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Law of Self Defense: ISIS Brings Knife to Gunfight, Gets Shot

Law of Self Defense: ISIS Brings Knife to Gunfight, Gets Shot

Arizona Sheriff’s Deputy handles jihadist knife attack calmly and efficiently

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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DouglasJBender | February 15, 2019 at 6:11 pm

“Allah Akhb…ow!!”

I could watch these barbarians get shot all day.

Colonel Travis | February 15, 2019 at 6:13 pm

That guy was a special kind of dumb. Good riddance.

More range time needed.

JusticeDelivered | February 15, 2019 at 6:40 pm

So what is society supposed to do with someone like this? He cannot be rehabilitated. Should American taxpayers be footing the bill for him to waste perfectly good air?

How about a Federal statute making all terrorists subject to the death penalty, thereby foiling spinless states from keeping this type as a pet?

    How about a Federal statute making all terrorists subject to the death penalty

    Possibly because any such law is certain to be abused by prosecutors.

    A typical juror is unlikely to have any detailed understanding of “terrorism” as a historical, political, or legal concept.

      JusticeDelivered in reply to tom_swift. | February 15, 2019 at 9:05 pm

      It does seem that prosecutors are often nearly as bad as as criminals. Still, it does not make sense to keep someone like Ismail Hamed in our prisons for life, and it does not make sense to ever turn him loose. Why should taxpayers spend more than a million dollars on Ismail Hamed?

        Personally, I have no problem with executing terrorists or terrorist wannabes . . . provided that’s actually what they are. But what is terrorism? Even a quintessential example—the bombing of the King David Hotel in 1946—grotesque though it was, was not actually “terrorism” by any useful conventional definition. It’s always been popularly assumed to have been terrorism, but study of the particulars makes it clear that it wasn’t. For capital crimes we should have charges which are less nebulous than “terrorism”, less subject to ad hoc improvisation at prosecutorial whim.

    How about a take off on what the Dutch are doing. We could build barracks and support infrastructure on some island like Johnson Atoll (about 1,000 miles from the nearest other land) and just drop these guys off there. No supervision with food air dropped in on a regular basis and let the prisoners there figure it out. It would be “Lord of the Flies (Islamist terrorist version).

      smalltownoklahoman in reply to Cleetus. | February 16, 2019 at 10:11 am

      I could get behind that. Make sure to keep a couple of well armed patrol boats in the waters around the island and make it known that any vessel that wanders within about 10 maybe 15 miles of the island will be fired upon and sunk if they fail to turn back after being duly warned to leave the area.

      jpwcpa in reply to Cleetus. | February 16, 2019 at 5:47 pm

      I imagine some of the Aleutian Islands could be good candidates for this, what with their remote location, challenging weather conditions and so forth.

    He should be deported after serving his sentence in isolation but i bet that he is not deported.

I’m guessing his intention was to be a martyr, by attacking a armed infidel police officer and dying for his god.

If that’s the case, I’m glad he survived. “I tried to be a martyr for allah, but failed” probably isn’t a badge of honor among islamic terrorists.

I was surprised that the deputy didn’t ask the perp to show his hands immediately. That was the first thing I responded to when I saw the video. The second thing was that the cop didn’t seem to take a defensive position after it was clear the guy was belligerent. From what I could tell he just sat in his car with the door open the whole time. I can understand his tunnel vision because he was totally focused on the downed man. Any moment the perp could have pulled a gun out of his pants and fired.

And the Indiana Jones awardd for best technique in fighting goes to …

“From what I could tell he just sat in his car with the door open the whole time.”

I think you need to watch the video again. It is clear that the Deputy exited his car at the beginning of his interaction with the subject and in fact, was backing up for several seconds before firing on him.

Sometimes it can be irritating when the police stop you and they seem unnecessarily stern. It’s easy to forget what kinds of things they have to deal with. God bless the police officers who sign up for a job dealing with these homicidal lunatics.

    A police psychologist once explained to me that state patrol officers (traffic cops with cool hats) deal with about 95% reasonable people and 5% assholes. City cops about 50/50. Corrections officers 95% assholes and 5% reasonable.

    JusticeDelivered in reply to SpaceInvader. | February 15, 2019 at 9:11 pm

    I agree, I have only a few times dealt with police who seemed crabby, but I understand that their job is tough and dangerous. What amazes me is that they can take such strain and not crack.

That’s one less scalpel in the community.

I wonder why the police officer backed up. Hope some of ahkbar stuff hurts like hell.

regulus arcturus | February 15, 2019 at 8:18 pm

I am very surprised he lived – Sheriff Joe lives in Fountain Hills.

In the first place, the perpetrator did not want to injure or kill the officer. If that was his intent, he had plenty of opportunity to do so. If he had drawn a knife and simply charged the deputy, while standing within ten feet, as he was, he would have probably scored. Instead, he throws some small stones at the deputy’s feet and retreats. Then he draws a knife and slowly stalks the deputy, who is threatening him with a firearm. He does make any serious attempt to harm him until the deputy has retreated nearly to the next county. Then the deputy shoots him twice in the torso, not necessarily an instant stopper. The perpetrator wanted the deputy to shoot him. Exactly why is the question.

But, it all worked out, under the circumstances. As the perpetrator was not really intent upon injuring or killing the deputy, the deputy had plenty of time to take a leisurely approach and survive while looking like a poster boy for restraint. From a legal standpoint, this was a perfect defensive shooting, as long as bleeding hearts do not bring up the question of why pepper spray or a taser was not used, of course. If the perpetrator was serious about injuring or killing the deputy, thinks might well have turned out much differently.

Now, another thing that is troublesome is the fact that the deputy only used one hand when shooting his weapon. At that range, you want the most effective application of firepower available and that means delivering multiple, accurate shots quickly. A two hand hold is much, much more effective in this regard.

As a LE training officer, this performance would disturb me greatly.

    “In the first place, the perpetrator did not want to injure or kill the officer. If that was his intent, he had plenty of opportunity to do so. If he had drawn a knife and simply charged the deputy, while standing within ten feet, as he was, he would have probably scored. Instead, he throws some small stones at the deputy’s feet and retreats. Then he draws a knife and slowly stalks the deputy, who is threatening him with a firearm. He does make any serious attempt to harm him until the deputy has retreated nearly to the next county. Then the deputy shoots him twice in the torso, not necessarily an instant stopper. The perpetrator wanted the deputy to shoot him. Exactly why is the question.”


    Andy in reply to Mac45. | February 16, 2019 at 2:24 am

    I give him props on the accuracy with one hand. I’m not trained and when I spend range time, it’s my dime- and under duress no way would I shoot better with two hands than this guy with one. Especially with the double tap. I’m willing to bet his groupings are w/in a salad plate whereas civilian internet commandos are lucky to hit the cow broadside.

      Jackie in reply to Andy. | February 16, 2019 at 5:20 am

      I can’t shoot a pellet gun accurately with one hand. This Officer might have wanted his other hand free in case this moron threw some more rocks. Whatever, he was accurate one handed, so props to him.

        jakee308 in reply to Jackie. | February 16, 2019 at 6:03 am

        Some experts on defensive use of a firearm say that most people and even cops wind up using a single hand firing position when the SHTF.

        They say looking at videos and reports of incidents seems to indicate that ppl don’t get into a weaver stance to fire. (a lot of times because they’re moving) They use a straight arm single handed shooting position in the heat of the moment.

        Most trainers will tell you to practice one handed shooting and also train to use your off side hand to shoot as your dominant hand may be incapacitated.


          Mac45 in reply to jakee308. | February 16, 2019 at 1:17 pm

          That is why we TRAIN people. So that they will do things more efficiently.

          This incident is a classic example of multiple tactical and procedural failures.

          Here we have a person who claims to have “dedicated himself to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria” and he wants to “deal” with a LEO. Any red flags here? Let the tactical failures begin.

          First, this deputy arrives, at the police station, alone. Yes, if the number of marked Sheriff’s vehicles in the scene are any indication, this was at least a Sheriff’s substation. No back-up arrived with him and, if the video is any indication, none was dispatched until he actually called for one. As anyone who claims to be a member of ISIS should be considered dangerous, this is a big mistake. Also, the deputy is not operating in the proper mind set. He was far too relaxed and, apparently, did not consider the subject any kind of a threat.

          Second, he was far too close to the subject. And worse, a direct retreat was blocked by his vehicle. He pinned himself between a potential threat and a barrier. If the subject had drawn a knife or gun,initially, the deputy would have been hard pressed to react in time to avoid injury and he would have to evade by moving laterally, which would have given the attacker a good intercept angle.

          Third, he failed to take immediate advantage of a defensive barrier, his vehicle, when the subject produced a knife. Instead he chose to slowly back away from the subject ordering him to drop the knife.

          Fourth, he allowed the subject to get far too close to him before he engaged him. Backing up, as he was, it is very easy to slip or trip, allowing the subject to close with him and stab him.

          Fifth, he failed to take advantage of assuming a much more stable shooting position. He continued to hold his pistol in one hand, even after he had finished calling for back-up. At close ranges, such as this, shot placement is critical. And, multiple, accurate shots are a must to stop a determined, close range threat.

          These are all tactical errors which are usually the result of insufficient tactical training. And, the first thing that the Sheriff’s Office should have done was to show this video at roll calls and critique it. What it exhibits is poor utilization of assets [only a single LEO responded], poor approach and positioning, poor defensive response techniques and poor defensive gun handling. This was not a CPA firearms carrier walking out of a drug store and being accosted. It was a trained, experienced [he was reportedly a sergeant] LEO responding to a person who could well be a physical threat.

          As to being trained and practiced in one-handed shooting, that is a must. But is not really applicable in this case.

      MajorWood in reply to Andy. | February 16, 2019 at 11:04 am

      That is why I load 12 gr of blue dot under a 135 nosler HP in the .40 At that range, the muzzle flash will set his beard on fire as well.

      Once the knife came out, anything less than a firearm was out of the question, unless there were multiple officers there with firearms as well as backup. Then one has the leisure of employing a less lethal alternative. I was sort of hoping that the guy would rush the officer, trip, and take himself out with a stab to the chest like on “Justified.” A perfect moment for life to imitate art.

    Ransom in reply to Mac45. | February 16, 2019 at 10:17 am

    “In the first place, the perpetrator did not want to injure or kill the officer. If that was his intent, he had plenty of opportunity to do so.”

    Or the jihadi was just incompetent.

I worked with the mentally ill for 38 years. This guy was mentally ill. I wouldn’t be surprised if he has a history of hospitalizations.

    MajorWood in reply to Jackie. | February 16, 2019 at 11:07 am

    Mentally ill people are more dangerous than the sane. I don’t understand why people continue to use it as a justification and/or excuse for behavior. It is barely an explanation in my book. In my neighborhood they commit crimes just to get 3 hots and a cot when the weather gets colder.

Just think if more terrorists had any brains. We saw what smart jihadis can do on 9-11. Luckily this guy is the usual standard. (except for the bombers but I’m pretty sure the guy making the bombs isn’t the guy blowing themselves up)

He let him get way to close. I understand he is trying to defuse the situation without firing but it’s a risky tactic.

smalltownoklahoman | February 16, 2019 at 10:00 am

Nice analysis Mr. Branca! I believe Hamed earned himself one of these:

perhaps the perp wanted to commit martydom by cop–can’t relly determine–obviously a novice with an edged weapon–perhaps leo carries nightstick on his left side and was preparing to use it–more effective against an edged weapon than a handgun only, particularly as the perp’s right-handed and would have to block with his weapon hand/arm–only criticism of leo would be holding weapon too far from his body–he’s point shooting anyway, so why extend your arm?–much easier for a perp to slap away/take away your weapon when arm is fully extended–otherwise, damned good job

    Extending the pistol to arms length is only a problem if you allow the attacker to get too close. As to drawing a baton, full sized or collapsible, that should not have been an option, once the subject began to advance on the deputy with the knife in a threatening manner. He is in an open area and armed with an effective distance weapon, the pistol. Close combat should never have been an issue.

    MajorWood in reply to texansamurai. | February 17, 2019 at 4:55 pm

    A night stick against a knife is similar to a handgun against a rifle, basically, suicide. But I am not absolutely sure what the hierarchy of appropriate defense choices is since mine starts at registered 12″ SBS. I do consider “carried by 6” to be an option on the table.

      Actually, a nightstick is not a bad defense against a knife, if the person using the baton is properly trained. A good single stick or escrima practitioner can take a knife wielder much, if not most, of the time. However, the best defense against any contact weapon is a distance weapon and distance.

      The best planned defense is a defense in depth. For an individual, this would start at rifle range, move into pistol range and finally into contact range. One should always engage a threat at the greatest distance which is allowed by law. This reduces the danger to the person mounting the defense.

We keep letting in immigrants who hate America, and are racists and bigots to boot. And that includes Latin American immigrants.

without knowing whether perp is going to charge you and seeing as they’re armed with an edged weapon, would prefer a nightstick in my off-hand and a firearm in my strong-hand–if he charges, rather than moving out of the way and being forced into a moving/tracking shot, can use the nightstick to deflect/disable the knife and perp remains in your direct line of fire–if he’s charging, he’s coming on center mass–makes a kill shot closer/simpler

    Actually, you are better off using only one weapon at a time. Choose either the baton or the gun, do not try to use both.

    Also, a firearm is a distance weapon and a knife is a contact weapon, by and large. So, the pistol allows you to neutralize an attacker beyond the range where he can inflict damage on your person. And, in the case of a man with a knife, where there is no intervening barrier, you can easily justify shooting him at distances as great as 30+ feet, if he is charging you. If he does not charge you, then the pistol is still useful, while the baton is not.

agree that distance is critical against edged weapon then you can probably get by with just the pistol–on the street, against a knife/edged weapon, in a charge/blitz attack, you’ve got a better chance with both weapons used together–the nightstick for reach and to parry/dislodge the knife/weapon from your assailant’s control(and therefore away from your body)and the pistol to dispatch him(if necessary)

without the nightstick as a buffer you may be forced to deflect a knife/edged weapon with your body(hand,arm)and risk serious injury–no thanks

have trained using both together(though not nightsticks per se)with handgun in your strong hand nightstick in your off-hand and then vice versa

we’re not talking olympic fencing with epees and foils but rather basic, natural movements that are easily performed(even under extreme stress)and effective

as you say, training is important but then so are options

should have read ” if you’re going to shoot a guy from 30 feet away then you can probably get by with just the pistol”

The important thing is never get complacent. A knife is a deadly weapon even if you have a gun.

Well, duh! A reading from the Book of Obvious. But it’s not so obvious anymore. That should worry us all.