Five!! Four!! Three…!! Sometimes Deescalation Is Out of the Question.

By Calibre Press  |   Feb 8, 2021

It’s a cold reality—one that many frustratingly refuse to accept—that there are some situations that simply cannot be deescalated, even in the face of impressive, potentially perilous efforts by police to reach that goal.

Case in point: An encounter about a month ago between Phoenix officers and a 30-year-old man named Jordan Crawford.

Just before 9pm one night, Crawford appeared on his ex-girlfriend’s apartment patio, prompting her to call police after explaining that he had been violent with her in the past. “He’s out there causing me a lot of problems and I don’t want to be kicked out of my apartment,” she told a 911 dispatcher.

Watch the video, then we’re going to discuss:

Responding officers didn’t initially see Crawford when they pulled up, but minutes later they spotted him walking through a parking lot. When they called his name, Crawford turned to face them, with his right hand—in which he TOLD officers he held a gun—hidden behind his back. With passing vehicles driving by in the backdrop, he began methodically back-pedaling toward the street behind him.

As you watch the footage again, take note of several clues that let a reasonable, educated person know that deescalation is very likely going to be impossible.

“Jordan, show us your hands right now, brother! Show me your hands right now, brother!” one officer orders in a firm yet controlled and non-threatening tone.

Crawford refuses and responds, “Who wants to kill someone tonight?”

Consider that question. Not, “Who wants to fight?” or “Why don’t you just leave me alone?” No. In his head, Crawford has gone straight to deadly force. It clearly sounds like he’s prepared to die.

What would you do now?

“I don’t want him going into that street,” you hear the officer on camera say to a partner. These officers know that the safety of the people in the passing vehicles behind the suspect and those in the surrounding homes can’t be ignored. They need to stay, they need to contain and hopefully, they need to control—if possible.

While jabbing his left hand aggressively at the officers, Crawford repeats, “Who wants to kill someone tonight?” He’s not kidding and he’s not backing down.

“Jordan, we don’t want to kill you, dude,” an officer responds.

“This is all just a part of my dream!” Crawford yells back.

Think about that statement. Are these officers dealing with a rational person? Someone who can be influenced? Someone who can be reasoned with? Someone who can be deescalated?

As Crawford backs against a wall after crossing the street, his right hand still hidden behind his back while officers plead with him to stop resisting, he yells once again, “Who’s going to kill someone tonight? You decide! You decide!! YOU DECIDE!!!”

Odds of deescalating? You decide.

As you continue watching, consider what Crawford’s body language and verbal messaging are reflecting. With legs spread, knees bent, feet firmly planted while he leans forward, does he look like someone open to being responsive to deescalation efforts? Or does he look more like a linebacker ready for battle?

As officers continue to plead with him, Crawford begins a determined, ultimately fatal countdown accentuated by a thrashing left hand and a still-hidden right hand.

“FIVE!!! FOUR!!! THREE!!! TWO…!!!”

You’ll hear no, “ONE!”

Less than a second after his final count, Crawford’s right hand is out from behind his back and pointing directly at the officer recording the body camera footage we see.

Watch that lightning-fast action between 1:38 and 1:39 a few times.

Is it even remotely–-humanly–-possible to determine whether Crawford is holding a gun before officers need to decide whether to fire?

Science says no.

Logic says no.

Basic common sense says no.

Yet there are those out there who will still say yes and another, “Cops Shoot Unarmed Man” headline will surface.

There will be those who see a headline like that and immediately conclude that more could have been—should have beendone to avoid it.

Every year, The Washington Post compiles statistics on officer-involved shootings and categorizes each by certain elements of the incident, including those involving “unarmed” individuals—like this one.

That’s fine, but it’s done without depth, detail or context. Unfortunately, many immediately conclude that a shooting listed in the “unarmed” category automatically equates to “unnecessary.”

Not true. As we see here.

Yes, Jordan Crawford was unarmed. That’s a fact and in The Washington Post, that will become a raw statistic in their database. But was he harmless? Was his shooting avoidable?

Think about the experiences of the cops involved in this incident. Imagine them standing there, hearts racing, trying to talk him out of behaving in a way that can only end badly, knowing that they’re going to be judged on their performance in a no-win situation.

Imagine them enduring a barrage of taunting; “Who’s going to kill someone tonight? You decide! You decide!! YOU DECIDE!!!” just one second before they DID need to decide.

You can bet the answer those officers WANTED to give when asked who was going to kill someone that night was “no one.” But that question wasn’t actually theirs to answer.

It was taken out of their hands and placed in the empty right hand of Jordan Crawford.

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Calibre Press

Calibre Press has 37 years in the business of keeping officers safer, smarter and more successful, from rookie to retirement.