A Nurse with a Gun

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

More on The Wal-Mart Encounter

Wow.....I am sincerely surprised at the response to my story, An Encounter at Wal-Mart. Apparently, it was a story that I have pretty much kept to myself, but which struck a chord in many. After all, who does not go to Wal-Mart, or at least a mega-mart similar to it? There has been an outpouring of comments, and my hit meter has skyrocketed.

I frequently don't read comments on blogs other than my own, so I figure possibly others may not as well. Quite a few of the questions regarding this encounter were pertinent and relevant. I tried to answer honestly and to the point, but I decided to make another blog post based on some of those questions, and cut & paste and elaborate on my answers a bit. My answers may not be right for everyone, but they are right for me.

Thank you to all who commented. You make me think. You make us all think.

Will asked...
Two questions: Did you knock over the cart so it could not be rolled/pushed clear? Also, did you have a talk with your daughter to explain the dynamics of the situation, especially after realizing the focus of the impending attack was the gameboy?

The cart was upright but jammed between the SUVs. At the moment, I felt the need to get my hand on my sidearm and confront the fellow coming up behind, where I was unprotected. The cart gave me just a little protection to the rear, where I couldn't be approached without noise. I suspect the guy blocked by the cart gave up the attack first, or at least simultaneously with the other.

I did talk to my daughter about it afterwards. I pointed out that some people will do bad things to take what she has, and it is best to avoid them. If they can't be avoided, defend yourself.

This morning, when I told her I blogged about it, she remembered the experience. Her comment......"Yeah, that was funny...." I asked her to elaborate. Funny it wasn't, I said, I was scared. She said, "I wasn't, I was with you." Such is the trust granted to us by our children. We should strive to deserve it.

Last Chance Safari Company and Blackwing1 referenced the "brandishing' aspect of my actions, really more a discussion of semantics than anything...

I do not disagree with them. My response:

I do not consider my actions that day to be brandishing.

My actions that day were the preparation for defending my life and my child's life.

Perhaps BW chose a word that was tangently applicable, but I understand his thoughts.

From the American Heritage Dictionary: bran·dish
1. To wave or flourish (a weapon, for example) menacingly.

2. To display ostentatiously.

There was no wave, no flourish, and no ostentatiousness in my actions. I was not attempting to impress anybody. I was preparing to preserve my life and limb, and that of my child. Brandishing is an empty threat. The unholstering of my gun that day was a commitment to life and limb. I'm glad the other two men were also committed to their own life and limb, and made the choices they did quickly.

Cranky asked...
This happened on a Sunday morning?


ddm said...
Great story, I shared it with many people (concealed carriers and others).

When I shared it with my girlfriend her first reaction was that "That was the wrong thing to do, he should have gone back in and yelled for help". She said that is what is taught in womens self defense class.

IMHO, you did the right thing. Putting distance between yourself and a possible attacker is always the best option.

Any thoughts?

While I respect your girlfriend's opinion, and it might be the best course for her, my thoughts for myself based on my options at that moment differ. You have to remember that I did not know what they wanted. It could have been anything. At the time, I never dreamed it might have been a GameBoy. Even now, I only suspect that was the reason. My suspicions may only be my mind trying to rationalize an unrational fearful event.

I did what I felt was necessary at the time, and I took the best course of action I saw. I was being actively followed by two men working in concert, who knew I was aware of their presence. They were using my awareness against me, perhaps hoping I would turn back towards the store. Turning back towards the store was not an option, as I would have been cut off by the two men. They were actively herding me from behind. Had I turned back, I would have been quickly intercepted. Instead, I led them to a place of my choosing.

Running with a seven year old girl in tow was not an option. Fist-fighting with a seven year old girl in tow was not an option. Leaving the security of my vehicle once I was inside it was not an option. Going into Wal-Mart with a drawn pistol was not an option. Holstering the weapon was not an option.

I had pulled a loaded gun and used it to deter two aggressors. I wanted to deal with real law enforcement, not Wal-Mart security folks. I needed to deal with real law enforcement without Wal-Mart security coloring the story. Control of the story and the presentation of the facts as they were was probably the reason this situation worked out the way it did.

I waited for law enforcement in a locked vehicle, in the open with no way anyone could approach it without being seen. My options at that point remained open. If approached by these two people, even if they were in a car, I could have put my Jeep in gear and escape. I felt strongly though, that they had given up the attack, and had vacated the place. Law enforcement had a description of my Jeep and approached in a marked car.

As far as I know, Wal-Mart never knew what happened. The two men were never caught, at least not in connection with this act.

Felix Estrella said...
I can only hope that were I in the same situation, I would handle myself as well. Just curious: why did you call the cops afterwards?

Felix, often the first person to make contact with the police is listed as the complainant. This is often interpreted as "victim." It is true that I may have been able to simply drive away and do nothing further.

However.....Let's suppose the two men returned to the store, complained that a man matching my description had pulled a gun on them for no reason, or even that I tried to rob them, and had Wal-Mart security call the police. It would have been their word against my own. Or suppose I had been observed by a passerby, and the same was reported.....I would be gone, having left the scene, but suppose a review of the parking lot video, if there was one, had revealed who I was through my license plate, and I had the police come knocking on my door. I would be in a defensive mode trying to explain why I pulled a gun on someone and then left the area.

It's far better to be the complainant in this situation, to take an offensive posture and be the first to say "He tried to attack me." It's a matter of taking control of the situation.

Sutton asked....
What would be the legal/ethical situation if the second guy had kept coming toward you? I presume that, under ideal circumstances (i.e., enough time) you would have raised the gun and warned him to stop. But with no weapon in view (I know, I'm basically positing worst-case stupid person baddie), what sort of ground do you think you would have been on if you had shot him? My biggest reluctance to carry is the fact that, by doing so, there's at least one gun in a situation where there might not have been any. I feel like a lot of opinion about concealed carry assumes that (1) the threat runs away when he sees the gun or (2) it's "OK" to shoot if he keeps advancing. But what if he advances without showing a weapon? Just wondering your thoughts.

That's a very tough situation Sutton. My legal standing had I shot him would be dicey at best. No witnesses, no proof of aggression. His partner would have likely testified against me. I suppose I would be hoping there was security video......

On the other hand, failure to pull a gun would have resulted in physical contact, at the least. At the time, I did not know what their interest in me was. I actually still do not know, I can only speculate. All I knew at the time is what I felt intuitively. I acted on that intuition rather than trying to rationalize it away.

Had I known or even suspected they wanted a GameBoy, I would have gladly tossed it to them and hopefully been on my way, never having pulled a gun. Of course then, the result may have been a demand for my wallet. Then my car. Then my girl.

If I had allowed them to make physical contact with me, yes, there would be at least one gun in the fight.......Mine. I had to keep control of that gun. That is one of the hazards of carrying a gun. The option of a physical fight is no longer present. we have to remember that the person who carries a concealed gun always reserves the option of never revealing it is there. The concealed firearm is not a cause of violence. It is a means of preserving one's life from violence.

When engaged, these men were within my 21 foot margin. I had no indicator they were armed, but it was two against one. I suspect they were armed, but that is not something I can really say. They might have been planning a snatch and run, tossing the GameBoy between them to secure their getaway. At the time though, I did not know their intentions. All I knew was that I was being herded, despite my obvious awareness of their prescence.

I am grateful they made the choice to give up the fight that day. My life/freedom hung on their choice, as did theirs.

Let me be clear that I am not saying this is the right or the wrong way to handle a situation like this. Each situation is different, and sometimes we have to act on instinct. Our inner voice will alert us to dangers that our mind will rationalize away. Post event analysis does not take into account a lot of the little factors that add up to a cohesive intuitive whole that one understands at the moment of truth. The cornered animal never questions why it must fight it's attacker, or whether it is right to do so. The cornered animal only knows that if it does not fight, it will die. At that time the choice is not fight or flight. It is fight or die. The choice is no choice at all.

Here on my blog, I often analyze the encounters that others experience. I do this to teach myself and others, but I always give the defender the benefit of the doubt. I was not present, and I did not see with my own eyes what they saw, nor felt in my own bones what they felt. More importantly, the person defending themselves often rationalizes away the intuition that saved them afterwards. The cemetery is full of people who rationalized away their intuition beforehand. The human mind is like that. It seeks security in an unsecure world. It seeks reason in unreasonablness. If there is anything I strive to teach it is to develop and trust in your intuition. It is intuition that will save you. Trust your instincts. Trust the animal within your mind.



Blogger James R. Rummel said...

There is always a desire to analyze any stressful or potentially dangerous situation. This makes perfect sense since, after all, we all want our own plans to be well thought out if we find ourselves in a similar crisis.

You did great! No one was hurt, even the perps. How could it be less perfect?

Would I have reacted the same if I was in your shoes?

Who the heck cares what *I* would have done? I wasn't there! And, no matter what, I wouldn't have been able to do any better!

You did good.


8:53 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I found your "experience" intriguing, as well as sad. It's a shame that society has devolved to a point where plastics & motherboards have taken prominence over human lives.

Xavier, I've been reading your blog for a while and I personally believe that you are doing the human race a great service. We, as citizens, all want nothing more than to carry on with our peaceful lives.

My wife and I have helped our local police department, with surveillance, to catch a stalker that was harassing one of our neighbors. It gave us a good feeling when they hauled him away.

For those of us who love peace, we must be prepared to declare war on the bad guys.

God Bless

jim lanier

9:22 PM  
Blogger Nate said...

"You did good", from James in the first comment- yes you did. Excellent behavior and situational awareness.

I can't find your email contact but I have a post I wanted to get your comments on over @ Wasted Electrons. Its called "An open letter to college students."

11:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That last line in the post, "Trust the animal in your mind". I believe what you did was the right thing, and though it may have come to you instinctively, it isn't necessarily what is "animalistic". When America was founded on the right for every person to have the right to "life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness", That was based on more than just primal desires, but something greater that makes us human. Respect for each other, respect for ourselves, and respect for those we love. So You did the right thing, and you did the one thing that distinctly sets us apart from animals. Thinking, protecting, and standing for something greater.


11:57 PM  
Blogger Judge Mint Day said...

Xavier, I can't stress enough your point about being the first one to call police. I'm in law enforcement and like it or not the "complainant" gets the benefit of the doubt 9 times out of 10.

12:46 AM  
Blogger Weer'd Beard said...

"Had I known or even suspected they wanted a GameBoy, I would have gladly tossed it to them and hopefully been on my way, never having pulled a gun. Of course then, the result may have been a demand for my wallet. Then my car. Then my girl."

I don't know if I could disagree with you on this, its always better to avoid violence whenever possible. Still if you had willingly given up the gameboy (or wallet or car) you suddenly become part of a supply chain for criminals. You may get away clean, but you pass the problem on to the next person they target. This quote comes to mind:

The way things played out for you, those thugs may think twice the next time they think about mugging somebody, and maybe they'll give it up for an honest life, or at least a non-violent life of crime. Better they smash the windows of my truck to steal a bauble than trying to snatch it off a living person...

It was a very moving story, thanks for sharing it.

4:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One of my biggest fears, should I get a carry permit, is such a situation. Someone coming at me with a knife, a pipe, etc. is a lot more cut and dried. In order not to be prosecuted, the state has to agree that you were indeed in immediate danger. If the state does not agree, you are in real trouble. In all honesty, I would almost rather take a bullet myself than take such a chance.
There is also the fact that displaying a pistol immediately escalates the situation to deadly force. If the individual continues to approach you, do you fire? As Xavier pointed out, going hand to hand with someone who knows you are armed is not really a good idea.
I think Xavier handled the situation well, esp. in calling in law enforcement. If you have a situation where you display a weapon, you had BETTER advise the cops! If you do not, the other person can use that against you.

5:08 AM  
Blogger Wadical said...

..."If I had allowed them to make physical contact with me, yes, there would be at least one gun in the fight.......Mine. I had to keep control of that gun. That is one of the hazards of carrying a gun. The option of a physical fight is no longer present."

Well put. If they would have subdued you, it is likely you would have lost your gun and that would be a very bad thing. It is our duty as CCW holders to avoid physical confrontations like the plague and for that very reason. If a physical altercation cannot be avoided then informing your would-be assailant that you are armed (verbally if possible) is absolutely necessary. That may require displaying your weapon.

I know these scenarios are full of hypothetical, "what ifs" but like you said, that's how we learn...by anylization. So here's another: If you had allowed yourself to be attacked by two men (or even one man for the sake of this argument) simply because you had not seen them brandish a weapon and during the physical struggle that ensued, you felt yourself becoming subdued (ie being choked or beaten unconscious) then deadly force would be warranted. By displaying your weapon, you avoided such an encounter altogether.

I'm not sure of Louisiana's laws. In Florida, there is no longer a duty to retreat. (a recent development in legislation) But even if there was, the presence of your young daughter dismisses that duty altogether.

You bring up a very good point. If you know that someone intends to attack you or that they are a threat to you. 21 feet is your bubble. Inside that range, if they decide to rush you don't have time to draw from a duty rig much less from a concealed carry and place an incapacitating shot on target before that person can reach you. If they display a knife within that distance or if they're palming it and you never knew it was there, you're screwed...especially if they know how to use it.

Some may say that your gun saved your life that day. It may have played a part. But it was without a doubt your situational awareness and alertness to the threat that saved your life and gave you time to draw. Having a weapon is useless without street smarts. Your gun may have been the deterrent, but your situational awareness was your most valuble tool that day. Without it, you might not be here discussing it.

Altogether, you played it quite safe given the picture you've painted so far. Ideally, clearing leather should always be the "next to last resort", the last being fighting for your life.

Well done.

5:40 AM  
Blogger misawa said...

Well done Xavier! You just made sure that these two hoodlums will have a moment's pause should they try to do this again.

Joseph - your fear is a rational one to a point. Most of us in the gun community fear the day we might have to use deadly force on another person; we're much more content punching holes in paper. However, I think this situation is far more cut and dry - he had his daughter with him. No DA in his right mind will push charges for that.

7:55 AM  
Blogger Ed Skinner said...

Well done, very well done indeed.

8:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I only hope I would do as well in this kinds of situation.

I have one question - did you yell "stop" or "help" or Call 911"?

Was there anyone near enough to hear?

9:21 AM  
Blogger Sterno said...

I know you probably thought of this but they may have been after your car. If I remember correctly, you said that you were either coming from or going to church. I remember you mentioning you were wearing a sportcoat. Those two guys may have assumed that you drove a nice car. Or they could have wanted a Jeep and saw you pull up.

9:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Judge Mint also agreed with your contacting the police immediately following your encounter. You said, "Felix, often the first person to make contact with the police is listed as the complainant. This is often interpreted as "victim." It is true that I may have been able to simply drive away and do nothing further."

Our CCW instructors have referred to this as "the race to the court house". They emphasized to ALWAYS, always contact the police and file a formal report any time your firearm is drawn. Not only may the thugs choose to report it, but some bystander who only saw a small portion of the encounter, or only saw YOU with a gun, may also misinterpret and report it.

The last thing anyone needs after an encounter like that is to be heading home, and have a zillion police cars converge on you because they got a "man with a gun" report.

10:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The perps saw you as vulnerable that day at Walmart, because you had your little girl with you. They're like wolves these creeps. Glad it all turned out ok. Thanks for sharing this with us. We tend to drop our guard because we don't want to be "paranoid." Hey, I'm all for paranoia. Thanks again Xavier and regards to your family.

11:51 AM  
Blogger MadRocketScientist said...

One thing about Xaviers encounter.

Here he is, walking through a parking lot, and two young men are hearding him in an aggressive nature. While a cause for concern, if Xavier was alone, it was not cause to draw a weapon without seeing a weapon first.

However, Xavier had a little girl with him, his daughter. Without knowing the intentions of the young men, Xavier is more than within his rights to draw down on one of them and insist that they halt and retreat, and even if they are not armed but continue to advance, he would have been right to shoot them.

He has no idea if they want a gameboy, or a wallet, or if they want that little girl for their own sick purposes. One could have easily engaged him while the other grabbed his daughter and ran.

He could have shot them both and I doubt a Grand Jury would have returned a True Bill on him.

12:34 PM  
Blogger davidvs said...

You wrote: "Of course then, the result may have been a demand for my wallet. Then my car. Then my girl."

This is a key point!

On average, criminals are not very bright but are very opportunistic.

Were they planning on being car thieves or kidnappers that morning? Probably not or while in the store they would have "marked" a woman with a child instead of a man of your build with a child. Your guess that they wanted the toy is reasonable.

Could they have become car thieves or kidnappers if you had become fully compliant in an effort to protect your daughter? Certainly.

As James replied first, no one was hurt, and how could the outcome have been better than that?

In the circumstances you had only one good option and used it impeccably. Were you unarmed you would have had no good options.

1:02 PM  
Blogger Firehand said...

In OK the rules change when there are two or more attackers/threateners; even if they're not showing weapons the fact that you face multiple attackers gives you much more legal standing to draw your weapon. I can't remember the exact wording, but it boils down to 'facing multiple attackers IS facing lethal threat'.

11:47 AM  
Blogger Hobie said...

In our town in VA a citizen with CHP (Colt 1911 according to the Commonwealth's Attorney) was approached by three men while walking home from work. This was on the 'main drag' at about 2:30 AM. No weapon was displayed but they 'surrounded' him. He fired 7 shots hitting two of the men but killing no one. They ran off. He went to the gas station and called the cops. The physical evidence bore out his testimony (as it will) and the CA declined to prosecute him. He also declined to prosecute the attackers so long as they didn't try any shenanigans (like a lawsuit) on the guy who they'd attacked. That is pretty close to your scenario minus the 'distractions' like a daughter, parked cars, shoppers, etc. I think it supports your actions in your situation as having been correct even if the situation had included them coming within knife range. Good on you.

9:44 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I had a similar encounter in the mall parking lot. At the time I was 22 years old and with my infant daughter. Thank God my husband encouraged me to get my CHL. There was a van with four men inside the next aisle over, tracking us to our car. By the time I noticed them I was closer to my car than the store. I had to make the mental decision of what I was going to do. By the time my daughter was in the car, they were out of the van and surrounding me. I pulled my Glock and that was it. I never even had to point it an them. They ran back to their van and drove off. I can't even tell you how many people asked me why I didn't go back into the store. Only one woman who heard this story didn't ask that question. What I want to know is why are women so helpless? Most men were shocked that I pulled my gun, and even more shocked at my answer when they asked if I was prepared to shoot. My answer was "Hell ya!"

5:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent job, Sir. I am new to your blog but I believe I'll be reading it more often. You showed excellent situational awareness and your actions to protect your daughter and yourself are to be commended.

12:50 PM  

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