Emergency Management and Homeland Security


               Terrorism has become the focal point surrounding the media in the current post-September 11 setting. According to Jeff Goodwin, this style of categorical terrorism that targets civilians has increased in frequency. In the past five years, a spike in vehicle ramming attacks has instilled fear worldwide. As a result of these occurrences, law enforcement and emergency medical personnel continue to be in “a heightened state of alert due to the regularity and lethality of these attacks” (see Goodwin, 2006; see also G4s, 2017; see also JRIC, 2017). The focus of this study is to utilize research on vehicle ramming incidents. It will cover a variety of case studies considered terrorist, criminal and accidental. The study will include a combination of evidence-based practices to examine the Los Angeles Police Department and valuable tools to assist its response as it relates to applying mitigation techniques as well training methods to provide life-saving measures. In closing, the overall attempt of this study is to provide the Los Angeles Police Department an avenue of possibly utilizing a new shooting at a moving vehicle policy and alternatives to deal with vehicle ramming incidents.

Keywords: “Terrorism; vehicle ramming attacks; life savings measures.”


I would like to thank and acknowledge Professor Kenneth Lewis from Arizona State University for his guidance and help through the completion of this project. Professor Lewis assisted me with the feedback and treasured understanding as it related to this project. I would also like to acknowledge Ruben Lopez, Michael Odle from the Los Angeles Police Department and Thomas Glaudino from the New York Police Department for their guidance and direction towards this project. Ruben and Michael’s efforts ensured that I presented the problem efficiently with meaningful questions that were needed to address these phenomena’s as it relates to the preparation and response of the Los Angeles Police Department. Without their assistance, I would have had a more daunting task in completing this project. Lastly, I would like to give thanks to my wife Mariana, without her continual support I would not be able to complete this project.

Table of Contents

Statement of the Problem………………………………………………………………10
Purpose of the Study………………………………………………………………12
Research Questions………………………………………………………………12
Literature Review     ………………………………………………………………13
Hostile Vehicle Barriers ………………………………………………………………13
Preparation and Response ………………………………………………………………18
Recommendations for Future Research………………………………………………………………25


            On March 22, 2017, 52 year old Khalid Masood utilized a Hyundai Tucson SUV to intentionally ram his vehicle onto several pedestrians who were in the Westminster Bridge. His attack came to an end once he crashed into the Parliament Building fence where he exited his car and stabbed a Police Officer to death. Based on his knife attack and unceasing threat, the London Police was prompted to use lethal force to subdue him. According to the Office of Cyber and Infrastructure Analysis, this terrorist attack left four dead and a total of 40 injured (see Homeland Security, 2017). On June 3, 2017, the world was again left in terror when another vehicle attack followed the same style of protocols. This assault included the utilization of vehicles to strike numerous bystanders across the London Bridge and ended with knife attacks across the Borough Market. Like its predecessor, it left seven dead and 48 injured (see Alexander, 2017; see also Homeland Security, 2017).        

           These phenomena grew three times in frequency almost back to back in the month of August, where James Field Jr. utilized his Dodge Charger to ram and kill one person during a “Unite the Right Rally” protest in Charlottesville, Virginia. This case brought National attention based on the current political climate as well as the fact that Fields Jr. appeared to be part of a Domestic Far Right Extremist group and is currently awaiting trial (see Balmert and Strickley, 2017). On August 17, 2017, international news came to spotlight when a white van followed the same protocol of ramming pedestrians at a popular shopping center in Barcelona, Spain. This onslaught brought a total of 17 dead leaving 100 injured. This attack continued through Cambrils, Spain on August 18, 2017, where the suspects’ drove through a police blockade injured one pedestrian and were stopped by police that utilized lethal force (see Wiseman, 2017; see also Homeland Security, 2017). With the continual regularities of these attacks both in the United States and international soil, it is imperative to establish a protocol for police agencies to mitigate, prepare, and respond to these attacks.

           This style of attacks has been more prominently viewed through different forms of media and is hard to determine if they are terrorist acts due to many factors. Vehicle ramming incidents lack timelines and the need for more regional and national statistics should be completed to obtain a better insight. In several cases, these acts may incorporate mental health issues, criminal, terrorist and even incidents deemed to be accidental. Similar to the September 11 attacks as well as the Oklahoma Bombing, once assaults like Charlottesville, Virginia take place on US soil, very few people take into account the prior years. According to the Global Terrorism Database (see Figure 1), similar global attacks display an increase in the number of vehicle attacks that were conducted by Erin Miller (see Miller, 2017; see also Perliger, 2002). With the emergence of lone wolf radicalization and many other factors across our nation, it is difficult to realize whether all attacks are terrorist driven. However, in the last 11 years, including 2006, there has been a vivid increase in the frequency of attacks that have also occurred in the United States. Does this mean the evolvement of the new lone wolf or domestic terrorism? And if yes, does it signify the brand-new plot of generating mass casualty attacks, similar to the attacks in Europe as well as the one conducted by James Fields Jr.

            This study will focus on mitigation capacities that include the possible implementation of hostile vehicle barriers. Furthermore, the study will consist of training components and the emphasis of police response to these incidents. The response will include preparation, and the challenge law enforcement faces at shooting at moving vehicles that constitute a vehicle ramming incident. It will begin with a brief background on the history of vehicle attacks that have been considered infamous in California, Las Vegas and across the globe. The second portion of the study will incorporate suggestions and partial studies for vehicle barriers. This will also include a survey that I conducted from over 11 different police agencies that will also transition to the third component of this study. This section will cover training and education alternatives needed for police to become more efficient in their reaction to these styles of events.


             Prior to the September 11 attacks, terrorism was a term with the illusion that it only occurred overseas. However, once these attacks began to become sensationalized by the media, it spread fear throughout the United States. As the frequency of attacks and media reporting increased, the more uncertain people feel about their safety (see Torres, 2006; see also Galily, Yarchi, Tamir, & Samuel-Azran, 2016). To appropriately define this subject, the author will apply United States Code section 22 USC 2656f[d][2]. This section defines terrorism as the “premeditated politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by sub-national groups of clandestine agents usually intended to influence an audience” (see New Mexico Tech, 2011; see also Romo, 2017). In addition to this theme, we will further explore terrorism as it relates to vehicle ramming incidents. The term vehicle ramming itself does not offer a viable definition; however, the New York City Police Department provides the following paraphrased statement to define the term for this study: the use of motor vehicles as weapons…intentionally directed into public areas where pedestrians routinely congregate or occupied buildings…to create mass casualty incidents (see NYPD, 2017).

            There have been many incidents that fit the criteria mentioned above of vehicle ramming incidents, and a brief analysis will be provided of a few that have taken place in California and Nevada. On May 18, 1995, the city of Clairemont Mesa, San Diego was shocked to have an army national guard tank run into vehicles and destroy any property in its path. The aggressor was a military veteran and neighbor by the name of Shawn Nelson who led the police in a chase for 23 grueling minutes. Nelson eventually came to a stall as he attempted to cross the freeway divider onto cross traffic and became stuck. As police responded and took to account the possibility of Nelson progressing his tank rage to a deadly situation, they were forced to shoot Nelson that stopped his catastrophic act (see Scott, 2002). Even though this incident lacked any nexus to terrorist activity, it was one of the first styles of vehicle attack that took place and has been forgotten as the need for police to respond and stop this extraordinary event.

              Six years after the tank rampage took place, the beautiful college community of Isla Vista was rattled with a different style of vehicle ramming incident. On February 23, 2001, David Attias the son of a Hollywood producer and UC Santa Barbara student stunned the college community of Santa Barbara County as he used his 1991 Saab sedan to strike four different college students ultimately killing four people. Attias was suspected of using narcotic paraphernalia as he exited his car after the attack yelling, “I am the angel of death” and eventually taken into custody by police. At trial, the perpetrator was deemed to have suffered from mental illness and sentenced to supervision of Patton State Hospital (see Rocha, 2014).

            Approximately 13 years later, the same area was rattled by a similar attack that involved intentional vehicle collisions and shooting at students. On May 23, 2014, Elliot Rodgers used his BMW coupe to go on a combined shooting and vehicle rampage throughout the community of Isla Vista. Rodgers’ attack incorporated seven intentional vehicle strikes on the innocent as he continuously shot at the public and police. As the UCSB Police Department footbeat unit responded to the reports of an active shooter, they exchanged gunfire in an incident that took roughly 30 minutes. Within this horrendous attack, Rodgers murdered six people and left 14 wounded. The only reason this violent situation stopped was due to the quick and rapid reaction by the police to end Rodgers deadly threat. Furthermore, during his second volley of shooting at the police, Rodgers became wounded by the police, which eventually led to his drastic move of taking his life (see Bly, 2017; see also Brown, 2015).

           What makes these types of attacks challenging is the fact that they can be accidental, criminal and even terrorist in nature. Some of the aforementioned incidents appear to be intertwined in the criminal and terrorist aspect. However, to better understand the potential of an accidental vehicle ramming event, we will review the 2003 infamous case of George Russell Weller. On July 16, 2003, Weller who was 86 years old, attempted to drop off mail by the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market. He became involved in a minor fender bender and tried to leave the scene. In doing so, Weller drove his 1992 Buick LeSabre at a high rate of speed through the Farmer’s Market striking everything in his path with the end result of 10 dead and 68 injured. Even though this incident was determined to be accidental, Weller was eventually found guilty of 10 counts of manslaughter and sentenced to probation based on his age and medical condition (see Leagle, 2017). 

Figure 1- Vehicle Attack Frequencies from 2002 to 2016 (Miller, 2017).

           Now that a brief review surrounding this subject has been provided, it is essential to focus on the nature of these malicious attacks. Vehicle ramming has not been a new tactic used to inflict mass damage, however, in the past decade, the progressive rate of recurrence has suggested the possibility of its continual application. Figure 1 provides a recorded account of vehicle attacks that have occurred worldwide according to the Global Terrorism Database. These findings have been collected by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) and evaluated to bring the above statistics. As we can see, from the year 2013 to past 2016 there has been an unusual spike in these attacks, which provide us with the need to effectively prevent and respond to these attacks. Adding to this threat, open source documents such as extremist magazines like “Inspire, Rumiyah, and Knights of Jihad” often either assist with radicalization or method to carry out these despicable acts (see Wright, 2014; see also NCTC, 2016).

             Figure 2- Growing Ramming attacks after Violent Extremist Propaganda (NCTC, 2016).

            Figure 2 shows the growing threat and possible trend overseas including neighboring countries to the United States. Ever since the 2010 Inspire magazine “The Ultimate Mowing Machine” debut, this form of tactic has become prolific in creating mass casualty. By revisiting Figure 1 as well as the case study prepared by START, there appears to be a growing number in this style of attack. START highlighted a study from 2002 to 2016 on vehicles used as contact weapons that showed a 14 percent growth in terrorist attacks in the North America. Furthermore, the study also revealed a 38% increase in deaths compared with the year 2015 (see NCTC, 2016; see also JRIC, 2017; see also Miller and Kammerer, 2017).  In reviewing Figure 2, it demonstrates the effect foreign terrorist organizations can have in radicalizing and having anybody carry out this threat. In addition to this topic, these terrorist networks have published various articles ranging from the 2014 and 2016 Inspire magazine that again praise these styles of attacks and hail the 2016 Nice France catastrophe. According to the JRIC, in a September 2014 speech, Abu Mohammed Al-Adnani an ISIS spokesman encouraged his followers to conduct this style of attack. He specifically stated the following “run over infidels with your car,” “it is immaterial if the infidel is a combatant or a civilian.” “They are both enemies,” “the blood of both is permitted” (see JRIC, 2017). Examples of these call to arms by foreign terrorist groups to inspire lone wolves and others through radicalization are what makes vehicle ramming so hard to detect and dangerous.

Statement of the Problem   

             On May 13, 2017, the Transportation Security Administration in conjunction with the Department of Homeland Security released their publication on vehicle ramming attacks. According to their statistics and study ranging from 2014 to 2017, there have been 13 acknowledged vehicle ramming incidents worldwide that have a direct correlation to terrorism. What makes this issue daunting is the fact that it inflicts mass casualty and from that study, it has shown that a total of 194 have died with 672 wounded as a result of these attacks. Figure 3 provides a table that accounts for five recent incidents that have been either encouraged or directly linked to foreign terrorist organizations (see TSA, 2017).

Attack DetailsCasualties
2017, Gonaives, Haiti (bus rammed pedestrians during a parade)*34 killed, 17 injured
2017, Jerusalem, Israel (truck rammed military personnel near a popular promenade)5 killed (including attacker), 15 injured
2016, Berlin, Germany (truck rammed pedestrians at  outdoor Christmas market)12 killed, 56 injured
2016, Columbus, OH (car rammed pedestrians at Ohio State University)1 killed (attacker), 11 injured
2016, Nice, France (truck rammed pedestrians during parade)87 killed (including attacker), 434 injured

Figure 3: Recent Terrorism Inspired Vehicle Ramming Attacks, 2014-2017 (TSA, 2017).

             Besides the amplifications of extremist groups persuading these vile acts is the growing trend of lone wolves utilizing the same style of tactic. Re-visiting the Elliot Rodgers case study, in his manifesto, he explicitly wrote that he would switch vehicles and use the Mercedes SUV to inflict more damage. He further made the following statements: “I will use it as one of my killing machines against my enemies.” “An SUV will cause a lot more damage than my BMW coupe” … “I will then make my way to Del Playa, splattering as many of my enemies as I can with the SUV” (see Johnston, 2014). The development of lone wolf attackers combined with open areas that include crowd gatherings now bears the need for crisis architecture as stated by Daveed Gartenstein-Ross who is a senior fellow for the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (see Clarke, 2016). The review of these incidents demonstrates that without the use of security to protect pedestrians, this style of tactic will continue to grow and remain effective in causing fear and severe loss of life. 

Figure 4- The number of intentional vehicular assaults, combined with and without casualties. September 13, 2015, according to Gidon Almogy marks the Lone Wolf intifada (Almogy et al., 2016).

              In assessing figure 4, the reader can see the extraordinary intensification of these attacks specifically from the year 2015 to 2016. This demonstrates the susceptibility the public faces and the need to strengthen locations. In addition to our vulnerabilities, there is a need to understand that similar to active shooter incidents, these occurrences create that devastating effect and are prominent within religious days and national holidays.  For the purpose of this study, an active shooter under LAPD definition is the following: “An armed person who has used deadly force or is inflicting serious bodily injury and aggressively continues to do so while having unrestricted access to additional victims” (see Langarica, 2016). Like active shooters, these attacks are simple to carry out since vehicles are a moving conveyance that everyone utilizes making it hard for first responders to detect as a threat (see Almogy et al., 2016; see also Clarke, 2016; see also Crimando, 2017).

Purpose of the Study

             With the continuing development of these attacks and the rise of lone wolves as seen in figure 4; it is pertinent for the law enforcement community specially the Los Angeles Police Department to employ some type of response to stop this deadly behavior. The purpose of this study will include the implementation of hostile vehicle barrier devices, preparation as it relates to the tactical aspect and education of officers to adequately respond to these catastrophic incidents. The focus is an explanatory research and a combination of evidence-based practices to examine the Los Angeles Police Department and its response as it relates to applying mitigation techniques as well training methods to provide life-saving measures.

Research Questions

    To obtain a better in-depth look at the study, we will explore the following key questions:

        Q1.    How can the implementation of vehicle barriers decrease the continual surge of vehicle ramming incidents?

        Q2.    What challenges does US law enforcement face when it comes to shooting at a moving vehicle and will it help with reducing vehicle ramming incidents?

        Q3.    Does the implementation of new training bulletin in relation to training assist law enforcement in combatting these issues?

Literature Review

           The below Literature review will focus on vehicle ramming attacks, the issues police face when employing barriers to protect the citizens. It will also bring to light the challenges of shooting at or from a moving vehicle based on interviews and research components. The first section will review the application of these incidents and the implementation of barriers to diminish its catastrophic results. The examination will be provided by a series of research that intermingles with VBIEDs. For this study, a VBIED (vehicle-borne improvised explosive device) as provided by the National Academies is the following: “an attack is the use of a homemade bomb and/or destructive device to destroy, incapacitate, harass, or distract” … “that can be carried or delivered in a vehicle” (see National Academies, 2015).

           Furthermore, the study will include a survey conducted on 11 different police agencies, and interviews with police subject matter experts. Following the barriers and mitigation techniques, the study will venture into the challenge that law enforcement faces with shooting at moving vehicles. This section will provide a very brief presentation based on the limited resources available to explain the issue. Lastly, we will also explore the preparation of law enforcement as training bulletins and memos can assist with a better response to decrease the loss of life. This notion will support the Los Angeles Police Department in evaluating its response to these attacks and provide alternatives to help first responders. With the ever-changing trends of this low-risk tactic, we will continue to look into the attacks and the measures that we can apply to the resiliency of the city.                                     

 Hostile Vehicle Barriers

            There are a plethora of government and private sector bulletins that highlight the importance of barriers to prevent both vehicle ramming and car bombing incidents. To better understand the fundamentals of vehicle barriers, a brief definition will be provided for this study. As highlighted by the Centre for Protection of National Infrastructure, “a vehicle barrier is designed in a combination of one or more methods to assist with traffic management” (see Cormie et al., 2009). Out of that composition, there are two styles of vehicle security barriers that consist of passive or active barriers. Passive barriers are a different style of blocking mechanisms that are un-affixed and may be used for the sole purpose of deflecting a vehicle’s energy stopping its attack (see Homeland Security, 2010). These instruments can fluctuate in different variations that can conceal within the street to harden the location. Figure 5 below illustrates how these barriers can blend and at the same time fortify a given public area for security considerations.

Figure 5- Different styles of security barriers to harden targets (FEMA, 2007).

            Generally, these barriers are placed in mounds, planters, walls, and incorporate static bollards as depicted in figure 5. However, according to the Dams Sector vehicle barrier guide, it is important to test these barrier systems to evaluate their efficiency. In addition to passive barriers, there are active vehicle barriers that incorporate manual or remote access to activate them. A perfect example of active barrier systems would be the application of hydraulic bollards and barrier net systems. Furthermore, to select the appropriate barrier system, it is crucial to utilize the Department of State AVB certification that uses the standard vehicle rating.

             This test utilizes the application of vehicles weighing 15,000 pounds, with the combination of speeds traveling 30 to 60 miles per hour and provides a category for penetration of impact to rate the efficiency of the barrier (see Homeland Security, 2010). To enhance this evaluation, it is integral to incorporate the angle of the selected barrier, width of vehicle in question, tire tracks and acceleration of gravity as it relates to kinetic energy. Various acceleration features including NHTSA frontal crash and vehicle impact data can assist with the findings that ultimately point to vehicle with higher density or mass to stop trucks or rapid moving heavy vehicles (see Terry and Tholen, 2006). Lastly, to obtain a better insight on this matter, it is important to observe Figure 6, which is provided by Dams Sector vehicle barrier guide that illustrates vehicle, weight mass as it relates to vbieds.

Figure 6- Table A3-1 VBIED Weight/Mass Information (Homeland Security, 2010).

             Besides evaluating and making a decision to employ these barrier systems, it is necessary to include the whole community on the selections of barriers. This may help in balancing the need to harden public areas while balancing the flow of pedestrian traffic (see Fema, 2007). In addition to this scenario, the author conducted a nationwide survey of 11 different police agencies ranging from small municipalities to large police departments such as the Boston and New York Police Department. Out of those agencies, the author only received a sample of 71 respondents. In part of the survey, the author found that 63 respondents (88.73%) agreed that hardening soft targets and providing information to businesses could lessen the chances of vehicle attacks. In accumulation to the challenge of barriers, 43 respondents (66.20%) also believe that barriers would stop the attacks while the remainder completely disagreed or remained unsure of the effectiveness of barriers (see Survey Monkey Inc., 2017).

               In obtaining a better grasp and educating the community along with stakeholders, it is important to incorporate hazard modeling systems to define critical infrastructures and bring to light the affected risks. According to the 2017 City of Los Angeles Hazard Mitigation plan, the city of Los Angeles utilizes threat mapping programs known as Hazus. Moreover, this program was created by FEMA using geo-mapping tools to assess damages caused by the following natural disasters: earthquakes, hurricanes, and floods. It’s main intention is to assist in mitigation, risk assessment, emergency planning and response. The program under the mitigation plan provides the following: a wide range of inventory data, such as demographics, building stock, critical facilities, and transportation and utility infrastructure, and multiple models to estimate potential losses from natural disasters (see Tetra Tech, 2017). Figure 7 below illustrates the Hazus application as it incorporates risk assessments of critical infrastructure.

Figure 7- HAZUS GIS exemplars illustrating layers of defense, with the inclusion of critical infrastructure and surrounding areas. (FEMA, 2007).

            By showing the public the Hazus modeling program, there can be several considerations that direct to the security component, balancing the needs of business versus public defense and engineering constraints as highlighted by the Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure (see Cormie et al., 2009). In addition to utilizing threat mapping applications, it is also imperative to have businesses conduct their own analysis to determine their vulnerabilities. For example, the city of New York under their Engineering Security guidelines to provide high rise business owners with advice as it relates to analysis of traffic flow scenarios that provide a better grasp on their susceptibility to VBIEDs and ramming attacks (see Bloomberg et al., 2009). The purpose of this study is to bring the importance of mitigation strategies and not recommend the type of barriers to be implemented. The following case study will provide insight into an event where the mitigation strategy stopped a deadly attack.

              On May 18, 2017, 26 year old Richard Rojas used his Red Honda Accord to strike several pedestrians while reportedly under the influence of narcotics. Rojas drove on 7th Avenue on sidewalks causing terror amongst pedestrians. As he reached the intersection of West 45 Street and 7th Avenue, his onslaught was stopped as he hit a metal bollard. Even though his rampage left multiple citizens injured and one dead, it may have continued without the utilization of barriers. According to Sergeant Thomas Glaudino of the New York Police Department, those bollards that stopped Rojas’s attack were strategically placed to protect the underground subway entrances (see Glaudino, 2017; see also Mueller, 2017). Figure 8 that is an open source picture depicts the ending of this attack and the importance of mitigation techniques.

Figure 8- Open source document highlighting the finale of Rojas attacks via metal bollard. (Open Source, 2017).

            Continuing in the mitigation component, it is important for the city of Los Angeles to take these suggestions to lessen the chance of a vehicle ramming attack. In an interview conducted with Watertown Police Department Sergeant Jeff Pugliese, he concurred that bollards along pedestrian walkways would reduce these attacks. He added that the visual representation of barriers would cause both terrorist and lone wolves to re-consider and deter their attack (see Pugliese, 2017). Sergeant Thomas Glaudino from the New York Police Department provided extra details post-Rojas attacks. He specifically advised that the city immediately began to implement static metal bollards the following day where Rojas drove his car into the victims. Sergeant Glaudino added that besides the application of mitigation, it is pertinent for police departments to have a tactic to overcome their response as it relates to these attacks.

             Los Angeles Police Department Swat Lieutenant Ruben Lopez recommended to obtain a cost-benefit analysis to further barrier recommendations for the city of Los Angeles. To gain a better insight into this study, the author contacted a business facility within the city of Los Angeles that utilizes barriers (see Lopez, 2017). In an interview conducted with Louis Lam from Paramount Studios, the author was made aware of the cost to maintain hydraulic barriers. In the past four years, the conservation of these systems has taken a toll of more than $100,000.00. Furthermore, in contacting their vendor Delta Scientific systems, the author was made aware of different barrier system costs to evaluate its efficacy.

             In speaking with Greg Hamm, Vice President of Delta Scientific systems the author was provided with the following: “the cost for the current hydraulic barriers (three to four bollards) ranges from $33,000 to 35,000.00.” In considering the value of these systems, Greg Hamm provided an additional breakdown of bollards: “the cost of manual barrier which essentially can be pulled upward like the hydraulic system mentioned differs in price range of $18,000.00 for three bollards.” Lastly, for three passive barriers, the cost would drop to a total of $6,500.00. Additionally, all these barriers mentioned come from a standard K4 rating that means they can stop a vehicle that weighs up to 15 tons traveling at 30 miles per hour and the cost is missing installation fees (see Lam, 2017; see also Hamm, 2017).

             In addition to bollards, the author contacted the city’s Public Works Bureau and interviewed Bob Sewell regarding other systems. Bob Sewell advised that the city of Los Angeles currently owns K-Rail barrier systems that are generally implemented during pre-planned events. Moreover, he added that it takes up to eight moving trucks order to employ those barriers. Adding that each truck includes a two-person team that generally costs the city $33.00 per hour per person during an eight-hour span totaling $528.00 (see Sewell, 2017). In closing, these are just some numbers that can be taken into consideration in evaluating the cost-benefit analysis of barriers for the city. It is also pertinent to understand that the mitigation concept is not a police matter but rather a consideration and direction of both the City of Los Angeles Emergency Management Department and Public Works Bureau.  

Preparation and Response

             Besides mitigation and the emphasis of barriers to stop vehicle ramming attacks; it is crucial for the Los Angeles Police Department to have alternative tactics to respond to this style of event. Out of the 11 nationwide police agencies surveyed, the author asked the following questions: are you well prepared to respond to a vehicle ramming terrorist incident? Do you feel that your agency has provided you with guidance to deal with these incidents or do you feel a new training will benefit your response? From the first question, 55 of 71 respondents (77.5%) disagreed with the question and provided their concern for training. Continuing onto the next question, 64 of 71 respondents (90.14%) agreed that training would enhance their response (see Survey Monkey Inc., 2017). With these findings, it is fundamental to develop a new style of training to not only educate the Los Angeles Police Department but assist agencies regionally in providing life-saving measures. To better address, this issue, the subject of shooting at moving vehicles will be explored.

          One of the challenges currently facing the law enforcement community nationwide is the topic of shooting at moving vehicles. From the mid-90s to our current time, agencies have been scrutinized for using lethal force whether they were inside a police car or just shooting at a vehicle. According to the Washington Post, many police executives were concerned with police not possessing the adequate training and tactics, which placed them in a dire situation. Furthermore, that article studied 13 cases from 1993 to 1995 that evaluated the prosecution results of a violator attempting to utilize his vehicle as a deadly weapon towards officers. The findings for that instance revealed that only 1 case (10%) would be prosecuted (see Leen, 1998). These issues are pertinent as the Los Angeles Police Department joined agencies across the nation with the policy prohibiting officers to shoot at moving vehicles.

           On February 06, 2005, Officers Grant and Garcia were assigned to LAPD Newton Division working in a patrol vehicle. According to the District Attorney investigation, they observed a burgundy Toyota Camry drive through a red tri-light and continue into the southbound 110 freeway on-ramp. The officers then followed that vehicle into the freeway and observed the vehicle being driven in a reckless manner by violating several rules of the road. The vehicle then exited the freeway and officers attempted to conduct a traffic stop for the observed violations. However, the driver failed to follow the officers’ direction and drove prompting officers to go into pursuit. The pursued vehicle ultimately stopped once it nearly struck an iron fence and a high-risk stop was initiated. At that point, the passenger of the pursued vehicle fled on foot and the driver, 13 year old Devin Brown roared the engine of the vehicle and accelerated the vehicle in reverse that prompted Officer Garcia to move out of the way. As Officer Garcia continued to move away from the vehicle, he fired from his service weapon ending Devin

Brown’s deadly behavior (see Cooley, Livesay, & Hazell, 2005).                                                             

         Stemming from this tragic incident, the Los Angeles Police Department took immediate action that resulted in amending the police shooting policy. On February 16, 2005, the Los Angeles Police Department issued Special Order 1 that amended the shooting policy specifically addressing the following: Firearms shall not be discharged from a moving vehicle, except in exigent circumstances and in the immediate defense of life.” The order also added that “the moving vehicle itself shall not presumptively constitute a threat that justifies an officer’s use of deadly force.” However, it did include an explanation such as “factors that may be considered include whether the officer’s life or the lives of others were in immediate peril and there was no reasonable or apparent means of escape” (see LAPD, 2005). The problem with the order is that it caused officers to doubt when presented with the situation where they must use lethal force to stop a vehicle ramming incident (see Leen, 1998; see also Yates, 2016).

           In addition to the above-mentioned special order are the challenges in articulation for new officers. While conducting active shooter training with police recruits, the topic of vehicle ramming has been brought thoroughly. When the recruits have been asked if they can shoot a moving vehicle to stop it from inflicting mass injury or death to others; the recruits tend to quote the Devin Brown case and demonstrate their confusion. This confusion has been enhanced by the current special order that will be highlighted in the following excerpt: “It is understood that the policy in regards to discharging a firearm at or moving vehicle may or may not cover every situation that may arise. In all situations, Department members are expected to act with intelligence and exercise sound judgment, attending to the spirit of this policy…” (see LAPD, 2017). In an interview conducted with Los Angeles Police Department Officer John Kong, he concurred that Special Order 1 and the Devin Brown case study has clouded recruits and young officers with shooting at a moving vehicle to stop a mass casualty event. Officer John Kong has recommended breaking down the special order to address the shooting policy (see Kong, 2017).

            Los Angeles Police Department SWAT Lieutenant Ruben Lopez voiced his concern regarding officers understanding the shooting policy highlighting the exigency of this topic. His recommendations included research in barrier applications, timelines with the duration of incidents. He added that barriers needed to be weighed in with cost efficiency and collaboration of private entities to harden targets like the renowned area of Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue. Besides other technological innovations that the SWAT team is currently exploring; Lieutenant Ruben Lopez added that it would be beneficial for officers to enhance a training bulletin with examples of the shooting policy that meet the vehicle ramming criteria (see Lopez, 2017). Armed with his guidance, the author asked in his survey the following question: If training is the issue, would you recommend training bulletins as a point of reference for your tactical considerations? From that question, 57 of 71 respondents (80.28%) agreed that training bulletins would assist officers to better respond to these incidents. Furthermore, the respondents added that a combination of videos, with hands on training, may assist in preparation for future incidents (see Survey Monkey Inc., 2017).

            In revisiting the shooting at a moving vehicle dilemma, a brief examination of two current case laws will be provided on the justification of lethal force. Those two cases are Plumhoff vs. Rickard and Mullenix v. Luna that have established for officers the right to shoot at moving vehicles under certain situations (see O’Linn, 2016). In the 2014 Plumhoff case, officers pursued a vehicle for evading and being a possible hit and run suspect. As officers conducted a high-risk vehicle stop, the occupants attempted to evade them, and lethal force was used to stop them. The Supreme Court ruled the use of deadly force was reasonable in this circumstance and that officers had qualified immunity based on the fact that the force was practical (see Scotusblog, 2017; see also Oyez, 2017). In the 2015 case of Mullenix v. Luna, the officer utilized lethal force at a suspected drunk driver that drove at high speeds placing the entire public at risk. The court concurred that the application of deadly force was justified and again provided officers with qualified immunity (see Aaron, 2015). These cases are vital to having the Los Angeles Police Department re-evaluate its shooting policy as it relates to vehicle ramming incidents.

           To provide an argument for shooting at a moving vehicle, the author will provide both the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department and New York Police Department use of force manuals. On December 20, 2015, Lakeisha Holloway drove her 1996 Cadillac Oldsmobile sedan onto the pedestrian sidewalk near the Planet Hollywood Hotel dragging people along the Las Vegas strip. She then fled the area and stopped at another hotel requesting security to notify police to arrest her for hitting people. According to CNN, her reckless act left one dead with a total of 37 injured, and she is currently awaiting trial for 2018 (see Yan, Burnside, & Martinez, 2015; see also Jarvis, 2017). Sergeant Boveda from the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department advised in her interview that she could not provide further detail on the Lakeisha Holloway incident due to the pending trial. However, she did explain that immediately after her deadly rampage, the police department changed its policy.

           The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department shooting policy under the Handgun/Shotgun (“00” Buck & Slug)/ Rifle component provides circumstances when they can shoot at a moving vehicle (Appendix A). The following excerpt is taken from that policy: “It is the policy of this Department that officers will not discharge a firearm at/from a moving vehicle unless it is absolutely necessary to preserve human life.” “Officers are authorized to discharge their firearms at/from a moving vehicle in the event that the operator of the vehicle presents an imminent threat of danger to the officer or others.” Lastly, the department according to Sergeant Boveda included section three of their shooting policy as a result of Holloway’s onslaught that is: “Officers will only discharge their firearms at a fleeing vehicle when the driver continues to present an ongoing imminent threat to others and deadly force is the only option to preserve lives” (see Boveda, 2017; see also LVMPD, 2017).

  1. The review may find that, under exigent or exceptional circumstances, the use of the prohibited action may have been justified and within guidelines.” “The objectively reasonable use of deadly physical force to terminate a mass casualty terrorist attack is the type of exigent or exceptional event that this clause was intended to address” (see Glaudino, 2017). In assessing this memo, it can be understood that officers will not cloud their judgment and will be able to respond effectively to stop this attack.

           Besides taking into consideration the challenges as well as advantages to shooting at a moving vehicle to stop ramming attacks, it is important to explore the training component for patrol. Lieutenant Ruben Lopez has noted that similar to an active shooter incident, the first responders to be involved with this event will be patrol officers. After the deadly 1999 Columbine High School shooting took place, the whole law enforcement community shifted their training nationwide to establish contact teams to deal with the threat versus waiting for Swat. In some of the most notable events such as the 2013 LAX World Airport active shooter and 2015 San Bernardino attack, officers noted that having the authentic type of training assisted them in reacting and overcoming the event. According to the CTC Sentinel article, one officer made the following remark as training played a pivotal role: “We didn’t have to think about how we should do it-we just did it” (see PERF, 2014; see also Lopez, 2017; see also Langarica, 2017; see also Straub, Zeunik, & Gorban, 2017).

           Other issues at hand are the need to balance being proactive as a police department rather than being reactive. The author in his survey asked the following question: Does your agency only react to new tactics once a critical incident has taken place? 40 out of 71 respondents (69%) agreed with the question signifying a need to change this style of thinking (see Survey Monkey Inc., 2017). In examining some of the aforementioned incidents, a correlation can be seen in demonstrating the reactiveness within police departments. The 1995 Columbine incident created the need to utilize immediate action rapid deployment within agencies nationwide. Furthermore, incidents like Lakeisha Holloway in Las Vegas have spurred the change in shooting policies. Also, the Times Square attack of May 18, 2017, immediately caused the city of New York to harden their vulnerabilities by applying bollards across the affected area. Gary LaFree wrote that it is important for police departments with limited resources to share information with municipal and state agencies to establish a proactive model. In ending, he also highlighted that implementing a proactive approach along with the community can assist in decreasing terrorist attacks (see LaFree, 2012).

           It is crucial to establish a partnership with businesses and whole community component to develop a proactive approach. Some of the challenges again would include the need to balance the image of the business while balancing the protection of all life. Lieutenant Lopez also added that it is hard to balance the needs of business venues as it relates to pre-planned events versus spontaneous ones. In his interview, Lieutenant Lopez advised of incidents where the planning of overall protection for hardening events such as the Academy Awards have led to push-back by celebrities and the business that runs that venue (see Lopez, 2017). Additionally, in a survey conducted by the author, the following question was asked: Does our effectiveness change when the terrorist target spontaneous versus pre-planned events? 50 of 71 respondents (70.42%) agreed and added that training along with pre-planned events incorporated a more thorough review of protection capabilities while spontaneous events tend to be overlooked (see Survey Monkey, 2017).  It is pertinent to utilize some of the aforementioned tools like hazard mapping to educate all involved to create the better alternative.


            This research paper is designed to explore the phenomena of vehicle ramming events. It also focused on providing the Los Angeles Police Department with a historical timeline pertaining to these events with the inclusion of tactical suggestions and education to deal with this impending threat. However, there are limitations to this project based on the foci of the literature used to conduct this study. There are additional market studies that would need to be conducted throughout the country to evaluate the implementation of barriers within major cities and further case studies to mitigate future attacks. In addition to barriers, this study provided suggestions for implementing these tools without picking a barrier system for protection. Secondly, another issue based on this study is the lack of categorization of vehicle ramming incidents. There have been many incidents that are either categorized as a direct criminal attack or mental episode that lack registration based on its status and brief period to identify patterns of attacks.

             Lastly, even though the research provided insight into the application of deadly force towards vehicle ramming incidents; there would be a need to evaluate shot placement towards vehicles. According to Lieutenant Ruben Lopez, additional considerations in the study would need to demonstrate the capabilities of defensive weapons. These considerations would need to include the type of caliber bullet officers used, the angle of the windshield of the tested vehicle as well as many other components. Many other challenges are present that incorporate limitations in this study. The vehicle ramming incidents studied provided a unique situation that lacked a consistent protocol to stop them. This on its own makes it difficult for law enforcement to utilize a quickly identifiable resource to deal with the problem. Due to the current training and experimentation from the Los Angeles Police Department Swat Team and the sensitive nature of their tactics, the author was limited in providing another tool to combat these attacks (see Lopez, 2017). Furthermore, due to the delicacy of tactical considerations in shot placement provided from the New York Police Department, the author had to omit that portion from both the appendix and the research. All these factors combined have contributed to the minimal application of review.

Recommendations for Future Research

          This topic requires additional situational awareness in several areas including the  evaluation of shooting at moving vehicles. As mentioned above, there needs to be scientific studies to test the impact of bullets on a moving vehicle. In enhancing the topic of shooting the suspect while inside the vehicle, it is pertinent to consider the consequences of such event. In assessing what is referred to as the “coefficient of friction,” it is important to understand its concept. This means that two surfaces are sliding past each other. In determining the kinetic aspect, it is imperative to recognize that even though the vehicle was moving it will continue to skid in an uncontrolled manner that may cause more damage to citizens (see Khan Academy, 2017). Adding to possibility of minimizing this dilemma is the application of the Talon Mesh by the London Metropolitan Police Department. This style of device became operational as of September of this year and can be deployed by two officers within minutes to stop vehicles that can reach the weight of 17 tons (see Fedschun, 2017). Lastly, exploration is still needed on the cost-benefit analysis of barriers and a survey to determine the fiscal balance and need for protection of the public.

           In venturing onto additional research, it is important to conduct further analysis onto the age range and mental profile of the offender. This can assist in obtaining a better understanding of these attacks that are similar to active shooters. With a grasp on this topic, law enforcement can educate the public to detect and report others exhibiting signs to minimize future attacks. Adding to this topic and revisiting shooting at a moving vehicle, there should be research that evaluates scenarios like the Shawn Nelson tank rampage and similar incidents where the officers were forced to utilize aggressive tactics to shoot the suspect in the head to stop their deadly behavior. The author would suggest the Los Angeles Police Department enact a partnership with several agencies to establish a regional concept and learn from different approaches and research techniques to deal with these incidents. A perfect example can be real live scenario base training that incorporates the utilization of the Force Options Simulator to assist officers in identifying this type of attack and articulate the force used to not only educate them but also prepare them for an impending incident. Furthermore, it is vital to conduct research to see if educating the community by business partnership can diminish the likelihood of being attacked. The research should include the distribution of pamphlets and other materials to educate the public.

             In closing, there is still research needed to examine the proactiveness of police versus being reactive in ramming attacks. Adding to that study, there should be a brief study highlighting the effectiveness of these attacks in a pre-planned environment versus spontaneous event. These suggestions and applications of future research may help the Los Angeles Police

Department and other agencies to effectively counter these attacks and stop this deadly behavior.


          The main goal of this project is to assist the Los Angeles Police Department in developing a new tactical concept to educate officers and provide life saving measures. Vehicle ramming attacks are dangerous and specifically target areas where crowds congregate without a solid measure to stop them. With the growing trends of these attacks, a brief review of these incidents along with critical information were provided. They also illustrated the increase of these attacks and the need to effectively apply different strategies to combat it. Considering other alternatives, the first section explored the implementation of vehicle barriers. Adding to the concept of barriers, a case study along with government and business publications were provided to explain the importance of barriers as a mitigation technique. In addition to other mitigation components, the author succinctly explored hazard modeling. This type of program can assist first responders in conjunction with businesses to provide situational awareness by educating the public with identified areas that can be prone to future attacks and allow for ideas to harden those locations.

          Secondly, a review of shooting at moving vehicles provided a comprehensive break down of the current challenges the law enforcement community is facing. Educating the department and other entities with Supreme Court rulings that favor the application of lethal force in certain circumstances with case studies is an effective tool to better the Police Department. In addition to the topic surrounding lethal force and vehicle ramming, a survey was provided regarding this topic. The survey covered 11 different police agencies across the nation and included two other police agencies that amended their shooting at a moving vehicle policy as it relates to vehicle ramming incidents to protect citizens. However, many other factors come to play that include shot placement, the kinetic movement of the vehicle and the importance of keeping the public safe. Aside from that, there was a brief discussion on the application of a training bulletin to not only clear confusion amongst officers but also guide them to take decisive action to save lives. In addition to exploring preparedness to lessen the impact of these attacks, the author suggests further market research utilizing the automotive industry in conjunction with more academia to evaluate additional measures to stop these attacks.

         In ending, this project’s intention is to provide the Los Angeles Police Department with a tactical directive that will address vehicle ramming incidents that can offer a new way to assist in responding to future terrorist attacks. The next step for the author will include providing the findings to both the Los Angeles Police Department Swat team and Training Division.

Both these entities within the department will assist in evaluating the recommendations that revisit shooting at a moving vehicle and training bulletins to focus on these attacks. 

Once, the research creates a new policy and training, the author plans in conjunction with other key members of the police department to train and spread this awareness regionally. With this training, the Los Angeles Police Department will continue its legacy a contributing partner to other regional agencies in creating a more resilient community with the emphasis of live savings measures.


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