U.S. Department of Defense


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FROM: Leadership in Dangerous Situations : A Handbook for the Armed Forces,

Emergency Services, and First Responders. Edited by Patrick J. Sweeney,

Michael D. Matthews, and Paul B. Lester (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2011).


US government work


In the early morning hours of July 31, 2007, Gazi Abu Mezer and Lafi Khalil, two PcUestinians who had entered the United States after exploiting loopholes in the immigration system. were in the operational phase of a planned suicide bombing of the New York City "fransit system. Their weapons: simple pipe bombs with electrical detonating switches packed into knapsacks. Two things would stand in the way of their attempt at martyrdom-their Egyptian roommate and the New York City Fblice Department's Emergency Service Unit (ESU). Mossabah, the roommate, had been taken to the New York Fblice Department's 88th Precinct. When the ESU tour commandex:, a veteran lieutenant arrived at the precinct, he interviewed Mossabah, having him start at the beginning of his recollections, interrupting him for clarifications and details. After digesting what he had heard, the commander began apprising his leadership of the situation and stressing that he believed Mossabah. He then looked at the roster of ESU officers working his shift, from midnight to 8 a.m. The urgency of the situation prohibited him from calling in people from home and handpicking a team to enter the apartment Mossabah shared with the two suspects; he would have to go with those already available. The commander called a sergeant and four police officers and told them to meet him at the precinct.

After the five arrived, Mossabah was again asked to tell his stoty from the beginning. They interrupted him with even more questions and requests for clarification and had him draw an extensive diagram of his apartment building's exterior and his apartment's interior, highlighting the locations of the backpacks as well as the spaces Mezer and Khalil normally ocrupied. The commander took his team into another room and devised his tactical plan, giving out assignments as they progressed. The team would exerute a standard dynamic search warrant entry. Mossabah would lead them to the building. and they would enter using his key. The building the team saw upon exiting their vehicle looked nothing like the one Mossabah had sketched at the precinct. Thoughts of an ambush ran through the officers'minds. Mossabah then led the team through a narrow alley, at the end of which the team saw a building resembling the one he had drawn.

The lead officer, protected by a hand-held body bunker, put the key in the lock, turned it, and opened the door. The team flooded the apartment, yelling. "Police! Get down on the floor!"The first officer through the door was met by a man who attempted to physically disarm him. The officer fired one shot from his 9-mm pistol, hitting his target. The wounded man stumbled backwards, toward a black canvas bag in the comer of the room. As he flipped one of four toggles on the front of the bag. another officer fired two 5.56-mm rounds into him, and he crumpled into a comer of the room. As the team pressed on, a second man in another room lunged toward a backpack in a comer. Two shots from an officer's pistol dropped him before he could reach it. The entry was over in less than ninety seconds. Both men were taken into rustody. The FBI reconstructed both backpack improvised explosive devises, determining them to be functional with a blast mdius of more than 100 yards. Their analysis also revealed that the toggle thrown on the first backpack should have detonated the device. It is not known why it failed.