TPD: Officers rely on training during stressful situations

Aaron Mesmer reports

- A Tampa police officer said he relied on his training and experience stay calm Wednesday, as he dealt with a potentially violent situation with a man who, according to investigators, turned out to be armed.

The incident started at a little after 10 a.m. when a 911 caller said shots were fired near the intersection of Lois and West Bay Avenues.

"When I got there, I was about a block or two away, I see a man standing in the middle of the street," said Officer Eric Book.

Book said the man turned out to be Shaquille Denson, who was angry and pounding his fist into his hand.

"He turns around and he's cursing me out. And I said, 'come on, I want to talk to you about what's going on," Book said, adding he tried to get Denson to calm down. "He has his fist raised like he wanted to fight me, so I said, 'come on man, you don't want to do that.'"

The officer tried to use his Taser to take Denson into custody, but it didn't work so he had to tackle him to the ground to arrest him. Book said he then searched Denson and found a gun tucked into his waistband.

"It's a scary thought to think that it could have gone another direction," he told FOX 13.

This situation comes as protests erupted in Charlotte, N.C. and Tulsa, Okla. after two black men died in police-related shootings.

While the circumstances surrounding those incidents remain under investigation, Chief Eric Ward said the situation involving Officer Book shows how helpful officers' training can be.

"That's evidence that the training that we're providing to the officers worked," Ward said. "We put a lot of work into our training, making sure the officers have the necessary tools to react properly in those situations and that's a prime example that the training worked."

Ward said officers go through training every year; one of the most effective exercises involves a virtual shooting simulator that helps prepare officers for different scenarios.

"Investing in the simulator that we have, being able to put those officers in those types of scenarios over and over again kind of prepares them for that encounter on the street," said Ward. "Our goal is to make sure they're comfortable in that situation and hoping that they understand the community as well as the environment they're in and they'll make the right decision."

Book also said the peace of mind he has from his training and experience has helped him focus on policing and not the distrust of law enforcement that is going on in some communities.

"I can't control whatever else is going on outside Tampa. I just can't worry about that. I got to do what I'm trained to do everyday," he said.

Meanwhile, Denson is facing several charges including carrying a concealed firearm, assault on a law enforcement officer and resisting arrest. Book said Denson admitted to firing his gun before police arrived.

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