Retired Police Officer And BJJ Black Belt Recounts The Time He Had To Use Lethal Force

Photo used with permission of Officer Tommy Merino

Earlier this week, the Jiu-Jitsu Times interviewed Officer Tommy Merino, a retired police officer from New Jersey.

Officer Merino is now a BJJ black belt who trains new recruits at the Camden County Police Academy.

You can read the first part of the interview here.

During that interview, Officer Merino briefly mentioned a time he had to use deadly force. In this part of the interview, he goes into more detail.

The following has been edited slightly for clarity:

It was December 2005, and I was on routine patrol in Riverton, New Jersey. The Palmyra police department had just been dispatched for a domestic violence call and I was a back-up unit. We have what’s called mutual aid in New Jersey. We proceeded to the residence where the victim had called from and stated that her husband was out of control. Upon arrival, myself and a Palmyra officer walked up to the front door of the residence. The home was dark with no lights. Just as we approached the door, another Palymra officer had radioed to us that he was with the victim at a neighbor’s house and she, the victim, stated that he her husband was out of control.

I truly believe that if I did not know jiu-jitsu at the time, we would have had to shoot the subject again.

She also said he had some mental issues. With this we proceeded to tactically approach the front door and scan the interior since the door was open. At that time the subject had ran out of the home and shouted ” NICE TO SEE YOU!” then proceeded to stab the Palmyra officer with a 6-inch kitchen knife.

The subject did not see me and when he stabbed the officer I drew my weapon and ordered him to drop the knife. He stabbed the officer again and then turned at me. Of course, this was about two seconds. When he turned and took a step towards me with the knife I fired two shots and struck the subject…..he was still standing! He continued forward and I fired two more shots, hitting him all four times. The subject dropped the knife and fell to the ground.

As that took place, the other Palmyra officer did not see that the subject had dropped the weapon and he drew his weapon thinking he was still armed. The subject then started to stand up and I double legged him back to the ground and jumped into the mounted position. I was concerned the other officer would fire his weapon and shoot the subject who was then unarmed. The subject turned over and I sunk in the Rear Naked Choke to control him. The subject continued to struggle and attempt to stand. I sunk in the choke a bit harder and he fell once again. I then rolled him over keeping my hooks in. We finally got the subject under control and immediately started attending to his wounds. We administered first aid and the subject was then transported to the hospital where he later died from his injuries. The officer who was stabbed was saved by his bullet proof vest and his microphone holder on his belt.

I truly believe that if I did not know jiu-jitsu at the time, we would have had to shoot the subject again. Unfortunately he passed anyway, but we are trained to save lives and even though he had attempted to kill his wife, and kill a police officer, we still tried to save his life.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Officer Merino asked that the following be added:

I just want to clarify something about the use of force. In New Jersey we have what’s called “escalation of force.” Basically, it works like this: if a subject resists arrest physically, we can escalate to another level of force. For example, it would be pepper spray or a taser if the department is equipped with such. If a subject should have a deadly weapon — e.g, a knife or gun — we can escalate to deadly force if the subject is attempting to harm another person or a police officer.

I could see how some people may have been confused and it’s pretty common. I see both sides of this coin as a retired police officer and a jiu-jitsu black belt. If we can deescalate a situation using jiu-jitsu or another type of self-defense on a subject who is resisting without a weapon, then why not? All it takes a some dedication to your job and self-defense to make the difference between using excessive force or taking a life you did not have to take. We should all be on the same page with officer training. Self-defense training should be a continued after graduating the academy and getting on the street. Just because you graduate the police academy and had a few weeks of self-defense training, that does not mean you will be proficient enough to protect yourself or others if need be. Get some training, stay safe, and we can reduce the jobs and lives lost due to poor self-defense education!

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