded for bear, staged an almost meaningless armed robbery and was almost certainly headed for his car/cover to prepare for the arrival of the cavalry.

It is not difficult to imagine the first-arriving officers cut down from the darkness as they arrived to the call, with a huge follow-on response in grave danger as they would attempt to rescue the initial, downed officers.

Immediately after the initial shooting, the robber took a position near the bar, covering the front door with his weapon, waiting to re-engage.

TJ covered the east door, where the shooting occurred, while Brandon moved to the front door. Brandon directed the bar’s occupants out the front door to safety, entered just far enough to see the muzzle of the suspect’s suppressor projecting from the shadows and waited, covering down on the threat location.

The bartender had a gunshot wound to the arm (a ricochet off the suspect’s weapon) which an arriving backup officer applied a tourniquet to stop the bleeding.

Backup officers quickly joined Brandon and TJ, bringing M4 carbines to them for better firepower.

After waiting more than 40 minutes, a flash bang was deployed with no response from the suspect.

Brandon then lead an entry team who found the suspect dead, bled out but still in a firing position with his finger on the trigger.

This incident was handled as close to perfect as you can get.

No officers were injured. One innocent suffered a non-life threatening injury (and has filed suit), but a ricochet off the attacker’s weapon is something no one could have anticipated or prevented.

The scene management issues (perimeters and EMS staging) were handled quickly and professionally by a mutual aid response involving Sheboygan PD and sheriff’s office personnel.

A professional integrity task force handled the investigation and ultimately determined the attacker’s intentions for that night.

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