Monday, June 13, 2011


This was originally posted as a comment to the "DANGERS OF INTERVENTION" post. As it wasn't so much an intervention incident as a "this happened to me" incident I thought it deserved its own post. What can we learn from this incident? How did the author do? What would you have done differently, if anything? Part of the Thinking Gunfighter philosophy is learning from the experiences of others. The author at this time has preferred to remain anonymous.
In the last three years, thanks to about 80 hrs of combat handgun, carbine, and shotgun, I have walked away unscathed from an attempted carjacking where I exited quickly and got behind the engine block as it's all that stops a bullet, as well as an attempted robbery by getting inside their loop (look up OODA LOOP)and having them reacting to me, which is a clearly critical part of preventing/winning a gun fight.

I had just exited a convenience store in a NC city at 10 PM on a 30 degree night and a small guy, with a curiously clear voice, asked me if I had a few extra bucks. I had the hair on the back of my neck rising as well as a screaming in my head that this was not a panhandler but rather a deadly situation. I did not yet know why and never had this feeling before. What happened, IMO, is that my subconscious had picked up a 2nd bad guy coming quietly behind me. When the smaller guy in front of me got about 10 feet away as his pace exceeded mine despite my having my hand on by gun under my coat and issuing stern and loud commands to back-off or we were going to have a big problem, I saw his eyes divert to my left for just a moment. A quick look revealed a guy about 3" taller than my 6'2" frame and 75 pounds heavier approaching from about 20 feet away.

Bringing my eyes back to the smaller guy in front of me he was putting one, and only one, hand in his right jacket pocket. At that point my weapon was aimed immediately right at his chest, time became non-existent, and I had tunnel vision begin as I screamed, "Show me your &^%$ hands". I had learned in a class with a Federal trainer that one hand only goes into a coat to come out with car keys, a knife, or a gun. As we were not near any car but mine and he had just changed to demanding money, it almost assuredly was a gun. Had my hand seen a weapon emerging I had already angled him to have empty stores behind him and I had determined I would break the trigger that I had 1/2 pressure on.

There was no question in my mind. If he came out with a gun I was shooting right in his chest until he fell. I can only say that I know now I can drop the hammer because I am going home to my wife and kids and will do what I have to. I probably could have shot, but I would have needed a good attorney and a lot of money to have done so. Cops I know who I have described the situation to have said I could have been shot through the coat and should have shot. Well, they have their legal fees paid for and I don't for shooting, "Father of the year", as the media will say. Plus, it would have been made a racial incident. I called the Federal Agent the next day and he said to never report such things. If I ever have to shoot someone, which I prefer not to, they are going to bring up any previous involvement and a DA who wants to prosecute is going to claim I am trigger happy. Their job, if they prosecute, is not to find the truth, but to put me in jail for a long time.

I cannot stress enough to those guys carrying a gun out there with a CCW/CHP that if you have not taken at least one 10 hour combat handgun class from a very, very qualified LEI, or former LEO, YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT TO DO. You have no idea because, "In a crisis situation you default to your lowest level of training competence". And if you have no training you have no real idea of how, in split seconds, to formulate a game plan. You are reacting to your assailant and will likely be the loser. You will not be practicing a different type of shooting nor will you be screaming, as I did, in the event of witnesses. I have read discussions where the guy who was not the aggressor yelled, "Back off or I'll blow your &^%$ brains out". That's a great thing for a Grand Jury to hear. There's a way for a civilian to likely stay out of jail. If you have taken no classes and not practiced what you have learned, then you don't know them.

If anyone is offended by my words then good. Maybe it will give you pause to get some training from qualified (not everyone really is) training for in both my situations I would have been guessing as opposed to assessing the situation and going into a combat mindset to win. Just a non-LEO citizen's experience on how I went from being the mark to THEIR THREAT, at which point they decided to go find another mark.

Train often, train hard, and carry always, as you are not smart enough to know when evil decides you are an easy score. BTW, I know half-a dozen guys who carry most of the time. My experience has fallen on ears that tell me what they would do to the guys who dared tried to do that to them. Talk is cheap. Tough talk is stupid talk.

Training hard in NC

P.S. I got behind the engine block in the carjacking attempt as I pulled into a spot against a wall and they pinned me in at the rear. I know now to always back into a spot as they will pass you buy when they see that you are aware of their actions.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Issue of Intervention

There is much talk both on the internet and in real life about the duty or obligation that comes with carrying a concealed firearm Many times we hear people say things like "If I'm ever where an armed robbery is going down I'll get my gun out and shoot the bad guy dead" or something similar. Is this a good idea? Should our default position be "I'll be a good witness" or should it be "I will stop evil acts at any cost" or something in between? Why do we carry a gun? For some it is protection for themselves and their loved ones. For others it extends to property, other people, and so on. Writer, researcher, and retired police officer Evan Marshall graciously allowed me to re-print one of his commentaries on intervention. Some important things to think about here, presented by a man who truly has been there and done that.

There has been a lot of space devoted in the Stopping Power Message Board and other message boards to the presentation of hypothetical situations and a request for solutions. The problem with such imaginary situations is that there is none of the untidiness and ambiguity that exists in the real world.
Please understand that I’m not ridiculing those who present such situations or those who attempt to solve them. I consider those who post on this board as friends I haven’t met yet. As your friend I feel a moral responsibility to share my observations based on my actual experiences in real incidents. I don’t want to see good guys and gals get their selves in a jam by jumping into situations that are unclear and fraught with danger.
Let me be perfectly frank. Those who think that intervention will bring fame, honors, glory, etc., are delusional. I once prevented the rape of a woman by butt stroking her attacker with a shotgun while he was in the act of penetrating her. Weeks later she made an excessive force complaint against me. She thought I should have been more restrained in my behavior! On another occasion, my partner and I chased a holdup man into a store where he took a woman hostage. He then threatened to kill her (he had just shot two people in a bank and we believed him!). My partner shot the bad guys three times. One of those bullets slightly grazed the woman’s finger and she sued us for endangering her!
If the rescued individual doesn’t make life miserable for you in the courts, they just might kill you. I’m aware of four instances where officers responded to a domestic violence situation and when the wife realized the breadwinner was going to jail she assaulted and killed her would-be rescuers.
My Tac Unit partner and I backed up a precinct unit on a domestic assault arrest. As the husband was being handcuffed the wife disappeared down the hallway. I motioned to my partner and we followed her down the hall with guns drawn. We found her in the bedroom loading a Winchester .30-.30 lever action rifle. We quickly disarmed and cuffed her. As we brought her into the living room a precinct sergeant ordered us to let her go. When we refused to do so, he attempted to remove her from our custody. When told him that if he didn’t back off we would arrest him, he left to complain to our supervisors.
If ingratitude isn’t enough we need to understand that things are almost never what they seem. What appears to be a car jacking may be the attempt by a father to recover a child from a noncustodial mother. Our intervention may not only be ill advised but we may be acting in violation of a court order. The fact that we are unaware of a court order will not save the day.
Even if the situation is exactly as it appears and you’re even in accordance with the law, you need to understand one simple fact-the law is what the local prosecutor says it is. Do you really want to spend 7 years in jail waiting for an appeal to be heard and your conviction overturned?
I once got sued for in excess of $100,000 for handcuffing a suspect. The city settled out of court even though my actions were totally legal. Anybody who read about this settlement in the paper would assume I was guilty of inappropriate behavior or some illegality. The city paid the settlement and provided legal counsel. Had I been acting as a private citizen I would have subjected my family to decades of poverty in order to pay the judgment and attorney fees.
Situations that involve significant injury or death are frightenly expensive. My partners and I were sued for $17.5 million dollars in the fatal shooting of a holdup man. The legal fees alone would have run into seven figures. We were accused of being blood thirsty, trigger-happy racist cops. The media conveniently forgot we had intervened in the severe beating and robbery of an elderly woman.
All that being said and experienced, I continued to intervene. However, people should be reminded I was a cop-it was my job. I spent 20 years going in harms way for total strangers. Would I do that today? Probably not. I no longer have the deep pockets of the City of Detroit behind me. Sound callous? Well, would you be willing to jeopardize everything you own and your family’s security for a total stranger? Would you be willing to lose your home, your cars, and your retirement to play Knight of the Round Table?
Apparently some people are certainly willing to fantasize about intervening in a hypothetical situation. Some may consider this harmless musing, but I find it troubling. Tactical planning involves assessing all the potential problems carefully and realistically looking at the cost of such intervention. Role-playing or gaming looks at it through rose colored glasses and ignores the cold hard reality of a person’s involvement in a deadly force event.
I carry a gun to protect myself and the people I love from the Monsters that roam the earth. When I’m away from those that mean everything to me, I carry so I can return to them. Are there circumstances where I would intervene to help a stranger? Yes, but such intervention would be on my terms at my pace. I am not going to jump into a situation with gun drawn.
Rather I would seek cover and carefully evaluate the totality of the circumstance. When I was convinced I knew what is really going on I would respond with the minimum amount of force necessary whether that required drawing my cell phone or my pistol. If all we have is a pistol we have severely limited options. I carry three pistols, oc, cell phone, and a flashlight, and I am a PPCT Defensive Tactics Instructor. I am willing and trained to respond with the appropriate level of force even if that is “only” a command voice. I understand the force continuum and know what the appropriate level force is in a given situation. Ignorance of such critical parameters can have horrific consequences.
Those who think the mere display of a weapon will stop hostilities are na├»ve in the extreme. The same people we will be confronting know what an appropriate level of force is and when we make outlandish or unjustified threats we’ll show our true colors. These people can tell when we’re serious and we will quickly find ourselves disarmed and in real trouble.
Again, we need to avoid rushing in where Angels fear to tread. Remember the most endangered species is good guys and gals. Go with God.
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