London Bridge terrorist – shoot or arrest?


Imagine you’re a cop with a gun.


You are hailed by frightened members of the public who tell you a man nearby has stabbed several people. You locate and confront him, you see what looks like a bomb vest on him. You have a split second to decide – shoot or don’t shoot – and if you get it wrong you possibly won’t know, because it will be too late.

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Imagine the bravery to face that dilemma, and to make that decision.

I’ve read a lot of support in the press and on social media for the actions of the officers who shot the London Bridge suspect and, of course, for the incredible bravery of the unarmed civilians who tackled the terrorist – because that’s what he was.

I’ve also seen a lot of emotive comments like ‘police murder’ and ‘state sanctioned murder’, and ‘why wasn’t he simply arrested as he was clearly unable to resist’.

In Wicked Game, I wrote about just this kind of scenario because the reality is, in real life and in real time, the cop has a fraction of a second to decide if what he or she sees in front of them is life-threatening to themselves or to anyone nearby. Certainty only comes when the bomb is triggered or the suspect opens fire and, in that moment of hesitation, you and many others could be killed.


That is the real world. This is not a playstation game. You don’t get a new life if you err. If you react too slowly, you may be dead before you’ve even had time to decide. React too quickly and make a mistake and it could be you facing a murder trial.


The kind of people who – from the comfort of their armchair and on their smart phone or computer – think they know best and could do better, might like to go back to one of their computerised simulations of reality and see how many times their character makes the right decision, and how many times they are obliterated.

You have one life, use it carefully.


One thought on “London Bridge terrorist – shoot or arrest?

  1. Hi stuart .u hit it rigjt on the nail if it was u or i making that decision if u were doing that job .you only have a second to make that decision or should u say excuse me sir is that a explosive vest u hav and in that second with his free hand he detonateds the vest ur gone and the people around u also and u know he has killed numerous people in the minutes before by shooting him u saved untold lifes ,so well done u did jduty for queen and country.the terrorist new before he went out what was going to happen kill and be killed .


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Matt Johnson

Ex-soldier. Ex-cop. Author

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