Posted on May. 29, 2024 by Christopher Dorch

VirTra Case Study – Frank Tonkovich & Naperville PD

On June 3, 2022, Naperville Police Officer Frank Tonkovich pulled over a black Honda Civic after watching it disobey a stop sign. But the ordinary traffic stop soon took a horrific turn when another vehicle stopped in the middle of the road while Tonkovich spoke with the Civic driver. A man, Edward Samaan, exited his car and charged at the officer with a hatchet in hand. Tonkovich drew and fired his service weapon, killing Samaan. Both Tonkovich and the Civic driver were unharmed.

An investigation found that Tonkovich acted in accordance with the law and that his use of force was justified. Under Illinois state law, “the decision to use force by an officer shall be evaluated from the perspective of a reasonable officer in the same situation” without the benefit of hindsight. The County of Dupage found that it was reasonable for Tonkovich to believe that the Samaan intended to inflict harm to him and/or the motorist he had stopped and that Tonkovich’s use of force was not only justified but necessary. Furthermore, the OIS event has served as a training example of acceptable use of force, saving his life and that of the stopped driver.

The body camera doesn’t show it very well, but the driver had that kind of crazy look in his eyes. There’s something’s going on here, right? The next thing I saw when he charged me was that he was holding a hatchet and I knew this was really bad. My next instinct was get the firearm out. And obviously, I decided to use my weapon, and shoot until I thought there wasn’t a threat anymore.

In the months before the officer involved shooting, Naperville PD began seeking new ways to improve its officer training. By July, it acquired a VirTra V-180 simulator via VirTra’s STEP lease plan. Tonkovich trained multiple use-of-force scenarios using the virtual reality simulator, including scenarios designed to test student officers’ situational awareness and response to unexpected threats. Frank said that the training scenarios prepared him for the incident on June 3, 2022.

It was a very quick situation. It felt like time slowed down, and I fell back on my training when it happened. We had been running scenarios on our new VirTra. Many scenarios had people getting out of cars with something in their hands, so I got to be very keen on looking at people’s hands and watching people to make the best and the right decision.

VirTra collaborated with training experts and law enforcement organizations to ship the V-180 simulator with a certified curriculum. Several featured scenarios where the student officer must react quickly to threats, often without warning, in order to foster situational awareness and officer safety, such as a drive-by shooter interrupting an exchange with an unruly citizen.

Right after the shooting happened, I actually told my chief that this was exactly like the training we had in VirTra. You can go to the shooting gallery and practice with paper targets which is great. But when you have to put that skill to use and be aware of your surroundings in a senario. I mean, there’s a lot of things to process at once – I think it helps you and it helped me that day.

Improving Police Training with VirTra

VirTra partners with agencies like Naperville PD to create intense, realistic, and lifesaving training. Allocating training resources poses a major challenge to law enforcement officers, which VirTra aims to solve with training solutions that require less staff, pre-made certified curricula, lessons perfect for interleaved training during roll calls, and less space than competing options.

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