Nov 182011

You never know when a safe environment won't turn lethally dangerous

Here’s an appalling story of a 70 year old man who was abducted and gang-raped by four other men.

When you’re 70 years old, and when four younger men come up to you and accost you, you don’t have a lot of options, do you.  But that is where a handgun could make all the difference.  A handgun truly is ‘the great equalizer’, and in the hands of a 70 yr old gives him as much say in the outcome as the four younger, stronger, men seeking to attack him.

The key thing here is that this was not a surprise ambush.  The 70 yr old would have had time to react and turn the tables on his attackers.  They apparently drove up to him in a van while he was out walking.  They had to stop the van close to him, all four get out, group together, and then approach him en masse.

If the 70 yr old was following through the color code of mental awareness, he would have been on a regular yellow level of low alert to start with.  This yellow level means he would have noticed a van pulling up to stop alongside him on his early morning walk, and the unexpected action should have pushed him up to orange.  At that point he should have started to initiate an avoidance reaction – maybe cross the road or turn around and start walking back.

This avoidance action does four things.  First, it helps you to avoid the possible threat.  Second, it forces the people who may be about to  threaten you to more clearly telegraph their actions.  A van stopping beside you might be a harmless coincidence.  But if you cross the road and the people in the van get out and walk towards you, that changes the odds from harmless coincidence to something possibly more sinister.

Thirdly, it helps maintain or increase distance between you and your potential attackers, buying you more time to decide on a response as the situation evolves.

And fourthly, by making it harder for the bad guys to catch you unawares, they might simply give up and go find an easier target.

When the four men started to approach this man, he should have gone to condition red, and taken control of the situation.  At this point, he would have been less than a second away from possible attack, and needed to urgently do something to change the dynamics of what was about to occur.  Presenting a gun and calling out to the four men to ‘Stop Right There!’ would have done that.

If he had earlier taken passive evasive action but the four men had countered that action and still approached him, and if he then took active measures to turn them away and they did not comply, clearly he was in grave danger and (depending on the state he lives in) would probably be justified in shooting them.

Generally, it is likely that an authoritative presentation of a ‘serious’ pistol may be enough to defuse a situation.  Most (but not all!!!) would-be attackers are not wanting to get into a gun fight.  They are wanting to ‘skim the cream’, to ‘pick the low hanging fruit’, and to take ‘the easy pickings’.  It isn’t as though they are contract professional hitmen who have been paid to specifically attack you, or people with a specific grudge against you and wanting to get even.

They are simply cruising looking for some ‘fun’ and some easy money from some easy targets.  If you show yourself not to be an easy target, they will give up and go attack someone else.  Sure, they’ll mouth off at you, and make all sorts of threats to preserve their ‘honor’ but they’ll leave as quickly as they can.

Of course, the group dynamic with four is a bit different to being confronted by a single individual.  Assuming a single individual is not drug crazed (or crazy for any other reason) he is already at somewhat of a disadvantage (ie one on one) and he doesn’t have to worry about embarrassing himself in front of his buddies.

But with four, there is a danger they might feel they have the numbers on their side.  This means they can tell a different story to the police – ‘We just wanted to ask this guy for directions, and when we approached him he pulled a gun and started acting all crazy’, and it means they have a more socially and strategically dominant position to start with (four against one).  One or more of them might even have a gun, and if all four of them were to respond to your pulling a gun by reaching for their own guns, one, two, or possibly even three of them are going to be able to get shots off in your direction, no matter how quickly you start shooting first.

Depending also on their group dynamic, they may be unwilling to back down and shame themselves in front of each other.

In such a case, you need to be as assertive as you can be, because if you can’t control the situation with a credible threat of lethal force, you will be left with only two options – either to surrender to the bad guys (who will now be seriously pissed at you after your pulling a gun on them) or shoot them, and you don’t really want either of those two outcomes.  You need to be as much like Clint Eastwood/Dirty Harry, and as little like Peewee Herman as you can manage in this terrible situation.  Maybe hold your gun closer to your chest, with your shooting arm elbow wedged into the side of your body, so as to reduce the visible amount of trembling.

One more lesson from this real life tragedy.  There were four bad guys.  If the man had to shoot, a five shot revolver would not be enough (some of your shots are going to miss, no matter how big and close the targets, and one shot per attacker is seldom enough at the best of times).  A six or seven shot compact semi-auto would probably also not be enough, and you’d have no time to reload either the revolver or the small semi-auto in the middle of the encounter.

So what would you do, if it were you, and you had to pull a gun on these four people?

First, call out, as loud and forcefully as you can, ‘Stop Right There!’  The louder you say that, the better – not only will this help establish your dominance, but it also increases the chances of someone else, somewhere nearby, hearing you say it, too.  This will help you enormously if you have to proceed to use your weapon and then claim self defense.  The bad guys can’t say ‘he started shooting at us with no warning and for no reason’ if a passerby can say ‘I heard someone call out ‘Stop’ in a loud voice, then a second later, I heard shots fired’.

If they don’t stop, depending on their distance, their posture, and what they are doing in response to you – particularly with their hands – you might have a chance for a second warning – ‘Stop or I Shoot!’ or ‘Stop Right Now!’; and this time have your gun pointed in at the most dangerous of the four people.

If you don’t have time for a second warning, and/or if they still don’t comply, assuming they are now in the ‘danger zone’ where they can reach you sooner than you can defend yourself, you have no alternative but to start shooting.

Think about it.  You crossed the road or turned around to avoid them.  They came after you.  This is not an innocent coincidence by four harmless strangers.  You warned them off and they ignored your warning, and they are continuing to approach you, even though you’ve pointed a gun at them and ordered them to stop.  These people are not your friends.  You’ve done all you can in the circumstances to avoid a confrontation, and to avoid needing to save yourself via deadly force, but they are forcing the confrontation on you.

If, however, they do stop, what next?  That’s a subject for another discussion, another time.  Suffice it to say, for now, that you need to keep their hands in plain view, you need to get them turned around so they can’t see you, and you need to call the police.  You must be the one to get your version of what happened told first.

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