Citizen's Guide to Armed Defense (2015)
CHAPTER TWO: THE THREAT
Two 9-year-old girls in my elementary school were killed by a psychopath on 17 May 1971. We had been handed out “Glow” plastic recycle bags in school, which we were supposed to fill with recyclable materials like newspapers or tin cans. The girls had gone to a home in the neighborhood. Their murderer, 27 year old Kenneth Lykens, abducted the girls and murdered them by stabbing them multiple times. Lykens then dumped their bodies in a ditch next to a roadway seven miles away. This incident impacted me such that, 43 years later, I still recall a childhood friend and I sitting on the playground the day after the girls were reported missing, theorizing about where the girls could be. I was ten years old. Innocence lost.
Frequently my wife will look at me after an incident of severe brutality has occurred and is reported on the TV news. “Explain to me, who could do such a thing?” she’ll ask. “It’s evil babe. How else can you explain it? It’s just evil,” I’ll say. Indeed, when looked at from a normal, well-adjusted person’s view, we cannot fathom how or why someone would do such a thing. There may be psychological terms, such as psychotic, maladjusted, paranoid, violence control issues, on and on, but in the end, does it really matter? Is it not enough that we simply accept that A) Such people exist (for whatever reason), and B) We need to protect ourselves, family and loved ones against them?
If we start looking at motive, we can begin to wonder whether somehow they are not responsible for their own actions. We can make excuses that their family, society, abusive potty training, whatever, “made” them. The truth is that, whatever race, socio-economic or single-parent household they come from, the vast majority of people who come from a similar background don’t turn out to be sociopathic violent thugs, robbers, rapists or killers. Instead, the majority of folks are law-abiding, contributing members of society. Further, according to criminologists, by and large crime does not cross socio-economic or racial lines; whites are more likely to be victimized by whites, blacks by blacks, and so on.
As a street police officer in a crime ridden minority district, I found that the vast majority of citizens in the area were honest, law-abiding and supported law enforcement.
As part of our drug control strategy in one particular neighborhood during the middle of the crack cocaine wars in the early 90s, my street narcotics unit conducted drug “reversals” where undercover officers (UCs) portrayed drug dealers. When customers approached our UCs and solicited them for drugs, marked police cars and officers would swoop in and arrest them. After an evening of aggressive enforcement and one particular short vehicle pursuit, a voice called out from the darkness of the housing project, “Thank you!”
Dope and money meant guns and violence in the middle of the crack cocaine wars.
Narcotics trafficking is not a non-violent criminal activity.
These neighbors and residents are imprisoned in their homes at night behind burglar bars on their windows and alarms. And yes, many of them are armed citizens who understand that the ability to defend themselves with deadly force is necessary when confronted with violent armed criminals.
Robert was a career military man who had recently retired. Although he admitted to owning a shotgun for home defense, he was against concealed carry, calling me and other armed citizens “Jack Bauer” wannabes, in several online discussions. Robert retired from military service and returned to the States with his wife and family. One night he and his wife were walking the family dog on a pleasant evening. Robert spied two men across the street and his gut told him that they were up to no good. The men approached Robert and his wife. Robert is a big strapping and powerful man and told his wife to walk away back the way they had come as he covered her withdrawal. The men got within striking distance. As one approached from the front, the other flanked Robert and “sucker punched” him.
Robert fled and soon realized he was bleeding from the side of the head. He had not been punched but rather stabbed in the side of the head. Fortunately he did not lose his eye or his life.
Far too many people are like Robert. They want to believe that people are fundamentally good and that violent crime is something you only read about in the papers or watch on the news. It is no surprise that Robert chose to retire to the State of California where concealed carry, at this time, is reserved strictly for politicians, celebrities, the wealthy and the politically connected. Let us hope that those laws, based on recent court rulings, soon change.
The threat we are talking about is very real. Although we maintain alertness and awareness and hope we never have to resort to force to defend ourselves, we accept that evil men and violence exists. We legally arm ourselves with the capability to defend our life with deadly force through firearms. We have less-lethal alternatives available as well, such as pepper spray, a Taser or impact weapon, understanding that we are more likely to need these than deadly force.
Working as a Deputy Sheriff assigned to corrections early in my police career, I learned that although many inmates could be cordial, polite and want to be your “buddy” (even Class A seriously violent offenders), they were all doing it to get something from you, such as preferential treatment or the smallest thing such as turning a TV on early or off later. I was always polite and professional with them but I never forgot the threat they represented.
Gary was 17 years old at the time of his arrest for rape and multiple other charges. A serial burglar, he had raped an elderly woman and was on the run for some time before his arrest. He was cunning and devious and would walk over anyone to get what he wanted. He was segregated from the mainstream population until he was convicted. One evening he and I were talking as he was inside the “tank” (a separate section of the floor where Gary was housed which had a shower and phone). There was a small door or lockable port in the door into the office I was manning. Gary was waiting to use the phone and he had his head, right arm and right shoulder through the port. As we were talking, another Deputy asked Gary if he thought he could get through the port in the door and into the office. Gary said, “Yep. If I can get my shoulders through, I can get my body through (his stint as a serial burglar providing him the experience). It was clear to me that Gary would try to escape if given the opportunity.
Some months later, Gary and another inmate successfully escaped from the jail. Gary was the mastermind. In the weight room at the jail, which was monitored by civilian employees, Gary and the other inmate beat the civilian into unconsciousness, put on his clothing and then used a bar from the weight equipment to break through the locks (with other inmates slamming weights to cover the noise) and into the catwalk area. They broke through the metal screens covering the exterior windows and broke through the glass. At this time a deputy happened to look into the weight room and put out an alarm. Jumping from the window, they looked like two joggers running through the streets and into an alleyway. Unfortunately their getaway driver had parked his car too far away and a member of my police department apprehended the men at gunpoint.
Gary was 17 at the time of his arrest. He was intelligent, cunning and an extremely violent man with absolutely no remorse. There is no doubt in my mind that Gary would have killed a police officer to escape or evade arrest. There is also no doubt that Gary would have killed an innocent citizen to commit a burglary or other crime. At the time of this writing, Gary is still incarcerated serving the remainder of his 87-year sentence on the 18 felonies, including four First Degree violations. The parole board will determine if he is eligible for earlier release.
TYPES OF ATTACK
We will examine two different types of attack and how you can be alerted to developing violence. In the first, an attacker perceives that you, a family member or companion, car, home or property, are open to attack, theft or other criminal act. They may commit a crime in the spur of the moment based on this perceived opportunity. An example of this would be a subject on the prowl who sees a target of opportunity, such as a mugger or robber. We will refer to this type of incident or attack as spontaneous. Little warning is given in a spontaneous attack. Your biggest tool in the fight against a surprise, spontaneous attack is awareness and alertness. You observe the potential attacker and situation developing prior to commencement of the attack.
In the second, the attacker specifically targets you, others in your company, your home, car or property. An example would be a burglar who has checked out your house or a car thief who has seen your car and sets out to steal it. We will call these types of crimes or attacks non-spontaneous.
In non-spontaneous attacks, you may have more time and warning. If you are an employer who has fired a problem employee, for instance, you may have prior warning from his articulated threats to “get you,” or “you’re gonna regret this!” Certainly any previous incidents of violence from the subject, or other indicators such as excessive alcohol use, drug abuse, previous arrests, etc., must serve as fair warning of the potential for attack.
It is certainly not true a “barking dog doesn’t bite.” As indicated by research done by Darrell Ross, PhD., relating to resistance to law enforcement officers, there seems to be a “flow” or continuum of resistance demonstrated by suspects.
· In 36% of the incidents studied, there was verbal resistance followed by pulling or pushing.
· In 27% of the cases, there was verbal resistance, then pulling/pushing and finally punching or kicking.
· And in 24% of the cases reviewed, the suspect resisted by pulling/pushing prior to punching or kicking the officer.
As an analogy, if you are a business owner dealing with an irate customer, you will see a progression of verbal then physical loss of control, which may lead to attack or assault.
John D. Byrnes writes about this progression or continuum of violence in his book Before Conflict: Preventing Aggressive Behavior (Scarecrow Press, 2002). This “thermometer of violence” starts with a Trigger Phase, if unabated raises to the Escalation Phase. In this phase we start to see the results of a sympathetic nervous system (SNS) response.
The SNS is commonly known as fight or flight and is started as a hormonal secretion in the brain in response to threat. (More on this in a later chapter as it pertains to you and your response.) What you need to know about the SNS as it pertains to a potentially threatening individual is that anger (preparation for the fight) results in physical and physiological responses that can be seen. For instance, in an SNS response the subject is not thinking with the upper reason processing parts of the brain. The mid-brain takes over control. Perceptual changes affect the way the person sees and hears, with peripheral vision reduced and auditory exclusion possibly reducing what the subject can hear as he continues to ebb into fight or flight. The body prepares for the fight by closing down the capillaries to fuel the major organs for battle. This may cause the person to pump their hands subconsciously as their fingers feel numb. As adrenalin and noradrenalin course through their system the subject may begin to pace around. Shallow chest breathing takes over and is visible as they become more agitated. This non-verbal leakage must be read by you as the subject’s body prepares for battle:
· Aggressor’s head tilts back
· Facial color turns pale
· Breathing progresses from fast/shallow to fast/deep
· Aggressor’s hands begin pumping
· Veins in arms, neck and facial area are bulging
· Target glancing
Interpersonal communication skills deteriorate with the person stumbling over words or becoming less articulate, possible cursing more and becoming louder.
”Behavior is our first glimpse into the emergence of aggression in others.”
~Dr. John D. Byrnes
If things deteriorate or the subject continues to lose control, we enter into the Crisis Phase.
According to Calibre Press, a leading law enforcement training company, here are some early warning signs that aggressors may exhibit prior to physical attack:
· Conspicuous ignoring – Ignoring you or your attempts to stop their actions
· Excessive emotional tension – Emotional tension that is over the top for the circumstances
· Exaggerated movement – Pacing or excessive movement, often a result of an SNS response
· Ceasing all movement – The calm before the storm. They have physically readied themselves
· Repetitious questioning – The brain is in fight or flight and they cannot think well
· Physical crowding – Testing the waters and trying to physically intimidate you
· Looking around – Looking around for police, witnesses, cohorts
· Assuming a pre-attack posture – Readying themselves for assault
Changes in foot position into a “fighter’s stance” can indicate a looming attack.
As agitation increases, the hands raise above the waist, indicating a pending punch.
Pointing, along with changes in facial expression, voice tone and voice level, can indicate impending attack.
Pre-attack postures can include:
· Boxer stance – Strong foot is moved rearward
· Hand set – Hands come above the waist
· Shoulder shift – Shoulders like feet ready for strong side power punch
· Target glance – Glancing at the target they into to assault
· 1,000-yard stare – Out there were the buses don’t run
· Clothing rearrangement – Ball caps hunkered down on the head, trousers hiked up
Once again, if some type of weapon assault is planned or commencing, the aggressor will oftentimes touch or shift the pistol in his belt or the knife in his pocket. Most times they will have their hands on the weapon, since they likely do not actively practice their draw-stroke or presentation of the weapon from their belt or pocket.
Remember that criminals prefer a surprise attack, the armed or unarmed version of a sucker punch. They intend to display, threaten or use their weapon first so that their victim is never given a fighting chance. Think back to “Karlos.” He stabbed his victim John before he even knew Karlos had a shiv.
Similarly the rapist will punch or strike his victim to disorient them so that the victim offers less or no resistance.
In the non-spontaneous attack, you hear breaking glass or the attacker attempting to kick in the front door. You have more time to access weapons, alert family members, move to cover, etc.
You hear breaking glass in your home, investigate and find this armed threat. Did you take the time to arm yourself?
17 April 2014: According to WDIV, Channel 4 in Detroit, the homeowner and family members of a residence in that city were in the basement playing video games when they heard a crash as the front door was kicked, and footsteps after two suspects entered the location through a side window. Shots were fired in the home by the homeowner with the suspects then fleeing. After one suspect exited, the suspect turned and fired at the homeowner. The homeowner returned fire, killing the getaway driver. Two suspects then fled the scene and have not been apprehended at this time.
Spontaneous attacks are you and the attacker, in a violent encounter, now. Time is at a premium. Weapons must be on your person or within close reach. Shouts of warning such as “Get Down!” may be given to family members, but there is no time to formulate strategy and certainly no time to “get ready.”
According to the Buffalo News (14 April 2014), a pizza delivery man was attacked by a gang of robbers in the front hallway of a house as he delivered a pizza. A masked attacker hit the pizza driver in the head with a hammer and then displayed what looked like a gun. The deliveryman drew his own handgun and fired a shot, hitting the suspect. The other members of the gang then scattered. The pizza deliveryman was treated and released. The suspect is hospitalized in police custody.
Spontaneous attacks are dealt with by tactics and training already conducted or rehearsed.
Dave, a uniformed patrolman, responded to a domestic violence call. The suspect was the son of the residents of the home. He had been assaulting his parents with the prosthetic hooks he used for hands. His hands had been blown off eight years prior when his homemade hand grenade exploded in a confrontation with state police in a neighboring state. After his release from prison, he headed to his parent’s home. As Dave exited his patrol vehicle after arriving on scene, he was shot by the suspect through the abdomen with a .308 deer rifle, which he had taught himself to hold and fire with his hooks. The gunshot ripped through Dave’s abdomen at belt level, tearing a fist-sized hole out of his back and blowing his duty belt apart. Dave never stopped and never dropped. He and his partner got their handguns out, moved to cover and successfully delivered accurate fire on the suspect, killing him.
I received a call from a coworker of Dave who told me the officer wanted me to know that he heard my words in his ears, “Stay in the fight! Get your gun out! Get rounds on target! Get to cover!”
Dave is a testament to a solid officer doing things right despite the intense violence involved. It is also a testimony to the impact of an instructor’s words and training.
Dave recovered from his wounds but was forced to retire from his injuries. God Bless him! and well done!
The specific tactics, techniques and training you can use to win out in a violent encounter are covered in other chapters.
To conclude this chapter, I’ll relate the following story.
As a young deputy I was assigned to work corrections at the county jail. One day I was sitting in the office of Range 3, which housed Class A offenders – rapists and murderers.
Dean, a law professor and the “jail monitor” appointed by the Federal Court after a lawsuit filed by inmates’ attorneys on overcrowding and other issues, walked into the office.
As we were talking about crime and punishment, I looked out over the inmates sitting on tables and milling around the jail range. I said, “Dean, people don’t believe there’s such a thing as monsters such as werewolves and vampires. But look around, these people, if given the opportunity, these people would walk right over you. They come out at night and prey on the elderly or those less able to defend themselves and tear them to pieces.”
Dean said, “You’re right. I try to never forget that.”
Day or night, monsters really do exist. Are you trained and ready? Have you been paying attention?