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Thursday, July 30, 2015

Running from danger is flight, not fight response

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Did Sandra Bland kill herself with a trash bag?
When it comes to survival, what are your chances of staying alive during a police encounter - running from danger or standing your ground?
Unfortunately, we have recent examples that lead us to believe if you get bad cops or pseudo law enforcement with power issues taking control of a situation, you can wind up dead, no matter if you run or stand firm.

I guess it depends on the circumstances, karma, or fate...or maybe on race or perceived danger.

Strong-willed Sandra Bland did not run when stopped by an officer who appeared smaller in stature and charged her with assault. Maybe she wasn't afraid and didn't set off on foot which saved her life, but she was later found hanging from a trash bag in her holding cell.

Sandra Bland was suppose to start a new job two days after her death at her Alma Mater, Prairie View A&M University, an HBCU. President George Wright communicated his thoughts on the increase in brutality against African Americans. "I spoke at the Memorial service, along with her Mother, here on campus, and I also spoke at her funeral last Saturday.  The University is very concerned about this tragedy from a number of different perspectives," was his response.

Is it better to fight or flee if you meet up with police?
Three black men who are now dead ran or tried to drive away from police when an altercation seemed apparent. Michael Brown, Walter Scott, and Sam DuBose. Another two that I knew through their families tried to run  - Nicholas Thomas in Smyrna, Ga. and Calvon Reid, killed in Florida.

Walter Scott ran in North Charleston, S.C. and was shot in the back. The officer who killed him filed a misleading report and would have gotten away with murder if not for a citizen courageously turning in a video of the incident. The trial is still pending.

Freddie Gray in Baltimore ran at first, but was caught and thrown into a police wagon. After a rough ride, he was unconscious and had a significant spinal column break which contributed to his paralysis and death.

What has refocused our attention on our security problems probably started with Trayvon Martin, an unarmed young black man who was killed in Florida by a neighborhood watchman who was training to be a policeman. Trayvon ran at first, then allegedly fought Mark Zimmerman who killed him with a gun.

There are hundreds and perhaps thousands of U.S. citizens that have been killed by police or pseudo police that have not been reported, but now that we have more dash cams, body cams and cell phone videos, we have proof that we have a problem with lethal force being used for non-violent offenses and minor traffic or registration violations.

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Should you invest in good running shoes to make a clean getaway from danger? You can't outrun a bullet!
Sam DuBose tried to get away from a university cop in his vehicle, but his face was blown off as he tried to turn on his car. He was trying to flee from what he perceived a major threat - a white policeman with a gun. Nicholas Thomas tried to drive away from police who were chasing him with German police dogs. He was shot through the back. Calvon Reid tried to get away from four officers who tasered him to death, and was reported by witnesses to have said, "Baby, they're trying to kill me."

Those who run are using defense mechanisms.
"True fight or flight responses are physiological, involuntary, hormonal responses to danger, as in a person taking away his hand from a hot flame," said Dr. Michael Wilson, a practicing podiatrist who said he would not considered flight a proper response when dealing with law enforcement.

But even sheep use defense mechanism when they perceive danger. Citizens ARE afraid of the police who carry guns and are trained to kill. Even sheep move toward those they trust and away from perceived enemies. According to the Illinois Extension Service, "Just like humans, sheep like to maintain a distance, or safe zone, between themselves and others. Flight distance is defined as the space between themselves and others the sheep will tolerate before moving." (

Trained police should know this and not try to escalate an arrest situation by trying to grab an alleged law breaker closer or pull them from or into vehicles.

Move forward when danger presents itself.
In the case of the shooting death of Tamar Rice in Cleveland, the police were not fearful because they drove right up to the boy and fired a deathblow in two seconds. In some martial arts classes, students are instructed to move forward, not away from danger. Students are trained to defend when being attacked and deal with the consequences later.

What would you do, run or stand your ground when confronted by danger?

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We've seen too many people funeralized after being shot when they couldn't run. (From C. Pinckney funeral)


  1. GC said: Hey Tomi, read your article about what to do when confronted by the police. I guess I have to count myself among the lucky folks who have never had a bad encounter with the police, and for that matter, neither has anyone in my family. I have been stopped for speeding, respected the officer and the respect was returned in kind. My wife and I had a situation last year when we suspected her girl friend may have had a medical issue and we couldn't get in her house. The police went to great lengths assisting us, only to find out she had passed away. The sergeant prayed with us and assured us she was in a better place, I in turn, thanked all of them for their services. Maybe it's because we live in Kentucky, but we honestly do not encounter much hostility from our police. Having said that, I am not naive and do read and watch the news enough to know that police violence is happening way too much, so it is good that we have that conversation.

    1. Guess you're just far, so good.

    2. GC says: Hey Tomi, got your reply and at 61 years old I think we can rule out blind luck, instead, a closer examination of my lifestyle and those of us who are being abused should be studied a bit. So I think we have to look at upbringing and location, drill down into those two things and we'll get some answers.

      Hey Tomi, on another note, while dispersing another scholarship, this one in shelbyville, we learned that one of our scholarship recipients is in the "white coat" stage of medical school. I can say that information made for a great day. I just wish we could do more to help our folks, but I guess every little bit counts!


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