The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office in Arizona has released, under court order, the body camera footage of Sheriff’s Deputy Brandon Wells, who stopped accused ISIS knife attacker Ismail Hamed the old-fashioned way—by demonstrating once again why it’s not a good idea to bring a knife to a gunfight. Hamed now stands charged by Arizona authorities with aggravated assault and terrorism. (As reported by AZ Central.)

The events took place on January 7, but the body cam video and 911 recordings were only recently released under court order, in response to motions filed by media outlets for disclosure. (The body cam video footage is embedded below.)

Facts of the Case

The apparent facts of the case are that Hamed called 911 himself, stating:

My name is Ismail Hamed. I live in Fountain Hills, and I’m owing my allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. I just want a cop to come real quick and I want to deal with them.

At one point during the exchange the Deputy asks Hamed for identification, at which point Hamed throws some stones at the Deputy, pulls out a knife, and begins to close proximity. The Deputy draws his Glock and puts the muzzle on Hamed, repeatedly ordering him to drop the knife as the Deputy continuously backs up as Hamed advances.

The Deputy cautions Hamed that he will shoot him, in response to which Hamed urges the Deputy to do just that. Apparently having concluded that the use of deadly force was now appropriate the Deputy fires twice. Hamed appears struck by the rounds and he falls to the ground, after which backup arrives and his arrest is made.

There’s nothing really notable about the video except for the Deputy’s very cool demeanor throughout the interaction, both prior to, during, and after being compelled to shoot the jihadist in self-defense.

You can view that video here, and I’ve used screen captures below to highlight specific points in the fight:

So, let’s step through that video using screen captures. All timestamps [xx:xx] reference the video embedded above.

Deputy Exits Car, Verbally Engages Hamed

We initially see the inside of Deptuty Wells’ patrol car as he pulls up to Hamed’s location [00:07] The Deputy opens his vehicle door, and Hamed is immediately seen standing perhaps 8 feet away.

Nothing I write here should be interpreted as second-guessing the Deputy, and of course it’s impossible to know how much of the 911 information was accurately conveyed to him,.

That said, I expect I would have stopped my car in a more defensible position relative to Hamed if I’d known he was a self-declared ISIS supporter looking for an immediate opportunity to “deal with” a cop. Initially exiting a vehicle is a particularly vulnerable position had Hamed decided to rush the officer with the knife right at that moment.

Hamed Presents Pre-Attack Indicators

As the video proceeds it is clear that Hamed is speaking to the Deputy, “I just want to talk about …” but it’s hard to discern precisely what’s being said. In any case, Hamed stands with his left hand in his pocket, a posture that must have caught the Deputy’s attention. The Deputy did not, however, ask Hamed to show his hands. The manner in which Hamed is touching his face with his right hand, a “grooming gesture,” is also a recognized pre-attack indicator in such situations. [00:31]

Hamed Initiates Attack with Distraction Technique

At [00:39] the Deputy asks Hamed for identification, at which point Hamed initiates his attack by throwing some stones with his right hand at the Deputy. The thrown stones are obvious not themselves the intended attack, but rather a distraction technique intended to facilitate Hamed’s ability to close with his knife.

Deputy Presents Glock

The Deputy responds by drawing his Glock service pistol. Seeing his distraction technique had failed, Hamed backs up, even as the Deputy tells him to “back off.” Hamed is not being compliant, however, he’s merely taking the opportunity to retrieve his knife. [00:49] Hamed will now begin advancing on the Deputy.

As Hamed approaches the Deputy, he is ordered repeatedly to “Drop it! Drop the knife!” but is obviously non-compliant with these demands. [00:59]

Hamed Closes in Knife-Attack Posture

The Deputy continues to back up as Hamed closes on him, repeating his commands to drop the knife. It is notable that Hamed approaches with the knife in his right hand, and his left hand raised up and in front of him.

This is not a defensive posture for the left hand, but rather positions the left hand to grab the Deputy. A common knife-attack technique is to firmly grab the victim with the non-knife hand so that the victim is unable to physically withdraw outside the range of the knife held in the attacking hand. Once the grab is made the attacker will stab the victim, who is unable to flee, repeatedly, and almost invariably the multiple stab wounds will prove fatal. [01:02]

The Deputy cautions Hamed repeatedly that he will shoot Hamed, and also repeatedly to drop the knife. Hamed continues to circle around and close on the Deputy.

I would note that the Deputy waited much longer than legally required before he finally shot Hamed. I very much doubt I would have waited as long, had safe retreat not been possible, and safe retreat from a young, apparently fit young male aggressor wielding a knife is a difficult task on foot.

Deputy Shoots Hamed Twice

At [01:12] the Deputy finally shoots Hamed twice, and Hamed drops to the ground, his knife falling from his hand and landing several feet away (towards the left of the video frame, highlighted in red circle in image below). Of course, it’s quite possible that Hamed possesses additional weapons on his person.

Interestingly, the Deputy continues to order Hamed to drop the knife, so he’s apparently unaware at this point that Hamed has already done so. Hamed repeatedly tells the Deputy that he has dropped the knife, and the Deputy disbelieves him and insists that he drop the knife (that has already been dropped). [01:34]

At [01:39] the body cam suddenly turns to the left and the knife can be seen centered in the frame (red circle again, image below), so it’s probably this moment at which the Deputy sees the knife separated from Hamed. Such a failure to capture every detail of the interaction is of course rather normal in the context of a lethal-force encounter.

Deputy Spots Dropped Knife

At about [01:50] the Deputy interacts with some bystanders asking if he is in need of assistance. He assures them that he’s fine, and asks that they stay where they are.

As the Deputy waits for backup to arrive (sirens can be heard in the background) he’s asking Hamed if he has any more weapons, which Hamed denies, and repeatedly orders Hamed to show him his hands. Hamed is non-compliant with his left hand, but it’s unclear if that’s due to malice or pain caused by the gunshot wound(s).

EMS Held Back Until Scene Secured

At [02:23] backup pulls in, and two more deputies begin interacting with Hamed. It is noteworthy here that although the police have called for Fire/EMS to treat Hamed for his gunshot wound(s), no such treatment will be provided until Hamed has been secured. It is standard procedure to hold Fire/EMS back from the scene so long as the scene remains dangerous. This is something for those of you contemplating the prospects of self-defense, and the possibility of providing aid to your attacker after the fact, may want to keep in mind.

The rest of the video is not of any particular note, but naturally feel free to watch it in its entirety if you wish (above).

Hope you enjoyed the post, and that’s pretty much all I have to say about that.


Attorney Andrew F. Branca
Law of Self Defense LLC

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