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 another person. And that opinion is generally that they’d rather be shot than stabbed or cut. I, too, agree.

You see, bullet wounds are normally quick, and they’re inflicted from a bit distance, whereas  wounds caused by edged weapons are sometimes prolonged by an attacker’s repeated strikes. And, the attacker is always close enough for the victim’s senses to become involved, making the experience very personal.

When a victim is stabbed, they often feel the blade as it first punctures the skin. And, since I’ve been stabbed a couple of times, I can relate. You know 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 the plastic wrap? Yep, that’s sort of what it feels like.

And then there’s the interaction with the attacker. He’s often close enough that his victims are able to detect his personal odors, such the lingering smells of cologne, shampoo, soap, his breath (onions, tuna, stale beer, etc.). He may grunt as he stabs and slashes at the victim. He may even talk or mumble to his prey as he inflicts the wounds.

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 even realize that they’d 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 fighting and had pretty-much wrecked his establishment. Once inside, it was clear that one of the behemoths was getting the best of his opponent. So, dummy me, 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 that’s not an isolated incident. That’s what cops do. Many have been wounded far worse than I was, and they continued fight until either the job was done, or until they could no longer go on.

So, when writing your story about shootouts, car chases, and explosives, remember, it’s the edged weapon that make most cops cringe. However, they’ll still dive into a pile of fighting bad guys to do their job. That’s why they’re a “cut” above the rest…

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

  • William Simon

    At a training seminar once, a scenario was presented about a 6’5″ 300lb drunk in a bar getting his hands on the fire axe and heading your way. As he raised the axe, the tape was paused and the question posed, “Shoot or don’t shoot?” My reply used the LEO rule of an edged weapon within 21 feet is considered an immediate lethal threat. Before the scenario was paused, the individual was a hell of a lot closer.

    Imagine my shock to be told that was the wrong answer; a professional should be able to diffuse the situation verbally.

    I kept my mouth shut at the time, but mentally called ‘Bullsh**!’ on THAT particular scenario.

    Knives are scary. It’s that simple, and that complex.

  • Lee Lofland

    You were given information that is very wrong, William. An armed suspect headed toward you in a threatening manner should immediately discover brand new holes in his body.

    However, the 21 foot rule of thumb doesn’t state that an officer must fire. Instead, it simply means that an officer probably does not have enough time to draw his/her weapon if a suspect armed with an edged weapon suspect is 21 feet or closer and is closing in. If the officer already has his/her weapon in hand then the distance means nothing. Bullets travel travel faster than feet and/or knives.

    But, as written, your officer would have been justified in shooting the axe guy.

    Check out this earlier blog post about the 21-foot rule of thumb.

  • Rick McMahan

    In fact a lot of LEO training regarding edged weapons has pushed that 21′ rule even further out than that 21′ to even be able to react to an edged weapon assault.

  • Pj Schott

    Oh, yuk.

  • Wil A. Emerson

    You guys have me on edge…I’m afraid to go in the kitchen—Bob is sharpening a knife. He’s not good with scissors either. But if I see a knife wielder on the street, I’m not standing still.

  • Lee Lofland

    I agree, Rick. When I taught defensive tactics and officer survival at the academy we tested the theory time and time again (in a controlled situation) and 21 feet was the bare minimum.

  • J.D.

    Lee, this was a great post until the last line. lol

  • Lee Lofland

    I know, I know. Sometimes I just can’t control myself…

  • Jenny Milchman

    Another great, informative, chilling post that makes me glad we have men and women like you.

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