The First Cut Is The Deepest: Stabbings Are Not Fun


There’s a common sentiment among cops and other people whose business sometimes forces them to “place their hands” on other people—they’d rather be shot than stabbed or cut. I, too, agree.

Bullet wounds happen quickly, whereas wounds caused by edged weapons are sometimes prolonged by an attacker’s repeated close-up strikes. To add to this already painful experience, a knife-wielding attacker is always close enough for the victim’s senses to become involved, making the traumatic event extremely personal.

When a victim is stabbed they often feel the blade—an odd impression, to put it mildly—as it first punctures the skin. I speak with some authority since I’ve been stabbed a couple of times. As the saying goes, I feel their pain.

Think about the sensation you experience when opening a package of meat (chicken, hamburger, etc.)—the “pop” that occurs when the material first yields to the pressure that’s used to tear or puncture the plastic wrap. That’s an exaggerated, sort-of-what-it’s-like example of how it feels when a knife blade first breaks through the skin.

Then there’s the interaction with the attacker. Since victims of edged weapon assaults are so close to their attackers, they’re often able to detect his personal odors, such the lingering scents of cologne, shampoo, tobacco smoke, soap, sweat, his breath (onions, tuna, stale beer, etc.). Victims are also able to detect the sounds made during the incident. The attacker may grunt as he stabs and slashes. He may even talk or mumble to his prey as he inflicts the wounds. His breathing may be heavy or labored.

A stabbing victim’s natural reaction is to hold up their hands, attempting to block the incoming blade. That’s why victims of edged weapon attacks are often found with wounds (defensive wounds) on their palms and forearms.

Civilian stabbing victims (those people who are untrained in defensive tactics) often give up after receiving a couple of wounds. Cops and people trained in martial arts, or even street fighters, probably will not. In fact, their survival training would most likely kick in, therefore, they’d fight even harder at that point. That’s if they realize they’ve been wounded. In fact, the will to live and to do the job that they’re trained to do is what keeps many officers alive.

I was once dispatched to a bar where the owner called to say that two bikers were engaged in a brutal fight and had pretty-much wrecked the interior of his small and dimly lit establishment. Once inside, it was clear that one of the behemoths was getting the best of his opponent. So, I grabbed the one who was winning the fight. As I did, he pulled out a knife and lashed out at me.

Long story short, as I was handcuffing him—he was face down on the hardwood floor at that point—I saw quite a bit of blood spattered all around him. I figured he’d fallen on his knife, so I helped him to his feet (bouncers had the other guy under control), called for EMS, and then begin to search for his wound(s). That’s when someone in the crowd pointed out that it was I who was dripping blood, and lots of it, too.

Apparently, as I reached for and took control of his knife hand, the biker had slashed my right palm, from the tip of my thumb to the middle of my little finger. And the cut was to the bone. In fact, the flesh of my middle finger could be pulled over the tip of the bone at the end of the digit, like a small glove. I never felt it. Well, that is, I never felt it until I saw it. Then it hurt like all get out.

It was the heat of the moment, the will to survive, and the training I’d received, both in the police academy and during the many years of martial arts, that kept me fighting to arrest the thug. But this was not an isolated incident. It’s what cops do. They continue on until the job is done, or, until they can no longer go on.

So, when writing your story about shootouts, car chases, and explosives, remember, it’s the edged weapon assault that make most cops cringe. However, they’ll still dive headfirst into a pile of knife-wielding bad guys to save someone’s life, if necessary.


3 thoughts on “The First Cut Is The Deepest: Stabbings Are Not Fun

  • Dallas Gorham

    Lee, your personal insights as a former cop are always educational. this one was even a little uncomfortable to read, it was so “in the moment.” I’m glad you survived.

  • Mario R.

    Not that it’s any of my business, but I can’t help but wonder if the injury to your hand had any permanent effects other than one heck of a scar. My sympathy, either way.

  • Lee Lofland

    Thanks, Dallas.

    Thank you, too, Mario. Luckily, doctors did a great job repairing the damage to my fingers. The only visible scar that remains today is across my middle finger. I do have a slight, but barely noticeable bit of nerve damage in that finger as well.

    Those troubles fit in nicely with the other scars and remnants of other injuries, including the scar on my left wrist. That one came from using my elbow to break a window to gain immediate entry into a house where a wanted person was barricaded inside. There was no time to do anything else. When the lower glass shattered a portion of the top window broke and fell onto my hand, arm, and wrist. A scar on the left side of my head – a stabbing while making an arrest. The scar at my left eyebrow – a 2×4 to the head from a man who was trying to prevent me from arresting his brother (lost most of the vision in my left eye because of this one). And…

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