CopTalk: Brandishing



A Brandishing can occur anytime, anywhere, and with any kind of weapon. The most common type of brandishing is with a firearm, such as when someone points a gun towards another person out of anger, road-rage, etc.   


It’s 3:30am, and you’re driving home from work. A car starts to tailgate you driving right behind your rear bumper. You get a little angry and you slow down. The car starts to flash its high beams so you “flip him off” to show your disapproval for being blinded by your rear view mirror. You continue to drive on when the car suddenly pulls out and passes you. As you look over to “flip him off” again, you see the driver is holding up a pistol in his right hand. Wouldn’t be too smart to flip him off now, would it?

That’s a perfect example of a very common “brandishing”.

Another one:

You go to a bar or a restaurant, and see a guy trying to pick up a girl who obviously wants nothing to do with this person. Or maybe some guy is trying to pick up on your wife, girlfriend, etc. Whichever case, you get involved and tell the guy to move on. He tells you to butt out and the 2 of you get into a verbal argument.

Suddenly the guy pulls out a pocketknife and holds it out at you (in a threatening manner), telling you to back off. If you are smart, you will back off and call the police. If you are not smart, you’ll do something dumb and you will try to hold your intestines in until the paramedics arrive.

Something as simple as a Pocketknife can cause death if it punctures certain vital parts of the body.

A brandishing is a display of some type of weapon in an aggressive or threatening manner. The weapon will probably be used if the Suspect is confronted or threatened.

A weapon can be a gun, knife, baseball bat, stick, almost anything that can be used as a weapon. Brandishing is an arrestable offense and can be a deadly mistake.

Here are a few examples I have been recently dispatched to:

Teen drinking party at someone’s house on a Friday night. One guy decides to intimidate another guy at the party, over a girl that they are both interested in. One teen confronts the other, and a verbal argument turns into a Physical fight.

One teen pulls out a knife and holds it in a threatening manner at the other teen. The other teen with the knife in his face pulls out a 9mm pistol and fires 3 times. Fights over. Moral of that story, “Don’t take a knife to a gunfight”.

One 18 year old gets buried in the ground. The other goes to prison for 15 years. The 17-year-old girl they were fighting over goes to a party the next week and finds a new boyfriend! Best advice in the world?

  • Turn and walk away from an AVOIDABLE conflict. Just ask the kid that got buried if you don’t believe us!

3 juveniles are driving around in a friend’s car. The friend is 16 and just got his driver’s license. They decide to take a BB gun with them for fun, one that looks like a 44-magnum revolver.  They decide to “flash” the gun around for effect.  Trouble is the guys they flash the BB gun to have a real gun. Suddenly the window is shattering as bullets fly through it, and mom’s car has some new holes in it. Luckily, the teens are not hit.

I get dispatched to a suspicious vehicle in a business parking lot at late hours. The business has been closed for hours and the car has been parked there with one male sitting in the driver’s seat.  I arrive, and contact the driver who says he owns the business across the street that has been getting broken into, so he’s watching it.  I look in his car with my flashlight and see a 9mm Berreta pistol on the center console. I pull my 40 caliber Berreta and point it at the driver’s head as he says, “it’s not real”. I keep my gun at the driver’s head as I retrieve the gun from the console. It is indeed a fake, a “replica” Beretta 9mm BB gun.

But a wrong move on the drivers part, and I would not have waited to see if it was real or not before I fired.  A lot of BB guns and training guns are made to look like a real pistol. I asked the driver why he was carrying around a fake gun? He said it was in case he had to confront whoever it was that was breaking into his business.  I asked him what would happen if the thief he confronted had a real gun? The driver said that he hadn’t thought about that.

This easily could have been a “brandishing fatal error” If this business owner pointed a real looking (but fake) gun at a criminal, what happens when the criminal points or fires back with a real gun?

Displaying or showing a weapon to intimidate someone is not only illegal, but it is definitely not smart in this day and age! Chances are, the person who is supposed to be intimidated, may have a weapon themselves, and the stupid decision to try to intimidate somebody can and often does, end in injury or death.

Tips to avoid injury due to Brandishing:

  • First, NEVER brandish someone with a weapon, whether out of anger, rage, etc., unless it is in justifiable self-defense (which will be covered in another topic)
  • If someone brandishes a weapon at you, whether out of anger, intimidation, or even during a robbery attempt, think about the consequences.  A weapon is a weapon. Usually the person brandishing a weapon will back off or leave if not confronted. If the person is confronted, the weapon is already there and will probably be used.
  • Brandishing occur frequently during robberies. From a Car-jacking to a Bank robbery, if a weapon is displayed, it won’t take much for it to be used. Just try to be a good witness and relay the information to police. DON’T BE A HERO!
  • Don’t make the wrong decision of trying to take a weapon away from someone else. Chances are it will result in the weapon being used against you. Innocent children have been shot because of 2 adults wrestling over a gun, and the gun gets fired. I know you’ve seen that one in the movies. Unfortunately it’s an all too real “deadly mistake”.
  • Remember that brandishing is an arrestable offense!  If it does happen to you, report it to the police and try to provide as detailed description of the weapon as possible.
  • Was it a knife?
  • What color was the handle?
  • How long was the blade?
  • Sharp on both blade ends like a switchblade or serrated (jagged) on one side like a survival knife?
  • Was there a noticeable design on the handle?
  • Which hand was the Suspect holding the knife with?
  • Was it a Handgun?
  • What color was the gun barrel? Blued steel, Nickel-Plated, Chrome?
  • Was it a Revolver or a Semi-Automatic Pistol?  Do you know the difference?
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