Knife At A Gun Fight

The issue of dealing with someone armed with a knife comes up from time to time.  It was fresh on my mind because of this recent post at Kim du Toit’s site, which is why I noticed this short piece in this morning’s Ft. Worth Star Telegram.

PLAINVIEW—Two police officers fatally shot a resident of an apartment complex for mentally and physically disabled people Thursday after the woman threatened an officer with a 14-inch knife, authorities said. It was the second officer-involved shooting in this West Texas town since September. Officers repeatedly asked the woman to drop the knife, then one officer fired two rounds from a beanbag shotgun at her, Plainview police Capt. Michael Carroll said. The officer was backing up when “he tripped on something and the other two officers then fired as she was still coming,” Carroll said.

Of course we always get the obligatory quote about how the deceased was such a nice person:

The woman had lived in the 20-unit complex for 20 years, assistant manager Gayle Walker said. “She was a dear, sweet lady,” Walker said.

Lest anyone be mistaken, using (or even brandishing, depending on distance) a knife constitutes deadly force.  Worse, someone with a knife is actually MORE dangerous than someone with a gun at 21-ft (the typical distance demonstrated for the Tueller drill).  People need to understand that unless someone has years of specialized training, attempting to disarm someone with a knife is a dangerous and likely losing proposition.  The idea that we should play ninja with the bad guy because “he only had a knife” is dangerous and stupid.

In this instance (provided that it was correctly reported), it seems as if the police went above and beyond by attempting to use non-lethals before being forced to shoot.  A 14-inch knife is a deadly weapon and isn’t something to be trifled with.


  1. Phelps says:

    I think that beyond 12 inches I would start calling it a sword.  A Gladius is only, what, 25inches?  Same for a wakisashi?  And those were BATTLE swords.

  2. From what I’ve been able to dig up with a bit of time on Google, at 14 inches you’re getting into the territory of small machetes and (medium/standard) khukuris.  It also appears that the length of the blade on a Roman Gladius was generally around 25 inches (some were a bit longer).

  3. Phelps says:

    Well, if Rush Limbaugh had attacked someone with a 14 inch blade, don’t you think it would be reported as a sword?

  4. Monty Snow says:

    Wasn’t she 80+ years old?  I think I would have let her chase me till she gave out before I would have shot her.  Of course I might have given out first, so maybe not.

  5. According to this article she was 54.  Of course everyone is different, but it doesn’t pay to underestimate anyone, even an 80-year old.