Citizen's Guide to Armed Defense (2015)
CHAPTER ONE: WHY WE ARM
It was seventh grade at middle school. John was a good kid from a good family. Raised in the old-fashioned way, he confronted Karlos, a thug, about some problem or confrontation they had at school. “Let’s meet after school and settle this,” or some other offer to meet outside the gym after soccer practice one day. I was witness as I waited for my mother to pick me up. John squared off and Karlos, who outweighed John by 25 to 50 pounds, moved in for the kill. Karlos picked John up and slammed him to the asphalt. Karlos then drew a shiv, which looked like welding rod stolen from metal shop, and stabbed John in the side.
I don’t remember John’s injuries, but he was bleeding from his wound. He did survive.
Years later, after I became a city police officer, I arrested Karlos for drug trafficking. After his release a few years later, he was present during an officer-involved shooting. When detectives with warrants for his arrest for breaking and entering attempted to take him into custody, a violent subject came out of the house where Karlos was hiding swinging a brush ax, a machete on an ax handle. That man was shot and killed by the two investigators (one of whom was saved from serious injury by the sleeve of his new leather coat).
I’m sure that Karlos is still in the system. Such criminals seldom get “rehabilitated.” They have long ago chosen their life’s path or “vocation” and wake each afternoon with only the thought of getting enough money from crime to satisfy their addictions or predilections. They kick their way into your homes in the middle of the day to commit burglary. They rob you at the ATM at night. And they break into your cars as well as commit heinous assaults and rapes whenever and wherever they chose.
There was no fair fight in the John versus Karlos match-up. Karlos was skilled in fighting and he was armed. John was thinking fistfight. Karlos was thinking felonious assault and had the street experience and the weaponry to make it happen.
Over my 35-year security and police career, I’ve come into countless Karlos types and personalities. They have no plan to work for a living. They only have thoughts of who will be their next victim or prey. They are exceedingly violent. Regardless of previous felony convictions, they are armed with no thought as to their actions other than to evade detection and arrest.
On-duty and off, I carry pepper spray and an expandable baton. Over the years I’ve had operational access to 12 gauge beanbag rounds, 37mm chemical munitions and ECW - electronic control weapons, such as the Taser.
The author has used and does carry less-lethal devices, such as these Kimber Pepper Blaster II OC control devices.
I’ve pepper sprayed suspects, struck them with flashlights and batons, fired barricade penetrating rounds into locations where they were taking refuge, thrown flash-bangs in their homes and rooms to distract them, pointed revolvers, semi-auto pistols, shotguns, sub-machine guns, M4 carbines and .308 sniper rifles at hundreds of folks.
Author routinely carries two handguns off-duty - this Glock 19 with a spare magazine and a S&W MP340 in a DeSantis pocket holster.
And yes, I was involved in a tactical operation that resulted in the death of a criminal suspect firing at our police tactical team with two handguns.
I’m six feet, two inches tall and weigh in excess of 240 lbs. I have trained in the martial arts and suspect control tactics my entire career.
And I still carry at least one gun on my person while off-duty.
You see, I reached the conclusion long ago that violent crime was omnipresent and indiscriminate, that my family or I could be the intended victim of an assault, robbery or burglary at any time, in virtually any place.
This conclusion, which you may have reached as well, was fomented outside an inner-city middle school gymnasium years ago and has been reinforced by dealing with violent offenders and criminal suspects throughout a long career.
If criminal suspects don’t have a second thought about attacking a uniformed police officer - and they don’t - then why do citizens believe they’re immune?
Even at my size, several years ago while wearing civilian clothes heading out for lunch, a crack cocaine addict and convicted felon attempted to rob me. Wearing a facemask and goggles and armed with what appeared to be a small pistol, the suspect mumbled something to me as I opened the door to an elevator lobby on my way outside. Standing six feet away, I saw what I believed to be a .25 auto in his right hand. Knowing I could not “beat the draw” or safely attempt to draw my own pistol without getting shot, I ignored the suspect and walked through the door to the stairway on my left. Once the heavy metal door closed behind me, I drew my pistol, opened the door with my foot, identified myself as an officer and threatened, in no uncertain terms, to blow the suspect’s head off. After the suspect announced, “It’s a toy! It’s a toy!” and put his gun down on my orders, I ordered him prone and handcuffed him. I still remember the face of the woman who walked into the lobby when I was handcuffing the suspect.
The pistol turned out to be a cigarette lighter and the suspect was charged with aggravated robbery. The incident took place about 100 feet from the front doors of the police training bureau where I worked, and which was clearly marked with badge decals and large lettering.
I’m grateful that it was me instead of an elderly or female customer of the bank on the floor above. What shocked me was that several officers in training that day came to me afterwards and admitted that they would have had to hand over their wallets or cash because they had not carried their handgun to work that day.
As I have grown older, I’ve gotten wiser as well. Personal insults and slights I’ll let pass. Aggressive drivers tailgating me, I’ll pull to the side if possible or change lanes and let them go by. Dangerous places? Well, I avoid the types of locations and places where police respond on a regular basis.
“A potential high-risk environment is any place where other people have more control over the variables than you do.”
~Shannon Stallard, as quoted in Eyes Wide Open, Kristie Kilgore, Clinetop Press, 2001
Further, I’ve accepted that I am not as strong, fast or agile as I once was, and realize that I don’t heal as quickly as in my 20s, 30s or even my 40s. My ability to run quickly or fight as hard as I once did have diminished due to long-term sports related injuries and arthritis.
Within arm’s reach in the bedroom, this quick access safe holds a DoubleStar 1911 with Surefire X300 white light, for “things that go bump in the night.”
And I carry at least one gun - as well as other means of self-defense. I don’t want to get involved, I’ll try to be the best witness possible, but if force is necessary to protect my loved ones, myself or innocent citizens, I’m prepared to intercede.
This decision means that my life has changed accordingly. Your decision to be an armed citizen means the same thing. With the rights afforded to us by the 2nd Amendment come the responsibility to:
· know the law,
· be constantly vigilant to our surroundings and the circumstances developing around us,
· be discreet in our carry of firearms,
· be slow to anger and conservative in our willingness to display or threaten with firearms,
· be skilled in the drawing and accurate in our firing,
· be prepared for the police response and orders to disarm and submit to their custody and control,
· be educated about our legal rights and the criminal justice process post-shooting, and the liabilities - financial, political and more - to which we may be exposed, and
· understand that there may be critical incident stress which causes us and our families grief unless it is dealt with.
To be an armed citizen is to understand that continued preparation, study, training and practice are required. This decision should not be entered into lightly.
DON’T BE A VICTIM
Shaeffer, my uniformed police patrol partner, and I turned the street corner in our patrol car on a summer evening. Our patrol district was the most violent and crime-ridden in the city, filled with dopers, hookers, violent criminals, gang members and other miscreants. What we witnessed was an older male getting the living hell kicked out of him by a gang of “youths.” Kicked in the head, the victim was already holding some of his teeth in his hand as he spit up blood. Once down on the ground he was continually stomped and kicked in the body and head, as is the way on the mean streets. You get knocked down or fall and they’ll put the boot to you.
Shaeff and I jumped out of our cruiser and chased after the suspects. My partner caught two and I believe I caught two as well, with one or two getting away that night. EMS was called and the victim transported to the emergency room. We interviewed the arrested subjects, who readily gave up their partners who got away, and signed warrants for their arrest.
At the preliminary hearing, we met the victim in the hallway. His head was shaven and he had the most hideous incision line on his scalp, which was still held together with staples. The suspect’s kicks and stomps had resulted in the victim’s brain swelling and emergency surgery to save his life.
Not being a victim is comprised of many components, including armed defense.
Neal was the 14-year-old son of a woman who was imprisoned for murder. Neal’s grandmother was in prison for murder as well (another case/another victim). Neal was staying in a foster home when he was suspended from school for some stupid infraction. Angry at the world, Neal took a stolen .22 caliber revolver upstairs to the room of a two-year-old infant, also in the custody of the foster mother of the home. Holding the crib pad next to two-year-old Jamarian’s head, he fired one round into the brain of the infant, killing him. In an attempt to hide his crime, he turned and fired one round out through the inside wall of the apartment causing the three boys standing outside to scatter and run.
When Shaeff and I received the call and arrived on scene, my partner went upstairs to check on the infant while I interviewed the family downstairs and broadcast descriptions of the suspects the family believed had fired into the home striking the boy in his crib.
When detectives arrived on scene and interviewed Neal, they quickly informed us that he had been the one who assassinated his foster brother. Neal was arrested and convicted and served several years for his crime (I believe it was around eight years in a juvenile correctional facility).
The epilogue to the story is that, upon his release, Neal attempted an armed robbery at a local bank. This time a security guard in line behind him drew his concealed handgun and shot Neal several times. He survived but was convicted of the attempted armed robbery and gun specs and sent to the prison for big boys this time. Unknown if Neal is still incarcerated at this time.
Seldom do criminals choose victims who look like they can or would fight back. Indeed, a study was done years ago by researchers Betty Grayson and Morris Stein. They filmed members of the general public walking along a city street. They then showed the film to 53 inmates incarcerated for violent crimes and asked them to rate how easy it would be to attack the person.
Women were rated as easier to victimize than men, older persons were rated as easier to victimize than younger ones. Interestingly, body posture, clothes, and whether the person walking down the street had their head down or up paying attention, were identified by the incarcerated criminals as aspects making the victims seem easier to assault or attack.
In “How the way we walk can increase risk of being mugged” (5 November 2013), BBC correspondent Tom Stafford writes that researchers at the University of Canterbury, in New Zealand, conducted a more thorough test. What the researchers found was that people could reduce their perceived vulnerability to attack by modifying their gait, posture and other body language (Victim Selection and Kinematics: A Point-Light Investigation of Vulnerability to Attack; Gunns, Johnston, Hudson; Journal of Nonverbal Behavior; September 2002, Volume 26, Issue 3, pp 129 - 158).
These studies and others clearly indicate that criminals don’t want to work very hard at victimizing innocent citizens. They pick out the easiest targets - older, infirmed or disabled, and those who are seemingly inattentive to their surroundings.
A 90-year-old Stockton, California, woman was beaten and robbed in her own garage. The elderly woman found a man in the garage of her home. The suspect grabbed her and covered her mouth and nose, rendering her unconscious. After she blacked out, the suspect entered her home and stole her wallet. She was treated for injuries including a broken nose and bruises to her mouth.
Compare that case to the following.
Three teenage home invaders kick their way through the rear door of a home in Detroit. The female homeowner is armed with a 9mm carbine, she tells them she has a gun and orders the men out of her home. They tell her she’s bluffing and doesn’t have a gun, at which point she starts shooting. The suspects make a mad dash to exit, but one, armed with a handgun, attempts to reenter the house. With two young children in the home to defend, the woman opens fire once again, driving the suspects away. The event was captured on video of surveillance cameras installed after the home was burglarized a few weeks before.
You have elected, by becoming an armed citizen, to assume control over your and your family’s personal safety and protection. Yes, we work in concert with law enforcement officers to maintain the peace, and if time permits and the situation allows, to apprehend suspects who threaten us or others. However, we are not naïve as to the timeliness of the police response.
Police officers love to arrest bad guys and to stop assaults or other victimization of innocent citizens before they happen. That is what cops live for. Unfortunately, as the saying goes, “When seconds count, police are minutes away.” This truism is even worse in this day and age when most law enforcement agencies, especially in cities, are inadequately staffed. Proactive and preventative patrolling by police officers is essentially nonexistent. Patrol officers respond from call to call with little time for crime suppression. Further, they seldom patrol in the quieter areas of town because the trouble spots in their districts demand so much attention.
You, your family and friends cannot depend on the police to protect you or to respond in time to save you. Further, as society has withdrawn more and more behind closed doors and windows, don’t expect much more than someone, anonymously because they don’t want to get involved, calling 911 and reporting some kind of “problem.”
Taking control of your safety includes keeping your head in the game and scanning for danger.
In inner cities it is even worse. What you can expect in the city is that several people will whip out their cell phone cameras to record a video of the incident. Although video recording is a fairly new phenomenon, ignoring pleas for help or another citizen being attacked is hardly new.
In 1964 in Queens, New York, 28 year old Catherine “Kitty” Genovese was stabbed to death near her home. Reports at the time indicated that despite her screams and pleas for help, “Oh my God, he stabbed me! Help me! Help me!” her neighbors ignored her. This bystander effect has become known as the “Genovese Syndrome.” We can see multiple incidents where this has occurred.
In 2012, customers at a convenience store in Kalamazoo, Michigan, step over and ignore a male victim as he lies on the floor at the store’s entrance doors for five minutes.
2011 in New York City in the Borough of Brooklyn, Maksim Gelman stabs eight victims, killing four. Aboard a subway train, he is seen by two officers riding in the conductor’s cab. Gelman then stabs a passenger before the intended victim tackles and takes the suspect to the ground in full view of the officers. The suspect continues to stab the victim in the back of the head before the officers finally get involved. The City of New York maintains that it has no “special duty” to protect the victim, even though the assault took place in full view of the officers.
Just so you know that there are still some good people out there and possibly some hope for humanity, in March 2014, SEPTA (Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority) Police Officer Ronald Jones was attacked by a suspect who had claimed he had a gun. When the suspect grabbed onto Officer Jones’ duty pistol, two passengers jumped in and helped restrain the suspect.
In loss and crime prevention, we are told about the value of hardening our businesses and homes to be less easily targeted by criminals. It is suggested that we improve the doors, locks and lighting, install alarm systems and make it harder for criminals to hide their activities by removing landscaping shrubs and trees. We are told that garages and storage sheds should be locked, serial numbers of mowers, tillers, chainsaws and other more expensive lawn care equipment recorded and inscribed with our names or other identifying marks to be more easily recovered if stolen.
These are all sound suggestions for businesses and our houses, but target hardening can be applied to our persons as well.
When applied to the armed citizen, being a “hard target” includes carrying proper safety equipment.
First of all, we should research unfamiliar places we intend to travel to or do business. If we are planning a trip to a store or business in a town or section of a city of which we have limited or no knowledge, then we spend a few minutes online checking the place out. Available to everyone are satellite maps that show parking and the general area surrounding a restaurant, store or theatre we want to visit. A web search can quickly yield news reports of crime in the district or area around our intended location. As an example, my lovely wife likes to take the grandkids to the local zoo. She knows a safe route to the zoo and also knows that I have conducted narcotics operations in many of the depressed, crime ridden housing areas nearby. She does not venture off the beaten path and has her “Spidey sense” set to a higher level when she drives back and forth. If her husband had not given her directions and warnings, she would be ignorant to the risks unless she spent some time learning the area or asking someone who had been there.
Target hardening applied to you means being aware of potential attack.
Nationally known firearms instructor Tom Givens from RangeMaster firearms training center in Memphis, Tennessee, did an excellent training DVD for the Personal Defense Network several years ago, “Lessons from the Street.” In the DVD, Givens recounted ten armed encounters his students had experienced over the last few years (RangeMaster has had over 50 involved in armed encounters). Surprising to many is the number of encounters that took place at shopping malls, which normally have hundreds if not thousands of shoppers and store employees in and around the parking areas.
What you need to understand is that thieves, muggers, carjackers, rapists and just opportunistic criminals flock to these locations as well. Why is that? Because that’s where the victims, the prey these criminals seek, are located. Shoppers who are loaded down with bags, tired after trekking around the miles of mall space and inattentive to their environment, focused on everything from getting home to getting off their feet. With scant or no attention paid to what’s going on, or who’s around them, they sally forth to or from their vehicles.
Criminals on the other hand, are hyper-aware. Their “antennas” are up as they scan the area looking for potential victims as well as police presence. They attempt to appear innocuous and non-threatening as they maneuver and approach their intended victim. Within arm’s reach they attack, assault or rob quickly and aggressively. The object is to psychologically or physically, or both, knock their victim on their heels so that they never have the time or the inclination to form a self-defense strategy. Their gun or knife will be out, displayed or threatened; they will grab, punch or kick their victim. The idea in such cases is ambush - to commit the crime as quickly as possible. Many, if not most, are under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of their criminal acts.
The armed citizen must also consider mentally ill subjects who wander about society. Many of the “street people” who wander about our inner city - panhandling, drinking, consuming street drugs and committing crimes - are often mentally ill subjects off their medications. Years ago when many mental institutions were closed because of the effectiveness of psychotropic medications in controlling mental illness, these subjects were reintroduced into society. On effective meds and not abusing alcohol or self-medicating with street drugs, they can be productive members of society. The problem is that these subjects oftentimes stop taking their meds and gravitate to the street, where they may experience delusions, paranoia, hallucinations and other mental issues. “In crisis,” these subjects can victimize innocent citizens and may have frequent police contact. Crisis Intervention Teams of specially trained officers can help intervene, calm and direct the mentally ill to emergency mental health centers and facilities. Sometimes this requires involuntary mental commitment by force. CIT members have “kinetic energy impact munitions” (12 gauge, 37 or 40mm impact projectiles) which they can fire or the Taser, ECW - Electronic Control Weapon. If reason, de-escalation or verbal control strategies don’t work, officers forcefully control the subject.
Have less lethal options available for non-deadly threats, such as this OC spray.
A long term violent and mentally ill man was seen brandishing a knife in each hand in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in 2014. When APD officers attempted to have the man voluntarily disarm over a period of two hours and he refused, they attempted non-deadly control by distracting him with a flash-bang and firing a Taser XREP - eXtended Range Electronic Projectile - round at him, which also failed. A police K9 attempted to engage the subject who raised his knives and was within several feet of the K9 handler when he was shot and killed by police.
There are also those drug-crazed subjects experiencing drug induced “excited delirium.” Drug use and/or mentally ill subjects experiencing ExDS (Excited Delirium Syndrome) can become aggressive towards citizens, run through traffic, smash windows, and frequently take off their clothes due to the hypothermic effects of this condition. They can smash their way through windows and into the homes of innocent citizens. They can be very aggressive and very hard to control even for properly trained and equipped police officers.
A call of a crazed man running amuck through a quiet residential neighborhood results in two police vehicles being dispatched. As officers drive down the street, a naked man is seen running directly at the first police vehicle. Instead of stopping and calling for help, the man runs up and over the hood, roof and trunk of the cruiser. The second patrol vehicle is driven by a female sergeant who sees this naked apparition run over the marked police car in front of her, before he materializes at the driver’s door of her car, banging on the window. She sees a knife in the man’s hand just a second before the window explodes inward. She draws and fires killing the subject. Blood tests performed postmortem reveal the subject was under the influence of psychedelic mushrooms.
Being armed, or ready, means that you have the ability to offer a more effective defense than hope or luck. Unarmed defense is more limited and dependent. When confronted with a deadly threat, i.e. a man with a knife or gun, you may be able to use deadly force to protect yourself, your family or friends. Unarmed in such a situation means that you can run away, hide or bunker, and possibly engage in empty-hand tactics against the attacker’s weapon. These are dependent in large extent on your age, physical abilities and training. Certainly an armed man must have training and is always more able to defend himself if he is in good aerobic and anaerobic shape, but many a strong and fit man has been felled by a shot to the back while running away, fired from an out-of-shape and lazy armed criminal.
Awareness allows the detection and avoidance of trouble and the possible subsequent necessity of having to draw or fire your firearm.
One of the worst impediments to safety and survival is the smart phone and texting. Pay attention to your surroundings. Don’t be an easy victim.
Awareness and self-defense preparation is a lifestyle and requires constant vigilance. Certainly you can back down your “Spidey sense” when safely locked behind the doors of your domicile. That is until something happens to activate your personal warning system once again. Imagine you are sitting in your Barcalounger in your basement den, watching a ball game or your favorite TV show, when you hear tires screeching and glass breaking outside. You look outside to see a male subject bail out of the passenger seat of a car that has just smashed into your neighbor’s car across the street, and he is now running toward your house. Where are the other members of your household? Are the kids upstairs in their rooms or with you? Are you armed? If not, how close is your firearm? Is it loaded? Where’s the phone to call 911?
Using your senses, you are aware of the sights and sounds and you quickly process these and make decisions or not.
You may be caught off guard and unprepared or never having thought about the possibility that a bad man may try to hurt or endanger you or yours. Right, now…
Awareness can be dialed up or down according to the environment, stimulus, people and activity going on around you. Last night I met my wife for dinner at a decent restaurant across town after she finished working. As I pulled into the parking lot, I surveyed the general area looking at cars and for people on foot. The car that turned into the lot in front of me and parked was occupied by a single white male, who exited his car and walked southbound to the business next door to the restaurant. About 50 years old with gray head, glasses and a full beard, he had nothing in his hands, a white t-shirt and blue jeans. I walked toward the front doors of the restaurant. A single female was walking towards me. Well dressed and not carrying anything, I held the door for her as she entered and went directly to the woman’s restroom to the right in the foyer. Employees were standing around the front desk and coffee/cappuccino area. I paused and looked around the restaurant for my wife. Not seeing her directly, I asked and was told by the hostess that a single female was sitting to the right. I scanned the dining area and saw no obvious threats and ascertained that the female was not my wife. Taking a couple steps to the right of a partition, I saw my wife sitting at a booth against the wall. In the general area was a middle-aged couple directly in front of me, two booths away and what appeared to be a man, his wife and his elderly father to my left.
How close is your firearm? How readily accessible?
I was armed with a Glock 19, 9mm auto in a Raven Phantom concealment holster underneath my short-sleeved shirt worn outside my pants. On my left hip, I had a spare 15 round mag stoked with Speer Gold Dot hollow points. In my right front pants pocket a DeSantis Nemesis Pocket holster was a Smith and Wesson, M&P340 five shot revolver loaded with .38 special Gold Dot rounds. Five spare .38 rounds of the same load were in a Bianchi Speed Strip in my left front pants pocket.
Every person who walked into our dining area or into the restaurant past me received my attention. Despite what some might consider paranoia, I enjoyed a relaxing dining experience with my wife. As we departed the restaurant I scouted the parking area once again and walked her to her car, which was next to mine. I opened and closed her door before walking around and entering mine.
This is the attention and awareness that you must have. Compare that to the standard diner or unarmed citizen who keeps his head down or buried in his smart phone the entire meal.
“Awareness repels violence, fear attracts it”
~Waking the Tiger Within, Scott Flint, 2001
I am constantly amazed of those police officers I see who don’t constantly scan their environment and what comes into it. Just a couple of days ago I walked into a classroom of police officers attending in-service training. Not one looked over at me as I entered the room. Sadly too many police officers believe that “it,” a violent encounter or attack, won’t happen to “them.” First of all, like the citizens videotaped and shown to incarcerated criminals we mentioned earlier, unaware police officers are more inviting targets. In a study conducted by the FBI and published a few years ago, Killed in the Line of Duty (Uniform Crime Reports Section; Federal Bureau of Investigation; United States Department of Justice; 1992), the story of cop killer Edward is recounted. Edward and his two associates had already performed an armed robbery prior to the traffic stop, which was for traffic violations:
As you enter and exit your vehicle, are you ready for an armed assault? Have you ever trained to shoot from inside a vehicle?
“After the officer stopped the vehicle, Edward opened the door of his car and walked back to the officer’s car. Asking the officer why he stopped their vehicle, the officer responded that Edward was to go back to his car and wait there. During this verbal exchange, Edward noted that the officer was “speaking into his radio” and not paying attention to what Edward was doing. When Edward finally returned to the car in which he was a passenger, he told the individual in the backseat of the car to “get ready…something is going to happen…someone is going to get hurt.”
“Edward reportedly walked back to the officer’s car and stood to the side of the seated officer. Edward stated that when he arrived at the side of the car, the officer was “still looking at the radio when he was talking into the microphone. He didn’t see me come to the car. He then looked up out of the corner of his eye for a fraction of a second and saw I had a gun. I shot him once in the chest and went back to the car.”
Here was a police officer who lost track of the awareness level required by his job as a law enforcement officer. He entered into this traffic stop encounter with a “misdemeanor mindset” as it is known in LE. Because he stopped the subjects for a traffic violation, he thought that’s all the risk they represented. Truth is, he had no knowledge about the armed robbery they had just committed or the weapons they possessed.
As he sat, inattentive behind the wheel of his patrol car, he was being sized up by a violent criminal and didn’t even know it. His lack of attention indicated to Edward that he was a seemingly easy mark who offered no real threat.
Police officers are constantly distracted by the in-car computer terminals and are often texting while on the job. Heed cop murderer “Eddie’s” words!
Sadly many officers are lulled into a false sense of security or complacency. After nothing much happens during traffic stops and other suspect encounters, officers begin to think that nothing will happen. Former L.A.P.D. Captain Pierce Brooks was one of the detectives involved in the investigation of the killing of LAPD Officer Ian Campbell in what would become known as the Onion Field incident. Brooks wrote the seminal book “…officer down, code three.” (1975; Motorola Teleprograms, Inc.). In the incident described above, we find several of the deadly errors Brooks mentions are demonstrated by the victim officer: apathy, taking a bad position, missing the danger signs, failure to watch their hands, relaxing too soon, and preoccupation.
Oftentimes an officer, with luck, gets away with making one or two errors, but to do so places the officer’s very life in the hands of a suspect.
VIGILANCE VS. APATHY
As a citizen in general and an armed citizen specifically, you cannot afford to become apathetic, develop a poor attitude or one that results in you being inattentive, lackadaisical, dismissive or unprepared. You must operate in Condition Yellow as Colonel Jeff Cooper so eloquently described the mental state wherein you constantly scan your environment for threats.
If you were behind the wheel, we would describe this mental process as defensive driving. We don’t just scan or drive based on the bumper of the car in front of us. We scan the roadway ahead looking for potential hazards and threats because, as our vehicle moves forward, depending on what speed we are traveling, we will soon be in that space. Failure to maintain a clear distance to the car in front means that we fail to allow enough time and space to react and respond to threats.
Deadly force encounters can happen anywhere, just like motor vehicle accidents. Scan your surroundings, and give yourself adequate time and space to react and respond.
We must instead stay sharp and constantly play those when/then games in our head. When that subject attacks, then I will draw my pistol as I move off the attack line toward cover. When a criminal suspect attempts to break into my home, then I will access my firearm, move myself and my family members to safety and cover, verbally challenge and order them to stop, call or have a family member call 911 and summon the police.
You must seek a solid position that allows you to view your surroundings and people who are around you. This has become known as the “gunfighter’s seat” in law enforcement and armed self-defense. If you position yourself with your back to the entrance or people, you cannot adequate evaluate them as potential threats. You want to know what opportunities for cover and concealment are in your area of operation, as well as entrances and exits. Identify other rooms you can retreat to for cover, such as the restaurant kitchen. If an armed threat suddenly appears, have you thought out where you can move and what options you have?
Properly position yourself at work or in public to minimize attacks from unseen attackers.
Terry, an off-duty police officer, and his wife are sitting at a restaurant in an adjoining city enjoying dinner when a man, armed with a shotgun, enters the restaurant and kills the bartender with a blast from his shotgun. The shooter and victim are part of a lover’s triangle, and the shooter is an employee of the restaurant as well. The shooter jumps over the bar, pulls a sheath knife and scalps his victim before running out of the restaurant. Terry gives chase and fires his off-duty pistol at the suspect who is driving through the parking lot getting away.
Unfortunately, Terry’s off-duty pistol is a .380 which, with the ammunition he carried at that time, had insufficient energy to penetrate the passenger compartment of the van to strike the suspect. One of Terry’s rounds does cause sufficient damage to the mechanics of the engine so that the van dies on the highway soon after. The suspect simply lies in the median, puts his hands behind his head and waits until police find and arrest him.
Oftentimes, what police have equated as “police intuition or gut instinct” is the subconscious processing of non-verbal communication. With experience, they come to recognize postures, movements, stances, facial patterns and other non-verbal signals as clues to potential attack or attempted escape.
As an example, when dealing with street suspects my partner and I became familiar with what we called the “warrant dance.” What this means is that a suspect who has warrants out for his arrest will act nervous or “dance” around. When we observed this, we would take more control of the suspect depending on the circumstances. We would have the suspect sit down or further limit their ability to attempt escape by running. Many times our “gut instinct” based on their non-verbal movements and posture would turn out to be true when we ran them for warrants. These danger signs can be missed or misinterpreted by the inexperienced.
Consider the example of an aggressive driver behind you in traffic. I’m sure you’ve had another driver behind you looking to pass or attempting to get you to move over to allow them to go by. If you don’t comply, the driver may have escalated his actions by turning on his headlights; this may progress to closing the distance between his front bumper and your vehicle. He may veer to the left, to get you to move over and let him pass. If the driver continues to escalate, he may begin to flash his lights or beep his horn at you. As he begins to tailgate dangerously close and perhaps slips into road rage, you may see him raise his middle finger at you, become red faced and start screaming, even leaning out of the driver’s window cursing at you.
This behavior may even escalate to violence such as ramming your car in an extreme road rage incident, and possibly even a physical assault if the driver runs up to your vehicle with or without a weapon.
Of course, the safest thing for you to do is to allow him to pass.
In this example we see that there has been an increasingly violent flow to the incident. The subject becomes increasingly violent as he loses control and becomes aggravated or angry, much like the mercury in a thermometer rises to indicate increasing temperature. Verbal loss of control may lead to physical loss of control and then to violence.
KEEPING UP YOUR GUARD
Just because your walk through the mall lot or the parking deck on the way into work was uneventful, doesn’t mean you can lower your guard or relax too soon. Criminals are like sharks in the ocean. When sharks seek out their prey, they move in and out to see what the target’s response will be. If no violent defense is perceived, the shark moves in for the kill. Criminals do the same thing. Serial killer Ted Bundy was a good-looking young man who, through a smile and friendly dialogue, could disarm his potential victims. He didn’t look like a killer in his victim’s eyes. What we have come to know is that there is no “look” or type to a psychotic individual or violent criminal.
Assumptions, based on appearance and seemingly innocuous behavior, are extremely dangerous. Many violent sociopaths control their voice and body language, and come across as non-threatening to disarm their prey, much like the poisonous predator in nature which appears to be harmless, thus hiding its true nature.
Troy Kell is an inmate incarcerated, at the time of this writing, in Utah’s death row. Kell was in prison after he was convicted of another murder. He became a white supremacist gang leader. In the documentary ‘Gladiator Days: Anatomy of a Prison Murder’ we see the handsome and charismatic Kell blame the world for his troubles after he and another white inmate plan and perpetrate the attack and stabbing murder of a black inmate. Captured on prison video we see Kell brutally stab his victim 67 times in the face, head and neck as his cohort pins the victim’s legs to the floor. Amazingly Kell receives numerous marriage proposals from women while on trial.
WATCH THEIR HANDS
As you scan subjects who come into your environment, you must learn to watch their hands. A subjects hands or more specifically what is in their hands are what can kill you. In our tragic story of the police officer killed by Edward covered above, we read that the suspect was able to get within arm’s reach of officer with gun in hand before he was detected. Sadly far too many citizens today are more interested in their smart phones or conversations on their cells to pay attention to people around them, let alone what is in their hands.
A common street strategy for attackers is to conceal their handgun in their hand held behind the same side thigh. Approaching a victim in this way, the thug only need raise the pistol to fire or threaten you at gunpoint. Most people don’t pay attention to the hidden hand whether it is held behind the thigh as in this manner, inside the front pocket of a hooded sweatshirt, under the front of an oversized shirt in the appendix area, or inside the pocket of a coat.
Most criminals do not utilize holsters. They will “Mexican carry” a handgun by stuffing it into their waistband or will put it in a pocket. In urban areas where belts are not often worn, a hand may be needed to keep his pants up as the weight of the pistol pulls them down.
Street savvy police officers understand that criminals, and even legally armed citizens who don’t carry often or are not used to carrying a handgun concealed, will give physical “tells,” little gesticulations and movements that experienced officers have come to recognize. These include readjusting the belt or the holster on the belt, making sure the lower hem of the concealing garment is covering the bottom of the holster, etc. Once, while working undercover narcotics on a surveillance of a dope house, I could tell from a block and a half away that a suspect was armed as he ran back and forth from a car into the house. When I broadcast the vehicle description to my uniformed partners, I told them, “The back seat passenger has a gun in the front of his waistband.” When the vehicle was stopped, at gunpoint, the backseat passenger came a hair’s breadth of getting shot as he had removed the pistol from his waistband and held his hand inside the car, despite the officer’s verbal challenges to “Show me your hands!” Fortunately for him, he dropped the pistol to the floor of the backseat and raised his hand.
By walking toward a victim with a hand hidden by clothing or body part, the attacker is minimizing the time necessary to “get the drop” on a victim. Depending on the totality of the circumstances, such as location, environment, body language, and pre-encounter behaviors, it may be prudent to verbally challenge a threatening subject with a hidden hand. If the person refuses to stop, it may be reasonable to place your hand on your concealed handgun, draw to low ready or even to challenge at gunpoint. This does not mean that you should challenge every person with their hands stuffed into their coat pockets on a cold winter’s day. It does mean that a threatening subject moving aggressively towards you with a hand behind his thigh or hidden in a coat pocket may represent a threat to you, and certainly represents a concern that must be challenged.
There are many potential distractions in our everyday life - children, cell phones, etc. - that are competing for our attention. We must not allow ourselves to become preoccupied with these distractions to the point that we fail to monitor our environment and potential or emerging threats.
Even the late, great Bruce Lee could have been beaten if he was sucker punched by an unseen attacker because he was busy texting. Next time you are in an urban area, or any area, watch how many walkers or joggers use ear buds or headphones. With music blaring they may get a brief respite from their everyday world, but lost in their walk or run they may not hear warning signs as a threat approaches them.
A police officer responded to a men’s clothing store when the burglar alarm activated. Lulled into a false sense of security (“It’ll never happen to me” and “This is just another false alarm”), he was so preoccupied by shopping for pants for himself that he didn’t see the armed burglar until the suspect stepped out from behind a pillar and shot the officer with a .25 semi-auto pistol, wounding him. I ran into that officer years later walking a beat. The .38 rounds in the cartridge loops on his belt were green with corrosion. Apparently he failed to learn any lessons from his near death confrontation.
There are many reasons why we arm ourselves for personal and home defense. In a recent case out of Detroit, the white male driver of a pick-up truck pulled over to check out a young juvenile black male who he just struck with his vehicle. The juvenile and some friends were playing “chicken,” stepping in front of on-coming cars and then stepping back quickly to see how close they could come. The driver pulled over in concern and was quickly attacked by a group standing in a convenience store lot where the incident occurred. The driver was beaten so severely that he was in a comatose state for nine days. A retired black female nurse lay across the victim’s body to keep him from getting further beaten. The nurse had more than good intentions to stop the attack against this innocent man - she was armed with a .38 in her purse and was determined to use it if need arose.
If the victim had been legally armed and so attacked or threatened with serious bodily harm by the four men who would subsequently be arrested for the felonious assault, he would have been legally justified in threatening, displaying or using deadly force to stop the attack.
Detroit has become so violent and the police department so busy and understaffed that the Chief of Police of that city has recommended that citizens arm themselves. Liberals and firearm control advocates are aghast. Of course, they weren’t there when the victim was beaten and all they could have done is call 911, not act valiantly like the armed retired heroine did.
We’ll close out this chapter with an incident I experienced as a young boy. It left a lasting impression on me.
I witnessed my first shooting at the approximate age of ten. I had just walked out the front door of my parent’s home in a nice quiet residential neighborhood. I heard sirens and vehicles traveling at a fast rate of speed coming down the street above our home. A large four-door sedan, a Cadillac I believe, screeched down and around the corner in front of me, lost control and blasted through the white wooden fence of our neighbors across the street. The sedan careened across the next neighbor’s yard to my right and slammed into a tree. The white male driver jumped from the driver’s door carrying a white pillowcase in his left hand and what looked like a P08 Luger in his right hand. My uncle had one, so the profile of the pistol was familiar to me. The suspect ran eastbound through the yard.
Another vehicle, an unmarked police car, drove up the driveway, hot after the suspect. A black male detective jumped from his car, yelled, “Halt!” stopped and fired one shot from his snub revolver, two handed, and missed the suspect.
David, an older and more knowledgeable boy and neighbor a couple doors down from my parents, yelled at me to get back. Nothing doing, heck, this was drama unfolding in front of me. The fact that I could get shot was the furthest thing from my mind!
The suspect, a bank robber who had committed an armed robbery of a bank in the city to our north, had been leading that city’s police on a high-speed chase since his crime. The chase led into my city where our police had picked it up.
The robber ran east, crossed the street southbound and hid next to a storage shed in a backyard about four houses to the southeast. As he hid next to the shed a police officer walked past him, then spun and arrested him at gunpoint. Fortunately for the officer, he was not shot in the back as he failed to check the side of the shed.
I remember walking over later and looking at the suspect’s getaway car. It was shot full of holes. Apparently police from both agencies had fired countless rounds at the fleeing vehicle, yet the suspect was not hit and his car kept running.
Yes, the detective missed the robber who was running away from him at an angle. Distances were probably 50 feet or more. But this was at a time (circa 1970) when police firearms training was rudimentary and based on static PPC - Police Pistol Competition. Police “tactical” training and what would become known as the “officer survival” movement was years away. The 1970s were a violent era for law enforcement, and prior to the advent and widespread issuance of modern body armor.
Sunny summer afternoons in Middle America are hardly the location where police gunfights erupt on a regular basis, but it happened on this day. I include this incident to show how random violence can be. One minute you’re walking across a front lawn, the next an armed suspect is crashing into a tree in front of you and police are shooting.